‘JOHN Wayne died of a sudden and unnatural death in York. The jury say on their sacred oath that John Smith shot John Wayne with a bolt.’

You couldn’t make it up. And, according to medieval historians, nobody did. It actually happened, just off Grape Lane, as it is called in the modern-day city - just not to Hollywood’s John Wayne.

A new website, Medieval Murder Maps, launched by Cambridge’s Violence Research Centre, shows users the causes and patterns of urban violence in medieval England for the first time.

Experts from the University of Cambridge used 700-year-old investigations from coroners’ inquests to map levels of violence across York between 1345 and 1385.

Professor Manuel Eisner, the lead murder map investigator and director of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology, said: "When a suspected murder victim was discovered in late medieval England the coroner would be sought, and the local bailiff would assemble a jury to investigate.

"A typical jury consisted of local men of good repute.

"Their task was to establish the course of events by hearing witnesses, assessing any evidence, and then naming a suspect."

Coroners kept records, known as rolls, of all cases of sudden and unnatural deaths including suicides, accidents and homicides.

The rolls were recorded in Latin and include names, events, locations and even the value of murder weapons.

The map of York’s unlawful killing of one person by another covers a so called ‘golden age’ for the city, thanks to it being an international trade capital in materials such as textiles after the Black Death.

The individual cases are reported with some direct detail of the methods used and are plotted over a grid of York’s medieval streets.

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Medieval coroners recorded a double murder at the Minster and a felony at the Archbishop’s Palace where a servant was reported to have been killed by a pillar or a post.

And in another incident just outside Walmgate Bar, a chaplain fled into St Lawrence Church to claim sanctuary for the murder of the vicar of the same church.

In all, 129 recorded homicides are on the site, most occurring inside the city walls with particularly dense notifications between modern day High Ousegate and Coppergate.

The team behind the project hoped the approach would offer a window into the past because the murders can be located in places people know about today.

Many York murder cases cite feuds between artisans in the same trade – from glove-makers to tannery workers.

Once notified of a violent death, the coroner and the sheriffs summoned an investigative jury from the ward where the victim had died and from neighbouring wards.

The size of the jury could vary from 12 to about 50 individuals.

Cambridge historian and co-researcher Dr Stephanie Brown said: "We do not have any evidence to show juries wilfully lied, but many inquests will have been a 'best guess' based on available information.

"In many instances, it is likely the jury named the right suspect. In others, it may be a case of two plus two equals five."

In addition to a written account of each inquest, each map entry gets extra information like definitions of medieval weapons of choice and some come with voiceovers.