John Thornhill a native of Gloucestershire was a servant to the Vicar of Lymm, the Reverend Mr Leigh, and had worked for him for two and a half years before he was charged with the murder of Sally Statham, also known as Sarah Malone.
Sally had two children, a son aged 13 and a daughter aged 7, although was not married herself. Her son was already established as a weaver. She got by with odd jobs, taking in laundry, and helping her son. Her body was found in Lymm Dam, a lake still there today, on January 8th 1798. John Knight broke the ice to retrieve her body, which was found to have 8 wounds to the head, and defence wounds to the arms and hands. She was also found to be 8 months pregnant.
There was considerable circumstantial evidence against Thornhill, with bloodstains being seen on his clothes, a missing hammer thought to be the murder weapon, and several witnesses seeing him with Sally on several occaisions.
John Thornhill was at the same time engaged to be married to another, and it would seem he murdered Sally to prevent the scandal becoming public.
On Saturday 21st April he was sentenced to be hanged, his trial lasting from 7.30 in the morning, until 10.00 in the evening. The sentence was to be carried out 2 days later, on Monday 23rd, so the customary one Sunday had passed. His body was also to be ‘anatomised’, (dissected).
As customary, he was handed over to the City officials at the ‘Gloverstone’, and taken by them in a cart to the gallows at Boughton. The gallows there was only to be used for another few years He went the whole journey with a handkerchief over his face. He spent about 20 minutes in prayer on the drop, before dropping handkerchief as the signal to be ‘launched into eternity’.
The executioner was Sammy Burrows, the local hangman and rat-catcher.