Huddersfield Chronicle (02/Jan/1892) - Petition for a Reprieve

The following article erroneous stated that Catherine Dennis' mother had been committed to an asylum and had died — this was corrected by the Chronicle on 22 January.

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.


Mr. J. Lewis Sykes, solicitor, of Huddersfield, who represented Stockwell, the Linthwaite murderer, when he was before the magistrates, has drawn up the following memorial, a copy of which, influentually, but not numerously, signed, has been sent to the Home Secretary. A second copy was sent off on Thursday night. The following is a copy :—

To the Right Honourable Henry Matthews, M.P., Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department.

This humble petition of the undersigned inhabitants of the County Borough of Huddersfield, sheweth,

(1.) That James Stockwell was on the 15th day of December, 1891, at the Leeds Assizes, sentenced to death for the murder of Catherine Dennis, at the Ivy Hotel, Linthwaite, near Huddersfield, on the 21st day of August, 1891.

(2.) The material facts relied upon by the prosecution were as follows :—

The prisoner was seen in the Ivy Hotel at 2-30, and also left the hotel about four o'clock on the said 21st day of August. The body of the deceased was found soon after four o'clock. On September 7th, 1891, the prisoner's mother informed the police that her son had that morning arrived at her home, and prisoner was at once taken into custody. He was then in a weak and emaciated condition and very dirty. On searching the prisoner the police found that his clothes were covered with hay-seeds, &c., and in his pockets were a penknife, one shilling, and partly-eaten bean pods. The prisoner's statement to the constable and Arthur Thompson, who had served terms of imprisonment, and who acted as Stockwell's nurse in hospital for a month. The prisoner's home was watched and he was not seen by the police.

(3.) The following facts were proved on behalf of the prisoner:—

(a.) His maternal grandmother, Harriet Haigh, was confined in the Macclesfield Lunatic Asylum, from May 17th, 1872, to November 5th, 1872, and subsequently from October 28th, 1875, to December 12th, 1876, the date of her death in the Wadsley Lunatic Asylum.

(b.) His mother, Sarah Stockwell, formerly Haigh, was confined in the Lunatic Asylum at Wakefield, from March 21st, 1867, to October 19th, 1867, and was on October 24th, 1691, admitted to the Wadsley Lunatic Asylum, where she is still confined.

(c.) His married sister, Mary Emma Mellor, was confined in the Wadsley Lunatic Asylum from August 20th, 1889, to September 6th, 1890, and is again confined in the same asylum.

(d.) That the prisoner is 32 years of age, at which age his mother and sister developed signs of insanity, and were removed as above-mentioned.

(e.) Three paternal uncles of the prisoner were also more or less tainted with insanity. John Stockwell died an inmate of Wakefield Lunatic Asylum on the 21st of January, 1873 ; Caleb Stockwell had a sudden seizure and was roped down in bed ; and George Stockwell committed suicide.

(f.) Prisoner sustained severe injuries to his head, was thereby rendered insensible on three occasions, had complained of dizzy bouts and tender spots on his head ; had been addicted to intemperance.

(4) The medical witnesses called on behalf of the prisoner stated that the facts relied on by the prosecution, namely, concealment, confession to a fellow-prisoner, and recollection of incidents were quite compatible with impulsive insanity at the time when the act was committed. Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that it may please you to advise Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen to commute the sentence of death passed upon the prisoner, and they will ever pray, &c.

The first memorial has been acknowledged.

It is also stated that the mother of Kate Dennis, the murdered girl, has died. Soon after the murder she lost her reason, through the murder preying on her mind, and she was taken to an asylum. She has died, it is said, in the asylum without having recovered from the shock she received.