Execution of the Purfleet Murderer


Execution of the Purfleet Murderer


Richard Coates, a military schoolmaster at an establishment for the education of the children of soldiers at Purfleet Garrison, Essex, is convicted of the murder of Alice Boughen, aged six, in 1875.
He beat her to death after attempting to violate her. He killed the child in a school closet then carried her body down to a riverbank, intending to throw it into the water. He was unable to lift it over a railing near the river and returned to the school. He was seen carrying the body back and was arrested. He confessed his guilt in the condemned cell and blamed it on drink. Executed 29 March 1875, Springfield Prison Chelmsford. Executioner was William Marwood.

Digital Object

Image / Audio Credit

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Shelfmark: Harding B 14(184); Bodleian Ballads Online Bod14517

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Richard Coates, that cruel murderer,
Now is cold within his grave,
None could show him any pity,
None stretch forth a hand to save;
His horrid crime was so unmanly,
I'm sure we no excuse could give.
He did disgrace our gallant soldiers,
And he was not fit to live.

Richard Coates, the Purfleet murderer,
On Easter Monday met his doom;
He killed the soldier's little daughter,
Now he's dead and in his tomb.

For the murder of poor Alice Bougham
He justly was condemned to die,
For a murder so outrageous,
The country for his death did cry;
You never heard or ever read of
Such treatment to a little child,
Altho' so innocent and so loving,
Cruelly murdered and defiled.

A full confession of the murder
To the chaplain he has made,
He has told the truth to those around him,
For which his poor old mother prayed;
He took his victim to the closet,
Frightful was his conduct there,
He took her life in a cruel manner,
Before his death he did declare.

He tried to throw his victim's body
Over the pailings in the sea,
The fence was high, he could not do it,
It was ordained it should not be;
Could he have thrown her in the water,
And the tide have carried her away, ,
The murder of the soldier's daughter
Would not have been found out to-day.

He might have done well in the army,
In the barracks he was born,
Alas! he has disgraced his father,
Who the uniform has worn;
Heaven help his poor old mother,
She has been a true good soldier's wife,
She would sooner have seen him shot in action,
Than in such a way to lose his life.

Then let us all now take a warning
By his sad and fearful end,
Don't give way to unholy passion,
Nor against the laws offend;
Try to be honest and be sober,
I'm sure you'll find it is the best,
In the world let's do our duty,
As we hope in heaven to rest.

Method of Punishment



rape, murder



Execution Location

Springfield Prison Chelmsford

Printing Location

Preston : Harkness, J.

Tune Data

Composer of Tune: George F. Root (1820-1895)
Date tune first appeared: 1864


Execution of the Purfleet Murderer.gif


“Execution of the Purfleet Murderer,” Execution Ballads, accessed February 24, 2024, https://omeka.cloud.unimelb.edu.au/execution-ballads/items/show/878.

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