JOURNAL readers of 100 years ago this week were spared none of the gory details of a particularly gruesome murder in Worcestershire.

The edition of January 1904 carried this report: "Three months have passed since an awful tragedy was enacted just outside the boundaries of Kidderminster. The hop-picking season was in full swing, and at midnight one Saturday a female named Mary Swinburne (a hop-picker) was found lying butchered on the roadside.

"Her head was half severed from the body and, after committing the dark deed, the murderer had evidently knelt upon his victim and deliberately slashed open her breast. The knife too - an ugly weapon which still lay by the victim's side - had been probed fully a dozen times into the poor woman's face, rendering recognition almost an impossibility.

"The police could obtain no clue to the perpetrator, and until a few days ago it seemed the crime would remain a mystery for ever.

"This week, however, a 50- year-old tramp was arrested at Market Rasen for begging, and was committed to 10 days' hard labour in His Majesty's Prison at Lincoln. He gave the name George Fisher, and described his occupation as that of a labourer. To all appearances he was an ordinary tramp, and that he had participated in any offence other than against the Vagrancy Acts was never thought of until he was admitted to the prison at Lincoln. There, however, an action of his led to his own undoing. Among the articles in his possession was a pocket book, and as tramps often conceal pressed tobacco or pawn tickets between the leaves, a warden took a cursory glance through it.

"And while doing so, he spotted a diary entry which read 'Narcissus - I murdered her. God help me. Murder will out'. The Worcestershire police were at once called in, and investigations revealed that Fisher was the man with whom the murder victim had last been seen.

"Fisher has since been charged with the wilful murder of Mary Swinburne at Kidderminster and is being kept in custody on remand to await trial. There is every reason to believe that the prisoner is well known in the workhouses of Worcestershire.

"It is confidently expected that the police will be able to show that Fisher was among the men engaged in hop-picking near Kidderminster at the time Mary Swinburne was also working there."