The act of a killer who shot his victim in the head before leaving the weapon under his body, triggered the start of the CSI font still in use today.
On January 19, 1784, carpenter Edward Culshaw was walking along the Ditton Bank farm road to Widnes.
Culshaw – who according to burial records lived in Crosby – had traveled from Liverpool on his salary but, unbeknownst to him, was followed by a man named John Thoms.
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Reports indicate that it was on this road that Thoms shot him in the head with a mounted pistol and stole the money he was carrying.
He would then have taken his victim’s watch before placing the pistol under the corpse.
Thoms may have thought he escaped with the murder, but one piece of evidence forever changed the course of police investigations.
Gunpowder and a lead ball had been loaded into the muzzle of the pistol and wrapped with paper batting – it was common in those days for people to use spare scraps of paper to fix the gunpowder and lead together.
But a piece of that paper that Thoms had used to load the lead had got stuck in Culshaw’s wound.
Reports say that a police officer examining Culshaw’s head injury found the batting to be a torn song piece, commonly found in taverns at the time.
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Later that evening, Thoms, a prime suspect in the murder, was arrested by police.
A Thoms search reportedly revealed a piece of the song sheet with its tear marks matching the padding in the shot that killed Culshaw perfectly.
Thoms was tried and convicted of the willful murder of Edward Culshaw at the Lancaster Assizes (court).
It is reported that he was executed the next morning with his body given to surgeons for dissection.
The Edward Culshaw murder case is believed to be the first time that forensic science – in this case ballistics – has been used as evidence in a murder conviction.
After his death, an engraved stone was placed by the roadside of Ditton Bank Farm to mark the murder.
Known as The Ditton Murder Stone, the engraved inscription has long deteriorated and following acts of vandalism it has been removed and moved to the quiet grounds of St Michael’s Church, Hough Green in 1949.
A bronze plaque was placed on the stone, bearing the inscription: “This stone, known as the Ned Stone or Murder Stone, once stood on the side of the road near Bank Farm, Ditton, and bears the ‘following inscription’ in memory of Edward Culshaw, who was inhumanely shot in the head and stolen near this location on January 19, 1784, by John Thoms, an Irishman, who was executed at Lancaster for the horrific act, having confessed the fact before him. “