Samual Thorley 1776 (the ‘Congleton Cannibal’)
When the dismembered body of Ann Smith, an itinerant ballad singer was found in Howty Brook, which ran through Preisty Fields between Astbury and Congleton, suspicion soon fell upon a local, Samual Thorley.
The body parts were recovered and re-assembled in a local barn and it became evident that it was incomplete. Thorley was not the brightest, and had shown a great deal of interest in the finding, and was also a butcher. On the night of the murder he was seen with his usual bloody apron, and was also wet up to the waist, unusual especially in the cold November weather.
He visited a Mrs Oakes, and gave her a piece of meat which he said was pork to cook, and Thorley cooked it himself the following day, although he did not eat it as it appeared to be off, it had made him violently ill. Mrs Oakes decided to keep the meat for boiling up for grease, although it was found to be human flesh by a surgeon called in by the local police. He was arrested
His trial took place at the on April 3rd, having waited for the spring assizes, where he confessed to being told that human flesh resembled pork, and he had decided to try it to see.
He was hanged on April 10th 1777, and his body was gibbetted the following day at West Heath, Congleton.