A Mansfield author who has spent 40 years solving the riddle of an enduring 200 year old murder mystery has turned it into a compelling page turner of a book.
The legend about Bessie Sheppard a young girl murdered by a 19th century vagabond intrigued David Marshall so much he has spend most of his adult life researching it.
And with the publishing of his 320 page book: The Murder of Bessie Sheppard, he has come to some uncomfortable conclusions.
On 7th July 1817, 17 year old Elizabeth Sheppard was bludgeoned to death on her way home to the village of Papplewick from Mansfield where she had been looking for work.
Within weeks, Charles Rotherham, an ex-soldier who fought under Wellington in the war against Napoleon was hanged for the murder.
David said: “A large stone was erected at the scene of the murder, which went to great trouble to name not just the victim but the killer of this girl of no consequence -but why?”
David has left no stone unturned to unearth information spending years poring over official records and newspaper reports.
“I went back to basics. I looked at the evidence presented in court in Nottingham together with the crime reports from 1817.”
His painstaking research even managed to discover Bessie’s present day descendents - in Peru.
The book shines a torch into the deprivation, corruption and depravity of 19th Century Mansfield.
He added: “As my involvement with Bessie Sheppard grew, over the years I became swept up in the sheer sadness of it all.
“I feel I’ve told Bess’ story fully for the first time and upon re-examination of the evidence I’ve put forward a defence for the man they hanged.
“I’ve proposed a credible alternative to what supposedly happened in 1817 and the guilt may not lie with Charles Rotherham, but with the Gentlemen of Mansfield of that year.
“My last aim was to give this sad girl back to a family. I did that - I traced a family for her.
“She is no longer just a name etched into a stone by the side of the Nottingham Road.
“She’s dead, but in a way she finally lives.”
The Murder of Bessie Sheppard is published by CreateSpace (US), a subsidiary of Amazon, made available through Amazon, price £8.99 +p&p. ISBN 9781497543041.