Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (08/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.



After eluding the vigilance of the police for between 17 and 18 days, James Stockwell, teamer of Milnsbridge, was on Monday morning arrested on the charge of wilfully murdering Catherine Dennis, aged 15 years, a domestic servant at the Ivy Hotel, Linthwaite, on the 21st of August last. The circumstances of the arrest appear to be as follows :— About 7-40 a.m. Police Constable Taylor, of the Huddersfield Borough Constabulary, who has been stationed at Paddock for about six months, received information from Mrs. Stockwell, the mother of the accused, to the effect that her son was at home. Taylor at once went to the house and found Stockwell laid on one of the beds in his clothing. As soon as he heard the officer, the accused started up in bed, submitted quietly to the arrest, and walked with Taylor to the Borough Police Station, where he arrived about 8-5. He was formally charged with the terrible offence, but made no reply.

Meanwhile, the news of the arrest spread quickly, and a large crowd of people collected in the vicinity of the Borough Police Station. So large were the dimensions of the crowd that Victoria Street was well-nigh impassable. Inside, the prisoner, who presented a dirty, unshaven, and emaciated appearance, was served with breakfast, which he consumed greedily. Photographs of him were also obtained before he was removed to the Borough Police Court. This was about 10-20. He entered the van along with the rest of the prisoners for the court, and was conveyed with them to the Town Hall. Here another large crowd had assembled, and the appearance of Stockwell was the signal for an outbreak of hooting, which showed unmistakably the feeling of those collected in the vicinity. These demonstrations were renewed as the accused was removed from the Borough Court to the County Police Station, and also when, after his remand, he was conveyed to Wakefield Gaol.

There was a large crowd at the station, but by a ruse on the part of the police a portion of them were induced to leave after the departure of the prisoners committed by the borough magistrates by the two o'clock train. Stockwell was conveyed to the station in a cab, to catch the 2-35 train in the custody of Superintendent Pickard, Sergeant McCawley, and Police Constable Webb, by whom he was safely lodged in gaol. Despite the exertions of the police, however, there was a tremendous crowd at the station, and the accused was subjected to another hostile demonstration. It was only with the greatest difficulty that Stockwell was got into the train, and during the scene, which was very exciting at the time, shouts of "kill him," "lynch him," were heard. At Mirfield and the other stations along the route crowds of people assembled to catch a glimpse of the accused, and here again the sympathies of the populace were decidedly against him. Though he had had a bath and been supplied with food, he seemed too overcome with the fatigue and anxieties of the past fortnight to take much notice of the people who crowded round the compartment in which he was seated.

Whatever opinions are held with regard to the accused man, there is but one feeling — and that of intense sympathy — with his unfortunate parents. His mother has been completely prostrated by the blow, and though she faithfully fulfilled her promise to inform the police if he came home, it has been at terrible cost to herself. It is supposed that under cover of the darkness of the early morning Stockwell walked home and took refuge in an outhouse until the members of his family had gone to work, and that then he went into the house and revealed himself to his mother. He was seen to go into the house by a neighbour, and information was given to Police Constable Webb, of the West Riding Force — who, with Sergeants McCawley and Ramsden and Detective-Sergeant Dodsworth (from Halifax) and others have been unceasing in their efforts, under the direction of Superintendent Pickard, to trace the accused — but before he arrived on the scene the grief-stricken mother had given information to Police Constable Taylor, and the arrest had been quietly carried into effect.

In Linthwaite and the surrounding neighbourhood, the news of the arrest was received with feelings of the liveliest satisfaction. The position of affairs was discussed by groups of people in various parts, surprise being expressed in some quarters at the admission of guilt the accused had made before the borough magistrates. On all hands, however, the prevailing feeling is one of relief that at last the search has come to a successful issue.

When searched at the police station it was found that Stockwell had in his possession, amongst other things, a pocket-knife, and about a shilling in money.


Long before 11 o'clock, at which hour the Borough Police Court sits, Peel Street, in which the public entrance to the court is situated, and Ramsden Street were thronged with people anxious to obtain admission to the court and to catch a sight of the prisoner. Inside, the police kept the doors closed until almost 11 o'clock, the Chief Constable (Mr. J. Ward) and Superintendent Pickard (of the West Riding Force) being present. When the doors were opened the court became packed almost immediately. At 11 o'clock the Mayor (Alderman Godfrey Sykes) took the chair, and he was accompanied by Mr. J. Woodhead, M.P., and Mr. G.W. Tomlinson. The Magistrates' Clerk (Mr. C. Mills) was absent, his place being filled by Mr. G.B. Nalder, his partner. The case was the first to be called on, the prisoner, who was then brought up from the cells under the court, at once admitting himself to be James Stockwell. As he stood in the dock little of his clothing could be seen. His face, however, had a haggard, dejected, and shrunken appearance, and looked dark and dirty, as if it had been long exposed to the weather, and his whole appearance was unkempt and dirty. He leaned on the front of the dock, as if for support, but, although speaking in a low voice, answered questions put to him firmly and in an almost indifferent manner.

When the prisoner's name had been called, Mr. Nalder said — You are charged that on the 21st day of August, 1891, at Linthwaite, in the West Riding of the County of Yorkshire, you did feloniously. wilfully, and of malice aforethought, kill and murder one Catherine Dennis, contrary to the form and statute made and provided. What do you say ? Are you guilty or not guilty ?

Prisoner — Guilty.

Mr. Nalder — What do you say ?

Prisoner — Guilty. (Sensation.)

Mr. Nalder — I believe, sir, the county authorities have an application to make.

The Chief Constable — No, sir ! I make the application. May it please your Worships, the particulars of the crime alleged against this man are so well known to you that it would be a waste of time for me to go through them. He was arrested this morning on information given to Police Constable Taylor, and now, seeing the offence was committed in the county police district, I ask your Worships to hand him over to them to be dealt with. Mr. Pickard, the superintendent of the district in which the offence was committed, is here, and he will, of course, take charge of the prisoner on your handing him over to them.

The Mayor — Prisoner will be handed over to the county authorities.

Superintendent Pickard — Yes, sir! I am here for them, and I will take prisoner into custody.

Stockwell then retired, and returned to the cells beneath the court.


Shortly after his remand by the Borough Magistrates, Stockwell was removed across the street from the Borough Court to the County Police Station by a number of officers under the charge of Superintendent Pickard. Princess Street was packed with people, and as the prisoner was with difficulty got across there was a hostile demonstration, the people clapping their hands and hooting loudly until he disappeared within the doors of the station. He was lodged in the cells for a few minutes, pending the arrival of the magistrates — Mr. J.A. Armitage (who presided) and Mr. R. Skilbeck — and immediately they were seated the prisoner Was brought into the private office adjoining the police station, where cases for remand are usually taken. As seen out of the dock prisoner seemed weak and ill, and appeared to have been crying. It was a noticeable fact that he wore the clothing — including the harden apron — in which he was last seen, and of which the police have published a description.

Mr. John Sykes (magistrates' clerk), addressing the magistrates, explained that the prisoner had been handed over to Superintendent Pickard by the borough police. He would swear the superintendent, who would state the circumstances regarding an application about to be made to them.

Superintendent Pickard (having been duly sworn) said — The prisoner (James Stockwell), your Worships, is charged with wilful murder. It appears that on the 21st of last month Mrs. Brook, of the Ivy Hotel, Linthwaite, left home about two o'clock to go to Huddersfield. During her absence the prisoner was seen by two persons to leave the house, and the servant girl was afterwards found on the landing upstairs murdered. Circumstances pointed clearly to the prisoner, and since then every enquiry has been made for him in the district, both night and day, but we have been unable to find him. I have also a warrant here——

The Magistrates' Clerk — The inquest has been held, and the superintendent has received a warrant for the apprehension of the prisoner.

Superintendent Pickard — From the coroner.

The Magistrates' Clerk — And that is the man ?

Superintendent Pickard — That is the man. He was apprehended this morning at Paddock about 7-40.

The Magistrates' Clerk (to the magistrates) — Which is within the borough, and he has just been handed over by the borough officials to Mr. Pickard, your superintendent.

Superintendent Pickard — I was going to ask if you will remand the prisoner for eight days ?

The Magistrates' Clerk explained that the Bench had power to do this under the statute after Mr. Pickard's statement. A remand for eight days would also enable him (the clerk) to communicate with the Public Prosecutor, as he was bound to do in such cases.

Mr. J.A. Armitage (turning to prisoner) — Have you any cause to show why you should not be remanded for eight days?

Prisoner (quietly) — No, sir.

Mr. Armitage — We remand him for eight days.

Superintendent Pickard also applied that the man should be sent to Wakefield Gaol in the interval. This request was granted by the Bench, and the opinion was also expressed, in the course of a short conversational discussion, that the adjournment until Monday and the disposal of the business on a special day, would be more convenient than hearing the case on the ordinary West Riding Court day (Tuesday).

At the conclusion of the application the prisoner was taken back to the cells.


Superintendent Pickard decided to remove the prisoner, when he had been remanded, by the train which leaves Huddersfield at 2-25 for Mirfield. As soon as the crowd obtained an inkling of what was going to happen large numbers made their way to the station. An enormous concourse assembled on the platform where the greatest excitement prevailed. A few minutes before the time for the start Stockwell, in charge of Sergeant McCawley and two policemen, entered the station and proceeded by the subway to the platform. A number of constables surrounded the door of the general waiting-room, into which Stockwell was led. He sat down, looking pale and somewhat frightened. Numbers of faces crowded round the window, and the struggle for places was terrible. At last the train, a few minutes late, arrived, and Stockwell was led by Sergeant McCawley and the eight policemen to a third-class carriage. He was loudly hooted by the crowd, who rushed after him and surrounded the carriage. The blinds of the two side windows were drawn, but Stockwell could be seen through the door window, and he was noticed to smile and nod to an acquaintance. Shouts of "Get hold of him," "Lynch him," were vociferated freely. There was, however, a strong force of police around the carriage, and no serious attempt was made to get through them. When the train moved out of the station the crowd quietly dispersed.

The knowledge that Stockwell was travelling by this train seemed to be widely spread, and at every station between Huddersfield and Wakefield numbers of people were waiting on the platforms in the hope of catching sight of him. At Wakefield itself, however, the station was comparatively empty, and no demonstration of any sort was made.


Stockwell has made a number of statements since his arrest as to his whereabouts during the 16 days that have elapsed since the murder was committed. When he appeared at his mother's house he was in a starving condition, and the opinion is volunteered by those who have seen him since his arrest, that judging by the condition he is now in, he could not possibly have lived much longer without having proper food and being cared for. He freely stated when food was given to him, that he had been practically without since the murder was committed. It has been stated that when Stockwell saw Tom Else the football player, he has said he was deciding which way he would go. As a matter of fact, the statement that he has made is that he has never seen Else, and that further he has not been to Marsden station at all, at which place it was supposed by Else that he had seen him. On one occasion he says he was hiding under a haystack on Crosland Moor when he heard some of the search party passing close to him and could hear them talking about the search. He never left the Crosland Moor district save once, and that was a fortnight ago on Monday, when he went to Honley Wood, and at half-past eight on that night he met a man walking through. This man looked at him and renewed his fears, and he got off to a haystack and tried to sleep. As the days wore on sleep left him, and he has not for days had even that relief from his sufferings. He says that the first food he had during the time that he has been away was beans he plucked in his mother's garden on his return home. He has lost much in weight according to the judgment of those who knew him since he went away, and is now by no means the stout man that was described in the police notices. There appears to be little doubt that the man was really starved into his return home. He seems to have been afraid to show himself anywhere and endeavour to obtain food on the chance of being recognised and given up to justice.