Villains                    Home Page   Family History        20 June 2012

1.  James Ball, Murderer and Suicide


1. James Ball Murderer and Suicide

Text Box: 2nd cousin once removed of Bessie Ball, probably through two lines.
Descendant of John Ball=Jennifer Hicks and Christopher Ball=Ann Abbott
GGNephew of Jonathan Ball, all three sons of John Ball, Warden of Little Petherick



 The events below happened on the 5th Sept 1889 at St Mawgan. The following is an extract from “The Devon & Cornwall Advertiser” of Thursday evening 12 Sept 1889.

 Shocking Tragedy at Mawgan
A man shoots his brother and himself

 A tragedy of a kind which is happily rare in Cornwall - for which, indeed, perhaps no parallel can be formed in the annals of the county - was committed on Thursday at Mawgan, near St Columb. 

Early on Thursday morning James and Joseph Ball, two brothers residing at Trevenna Cottage - about half a mile from Mawgan - had a quarrel with reference to a cat which James Ball had killed.  When the altercation had ceased James left the house and spent the remainder of the day drinking at Mawgan. 

He remained in the village until about four p.m., when he returned home in a very intoxicated state.  He remained at Trevenna Cottage for some time, and on leaving took with him his loaded double-barrelled gun, and had in his pocket several cartridges. 

Walking directly to the field where his brothers Joseph and Mark were hard at work saving clover, he at once called to Joseph in a very excited manner 

Your time is short,” at the same time pointing the gun at him.  Joseph immediately turned and fled from his brother, who thereupon fired at him, striking him in the back.  Joseph fell to the ground, evidently seriously hurt.  James, not content with this, in his frenzy, fired a second barrel, the shot of which penetrated his brother’s chest, killing him instantly.  The murderer was then observed to approach and sit down by the side of his deceased brother, and was heard to cry out in great anguish - “Oh, Lord, have mercy on me! I have killed Joe.” 

Very shortly afterwards, he placed his gun which he had reloaded between his knees, with the muzzle directed to his head. Then he fired it, but the charge went over his head.  Getting up, he ran across the field as fast as he could go.  Crossing the road, he reached another field, where he again directed his gun to his head, and discharged it, blowing the top of his head completely off. 

For some time past the murderer had threatened the life of his brother and other people in the village, but no notice was taken of what was regarded as the idle threats of a drinking man. 

On the alarm being made, P.C. Richards immediately went to the spot, and found both men quite dead.  Information was at once given to the Police at St Columb by the brother, Mark, who left the field immediately his brother fired at Joseph, and did not know what had become of him.  The bodies were removed to Joseph’s house, to await an Inquest. 

As may be supposed, the whole neighbourhood was thrown into a state of frenzied excitement when news of the awful occurrence spread.  The excitement was intensified by a rumour to the effect that the murderer was at large with his gun loaded and pocket full of cartridges, and that he intended to find and shoot P.C. Richards. 

A man named Rawlings, who was an eyewitness of the tragedy, was not able to get near enough to prevent it, although ho did his best to do so. 

The family are very respectable, and, in addition to carrying on the business of small farmers, were engaged in rabbit trapping.  Joseph was married, and leaves a widow and two children. The murderer was a single man, aged twenty six, and of late had given way to drink.  He had been on a drinking bout for a week before the tragedy.  He was very deaf and of a very sullen and jealous disposition. 

Mr E.G. Hamley, County Coroner, held an inquest on the bodies on Friday, Mr Roberts being foreman of the jury.  The verdicts were: “That Joseph Ball was wilfully murdered by his brother James” and
“That James Ball had committed suicide by shooting himself while in an unsound state of mind.”

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