Thursday 15 July 1847
Trewman's Exeter Flying Post :
A case of accidental death has occurred in the village of North Molton during the last week, under circumstances of a distressingly melancholy and awful nature.
On Friday night, or early on Saturday morning, a woman in decent circumstances, dressed in disguise, having an empty sack in her hand, made an attempt to enter the corn mill of Mr Ley, miller, situated in the village of North Molton. She had been seen in the village about eleven o'clock at night, respectably attired; but nothing further appears to be known of her until the next morning (Saturday), soon after five o'clock, when the miller's man entered the mill, and his attention was immediately attracted to a pair of shoes lying by the wheel; on looking more narrowly he was terrified at observing, between the inner wheel of the mill and the wall, a human arm stretched out. In the utmost consternation he gave an alarm by which he summoned his master and fetched the constable, who came instantly, and found that a body was pressed betwixt the wheel and the wall, but so tightly that it required the assistance of nine men to lift the wheel before the remains could be extricated.
The body was at length got out, and proved to be that of a woman named WESTACOTT, aged 55, wife of a decent man in the village, a school-master; her neck was broken, her person fearfully torn and mutilated, and she must have been dead for several hours. It appeared that the miller had latterly missed corn from his mill on several occasions, and had watched a few nights previously, but without detecting the depredators. There is an aperture above the axle of the water-wheel, through which he suspected the entrance must have been made (although apparently too small for any grown up person to get through); and, therefore, on the night in question, he left the mill-wheel slowly turning to prevent access of the thieves. However, through this opening the unfortunate woman ventured to enter, and in the attempt came to her untimely and ignominious end.
Deceased was a person of respectable connexions, but her character for honesty had long been suspected. An Inquest was held on the body before John Henry Toller, Esq., Coroner, and an open verdict returned of "Found dead between the wheel and the wall." The occurrence has caused an extraordinary sensation in the parish, and it is hoped that so awful a warning may not be without a salutary influence.