Unsolved Murders

John Wesley Kitchen

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 7 Oct 1905

Place: Cowes

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

John Wesley Kitchen was found drowned in the sea at Cowes.

He had been a crewmember on the yacht Iolanthe and was described as 'quite a small man, a very quiet man, and inoffensive'.

He was last seen in a boat with another man who had punched him but the man said that John Kitchen had jumped out and swam ashore.

The man was tried for his manslaughter but acquitted.

The case was known as the 'The Cowes Manslaughter Case' and aroused much interest locally owing to the mystery surrounding it, a mystery that was heightened by the subsequent suicide of the only man who could have elucidated it.

The night of 25 September 1905 was a very stormy night with a strong north-east wind blowing, and some of the crew of the Iolanthe went ashore. However, the man that was charged with John Kitchen's manslaughter was told off and told to bring the men aboard again.

Whilst they were ashore the man the was tried had appeared to have had a quarrel with a member of crew from the yacht Hermione that belonged to Newlynn in Cornwall where John Kitchen came from.

After the argument it was heard that the man tried, John Kitchen and two other men then set off on their journey to the yacht Iolanthe with the man tried rowing the beat.

It was said that whilst they were on their way that the man tried mentioned the row that he had had with John Kitchen's 'chum' and it was said that the other man that had had the row with the man tried then pulled in his oars and attacked John Kitchen who was sitting in the stern, dealing him several violent blows to the head and face and that the man tried then joined in.

Following the fight, one of the other two men in the boat hailed another boat and got taken off, apparently not liking what had taken place.

Some men then shouted at the man tried who then stopped beating John Kitchen and he rowed the boat off into the darkness with John Kitchen being seen to wipe blood off his face as they went.

However, it was not known what happened after that other than the boat arrived at the Lolanthe with only two men in it, John Kitchen having vanished.

Initially they both said that there had been a scramble and that John Kitchen had gone ashore. However, his body was later found in the water and the other man then committed suicide leaving the only man that knew what had happened being the man that was tried for John Kitchen's manslaughter.

The medical evidence heard at the trial stated that John Kitchen had bruising around his eyes and abrasions on his face as well as a jagged wound about three-quarters of an inch above his right eye, a wound which was considered to have been inflicted before his death or immediately afterwards.

However, it was also noted that there was not a single symptom characteristic of drowning with the exception of the slightly fluid state of his blood which was also a state noted as being common to many diseases. The doctor added that he was convinced that John Kitchen had been unconscious when he had gone into the water, a conclusion that another doctor also agreed with.

When the man gave evidence for himself, he said that in a temporary absence John Kitchen had cast the boat loose and that he rebuked him and that John Kitchen then struck him and that they then closed. He said then that the man that he had had the row with ashore who had been an another boat joined in and that after getting clear of the other man he said to John Kitchen, 'I'll talk to you, Jack, when we get back aboard', and said that John Kitchen then stood up and said, 'I'm not going aboard' and stood up and jumped for the causeway. He said that as John Kitchen jumped that he himself slipped after catching one of his paddles in a pole and fell back and that when he picked himself up again said that he asked the other crewman who committed suicide shortly after, 'Where is he?' and said that the other crewman replied, 'He's on the slip alright'.

A doctor for the defence then stated that the injuries that John Kitchen had sustained where inflicted when John Kitchen jumped for the causeway and that in doing so he had hit his head against a structure.

The jury then returned a not guilty verdict which was met with a sternly suppressed attempt at an applause.


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


see Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 07 October 1905

see Belfast News-Letter - Tuesday 28 November 1905

see Hampshire Telegraph - Saturday 02 December 1905