An Account of the Conviction and Execution of Mr. WALKER, and MARK SHARP
for the Murder of ANN WALKER
I am conscious that my collecting these relations may expose me to the railery and ridicule of a very numerous tribe of wits in this age, who value themselves extremely on their contempt of supernatural stories, and their disbelief of all things which relate to apparitions or returns from that state in which souls go when they depart from the body. Yet the following story is so remarkable, the proofs so exceedingly cogent, and the mistakes made in the relation of it by various authors so likely, notwithstanding, to bring it in the course of time into discredit, that I thought I could not do a greater service to the public than to preserve it in its genuine purity, which I have had occasion to retrieve from the sight of some papers which related thereto, and from which the following account is written verbatim, without any alteration so much as in a letter.
About the year 1631, there lived in a place called Chester-in-the-Street, in the County Palatine of Durham, one Mr. Walker, a yeoman of good fortune and credit. He was a widower and kept a young woman, one Ann Walker, a relation of his, in his house as housekeeper. It was suspected, it seems, by some of the neighbours, that she was with child, immediately upon which she was removed to one Dame Cair's an aunt of hers in the town of Lumley, hard by. The old woman treated her with much kindness and civility, but was exceedingly earnest to know of her who was the father of the child with which she went, but the young woman constantly avoided answering that question. But at last, perceiving how uneasy the old woman was because she could get no knowledge how the poor babe was to be provided for, this Ann Walker at last said that he who got her with child would take care of both her and it, with which answer her aunt was tolerably satisfied.
Some time after, of an evening, her old master Walker, and one Mark Sharp, with whom he was extraordinarily intimate, came to her aunt's house and took the said Anne Walker away. About a fortnight passed without her being seen or heard of, and without much talk of the neighbourhood concerning her, supposing she had been carried somewhere to be privately brought to bed, in order to escape her shame. But one James Graham, a miller, who lived two miles from the place where Walker's house was, being one night between the hours of twelve and one, grinding corn in his mill, and the mill door shut, as he came downstairs from putting corn into the hopper, he saw a woman standing in the middle of the floor, with her hair all bloody, hanging about her ears, and five large wounds in her head. Graham, though he was a bold man, was exceedingly shocked at this spectacle. At last after calling upon God to protect him, he, in a low voice, demanded who she was, and what she wanted of him. To which the woman made answer, "I am the spirit of Anne Walker, who lived with Walker at Chester-in-the-Street, and being got with child by him, he promised to send me to a private place, where I should be well looked to until I was brought to bed, and well again, and then I should come to him again and keep his house. And I was accordingly, late one night, sent away with Mark Sharp, who upon the moor, just by the Yellow Bank Head, slew me with a pick, an instrument wherewith they dig coals, and gave me these five wounds, and afterwards threw me into a coalpit hard by, and hid the pick under the bank. His shoes and stockings also being bloody he endeavoured to wash them, but seeing the blood would not go forth, he hid them there too. And now James Grime" (so the country people pronounce Graham) "I am come to you, that by revealing this bloody act my murderers may be brought to justice; which unless you do, I will continually pursue and haunt you."
The miller returned home to his house very melancholy, and much astonished at this sight, yet he held his peace, hoping that if he did not reveal it she would go to somebody else. He was fearful of blasting the character of Mr. Walker, who was a man of substance, by telling such a tale concerning him to a Justice of Peace. However, he avoided as much as he was able being in the mill alone, especially at nights, but notwithstanding all his care, and though other persons were not far off, she appeared to him there again, and in a harsh tone demanded why he had not made known what she had spoken of to him. He made her no answer, but fled to the other end of the place where the people were. Yet some little time after, just after sunset, she met him in his own garden, and spoke to him with such a cruel aspect and with such fearful threats that he promised to go the next morning to a magistrate, which he accordingly did.
On the morrow, being St. Thomas's Day, he applied to a justice of the peace and told him the story. The justice having tendered him his oath, and taking his information in writing, forthwith issued his warrant, and apprehended Mr. Walker and Mark Sharp, who by trade was a collier, i.e., dug coals out of a mine. They made light of the thing before the justice, although he in the meanwhile had caused a place which Graham said the apparition had spoken of, to be searched, and there found the dead body, wounded in place and manner as before described, with the pick, the shoes and the stockings. However, Walker and Sharp were admitted to bail, and at the next assizes appeared upon their trial.
Judge Davenport heard the several circumstances of the woman's being carried out by Sharp, her being suspected to be with child by her master, Walker, and the story which Graham repeated exactly upon oath, as he had done before the justice. The foreman of the jury did depose that he saw a child standing upon the shoulders of the prisoner Walker, at the Bar, and the judge himself was under such a concern and uneasiness that as soon as the jury had found the prisoners guilty, he immediately rose up and passed sentence of death upon them, a thing never known before nor since in Durham, the custom being not to pass sentence until the close of the assizes.
Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals