As you enter East Haddon Cemetery you will find, standing alone in the corner, a solitary headstone with the following inscription: “Erected by friends and sympathizers to the memory of Annie Pritchard aged 31 years whose remains were found in this parish August 6 1892. ‘I was a stranger and ye took me in’.”
The remains of a body were discovered by a local man whose attention was drawn by the stench coming from a sack in a ditch. Finding flesh inside he went to get help. The contents turned out to be a women’s body, less the head and parts of the arms but still wearing a blood-stained dress.
Dr Churchouse from Long Buckby conducted a post-mortem on the table in the kitchen of the Red Lion pub and he stated that the person had been dead about three weeks. As the weather was particularly hot, this accounted for the terrible stench.
The only clue was the name E M Rae Northampton on a lining of the sack. This was used by Edward Macrae, a bacon factor to send goods around the country. As many people would have been in possession of similar bags this evidence was initially discarded. However, with the investigation stalling, a drawing of the label appeared in the local press. A second-hand clothing business owner saw this and recalled buying some women’s and baby clothes from the bacon factor’s brother – Andrew Macrae.
MacRae was brought in for questioning. He had been living in Birmingham with his wife and children but left them to join his brother in Northampton. A neighbour, Annie Pritchard, with whom he was having an affair and who was pregnant by him also left Birmingham at the same time. She told her family she was going to New York but came to Northampton where she and MacRae set up home in lodgings. The baby was born in June 1892. A woman helped them move lodgings shortly afterwards by carrying the baby part of the way but neither the baby nor the mother were seen alive again.
Over the next few days, several people noticed thick smoke from the Dychurch Lane premises (where the bacon factor business was) and the smell of burning bones. On 23 July Andrew MacRae sold the clothing and two days later bought lime. The next day he hired a trap and was seen driving it out of town – this was how he disposed of the body and just by chance dumped it in a ditch in East Haddon parish. The Dychurch Lane premises were searched and police found remains of bones and light brown hair under a copper and a slimy fatty fluid inside it.
The trial was reported almost verbatim in the newspaper such was the fascination and horror surrounding the case. Andrew MacRae was convicted of the murder of Annie Pritchard on Christmas Eve 1892 and was hanged, aged 36, on 12 January 1893.
Annie Pritchard’s burial took place at East Haddon cemetery following a funeral service conducted by the Congregational Minister from Long Buckby. The vicar of St Mary’s Church at the time had refused to have the body buried in the churchyard, because it was not complete and was of a murder victim. Wreaths covered Annie’s coffin and 100 parishioners followed the coffin to the burial service. Public subscription also paid for the headstone on Annie’s grave.