DREADFUL MURDER AND SUICIDE AT LIDGET GREEN
The quiet and rural locality of Lidget Green was at midnight on Monday the scene of a dreadful murder, which was quickly followed by the deliberate suicide of the murderer. The murderer was Samuel Charlton, 68 years of age, and his victim was Hannah Holroyd, aged 42. They were persons in a humble condition. Charlton was an assistant to bailiffs, and a person of very indifferent character. He was a widower, and had five or six children, all of them being able to maintain themselves. Hannah Holroyd was a widow, and had five children, the youngest of which was under five years of age.
They both resided in the same street – Club street – at Lidget Green; the cottage of one being nearly opposite that of the other.
Since Whitsuntide last, an intimacy partaking of the character of courtship has sustained between Charlton and Mrs. Holroyd, the former going regularly to the house of the latter, and being frequently seen with her abroad in the neighbourhood, as well as in Bradford. Some differences had, however, latterly arisen between them, on account of Mrs Holroyd favouring the advances of a rival suitor who appeared a much younger man, Luke Normington, aged 30, just returned from serving in the militia. The circumstances exceedingly troubled Charlton, and he had often been heard to declare, with great bitterness, that if she persisted in showing this preference for his rival, he would take away her life, and then destroy his own. It was this feeling of jealousy that at length drove the wretched man to commit the horrible crimes that he had thus contemplated.
On Monday evening he accompanied Mrs. Holroyd to a temperance meeting at Lidget Green, for he had practised total abstinence for some time past. As they returned, his rival, Luke Normington, encountered Mrs. Holroyd, and spoke to her, but she passed forward, shortly calling at the house for a neighbour, not far from her own dwelling. Charlton proceeded to her house, and there awaited her arrival, silent and sullenly. She returned soon after eleven o’clock, but she again spoke with Normington on her way to her own house. Both Charlton and Mrs. Holroyd were left sitting before the fire when the eldest daughter retired to rest in the chamber, about half-past eleven. Nothing had then been said by either of them, and quietness continued. What occurred afterwards, before the tragic deed was perpetrated, there is none to tell. Soon after half-past twelve, the eldest daughter of Mrs. Holroyd was awakened by hearing the house door close. She then heard the door open, and the departing footsteps of Charlton. The light was burning in the house, and the circumstances led the daughter to suppose that her mother, who slept on the ground floor, had fallen asleep and left the candle burning. She immediately went down stairs for the purpose of locking the door and putting out the light. She bolted the door, and on turning round hence to her horror, she discovered the body of her mother lying weltering in blood, on the opposite side of the room. She was undressed as if she was prepared to retire to rest, and had her boots on.
The piercing shrieks of the distressed young woman quickly brought several persons to her assistance. Policeman Binns was in the immediate neighbourhood, and on going to the door found it locked outside, the key remaining in the door. On entering, he found Mrs. Holroyd quite dead. Her head had been nearly severed from her body, and her right hand was slightly cut. Ascertaining that Charlton had been recently in the house, he crossed the road to inquire for him at his house. He then learnt from his daughter that he had entered about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour before, that he shook hands with his children, and, saying, “Farewell, you will never see me again,” then hurriedly departed. On leaving, she heard him return for a moment and lift up the cellar grate, and then go on his way. On going into the cellar, Binns found a razor which was covered with blood. Several officers, Sergeant Knowles, P. C. Binns, and Constable Jowett, immediately proceeded to search the neighbourhood for the murderer; and by this time a large number of persons were attracted to the place by the report of the horrible tragedy. They soon came to the conclusion that Charlton would destroy himself by drowning, and this belief gained strength as time wore on.
The officers and their assistants consequently not only searched the fields in the immediate neighbourhood, but the mill dams and the streams. At four o’clock on Tuesday morning, the body of Charlton was found drowned in New Miller’s Dam. His hat was floating on the upper part of the dam. The body was shortly afterwards discovered at some distance from the embankment below. It was floating in a perpendicular position, just beneath the water. It was untimely recovered and removed to the new Miller’s Dam public-house.
We need hardly say that this tragedy has created the greatest sensation in the district, and especially in the immediate locality of the scene.
The inquest on Hannah Holroyd was held yesterday afternoon, at the Second West Inn, Lidget Green, before Mr. George Dyson, coroner, and the following jury: – Mr. Edwin Bentley, foreman; Mr. Francis Ackroyd, Mr. Alexander Wild, Mr. Joshua Horsfall, Mr. John Hudson, Mr. Jonas Jennings, Mr. Aaron Topham, Mr. Benjamin Crabtree, Mr. Wm Wardle, Mr. Charles Fox, Mr. Henry Suddards, Mr. Walton, and Mr. Jeremiah Rudd.
Martha Holroyd, ‘the daughter of the deceased was the first witness called. She said- I am 19 years of age. I work at Mr. John Turner’s mill. I am daughter of Hannah Holroyd, the deceased. My father, Joshua Holroyd, die about five years ago. He was a quarryman. There are five children-the youngest is about four years of age. I knew Samuel Charlton. He had no trade; he was a sort of bailiff. I don’t know if he intended to marry my mother; but he has been in the habit of coming in and sitting in our house. He has not been well received for some time past; she did not take him in properly. He had never threatened to do her injury in my hearing. I saw him on Monday evening about seven o’clock. My mother went to a teetotal meeting at Lidget Green. She came home from the meeting about half past eleven, having called at a neighbour’s house. Charlton came straight from the meeting. He was in the house an hour before she came in. He never spoke during the time he was there. When she came in, I went upstairs to bed. I left my mother sitting on a chair in front of the fire, and he was sitting at the side of the fire. My mother was cheerful when I went to bed, but Charlton neither laughed nor spoke. It would be about twenty minutes to twelve when I went to sleep. There had been no quarrel then. I never heard them speak at all. When I awoke, about a quarter to one, I saw a light which shone up stairs, I having left the door open. I heard the house door open, and I heard by his (Charlton’s) step that he came to the door and went back again. He went immediately. I heard the door shut, but I did not hear him lock it. I thought my mother might have fallen asleep, and I went down to fasten the door, which I feared she might have forgotten to lock. I heard neither scream nor scuffle. I barred the door, and then found my mother lying in blood upon the floor, with her feet towards the fire place. I then found the door locked outside. I gave an alarm. Abraham Pearson, Henry Jowett, constable, and Binns, policeman, came in. I know Luke Normington. My mother rather leaned to Luke. He met her as she was coming from a neighbouring house, on Monday night, and “clicked” hold of her. I went for her and saw him stop her. Charlton was at that time at her house. My mother was nearly undressed at the time she was found. I don’t know that Charlton ever stopped all night. Luke Normington had been two or three times at our house, but he did not come at the time I gave an alarm.
Policeman Binns was next called. He swore: – At a quarter before one on Tuesday morning, i was on duty at Lidget Green. I was standing twenty yards from the place, when I heard a cry of “Murder.” I went to the place and found the door locked. On being admitted, I found the deceased lying on the floor with her throat cut. She was nearly undressed; she had only her chemise, her night gown, and boots on. I asked who had been in last, and was told Samuel Charlton. I then went to his house opposite in the street, and I inquired of his daughter whether her father was in. She stated that he had been there about a quarter of an hour before, had bid them all good bye, and then gone away. She also said that he had lifted up the grate and thrown something down. On going down into the cellar, I found the razor which is now produced, and which I gave to Constable Jowett. It was covered with blood, and is now stained with blood. Sergeant Knowles and I sought Charlton in the neighbourhood, and about four o’clock found the body in New Miller’s dam. I have known Charlton for several years. He did not bear the best of characters. I have seen Luke Normington go in and out of the house several times, and when I heard the scream on Tuesday night, I saw Luke Normington run away and he said, that he was afraid if he were seen he would be blamed. Luke came from this inn, about twenty minutes to one o’clock, and the screech occurred about five minutes after. I followed him from this house to the other. The screech occurred, and he ran away.
Ellen Dyson, daughter of Samuel Charlton, lived with us. He left the house about eight o’clock at night. He was going to the teetotal meeting. I know he kept company with the deceased. He returned home about one o’clock by our clock, which is twenty minutes too soon. He came to the bedside and bade us all farewell; he said we should never see him again. He appeared in great trouble. He then bade us good night, and went out. I heard him immediately come up the door stones, and lift up the grate. I know nothing of any razor: I saw one which Binns afterwards got from the cellar. We had never had anything wrong; we thought nothing of what he had said. My father had never said he would do her harm. He had kept company with her since Whitsuntide.
David Naylor, landlord of the Second West Inn, was called. He said: I know Luke Normington. He was in my house nearly all the evening, from something like six o’clock till one, but going out occasionally. He was in this house from twelve till ten minutes to one. He went about half-past ten, and came in about half-past eleven o’clock. He then stopped till ten minutes to one. He was rather “fresh” when he went out.
The Coroner then directed the jury’s attention to the facts adduced in the evidence. He could not suggest any doubt in the matter. It was one which was very simple and clear, and quite sufficient to send a person for trial and to hang him. Charlton was left sitting with the woman about a quarter to twelve, and in about an hour afterwards she was found weltering in blood, with her throat cut. He was found to have left the house about the same time, to go to his own house, and to take leave of his family. There was no doubt that if Charlton had been living, he would have been sent for trial. The jury immediately returned a verdict of “Wilful Murder against Samuel Charlton.”
An inquest was afterwards held on Samuel Charlton, by Mr. Dyson and the following jury, at the New Miller Dam Inn:- Mr. John Fearnsides, foreman; Messrs. James Reaney, S. Settle, J. Denby, R.Collins, T. Bastow, Reuben Askwith, J. Willman, J. Clark, T. Pitt, E. Anderton, and James Halliwell.
The Coroner read the evidence which had been taken at the former inquest, telling the jury that a verdict of “Wilful Murder” had been returned against Samuel Charlton, and that it was for them to determine whether the deceased Samuel Charlton had fallen by accident into the dam or whether he had died from felo de se.
John Knowles, sergeant in the Bradford police force, was first called. He deposed: I was on duty at Lidget Green on Monday night. I went to visit Reuben Binns on his beat at Lidget Green, at one o’clock. When I was in Legrams Lane, I heard his signal-a double whistle-and I went back to him. I was between two and three hundred yards from his him. He said there had been a murder on the Green. I went to the house of Hannah Holroyd. The woman was lying weltering in blood, on the floor, with her throat cut, quite dead. I made enquiries as to who had been in the house, and the daughter said she had left Charlton sat by the fire. I made a search for the weapon, but could find none. I then went to Ellen Dyson’s to look for him, but did not find him. The daughter said that Charlton had been in some twenty minutes before, and had gone away. I then went to Great Horton and called the surgeon, Mr. Thomas. I got a lamp and made a search through the fields on Scholemoor and Birks. I was then joined by Superintendent Burniston of the Bradford police force. I then went back to Lidget Green and heard that the razor was found. I came down Thief score Lane and searched all the becks to the New Miller Dam. Coming on the south side I found a hat floating near the top. I then went 100 to 150 yards along the dam side, and I saw something floating in the water which I found to be the skirts of his coat. On examination, I found the body of the deceased. He was four or five yards from the side. He was floating-his feet did not touch the bottom. I then called up the people at the boat house, and he was conveyed to the New Miller Dam Inn. He appeared quite fresh, as if he had not been long in the water. His clothes were correct, and there was no mark of injury upon him. I have known him for a long time. I had him once in custody for felony, and recently he has been committed for a month under the Worsted Act. His general character was not good. He dealt in cotton and worsted waste. I have seen him repeatedly with Hannah Holroyd since last Whitsuntide. I have known him to be in her house all night for several nights in the week. He was of perfectly sound mind. I saw him last Saturday night.
Mr. Jonas Denby (one of the jury) said that he let the house to Charlton, for Mrs. Holroyd, about seven months ago, and he had frequently seen them together as man and wife. She always paid the rent.
Henry Jowett, a constable at Great Horton, said: I received information of this occurrence about a quarter past one. Sergeant Knowles called me up. On going to the woman’s house we found her laid in her own blood, and the floor covered with blood. Her throat was cut, as well as one of her fingers on the right hand, and she was quite dead. I was told of Charlton having been with her. His daughter said that he had gone out about an hour since, and bid them all goodbye. She said he had opened the grating and dropped something in. I was with P.C. Binns when he found the razor produced in the cellar. There is blood upon it. It was put under the cellar plate. I went in search towards the old dam at Lidget Green, over the fields, in the direction of Great Horton. I have known Charlton for 30 years. He was a man of bad character, and I believe he was a man of sound mind.
The Coroner then briefly directed the attention of the jury to the nature of the evidence, and asked them to consider whether from that evidence the deceased was of sound mind or not, because, if they were of opinion that he was in a sound mind, their verdict would be felo de se.
The Jury then deliberated for a brief period, and returned a verdict of felo de se.
The Coroner said that he would have to give to the constable a warrant ordering the body to be interred between the hours of nine and twelve the same night. During twenty years, this was the first instance of felo de se which had occurred in more than 3000 inquests, in his district.
Bradford Observer, Thursday May 21, 1857
A MIDNIGHT FUNERAL OF A MURDERER
At the close of the inquest on Samuel Charlton, on Wednesday evening, the constable, in obedience to the coroner’s warrant, proceeded to make arrangements for the interment of the body of the deceased, the act of parliament requiring that a “felo de se” shall be interred within 24 hours after the inquest, and between the hours of nine and twelve o’clock at night. Accordingly a grave was ordered to be dug in the burial ground attached to the Primitive Methodist Chapel, at Great Horton. The reason for the selection of this burial ground was that the wife and other relatives of the deceased had been interred in that place. About eleven o’clock the same night, the body conveyed to Great Horton, under the direction of the relieving officer of the district. A crowd of more than 2,000 persons had assembled on the road in front of the chapel yard, and great confusion prevailed. The mob were loud in expressing their objection to the interment of the corpse. The authorities of the chapel were opposed to its interment, and they had many sympathisers in the crowd.
They met the bearers of the coffin at the gates on its being taken from the hearse, and endeavoured to prevent its entrance into the ground. The uproar and disturbance were very unseemly, and exclamations, such as “Throw it over the wall,” “Burn it,” &c., were mingled in the uproar. By the aid of the police the coffin was at last got to the grave side; but then objection was taken to the grave not being deep enough, and also to its being an old one. The consequence was that the sextons proceeded to dig a new grave in a plot of virgin soil adjoining. Meanwhile the uproar and confusion prevailed for many hours. Some person addressed the crowd, dilating on the vicious character of the deceased, and expressing regret that the annuals of Horton should be darkened with the record of a foul murder. The new grave having been dug, the interment was at length completed, without the usual rites. Many of the crowd remained on the spot till five o’clock on Thursday morning.
THE BRADFORD OBSERVER May 21, 1857
THE MURDER AND SUICIDE AT LIDGET GREEN
To the Editor of the Bradford Observer
Sir, – In justice to teetotalism, and as secretary to the Great Horton Temperance Society, I feel it my duty to correct a statement which appears in your paper of Thursday last, with respect to Charlton having “accompanied Mrs Holroyd to a temperance meeting at Lidget Green, for he had practised total abstinence for some time past.”
In the first place, I may state that she was not accompanied by Charlton, but came in at a different period and sat at the opposite end of the room during the whole of the meeting. In the next place, I beg to observe that he had not practised total abstinence for some time past. It is true that in July he signed the pledge, but which I regret to say he only kept about a month.
From that time up to the time of the murder he frequently indulged in intoxicating drinks.
By giving insertion to the above you will greatly oblige,
Sir, your obedient servant,
11, Ebenezer Place, Great Horton, May 18th, 1857
THE BRADFORD OBSERVER Thursday October 25, 1860
During the week our own town has been the scene of an appalling tragedy. A mother, driven to desperation by the heartless conduct of her reputed husband, destroyed her two infant children, and attempted to take her own life. In the last attempt she failed, and on a discovery of the circumstance being made, she was removed to the Infirmary, where she now lies in a precarious state. The facts as brought out at the inquest will be found narrated in another column; we have her only to express our deep regret that the criminal annals of Bradford, for the most part so free from serious offences, should be burdened with a crime of such an appalling and, in its accessories, of such a revolting character. We need not say that the poor woman is the object of general commiseration.
MURDER OF TWO CHILDREN AND ATTEMPTED SUICIDE
Our quiet and orderly community has this week been thrown into great and unusual excitement by a tragedy unparalleled in atrocity in this district. Bradford, with its dense population, has happily been comparatively free from those fearful crimes against life which have characterised many large communities, and the occurrence of such a dreadful outrage now has excited feelings of intense horror and melancholy.
The murder in this instance is a double one, and the victims are the innocent offspring of a ‘poor, unhappy phrenzy stricken mother-loving, “not wisely, but too well,” betrayed-if the chief witness at the inquest be not perjured-into the downward path of sin and shame, and then, ultimately, losing every ray of hope in the dark path on which she had entered, perpetrating the most horrible of all crimes as a fancied means of escape from irretrievable disgrace, degradation, and ruin.
For some months past, a woman of 34 years, named Margaret Sutton, has cohabited with a man of about 32 years of age, named John George Gowland, in a single furnished room on the ground floor, in High Street. They had two children – two pretty girls, were supposed to be married. The dreadful tragedy we are about to narrate dissipated the illusion. His companion, under the heavy burden of mental anxiety, on Sunday night, cut the throats of her two children and her own, and the Gowland, the supposed husband, disowned the impeachment: he declared for the first time that they were not married and that jealousy alone had led the woman – his supposed wife – to destroy herself and her two children. The hope of marriage had been held out to her for several years, but, on various pleas, it was ever deferred. She at length doubted his fidelity, and her paramour returned home on Sunday night, to witness the result of the dreadful tragedy.
Mrs Gowland (for as such she was known) was regarded in the neighbourhood as an amiable, gentle woman, and Gowland’s allegations that she was only his mistress rest upon his unsupported testimony, the truth of which is doubted.
They resided on the ground floor of a cottage, No. 26 High Street, now called Barkerend Road. Gowland returned to the door of his dwelling about ten o’clock on Sunday night. He had left Margaret and his children (according to his own account) in good spirits about six o’clock. His ramble had been long and devious. The house, when he arrived at home, appeared in darkness. He found the door locked. He then rapped, but found no response. He rapped again with the same result, and repeatedly called aloud to “Margaret” to open the door. His rapping was continuous for some time, and attracted the attention of his neighbours by its continuity and loudness. With one of them (Mr. J. Lee), he held some conversation touching the inexplicable circumstance of Margaret’s silence. Wearied with rapping, he ceased to do so, and was content for a time to smoke his pipe quietly as he paced the pavement in front of the house. But he then rapped again, and now he thought he heard some faint stirrings of life within. He still rapped and called out again. There was then a sound of something falling heavily against the door, and then the lock was unturned and the door opened, admitting Gowland into the darkness within. He took a match from his pocket and lighted it, but it went out. He had, however, caught a slight glimpse of the bleeding form of Margaret sitting up in bed. He lighted another match, advanced to the bedside, and then, to his horror, beheld the mother sitting up in the middle of the bed, with her throat cut, and with a dead child, also with its throat cut, lying on each side of her. He rushed from the house in dreadful tremor and called for help. A person called Fawcett, residing on the opposite side of the road, ran to his aid, carrying a light. He no sooner saw the ghastly sight presented than he started from the house to raise the alarm and to give information at the Police Station. The house was soon filled with neighbours, and shortly several police officers, with Mr Grauhan, arrived. Two or three surgeons, including Messrs. Smith, Parkinson, and Terry, were also speedily called in. But the children had apparently been long dead. One was Elizabeth Jane Gowland, aged four, and the other Anne Gowland, aged two years. The medical men immediately applied the necessary means to insure, if possible, the preservation of the life of the poor woman. The scene presented was sickening and horrifying. The necks of the children were dreadfully hacked, and the bed on which they lay as well as the floor were covered with blood. A couple of razors had been used by the wretched mother in effecting the dreadful act. The mother, questioned by some of the persons who went thither, intimated by signs that the deed was a’one hers, and not Gowland’s. She also pointed to a box as if she wished to call her husband’s attention to its contents, and handed to another person a couple of letters. Thought the box was cursorily examined by Gowland at the time, without apparently understanding what the poor woman meant, yet Mr Grauhan and his assistants there found documents, including an order of affiliation in bastardy, which seemed to indicate that she was conscious, from their existence, of what she considered his unfaithfulness towards her and her children.
The poor woman was removed to the Infirmary; an officer being placed in sight of her, as a means of precaution in case she might make another attempt on her own life. When she had been some time at the Infirmary, she appeared to think she would die, and expressed a desire that a minister of religion should be sent for. Mr. Grauhan took immediate steps to that end. Since two o’clock on Monday morning, the Rev. J. Wade, crusts of the Parish Church, has consequently been most devoted in his attention at the bedside of the poor sufferer, offering her the consolations which the gospel can alone give.
The Mayor visited the poor woman at the Infirmary early on Monday morning. Mr Grauhan, the chief constable, and Mr Mitton, clerk to Mr Rowson, accompanied his worship. She was then just able to articulate in a whisper, and again stated that she alone had done the deed, and that her husband was absent at the time. Gowland had been lodged in durance, but he was liberated shortly afterwards.
The poor woman is still in a precarious condition. She is not yet out of danger. If she recovers, she must inevitably be committed for trial for the crime of murder, whatever view may subsequently be taken, as ground for the extension of mercy, of the state of mental aberration under which she no doubt laboured at the time of committing the dreadful deed.
Gowland is an attorney’s clerk. He came to the town nine or ten months ago. He applied for employment to Messrs. Terry and Watson, solicitors. He had recommendations, and received employment. His conduct, so far as it has come under their observation, has been quite unexceptionable. But now, discovering that he has been leading an immoral life, they have dismissed him from their employ. He came from Durham or Sunderland. It has been represented to them that Margaret Sutton was formerly in service at the palace of the Bishop at Durham. The abode of these wretched persons indicated great poverty. It was scantily furnished, and there was one poor bed for the entire family.
The neighbourhood of the dwelling has for several days been thronged with a large and curious crowd, and great excitement has been manifested.
The inquest on view of the body of Elizabeth Jane Gowland was opened on Tuesday, at the Boar’s Head Inn, at half past ten o’clock, before CC. Jewison, Esq., and the following jury:-
Mr. John Hill, foreman Mr. Charles S. Johnson
Mr. John Harland Mr. Samuel Cousen
Mr. J Dawson Sugden Mr. Edward C. Pearson
Mr. Joshua Hainsworth Mr. Geo. H. Farrar
Mr. Thomas Henry Hall Mr. John Carter
Mr. Thomas Hartley Mr. William Jackson
Mr. Henry B. Byles
The Coroner said for convenience the jury would inquire into the death of one child, although the results must be the same in both.
Mr. Grauhan, the chief constable, stated that Gowland refused to attend the inquest unless his expenses were paid and a cab, sent for him.
The Coroner: And do you think he will not come unless that is done?
Mr. Grauhan: I certainly do think so.
The Coroner, after a brief silence, said, I must, then, send a warrant for him, if necessary.
The jury were then sworn, and next proceeded to view the bodies of the children.
On the jury’s return it was reported by Mr Grauhan that the husband was now in attendance.
John George Gowland was then called and sworn. He deposed: I am an attorney’s clerk. I reside in Bradford, Elizabeth Jane Gowland, the deceased, was my daughter. She was four years and six months old. I saw my daughter alive about ten minutes after six on Saturday night last. I saw her in my own house in High Street about that time. Margaret Sutton is the name of the mother of the deceased. She was not my wife. I left her there, and also Elizabeth Jane Gowland and Fanny Gowland, the daughters of the deceased. I returned about ten o’clock the same night. I knocked at the door, but received no answer. I knocked for about five minutes, and received no answer. Mr Joshua Lee, who resides at the next door, then opened his chamber window and said, “Your wife can’t be in.” I replied that it was strange: I never found her out before at that time. I then asked him if he had any idea where she was, and he stated that he had not. I then charged my pipe and began to smoke in the street in front of the house. After smoking for twenty minutes I knocked at the door again. I then heard a slight noise. I immediately began to repeat my knocking. I then heard more noise, and called out “Margaret, Margaret.” I then heard more noise. I repeated my knocking, and cried out in the same manner, being satisfied that there was someone inside; and then I heard a noise as if something was thrown against the door. I again repeated my knocking and called out in the same manner as before “Margaret, honey! Why don’t you open the door?” About a minute afterwards the door was opened and the lock was unturned. I went about two yards within, and, finding all in darkness, I took a match out of my pocket, and lighted it. I then advanced a yard further and saw her sitting upon the bed. The match was finished and I then lighted another match. I then perceived that her throat was cut and the bed clothes all saturated with blood. I also perceived the eldest daughter lying in bed, full dressed, on the right hand side of her, and the youngest on the left side. I then said to her, “Good heavens! Margaret, you have murdered the innocent children!” She made no reply. I then rushed out of the house immediately, and ran across to a neighbour, named Edward Fawcett, who resides opposite. I saw Fawcett, and I said to him, “Oh! Good heavens! Come with me; there is murder in my house,” He then replied and said “Murder!” He then came with me to my house. We both looked in and he immediately ran out. We both looked and found both the children, Elizabeth Jane and Anne Gowland, were dead. Margaret Sutton was sitting up in bed. There seemed to be a deep cut wound in front of the neck of Margaret. Fawcett and I immediately ran out – we rushed out quickly. He used some expression which I don’t recollect. I then called up Mr. Joshua Lee, and shouted “murder.” A great number of people now assembled. We went into the house, and I asked someone to go for a doctor. Two or three doctors immediately came. The chief- constable and several police men came. Prior to the police coming, Margaret Sutton beckoned to me, and I went to her. She then gave me two keys. She motioned to a box. I opened the large box to which she pointed. Some person stated that very likely there would be a written paper found in the box which would state why the deed had been done. I replied that it could not be, because she could neither read nor write. I did not find any writing in the box. I took 8s out of the box, and I believe I then locked it. This was all the money I saw. I did not look a minute there. I was then told she wanted me, and I went to the bed side and said “There is no writing,” and she then took two letters from her pocket. The first letter I saw was directed by myself to her brother at Hylton, and the second though was one received from him.
The letters were produced by Inspector Shuttleworth, and the Coroner read on, as follows:-
Hylton. Oct. 19
In reply to your letter, I am very sorry to hear of the situation you are placed in, but you have no one to blame but yourself, as I and your sister Ann advised you not to go with him, but it was all to no use – you would have your own way. I thought you had plenty of him before, when you left him twice, and went to him again. Mrs Laing said she tried all she could to keep you away from him, but it was all of no avail, and she will never look to you again. Mrs Laing met your mother at Sunderland and asked her if you had got a situation. I, herself, and Mr. Jas Laing signed our names to you and Gowland. She was very anxious to know, and I wrote to Gowland and I enclose his reply, for I do not think you know anything about it.
I think you had better stay with your husband and not leave him a third time. You know sister Mary is not here to mind the children now. You will only set people on to talking about you again. If you cannot live with him, you can get law to make him keep you and the children. I remain, your affectionate brother,
Witness continued: Someone then said, “Who has done the deed?” and she put up her hand, and motioned towards herself. I believe she could not speak. I had had no reason to think she would do anything to herself. She was a nice gentle creature. About a fortnight ago, she intimated to me that she would like to be married. I replied that I would be married before the year was ended, and I told her further that it would have been done in the North of England, but we were afraid of its being known there. I received letters morning after morning from various parts, and she seemed to scrutinise the letters very much. One morning, about ten or twelve days ago, I asked what were her reasons for examining the letters so closely, and she replied. “Well, you know, Gowland, I have a good right to be jealous of you.” I then asked her why, and she replied, “Have I not been told you have been seen talking to women?” I then told her that as a person in my capacity of life, as a law clerk, I was bound to do so in the way of giving advice on behalf of my governors. She occasionally asked me who the letters were from, and I told her on every occasion. I also tendered the letters to her and told her she might take them to a neighbour and get them read. Some of the letters were from my friends, others from her friends, and others from my employer’s clients. I generally left some of the letters in the drawer, and answered them in the evening. She could never yet find a letter I received from any woman.
Mr Grauhan here suggested the inquiry whether the witness had not been seen in a brothel recently.
The witness, after some hesitation and equivocation said: About a fortnight ago I went to a house of ill fame opposite to speak as to its being an improper house, and to tell them I should lodge a complaint against them to the magistrates for keeping an improper house. I paid for some oysters. Margaret came in at the time and said, “What are you doing here?” and I said, “Well come along with me, and I will tell you.” I told her what I had been stating to the parties – that I had been threatening them with proceedings. I did not tell her that I had been treating anybody with oysters. I treated nobody in particular, but I was ready to treat anybody. The man’s wife asked me to stand treat, and I treated everybody around. I did not treat any person in the house in particular. I can’t say whether I told Margaret that. They did not turn me out, but I came with her. When I told her what occurred she appeared satisfied, and we have not had a word since I explained. I am under the impression she has been jealous of late. She was perfectly satisfied with what I told her at the time. She has always been kind. I deny that we have been parted twice; we have been parted only once. I believe this dreadful affair has been the result of jealousy, and that feeling may have affected her mind. (The witness modified this statement.) On Sunday morning, after breakfast, I told Margaret I was going out, and she would have to have the dinner ready at one o’clock. I did not return till half past two o’clock, and she observed “Is this at one o’clock, John? “Where have you been?” I told her I had been up Bolton Road and then went to Shipley. On-going along the fields, I overtook some women, and asked them the road to Shipley. I called to see a Mrs. Crabtree, whose husband is in York Castle and said I had staid ten minutes of a quarter of an hour with her and her family, and the woman had invited me to dine, but I declined. Nothing further was said. I think it was satisfactory. I got my dinner at home. Margaret, the children, and myself had tea together on Sunday afternoon. We were very friendly indeed. I can’t give any opinion as to why the deed was done, further than I believe she was jealous. On leaving after tea I went into the town, and then two miles on Bolton Road, then on Manningham Lane, and then went to Mrs. Jackson’s, in Green Lane, and then came back home. I have been out sometimes till ten o’clock. I have perchance been out till twelve o’clock, and some weeks ago I was at supper-
The Coroner: We are not going into the history of your life; if we were to do that it would be endless.
Some of the jury were of opinion that the inquiry would throw light upon many “flying reports.”
The Coroner said that Margaret Sutton was not justified in doing any such deed in consequence of any act of the witness. He did not think any suspicion could arise to implicate any other person. The jury could have no doubt but the woman had committed this deed. Whatever might be his misconduct, this did not make him responsible for the crime. No doubt he might be severely blamed by the public, and properly so, but he was, he said, ready to answer any question, and the jury could now put any question they chose.
Several of the jury continued to put questions, and the witness stated that he received a pound a week from his employers, but he received money besides, and he never allowed Margaret less than 18s per week.
Joshua Lee was then called. He said: I live in Barkerend Road. About a quarter past ten, Gowland came knocking at the door. I was in bed. He tapped at the door and called repeatedly “Margaret.” I came to the door, but ran in. I had heard him knocking at the door for some time. My wife went in and came out again. My wife said that Margaret had cut the children’s throats and her own. I did not go in, and have not seen them. There was unpleasantness going on every day in the house. His wife has repeatedly told my wife that he was very distant and did not speak to her. I did see Gowland go into the bad house opposite. There were two men. They shut the door after them. Gowland has come in at all times of the night.
A conversation again arose as to the putting of what the Coroner said were irrelevant questions touching the conduct of Gowland, insisting that the jury’s only province was to ascertain who had committed the crime.
Edward Fawcett, being called and sworn, said: I reside in Barkerend Road. About 20 minutes to 11 on Sunday John George Gowland came to my house, threw the door open, and said he wanted me. I asked what was the matter, and he said “”Come along.” All was in darkness. There was no light in the house. He said “My wife has cut her own throat, and murdered both children!” I told him to get a light. He did so. I then saw the woman and both the children in bed with their throats cut. The wife was sat between both children on the bed. Her throat was bleeding. The children had their clothes on. I did not speak to the wife. Nothing was said in my hearing between Gowland and his wife. I don’t know anything about the manner in which these people have lived together. She seemed a very close, nice woman. I heard some knocking at the door before I was called. This was about teen minutes before Gowland came for me. When I went to the house, I asked Margaret Sutton if Gowland had done it, and she made motions saying that he had not; she had done it herself. The key was inside the door.
Ruth Gell was then called and sworn. She said: My husband is Alfred Gell and he is a leather currier. As I was going from my own door, on Sunday night, Edward Fawcett was running down the street, greatly alarmed. I was going from my own door into the house. I heard a knocking, and was told there was something to do in Gowland’s and went in. I went to the bedside and saw Mrs. Gowland herself and two children had all their throats cut. I said, “Mrs. Gowland, who has done this?” and she put her hand out and pointed to a bloody razor on the bed, and then pointed to her bosom. She did not speak, but only motioned so as to make me understand it was her. I then said, “Who opened him the door?” and she pointed to herself. She was quite sensible. She took out two letters from her pocket, gave them to me, and then laid a penny upon one of them, and pointed as if she wished me to post it. I gave the letters to Mr. Shuttleworth. She also gave me a key for the box. I have been there sometimes.”
(Several MS. Pieces of love-rhyme found in the box were here presented by the chief constable. The poetry was believed to be in the handwriting of Gowland.)
In answer to inquiries of a juror, the witness said that the meals of the family were very scanty, and she thought they had not sufficient to eat. Mrs. Gowland did not tell her so, but she got this impression.
George Priestley Smith, surgeon, High Street, was then sworn. He said: I was sent for to see Mrs. Gowland and her two children about half-past ten on Sunday night. I was not aware till now that her name is Margaret Sutton, and not Margaret Gowland. I went to her house and found her sitting on the bed with her throat cut, and her children with their throats cut at the head of the bed. The skin, muscles and windpipe were all cut through and divided; the artery and jugular vein were not injured. The bleeding had completely ceased when I got there, at near eleven o’clock. Her face and arms were covered with blood. She was quite conscious, but whispered very indistinctly. The two children were lying quite dead, behind her, at the head of the bed. They were both on their right sides with their throats cut. She made a motion as if she wanted to say something to me, and she motioned as if she wished me to understand she had done it herself. This razor I found behind her upon the bed. The wounds in the throats of the children were deep wounds, which divided the carotid arteries, jugular veins, the trachea, and oesophagus. The appearance of both the children and the mother was blanch less. I have no doubt that the death was caused by these wounds in the throat.
Some conversation arose as to the expediency or otherwise of having a post mortem examination, and the Coroner said that he would leave the point to the decision of the jury, but explained that, it would be much better to have such inquiry test any technical difficulty might arise in any further investigation elsewhere.
Mr. Grauhan stated that, amongst the papers found in the box was an affiliation order on Gowland for a bastard child, and that it was quite possible, some person might have read her this paper as well as the poetry.
The Coroner then suggested that a post mortem examination had better be made, observing that in that case an adjournment of the inquiry would be needed, so that the probability was they might, at the next meeting, have an opportunity of seeing the poor woman at the Infirmary.
He would not of course recommend that the question should be put to her; but the jury might give her the opportunity, if she thought proper, of course after due caution, of giving an answer to the charge which was made against her. The jury no doubt might be disposed to think that this dreadful deed was done in a moment of mental aberration, caused by the severe agony of feeling under which she might have been for some time suffering. That might be so, but the jury had really nothing whatever to do with the question. That could not make the slightest difference in their verdict, because, if the evidence went to show that she was guilty of this crime, it would be their duty to find her guilty; leaving it to a higher court to decide whether, under the circumstances, the poor woman was responsible for the act at the time.
The jury appeared to concur in the suggestion as to an adjournment in order to obtain a post mortem examination of one of the children, Elizabeth Jane Gowland; and the Coroner accordingly took their recognisances to appear before him on Tuesday, 6th proximo.
The jury then separated, and as they did so, Gowland came to complain of the hardship and inconvenience of an adjournment, provided he would be required to attend. While expressing great affection for Margaret Sutton, he said he could find no peace in the town, and he was wishful to leave it as soon as possible. The Coroner immediately bound him in his own recognizance to appear on the 6th of November.
SUSPECTED PERJURY OR FORGERY
Shortly after the inquest, on Tuesday afternoon, Gowland was apprehended again and placed in the lock-up. Amongst the papers found in a box at his dwelling was a paper which purported to be a copy of the register of the marriage of John George Gowland with Margaret Sutton, at the parish church of St. Oswald, in Durham, on the 23rd of September, 1855. The following is a copy of the document:-
Other papers of a grossly obscene character, were also found on the person of Gowland.
Yesterday morning, the prisoner Gowland was brought up at the Borough Court, before Mr> Alderman Brown and Mr. Alderman Rand. A large crowd of persons followed the prisoner as he passed through the streets to and from his cell.
On Gowland being called into the dock,
Mr. Grauhan, the chief-constable, stated that he held in his hand a document which purported to be a copy of the register of the marriage of John George Gowland to Margaret Sutton, at the parish church of St. Oswald, in or near the city of Durham. This document indicated that the prisoner had been guilty of either perjury of forgery. He (the prisoner) was present as a witness at the inquest held on his two children on Tuesday, and he there swore that he was not married to Margaret Sutton, who had lived with him as his wife, and who was now in the infirmary. Reading the paper which purported to be a copy of the register of the marriage between Gowland and Margaret Sutton, Mr. Grauhan stated that this document had been found amongst other papers in the possession of the prisoner. He (Mr. Grauhan) had already written to the incumbent of St. Oswald, in Durham, and he now asked the bench to remand the prisoner till Monday next. He thought he should be able to show that the prisoner had made use of this document while in Bradford, and that, if he were not guilty of perjury he was guilty of forgery. He had to ask that the prisoner be remanded till Monday.
Mr. Alderman Brown ordered the prisoner to be remanded till Monday.
The prisoner was sent into the dock, as he was about to speak. It was discovered that he wanted to make application to offer bail.
Mr. Grauhan said he objected to the application. He had certain grounds for believing that the prisoner was a most immoral character, and that, if he were bailed out, in all probability the bench would never see him again. He had already documentary and other evidence to show his character.
The application being refused,
The prisoner then asked if, he might be allowed to write to his mother and also to friends to obtain the means to get something to eat while in prison.
Mr. Grauhan said that, while the prisoner was in custody, he would have to fare as other prisoners, he would have prison diet, and if he wrote to his mother or any other person, he (Mr. Grauhan) would have to see it.
Mr. Alderman Brown said that this must be the case; if he wrote the chief constable must see the letter.
The prisoner was then removed to the Police Station, followed by a large crowd.
The prisoner’s demeanour indicates apparently the most callous indifference as to his present position and the melancholy circumstances of his family.
On Tuesday afternoon, while at the infirmary, Mr. Chief Constable Grauhan asked the poor woman whether or not she was married to Gowland, and she replied that she was not. This admission seems to support the declaration of Gowland. Still, there are circumstances that which go to support the belief that they were married. It is said that the Vicar has received a letter from a clergyman, in which they are spoken of as married persons. The letter of Wm. Richardson, read at the inquest, also goes to confirm this impression. And some nine or ten months ago, Gowland, on coming to the town lodged for eight weeks at the house of Mrs. Campbell, in Park-gate. For about six weeks, Gowland represented himself as a single man. He then told her he was not single but married, showing to her what appeared to be his “marriage lines.” He said he had a wife and two children, and had taken a house for them in Barkerend Road. Mrs Gowland arrived with her children in about a fortnight after, and has since that time been living with Gowland at the cottage hired by him.
After the inquest, Mr. Grauhan, at the suggestion of the Coroner, visited the poor woman at the Infirmary, his object being, in case the medical officers would permit, formally to charge her with the crime of murdering her two children. Several medical officers would permit, formally to charge her with the crime of murdering her two children. Several medical gentlemen were present and were of opinion that the charge might be made without prejudice to her condition. This was accordingly done – Mr. Grauhan giving her the usual caution that she need not say anything unless she chose, and that, if she did say anything, it would be taken down and might be used as evidence against her elsewhere. The poor woman maintained a perfect silence – she offered no reply.
Yesterday morning, a sister of the poor woman came to see her, but she had no sooner got a glance at the face of the poor sufferer than she fainted and fell, and had to be removed to a bed in an adjourning ward in the Infirmary.
Yesterday afternoon, the funeral of the children took place at the Borough Cemetery. The funeral procession at the rear of the hearse was composed of little children who had been the playmates of the deceased. The night was a novel one as it moved through the crowded streets. A large crowd of spectators followed. At the grave, the funeral service was read in a solemn and impressive manner by the Rev. W. Mundy, curate of Great Horton. The crowd assembled in the Cemetery grounds was very large. Many women were in tears.
On inquiring at the Infirmary at a late hour last night as to the state of the poor woman, the answer returned was – “Very bad-she gets worse; there is little, if any, hope of her recovery.”
The Bradford Observer, November 1, 1860
THE MURDER OF TWO CHILDREN
On Thursday last, Mr. Grauhan, the chief constable, received a letter from the Rev. Edward Sneyd, vicar of St. Oswald, Durham, in which the rev. Gentleman stated that he carefully searched the register of marriage in the parish of St. Oswald, for the year 1855, and found no entry of the solemnization of any marriage between John George Gowland and Margaret Sutton during that year. He added that there could be no doubt that the certificate described was a forgery. In answer to another letter then written by Mr. Grauhan, the vicar of St. Oswald replied that to the best of his knowledge and belief, there neither was nor had there been during his incumbency any clergyman of the name of Henry Thomas Fox, resident in the parish of St. Oswald. The certificate of the entry sent him, he added, was not worded in the form uniformly adopted by him or his officials.
Mr. Grauhan also received by the same post a letter from the brother of Margaret Sutton – Mr. Richardson, of Hylton, Durham, in which the enclosed copies of two letters, which he stated he had received from his sister. They were as follow:-
With heartfelt grief I write these few lines to you to inform you of the situation I am now placed in. I am not in a house of my own at present, not am I likely to be, the way as my husband is going on-the same as he was in Sunderland, if anything worse. I really cannot bear it any longer. Dear Brother, if I am spared till Monday, I intend to leave him, so that you may expect me by that time, if I can get sufficient money of him on the Saturday to bring me and the children home unknown to him, as he will not let me come if he knows. Please not to say anything about it till you see me, perhaps he might get to know. I shall come by the Great Northern (North Eastern) but it will not be until night; so you will be there to meet me. Dear Brother, in haste, from me,
Your unhappy sister,
MARGARET GOWLAND, Bradford
Please write to me by Sunday, and send it in the envelope directed for Mrs. Hutchinson; then he will not know about it, and I will get the letter forwarded to me Good bye.
Bradford, Oct. 21
Let the consequences be as it may, I shall leave Gowland tomorrow, Monday, I cannot put up with his treatment of me any longer. So you may expect to me to come tomorrow night by the last train to Aylton.
The brother still wrote under the impression that Gowland and his sister are married – he says that “it is too true, they are married.” He stated that they had been parted twice. He spoke of Gowland as having been the source of all family trouble and sorrow for many years past. He was capable, he alleged, of committing any kind of iniquity. Amongst other offences, of which he had been guilty, was that of felony, for which he had been imprisoned six months in the Durham gaol. The brother went to the railway station in vain. He stated that he would be present at the adjourned inquest.
On Monday, John George Gowland was brought up at the Borough Court; the magistrates present being the Mayor (Isaac Wright, Esq.), W. B. Addison, Esq., John Hollings, Esq., Wm. Rand, Esq., Mr. Alderman Light, and Mr. Alderman Brown. The court was densely crowded with spectators. The passages leading to the court, and also the streets outside, were crowded with people anxious to obtain a sight of the prisoner.
The prisoner was placed in the dock. He appeared much agitated. He asked the bench to be supplied, before the case commenced, with paper and pencil, and these were accordingly supplied to him.
Mr. Grauhan, the chief constable, stated that the prisoner was remanded last Wednesday. The reason of that was that at the inquest on his children he deposed that he was not married to the woman who gave her name as Margaret Gowland, and who was now in the Infirmary. He (Mr. Grauhan) wrote to the Rev. Edward Sneyd, the vicar of St. Oswald, Durham, to ascertain whether such persons had ever been married at St. Oswald parish in 1855, a document purporting to be a certified copy of the prisoner’s marriage with the woman having been found amongst his papers. The Rev. E. Sneyd wrote to say that he could not find that any such marriage had taken place. The name of the clergyman purporting to have signed the supposed certificate was Henry Thomas Fox. There was no clergyman there of that name, but there was a clergyman named George Townsend Fox. This certificate is in the handwriting of the prisoner, and I can prove that he used it, but I cannot prove that he used it for a fraudulent purpose. The charge of perjury, therefore, cannot be sustained, nor can the charge of forgery.
Mr. Alderman Brown: Will you state in what respect the document has been used?
Mr. Grauhan: When the prisoner first came to the town he showed this document to the woman at whose house he lodged. He first said that he was a single man, and then that he was married and had two children. At that time, he showed his certificate and said he was married.
Mr. Alderman Brown: Have you no instance in which this document has been used.
The Mayor: It has been used; but not on any fraudulent pretence.
Mr. Grauhan: That is the case; not on any fraudulent pretence. He has used this document, but not for any fraudulent purpose.
The Mayor (to the prisoner): Have you any question to put to the witness?
Gowland: Yes; may I ask to be allowed to look at the document that has been put in? (The paper was handed to him.) You have seen this Mr. Grauhan; and you say there is no person named Henry Thomas Fox? Have you written to Durham?
Mr. Grauhan: I have, and I am told there is no such person.
Gowland: Will you let me see the letter of Mr. Sneyd?
Mr. Grauhan: No; there is no such person as Henry Thomas Fox.
Gowland requested that any witness who were about to be called might be sent out of court.
Mr. Grauhan replied that there was no necessity for anything of the kind, for he had no witnesses to call.
Gowland: Have you no witnesses to call to prove the signature of Henry Thomas Fox?
Mr. Grauhan: I would have brought witnesses, if I had thought it necessary to do so, but I have not done so.
Gowland: There is Elizabeth Proud? Have you got her here today?
Mr. Grauhan: I have not; if I had thought it necessary I should have done so.
Gowland: Have you got Henry Wilkinson here?
Mr. Grauhan: No.
Gowland: What parties have you applied to?
Mr Grauhan: None. I did not think it necessary to do so.
Gowland: Have you written to parties at Durham for the purpose of obtaining information?
Mr. Grauhan: I have written to one.
Gowland: What parties have you written to besides those spoken of (no answer was returned). I submit this question is a proper one, and ask if I have not a right to an answer to it?
Mr. Grauhan: I have no right to disclose anything I may know, or any information I may possess.
The question was again put, and the bench thought Mr. Grauhan need not answer such a question. Gowland then asked if he could have a sight of the letter received from Mr. Sneyd; but Mr. Grauhan declined to hand it to him.
Gowland put the request again, and the Mayor said that such a request could not be yielded. The magistrates consulted for a few minutes, and the Mayor said that the prisoner was discharged.
The object of these questions could not be determined, and they must have been put in entire ignorance of what Mr. Grauhan had stated.
In a short time after Mr. Superintendent Milnes removed Gowland to the area below the Court House, but as it was not safe for him to depart from the Court House, he remained there for five hours. A large crowd still remained there, and it was at last deemed expedient by the officers to assist him to escape over the high wall in the rear of the Court House. Thus climbing the wall into Drake Street, he got into a cab near the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Station, and ordered the cabman to drive him to No. 26, Green Lane, Manningham.
GOWLAND IN COURT AGAIN
Yesterday, Gowland came before the Borough Magistrates and applied to them to make an order on Mr. Grauhan, the chief constable, to give up to him property belonging to himself, which the officer had in his possession. He stated that Mr. Grauhan had 20s. Belonging to him.
The Mayor replied that the bench had no power to interfere in the matter.
Mr. Grauhan said that he held 20s. Belonging to the woman, who was at the Infirmary, and she stated it was her money.
Inspector Shuttleworth said that there were only two old coats belonging to Gowland. Gowland (who held some letters in his hand) then said that the papers had said a good deal as to “manufactured characters” (testimonials), but he would beg the bench to look over the papers he held in his hand.
The Mayor replied that the bench declined to look at the papers.
Mr. Grauhan said that what property he held he should retain till after the inquest, but he had nothing but what he believed belonged to the woman, and it consisted of the money he had mentioned and some clothing. The fellow, whose appearance was sudden and unexpected, then disappeared.
The poor woman still continues in a precarious condition, sometimes better, sometimes worse, and the medical officers are somewhat divided in opinion as to the reality. She is very weak. She appears to be gradually sinking. She was very bad on Tuesday, and was worse yesterday. A lapse of two or three days will remove any doubt that may remain as a result.
We find, from private letters and newspapers received from Sunderland and Durham, that the dreadful tragedy has created great sensation also in that part of the country, and feeling of deep commiseration for the poor woman.
(From the Durham Advertiser)
Gowland is a native of Durham, his father and mother having for many years kept the “Seven Stars” public-house in Claypath. He was formerly a clerk with Mr. H. Marshall, solicitor, in this city; but on being discharged about five years ago he went to Sunderland, and some time afterwards contrived to elope with the wife of a seaman named John Cuthbertson Bellas, whilst he (Bellas) was at sea. Having taken with them the whole of the unfortunate man’s furniture, Bellas, on his return home, had Gowland apprehended on a charge of stealing his property, for which he was committed by the magistrates to Durham Gaol, and eventually, at his trial at the Easter Sessions, 1859, was sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour.
(From the Durham Chronicle)
The prisoner Gowland is a native of Durham, his mother and other relatives now living in the town. The case has consequently excited a great deal of attention here; and sincere sympathy is expressed for the unfortunate woman he had induced to become his victim, and who, when heartbroken by his cruelty, dared to take the lives of her children and of herself. Gowland himself is a well known person, as he was somewhat of “a character.” He was formerly an attorney’s clerk in the employment of Mr. Henry John Marshall, in this city, and was afterwards similarly employed in Sunderland. He is a vulgar, impudent, conceited fellow and it is somewhat surprising the influence he seems to have acquired over some of his female acquaintances. He was committed to Durham prison by the Sunderland bench, of magistrates, on the 23rd March last, on a charge of stealing household goods, the property of John Cuthbertson Bellas, at Sunderland. He had been living in adultery with Mrs. Bellas at lodgings, whilst the prosecutor, a sailor, was at sea, and for this offence he was sentenced by the Court of Quarter Sessions to six months’ imprisonment. He also appeared before the magistrates at the Newcastle police court for assaulting a woman whom he had taken to his lodgings, by pitching her out of the window. He was not married to Margaret Sutton, and the pretended marriage certificate is fictitious. The Rev. George Townsend Fox was curate at St. Oswald’s Church, but no ‘Henry Thomas Fox’ has occupied his position, so that the charge of forgery will, it is feared, fall through.
Gowland and the unfortunate woman had been once or twice parted, she going to her friends at Hylton. After he left Durham gaol she again agreed to live with him, and they went to Bradford. His testimonials, if examined, will probably prove to be of “home manufacture.” Whilst at Sunderland he induced a number of silly people to subscribe one shilling a week each to him for the purpose, as he induced them to believe, of carrying on proceedings for the recovery of some landed estates in this neighbourhood, to which he pretended he had a title. This swindle would have probably been exposed at the time, but it happened that he was sent to gaol from Sunderland before the poor people discovered they were being duped.
The Bradford Observer, November 8, 1860
THE RECENT TRAGEDY IN HIGH STREET
DEATH OF MRS. GOWLAND
At a few minutes past six o’clock on Friday morning, Margaret Gowland alias Sutton died in the Infirmary. Her demise, as we stated in our last, was imminent, and from Thursday evening she gradually sank. The highest medical skill and the most unremitting attention and kindness were exerted in vain. Up to Thursday, she was apparently frequently disturbed by severe mental agony. She frequently talked of her children and uttered the wish that she were with them! On Thursday she appeared to find consolation in listening to the reading of portions of Scripture in which there was the promise of forgiveness to the penitent in heart, and when the reader ceased, she desired to read the passages again. In the evening she became more calm and quiet. About one oclock on Friday morning she remarked that “she was now reconciled,” and “she hoped god would forgive her.” From that time, though sensible nearly to the close of her life, she sank rather rapidly, and at length she passed peacefully away.
The inquest on Margaret Gowland alias Sutton, who died in the Infirmary, on Friday morning, was held on Saturday, at the Boar’s Head Hotel, before Mr. C. Jewison, Coroner and the jury previously empanelled to inquire into the death of the children.
Gowland, who had been summoned as a witness, was, on his own application, allowed to be in court.
Frederick William Grauhan, chief constable, was the first witness called. He said: I am the chief constable of Bradford. On Sunday, the 21st October, about a quarter to eleven o’clock at night, from information I received, I went to the house of John George Gowland, in Barkerend Road, and there found the deceased, who had her throat cut. She was sitting up on the bed fully dressed, and the children on each side of her, with their throats cut, and quite dead. I sent for a cab and sent her to the Infirmary. I had no conversation with her then, but I saw her next morning in company with the Mayor, and Mr. Mitton, clerk to Mr. Rawson, clerk to the borough justices. She was asked whether John George Gowland had murdered the children. She said, “He was not in at the time and knew nothing of it.” She said – “I did it.” These questions were not put by me, but in my presence.
Edward Fawcett was next called. He said: I saw Margaret Sutton on the 21st October. Gowland came to my house about twenty minutes before eleven o’clock. He said, “Come on, I want you.” I asked him what was the matter, and he said “Come on, come on!” I then followed him into his own house, which was opposite. There was no light and no fire. I said again “What is the matter?” and he said, “I believe my wife has murdered both the children and cut her own throat.” He then struck a light. I saw the children on the bed. They had their throats cut, and Margaret Sutton was sitting between them. The children were quite dead, and she was bleeding from a wounded throat. I went to the police station and told what had happened, and returned back again as quickly as I could. I returned back to Gowland’s. I asked her when I got in whether Gowland had done it. She made motions to signify she had done it herself. She pointed to a bloody razor lying on the bed and then to the children. She also pointed to herself and shook her head. I had heard a knocking at a door before Gowland came to me. I make no doubt that it was her own act. There was no light in the house. I observed the key was inside the door. She appeared to be quite sensible at this time.
Mary Brook was then called. She deposed: I reside at 22, High Street, and live next door to John George Gowland. I was acquainted with Margaret Sutton. I knew her for two or three months. She was a quiet, respectable woman. I did not know but she was married. She has been in our house sometimes three or four times a day. She regretted her connection with Gowland very much and very often, and in talking about it she frequently got excited. She had never been so bad as after Gowland had been in the house of ill fame opposite. This was about a fortnight before. She got worse during the last fortnight. She came into our house the morning after, and said she could not bear it, and it would send her to the grave. She said, “Oh, Mrs. Brook, this will kill me.” On the Saturday night previous to the event, she looked very melancholy. She looked very wild and low, and I said, “Keep up your spirits.” She appeared to dread Sunday coming. I knew she was going to leave Gowland on the Sunday night about seven o’clock. She came to bid some people good bye. She appeared about the same as on Saturday. She had sent a letter on the Sunday to her brother at Hylton, telling her to meet her at the Hylton station on Monday. She used to speak of Gowland’s ill using her-drinking and staying out at night. He came home sooner than usual on Saturday night, the 20th, and she was afraid from that circumstance he suspected her going off. He gave her 12s. 6d. that night, which was more than usual. He gave her 6s. 6d. the week before.
George Grauhan was then sworn. He said: I am the house surgeon at the Bradford Infirmary. The deceased was admitted into the Infirmary on the 21st of October, at twenty minutes to twelve o’clock at night. I found her suffering from a severe wound in her throat. The windpipe was laid open, but the large vessels were not injured. I attended to her immediately. She was also attended by other surgeons. A police officer was place in charge of her to prevent her doing herself any further injury. The officer asked her if she had done the injury herself, and she nodded assent. She gave me to understand several times that she had done it herself. Her mind did not appear to be affected, except that she was dejected at times and in low spirits. She appeared to be in a sound state of mind until the latter end of her existence. She expressed a desire not to get better. She died from the indirect effects of the wound.
By a juror: I cannot say whether the great loss of blood might have had any effect in the inducing the return of sanity after the infliction of the wound.
The Coroner observed that he thought the evidence given might conclude the inquiry. The evidence was very clear, and any further evidence would be unnecessary.
Mr G. H. Farrar asked whether there was any more evidence as to the state of the woman’s mind.
The Coroner replied that he thought the evidence as to her state of mind at the time she cut her throat was very clear indeed. If, however, they wished to have more evidence they might perhaps get it. Mr. S. Cousen suggested that they adjourn the inquiry till Tuesday.
The Coroner replied that he could not see the object of an adjournment. They did not doubt that the woman had cut her own throat?
Mr. S. Cousen: No.
The Coroner said that the only question on which they needed to be satisfied was as to the state of her mind at the time she did the act.
The Coroner said that upon that point he thought the evidence was quite sufficient and conclusive. The jury were aware that Gowland, who was examined at the first enquiry, stated that he left the woman at six o’clock.
Gowland: Ten minutes past six, sir.
The Coroner ordered Gowland not to interfere. At that time the woman, he said, was quite well and cheerful; but then they had the evidence of a person who saw her at her house at seven o’clock, and she described her as being then in a low and unhappy state of mind. That unhappy state of mind was not to be wondered at. Her mind had unquestionably been distracted in consequence of the degraded state in which she had been, living and cohabiting with Gowland, they being unmarried; and it appeared very clear, from the evidence before them, that she had been pressing him to marry her, and that, in order to quieten her importunities, he told her he would marry her before the close of the year. It appeared that she had no faith in that promise; probably she had had many promises of that kind before. At no time did she believe him, because she had been driven to write to her brother to tell him to meet her at the Hylton station, having finally made up her mind to leave him on the following Monday. From one of the letters which the jury had seen, it appeared that her brother wrote her a letter to advise her to remain where she was, and he stated that her sister had again gone out to place, and that therefore there would be nobody to look after the children. She knew very well that, if she went home, there would have been a stain upon her reputation, and the probability was that the children would have been a great clog not only to herself but upon her friends, and that this poor creature saw nothing but trouble before her, whether she went home or stayed with Gowland in Bradford. It was just possible that, reflecting upon her condition, her mind became frenzied and deranged, and that she might have done this serious mischief during the time she was in that state. As a juror had suggested, it was probable that the loss of blood from the wound in her throat might have had some effect in restoring her to consciousness, because the jury had been told that she was quite conscious after ten o’clock, when Gowland came home, and some of the neighbours went into the house with him. If the jury had any doubt as to the state of her mind when she committed the deed, they could leave the matter in doubt. If they found that she was in a sane state of mind at the time she committed the act, then they would refuse her the rites of Christian sepulchre.
The room was then cleared of strangers, and in a few minutes the jury agreed to return the following verdict:-
“That the deceased, Margaret Sutton, died from the effects of a wound on her throat, inflicted by herself with a razor, she being at the time in a state of temporary derangement of mind.”
Gowland, hearing the verdict, shortly after the coroner’s constable, who had communicated it to him that he was very glad such a verdict had been given.
The remains of Margaret Sutton were interred at the Borough Cemetery on Monday afternoon; Inspector and Constable Sharp undertaking the arrangements) as in the case of burial of the children) for conducting the funeral. Three cabs, in which were a sister of the deceased and a number of neighbours, attired in mourning, followed the hearse as it departed from the Infirmary grounds, soon after two o’clock. A large concourse of persons, principally women, had gathered in the adjoining streets, and they followed the funeral procession as it departed. The crowd increased as the procession, attracting general notice, moved forward, and when it had reached the cemetery grounds at Scholemoor, it was very large – two or three thousand in number. The Rev. J. Wade, the curate of the parish church was the officiating clergyman; unremitting in his attention to the deceased in the last days of her life, he performed the last sad office over her grave, reading the sublime and touching burial service of the Church of England with great solemnity and effect.
The grave was situated near the western boundary. The coffin was deposited in the grave, and the coffins and remains of the children – were afterwards placed in the same grave. They had been removed from a grave in another part of the cemetery. The bottom of the grave was built round with bricks and covered in with flags.
It appears that at the close of the inquest on Saturday a subscription was commenced in aid of an effort to procure for the mother and children a superior grave than they otherwise would have had to erect, a memorial over the grave, and a considerable sum of money (£20 or £25) was obtained for this purpose in two or three days, almost without solicitation.
Margaret Sutton left written directions as to the manner in which Mr. Grauhan, the chief constable, should dispose of such property as she leaves behind, which includes 20s., a quantity of wearing apparel, a Bible, and a wedding ring. Her mother, Elizabeth Sutton, of South Hylton, Sunderland; a younger sister, also residing at Sunderland; and a sister of Gowland (a Mrs. Dixon, residing at Undercliffe Cemetery lodge), are the legatees. Very curiously, the poor woman bequeaths to Gowland’s married sister the wedding ring she wore, though, as it now appears, she was unmarried, and to her husband her Bible. They are said to have always been kind and affectionate towards her, and, to have sympathised with her greatly in her domestic sorrows and troubles.
ADJOURNED INQUEST ON THE CHILDREN
The adjourned inquest on the children was held on Tuesday at the Boar’s Head. On the jury being sworn, the Coroner observed that it would now be unnecessary to take up the time of the jury in taking down the evidence of the medical gentleman with respect to the post mortem examination; though, if the unfortunate woman had lived, his testimony would have been of the greatest importance.
Mr. Parkinson, surgeon, was then sworn, and he stated: On the 23rd October I made a post mortem examination of the deceased, Elizabeth Jane Gowland, assisted by Mr. Smith and Mr. Terry. Externally there was a wound across the throat, four inches in length, dividing the windpipe, the gullet, and the large vessels. I examined all the internal organs, and found them quite healthy. In the stomach there was a quantity of partly-digested food. This remark may answer the question raised that the children had had no food. I am of opinion that the child died from haemorrhage caused by the wound in the throat.
The Coroner: The circumstances are so clear, that it would be an insult to your understandings to ask if you wanted any further evidence. Then consider your verdict. I think we need not withdraw for the purpose. Do you find that the deceased Elizabeth Jane Gowland was killed or murdered by her mother Margaret Sutton, and that she did this at a time when she was labouring under temporary insanity of mind?
The jury expressed their acquiescence in the verdict, and it was accordingly entered upon the inquisition, and duly signed by the Coroner and each juror.
A similar verdict was returned in the case of Annie Gowland. Gowland, with other witnesses, was in an adjoining room, waiting to receive his wages for two days’ attendance as a witness. On leaving the hotel, he was surrounded by a group of women who had gathered there. Some of them hustled him about and used him rather roughly. He took to his heels, and was pursued by the crowd through Hustler Gate. At Sun Bridge he took refuge in a cab, and thus drove off beyond the reach of his assailants.
Early yesterday morning, Gowland was observed in High Street. A mob of men and boys quickly gathered, some of whom began to bonnet him, when he sought safety in ludicrous and ignominious flight. He was departing by the Midland railway at 9.50 last night, when, the fact getting noised abroad, a crowd quickly gathered at the station, and seemed disposed to manifest their indignation and to offer him some annoyance. The officers at the station, in fear, called in the assistance of the police, and Gowland was allowed to depart quietly.
This was not to be the last we would hear of John George Gowland. Detailed below various accounts of his on-going Criminal career.
The Newcastle Courant, Friday July 3, 1868
DURHAM MIDSUMMER SESSION
JOHN GEORGE GOWLAND (43), Law clerk and accountant, was found guilty of having obtained the sum of 10s, with intention to defraud Robert Trusty, at Durham, on 10th April. The prosecutor met the prisoner at Durham on the day in question, and asked advice respecting some legal proceedings. The prisoner represented himself to be a Solicitor, and on that representation he was entrusted to attend to the affairs of the prosecutor, who paid him fees to the amount of 10s. The prisoner, against whom a previous conviction for felony was put in, was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment.
The Newcastle Courant, Friday July 28, 1871
EXTRAORDINARY CASE OF EMBEZZLEMENT AT BISHOP AUCKLAND – John George Gowland, a law clerk, residing at Bishop Auckland, has been apprehended on a warrant charged with embezzling a sum of £5, the property of Peter Featherstone, innkeeper, in that town, under the following singular circumstances:- Mr Featherstone’s son having been committed for trial at the last Durham Assizes on a charge of rape. Gowland undertook to defend him, and received £5 to engage counsel, &c. When the trial came on it was found that prisoner had taken no steps in the matter, and was nowhere to be found. A warrant having been put into the hands of Sergeant Harrison, he was apprehended by that officer on Monday, and has been remanded for a week.
The Newcastle Courant, Friday November 15, 1878
DOBINSON V, THE NORTH- EASTERN RAILWAY COMPANY. This case was brought to recover £50 damages for injuries sustained by Hannah Dobinson, wife of John Dobinson, travelling draper, Spennymoor, through being thrown out of a carriage at Spennymoor Station on April 2nd. Mrs Dobinson’s story was to the effect that she arrived by the last train from Ferryhill on that day, and that on the train stopping the door was opened and she proceeded to get out, but while she was still on the step the train jerked forward a couple of yards and she was thrown upon the platform, her hand cut and she much shaken in her person. She admitted that she did not call in a doctor till July, and that no claim was made to the railway company till about the same time, when a certain Mr John George Gowland, an ex-solicitor’s clerk, offered to make a claim on her behalf. Mr Parker, for plaintiff, called several witnesses who more or less bore out Mrs Dobinson’s statements. Mr Skidmore, instructed by Messrs Richardson and Gutch, York, for the defence, called railway servants who swore that the train did not jerk on again after it stopped, but that the door of the carriage in which plaintiff was, was opened by someone from the inside, and plaintiff got out while he train was still in motion, and fell in consequence. His Honour left it to the jury to say whether the accident was due to negligence of the company, or whether there was contributory negligence on plaintiff’s part, and in the former event what damages they should allow in view of the whole circumstances – The jury, after a short retirement, brought in a verdict for £5 damages – Mr Parker asked for costs on the higher scale, but this his Honour refused but allowed the witnesses’ costs.
Northern Echo Darlington, Tuesday October 21, 1879
THE BEGGING-LETTER IMPOSTER AT MIDDLESBOROUGH
John George Gowland, who was remanded on Friday on a charge of begging, was brought up again at Middlesbrough Police Court yesterday- before Mr O. J. Coleman (the stipendiary), the Mayor (Mr W. Bulmer), and Mr R,. Dixon. It will be remembered that the prisoner went to the house of the Rev. J. K. Bealey, and left letters for the gentleman, and on Wednesday he saw Mr Bealey and asked him for assistance. Mr Bealey afterwards, seeing him going about the streets, suspected he was an imposter, and gave information to the police, and when the prisoner was apprehended a number of papers and letters were found upon him. The case was adjourned in order that the prisoner might prove he was an honest man. Prisoner desired the Rev. J. K. Bealey to be recalled, and, this being done, he cross-examined the rev. Gentleman at considerable length, but was told by the Stipendiary that he, as a lawyer’s clerk of forty-five years’ standing, ought to know that he was wasting the time of the Court, but he would hear any witnesses the prisoner might have to call. Acting Sergeant Lewis was then recalled, and prisoner also cross-examined him at considerable length as to why he apprehended him when he did not see him doing anything wrong, and as to his authority for apprehending him without a warrant. He also cross-examined him as to whether he did not, when he apprehended him, say that Mr Saggerson wished to see him, and he never introduced him to Mr Saggerson. His Worship remarked that the prisoner had made the acquaintance of the Chief Constable since, at all events. Prisoner then made a long speech in defence, and said if he was liable for asking for assistance, then every clergyman of the Church of England was also liable for making collections in his church in aid of the poor. He produced five letters which he had received while in custody – one from John Littlefair, Durham; one from a Mrs Moss, with whom he lodged while in Stockton; one from the rev. Vicar of St. Peter’s Bishop Auckland; one from a solicitor at Stockton, who did not sign his name; and one from Mr O. Levy, High Bondgate, Bishop Auckland. He stated that if he had been an imposter he would not have called upon Mr Belk, the clerk to the court; Mr Dodds, M.P., of Stockton; and Mr H. G. Faber, the Town Clerk of Stockton, in search of employment – His worship said nobody who had heard the case could doubt that he was a begging letter imposter who called upon the clerks at the various offices and other gentlemen. Mr Belk asked prisoner if he had not been convicted previously for obtaining money by false pretences, larceny, drunkenness, and other offences at Bishop Auckland. Prisoner admitted the drunkenness, but denied the larceny. Committed to prison for six weeks.
Bradford Daily Telegraph, March 21, 1882
HORRIBLE MURDER IN BRADFORD THIS MORNING
SUICIDE OF THE MURDERER
A murder of a most determined character, followed by the suicide of the murderer, was committed in Bradford this morning at an early hour, the victim being a widow woman, 55 years of age, named Margaret Yeoman, residing at 139 Hollings Road, a thoroughfare leading from Thornton Road to Whetley Hill, and her murderer a man named William Bairstow, a dyer employed at Botterill’s dye works, Garnett Street, who has been for some time past lodging with the deceased woman. It appears that Mrs Yeoman, who was a hard working, decent woman, and bore an excellent character amongst her neighbours, was the widow of John Yeoman, a night soil gaffer, in the employ of the Bradford Corporation, who died three years ago. Since her husband’s death she has supported herself by keeping lodger’s in Hollings Road, which is a neighbourhood inhabited chiefly by working men of a respectable class, her earnings in this respect being supplemented by the wages of her only son, John Edward Yeoman, a youth sixteen years of age, an employee at Oates Ingham and Son’s dye works.
The main Bairstow was one of the first lodgers the unfortunate woman obtained after her husband’s death, and with the exception off an interval of a few weeks he has remained with her for the last three years. He was of a very peculiar temperament, and his idiosyncrasies appeared to increase as time wore on. In addition to being of a surly and sulky temper he was in the habit of indulging in liquor. He was also addicted to gambling, and when he lost money he was in the habit of acting in a manner exceedingly disagreeable to the remainder of the lodgers in the house and to the woman whose life he this morning took. Under such circumstances he would refuse to take any food, or to speak to the remainder of the household, unless, it was to use threatening language, and would thus continue moody and silent for days together, as if brooding over the losses he had sustained. Mrs Yeoman appears to have borne with her unpleasant lodger with commendable patience for a very long time, but shortly before Christmas last year, in consequence of the complaints which the other lodgers and her son made, and the fact, too, that Bairstow was considerably in arrears with his payments for lodging, she felt it necessary to order him to leave the house. He refused point blank to do so, and when he was threatened that if he did not go he would be expelled by force, repeated a threat which he had often previously used, swearing that he would murder Mrs Yeoman before Christmas. Not much attention was paid to his threats at the time, as it was not believed that he would carry them into execution, and finally, as he still refused to go at the landlady’s bidding, the other lodgers to whom he had become very obnoxious put him out of the house, and refused to let him come back again.
Bairstow did not make much bother about the matter at the time, but in the course of a day or two left the town, proceeding to Wakefield, where he obtained employment at some dye works with the exception of the time when he called for his clothes Bairstow does not appear to have visited the residence of the deceased woman until about a month ago, when, having lost his employment at Wakefield, he returned to Bradford, and going to Mrs Yeoman’s wanted her to turn the rest of her lodgers away, saying that if she would do so he would come back again. She told him that she could not do that, as she had her living to make out of them, and gave him to understand that she did not care much about his presence in the house. Finally, however, she consented to take him back as a lodger on his promising to pay the amount he was in arrears, and to keep from drink, and accordingly he again took up his abode with her, having obtained work, as already stated, at Botterill’s dye works, Garnett Street.
Since coming back to Bradford he has been in a very quiet and moody state, very rarely speaking in the house. He did not, however, appear to bear any animus against the woman who this morning met her death at his hand, but on the contrary was more ready to oblige her than any of the other lodgers in the house, and would fetch coals from the cellar or do anything else for her that he thought might be required. About three weeks ago, however, owing to a return of one of his sulky fits, and to his refusing to take his meals, he had a quarrel with the son of the deceased woman, a lad about sixteen years of age, who told him that he would have to go elsewhere and live if he could not behave himself properly and stop grumbling. Since then, though outwardly quiet and reserved, he had been extremely sulky. He also became very jealous and suspicious, and din consequence of his hardness of hearing used to imagine whenever the lodgers were talking about him, and trying to get him turned out of the house. Brooding over such matters appeared to have the effect of making him depressed in spirits, and so marked did this depression become that on Sunday last Mrs Yeoman told Mrs Jennings, an old woman whom she had taken into the house partly out of charity, that he seemed to be going wrong in his head. Nothing, however, transpired to give any indication of the terrible tragedy which was to be enacted this morning.
Bairstow, we are informed, went to his work as usual yesterday. After he returned home at night he said he would have to go out again and see a man named Oswald, who was over him at the works, regarding some matter connected with his employment. He went out for this purpose at ten o’clock in the night, but came back again, saying he could not see the man. At eleven he again went out. All the household went to bed, with the exception of the deceased woman, who sat up for Bairstow. When he came home he appears to have gone straight up to the bed he occupied in conjunction with Mrs Yeoman’s son. About two o’clock Bairstow, who appeared somewhat restless, got out of bed, but on the son speaking to him returned. He got up again several times during the night for various pretexts, but always returned shortly, and on the son leaving for his work at six o’clock Bairstow was sound asleep apparently. There were also sleeping in the house a man named Joe Brear, employed as a forge man at Water Lane Forge, another named Braintreee, who also left about six o’clock for his work on the Midland Railway, where he is engaged as a plate layer, and Mrs Jennings, the old woman above referred to, who shared the bed with Mrs Yeoman. The other lodger, named Brown, left for the Water Lane Forge about five o’clock, Mrs Yeoman got up between seven and half-past seven to prepare breakfast for Bairstow, who had to leave for his employment at eight o’clock, and Bairstow would appear to have very shortly followed her down to the cellar-kitchen, where the meals were prepared. About eight o’clock a lad named W. Moore, who lives with his parents a door or two below the house where the tragedy was committed, and who had been in the habit of going on errands for Mrs Yeoman, came to the door and knocked for admittance. Mrs Jennings, and afterwards communicated with his mother, who sent to the residence of Detective Collins, which is close at hand, and acquainted him with the crime. Collins at once went to the place and made an inspection. The woman was lying on her face with her head towards the coal-cellar door. She had a clear cut wound on the neck, half severing it from the body, and the position of the corpse seemed to indicate that she was in the act of going into the cellar for coals when Bairstow had come up behind, and drew the table knife with which the deed was done across her throat. The little finger on her right hand was nearly severed, but there were no other marks of a struggle visible. The attack must have been sudden and unexpected, as no noise was heard in the house by the inmates, with the exception of Mrs Jennings, who also states that she heard a slight scream as of a child a few minutes to eight. The body of Bairstow was lying on its left side with one arm underneath and the other partly drawn up, a common table knife smeared with blood lying near.
There was some blood on the kitchen table near the window and drawn the knife with fatal effect across his own throat, and fell in the position in which he was found. The deceased woman was a native of Grassington, near Skipton, whilst Bairstow belonged to Halifax and was 36 years of age.
Bradford Daily Telegraph, March 22, 1882
THE HORRIBLE MURDER AND SUICIDE IN BRADFORD
Owing to the early hour at which our first edition went to press, our representative was unable to publish as full details of the horrible tragedy in Hollings Road this morning as would otherwise have been the case. During the course of the afternoon a number of further particulars have come to light which serve to give a more serious complexion to the sad affair than was at first supposed, and point to the conclusion that the man Bairstow,- who had evidently been under the influence of mental disorder, had, in accomplishing the foul deed, merely fulfilled a premeditated design, as from various acts, small and insignificant in themselves, but momentous considering the events which have taken place, seem to point to the idea that he intended involving others in the house in the common destruction which befell himself and his unfortunate landlady. His conduct for a day or two prior to this morning had been more than usually peculiar.
The woman who has met such an unhappy fate at his hands did her best to cheer him up and drive away the mood and despondent thoughts which appeared to occupy his mind, but as the end proved without avail. According to the testimony of all the neighbours, who are unanimous in their good opinion of the poor woman, she treated her murderer as if he had been her own son, and spared no pains to make him happy and comfortable, thereby the sorry return which she has met for her kindness is all the more deplorable. Her efforts never appeared to have much effect, and during the last day or two he was noticed to regard her with an evil eye, and look as if he contemplated some deed of evil. It was only last night that Mrs Yeoman’s son, noticing the scowl with which Bairstow regarded his mother, thought it necessary to ask her if there was anything wrong with him or if he had been using threats of violence, and when she replied in the negative, told her that Bairstow would have to leave the house, as he could not have him conducting himself in such a fashion. Although Bairstow has not said much latterly it would seem as if the fate which he apparently meditated for; his landlady he would like to have extended to some of the lodgers if not to the son also. As stated in our first edition, the son, who shared the same bed with Bairstow, was unable to sleep last night, and the murderer expressed great annoyance in consequence, especially when the lad noticed him attempting to leave the room, and asked him what he was going to do. He describes Bairstow as trying to “sneak” out of the room on his toes on the several occasions on which he essayed to leave, as if he was anxious to get out unobserved. This feeling could easily be accounted for on the ground that he had premeditated designs against the life of one or more of the inmates, and was anxious to posses himself of the necessary weapons to carry his murderous intentions into effect, so that he could work out his purpose silently. Our information that Bairstow went to his work as usual on Monday morning was incorrect. He has suffered from a rupture for some time past, and on the day in question it seemed to have troubled him. Instead of going into work he went into the town, where he was seen by a neighbour, Mrs Prest, whose husband keeps a grocer’s shop next door to deceased’s residence. He was accompanied to the town by the deceased woman, who went down with him for the purpose of getting him some medicine from the Infirmary, from the authorities of which place she had previously obtained a recommendation for him for medical treatment. After she had got the medicine he returned with her home apparently as usual.
There does not appear to be any doubt that his mind was affected to a certain extent. His unreasonable jealousy in the house, the peculiar fancies he was always getting into his head, and his sullen and moody conduct seem to point strongly to that conclusion, and only on that ground can the frightful act of which he was guilty be accounted for. Now that the bodies have been cleaned and laid out by Mrs Webster, it appears that the circumstances under which the woman met her death have somewhat different, and of a more terrible character than was at first reported or believed. That some struggle must have taken place is evident, for in addition to the gash in the throat the woman bears two terrible wounds on the head, one above the right ear, about two inches long and penetrating about an inch, and the other over the right eye completely smashing the frontal bone. When the tragedy was first discovered these wounds were not noticed owing to them being covered with the clotted gore in which the woman had been lying face downwards. The instrument, too, with which they were caused, a small axe used for wood chopping, and which was found lying on the kitchen table, was not noticed, but was put on one side, as it was supposed it had only been casually sprinkled with the blood which so plentifully bestrewed the kitchen floor.
A more careful examination, however, showed that it had been used with deadly effect, portions of skin still adhering to the gaps on its edge. There were minor wounds on the body, including a bruise over the left eye, two cuts on the lower lip, one slight on the right side, and a deep jagged wound on the left side of the face, together with the severance of the little finger of the right hand, as was mentioned in our first edition. From these indications it is evident that the murderer had first struck his victim with the axe two fearful blows, and then when turning away she endeavoured to flee from him, he had picked up the knife, and running after her had consummated his terrible purpose. The violence with which the knife was used may be judged from the fact that the blade is almost wrenched form its socket in the handle. There must have been a certain amount of struggling before the injuries could have been inflicted, although the kitchen showed little signs of disarrangement. The cries which Mrs Jennings heard in bed were undoubtedly those of the unhappy woman, and the construction of the houses will account for their not being heard more strongly than they were. The buildings are of the usual cottage property type, and the one in which the deed was committed belongs, we are informed, to the Rev. Mr Robinson, a clergyman formerly residing at Allerton, but who has latterly removed to the neighbourhood of London for the benefit of his health. The house consists of a cellar kitchen, with stairs leading to the living room, these stairs having a door both at top and bottom, whilst there is another door from the living room leading up the stairs to the bedroom occupied by Mrs Jennings. It will thus be seen that there were four doors between the kitchen and the nearest bedroom, together with two pairs of stairs, and it would therefore require a loud noise to be audible from the kitchen to the bedroom, particularly when the occupant of the latter was in a dozing state, as Mrs Jennings was at the time she heard the cries. The body of Bairstow bore no wounds except the gash across the throat, which half severed the head from the body. After he had cut his own throat he had placed the knife on the table where it was found in a pool of blood, and then turning half round had fallen on his left side in which position he had apparently expired without a struggle. Deceased was rather lame, owing to the results of an accidental fall on the ice last year, and in case of any struggle with her murderer this would place her at a disadvantage.
Her body has been laid out on a shut-up bed in the living room of the cottage, which we may state does not face into Hollings Road, but is one of the back houses, and the body of Bairstow has been laid on the table in the kitchen. The house which has been during the day in charge of Sergeant Burton and P.C. Wood has been visited by crowds of people, all of whom were of course denied admittance. It is in a remarkably clean and neat condition, and the furniture, considering the state of life of the parties concerned is of good quality, its whole appearance speaking strongly for the orderly habits and cleanliness of its late proprietor. Great sympathy is expressed for the son.
Bradford Daily Telegraph, March 22, 1882
THE HORRIBLE MURDER IN BRADFORD
THE INQUEST ON THE VICTIM
VERDICT OF WILFUL MURDER
Mr. J. G. Hutchinson, the Borough Coroner, held as inquest today at the Town Hall on the bodies of Margaret Yeoman and Wm. Bairstow, who met with their deaths under the horrible circumstances reported in our editions yesterday. The Coroner first held an inquest on the deceased woman, who was murdered by Bairstow, and the following evidence was called.
John Edward Yeoman, of 139, Hollings Road said: I am a dyer’s tenter, and work for Messrs Oates Ingham and ‘Sons, and work for Messrs Oates Ingham and ‘Sons, of Valley Road, dyers. The deceased Margaret Yeoman’s was my mother at 139, Hollings Road. On Monday last she had four lodgers name Joseph Brear, Alfred Rowntree, Wm. Brown, and Wm. Bairstow, and my mother slept in the room where her body has been viewed by the jury. Bairstow and myself slept in the little chamber. Brear slept in the next chamber alone. He was badly suffering from rheumatism. I went to bed at half past eleven on Monday night.
About one o’clock on Tuesday morning Bairstow got up and went to the closet. I said “Where are you going?” and Bairstow said he was going to the closet. After that he returned to bed, and appeared to be very uneasy. He looked at me several times whilst I was in bed, and about 3’oclock in the morning he got up out of bed and asked him where he was going, and he said he was going to the back yard. I stood upon the chamber steps, and saw him open the door in which Brear slept, after which he shut the door and came back to bed. I saw him go to sleep about 4 o’clock as I thought he was up to something. I then went to sleep and got up about ten minutes past six, at which time I left Bairstow in bed asleep. My mother was in bed with Mrs Jennings when I went away. She spoke to me but did not say anything to me about Bairstow. I said to my mother (referring to Bairstow), “No fellow can sleep for that the fellow always getting up.” She replied, “Take no notice of him; I don’t know what’s the matter with him.” I then went to work, and was fetched home about twenty minutes past nine. I found my mother lay dead with her head towards the coal-hole, and her feet towards the table. Her throat was cut, and there was a good deal of blood flowing on the floor. Bairstow was lying on the floor. He was quite dead. He was laid on his left side, and his head was about a yard from the bottom of the stairs, his feet lying towards the window. The knife produced by P.C. Collins belonged to my mother. It was covered in blood when I saw it. The hatchet and pincers also belong to my mother. Bairstow has lodged with my mother about three years, but there had been breaks in the time he had been in the house.
Up to within a couple of weeks of Christmas he had lodged with her for two years together. He went away about two weeks before Christmas to the Wakefield dye works. He returned in a short time and lodged at the house again. He owed my mother about £20. One day Bairstow returned home when he had been gambling and had lost some money. He would not have anything to eat, and began to fight one of the lodgers. They fought, and the deceased began to smash the pots and the table. Brear and another of the lodgers interfered, and the deceased then kicked my mother. Bairstow then threatened to give it to Brear. On Tuesday morning Brown left my mother’s house to go to work about half-past five, and Rowntree left with me at half-past six. Bairstow had to be at his work at half-past eight, and would under ordinary circumstances have left the house at eight o’clock. When Bairstow came back for his clothes after he had been turned out of the house, he said, “I will kill thee and thy-mother, and that-Joe Brear, as big as he is, and if I don’t get the chance to do that I will blow the-house up.”
He was not sober when he made the remarks. After saying this Bairstow went down into the cellar, where Brear was, and threatened to throw at him a bottle of vitriol which he had taken from the shelf at the cellar-head. He was prevented from carrying his threats into execution by his brother. Since Bairstow had come back he had not used threats. My mother took him back on account of his promising to repay the money he owed her. When he was away he sent money at various times towards paying off the debt, and since he returned he had paid about half a guinea in addition to his weekly lodgings money.
William More, a schoolboy, residing with his parents at 131, Hollings Road, said I was in the habit of going to the house of Mrs Yeoman to run errands for her on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. I went yesterday morning about eight o’clock, and knocked at the house door. Mrs Jennings opened it. I told her I had come to fetch the flour, and she told me to go down to the door of the cellar kitchen, where she said Mrs Yeoman was. I went down, but could not get in, as the door was fast. I went back to the house door, and went through the room and down the steps into the cellar-kitchen, Mrs Jennings was then dressing. When I got to the bottom of the steps I saw Mrs Yeoman laid on her face on the floor with her head beside the coal cellar door, and Bairstow lying on the hearth rug. There was a great deal of blood about. I did not go into the kitchen, but ran upstairs at once and told Mrs Jennings that Mrs Yeoman and Bill were laid on the floor. She told me to go and tell Joe, the lodger, who laid in bed upstairs ill with rheumatism. I went upstairs and found Joe in bed. I told him that Mrs Yeoman and Bill were laid upon the floor dead. He said “Is she,” but made no further remark. He was not able to get up. I went downstairs, and Mrs Jennings told me to go and tell my mother. I went and did so, and my mother went to the house. I did not go back again.
I have heard Bairstow say that he would “blow the house up before the New Year was out.” It was about a fortnight before Christmas, and he made the remark in Mrs Yeoman’s house, and in her presence. Bairstow appeared to be rather fresh. Anna Jennings’s a widow, who resides in Montgomery Street, Manningham, with her brother, said: Mrs Yeoman is a distant relation of mine, and I have been staying with her on a visit since Saturday fortnight. I occupied the same bed as she did. On Monday night I went to bed with the deceased about half-past eleven, Bairstow having gone to bed about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour previously. He did not say anything when he went upstairs. On Tuesday morning Mrs Bairstow called two of the lodgers, Wm. Brown and her own son, at five o’clock to get up and go to work. Brown came downstairs and went to work right away. Deceased’s son and the lodger Rowntree came downstairs and went to work right away.
Deceased’s son and the lodger Rowntree came downstairs and went to work right away. Decease’s son and the lodger Rowntree came down stairs shortly after six, and also went out to work. I then fell asleep, and did not hear anything more. At seven o ‘clock I awoke and aroused deceased. I said to her “Margaret, you have to call Bill up,” referring to the man Bairstow. She replied “He has got up, and is down in the kitchen.” I again fell asleep, and when I awoke again, a few minutes to eight, I found the deceased had got up. All then seemed very quiet in the house. I laid in bed until the previous witness came, and rapped at the door. I got up and opened the door. He said “I have come to fetch Mrs Yeoman some flour,” and I replied “Go to the bottom door, he’s down stairs.” I then closed the door and was dressing myself when the lad again came back and said the bottom door was fast. I let him in the top door and told him to go through the room and down the kitchen stairs. He did so, and immediately afterwards returned and said, “Oh, Mrs Jennings, there is both Mrs Yeoman and Bill laid on the floor.” I said “Oh, nonsense,” and he replied “But they are; come down and see.” I told him I could not go down until I was dressed, and asked him to go and tell the other ledger upstairs. When he came down again I sent him for his mother, who came in very shortly. Mr Moore went downstairs with another woman, and then Mrs Prest went for Detective Collins, who lives just over the road.
Mrs Yeoman was not in the habit of getting Bairstow’s breakfast ready every morning. He often went out to his work. On Monday he was at home poorly, and Mrs Yeoman got a bottle of medicine for him from the Infirmary that morning. The fire was lit on Tuesday morning, but I think Rowntree had lit it. I did not hear or see Bairstow pass through the room where I was sleeping, nor did I hear any noise, with the exception of a bit of a scream of some kind, which I thought was from the children in the yard outside. During the time I stayed at the house. I have never heard Bairstow say anything so Mrs Yeoman, but she has told me at times that he was very ‘queer’ with her, and accused her of “setting the lodgers on to fight him away.” She desired me not to mention what she had said to anybody. There was no courtship or anything of the kind going on between them.
George Collins, 136, Hollings Road, said: I am a detective in the borough police. Yesterday morning, about a quarter past eight, from information received I went to 139, Hollings Road, and there found in the kitchen the dead bodies of Mrs Yeoman and William Bairstow. The former was lying on her face, with her head towards the coal cellar door, with the arms extended and the feet stretched out. Her throat, I found, was cut, and the body was lying in a pool of blood. She was only partly dressed, her stockings being half drawn on, and a shawl being round her neck.
Bairstow’s body was lying on its left side on the hearth-rug, the head being towards the cellar steps, and his feet towards the window. His throat was also cut, and he was lying in a pool of blood. His left arm was underneath him, and his right partly drawn up. The knife produced was on a ‘table near the foot of Bairstow. The hatchet produced was also on the table. There was a spot or two of blood upon the hatchet, but as the gas was not lighted in the kitchen I could not see very well. There was also a pair of pincers with blood upon them. Just before Christmas I saw Bairstow in Hollings road. He was using threats towards some of the lodgers at Mrs Yeoman’s, and saying that if they would only come out he would give them something. I told him to go away, and he did so.
Mrs Webster, widow, Manchester Road, said: I laid out the bodies of the deceased. Mrs Yeoman was only partly dressed, and on examination I found that in addition to having her throat cut there was a clean deep cut on the right hand side of the head, above the ear, apparently about an inch deep. There was also a deep cut on the forehead of the right side, which penetrated through the skull. There was also a bruise over the right eye, two wounds on the lower lip-one on each side of the mouth-and the little finger of the right hand was severed at the joint and hanging by a piece of skin.
The Coroner; in summing up, said there could be no doubt that the death of Mrs Yeoman was caused by violence, and it would be for the jury to say who had been the author of the crime.
The jury without leaving their seats found a verdict of “Wilful Murder” against William. Bairstow.
Bradford Daily Telegraph, March 23, 1882
THE HORRIBLE TRAGEDY IN BRADFORD
INQUEST ON THE MURDER
An inquiry was opened respecting the death of Wm. Bairstow, before Mr Hutchinson, borough coroner, at the Town Hall this morning, at the close of that upon his victim, Mrs Yeoman.
The first, witness called was James Spencer Bairstow, Ridgway Street, Dewsbury, who said: I am a coal miner, and the deceased, William Bairstow, was my brother. He was 25 years of age, and was a dyer. I last saw him alive about six weeks ago, when he left my house to come to Bradford. He had not been well for two years past, and when I have asked him what was the matter he has replied that he did not know. I have this morning seen hid dead body.
Wm. Moore, recalled, repeated his evidence as to the finding of the bodies in the kitchen of Mrs Yeoman’s house yesterday morning.
John Edward Yeoman was called and reiterated his evidence as to the threats used by the deceased against his mother and other occupants of the house.
Mrs Webster deposed to laying out the body of the deceased, which she said was fully dressed. There was a very deep cut across the throat, half severing the head from the body, but there were no other marks of violence on the body.
The Coroner in summing up said it was evident that the deceased had contemplated violence towards the occupants of the house. His conduct during the night when he attempted to creep out of the room, and put off the inquiries of the lad Yeoman, showed considerable shrewdness, and his reputation of the acts appeared to betray a set purpose.
The question for the jury was did the deceased kill himself, and if he did do it, was he at the time temporarily affected in his mind through brooding over his assumed injuries, and by the fear of the consequences of the frightful deed which he had just perpetrated.
A verdict was returned that the deceased committed suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity.
Illustrated Weekly Telegraph Saturday, November 24, 1888
TERRIBLE TRAGEDY AT MANNINGHAM
Double Murder and Suicide
A tragedy of a terrible character was brought to light on Sunday evening at Manningham, the dead bodies of a murdered wife and child and their supposed murderers being discovered in a house in Church Street, where during the day congregations had been peacefully worshipping. The house in which the ghastly discovery was made at No. 35, Church Street, and the family amongst who the terrible tragedy was committed was of the name of Kirkby. The family consisted of James Kirkby, aged 27 years, Alice Kirkby, his wife aged 25 years, Beatrice their eldest daughter, aged 3 years, and an infant son named Tom, aged 11 months. About 8.30 on Sunday morning a neighbour on one side of the house heard the crash of a broken window and a scream, but no notice was taken of the incident, though there is every reason to believe that it was just at this time that the terrible crimes that were subsequently discovered were enacted. During the day the house of the Kirkby’s was locked up, the blinds were down, and no signs of life seemed visible. Even this did not seem to have caused much concern to the neighbours, and it was not until the
CRIES OF A YOUNG CHILD
Were heard about nine o’clock that any one deemed it advisable to enquire what, if anything, had taken place. The mother of Mrs Kirkby, Mrs Waite, resides at 50. Oak Lane, Manningham, and a communication was made to her. She came to the house at 35, Church Street, but found it locked back and front, with the blinds down, and the cries of a frightened child were the only signs of life about the premises. Mrs Waite, in alarm, went to the Manningham Police Station, saw Sub-Inspector Bentley and acquainted him with her fears that something unusual had happened. Bentley at once took with him Police Constable Hardisty and Phillips, and went to Kirkby’s house to make inquiries. No admission could be obtained, and the Sub-Inspector then instructed the constables to go round to the back of the premises and force an entrance. This they did, and Hardisty obtained ingress to the house through the scullery window, which was smashed for the purpose. The little child, Beatrice Kirkby, was found in a dazed and frightened condition alone in the kitchen or “house” in the dark. He proceeded upstairs, and there mad a ghastly discovery. At the top of the open staircase was the dead body of James Kirkby, suspended by a cord from a hook in the ceiling. Lying on the floor near the front bedroom door, clad only in a nightdress, was also the dead body of his wife, Alice Kirkby, with a rope tightly wrapped four or five times around her neck
VICTIM OF A CRUEL AND DELIBERATE MURDER
The infant, Tom Kirkby, also lay on the bed in the same room with a rope around its throat, similarly strangled. The officers cut down the body of James Kirkby, and at once made a report of what they had discovered to Mr Withers, the Chief Constable, the back-door of whose private residence is only a short distance off. He instructed Sub-Inspector Bentley to fetch Mr Mossop, surgeon, which was accordingly done, but the gentleman could do no more than state that death in all three cases occurred several hours previously. Mr Withers at once took charge of the house and made all possible enquiries and arrangements, and finally left the house in charge of police officers for the rest of the night. There is not the slightest reason to doubt that the unfortunate woman and her child were first deliberately murdered by the former’s husband, and that Kirkby after he had done so as deliberately put an end to his own life. Kirkby and his wife had been married for about four years, and for a working man he appears to have had a fairly comfortable home. Formerly he was a driver in the employ of the Bradford Tramway Company, but latterly he has been working at Lister’s Mills as a batter, and is understood to have been in regular employment. The house in which the family resided is one of the old-fashioned cottage class, and stands above the level of the road, with a rockery in front, and overlooks the corner of St Paul’s Church yard on the Church Street side. According to the statements of the neighbours the couple occasionally had quarrels. Kirkby himself, though sometimes fond of a glass, was not a dissolute character, but rather the reverse, whilst his wife is on all hands spoken of as an industrious and well-conducted woman. It is stated, however, that Kirkby was naturally of a jealous disposition, and that the quarrels which they had were due to his mind being
EMBITTERED BY JEALOUS SUSPICIONS
For which there does not appear to have been the slightest foundation. The husband and wife and two children all slept in one bed in the front room facing Church Street, this room like the living apartment downstairs being fairly comfortably furnished, and certainly very tidily kept, thus giving every reason for the belief that Mrs Kirkby was an industrious and attentive wife. What took place between the parties late on Saturday night it is quite impossible to say, for no one appears to have any conception. It is stated there were sounds of a quarrel during the night, but no corroboration of this is forthcoming. It appears pretty certain, however, that about 8 o’clock in the morning of Sunday, Kirkby got out of bed and dressed himself, for when his body was found at night, it was attired in trousers and sleeve vest as though he had been going about the house. All circumstances show, too, that the crimes were committed by him with great deliberation. It is thought by the police that Kirkby got up and left his wife asleep, and it was whilst she was lying asleep that he commenced his horrible task. He appears to have
POSSESSED HIMSELF OF THE CLOTHES LINE
Or rope very much like one, and cut it into three parts. As his wife lay unsuspectingly asleep it is thought that he suddenly put one of the pieces of rope round her neck, and that whilst so engaged she awoke, and a struggle then took place. The bed stands near the window of the room, and about 8.30 on Sunday morning the neighbour on the top side of the house-the house at the bottom side, we should mention, is not tenanted-as already stated, heard some disturbance and the crash of a window pane. This window was found broken when the officers discovered the dead bodies, and it appears probable that it was broken in the struggle. Mrs Kirkby seemed a strong and active woman, and the probability is that if she were not first
ATTACKED IN HER SLEEP
She would either have prevented her husband accomplishing his fell purpose, or would have raised such an alarm as would have roused even the most lethargic of neighbours to action. Mrs Kirkby’s body was found lying face downwards near the door, with the rope wound tightly four or five times round the throat. She has thus either been dragged by her murderer out of bed by the end of the rope, or struggled and fallen in her death agonies on the floor. Her features were horribly blackened as the result of the strangling, and a ghostly stream of blood had flowed from her throat.
The little infant had been dispose of with simply one curl of the rope, and death by strangling was clearly visible in its features, death having apparently taken place whilst the child was crying. How the
LITTLE THREE YEAR OLD DAUGHTER
Of the murderer escaped its fathers clutches it is of course impossible to say, but she was either overlooked or the father suddenly thought he had made enough innocent victims and then proceeded to deliberately hang himself with the third piece of rope which he had left. The dreadful tragedy has caused great consternation in the neighbourhood. The thoroughfare is a busy one on Sundays, and it seems strange to think that numbers of persons passed the house during the day all unconscious of the fact that a young child was alone in the house with three dead bodies. It is also strange that the neighbours should not have thought it necessary to inquire as to the reason for the unusual silence which reigned round the premises. It is currently reported that at the time the window referred to was smashed
A CRY OF “SAVE ME” WAS HEARD,
But the incident of the window smashing and the cry of distress alike seem to have passed unheeded. A high wind was, however, blowing at the time, and it is possible that the breakage may have occurred in the consequence of the storm; whilst it is probable that the neighbours may have readily imagined it to have been so caused.
The Borough Coroner (Mr J. G. Hutchinson) opened an inquest at the Town Hall on Monday into the circumstances attending the death of Alice Kirkby, aged 25 years; James Arthur Kirkby, her husband; and Tom Kirkby, aged 11 months, their infant son, of 35, Church Street, Manningham, who were discovered dead at their residence under circumstances reported above. Supt. Campbell was present on behalf of the police. Elizabeth Waite, a widow, of 50, Oak Lane, Manningham, stated that the deceased, Alice Kirkby, was her daughter, and was the wife of James Arthur Kirkby, a machine tenter, employed at Manningam Mills, Mrs Kirkby was 25 years of age. Witness last saw her alive on Thursday night last at 35, Church Street, in company with her husband. The deceased did not make any complaint that night, but in her husband’s presence she had previously
COMPLAINED ABOUT HER HUSBAND’S ILLUSAGE
About three months ago, on a Saturday night, witness called at her daughter’s house, and on that occasion he was calling her either “a pig” or “a liar.” Her daughter complained that night about him abusing her every Saturday night, and that “she did not like to go home at night.” Witness asked him the reason why he went on in that way, but he only replied, “Oh, nothing; she should not talk so much.” She (witness) then “told him a little of her mind,” but he only answered “I wish you would say what you have to say and have done with it.” Her daughter had never complained to her about any violence on the part of her husband, but she had said that he “had done worse.” Witness had since heard, however, that he had
TIED HER DOWN IN BED
Her daughter had two children, one named Beatrice aged two and a half years, another named Tom, aged eleven months. It had been her daughter’s practice to visit her house every Saturday or Sunday, and as she did not come on Sunday witness went to her house about six o’clock, thinking that something was the matter. On arriving there she found the house locked up, and, on looking through the window, she saw the fire was out, and that the clothes horse was standing in the middle of the floor. She thought they must have gone out to pay a visit, and went away. During the evening two other persons with whom Mrs Kirkby worked called upon her and asked about her daughter, but it was not until about ten o’clock that she heard anything which made her suspect anything was wrong. About that time she again went to her daughter’s house, and finding it still closed she called the police, who entered the house by the back window, and then
DISCOVERED THE THREE DEAD BODIES
Her daughter’s husband was not a very sober man, but she did not know that he was violent. They had been married three years. He came from some place wide of York.
Police-constable Hardisty stated that he was acquainted with the deceased. He was on duty on Sunday evening, and about 9.55 from information he entered the house at 35, Church Street, and on getting inside the house he found the dead body of James Arthur Kirkby suspended by a cord at the top of the stairs. On proceeding into the bedroom, and on the floor near the door, he found the dead body of Alice Kirkby. The feet were towards the bed and the head towards the wall. She was lying on her back, and there was a cord tied three times around the neck. There were three separate knots on the cord,, and each round of the cord was tied tightly. The face was discoloured-it was quite black. The body was naked, with the exception of a night gown. There was a little blood about the mouth of the deceased. The ends of the cord appeared to have been cut off near the knot. He was obliged to cut the cord to pieces to get it off. He next looked into the bed, and on turning down the clothes found the dead body of Tom Kirkby, aged eleven months, with his head against the pillow. The body was quite cold, and he observed a mark round the throat such as might have been caused by a nip. The face was a little discoloured. He afterwards cut down the body of the man, which was quite cold. The bed clothes were all disarranged, the bedroom was in disorder, and the carpet looked as though there had been a struggle in the room. He afterwards went down stairs and found Beatrice.
THE OTHER CHILD, PLAYING ON THE HEARTHRUG
She was not injured, and the furniture in this room was in order. He took hold of the child and said, “Beatrice, what are you doing here?” and she replied “Mamma is in bed.” The girl was not dressed, and he gave her to a neighbour. She was almost starved to death. He then examined the two doors of the house, and found they were both fast. Mrs Kirkby had never complained to him about her husband’s treatment. After the discovery, Dr Mossop was sent for and saw the bodies.
Sub-Inspector Bentley, stationed at the Manningham Police Station, was also called and gave similar evidence. He added that there was a piece of rope round the neck of the child found in the bed. The rope was drawn very tight. He had examined all the ropes which had been used, and was of opinion they at one time had all formed one piece. On searching the house he did not find any letters. At this stage the inquiry was adjourned until Wednesday, when
The first witness called was Ellen Bowden, married woman of 37, Church Street, Manningham, who stated she lived next door to the deceased, and she last saw her alive about four o’clock on Saturday last in the afternoon. The deceased’s husband she saw the same day about one o’clock, at which time he went to her for the key. Proceeding witness said that on Sunday morning, about 8.30, she noticed all the blinds in the Kirkby’s house were drawn, butt twenty minutes to nine the downstairs blind had been drawn up, and that one of the four squares of the window upstairs had fallen into the garden below, as if someone had thrust it out. At the same time she also heard the deceased Alice call out “Let me get up; let me get up, will you?” She then went into her own house, and heard the fall of footsteps as of someone going down the stairs of the house in which the deceased resided, and after that heard no more. Witness said she was in her house until the bodies were discovered, but heard nothing throughout the day. She knew the deceased and her husband had lived amicably together, and she had never heard any noise proceed from their house previous to this occasion. P.C. Hardisty, recalled stated that when he went into the room he found the deceased laid on her face, and not on her back, as he previously stated. Her nose had also bent as if it had been crushed.
Dr Mossop, of Manningham, said on Sunday evening about five minutes past ten he saw the dead body of the deceased Alice Kirkby, at which time the body was lying on the floor in the bedroom, and the cord had been removed from the neck. He examined it, and found that the body was that of a well-built and well-nourished female. The surface of the body was pale with the exception of the face and upper portion of the neck. The face was livid, congested and turgid. The tongue protruded from the mouth, and was also livid and swollen. Blood and mucous flowed from the right nostril, and also from the mouth. There were three abrasions on the neck to the right of the wind pipe, each about the size of a sixpence. The neck was also indented as if by pressure from a cord. On the outer surface of the left arm was a distinct bruise appearing to be of recent creation. On the outer side of the right arm were two slight bruises, also an abrasion on the outer side of the right ankle. She was pregnant, in his opinion being some seven months advanced. The pupils of the eyes were dilated.
Coroner: Have you formed any opinion as to about how long the woman had been dead?
Dr. Mossop: The body was perfectly cold, and I think that in all probability death had taken place at least ten hours before I saw her. The cause of death was due to strangulation caused by direct pressure on the windpipe by a cord.
Coroner: It had been stated that the cord was tied three times round the neck. I suppose it would be impossible for a person to tie the rope so many times tight by one’s-self?-Doctor: Yes.
This concluded the evidence, and the Coroner proceeded to address the jury. There could be, said he, little doubt as to the cause of death. They would recollect that it was stated a cord was found tied three times round the deceased’s neck, and so tight that it would be impossible for the deceased woman to do it herself. That therefore did away with the theory of suicide on the part of the woman. Then came the question by whom was the cord tied round her neck and by whom were those injuries inflicted? The evidence showed that there was nobody in the house who could of done it except the children, and they were so young that it would be impossible to suppose for one moment that anyone but the husband had inflicted the injuries. If they then believed that such was the case, the jury would have to return a verdict that the woman had been murdered by her husband – After a few minutes’ consultation the jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder” against the husband, James Arthur Kirkby.
THE DEATH OF THE BOY
The Coroner then proceeded to review the evidence with regard to the death of the boy Tom, and said that he was found dead in the house at the same time as his mother on Sunday night last, under the clothes of one of one of those beds. One of the witnesses called also stated that he noticed marks around the neck, and the rope taken from the lad’s neck was of the same sort as that cut from the neck of the mother. There could be no doubt that the cause of the death off the child was strangulation. Then came the question, who inflicted the injuries? There was no one in the house who could of caused them except the father or the mother, and if they believed the evidence and took into consideration the verdict returned in the last case they must come to the conclusion that the boy had been murdered by his father. In this case also the jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder” against the father.
THE DEATH OF THE MURDERER
Verdict of Felo de se
Mr Hutchinson, referring to the death of the man James Arthur Kirkby, the husband of Alice and father of the boy Tom, said the jury would have to inquire by what means he had come to his death. At the same time as the other two he was discovered dead in the house at Church Street, suspended by the neck with a cord attached to a hook at the top of the stairs. There could be little doubt as to the immediate cause of death in this case, it being due to strangulation. There was no one in the house who could be responsible for his death but himself, and the jury would have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the man had hung himself, and if they were satisfied on that point they would then have to consider the state of his mind. The Coroner said he must impress upon the jury the fact that the law considered all persons as sane and responsible for their acts until evidence was called sufficient to prove the contrary. In this case the evidence went to show that the man’s mind was not affected. He apparently indulged in bad language, but that was not sufficient ground to justify the jury in coming to the conclusion that his mind was affected. They would have to consider the surroundings of the case. The Coroner then proceeded to review the evidence the evidence as it more particularly concerned the actions of the husband, and pointed out that the condition in which the woman was found demonstrated that the man must have been most determined in his intention. The woman called out, and the breaking off the window went to show how fixed was his determination as to what was to be done with his wife. He tied the rope once, tied it a second time, and then a third time, tightly on all three occasions, in so much that once, if only the knot had held fast, would have been sufficient to destroy life. Then again the child was on the bed, and they had heard it stated that the rope was tied tightly around his neck. This, along with the other facts, went to show that the man knew what he was doing, and had a firm intention which he was determined to carry out with determination. The marks on the woman’s body also went to show that a severe struggle had taken place, and there was no evidence, save the mad act itself, to show that the man’s mind was at all affected. If the committing of such an act, however, were sufficient to render people liable to be considered in a state of temporary insanity life would never be taken by any sane person. It was a matter entirely for the jury to decide as to what was the condition of the man’s mind, but in the absence of any evidence showing that Kirkby’s mind was temporarily affected the proper verdict to return would be of felo de se – The jury retired, and as they were doing so the Coroner said: – You will bear in mind there is no evidence before you that the man’s mind has been affected before, or anything of the kind.
The jury were absent about three quarters of an hour, during which time they requested and received the assistance of the Coroner twice or thrice on some point.
On returning into the Court the Coroner asked “Are you agreed upon a verdict, Mr Foreman?”
“And what is the verdict?”
Foreman: “Felo de se.”
“FELO DE SE”
“Felo de se” has come to be regarded as an anti-quated verdict, having long ago been superseded for the more modern and fashionable one of “temporary insanity.” It’s really surprising when one thinks of it, how some men labour with the greatest assidity and pertinacity to prove either their own or someone else’s insanity. But the Bradford Coroner appeared to be quite convinced there was no hope for Kirkby, the Manningham murderer, and took good care to convey his opinion in plain words to the jury, with the result that for once in a way a person who took the life of another was found to have been in his right mind.
In these days, however, the verdict has not attached to it all the degrading formalities of a past age. There’s no taking the body to the centre of some cross roads, sticking it through with a stake &c., &c., The poor fellow will merely be deprived of the services of a minister of the Established Church, and unless some friend chooses to read a service, as I hear will be the case, the funeral will have to take place without any such ceremony.
The Illustrated Weekly Telegraph, Saturday August 30, 1890
THE WIFE MURDER AT BOWLING
Execution of Harrison
Sharp at the stroke of eight o’clock the black flag was hoisted again over the summit of Armley prison, to denote the execution of James Harrison, for the murder of his wife at Bowling. There were not many spectators around the prison walls, fewer indeed than usually gratify their curiosity by catching a glimpse of the floating black flag. The workmen as they passed to and fro cast a glance at the awe-inspiring black walls and then passed on. The women folk lingered a while and discussed the merits of the case, and they too passed quickly aside. There was no manifest outward interest in the fate of the man. As the hour for the execution rapidly approached, there were a few score who hung about the roadside and in the fields below waiting out of idle curiosity to see the black flag hoisted, as in passing and out of equal curiosity they had seen others before when greater criminals than James Harrison had suffered their last doom in Armley Prison. Billington, the hangman, who has the engagements at Armley, arrived there on Monday afternoon, and was located in the prison, and in consequence of recent instructions from the Home Office and the introduction of a new governor, information is somewhat difficult to obtain. Under such circumstances it is difficult to state the details which occurred, but it is stated that the drop was six feet two. Before this it was hoped there would have been a new “execution chamber” on very much improved principles. It has not yet come into being, and it may be hoped it will not be required. The hangman’s chamber is at present in the old “wheelhouses” where criminals used to tread the wheel and within which Otto Brand, Johnson, well known in Bradford, West, and other murderers have met their just doom. The last execution which took place here was on New Year’s Day of this year, and on the last day of 1889 there was a double execution. Major Lane, the governor of the prison, read to Harrison on Sunday the decision of the home secretary which we published yesterday and with that his last ray of hope vanished.
The culprit received it calmly and collectively as far as outward indications would show, but there was never the less indication that he had hoped that the last dread penalty of the law would not be enforced. His daughters by special permission, again paid him a visit yesterday afternoon, and the parting and grief it is not well to dwell upon. Harrison after seeing his daughters yesterday afternoon was visited by the chaplain of the prison, the Rev Mr Bower, and in the evening became somewhat calmer. He partook of a light supper and retired to rest at 11.45 pm. On retiring to rest the condemned man asked that he should be awakened early, but there was no need for the request, as he himself was aroused by a slight knocking in the neighbourhood of the cell at 5.45. He dressed himself, and doing so quietly observed that he supposed that it was now too late to hope for a reprieve. This was the only observation he made to the warders. The chaplain paid him an early visit, and remained with him in prayer in the condemned cell. The wretched man in the last few hours exhibited more traces of inward consciousness and emotion than he had previously done.
The preparations for the execution were begun shortly before eight, when Billington proceeded to the cell and adjusted some of the straps. The bell from the chapel was tolling, thus announcing the approach of the final moment for the little procession of prison officials, the Under Sheriff and warders from the cell to the scaffold, the chaplain on the way repeating the words of the funeral service. At the lead of the procession walked the governor, Major Lane, and the Under-Sheriff (Mr Edwyn Gray, of York). Then came the chaplain followed by the executioner, and the culprit between two warders, with Chief Warden Taylor in charge of the posse of warders bringing up the rear. With a firm step Harrison walked unassisted to the scaffold, casting at times a furtive glance heavenwards. He never opened his lips on the way to the scaffold; when on it did not respond to the prayers of the chaplain, and died without a passing reference to his awful crime or the dreadful surroundings amid which he met his death. The pause on the scaffold was of the most momentary character, and the six feet two inches drop which Billington gave the condemned man caused instantaneous death with less than the usual amount of muscular twitching observable on such occasions. To those outside the floating of the black flag in a strong breeze and a brief glimpse of sunshine gave the customary indication that the law of the land had once more been vindicated.
The representatives of the press were admitted, along with the jury, to view the body after it had been cut down. The features were then quite natural, and bore no traces of contortion or indications of pain or suffering. Even the rope mark around the neck was not visible, but that was owing to the fact that the condemned man had grown a beard since his confinement. Otherwise his appearance was not altered. He appeared to be in a healthy condition, and had certainly lost no flesh since the morning of the tragedy.
After being allowed to hang the usual hour, the body was cut down, and Mr Malcolm, the Leeds Coroner, held an inquiry into the cause of death.
Major Lane, the new Governor of the gaol, said that he found Harrison a prisoner in the gaol when he entered on his duties as Governor of the gaol of the 1st of the month. The man was under sentence of death. He was 36 years of age, and was condemned to death for the murder of his wife Hannah Harrison, at Bradford. This morning he handed over the man to the Under-Sheriff for execution, and was present when the sentence of the law was carried out.
Mr Gray, Under-Sheriff said that he was present at the Assizes when Harrison was sentenced to death, and also this morning when the sentence was carried into effect.
Dr Edwards, surgeon at Armley Gaol, said he was also present at the execution. Death was brought about by strangulation by hanging, and was instantaneous. The immediate cause of death was dislocation of the spine.
The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the evidence given.
FAREWELL INTERVIEWS WITH RELATIVES
HIS CONDUCT IN PRISON
Harrison had a final interview with his friends in Armley prison on Saturday. Since his incarceration in the condemned cell the culprit has given very little trouble to the warders. He has preserved a calm and patient demeanour, has eaten and slept well, and his conduct has been very unlike that of many of the men given in charge of the officers of the prison to suffer at the appointed time the last dread penalty of the law. The day following his condemnation Harrison was seized with a rather bad attack of diarrhoea, and again on Saturday he suffered from the same complaint, but otherwise he enjoyed good health, and was in remarkably good spirits for a man awaiting his sorrowful fate at the hangman’s hands. One of his nearest relatives had an interview with him a few days after his trial, and he then inquired
IF ANYTHING WAS BEING DONE
By means of a petition to give effect to the recommendation of the jury to the mercy on the ground of the provocation he had he said received from his wife. He was then informed that a petition was in course of preparation. At this he seemed to brighten up. He also
INQUIRED AFTER HIS CHILDREN
Sad said he hoped they would grow up to be good children and that some kind friends would help to look after them. He was told that they were as happy as could be expected, and hoped to be able to soon come and see their father.
To which Harrison referred wad duly circulated in Bowling, but the signatures were not sufficiently numerous to justify those who promoted it sending it forward to the Home Secretary. Besides this there were other circumstances which rendered it very doubtful that the prayer of the memorialists would be sufficiently weighty to advise the Queen to extend her merciful prerogative to the condemned man, and as a consequence no public effort was made to set aside the sentence of the law. Mr J J Wright, who conducted Harrison’s case when it was before the magistrates, wrote to the Home Secretary calling attention to the recommendation of the jury to mercy, but only to elicit the reply that the Home Secretary could not see his way to adopt the recommendation.
After the first visit paid to the prison Harrison improved in both health and spirits, and although he maintained a somewhat solid demeanour he was not averse to conversation with his guardians the prison warders, who rendered the brief span of life he was left to enjoy as cheerful as the gloomy surroundings should permit.
HE TALKED ABOUT THE MURDER,
And reiterated the statement as to the alleged provocation he received. Once or twice his little children wrote to him kindly childlike letters breathing a spirit of deep affection, and lamenting the awful position in which their parent was placed. To these no answer was received, and this is probably attributable to the fact of Harrison not being much of a scholar, and evinced no inclination to commit his thoughts to paper. During the whole time since his condemnation Harrison has been
GUARDED NIGHT AND DAY
By two warders and to help him to ease his mind they frequently read to him books from the prison library. In the matter of diet he enjoyed the usual liberty extended to men sentenced to death. He could not have any stimulants, but in the matter of food was supplied with nearly anything he could fancy. Mutton chops, ham and eggs, beefsteaks and roast meat were supplied him, and he seemed to relish his meals. During the last few days somewhat of a change came over him. He seemed to pay deeper attention to the ministrations of the prison chaplain, and as no communication of any chance was received of a reprieve he gradually came to the conclusion that he would have to suffer death at the hangman’s hands, and as seriously prepared himself for his fate. One little relaxation of the rules permissible under such painful circumstances was the granting of the governor of a pipe and tobacco to Harrison. Of this he availed himself to a considerable extent, and smoked no fewer than 14 to 16 ounces of thick twist, and coloured one or two clay pipes which he wished to have sent to some friends as a keepsake.
THE FINAL LEAVE-TAKINGS
Were on Saturday, and Harrison had his last look and conversations with those who were nearest to him. They took place during the afternoon, and were naturally of a painful character. The first person who visited him were two cousins, one of whom mentioned some matters which, not being permissible according to the rules, was stopped by the chief warder. Both of these ladies urged Harrison to prepare for death, and he seemed to pay heed to their request. With them, however, he was not particularly free in his conversation, but was more communicative to some other friends, who brought with them the three little daughters of Harrison. The surroundings of the visiting cell are not at any time of the most pleasant kind. The prisoner has to stand behind a massive row of iron bars and his visitors stand some three or four feet away, with the warders seated between them. Conversation has to be carried out in a loud tone of voice, and the warders are bound to hear every word that is said. To his later visitors Harrison said that the police evidence as to his coming down the stairs and stepping over the body of his prostrate wife when the constables entered was utterly false. He told his auditors that when in his passion he struck his wife with the poker, he never had the knife in his hand, and that when he realised what he had done, he sat down in the chair and awaited the arrival of the police. He also repeated his complaint as to the provocation he had received from his wife, but said he was truly sorry for what he had done, and hoped for forgiveness for his deed. In sobbing tones he told his friends he was now fully prepared to die, and
ONLY HOPED FOR A REPRIEVE FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN
He hoped, however, they would grow up good children; that they would not forget their father and mother, and would grow up to be good children to those who might bring them up. Harrison faltered in his voice towards the end of the time allotted for the interview. As it closed father and children embraced in a touching and affectionate manner, and amid an affecting scene the last goodbye was uttered and the last kiss imprinted upon the cheeks of the children, who sobbed painfully as they quitted the cell.
HARRISON’S FAREWELL TO HIS CHILDREN
In a farewell, and in fact the only letter James Harrison has caused to be indited, he bids an affectionate and warm farewell to his children. The letter was written late on Monday night by a warder, at the dictation of Harrison, and in it he requests the children to be of good cheer, and to behave themselves with whom they come in contact, and expresses the hope that they will all meet again in heaven.
It is somewhat curious that the condemned man since his incarceration in Armley prison never once asked or inquired for Mrs Bella Duckworth, his foster mother, although they were said to have an affectionate regard for each other.
An explanation for the great firmness exhibited by Harrison on Tuesday may be found in the question put to him on Saturday by a relative – “Do you think you’ll duff?” “Nay,” replied Harrison, “I shan’t duff if I were to be hanged twice over.”
THE STORY OF THE CRIME
Rather more than three months ago James Harrison, a dyer’s labourer, murdered his wife by striking her on the head with a poker, at the house that they resided in at 7 Lord Street, Bowling. It was soon after the break of the day on May 12th last that Harrison dragged his wife out of bed and first attacked her with a knife and then smashed in her skull with a heavy kitchen poker. Today he has expiated his guilt on the scaffold at the hands of the hangman in Armley Gaol.
The story of the crime is a sad one, there resided in the house Harrison and his wife, three children, and an old woman, Bella Duckworth, who had acted as foster mother to Harrison. The murderer had been out of work for six or seven weeks, and was to have started again that morning at Messrs Ripley’s, where he was formerly employed. All the occupants of the cottage slept in one upstairs room. During the night everything was perfectly peaceful, and the old woman got up about five o’clock, and went downstairs to light the fire and get breakfast ready for Harrison and his wife and the children before they went off to the mill…soon after Harrison came down. Mrs Duckworth saw him pick up something and partly conceal it, and inquired “What has he there?” He replied, “I have this,” showing a carving knife.
“I’M GOING TO DO IT THIS MORNING”
The old woman thought that the threat was a bit of nonsense, but she was speedily undeceived in a horrible manner, Harrison ran upstairs, an act which was followed by loud screams from the bedroom, and frightened by the screams the old woman ran out of the house. He seized his wife by the hair of the head, and attempted to attack her with the knife, but the woman wrenched it away from him. The culprit however, again got possession of the knife and struck his defenceless wife in the side with it, the children at the same time wildly screaming for help. As he pulled the knife from her hands the poor woman in piteous tones exclaimed, “”Oh spare me for the sake of the bairns. Spare my life and you need not go to this job; I’ll work for you.” The appeal for mercy was either unheard or unheeded amid the terrified screams of the children. Harrison dragged his wife across the floor of the bedroom, down a short flight of stairs and there seizing a poker relentlessly beat his wife about the head with this murderous weapon until he had destroyed her life. The neighbours stated at the time that the
THUMPING WAS SOMETHING AWFUL
And the medical testimony produced at the inquest and at the trial showed that though the head of the unfortunate woman was battered in by repeated blows yet one of the early blows must have caused insensibility, and would have spared the pain of the attack made upon her. There were only child witnesses in the house at the time of the murder, and they did not stay to see the terrible work completed. Mrs Duckworth fled precipitately at the sight of the knife, but Matilda stayed somewhat longer. This is the lucid statement she made to a “Telegraph” reporter on the morning of the murder. She said: I was awoke by hearing mother and father quarrelling. I can’t tell you how it began or who began it. I and my sisters and grandmother slept in the same room as my father and mother. Grandmother slept with us. I heard mother say to father “”What have I done wrong to you?” my father never spoke. My grandmother said “What are you going to do Jim?” and father then said “Oh yes, but I am, “She asked what he had got in his hand, and he then showed her the knife. Mother was in bed at the time. She was not dressed. Father tried to hit her with the knife. It was an ordinary table knife, and I know it was not very sharp. He then caught hold of her, and dragged her out of bed, and tried to hit her with the knife. They struggled on the staircase, and mother got the knife out of his hand. He cut mother’s hand when she pulled the knife out of his hand. They then had a terrible struggle on the staircase. Father got hold of one end of the knife and mother the other. Father pulled mother downstairs by the hair, and as he could not get the knife again he ran and got the poker. He got hold of her hair and then hit her with the poker. I saw him hit her once, and then I ran out in the street and I have not seen my mother since. When he was dragging my mother down the stairs I heard her saying to him “Spare me, oh spare my life.” She said that several times. I heard mother say “If you don’t want to go to work you needn’t. You can take a month if you will only spare my life.” She said that several times. I heard mother say “You can take a month if you will only spare my life.” My father did not then say anything. When my grandmother saw he had a knife she told me to throw up the window, and I did so. I shouted murder, but no one came. There were a lot of men passing the street bottom at the time, but they did not come. When I saw my father had a knife I said, “Oh, don’t father,” and he said, “You keep away, love, I won’t hurt you,” and he then pushed us away. Me and my sisters tried to drag him away, but we couldn’t. I was last to go out of the house. I did not see my father hit mother with the poker more than once, but we heard him hitting her after he shut the door.
A BLOODSTAINEED KNIFE AND POKER
Found in the kitchen, hear out the children’s version of the crime, and the latter part is also corroborated by the neighbours, who say that the “thumping was something awful.” The murderer was not long about his work, for, when the first neighbour entered the house, about half past five, the woman was to all appearance stone dead, and the room showed little signs of a struggle. The body of the woman lay huddled in a heap at the foot of the staircase, chairs and table and wall being splashed with blood. The murderer after finishing his work went upstairs into the bedroom and is said to have
CYNICALLY SMILED AT THE HORRIFIED CROWD
Who had assembled outside the house when the three children rushing out in their nightdresses and alarmed the street by their lamentations? P.C. Foster arrived just after the murder, and Dr. Butler, who lives near, was summoned at once, but, could do nothing more than declare the woman dead. Harrison was taken into custody by Foster, and judging by his conduct was altogether callous or unable to realise his position. He was quite nonchalant, and
LAUGHED AND BID GOOD MORNING
To his acquaintances as he was being taken away in custody. For this inhuman conduct the temporary exhilaration well known by medical men to follow callous natures on such a crime was doubtless responsible. After his arrest the prisoner was removed and taken to the Bowling Police Station and subsequently to the Town Hall, where he was charged with the murder of his wife and remanded for a week. On the Friday following the commission of the deed Mr Coroner Hutchinson and a jury held an inquest, and after hearing evidence bearing out the above facts he was committed to take his trial at the last Assizes on a charge of wilful murder, a verdict the jury found after two minutes’ consultation. The magistrates also at the magisterial investigation the following day committed him upon a similar charge, upon, which he was tried by Mr Justice Charles and a jury at the Assizes on August 12th. Mr Mellor, who defended the prisoner at the Judge’s request, could only raise the plea that the prisoner had received provocation from his wife, but there was little or no evidence to support it, and the recommendation of the jury to mercy which the plea secured did not prove sufficient to save Harrison from the hangman’s hands.
THE MURDERED WOMAN AND HER HUSBAND
Were well known in the neighbourhood where they lived. He was the adopted son of the old woman Bella Duckworth. He was 38 years old, and lived in or near Lord Street ever since he was a fortnight old. His ill treatment of his wife has been notorious, but no one eared to interfere in their domestic affairs. Harrison being a very powerful man, and, as a neighbour put it, “ready with a bat for anyone.” He had worked at Bowling Dye works, but about two months before the murder was stopped by the foreman for breaking time and drinking. After that he did nothing but loaf about and drink when he had the chance. On the morning of the murder he was to have gone to work, and the idea, according to the neighbours, was very distasteful to him. Some of his friends occupy a very respectable position of life in Bradford, and of Harrison it has been said by some who knew him that when keeping away from drink there was no better husband about, but absences from the public house was not a marked characteristic in Harrisons daily life, and when in drink his temper was uncontrollable. A brother of his was of the same disposition as the prisoner. He too was very fond of drink, did little or no work, and at last found an asylum in the county building at Menston, where he soon died a raving lunatic. For seven weeks before the murder Harrison did no work at Messrs Ripley’s, and during that time he was chiefly fed by his relatives, while his wife by going to the mill struggled to keep a roof over the heads of herself and children.
DRINK IS UNDOUBTEDLY THE EVIL
Which led to the commission of the brutal murder, for his nearest friends stated at the time of the murder that when in work Harrison always used to give his wife his full wages to the last halfpenny, keeping only for spending any little overtime he had made. He would readily assist in preparing the Sunday dinner, and do any little odd jobs about the house to assist his wife in her household duties. He was also given the character of being an affectionate father towards his children, who when he was in drink could often better manage him than the murdered woman. Of his foster mother, Mrs Duckworth, he was also very fond, and it was in her house the prisoner and his wife resided after their marriage.
There is little doubt, however, that on the whole their married life was not a happy one. On the Sunday before the murder there had been some unpleasantness during the dinner hour about a piece of meat which had been sent by a relative for the Sunday dinner. Words arose between them at the dinner table, and the prisoner remarked to his wife: “If you ever touch that meat I hope it will rot in your belly,” and also added an observation that if she used the gravy it would scald her. The consequences of this language was that Mrs Harrison did not eat any of the meat. The murdered woman was undoubtedly a clean, steady, industrious woman, and used to work at Dudley Hill in one of the mills to help to keep the house together. She had no relatives in Bradford, but it was understood her mother lived in the neighbourhood of Manchester. She had eight children by Harrison, but only three of them survive, and upon them the mother devoted her spare time. Her neighbours all had a kindly word to say on her behalf both as a mother and wife.
SCENE OF THE CRIME
Lord Street consists of two rows of cottages of the type of the one represented. No. 7 is about the middle house on the side nearest the centre of the town. The only features of difference between this and most other streets of cottage property is that the usual passages leading at intervals to the back row are absent. The house consists of one good sized room on the ground floor-joint kitchen and sitting room, with the usual bed chamber above, access to the latter being gained by a staircase running across the back of the apartment. The doorway leading to the staircase, and the spot where the murderer dragged his victim to finish the crime, are shown very faithfully in the interior sketch.
One portrait of the murderer and his victim were taken from a photograph taken eleven years ago, not very long after their marriage. Notwithstanding the lapse of time, this photograph, which is the only one in existence, is regarded by those who knew the parties to be a good one, especially as regards Harrison.
FUNERAL OF THE VICTIM
Another incident connected with the Bradford murder took place, when the wife and victim of the man James Harrison was interred at the Bowling Cemetery. Mrs Harrison was evidently highly self-esteemed and respected by those with whom she was acquainted, and a large number of people desired to be allowed to take a last glimpse of the body as it laid in the coffin at No 7 Lord Street. So many, in attendance were there that a great proportion of the applicants had to be refused, and only the close intimate friends were admitted to the house for purpose of seeing the deceased woman. Those who were granted the privilege, however, were gratified to find that the features of the murdered woman were of a perfectly natural expression, and that only very small marks on the face were noticeable.
The funeral left the house for the cemetery about 2.30, but for a short time before two o’clock Lord Street, which is open at one end, was crowded with people, women for the most part, who seemed not to care for the heavy rain falling at the time. About the same time the clouds cleared and the sun began to shine. This had the effect of bringing numerous others to the spectacle and by 2.30 Wakefield Road was crowded for some distance with persons wishing to see the funeral procession. During the period of waiting the dastardly outrage was the general topic of conversation, and the remarks were damnatory of the life pursued by Harrison and his criminal deed of Monday morning were not stinted. Nobody seemed to have a good word of any sort to say for the murderer. “He never was any good” appeared be the petty unanimously agreed upon verdict, a hanging according to the popular judgement seems “too good for him.” “But,” added one, “if they don’t hang him they be owt to hang them, cause he was no lunatic when he told the youngsters to get out of the way of Mrs Harrison, it is said, “she was far too good for him, and a few would have put up with as much as she had.” Soon after two o’clock Sub-Inspector Barraclough, accompanied by six policemen, arrive on the scene, and with some little difficulty succeeded in clearing Lord Street. Then the Rev J. Hammer arrived and went to the house. Mr Hammer Is vicar of St John’s, Bowling, where the children of the deceased woman attended, and he came to say a few words of prayer at the house before the body was taken away to the cemetery. A few minutes after the appointed time the coffin containing the body was carted down the street and placed on the hearse as it stood in Wakefield Road, and the funeral procession started via Bowling Hall Road and Parkside on its way to the cemetery. There were only a few carriages, and they were occupied by members of the family and relations. Amongst these were Mrs Duckworth, whose adopted son Harrison was; the daughters of the deceased Matilda, Alice Ann and Sophia; Mrs Clayton, Harrisons sister, and Mr John Harrison and Mr Arthur Harrison, his brothers; Mrs Pinder, Mrs Dawson, Mr Johnson and Miss Hairet, and other relations. After they followed on foot, a number of friends, and a body of the weavers from the place where the deceased had been employed. Eventually the cemetery was reached, and the funeral service having been read as the body was committed to the grave.
The coffin was a black one, and the plate bore the inscription “Anne Harrison, died 12th May, 1890, aged 38 years.” It was covered with floral tokens of respect from relations, friends and the weavers present at the funeral.
The Prisoner’s Demeanour Before his Committal
When apprehended, charged before the magistrates, and before the Judge at the Assizes, the prisoner maintained a careless attitude. His attitude at the Coroner’s Court is fairly indicative of his general demeanour. His tone of putting questions was in many respects cynical, and even contemptuous. He did not appear in the least affected when his own children gave evidence against him. One incident illustrative of his conduct in court was when asked to question his foster mother. He sprang from the chair to his feet from where he had been seated. This somewhat alarmed the old lady, who was very nervous, and she shrank from him. “Oh,” exclaimed the prisoner jauntily, “you need not be frightened.” The implements of his cruelty-the poker and the knife-the sight of what evidently caused the old lady great pain, he only eyed as objects of curiosity. The Chief Constable, thinking to render the prisoner a kindness, went and warned him not to make too many statements, as they might be used in evidence against him. Harrison, however, did not regard the act as anything particularly beneficial to himself, and merely replied “Oh, that’s right enough,’ and as the Chief retired he cast a side glance upon him which was indicative rather of suspicion than gratitude. He smiled contemptuously whilst the doctor described the dreadful wounds, and he did the same after the Coroner had advised the jury to return a verdict of the capital offence against him.
At the trial at Assizes, Harrison at the outset paid little or no heed to what was taking place, and which so immediately concerned his fate. At the commencement of the trial he stared at the Judge and Jury in a very indifferent fashion, but as the case proceeded, and Mr Mellor addressed the Jury on his behalf his interest became more lame, though at no point was it very great. When the reference was made by counsel to the attention he had paid to his children was the only time when his better nature exhibited itself. On hearing the sentence of death the culprit simply stared at the jury and walked out of the dock in the calmest possible fashion.
We understand that one of the reasons why the petition for a reprieve was not persevered with was that the Judge in an interview with Mr Mellor (who defended the prisoner at the Assizes) subsequent to the trial intimated that he saw no reason to give effect to the recommendation of the jury.