IN this week’s Looking Back, we delve a little deeper into the past than usual - 180 years in fact – to look a the mystery surrounding a murder…

The circumstances surrounding this crime have always remained a mystery but the fact remains that a 20-year-old packman, George Henderson, was murdered on his way across the moors above Horwich on November 9, 1838.

He had been shot and was found dying in a ditch but, curiously, he had not been robbed.

James Whittle was the prime suspect, since he was spotted with a loaded gun in the vicinity and, following an inquest at the Moorgate Inn (now the Blundell Arms) on 13th November, he was sent for trial in Liverpool.

At the end of the trial in April 1839, Whittle was acquitted due to the unreliability of the witnesses, who may well have been influenced by the £100 reward on offer (a substantial amount in those days).

No one else was ever charged with the murder and the event was commemorated for posterity by the placing of a cast iron column at the site.

That column is still there today and is a well-known local landmark known as the Scotsman’s Stump.

To mark this year’s anniversary, Horwich Heritage has carefully restored the stump so that it can remain as a lasting reminder of this tragic event for many years to come.

It was not the only way the local history group commemorated the murder.

“We had a meal and a re-enactment,” explained Stuart Whittle of Horwich Heritage.

“We asked On The Go Theatre Company – which specialises in historic plays – to re-enact the trial of the alleged perpetrator, James Whittle, using the original transcripts.”

To add authenticity, the actors dressed in period costume and the evening was held at the Blundell Arms, Horwich, scene of the original inquest.

Mr Whittle said: “They introduced evidence and the audience was invited to comment and give their opinion.

“Some thought Whittle might have done it, but others thought one of the game shooters could have accidentally shot Henderson in the fog.

“The mystery continues.”