MURDER IN THE BULLRING; but There's No Need to Call the Police ... It Was 800 Years Ago

Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), September 7, 2003 | Go to article overview

MURDER IN THE BULLRING; but There's No Need to Call the Police ... It Was 800 Years Ago


Byline: FIONNUALA BOURKE

TWO suspected murder victims from the 13th Century have been found buried underneath the new Bullring.

The skeletons of a middle-aged man and young woman were unearthed by archaeologists excavating the site during its pounds 530 million redevelopment.

The bodies were found underneath what would have been a floor or garden on Park Street, the site of the new Bullring car park next to Selfridge's.

They are just two of 857 corpses exhumed by a field archaeology team from Birmingham University. But the man and woman were the only ones found OUTSIDE graveyards at St Martin's Parish Church, increasing speculation they were murder victims.

Simon Buteux, the archaeologist who led the dig, said: 'Every now and then archaeological excavations turn up something very unexpected. This was the case on the Park Street excavations.

'In the northeast corner of the site two well-preserved human skeletons were found. The bodies had been buried in earth-cut graves, laid out on their backs with their hands folded across their stomachs.

'While human burials are not that uncommon on archaeological digs, from the medieval period onwards we would expect to find them in formal burial grounds, usually churchyards.

'When we find them under floors or in backyards we usually suspect foul play.'

Most of the exhumed Bullring bodies were from the 18th and 19th centuries.

And the two suspected murders were not the only crimes the excavation team uncovered during their dig.

The style of graves within St Martin's churchyard during that time has led archaeologists to believe the site could have been targeted by body snatchers.

Many of the burial sites were brick lined to provide protection against Burke and Harestyle criminals who would sell stolen bodies on to medics.

Mr Buteux said: 'In the early 19th century the fear of body snatchers, the so-called resurrection men, was very real.

'Body snatching took place in order to supply fresh corpses to medical schools for anatomical study.

'It is not known how big a threat this would have been in Birmingham, but we know from contemporary accounts it occurred at the Cannon Street Baptist Chapel.'

The excavation also provided an insight into the health of Birmingham's population during the Industrial Revolution. …

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