Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (22/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.





There was again a crowded attendance at the West Riding Police Court at Huddersfield on Monday when at 10-15 the hearing of the charge against James Stockwell (32), a teamer, of Manchester Road, Linthwaite, of having murdered Catherine Dennis, a servant girl, at the Ivy Hotel, Linthwaite, on the 21st August last, came on for hearing. Outside the court a large crowd assembled about nine o'clock, and continued to stand there, despite the heavy rain that fell. Long before that, however, Stockwell — who left Wakefield by train in charge of two warders at 4-40 a.m. had been safely lodged in the cells awaiting the magisterial enquiry. The crush outside the court was so great that about 10 o'clock one of the gates in Princess Street and the massive stone gate post was pushed over, and some of the police-officers narrowly escaped injury. Punctually at 10-15 the magistrates — Mr. F. Greenwood (who presided) and Mr. Eli Mallinson, followed immediately by Mr. W.R. Haigh and Mr. Joseph Crowther — took their seats. After dealing with two cases of drunkenness and remanding a charge of felony, which did not occupy above a minute or two, Stockwell was brought into court and placed in the dock. He looked all the better for his stay in gaol, appearing younger than at the previous hearings* but as he sat in the dock he seemed to feel the serious position in which he was placed. The proceedings were closely followed by the large number in court. As on the previous occasion Mr. A. H. J. Fletcher (Messrs. Laycock, Dyson, and Laycock) — who was assisted by Mr. J. H. Dransfield, solicitor — prosecuted, and Mr. J. Lewis Sykes appeared for the defence.

Mr. Fletcher, in the course of his opening, sail he was instructed by the Solicitor for the Treasury and the director of public prosecutions, to appear before their Worships in connection with the circumstances surrounding the death of Catherine Dennis, and after they had heard those circumstances he was instructed to ask them for the committal of James Stockwell to the Leeds Assizes on the charge of wilful murder. The course he proposed to follow with the permission of the Bench, was as briefly as possible to place the whole case before them in the shape of a narrative, showing the proportion of the relative parts and in chronological order. He should not go into detail as he preferred that the details should come from the mouths of the various witnesses rather than from his own. The murder was committed on Friday, the 21st of August last, at the Ivy Hotel, Linthwaite. The situation of the house would no doubt be familiar to the Bench on the northerly side of the road leading from Huddersfield to Manchester, between Linthwaite and Milnsbridge. He intended to produce a plan of the house showing its situation with regard to the surrounding country, the front elevation, and plan of the ground and first floors.

Mr. Greenwood here explained that on the previous Thursday he visited the house and looked at the exact place where the girl was found.

Mr. Fletcher remarked that he might say shortly that on the ground floor of the house was an entrance passage, with a parlour on the right and a sitting-room on the left. Facing a person entering the house was a bar. On the right, behind the parlour, was the taproom, and on the left the kitchen. The kitchen and bar were connected one with the other by a door. Upstairs the house consisted, towards the front, of one large room, used as a bandroom, and three bedrooms on the back, the middle one of which, and the smallest of the three, was the room in which the murdered girl slept. Her body was found on the landing outside these doors. As would be seen from the plan of the surrounding country, Yew Tree Lane, winch would be mentioned in the course of the evidence, joined the Manchester Road not far from the house. The household at the Ivy Hotel consisted of the former landlady, Mrs. Margaret Brook, and Catherine Dennis. These two had lived together alone in the house for something like a year, during which Catherine Dennis had been in the service of Mrs. Brook as domestic servant. The prisoner, James Stockwell, was a teamer. He lived not very far from the Ivy Hotel, on the main Manchester Road, but on the opposite side to the "Ivy." He should show the Bench that prior to the commission of the murder Stockwell was seen constantly about the premises. He had been in work up to about 10 days before the 21st of August. He then became unsteady in his habits, though he still continued to be seen almost daily. After the commission of the murder he was not seen for some 16 or 17 days, and witnesses would give them a description of the condition in which he was when arrested. Mr. Fletcher then briefly went through the evidence which he proposed to offer before the Bench, remarking that after three o'clock — when Herbert Hirst and John William Iredale left Stockwell in the Ivy Hotel — he did not produce any further evidence as to what happened prior to the discovery of the murdered girl's body, except the prisoner's own statement. He was not alluding to anything that happened prior to the prisoner having been remanded into the custody of the County Police, but after having been remanded he was taken down into the cellar below the Borough Police Court, and there, voluntarily and without being questioned, and after having been cautioned by the constable (Taylor) in whose custody he was, he made the following statement :— "It is no use going so far round about it. I may as well get it over at once. It's all through drink. I was lying down on the seat, and she kept pulling my hair." He should leave these words entirely without comment as a confession — a statement made by the prisoner. He then passed on to close on four o'clock, when the girl's body was found, and, continuing, said he should also call John Walker and Jane Carter, who saw the prisoner leave the front door of the Ivy Hotel within a few minutes before the time that the girl's murdered body was discovered. He should also call another witness (Peter Whiteley), who, coming down Yew Tree Lane, met James Stockwell coming up, and who noticed as he passed the "Ivy" on his way to his own house, David Beevers, the first of the witnesses who discovered the body. He should also call the doctor and evidence of the arrest, and the watch that had been kept on Stockwell's house almost from the time of the commission of the offence, and on these facts ventured to ask, on the instructions of the Treasury, for the committal of James Stockwell for wilful murder.

On the application of Mr. Sykes the Bench said as the enquiry was a lengthened one the prisoner might certainly remain seated. The prisoner was then provided with a seat near the front of the dock, and quietly watched the witnesses.

John William Cocking, architect, of Huddersfield, said he had measured the Ivy Hotel and some of the surrounding country. The plan produced was his handiwork. It showed a front elevation and plans of the ground and chamber floors. The back door opened into the fields, and was in the basement of the building. There was no basement plan. Mr. Sykes did not cross-examine this witness, whose depositions were then read over and signed, this rule being observed throughout the rest of the proceedings.

Margaret Brook, the late landlady of the Ivy Hotel, said she had been in the house, up to the previous Wednesday, for 20 years. The name of her servant was Catherine Dennis, who was 16 years old. She had been with her 11 months, and was a very good girl indeed — truthful, honest, and good. She remembered the day on which she was murdered. On that day she left the house at about a quarter to two, and Kate was then standing at the doorway as she got on to the conveyance to go to Huddersfield. She left two teamers in the house getting their dinner — Herbert Ainley and Lockwood — in the taproom. She left James Stockwell in the kitchen. When she left him he was eating potato pie with a knife. She had known him a good many years. He had often been to the house, and had been there on the morning of the same day. She believed on this occasion he came a little after one, but she was not quite sure of the time. He had two pennyworth of bread and cheese before the potato pie.

By Mr. Haigh — Anybody could see he had had beer, but he was not "fresh" or drunk. He had a pint of beer to his bread and cheese.

Witness, resuming her examination by Mr. Fletcher, said she told Kate in prisoner's presence that she was going to Huddersfield, and should come back at four or half-past. Kate had no sweetheart to her knowledge, and she never heard anyone speak to her except in the right way. There was nobody in the house except the teamers and Stockwell. Kate slept in the middle bedroom upstairs.

Mr. Sykes — I think it would save time if I reserve mv cross-examination to the close of the prosecution.

The Clerk (Mr. J. Sykes) — No, it would be irregular. It is not in accordance with the statute.

Mr. J.L. Sykes — The statute only says I shall have an opportunity of cross-examination.

The Clerk — Oh ! yes, it does.

The Chairman — You may ask for any witness to be recalled that you want to ask further questions.

The Clerk — I have no doubt about it. At all events I rule that in this case. There is no doubt about it.

Mr. Sykes resumed his seat, and said he had no questions to ask the witness.

John Charles Brook, of Yates Lane, Milnsbridge, teamer, said he was a grandson of Mrs. Brook. He was at the Ivy Hotel on the day of the murder, and was in more than once. The first time he went was about half-past nine. The next time, as near as he could tell, would be about a quarter to one. Oscar Dransfield and the prisoner went with him. They all went to the kitchen, and there the prisoner had some bread and cheese, which he eat with a knife. He took the knife from his pocket, but witness could not tell what sort of a knife it was altogether. Kate brought witness some potato pie, and Stockwell asked if he might join him at it. He said yes, if he could get his grandmother's consent, and the prisoner did then join him. Stockwell was right enough, only he thought he was "fresh like." He left at about a quarter to two with Dransfield, his grandmother, two children, Kate, and Stockwell being in the room. The prisoner was on the long-settle in the kitchen.

The Clerk — Now is your opportunity to cross-examine, Mr. Sykes. Mr. Sykes — I don't ask him anything yet. Ebor Whitwam, teamer, of Scarr House, Golcar, said he was at the Ivy Hotel on the day Kate Dennis was found dead. He went there at 10 minutes past 12. They went into the taproom and remained there until he fetched some water from the kitchen. Whilst he was in the kitchen Stockwell and the other two men came in. He took the water he fetched to his horse, and as he went out he saw the prisoner and the two other men in the kitchen. He saw Mrs. Brook in the taproom. He left at half-past one. He did not see the three men as he left — he did not see anyone.

The Clerk — Now is your opportunity for cross-examining, Mr. Sykes.

Mr. Sykes — I have no questions to ask.

Herbert Ainley, teamer, of Knowle Bank, Golcar, said he remembered the day Kate Dennis was found dead. He went to the "Ivy" on that day at 10 minutes past 12, with Whitwam. He went to the taproom and stayed there until he also went to the kitchen for some water at five or 10 minutes past one. The three men referred to were in the kitchen when he went in. He left the "Ivy" at half-past one with Whitwam and saw no one but Kate Dennis.

Mr. Sykes said he had no questions to ask this witness as yet.

John Walker, labourer, of Smith Riding, Linthwaite, said he went to the "Ivy" at half-past two on the afternoon of the murder, and saw Kate Dennis there. He only stayed a few minutes, and then went to Milnsbridge. He subsequently started home, having to pass the "Ivy" again on his way back. He went up the footpath of the Manchester Road, and saw the prisoner come out of the Ivy Hotel. This was about four o'clock. He was 14 or 15 yards below the "Ivy" when Stockwell came out. He stepped into the road and walked down it. When he left there was no one but James Stockwell and Kate Dennis in the house. The witness was not cross-examined.

Herbert Hirst, weaver, of Milnrow Terrace, Milnsbridge, said he went to the "Ivy" at about half-past 12 on the day of the murder. In the afternoon he went again at about 25 minutes to 3. He saw no one in the house the second time but the servant girl. He was in the taproom, and left at about 10 minutes past 3. He met a man as he was coming out, who called for a glass of beer to the servant girl. Witness described the man, who was wearing white overalls and a white smock.

Witness was not cross-examined.

While the depositions were being read over the witness added that he was with John William Iredale.

John William Iredale, spinner, of Royd's Terrace, Linthwaite said that on the day of the murder he went to the "Ivy" in the morning, and again between half-past two and a quarter to three. He went into the taproom, and there saw the last witness. He was served by Kate, and left at a quarter past three. He also saw the stranger come in as he went out, but he was a stranger to him. This witness also described the man.

John Lockwood, of Springfield Terrace, Linthwaite, a retired spinner, said he was at the Royal Oak, Linthwaite, on the day of the murder, which was perhaps 500 yards from the "Ivy." He went to the Royal Oak at three o'clock, and whilst he was there a stranger came in. He appeared between 40 and 50 years of age, and talked to the company. He had white "slips" over his trousers, and a white smock that buttoned up the front, with a black coat and hat. This stranger came to the Royal Oak soon after three o'clock, and left at about half-past four.

Witness was not cross-examined.

David Beevers, butcher's assistant, of Linthwaite, said he was at the "Ivy" on the 21st. He came from the branch shop of the Linthwaite Co-operative Stores, on a safety bicycle, along the Manchester Road. He was coming with the meat and took it into the kitchen. The front door was open, and there was no one in the kitchen. He called out, but no one came. He then went into the taproom, and in the front room, but could find no one. He saw Hoyle down in the fields as he went in. He spoke to Hoyle, and in consequence Hoyle looked at the back of the house. He then returned to the house again, and "sang out" in the passage, but no one came. He then went to the cellar-head and called out there. He also opened the door leading into the front room, but found no one there. He looked over the wall below the shed, and then saw Hoyle again. After this they went up the road to the house of a Mrs. Bailey, who lived 70 yards away. He, Mrs. Bailey, a man named Robert Bedford, and two women, named Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Pearson, then came back to the "Ivy." He and Hoyle went down to the cellar. Whilst he was there he heard a woman scream. They both went up the steps again, and found Mrs. Bailey at the front door. In consequence of what she said they went upstairs again, and at the top they saw Kate Dennis. Her feet were facing them, she was lying on her back, and her face faced the front of the house. He could see a wound on the right side of the neck, and there was blood on the floor and down the side of the neck. Witness went for the police.

This witness was not cross-examined.

Edwin Hoyle, of Linthwaite, drywaller, said he went to the "Ivy" at about five minutes after four. He remembered Beevers speaking to him, and in consequence of what he said he examined the back of the house. He spoke to Beevers and then went back to the field. He stayed there a few minutes and then Beevers came to him again. He spoke to him and then went on with his work. In five minutes more Mrs. Carter came and called him, and he then went to the house. Beevers waited for him. He went into the front rooms, the taproom, the kitchen, and the cellar, without finding anyone. Whilst they were in the cellar a woman screamed, and Bedford called to them. He saw the girl lying on the top of the stairs, dead.

Mr. Sykes did not cross-examine the witness.

At this stage the court adjourned.

When the hearing was resumed, Sarah Ann Bailey, of Smith Riding, Linthwaite, wife of Thomas Bailey, weaver, said on the day of the murder she went to the "Ivy" a few minutes after four in the afternoon — she could not tell particularly the time. She went upstairs and saw Catherine Dennis lying on the floor. She was told she was dead. She was lying on her back, with her arms stretched out. Her clothes were disarranged so that she could see her underclothing. At this time she did not see any blood, although she did afterwards when she was called on by the doctor. She saw no wound, she did not go so far upstairs. She screamed when she saw the body.

Mr. Sykes asked the witness nothing.

By the Chairman — She went to the house when she was fetched by the butcher's boy.

Jane Carter, wife of John William Carter, of Smith Riding, Linthwaite, delver, said on the 21st August her child was playing on the Manchester Road, just opposite her door, at a few minutes to four. She fetched it out of the way of Beevers' bicycle, as he was coming towards Huddersfield. Her house was on the opposite side of the road to the "Ivy," 75 yards off. She saw Stockwell come out of the "Ivy."

The Clerk suggested that the prisoner should stand up for the witness to see him, and this he did, a commotion following at the back of the court, where a considerable crowd of spectators who were standing, pushed each other about in endeavouring to gain a sight of him.

Witness, resuming, said she had known the prisoner about 12 months. He went towards Huddersfield when he came out of the "Ivy."

The witness was not cross-examined.

Recalled, witness said in answer to the chairman that Beevers had not come by when Stockwell came out of the house.

Peter Whiteley, of Smith Riding, a twister-in, said on August 21st he was in the neighbourhood of the Ivy Hotel during the afternoon. He went up Cowlersley's Lane, and came down Yew Tree Lane. He did not know the exact time, but he should think it would be about four o'clock. When he was in Yew Tree Lane, he met James Stockwell. This would be about 200 yards from the Ivy Hotel. He was going up the lane, witness was coming down. Witness spoke to him. On passing the "Ivy" he saw Beevers standing on the flags, "agate" with his bicycle. When he spoke to Stockwell he said "How do Jim," and he replied, "How do."

Mr. Sykes said he had nothing to ask as yet.

Thomas Hinchliffe Haigh, surgeon, of Golcar, said about 15 minutes to five on August 21st, he was called to the "Ivy." He went upstairs and saw the dead body of a girl. She appeared about 16 years of age, and when he saw her she was lying on her back. The head was inclined to the left and resting on the left arm. The mouth was slightly open, and the tongue protruding between the teeth. The face and lips were pale and there was a wound on the right side of the neck about an inch in length. In direction it was slightly oblique, and it was in close proximity to the larynx. At that time he made an examination of the body, and found there were no bruises upon it. The clothing was not particularly disarranged. Witness described the appearance of the body on his first examination. He made a post-mortem on the 24th, and found the wound in the neck penetrated the wind-pipe, and severed the thyroid vessels. The wound extended to the back of the neck and the joint of the second and third cervical vertebra, without touching any other important vessels. The wound would be two or three inches in length, and was a clean cut. It would certainly, in his opinion, not be self-inflicted. In his judgment the wound was such a one that the knife shown to him would be very likely to inflict. He made another examination of the body, and formed an opinion that a recent outrage had been attempted, but had not been carried out. He had a belief that this had been so. Death was caused, in his opinion, by syncope from loss of blood. He had seen the deceased several times when she was alive.

Police Constable Taylor, of the borough force, who lives in Church-street, Paddock, said in consequence of a communication made to him on September 7th, he went to 2, Lower Brow Road, Paddock, where the prisoner's parents lived. He got there about a quarter to eight. On his arrival he went straight upstairs, and in a bedroom there he found the prisoner. He was lying on the bed in his clothes. He started to his feet when witness entered the room, and he at once arrested him. He charged him with wilfully murdering Catherine Dennis, and also cautioned him that anything he might say he should take down in writing and use in evidence on his trial. He said "I haven't done it." He subsequently took him to the police station. On the way he made a statement. He said, "I have not had anything to eat for six days. I must have been asleep all that time." On arrival at the police station he searched him and found the knife produced, 6d. in silver, 6d. in copper, and some bean pods partly eaten upon him. His clothing was covered with bits of hay, as though he had been sleeping on haystacks. On the same morning he was brought up before the borough magistrates.

The Clerk — Well, well, are you going into that ?

Mr. Fletcher said no, certainly not. It was essential to mention it, but he would pass over it as rapidly as possible.

Witness said he was brought up at the borough court and eventually handed over to the West Riding police. While he was in witness's custody he made a statement.

Mr. Sykes said he must trouble their Worships with his first interruption in the case. He should object to anything said to the constable at the time he was speaking of on the ground that the legal gentlemen representing the Crown had thought fit to put an important question to the prisoner, and he said that the inducement or irregularity which attended that important question also affected this statement, because the second statement was practically an off-spring from the irregularity which led to the first. His authority was the Queen v. Doherty, an Irish case. Mr. Sykes then went into the facts of that case.

Mr. Fletcher said perhaps it would shorten this if he said that the examination of the witness was not concluded, and it was still quite competent for him to ask the witness any question as to what happened at the borough court. It was also quite open to him to make use of the particular piece of evidence to which Mr. Sykes had referred by means of another witness if he thought fit. He had not yet made any use of it, but if what he considered to be the proper evidence of the prosecution were to be interfered with he should exercise the right which he had not yet abandoned, and put in the first piece of evidence not as a confession of guilt by the prisoner but as a piece of evidence admissible against him.

Mr. Sykes said his friend had promised to take his evidence in chronological order, and he was therefore justified in thinking that he would not use that piece of evidence.

The Clerk thought Mr. Fletcher could certainly use it as an admission if not as a confession.

Mr. J.L. Sykes quoted a further case — the Queen v. Rosa Rue, and after some further discussion the clerk ruled that the evidence was admissible as an admission.

Witness, resuming, said, in answer to Mr. Fletcher, that he was in the borough court when the prisoner was brought up and heard the charge read to him.

Mr. Fletcher — Repeat the charge.

Mr. Sykes objected.

Mr. Fletcher said his position was this :— If he was at liberty, notwithstanding his friend's objection, to put in the voluntary statement made by the prisoner after he was removed from the borough court, he did not intend to go into what happened in the borough court.

The Clerk said the prisoner was then on his way to the County Police Court. He would suggest that Mr. Fletcher should leave the other matter alone, and not attempt to go any further than what was said in the cells.

Mr. Fletcher assented to this.

Witness resuming said the prisoner said "It is no use going so far round about it. I might as well get it over at once. It is all through drink. I was lying down on the seat and she kept pulling my hair." He then handed prisoner over to Superintendent Pickard.

Mr. Sykes — Was it the prisoner's mother who came to your house ? Yes, sir.

Had you or anyone else arranged with the prisoner's mother to give you or some other officer information if he went to their house? I do not know, sir, I had not.

To your knowledge had anyone else? Not to my knowledge.

Did you accompany Mrs. Stockwell home ? No sir, I followed her.

And you say when you entered the house you went straight upstairs without speaking to anyone ? I did, sir.

And the conversation you have detailed here took place at that time ? Yes.

He came quietly with you ? Oh, yes.

Was anyone with you in the cells under the Town Hall when this was said ? Yes, sir.

Who was that ? There was the prisoner ——

Certainly, he said it ?

And Detective-Inspector Wilks of the borough force.

You cautioned him going from his home? I cautioned him when I arrested him.

Witness added that he did not caution the prisoner in the cells. It was said quite voluntarily, and a few seconds after he got there.

The witness was not re-examined.

Superintendent Pickard said on Monday, September 7th, he received the prisoner from the borough authorities. He read the coroner's warrant produced to him. The prisoner made no reply. He was present subsequently when the prisoner was stripped in a cell underneath the court. He was covered all over with hay seeds, and his pockets and boots contained them.

Police Constable Stansfield, stationed at Milnsbridge, said his house was about 400 yards from Stockwell's. He had known him almost from childhood. He had lived in his present house since last Whitsuntide, and witness had seen him about. He did not see the prisoner about between the day of the murder and his arrest. He received instructions to watch the house, and during the time that he watched the house the prisoner did not return.

Sergeant McCawley, stationed at Golcar, deposed that he searched the prisoner's house at 12 o'clock on the night of the 21st, and at 10 o'clock next morning. The prisoner was not there. He stripped the prisoner in the cells, and found him literally covered with hay seeds, and his face in a very dirty condition.

Police Constable Webb said he had watched Stockwell's residence, and while he was watching the prisoner never came home. Witness gave details of the hours that he had watched.

Police Constable Evans, Police Constable Ashworth, and Police Constable Pitcher all gave evidence of a similar character.

Mr. Fletcher said this concluded the case for the prosecution.

Mr. Sykes — I say "Not guilty" to the charge. I am not going to open the case.

The Clerk then formally charged the prisoner.

Mr. Sykes — I, on behalf of the prisoner, reserve the defence. I call no witnesses.

The prisoner was then committed for trial at the assizes, and the witnesses were bound over, Superintendent Pickard to prosecute and give evidence, and the rest to give evidence at the assizes.

This concluded the proceedings, which had lasted about six hours.

A large crowd waited round the entrance to the West Riding Court after the hearing of the case was concluded, for the purpose of catching a sight of the prisoner. He was not however removed and as the people still remained about they were dispersed by the borough police, at between six or seven o'clock, or more than an hour after the case was finished. At a late hour on Monday night Stockwell was not removed, and it was then intended to remove him during the night.