On Sunday, June 10, 1324, the body of Edmund de Brekles, a chaplain, was found dead in the house of John de Maltone and Juliana Aunsel, in the Ward of Bishopsgate.
The coroners report that on Saturday evening, “after the hour of curfew, the aforesaid Edmund with the said Juliana his concubine, lay together in a certain solar in the said house, there came the said John de Maltone with his knife drawn and feloniously, and with malice aforethought, struck the said Edmund therewith in the belly, no others being present, so that he died immediately.”
Once Edmund was killed, both John and Juliana fled to the Church of St. Helen in Bishopsgate, where they sought sanctuary. In the Middle Ages, the right of sanctuary was sacrosanct – if you had entered a church, the legal authorities could not arrest you. Often a suspected murderer who immediately go to a church, and London’s local officials would arrange for the church to be watched, and if the suspect tried to escape, to have them immediately arrested.
While inside the church John confessed to the murder, while Juliana confessed she was an accomplice. Meanwhile, the goods and chattels of the couple were seized – this included clothes, blankets, carpets, ‘an ear-cushion worth six pence’, two brass pots, ‘a trunk of small things worth twelve pence’ and other things that totalled 32 shillings in value. This was rather unusual – most murder suspects were found to have no goods or chattels which could be seized.
For both John and Juliana their ultimate fate was another medieval practice – to abjure the realm. On Wednesday, June 13th, John stood in the churchyard of St.Helen’s Bishopsgate, where he made a confession to the Coroner and Sheriff of London, and agreed to go to Dover, where he was to take a ship and leave England. It was standard practice to have the criminal accompanied all the way to the ship. If he was ever to return to the country, he would could then be arrested for the crime.
Juliana remained in the church for more than a month afterwards – she then too decided to abjure the realm.