King's College London
Online Exhibitions
Professor Sir Charles Wheatstone

Murder and the telegraph

In January 1845, the electric telegraph proved pivotal in the first ever case of the apprehension and conviction of a murderer, John Tawell, who killed his mistress, a Quaker woman called Sarah Hart, who lived at Salt Hill near Slough.

Upon the discovery of Hart's body, Tawell was immediately suspected and he was spotted leaving from the local railway station on a London-bound train and disguised as a Quaker in a long brown coat.

A telegraph message was despatched to the police in London warning of Tawell's impending arrival.

Describing the suspect proved a challenge to the telegraph operator as the machine did not use a letter 'Q' and the phonetic 'kwa' was used instead.

Fortunately, the London police understood the message and a passenger dressed as a Quaker was intercepted at Paddington.

Tawell was found guilty and executed by hanging on Friday 28 March 1845.

ARCHIOS™ | Total time:0.8418 s | Source:database