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Ceremony reunites head with murdered owner 129 years later


A gruesome discovery by staff at a Charlottetown restaurant has brought closure to an Island mystery.

Hidden and undisturbed for years inside an old, decaying box rested the skull of a long ago murdered Margate woman.

The head belonged to 17-year-old Mary Pickering Tuplin. She died a bloody and traumatic death.

More than 100 years ago, following her grisly murder, staff at the former Johnson and Johnson pharmacy stored the head as evidence for police investigating the case.

“Someone was digging through the building (which today houses a Chinese food restaurant) and found this well-labelled box containing the head of Mary Tuplin,” said Robert Keezer, one of the family members contacted after the discovery. “The staff knew our family and my cousin, Frances. Frances lives in Charlottetown, so she took in the box and its contents.”

The bullet-pierced skull is more than 100 years old.

“Now people may ask why it’s been so long since the discovery, but no one claimed the box,” explained Keezer. “It was kept as crucial evidence and stored in the pharmacy for many years and we had no idea it was there.”

 

Found in river

In 1887, Mary’s body was plucked from Southwest River, near Margate.

An anchor stone weighing over eight pounds was tied around her waist, and doctors who conducted an inquest soon discovered that she had been shot twice in the head with a pistol. They also discovered Mary was six months pregnant.

“In those days it would have been devastating for a single woman to be pregnant, so that could have been a motive for murder,” said Keezer. “It was also a serious crime, if you were married, to get someone else pregnant.”

William Millman, 21, lived nearby to Mary and was rumoured to be the father. Millman protested his innocence, but in a time when law, religion, social order, and even murder were crude and brutish, it was all too easy for people to wag their fingers at him.

Millman was accused and publicly hanged in 1888.

“Some people believe that it was a very close relative who actually killed her, and out of honour [Millman] didn’t want to name that person,” said Keezer.

 

Special service

More than a century since her death, and after receiving the skull, a special burial service was arranged at Margate United Church to reunite the head to its body, bring closure to the family, and to honour the life of the forgotten teenager who didn’t receive a proper burial ceremony or even a casket upon her death.

Rev. Pix Butt, along with Bob Williams and his mother, Frances Tuplin Williams, performed the emotional ceremony on Aug. 21.

Attendants included 30 family members, and two Margate residents who grew up hearing the stories of speculation on whodunit, and came to close the book on the case.

Bob, who is the distant relative of the victim, said the service was held to correct three things. “Now Mary will have her ceremony, now she will have her casket, and now she will have her family.

“I felt very satisfied at the service and very relieved that in fact the right thing was being done.”

desiree.anstey@tc.tc

Hidden and undisturbed for years inside an old, decaying box rested the skull of a long ago murdered Margate woman.

The head belonged to 17-year-old Mary Pickering Tuplin. She died a bloody and traumatic death.

More than 100 years ago, following her grisly murder, staff at the former Johnson and Johnson pharmacy stored the head as evidence for police investigating the case.

“Someone was digging through the building (which today houses a Chinese food restaurant) and found this well-labelled box containing the head of Mary Tuplin,” said Robert Keezer, one of the family members contacted after the discovery. “The staff knew our family and my cousin, Frances. Frances lives in Charlottetown, so she took in the box and its contents.”

The bullet-pierced skull is more than 100 years old.

“Now people may ask why it’s been so long since the discovery, but no one claimed the box,” explained Keezer. “It was kept as crucial evidence and stored in the pharmacy for many years and we had no idea it was there.”

 

Found in river

In 1887, Mary’s body was plucked from Southwest River, near Margate.

An anchor stone weighing over eight pounds was tied around her waist, and doctors who conducted an inquest soon discovered that she had been shot twice in the head with a pistol. They also discovered Mary was six months pregnant.

“In those days it would have been devastating for a single woman to be pregnant, so that could have been a motive for murder,” said Keezer. “It was also a serious crime, if you were married, to get someone else pregnant.”

William Millman, 21, lived nearby to Mary and was rumoured to be the father. Millman protested his innocence, but in a time when law, religion, social order, and even murder were crude and brutish, it was all too easy for people to wag their fingers at him.

Millman was accused and publicly hanged in 1888.

“Some people believe that it was a very close relative who actually killed her, and out of honour [Millman] didn’t want to name that person,” said Keezer.

 

Special service

More than a century since her death, and after receiving the skull, a special burial service was arranged at Margate United Church to reunite the head to its body, bring closure to the family, and to honour the life of the forgotten teenager who didn’t receive a proper burial ceremony or even a casket upon her death.

Rev. Pix Butt, along with Bob Williams and his mother, Frances Tuplin Williams, performed the emotional ceremony on Aug. 21.

Attendants included 30 family members, and two Margate residents who grew up hearing the stories of speculation on whodunit, and came to close the book on the case.

Bob, who is the distant relative of the victim, said the service was held to correct three things. “Now Mary will have her ceremony, now she will have her casket, and now she will have her family.

“I felt very satisfied at the service and very relieved that in fact the right thing was being done.”

desiree.anstey@tc.tc

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