As Swindon Borough Council reconsiders its decision to leave Radnor Street cemetery open all night, the plight of one particular monument has come to light.

On September 18, 1903, Edward Richard Palmer, 24, walked into the Ship Inn on Westcott Place, ordered a bottle of Bass, then pulled a revolver from his pocket and shot dead the 19-year-old barmaid, Esther Swinford.

Esther was a ‘live in’ servant at The Ship when she first met Palmer. The couple became engaged in 1902 but with the wedding date set and the banns published, Esther discovered that the hard-earned cash she had given to Palmer towards their future together had been spent, but not on items for their home.

Unconvinced of his commitment, Esther broke off their engagement and Palmer left Swindon. After a period working as a gardener for Mr Lacey at Reading and Captain Pirie at Marlow, Palmer returned to Swindon seeking employment at the GWR works.

On that fateful September day he called in at The Ship when he knew trade would be quiet.

Palmer appeared before Mr Justice Wills at Wiltshire Assizes on Wednesday, October 28, 1903 charged with the wilful murder of Esther Swinford.

The court heard how before leaving town, Palmer told his neighbour that he had been told something about his fiancée and that he would never marry her, hinting at some impropriety. An accusation the prosecution later firmly refuted.

Palmer’s former employers described him as a steady and hard working man and a medical report from his own doctor confirmed his mental state as quite normal.

In the witness stand Palmer confirmed that he was in the habit of carrying a revolver but on this occasion he had only meant to frighten Esther. Apparently he was annoyed that she had not spoken to him. A photograph of Esther with the words ‘the curse of my life’ written across it was found on Palmer after his arrest.

Mr Thornton Lawes, Palmer’s defence counsel, pleaded for an acquittal, calling for a verdict of accident or manslaughter. However the jury returned a guilty verdict and Palmer was hanged at Devizes prison on November 17, 1903.

The memorial at Radnor Street was paid for by the people of Swindon, touched by the murder of the young woman. Sadly, today the memorial lies in pieces, in need of repair and restoration. Swindon Borough Council revealed their intention to leave Radnor Street, Whitworth Road and Kingsdown cemeteries open throughout the night after a third of the park rangers jobs were lost in a cost-cutting exercise. Fears that memorials, including those of 100 servicemen from both world wars would be at risk have now been allayed as a private firm already used by the council will continue to lock the gates as usual.