Little Bits of History

Reprisal

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2014
Bath chair

Bath chair

July 23, 1943: The Rayleigh bath chair murder takes place. Archibald Brown, his wife Doris, and their two sons (Eric and Collin) lived in Rayleigh, Essex, England. Archibald was 47 at the time. Twenty-three years earlier he had been in a motorcycle accident in which he lost the use of his legs. He used a bath or Bath chair which is a rather luxurious type of wheelchair. It was more like a rolling chaise or light carriage which usually had a folding hood to protect the user from the elements when outdoors. When three-wheeled (one in front and two in back) it was pushed by hand. Sometimes, when it had four wheels, it could be pulled by horse, donkey, or pony. The name came either because it was shaped like an old-fashioned bathtub or because the designer hailed from Bath.

At 1:45 PM on this day, Doris Mitchell, one of Archibald’s three nurses, went to the air-raid shelter to get the bath chair only to find the door locked. She went to find Mrs. Brown and together they went back to the shelter where they met Eric, then 19, coming out. Both of the women brought the bath chair back to the house and helped Archibald get in. He was dressed in pajamas and a robe and had a plaid blanket over his legs. Doris left the house with Archibald. They had gone about a mile when Archibald shifted his weight to find a cigarette in his pocket. Doris paused and lit the cigarette and then went back behind the chair to resume pushing.

Just a few steps later, there was a violent explosion. Doris suffered leg injuries and as she looked, the chair and its occupant were simply gone. Police found portions of the Archibald’s body on the sides of the road and in nearby trees and gardens. Since it was wartime, the possibility of enemy action was checked into and discarded. The cause of the explosion was found to be a British Hawkins grenade. It is an anti-tank mine which is detonated when an acid-filled glass ampoule is  broken. The device had been placed under the cushion of the chair. During the investigation, it was found that although Archibald had been unable to walk, he had been a cruel and abusive husband and father.

His mistreatment of his wife was less volatile than what his son experienced. Eric had been beaten and humiliated for years and it was getting worse. There was also some notice taken by both mother and son that while their abuse was increasing, Archibald had taken a liking to his new nurse and seemed to delight in their walks outdoors together. Eric was charged with the murder. He had attended a lecture on the same mine/grenade as that used in the murder. He was also a veteran and had access to a weapons store in Spilsby. He confessed to the crime, blaming his actions on his father’s increasing abuse of both himself and his mother. He was found guilty and declared insane. He was finally released in 1975.

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, and nothing worth killing for. – Tom Robbins

If peace can only come through killing someone, then I don’t want it. – Hiro Mashima

The dumber people think you are, the most surprised they’re going to be when you kill them. – William Clayton

“You can die trying to get along with a disagreeable man,” she said, and I put a star beside it when I wrote it down and then taped it to the rear-view mirror for the rest of the drive. She hadn’t said “abusive,” I noticed; she had said that just disagreeable could kill you. – Debby Bull

Also on this day: “Wanna see something really scary?” – In 1983, Vic Morrow and two children are killed on the set of Twilight Zone, The Movie.
World War I – In 1914, Serbia ignored an ultimatum from Austria- Hungary.
Like Riding on Air – In 1888, John Dunlap patents a new tire.
Telstar – In 1962, the first live transatlantic TV program was broadcast.

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