A SHOCKING tale of a Dorset murder is retold here.

The churchyard at Broadwey, Weymouth, contains a headstone inscription relating to a tragic case.

The headstone commemorates Dr Adam Stapleton Puckett, who was murdered by 'a lunatic' in Sutton Poyntz.

Dr Puckett was killed by his patient, while carrying out his duty in the village on July 8, 1862. He was aged 65.

Dorset Echo: Headstone of Dr Adam PuckettHeadstone of Dr Adam Puckett (Image: Web)

The doctor was highly respected and deeply lamented by all who knew him and it would seem as though life as a doctor wasn't easy in those times with them having an enormous workload across a huge district and even having to fund their own horse.

The peculiar horror of Puckett's death was described in The Times of July l0, 1862.


A murder was committed on Tuesday at the village of Sutton, Nr. Weymouth. (Sutton Pointz or Poyntz: Hardy's 'Overcombe'.)

Dorset Echo: Sutton Poyntz in bygone days Sutton Poyntz in bygone days (Image: Newsquest)

It appears that a man named John Cox had been labouring under a brain disease for some time, and was under treatment of Mr. Puckett, parish surgeon.

It had been determined to remove him to the county asylum at Forston.

On the day in question, Mr. Puckett went to Cox's house, with a man named White to remove him; but on hearing that Cox had threatened to murder him and had been very violent, White was sent for a cart.

Meanwhile, the doctor went in to Cox and endeavoured to quiet him, but the lunatic directly darted at him, and said he would kill him.

Mr. Puckett immediately ran outside the door and held the handle to prevent Cox from getting out, on which Cox tried to jump out of the window, but was prevented by some iron bars fixed in the front.

The doctor incautiously let go the door, when Cox rushed out and felled him to the ground with part of a bedstead, after which he dragged the body into the house, procured a saw and deliberately sawed off the unfortunate man's head, right hand and right foot.

Cox's father and mother were outside but so terrified as to be incapable of rendering any assistance. He also threatened his sister who was in the house, but she ran upstairs and hid herself.

Cox afterwards rifled the deceased's pockets and threw the several members into the road, kicked them about most fiendishly and then ran away.

After a short time he was captured at the Plough Inn, Osmington and conveyed in safety to Weymouth.

The deceased's remains were taken to the Ship Inn, Sutton, where they awaited an inquest. Mr. Puckett was over 6o years of age, and highly respected by all who knew him.

Dorset Echo: n St Nicholas Church, Broadwey, where Dr Puckett’s grave can be foundn St Nicholas Church, Broadwey, where Dr Puckett’s grave can be found (Image: NQ)

Details of Puckett's life are scant. He was born on I6 September 1798, at Sheerness, Kent, where his father (Adam) probably kept a public-house, as in 1824 his mother (Sarah) is listed as licensee of the King's Head.

He was apprenticed for seven years to Mr. Henry Urmston Thomson of Kensington, Apothecary, and qualified at Apothecaries Hall in 18I9. He then practised at Densted (Chartham Hatch) Kent, and married a girl from near-by Harbledown. A son, Edward Frederick, was born in 1829.

Soon afterwards, the Pucketts (it is a Dorset name) moved to Weymouth (Bridge Street) where Puckett himself became a surgeon of the local medical union.

Two daughters, Alice and Louisa, were born in 1834 and 1840 respectively. By 1847 the family had moved to the village of Broadwey.

Mr. Richard Griffin, J.P., of Weymouth, who raised the Puckett Fund on behalf of the widow and children, had some acid comments to make on the administration of medicine in country districts:

'Why he (Puckett) had such a district I must leave the Poor-law Board and the Board of Guardians to answer. That it was cruel to the poor there can be no question, as some of his patients had to walk nine miles for a bottle of medicine and as many home again, making medical relief a mere mockery....'

An extract from the Lance, July 19, 1862, says 'It was given in evidence at the inquest that Puckett only visited 'the maniac' twice a week and in reality was unaware of his dangerous state, which more frequent visits would have revealed to him; but his enormous district prevented him doing more, as his salary of (16 per annum, including extra medical fees, miserable for such a district, allowed him to keep but one horse; for out of that salary he had not only to pay for the keep of that horse, but had to find drugs for the poor, to maintain himself, his wife, and one daughter to look after the house and her mother who has been for the last few years incapable of attending to the household duties.'