Elizabeth Canning

Elizabeth Canning

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Elizabeth Canning

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Elizabeth Canning (married name Treat; 17 September 1734 – June 1773) was an English maidservant who claimed to have been kidnapped and held against her will in a hayloft for almost a month. She ultimately became central to one of the most famous English criminal mysteries of the 18th century.

She disappeared on 1 January 1753, before almost a month later returning to her mother's home in Aldermanbury in the City of London, emaciated and in a "deplorable condition". After being questioned by concerned friends and neighbours she was interviewed by the local alderman, who then issued an arrest warrant for Susannah Wells, the woman who occupied the house in which Canning was supposed to have been held. There Canning identified Mary Squires as another of her captors, prompting the arrest and detention of both Wells and Squires. Local magistrate Henry Fielding became involved in the case, taking Canning's side. Further arrests were made and several witness statements were taken, and Wells and Squires were ultimately tried and found guilty—Squires of the more serious and potentially deadly charge of theft.

However, the trial judge and Lord Mayor of London Crisp Gascoyne was unhappy with the verdict and began his own investigation. He spoke with witnesses whose testimony implied that Squires and her family could not have abducted Canning, and he interviewed several of the prosecution's witnesses, some of whom recanted their earlier testimony. He...
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