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Bodmin murderer's death mask reconstructed at jail

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: May 29, 2013

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A FULL-SIZED head of a man hanged at Bodmin Jail, which is believed to be that of one of two brothers convicted of a notorious 19th-century murder of a Wadebridge man, has been reconstructed.

Artist Stuart Beilby made the impression which he said was taken from a photo of the death mask of William Lightfoot, who, with brother James, was hanged at the jail after being convicted of murdering Wadebridge merchant Nevell Norway in 1840.

Mr Beilby said it was common practice at Bodmin Jail in the mid-19th century for casts to be made of hanged men.

In some cases, casts were made to study the characteristics of the criminals' personalities using physiognomy (shape and size of the head) and phrenology (study of the site of different abilities on the head).

Mr Beilby said: "My reconstruction was taken from a photo of one of them, and from drawings of the Lightfoot brothers at the time, I am 95 per cent sure this is William Lightfoot.

"Every prisoner who arrived at Bodmin Jail at that time would have his head shaved to get rid of lice, which is why all the death masks show no hair."

Mr Beilby, who produces mannequins for Bodmin Jail with Mark Rablin, hopes to make another head cast of William Bartlett, hanged in 1883 for the murder of a child in Lanivery.

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