Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (01/Sep/1891) - The Linthwaite Tragedy

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.



Despite the numerous disappointments which the police have experienced in their search for James Stockwell, who now stands committed on the coroner's warrant for the wilful murder of Catherine Dennis, they are pursuing their investigations with undiminished activity. Last night it was reported that the missing man had been seen and spoken to by a person who knew him, about five o'clock in the afternoon, at Paddock. This rumour reached the police during the evening, and Superintendent Pickard, along with Detective-Inspector Wilks and Detective-Sergeant Dodsworth, of the West Riding Force, at once set out to investigate the matter. They were engaged in the search for two or three hours, but ultimately discovered that it was not James Stockwell who had been seen but another member of the family, who is said to bear a striking resemblance to the man wanted. Up to an early hour this morning no arrest had been made.



The adjourned enquiry into the circumstances attending the death of Catherine Dennis, the servant girl at the Ivy Hotel, Smith Riding, Linthwaite, who was murdered on the afternoon of Friday, the 21st August, was resumed in the bandroom at the Ivy Hotel, on Monday afternoon, before Mr. W. Barstow, J.P., district county coroner, and the following jury :— Messrs. Enoch Taylor (foreman), Walker Dyson, A. Hanson, Joseph Spivey, James Walker, James Sykes, James Quarmby, George Lockwood, Henry Lawley, John Eastwood, Sam Dawson, G.H. Shires, B. Holroyd, A. Tinker, and J.W. Crosland. Superintendent Gill, deputy-chief constable of the West Riding, and Superintendent Pickard, of the Upper Agbrigg Division, were present during the enquiry. Though the interest in the murder has in some measure subsided, a few people gathered in the house and its vicinity during the time the enquiry was proceeding.

Mrs. Brook, the landlady of the "Ivy," recalled, stated, in reply to the Coroner, that the evidence she had already given was quite correct, and she had nothing to add to it. The Coroner read over the depositions, and the witness signed them, the jury having no further questions to put to her.

John William Iredale, the spinner, of Linthwaite, who left the "Ivy " shortly before the murder was committed, was also recalled, and signed his previous depositions without material alteration.

John Charles Brook, teamer, of Yates Lane, Milnsbridge, stated, in answer to Superintendent Pickard, that on the day of the murder he came to the "Ivy" at 9-30 in the morning, and saw Stockwell and another man named Oscar Dransfield in the taproom. He stopped about a quarter of an hour with his grandmother, Mrs. Brook, and then they all went to the Royal Oak. Stockwell had three or four glasses of beer. At about half-past 12 o'clock they came back again to the "Ivy," and went into the kitchen. Stockwell called for a pint of beer, and paid for it. They sat in the kitchen until about a quarter to two. His grandmother had not then gone away, nor had she come downstairs. When he left, Dransfield came with him, and he went home, leaving Stockwell inside the house eating some potato pie. Mrs. Brook, the deceased, and two children were then in the room. Stockwell was eating the pie with a knife, which he pulled from his pocket. He would not know the knife again if he saw it. He believed it had a long blade, and was pointed, but he could not say what kind of handle it had. He had never seen Stockwell since that day.

By the Jury — He was with Stockwell from nine o'clock on the morning of the murder until he left as he had described, but he did not have a great deal of conversation with him, as the conversation was amongst the company. He never heard him mention anything about Kate Dennis. He did not know that he had ever heard him mention Kate.

By Superintendent Pickard — He did hear him say something about seeking employment, but he did not hear him say anything about where he was going. He did not mention anything about going to Oldham.

By the Coroner — He did not say where he was going. He should say he was "fresh."

Oscar Dransfield, teamer, of Crosland Moor, corroborated the last witness. He arrived at the Ivy Hotel before Brook, but Stockwell was there when he went in. He left the two at the Royal Oak to go to Walker's brick yard for some bricks. On his return he found Brook and Stockwell still at the Royal Oak. Witness had three glasses of beer there. He and Stockwell had two pints of beer at the "Ivy," when they were there the first time, and on their return, after being at the Royal Oak, they had a glass of beer each for which Stockwell paid. Stockwell was not sober. He did not notice what Stockwell was eating the pie with. He had never seen Stockwell since that day.

By the Coroner — Stockwell was not working that day.

By the Jury — Witness did not hear Stockwell say he was going away to find work. Witness was working that day. He never heard Stockwell mention the name of the deceased.

Dr. Haigh, who was present in the room, was informed by the coroner that his evidence was taken finally at the last hearing, and he would not be required that day. He was sorry that he had been at the trouble of coming. The doctor thanked the coroner, and left the room.

Herbert Hirst, weaver, of Milnsbridge, also stated that he was in the "Ivy" on the day of the murder, and saw Iredale there. He first went to the kitchen, and then came up into the room in which the inquest was being held, where they stayed half an hour. They next went down to the taproom and had some beer. He finally went out, and arranged to meet Iredale at 2-30. He arrived before Iredale, but Iredale came in in a few minutes. They remained about 40 minutes, and then left together. As they went out a stranger was coming in, who called to the servant girl for some beer or something. She was in the bar when they came out. He did not notice whether he went into the taproom or followed witness and Iredale out. They then went to the Smith Riding Working Men's Club. Iredale left the club for a few minutes subsequently to get some bread for the other men, and after he had been away a few minutes he came back with it, and said he had heard of the murder. They then all came along together to the "Ivy." He noticed the man who came into the house as he and Iredale left. He wore white overalls, like a painter, and had a smock underneath his coat. He did not notice the two men who had been discharged by the magistrates in the crowd after the murder. He did not know that Stockwell was at the house on the day in question, he did not know Stockwell except from the description given to him since the murder.

The Coroner — Then it comes to this — that he (witness) and Iredale were in each other's company from 2-35 until 4-15 — some time after the murder was discovered — except for three or four minutes whilst Iredale went from the club to his parents' house for the bread.

Superintendent Pickard — Yes. Sarah Ann Bailey, married woman, of Smith Riding, stated that on the day of the murder she was in her own house at about four o'clock, or a few minutes past, when the witness already called (David Beevers) came to her house and asked her if she knew where they were belonging to the "Ivy." She said "No." He said he had been down there with some meat and could not find them. She came out and found three other people waiting in the road. One of them (Mrs. Pearson) said she had seen Mrs. Brook leave for Huddersfield. All three of them, herself, and the butcher then went to the "Ivy," and she at once went upstairs. When she got to the top of the first flight of stairs she saw the girl lying on the ground, and screamed. She was on her back, on the second landing, with her feet towards the stairs. Witness went back, and David Beevers and Hoyle, who was then in the house, passed her and went upstairs. When she was outside she had not noticed anyone leave the front door.

By Superintendent Gill — When she first saw the deceased her clothing was disarranged. She had seen Beevers pass her house before on a bicycle, and he had then a little basket with him. He had no basket when he came back. [At this stage Beevers, who was in the room, was ordered outside.] She could not say whether it was a basket or a parcel that he had. It would be after four o'clock when he went past; it seeming to her to be about 10 minutes from the time he passed until he came back. Witness also added that Beevers, when he went by, had on a white smock and apron. Beevers came up to her house in a natural way, and looked all right when he asked if she knew anything about the people at the "Ivy." She saw the meat in the house when she went back. She knew the girl was very quiet and cheerful.

At this stage two jurymen — Messrs. James Sykes and John Quarmby — intimated that they wished to attend the funeral of the Rev. H. Edwards. There being 15 jurymen sworn the coroner granted the permission at once.

John Lockwood, of Linthwaite, who said he had been a millhand, but did not work now, and was complimented by the coroner as a fortunate man, said that he was in the Royal Oak on the Friday in question and saw a man come in there dressed in a white smock and trousers. He stayed from 3-10 until about half-past four. He talked a lot, but in a cheerful and natural way. He did not say he had been to the "Ivy."

Edwin Hoyle, dry waller, of Linthwaite, who gave his evidence in a manner that was almost inaudible where our representative was seated, was understood to say that he was working in a field at the back of the "Ivy" on Friday, August 21st. He started from his home at four o'clock, and at about five minutes past, when he had got to his work, Beevers called to him and asked him if there was any one in the house. He looked in at the windows but could see nothing, and then went on with his work. After about five minutes Beevers called him again, this time from the other side of the house. He went on with his work. Subsequently Mrs. Carter called him and said she was sure there was something wrong. He then went to the house. He looked downstairs, but while he was there Mrs. Bailey shouted from upstairs, and he and Bedford and another man went upstairs nearly together. They found the deceased girl lying in a pool of blood. Her clothing did not appear to him to have been disarranged. He sent Beevers for a policeman, and he started off on his bicycle to find one. This was as nearly half-past four as they could tell. Police Constable Kempston and two doctors came, but lots of people saw her before them. Just before he entered the house he saw two men sitting on the wall outside the house, and subsequently they were with a number of other people who were in the house. They were the two men who had been arrested. He did not see them upstairs.

Jane Carter, married woman, of Lindley, said on the 21st she was at Mrs. Bailey's at four o'clock in the afternoon. She came down the road after her child, and saw Beevers outside the house. He said he could find no one in the house, and she went back to Mrs. Bailey's, subsequently coming with her and other people to the house. A few minutes before four she had come into the road after the child and saw Stockwell leave the house by the front door. Beevers was then coming along the road on his bicycle from the Stores, with the meat under his arm, wrapped in a newspaper.

The Coroner — How far is it from your house to the "Ivy?"

Superintendent Pickard — It is 74 yards.

Witness added that she saw John Walker coming up the road at the same time. She could not say if Beevers would have passed her when she saw Stockwell come out, but should think not. She knew Stockwell sufficiently well to say that it was he at that distance. He turned down home, but she took no more notice of him than that.

John Walker, labourer, of Linthwaite, said on the 21st he called at the "Ivy" at about 2-30, and went into the kitchen, where he found Stockwell and the servant girl. Mrs. Brook had asked him to call for the money for some gas. He said he wanted to see her, but as she was out he left, and said he would call again on Saturday or Monday. He then left them together and went elsewhere. He returned again at about four o'clock, as nearly as he could say, and when he got somewhere near the house he saw Stockwell leave. He met him a few yards below at the corner of the road, having been able to see him since he left the house. He knew him well by sight, but did not know his name before. He had an apron on in the house, but he did not notice him again outside. He was sure he was not mistaken. He did not notice whether Stockwell appeared excited, and he (witness) then went home, having to pass the "Ivy" on the way. He did not see Beevers then, but he might have passed him without his seeing it. Everything was quiet when he passed the "Ivy." He had known Stockwell for two or three years by sight.

After a short adjournment the witness Beevers was recalled. His evidence as already taken was read over, and, in reply to further questions, he said when he left the public-house he met the witness Walker at the top of Ramsden Mill Lane, when he had passed Mrs. Carter's house. Further questioned, he said he felt sure it was by the Ramsden Mill Lane, but he would not swear exactly.

Mrs. Carter was recalled, and adhered to her previous statement.

Beevers, again recalled, said he did not see anyone come out of the "Ivy" as he rode up.

Several jurors expressed a wish to hear further evidence as to where Stockwell went after he left the house.

The Coroner observed that he could not see how it affected the case, but some police official might say what had since been done.

Superintendent Pickard said he could give that information if required.

The Coroner — Is the result of your enquiries this :— That he has not been at home since Friday morning, the 21st of August, and that up to the present he has not been found ? Superintendent Pickard : That is so, sir. Every enquiry is being made, and search is being made all over the country, both night and day, the house is being watched, and everything done that can be.

The Coroner — Up to the present, I believe, you have ascertained that on the evening of the same day, at about eight o'clock, he was seen at Slaithwaite ? Superintendent Pickard : At Marsden. At about eight o'clock he was seen near the station, but we have not ascertained where the man has been since, not for a certainty. He has been at all events away from home.

Since the morning of the 21st ? Yes.

The Coroner then proceeded to sum up, and asked the jury to return such a verdict as they thought the case required at their hands. Their duty was to ascertain when, where, how, and by what means this unfortunate young woman, Catherine Dennis, came to her death. As to the when and the where, there was no doubt about that. The injury appeared, partly from the witnesses to facts, and partly from the doctor's evidence, to have been a severe wound in the neck. He thought they would have no doubt that the case was one, not of suicide, but of foul and brutal murder, by some person or persons, and it was their duty to find out who that parson or those persons was or were. Moreover, there was not simply this terrible wound, but there was also evidently an attempted outrage or rape. There did not seem a shadow of suspicion against anybody but this man Stockwell. The man with the white overalls had been accounted for, Iredale and Hirst could not be suspected, and Beevers seemed to be the only other person who was shown by the evidence to have been in the house. After going at length into the facts given in the evidence, the coroner said in his opinion the jury had only one of two verdicts to return — a verdict of wilful murder against James Stockwell, or if they did not think they could say that, a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown to them. As regarded the first of these verdicts he should like to point out this : that in order to justify them in returning it they need not be absolutely convinced that he had committed the murder. That would be a question for the Assizes to determine. What they had to be satisfied of was that there was a fair and reasonable ground for sending him for trial, and letting the case be decided by the Assize Court. Their duty was somewhat like that of a grand jury who had to determine whether there was a prima facie case for sending a man for trial. If they thought he was probably the murderer they would be justified, and it would be their duty, to return a verdict of murder against him. Supposing such a verdict to be returned the proper steps would be taken to bring the man up for trial.

The jury then considered their verdict in private, the consultation lasting about half-an-hour.

They then intimated that they had agreed upon their verdict, and, in reply to the Coroner, the foreman read the following :—

We are unanimously agreed to the following verdict, viz. :— That on Friday afternoon, August 21st, Catherine Dennis came to her death from loss of blood caused by a wound in the neck, and was wilfully murdered by one James Stockwell, of Slaithwaite, teamer.

The Coroner — I will issue a warrant for his apprehension, and forward it to Mr. Pickard.

The witnesses were then bound over to appear at the trial when the man should be apprehended, and the proceedings closed.