In 1902 at Peasenhall, Suffolk, a Mr. and Mrs. Crisp employed a servant named Rose Harsent. A few hundred yards away lived William Gardiner with his wife and six children. He was known to be a devout Primitive Methodist, Choirmaster and Sunday School Teacher.
On Sunday June 1st, Rose’s father called at the house, bringing clean linnen for his daughter. He passed into the kitchen and found the body of Rose lying on the floor, near the staircase which lead to her bedroom. She had fearful wounds and an attempt had been made to burn her. A doctor and policeman arrived and established that she had been dead for about four hours.
From all the evidence collected, suspicion fell upon William Gardiner. Asked to account for his movement over the week-end which concluded that, at the crucial time, he was at home in bed with his wife. On being questioned, his wife’s statement agreed in every detail. On June 3rd Gardiner was arrested and charged with the murder of Rose Harsent. After appearing before a magistrate, he was sent for trial at the Suffolk Assizes at Ipswich.
The trial began on November 7th, before Mr. Justice Grantham, W. F. Dicken K. C. for the defence. A great deal of evidence was produced for and against. They tried to fix on him that he was responsible for Rose’s pregnancy and that was the motive, but no amount of cross-examination could shake the statement made by Mrs. Gardiner. The jury retired and, after 4 ½ hours, could not agree and were discharged.
Gardiner again stood trial on Wednesday 21st January 1903 when, again, the jury failed to agree after 2 1/4 hours. Putting into being various laws, it was entered as “Nolle Prosequi” – case “Not Proven” – and this was the decision of the Home Office. Gardiner was discharged. He was advised to change his name, but refused to do so. They came to Southall and opened a shop, not being afraid to have their name over the door.