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On the morning of Whit Tuesday, 27th May, 1817, the body of Mary Ashford was found in a pond near Sutton Coldfield. The surrounding circumstances suggested that she had been criminally assaulted and murdered.
The night before she had attended a village dance at which Abraham Thornton had paid her marked attentions. At the Warwick Assizes he was acquitted, but so unpopular was this verdict that an obsolete process of law was revised, an appeal of murder was "sued out,"
Abraham Thornton was re-arrested and had to plead at Westminster Hall to a charge of which he had been declared "not guilty." Eventually discharged, he had to emigrate.