John Chipperfield is intrigued by a book telling the story of a very Oxford murder

A childhood visit to Oxpens market in Oxford sparked Michael Tanner’s (pictured) interest in one of the city’s bloodiest murders.

Passing Oxford Prison in New Road on a bus in 1952, his grandmother told him that “a bad man” was about to be punished inside the jail.

He was Oliver George Butler, who strangled his lover, Rose Matthews, at Horley, near Banbury, and became the last man to be executed in Oxford.

But in later life, it wasn’t that case that attracted Mr Tanner’s attention as much as another murder 21 years earlier – that of widow Annie Kempson.

She was found bludgeoned to death in her semi-detached home called The Boundary in St Clement’s in the summer of 1931.

An intruder had hit her on the head, knocking her unconscious, then plunged a sharp weapon through her throat before escaping with a few pounds. It was a murder that gripped the nation.

Oxford’s Chief Constable, Charles Fox, called in Scotland Yard to help in the hunt for the killer and once detectives heard that career criminal Henry Seymour was in the area at the material time, he was arrested. No-one else was considered a suspect.

Seymour, a 39-year-old commercial traveller, was put on trial at Oxfordshire Assizes, convicted and executed at Oxford Prison.

Yet Oxford-born author Mr Tanner, who studied at Littlemore Grammar School and St Edmund Hall, argues persuasively in his new book, The Oxford Murder, that there is a strong suspicion of a miscarriage of justice.

As Mr Tanner points out, this was a truly Oxford murder case – unusually, the crime, trial and execution all happened in the city.

It is an intriguing tale, with many unanswered questions – about the role of the police and the judiciary and, above all, whether Seymour was the real killer.

The Oxford Murder by Michael Tanner, Authorhouse, £11.95