'She would turn in her grave' - Murder victim's descendant angered by escape game based on the crime
PUBLISHED: 17:16 30 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:11 05 February 2019
A descendant of a famous murder victim has hit out at an escape room in Norwich after a game was based on the gruesome crime.
Sandra Francis has been left “broken-hearted” after discovering that the murder of her great-great-great aunt, Martha Sheward, had been turned into an escape room called Body of Evidence by History Mystery at Guildhall, Norwich.
Martha was killed by her husband, William Sheward in June of 1851. He then cut her body into pieces and littered them across Norwich.
It was not until his drunken confession on New Year’s Day in 1869 that he was arrested and hanged.
Miss Francis, who lives in Norwich and with her partner of 28 years in Wymondham, where Martha was born, has been researching her family history for 12 years by going through records at The Forum.
When a decendant of William Sheward, Asya Taylor, played the game Miss Francis could not believe how happy she was to have a murderer in the family.
Miss Francis said: “I have known about the murder for sometime but what has upset me is that she thinks it’s great she has a gruesome story to tell.
“I don’t think it’s great. It is a gruesome story for my family too but I do not think it’s great.
“That broke my heart, it really upset me. How can it be great when someone is brutally murdered?”
Managing director Alasdair Willett said: “We are acutely aware that in creating games and telling stories we are dealing with real life, and that requires being sensitive to the people involved.
“We knew that in creating our game we would be telling Martha’s story to a very large number of people who would never otherwise have heard about her, and wanted the experience to be in remembrance of Martha.”
Miss Francis hopes to be able to have the remains of Martha blessed by The Rev Edward Carter from St Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich.
She said: “I have known that she is buried at Guildhall for sometime.
“Having games where you lock someone in a cell and try to get out based on Martha’s murder, she would turn in her grave, I feel devastated.”
Mr Willett said he supports the blessing and Miss Francis is free to arrange it at Martha’s resting place but she must go through the lead tenant, Britannia Enterprises.
The murder of Martha Steward
William Sheward murdered his wife Martha Sheward and dismembered her body in 1851.
He went on to scatter her body parts around the streets of Norwich in a gruesome crime that went undiscovered for 18 years.
When the truth was uncovered, Sheward admitted he had been arguing with his wife whilst shaving and had fatally cut her with his razor.
In the days after the murder, the house began to smell so he decided to cut up Martha’s body to dispose of it.
Whilst many of the body parts were later discovered by dog walkers across Norwich, Sheward hid the crime by telling those with suspicions that his wife had run off to New Zealand to find a former lover.
It was not until 1869 that he confessed and after a two-day trial, Sheward was executed behind prison walls, leaving a new wife and family behind.
After the trial no-one came to collect Martha’s body so it was buried under the Guildhall, where it remains.