How to get away with murder: Roehampton Professor reveals covered-up murder by John Dee’s apprentice

Professor Glyn Parry has uncovered evidence that places the apprentice of the famed alchemist, magician and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee, as the prime suspect in an Elizabethan murder case

Posted: 3 May 2017

Professor Parry has discovered that the apprentice of John Dee, mathematical genius and landlord, Thomas Digges quarrelled with one of his tenants in Kent in 1592. The tenant is documented to have been later carried from the scene with a severe head wound, from which he died two days later.

Professor Parry said "Digges used his social influence to ensure that the coroner and the jury of local men returned a verdict that the tenant had managed to fracture his own skull. Although the victim's widow took Digges to the Court of King's Bench at Westminster, claiming he struck the fatal blow, Digges used his political clout to get away with murder and the Court refused to overturn the coronial verdict."

Digges' father was a close friend of John Dee, and after his death Dee took him on as the first student in his private academy in Mortlake, and would become Digges' 'second mathematical father'. Despite his mathematical genius, Digges came from relatively low social origins, and faced a constant struggle for social acceptance and financial advancement. Digges is documented as being a difficult character and is known to have been involved in numerous law cases over money and land, and was accused by the government of fraud and forgery.

In Early Modern England, it was widely believed by the educated that Classics and Theology taught virtue, whilst Mathematics did not, and was associated with tradesmen and working classes. Digges' corrupt behaviour proved their point.

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