Unsolved Murders

James Kowen

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 28 Dec 1905

Place: Railway Street, Norwich

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

James Kowen was found dead in a burnt room.

He had been horribly mutilated.

His wife was tried twice but the jury failed to agree on a verdict. She was later sent from London to the Norwich Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Drayton, Norfolk after trying to commit suicide.

He was found dead in the backroom of his house which had been set on fire. There were 28 wounds on his head, six of which might have been dealt with by a hammer found in the room. A axe and a chopper bearing blood stains were also found in the room.

His wife said that she knew nothing of the matter and was in bed until she was aroused by cries of 'Fire!'. She had earlier put their children to bed and her husband who had got in late had sat up reading after she went to bed. the fire broke out in the small hours of the night.

He had lived unhappily with his wife who was addicted to drink. A drover who used to do odd jobs for James Kowen and lived in a shed about 50 yards from the house said he heard no noise and it was heard that he had a dog that he kept in his backyard that always barked at strangers but that it was quiet on that night. It was said that two jurors expressed the opinion that he could tell more if he liked.

The defence at his wife's trial said that the murder was committed by a stranger for the sake of robbery and stress was laid on the fact that there were no bloodstains found on his wife's clothing or on the stairs leading to the bedroom from where she was rescued.

James Kowen had been a railway servant. The court heard that he was accustomed as a cattleman and a dealer to associate with rough characters who might easily have obtained admission to his house. He earned a considerable sum as a cattle dealer and was a member of several friendly societies and his death would have brought a considerable sum to his widowed wife.

In the judges summing up he said that there were many inconsistencies with the idea that that the murderer was a stranger from outside. He said a stranger would not have stayed to make a bonfire, wash an axe, chopper and hammer and put them in their proper places.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see London Daily News - Thursday 30 August 1906

see Nottingham Evening Post - Tuesday 23 January 1906

see Cheltenham Chronicle - Saturday 17 March 1906

see Northampton Mercury - Friday 16 March 1906

see Aberdeen Journal - Thursday 14 June 1906

see Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser - Friday 05 January 1906

see National Archives - HO 144/828/142344