THIS is a continuation of an account of this horrendous incident in High Wycombe, the first part of which appeared in the Nostalgia page on November 8.

Sarah and Albert Gibbons lived at 84 Oxford Road, High Wycombe, where the murder took place. Albert ran a chair-making factory which abutted the family home.

The Gibbons also owned the adjoining property 85 Oxford Road, which was leased to two medical doctors George and Walter Bannerman, who operated a surgery from the address. They also lived there with their wives.

On the morning of 13th June 1909 Albert brutally murdered Sarah in the bathroom of their home, using a shaving razor. When he was confronted by Walter Bannerman in the bathroom he attempted to take his own life.

The Trial

The Brother-in-Law’s Story

During the Gibbons’ Murder Trial in Aylesbury in October 1909, Albert Thomas Goodearl, brother-in-law to both Gibbons and Sarah, gave evidence. He describes witnessing over many years, a happy marriage between Gibbons and Sarah. He explains that in recent months Gibbons had become depressed and anxious about his business, fearing bankruptcy. Tragically Gibbons seems to have been wrong about this – the business seems to have been in rude financial health according to Goodearl, but this did not stop Gibbons fretting about not being able to educate his children and keep his wife in the manner to which she was accustomed.

The Broken Arm

Several witnesses talk about an accident by one of the Gibbons’ children on 8th June as a turning point in Gibbon’s mood. One of the children broke their arm, requiring medical attention from Walter Bannerman. It would appear that Gibbons took this opportunity to break into the Bannermans’ surgery and steal poison, seemingly in an attempt to commit suicide. Sarah later told Goodearl that she had found and taken-away the poison before her husband could use it. Following this “he took to bed” on June 10,11 and 12.

The Doctors’ Maid’s Story

Mercy Woodley, from Bledlow Ridge was also a witness at the trial. She had worked for the Bannermans until a week before the murder. She describes how Sarah Gibbons was a frequent visitor to the Bannermans’ consulting room, and that Walter Bannerman would often send her medicine. Mercy also recalls that she once saw Gibbons listening under the consulting room window to a conversation between Bannerman and Sarah. The maid stated that on one morning, maybe a month before the murder, Sarah visited Walter in the evening, whilst his wife was away; the maid did not see her leave. Gibbons was suspicious on this occasion and questioned the maid about this and other visits, and seemed convinced that Sarah had spent the night with the Doctor.

The Policeman’s Story

Chief Constable Sparling was the second policeman on the scene. Gibbons talked to him on his arrival, seemingly admitting to the murder, “I could not help it, doctor. It was all through what the servant told me about my wife and Dr Bannerman”. Sparling charged him with murder. Another policeman, PC Clifton, claims that Gibbons said the following “I should have killed her in bed this morning…I was too artful for them. They thought they had all the razors, but I had one, and watched my opportunity”. Indeed Sarah had removed all the razors from the house, on Bannerman’s advice, in the wake of Gibbons’ suicide attempt with the poison on the 8th.

The Doctor’s Story

At the trial Dr Walter Bannerman describes how he was summoned when, on the morning of 13th June, domestic staff at the Gibbons’ house next door to his surgery, heard screaming from the bathroom, and could not open the door. Bannerman broke open the door, and found Gibbons hacking at Sarah’s throat with a shaving razor. He attempted to restrain Gibbons, who he felt had the manner and resemblance of a madman, but Gibbons still had enough agency to stab at his own throat in a suicide attempt. Gibbons at this point also accused Bannerman and Sarah of having an affair.

Bannerman treated Gibbons for several days after the murder, at which time they discussed the supposed affair (which Bannerman denied). When Bannerman asked Gibbons why he did not talk to him about it, Gibbons stated “he had no pluck”.

The Verdict

The jury in Aylesbury found Gibbons guilty of murder whilst insane. He was sent to Reading Gaol.

Sarah Gibbons had a funeral service at the Wesleyan Chapel in High Wycombe. The family wanted a private funeral but many people gathered by the chapel gates. Sarah was buried in Wycombe cemetery. The police stopped the public getting in to the cemetery to invade the privacy of the mourners. In the murder trial the Judge exonerated the late Sarah from any suspicion of having an affair with Bannerman.

To be continued