Paraphrased from an article “Skeletons in the Cupboard” by Debra van Driel Kluit in the CFHS Journal of September 2002.


John STICKLAND was baptised at Phillack on 12 Mar 1837, the son of William STICKLAND and Ann MICHELL.  He married his cousin, Wilmot MILES, nee STICKLAND, at Phillack in 1864 after the death of her first husband, Thomas MILES, at Phillack in 1862.


In May 1868, John STICKLAND of Angarrack was arrested for the murder of his 3 year old daughter, Maria STICKLAND.


At the inquest into his daughter’s death, evidence was given that John’s wife had died of consumption and was still lying unburied in her coffin when John, overcome with grief, slit the throat of his three year old daughter, then attempted to take his own life by slitting his own throat. He was discovered before death occurred and was restored to life.


At his trial at the Cornwall Summons Assizes in August 1868, evidence was given that the accused appeared to be very depressed because he didn’t have any money to bury his wife and his friends had all abandoned him.


In evidence, a neighbour, Edward STEPHENS, who had known the family for years, told the Court that he was very surprised that the accused didn’t have anything to sell.  He had asked the accused what had happened to his gold watch, his gold stick and the deeds to his property and was told they had all gone.  The accused seemed to think that his wife’s family and the MILES family had combined to deprive him of that to which he should have been entitled.  Apparently after the death of his wife’s first husband, £1,000 was left to their son, but what happened to the money in the intervening four years was a great mystery.


The accused told Edward STEPHENS that Thomas MILES’ children were to have his wife’s money and that there was nothing for his daughter, but a £60 debt.  Edward STEPHENS also inferred to insanity in the family – an uncle of the accused who was in an asylum and his grandmother was demented before her death, but in cross-examination it was established that both had been of good mind in their younger years.


The accused’s doctor informed the Court that the accused had been under treatment for several months for problems with his liver and stomach and that these ailments could cause depression, which combined with the decline and death of his wife, could have led to a temporary loss of his mind.


The accused’s mother-in-law informed the court that her son-in-law, a boilermaker by trade, had been out of work due to sickness for several weeks.  [Maybe this might explain why all of the family’s savings and assets were gone.]


The jury, after a short deliberation, returned a verdict of ‘not guilty’ on the grounds of insanity and John STICKLAND was committed to County Lunatic Asylum at Bodmin.



1.     The family name is often spelt STRICKLAND

2.     Wilmot and Maria Bowden STRICKLAND were buried at Phillack on 5 May 1868

3.     Among the inmates at the Cornwall County Lunatic Asylum at Bodmin at the time of the 1881 census is a male inmate identified only as “J.S.”, a boilermaker, aged 34, birthplace ‘unknown’ – is this John STICKLAND?



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