The Bedfordshire Mercury of 31st March 1868 had extensive coverage of the trial of the killers of William Bradberry. The front page story begins with the following editorial.
It must be a matter for deep regret amongst the inhabitants on the county of Bedford that the most atrocious crime of which a person can be guilty against the laws of our country - the crime of murder - is on the increase within our borders. In order to prove this statement we have only to glance at a list of offences which have taken place in the county for the last 70 years and such a list is now before us. We find, then, that between the years 1801 and 1833 only one convict was executed at the County Gaol for the crime which we have mentioned, viz, Edmund Chamberlain, in the year 1816 - although eleven others have suffered the extreme penalty of the law for other offences, not now punishable by death. Thus, for 32 years there was only one case of murder, and during a period when education was confined in narrower limits, as regards the less privileged classes, than at the present time. But this fortunate exemption from the horrible has had no continuance amongst us, for we find that during the last 34 years there have been no less than five persons sentenced to death for robbing their fellow mortals of their precious lives. Thomas Crawley was the first of these, being executed in 1833; and after a lapse of ten years Sarah Dazley - the only woman who has been sentenced to death in Bedford for a very long period - suffered upon the scaffold. Ten years on there was another deed of blood, enacted by one Abel Burrows, who murdered his grandmother [she was in fact no relation] with a hammer at Heath-and-Reach, but in this case the efforts which were made by the public to obtain a commutation of the sentence on the ground of insanity were at the eleventh hour successful, and the crowds who poured into the town on that eventful market-day on which the execution had been fixed to take place were compelled to be contented by looking at the removal of the scaffold upon which they had expected to witness with demoniacal gloatings the writhings of a man in the agonies of death. In passing we might inform our readers that this singular man Burrows, who, if not insane, was unmistakably most eccentric, was removed to one of our penal settlements, and afterwards forwarded letters to the Governor of the CountyPrison (Mr. R. E. Roberts) thanking him for the considerate treatment he had invariably received from him while under his care. Luton, the principal seat of manufacture in the county, was the scene of the next tragedy, in 1859, when, on the 9th of August Joseph Castle, only 24 years of age, and a maltmaker by trade, murdered his wife Jane in a grassy dell on Summeries -hill, a short distance from the inhabited part of Luton. This was a remarkably atrocious murder, the unfortunate woman being found in the open day, with her throat dreadfully gashed, and quite dead. The event caused the most intense excitement amongst the populace, who at times seemed almost determined to wreak vengeance upon the culprit by lynch law, and the greatest precautions had to be taken to prevent the prisoner being roughly handled. We well remember what a ruse the Governor of the Prison adopted to get Castle to and from the court-house at the time of his trial, by which managed to cheat the crowds that had assembled for the purpose of giving vent to yells of execration, if not something worse. Our readers will recollect that we gave full particulars of the extraordinary and ungrateful conduct of castle up to within a day or so of his execution, and of his astonishing exhibition of that spirit of bravado which, under the circumstances, reminded one more of the fiendish than the mortal. Upon the sickening scenes of the day of execution we certainly have no wish to dwell, as they can never be forgotten by those who had at the time the slightest acquaintance with them. But we had fain hoped after this was over to have done with the ugly instrument of death for ever, and with that adroit official, who, notwithstanding his thirty-three years' experience upon the scaffold, is ever ready, as in his younger days, to perform the unenviable duties of public hangman. However, this is not to be.
Eight years have gone by, and lo! Another victim falls beneath the blows of rude, ruffianly hands, in the same neighbourhood of Luton, and in the same fatal month of August. Two men, after an habitual carouse at a public-house until the midnight hour arrives steer along the highway into the murky darkness of the night, and instead of wending their way homewards after the manner of drunkards generally, they proceed in a contrary direction, with a youth whom they had invited to accompany them on their mysterious expedition. These three - William Worsley, Levi Welch, and James Day - stroll away from the house which is known by the characteristic sign of the Jolly Topers, and continue their course for a short distance along the road, until the youth Day dropped a sixpence, and fumbled about on the ground for it. Not being willing to leave the coin for another to appropriate, he went back to the public-house for a light in order that he might make a search. The two older men - older in sin as well as in years - became impatient, and they moved on in advance of Day. Straggling along the road - whether in close company or not, it is impossible to say - these men fall in with as easy-going countryman, Bradberry by name, who, having gone from his house at Lilley to Luton for the purpose of purchasing certain articles of wearing apparel, had prolonged his stay in public-houses until the midnight hour was approaching. Who first saw this man is not positively known, nor has it been proved by whom he was first assaulted. Certain it is that nobody was upon the road at the time but Worsley and Welch, by the testimony of many witnesses, and that they were both armed with weapons for some purpose or other; and, as Bradberry was shortly afterwards discovered by others lying in the road bleeding profusely from the head and in a state of insensibility, with his pockets cut out, one or both of the men whose names we have mentioned must have inflicted the injuries. However, Bradberry died, and these men were taken into custody after a Coroner's inquest had been held, with Day, a verdict of "wilful murder" having been returned against them by the jury. The three prisoners were also committed for trial by the magistrates on the capital charge, and were brought to the CountyPrison at Bedford, where they were confined up to the time for holding the Lent Assizes. With reference to the conduct of the prisoners in gaol during this long period we believe there was nothing remarkable, or that requires any special mention. Worsley was unable to write, although he read tolerably well; but while awaiting his trial, by constant endeavours he was at length sufficiently acquainted with the art of writing to be able to sign his own name. Welch could both read and write imperfectly, but Day was only able to read. Previous to their committal Worsley and Welch made statements respecting the occurrence, and, as is frequently the case, criminated each other. It appears that Welch acknowledged robbing the unfortunate man, but positively asserted that he committed no violence upon the person, and that Worsley was the man who felled him to the ground with a heavy grate winch, afterwards kicking him, jolting his head on the ground, and directing how h was to be robbed. Worsley denied this, and adhered to his denial up to the time of his trial. But Welch repeated his confession in the Prison before the Governor, and frankly owned to his share of the guilt. From the time the man Day was included in the charge it was never seriously thought that he had any hand in committing the outrage, but, out of wide policy, he was also sent for trial. In fact the other prisoners agree in declaring that he is perfectly innocent, as he was some distance away from the spot where the tragedy was enacted. Under these circumstances, the grand jury were strongly advised by Mr. Baron Bramwell to ignore the bill against him, which they accordingly did, and the wisdom of this course fully appeared when Day was examined by his lordship after he had given evidence in the case against one of his fellow prisoners. He stated that he had no idea whatever of the object which Worsley and Welch had in view when they started away from the Jolly Topers, but as they said to him "Come on", he followed them without knowing where they were going. Day being thus discharged, it became a matter for consideration with the professional gentlemen who were conducting the prosecution whether there was a possibility of convicting Welch, against whom there was but little positive testimony so far as the more serious offence was concerned.
It is a singular coincidence that the prisoners Worsley and Welch, were arraigned on the same date as that one on which Joseph castle had been tried, viz., on Saturday, the 14th of March; and that the same learned counsel prosecuted in both cases - Mr. Serjeant Tozer and Mr. Abdy. The case against Welch having been duly considered by the learned serjeant [-at-law], it was determined to withdraw the indictment against him in order that the prosecution might have the benefit of his evidence. The application having been laid before the court, and granted, Mr. Metcalfe, naturally asked that the trial should be postponed to enable him to prepare his defence on behalf of Worsley, the only remaining prisoner. After some little demur on the part of the prosecution, the trial was postponed until Monday morning, and accordingly the prisoners were conveyed back to prison. On Monday morning they were removed to the court-house without any difficulty, and at nine o'clock were placed in the dock and given in charge of the jury. Mr. Serjeant Tozer then made a formal application to Mr. Baron Bramwell that Welch should be acquitted on the capital charge, and by his lordship's direction the jury immediately found the prisoner Not Guilty. This man, who looked tolerably respectable as regards dress, had the appearance of a mechanic, and showed no signs of villainous habits. As he was removed from the dock, there was left the prisoner Worsley to answer this grave indictment alone. He looked utterly dejected, and deep furrows might be easily traced in his cheeks as if he had suffered much from remorse or intense sorrow. Throughout the trial his countenance wore an aspect of deep anxiety, and at no stage was there noticeable any manifestations of bravado whatever. He sat motionless in the dock, and spoke not a word, except twice or thrice when he leaned over to communicate with Mr. Bailey, his solicitor. When the accomplice Welch was giving evidence there was a look of indignation and utter contempt upon Worsley's face, as might naturally be expected, as his life seemed then at stake, and eventually proved to have been. Probably Welch imagined that if he made a clean breast of the matter, at the expense of his former boon companion, he might possibly get out of the difficulty with a slight punishment; but Baron Bramwell has a keen sense of duty towards criminals of his class, and does not look upon confessions as acts of virtue altogether, so that he felt compelled to mark his sense of the barbarous treatment of Bradberry by Welch in leaving him bleeding upon the road. He therefore sentenced him for robbery with violence - to which he pleaded guilty, although in his evidence he had denied inflicting violence - to the highest punishment allowed by the law, viz., 14 years' penal servitude. A vast proportion of the public had a very bad opinion of this man, and express their regret that he also is not an inmate of a condemned cell. It is impossible to say what share he had in the offences that were committed on the fatal night, and probably we shall never know. But, as the evidence of the witnesses corroborated to some extent his statement, the jury felt no difficulty in convicting his companion whom he had left to shift for himself - especially after the direction of his lordship, that if Welch was equally guilty with Worsley, there would be no excuse for acquitting the latter. The jury believed Worsley to be guilty, and of course made no allusion to Welch, whom they might possibly have thought also to be guilty. Worsley received the awful sentence of the law in silence, and a slight convulsiveness of the features was all that could be noticed in his manner; he then walked slowly out of the dock without having said a word audibly throughout the day.