Cultured Pearls are produced by putting impurities inside oysters. The oyster then secretes layers of Nacre to involve the impurity, thus producing a pearl. This mass production system creates perfectly round pearls. Although patented by Japanese researchers this method to produced oysters was actually developed by the English marine biologist, William Saville-Kent, while living in Tasmania at the end of the XIX century. Nevertheless, Saville-Kent, a fellow of the Linnean Society of London and an important researcher in fisheries and corals at the time was not the most notable member of his family. William had 13 siblings (3 were actually half-siblings) - 2 of these became quite famous, one for been murdered and the other for been the murder.

William was the brother of the infamous Constance Kent, the confessed murder of Francis Kent, their 3 year old brother. Francis was found dead with several stabs and a slashed neck. Constance at the time a 16 year old, confessed the crime. The nature of the crime caused mass hysteria among public at the time and great interest in journalists. Later there was much speculation that her confession was false. But Constance never denied it and she lived 100 years (Constance passed away in 1944).
She was sentenced to life in prison, but was released when she was 41 after spending 20 years in jail. She was included in the list of Jack the Ripper suspects. Constance then changed her name to Ruth Kaye and went to Tasmania to live with her brother William. She lived happily there for the rest of her life, working as a nurse ( It is unknown if she murdered any patients in her free time!).

The crime known as "Road Hill House Murder" is the subject of Kate Summerscale´s book "The suspicions of Mr. Whicher", winner of this year's Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction announced yesterday. The case inspired other good books. Among them No Name by Wilkie Collins where the secret behind Constance confession is revealed (but will it be true? or was the father the murder?), the 1861 The Great Crime of 1860 by Joseph Stapleton and others.

At the time accused persons could not talk in court. Constance Kent was convicted based on a written confession. But Constance's confession was not written by her, instead it was written by Rev. Wagner. Rev. Wagner was the responsible clergyman in charge of "St. Mary´s Home for female penitents", a place were unmarried mothers and prostitutes were lock up at the time. Constance family sent her there after the murder. Rev. Wagner claimed to have obtained the confession after a series of interviews with her (whatever "interviews" mean we do not know). In court he denied to give any further details based on the seal of sacramental confession. Because of that questions were raised both at the Houses of Parliament and the Lords and a long battle about whether in a criminal proceeding a clergyman "was or not privileged so as to decline to answer a question on the ground that his answer would reveal something that he had known in confession". This was followed by attacks to nuns by citizens believing Constance was not guilty.

The least interesting thing in all this contorted plot is to find the truth. It is valuable for what it is- a mystery story with severe social implications. It has been narrated again and again and different versions and accounts can be read even online and today. It was the speculative subject of books and movies. No wonder the current owners of the murder house have people knocking at the door every day.

Constance shared with William the taste for playing with pebbles. While he feed it to Oysters, she glue them to panels. She is one of the authors of the astonishing mosaics in St. Peter's church, Portland; the Chapel of the Bishop of Chichester; the Sanctuary of East Grinstead Church and St Paul's Church in London.


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