Another twist in Markyate murder tale

THE tale of a Victorian murder on the grounds of a stately home in St Albans district has taken another twist after a Herts Advertiser reader revealed that she was related to the gamekeeper fatally shot during a botched poaching expedition.

Vicki Mann, of St Albans, came forward after seeing the story about how David Cain discovered by chance that his “missing” ancestor was deported to Australia after being linked with a murder at Beechwood Park Estate in Markyate.

It was alleged that David’s ancestor, George Cain, had fatally shot the head gamekeeper who intercepted him at the estate over 150 years ago, a charge he was later acquitted of.

Vicki revealed that the gamekeeper, John Seabrook, was in fact her relative and his death was recorded as a murder on a death certificate unearthed by her aunt, who ironically lives in Australia.

In the Herts Advertiser article David, a communications manager, explained that he had been stumped after initial investigations into his family tree failed to find records of his great-great-great-great-grandfather, George Cain.

But in a bizarre coincidence, he stumbled upon a link between his missing relation and a murder at Beechwood Park in 1860 when he began digging into the margins of his family history, researching people who lived in the vicinity of George.

His Bedfordshire-born relative was 26 years old in 1860 and like half the male population of Flamstead, Markyate and Studham, an agricultural labourer.

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In the first twist of this intriguing tale, David unearthed a 19th Century article about a prized bantam hen, bred by Sir John Saunders Sebright, whose home was Beechwood Park Estate.

David began researching the Sebright bantam, a bird which apparently amazed the poultry world when its developer, Sir John, unveiled it.

That was when he chanced upon articles about a fatality. George and three other men were apparently pursuing a pheasant at the estate when they were intercepted by two gamekeepers, one of whom was killed in the confrontation, and the second severely wounded.

While George was acquitted of murder, he was convicted of night poaching and received the maximum penalty, 14 years transportation to Australia, where he died in a convict prison in Fremantle in 1865.

Vicki has a copy of the death certificate of John Seabrook, to whom she is related through her father’s side of the family.

Interestingly it states that the cause of his death was “Murdered by George Cain and Henry Bliss”.

She said: “I think it’s so fascinating. It was my aunty who did some digging five years ago and found some interesting stories about the Seabrooks. John left a wife and child, and I did think, poor soul, that that [had] happened to him.”

The story has also intrigued Beechwood Park School, set on the site of the former seat of the aristocratic Sebright family.

Head of history Tim Rowe, who has written a book about the estate, said David’s discoveries had illustrated a different aspect of life at Beechwood.

The school has recently reintroduced the Sebright bantam to its grounds.