Robert is remembered on the war memorial at Northgate High School. Formerly Ipswich Grammar School for Boys.


Born: 1892, Westhorpe, Suffolk.

Died: 18th January 1917; age: 25; Died of Wounds.

Residence: Rookery Farm, Westhorpe, Suffolk.

Enlistment Location: Winchester, Hampshire.


Rank: Private; Service Number: 26943.

Regiment: Hampshire Regiment, 15th (Service) Battalion.


Medals Awarded: Victory & British War.


Grave Reference:


Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery,






1901   Rookery Farm, Westhorpe, Suffolk.


Robert was 9 years old and living with his parents & siblings.

William Hunt Sykes, 54, a Farmer & Dealer, born Barking, Suffolk.

Mary Jane Sykes (nee Browning), 42, born Cockfield, Suffolk.

Philip Sykes, 18, born Westhorpe.

Leonard Sykes, 13, born Westhorpe.

Jack Sykes, 11, born Westhorpe.

Nora Bridget Sykes, 10, born Westhorpe.

Dick Sykes, 7, born Westhorpe.

Ida Elizabeth Sykes, 5, born Westhorpe.

Maurice Sykes, 3, born Westhorpe – murdered by ‘Emma’ Caroline Palmer, 2nd October 1901, at Rookery Farm, Westhorpe.

1 general domestic servant – Emma Caroline Palmer, 17, born Finningham, Suffolk.


1911   Rookery Farm, Westhorpe, Suffolk.


Robert was 19 years old and living with his parents & siblings.

William, 64, a Farmer & Dealer – employer.

Mary, 52.

Ethel Maud May Sykes, 26, born Westhorpe.

Leonard, 23.

Jack, 21.

Nora, 20.


Robert’s mother, Mary Jane Sykes died October 1913, Westhorpe, Suffolk.


Probate to William Hunt Sykes – farmer & dealer.


Soldiers’ Effects to William H. Sykes – father.


Robert is also remembered on the war memorial at St. Margaret’s Church, Westhorpe, Suffolk.


Framlingham Weekly News – 5th October 1901



A most shocking crime, which became more apparent upon the institution of further enquiry, was perpetrated on Wednesday at the village of Westhorpe, about one and a half miles from Finningham Station, whereby a child of three years, the son of Mr. William Hunt Sykes, of the Rookery Farm, was deprived of his life.

About 11:20 in the morning, the little boy, who was named Maurice, told his mother he wished to go to the back premises, and Caroline Palmer, who has acted for some time past as general servant at the house, accompanied him. He was in the best of health and spirits, for when Mrs. Sykes saw the pair go down the yard together, her son was laughing and playing, and exhibiting all the signs of childlike buoyancy. The closet is situated only about 20 yards from the house, and shortly before 12 o’clock, Mrs. Sykes became disturbed concerning the whereabouts of the child, of whom she had heard nothing since he went down the yard laughing twenty minutes before.

With the object of allaying her anxiety, Mrs. Sykes left the house and went towards the outbuildings, but before reaching the closet she was horrified to see the little boy lying on his back across the pathway, with his throat cut, and apparently dead. Maintaining her presence of mind, Mrs. Sykes entered the outbuildings, where Palmer still remained. The floor presented a shocking spectacle, blood being bespattered all over the place. Palmer stood in a semi-dazed condition, but regained her self-possession when Mrs. Sykes put the question, “Whatever have you been up to?” and replied promptly, “I have killed it with the big knife.” The body of the unfortunate child was then removed within the house, medical assistance being at once summoned. Soon afterwards Dr. Butler, of Finnigham, arrived and pronounced life to have been extinct for some time.

The girl Palmer it is understood has a strong tenancy to insanity. Several members of her family, both on her father’s and mother’s side, have been in Melton Asylum, one of them for so long a period as twenty-five years. Some two or three years ago, when in service at Palgrave, Palmer strayed away and was eventually found in a ditch; since being in service at Westhorpe, she had been heard to speak of having been in the water on that occasion three days and three nights. When appended, she said, Will they hang me? I’ve always wished to die since I left Palgrave.”

A verdict of “Wilful Murder” was returned, and the prisoner was removed in custody to Eye, where she will be brought before the Magistrates on the capital charge.

The Ipswich Journal – 9th November 1901


Caroline Palmer (17), a domestic servant, was charged with wilfully murdering Maurice Skyes, at Westhorpe, on October 2nd. – Mr. A.H. Poyser and Mr. E.E. Wild (instructed by Mr. P.C.G. Hayward) prosecuted on behalf of the Treasury, and Mr. F.K. North defended.

Prisoner, who entered the dock in a composed manner, pleaded “Not Guilty” in a subdued voice. Mr. North engaged in conversation with her for a few moments, but she did not seem to take much interest in his remarks and looked somewhat vacantly round the Court. She was seated during the hearing of the case, a wardress sitting next to her. She did not cry as she did before the Magistrates.

In opening the case, Mr. Poyser asked the Jury to banish any prejudice that might have arisen in their minds, either because of the youth of the child or that of the prisoner. The Jury would have to find whether the prisoner committed the crime with which she was charged. If they answered that the question in the affirmative, as he believed they would, they would have to carefully inquire what the condition of the mind of the girl was when she committed the crime.

Mr. W.H. Brown, architect and surveyor, Ipswich, produced a plan of Rookery Farm, Westhorpe, where the deceased child lived.

Mrs. Mary Jane Skyes, mother of the murdered child, who was much affected whilst giving evidence, stated that her husband’s name was William Hunt Skyes, residing at the Rookery Farm, Westhorpe. She had a son named Maurice, aged three years last March, and prisoner was in her service 16 months. She noticed that the prisoner was rather quiet, but did not observe anything peculiar. On the morning of October 2nd, witness complained to prisoner about not sending away her dirty linen, but she did not find serious fault. About eleven the little boy Maurice wanted to go to the w.c., and she directed the prisoner to take him there. Prisoner took him up in her arms, and witness laughed at him for being such a baby as to be carried. As they did not return in 20 minutes, she went to the place. On the path she saw the child lying dead, close by the closet. She picked him up. The prisoner was sitting inside the closet, crying. Witness asked her what had she done, and she replied, “I killed him.” Witness raised an alarm, and nursed the child till Dr. Butler came. On looking through the prisoner’s box the next morning witness found the following letter:-

“To My Dear, – It as pleased God to lay his affliction hand on me more heavily than I have strength to bear. only him and me will never know how I have longed to die, but the time is getting short for me, and now give my love to all. tell My Dear father I am not a going to die, but I am going to rest. it did brake my heart to think Edie she did not come and see me when she came home but never mind it is all over now. please bury me at Finnigham. please bury me in flowers. Give my love to all and kiss the children all for me, and give them my last, from your unfortunate daughter”



Cross-examined: There was no reason for prisoner to be unhappy. She had a good home. By his Lordship: Prisoner had not time to write the letter after the murder. Police-constable John Mannall said he was summoned to Rookery Farm, and found Mrs. Skyes nursing the child in the garden, and prisoner inside the closet, crying very much. Witness asked, “Where is that knife?” and prisoner pointed to the w.c. where it was afterwards found. In the backhouse witness charged the prisoner with killing the child, and she replied “Yes, I know I did it. I wish now I had not.” Later on, she said, “Will they hang me?” I often wished I was dead since I left Palgrave.” Prisoner was formerly in service in Palgrave. Supt. Page said on the floor of the closet there were two large pools of blood. Blood was also bespattered inside and outside of the closet, and upon an apron and child’s bonnet and shawl. In the vault of the closet he found a large steel knife, which was generally used for killing pigs. Wet blood was upon the handle and blade. Elias Seeley, labourer, employed by Mr. Sykes, identified the knife as the one he killed pigs with. It was kept on a shelf in the backhouse, and prisoner knew the fact. His Lordship, in summing up, said the only question for the Jury was the state of the prisoner’s mind. After a short consultation, the Jury returned a verdict that at the time she committed the crime, prisoner was not responsible for her actions. The Judge thereupon ordered her to be detained in a criminal lunatic asylum during His Majesty’s please.


  • How exciting to read this article. We live at Rookery Farm and find it to be a calm and peaceful home.

  • What a horrific tragedy for all involved. Maurice Sykes was my great-grandmother’s little brother.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!
Scroll to Top