St Mary’s Churchyard, Eastham, is the last resting place of over 5,000 souls. It contains its fair share of heartbreak, of lives well lived and of lives tragically lost.

It is into this latter category that comes the too early death of Jane McIntyre.

It was while helping a couple who had travelled up from the Midlands to Eastham to identify a grave containing one of their early relatives that the story unfolds.

We were in the right row – ‘P’ - looking for a Platt and possibly a Maddock and a Hancock.

Close up inscription on Jane McIntyres grave

Close up inscription on Jane McIntyre's grave

Suddenly the lady exclaimed “There’s my great grandmother, she was murdered!”.

I was somewhat taken aback by this unexpected announcement, but quickly realised that there was yet another Eastham story waiting to be told.

And what a story it turned out to be.

Jane McIntyre, maiden name Platt, was born in 1859 in Great Sutton to parents Robert, a farmer, and Hannah Platt, his wife. Jane was baptised at Eastham Church on 29th May 1859.

She married Captain Hugh McIntyre, a Highland Scot, at St. Dunstan and All Saints Church (known as the 'Church of the High Seas') in Stepney, London in 1879.

The White Sawn Inn, Great Sutton. Back in 1912

The White Swan Inn, Great Sutton. Back in 1912

Jane was buried in Eastham Churchyard in 1886 aged just 26 years. Her father had been the licensee of the White Swan Inn, a former farm house, in Chester Road, Great Sutton. The pub is still there today serving good beer and good cheer.

Robert Platt died on the 9th May 1885 and is also buried in Eastham Churchyard; he never knew of the dreadful fate that was to befall his daughter the following year.

Jane was murdered at her home in Rock Ferry on the 13th February 1886. The inquest, which in those days of no refrigeration, had to be held quickly.

The cause of death was stated as 'From concussion of the brain, feloniously caused'. It was a sensational case, which The Cheshire Observer of the 20th February 1886 reported in lurid detail.

The inquest was told that Robert Travis, a friend of the Platt family in Great Sutton, had taken over the licence of the White Swan. He was aged about 50 and his wife had died the previous year.

He was paying his attentions to Jane’s single sister, a Miss Elizabeth Platt. Elizabeth was visiting her sister, who was ill in bed, at her home in Mersey Road, Rock Ferry, this was an upmarket area next to Rock Park.

Robert Travis and Miss Platt

Robert Travis and Miss Platt

Captain McIntyre (Jane’s husband) was away working for a shipping firm in Cardiff as a ‘ship’s overlooker’ at the time of his wife’s murder.

It would appear that Jane was vocally opposed to the liaison between Travis and her sister.

Travis had been to Liverpool and was in the habit of consuming considerable quantities of whisky, which he had done when he arrived at Jane's house in Mersey Road that fateful afternoon.

Jane herself seemed also to like a drink having already sent her serving girl out for ‘six pennyworth of gin’ earlier in the day.

So the scene was set and Jane had only a few hours left to live.

It was the next-door neighbours who were awoken by the screams and shouts of “murder” and “police” at about 2am in the morning. This prompted them to hurry to the nearby police station for help.

The constables arrived and as they did so there was a crash of glass and a thud. On investigation they found the bloodied and insensible body

of Robert Travis on the ground in the garden.

A ladder was fetched and a Constable Dean climbed it and forced a way into the bedroom. A scene of complete devastation met his eyes,

smashed furniture, blood on the walls and on the ceiling , Elizabeth Platt sitting in a chair in blood stained clothes apparently insensible, and the body of Jane sprawled on the floor in only her blood-soaked nightdress.

At hand was a pair of broken fire tongs that appear to have been the murder weapon. The verdict of the coroner’s court was that Jane had been murdered.

Robert Travis and Elizabeth Platt were detained in Birkenhead bridewell where they were were arrested for the murder of Jane McIntyre (nee Platt).

An artists illustration of the murder

An artist's illustration of the murder

The trial was held just three months later at Chester Assize. The case was a national sensation and occupied many pages of newsprint including the Police Gazette.

At the start of the trial in June 1886 the QC defending Elizabeth Platt made a powerful case to the jury that she couldn’t possibly have been guilty of the murder of her sister. If they agreed with him and found her ‘Not Guilty’ then he would put her in the witness box and she would tell them exactly what happened.

The jury immediately returned a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict in respect of Elizabeth Platt and she was acquitted. Her subsequent evidence in the witness box was damming. But - had a deal been done with the prosecution? - This was to be key to later events.

Travis’s initial statements were read to the jury. He said that he could not remember what had happened as he was almost insensible as a result of his large consumption of whisky. He had made various statements to the effect that he had been attacked by two men and had to jump from the bedroom window to save his life.

He also told the police officers who had been called to the disturbance, he said, “Officers, take this as a hint, watch them women. Such damned rascality. After getting me in the room they turned out the gas. There were tow women in the room, one of them said to me ‘What’s the matter dear’. If I had not jumped from the window I would have been a dead man”.

Elizabeth said that the three of them had drunk about 1-½ pints of whisky during the course of the evening. At about 11.30 she had gone into her sister’s bedroom to retire for the night.

MIss Platt in the witness box

MIss Platt in the witness box

Travis had followed and she asked him to go as there wasn’t a bed made u. She asked him gain to leave hereupon Travis lew into a rage and hit her twice. Travis went to sleep on the sofa in an adjoining room and she fell asleep in the rocking chair by the fire.

She was awakened by the sound of a struggle, she looked for matches to light the gas when she was struck a heavy blow on her left shoulder which caused her to sink into a chair. She remembered nothing more.

As the judge was summing up one juryman intervened to say. that he would not accept responsibility for the prisoner’s life or death. Travis was

found guilty but with a strong recommendation for mercy on account of the act being a frenzied one and unpremeditated.

Donning the black cap the judge sentenced Travis to be hanged and said that he would pass on the jury’s recommendation to the appropriate quarters.



Travis was held in Knutsford jail pending his execution the date of which had been set for the 2nd July 1886.

However support for a reprieve was growing. Petitions had been signed by over 14,000 people as doubts grew about the verdict. Even the foreman of the jury that had found Travis guilty wrote to his local newspaper saying that there was no ‘malice of aforethought’ in Travis’s action and said that he wished to sign the petition, as he thought would other members of the jury.

Travis’s solicitor, Mr R.B. Moore of Birkenhead, who had worked tirelessly on behalf of his client, pointed out that the law required that murder had to be be premeditated and the alleged murderer to be of sound memory.

In effect, in today’s terms, Travis was guilty of manslaughter.

The White Sawn Inn, Great Sutton. As it is today

The White Sawn Inn, Great Sutton. As it is today

On the 28th May three days before his execution Travis was reprieved and the death sentence commuted to ‘penal servitude for life’.

However this story was not to end here. In yet a further twist Travis was released from prison and pardoned in June 1888, just two years after he had been sentenced to death.

There was grave disquiet amongst the public which was given a voice by the Cheshire Observer.

Major Barker, The Chief Constable of Birkenhead released a statement that said, “It was known to the police authorities after the case had been fully investigated that Travis did not commit the murder and it was against their judgement that the prosecution took the course they did in putting Miss Platt into the box as a witness against Travis”.

The police statement went on to thank Mr R.B. Moore the Birkenhead solicitor who never gave up on his client.

Jane McIntyres headstone in Eastham Churchyard

Jane McIntyre's headstone in Eastham Churchyard

This extraordinary story still reverberates down the ages and has the power to haunt today. It is sad that the victim in all of this, poor Jane McIntyre, barely gets a mention.

She still lies at peace and always will, in Eastham’s quintessentially English churchyard.

This article has been reproduced with the permission of the Eastham Archivist.