On a cold winter's day in 1830, a worker was clearing the ground outside Netherwood farm in Oddingley ahead of the construction of a new barn. He was about to reopen the mystery that had hung about Oddingley for nearly a quarter of a century.
The farm had changed lease since the gruesome events of 1806, and the new tenant was keen to replace some of the decaying old buildings. On 21st January at about four o’ clock, as he was digging out the foundations of a particularly old barn that was to be completely replaced, Charles Burton suddenly stumbled across a shoe, then bones and fabric. He realised that he had discovered a human corpse. Burton suspected at once whose the remains could be, and alerted the authorities. The next day, constables accompanied him to the scene. They spent a cold, frightening night guarding the skeleton.
Over the next few days, the remains and the objects found lying with them were carefully examined. The skull had been beaten into many pieces, and it was clear from the outset that the deceased had endured a savage and painful death. The body had lain in place for years or decades at least. By the time an inquest was begun at Worcester on 25th January, it was clear that these were the remains of Richard Heming, long-suspected murderer of Reverend Parker, and found just a little way along the very same road – Netherwood Lane – that runs in front of Oddingley Church. The reconstructed skull had been identified as resembling Heming. Evidently, he had not succeeded in fleeing the country, the county, or even the village where the original crime had been committed.
It then remained to determine exactly how Parker’s murderer had himself succumbed to an equally bloody end, and to hold, if possible, those responsible to account. Several of the farmers who had had the original motive to murder Parker were summoned. Captain Evans had died just a few months before, but particular suspicion was focussed on Thomas Clewes, the former tenant at Netherwood Farm. Many witnesses had come forward recalling quarrels between both Evans and Clewes with Parker, and the former, it now emerged, had sworn an oath of vengeance against the parson. Clewes was suddenly in a very difficult situation. Evidence was gathering that both he and Evans had had a role not only in Parker’s murder, but also in that of his assassin, Heming. Clewes was hence held in gaol as the inquest progressed.
Eventually, Thomas Clewes confessed that he did, indeed, know more than a little about the events on Midsummer Day 1806 and the subsequent events. Evans had masterminded the affair. He had employed Heming to murder reverend Parker. Although Heming had appeared to flee towards Worcester, he had in fact returned to Oddingley that night. Clewes had been persuaded to hide him at Netherwood farm, and Evans had promised to go to the farm at night the day after the murder, to decide what to do with Heming. He arrived at eleven o’ clock, accompanied by George Banks and James Taylor, a local craftsman. Clewes had guided them to the barn where Heming was hiding, and without warning Taylor had bludgeoned Heming on the head. Then, Taylor and Evans had buried Heming in the corner of the barn. There he had lain for nearly twenty-four years undisturbed. Clewes had been paid money that was originally promised to Heming to keep quiet.
Nobody was ever brought to justice for the murder either of reverend Parker or of Richard Heming. Evans was dead; some claimed he was haunted to his dying days by what he had done, and ever fearful of the arrival of ghosts at his house. James Taylor, having been imprisoned for a while on suspicion of complicity in Parker’s murder from 1808, was also by now deceased. Thomas Clewes was found not guilty of assistance in murder by a jury in Worcester in February 1831.