The brutal killing of Bessie Sheppard and the eerie stone that marks her death

A monument to Bessie's was placed on the site of her deathA monument to Bessie's was placed on the site of her death
A monument to Bessie's was placed on the site of her death | Wiki Commons / Deborah McDonald
Bessie's death is one of Nottingham's most disturbing urban legends

Nottingham has more than its fair share of spooky urban legends, from the white lady of Wollaton Hall to the ghost of St George's Hill.

But one of the saddest and most frightening is the story of Elizabeth 'Bessie' Sheppard. A young woman who met her untimely demise at the hands of a horrid highwayman in 1817.

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A memorial to Bessie stands on the side of the A60 between Ravenshead and Mansfield where she was brutally beaten to death. Legend has it, Bessie's ghost haunts the stretch of road where she died, with many locals recalling terrifying sightings.

While the story of her death is immortalised by Bessie's 'murder stone', there are still some locals who are unfamiliar with the frightening tale.

17-year-old Bessie from Papplewick had gone looking for work as a servant in Mansfield when she was attacked by killer and former soldier Charles Rotherham, who had been drinking in a nearby pub, The Hutt.

About four miles from Bessie's home, the two allegedly bumped into each other on Mansfield Road, now the A60.

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According to the newspaper reports at the time without word or motive, Rotherham attacked Bessie with a hedge-stake. He beat the young woman until she died. The Lancaster Gazette and General Advertiser reportedly described Rotheram as ‘a monstrous assassin’.

After finding she had no money, Rotherham took Bessie's shoes and umbrella and threw her lifeless body into a ditch. The killer reportedly returned to the pub he'd been drinking at earlier to try and sell the stolen goods. He was, however, unsuccessful.

The killer made off on foot towards Nottingham where he tried to sell the goods once again. In a twist of fate Rotherham allegedly passed Bessie's mother, who had gone looking for her daughter, on the journey.

Bessie's body was found the following day, and after a manhunt, Rotherham was tracked down by police on a canal bridge in Loughborough. He was tried before a judge, as per law at the time was sentenced to death. People turned out in their droves to watch his public hanging at Gallows Hill.

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Bessie's body is buried in the graveyard at St James' Church in Papplewick. However, appalled locals clubbed together for a memorial stone that now stands on the side of the A60.

Over the years there have been many reported sightings of Bessie's ghost, with people claiming to have seen a 'woman in white' walking along the road where she was killed.

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