Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (27/Feb/1896) - The Missing Huddersfield Man: Inquest at Holmfirth

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.



On Wednesday evening, Mr. Barstow, J.P., district coroner, held an inquest at the Shoulder of Mutton Inn, Holmfirth, touching the death of John Ralph Cuthbert (51), cashier, of Paddock, whose disappearance from home on the 17th ult., and the subsequent recovery of the body, has created much comment. Mr. Joe Quarmby was chosen foreman of the jury.

The first witness called was Thomas Archibald Cuthbert, woollen manager, Paddock, who stated that the deceased was his father, and was 51 years of age. Witness had resided with his father at Church Street, Paddock. The deceased was a bookkeeper and cashier for Messrs. Woodhead and Barker, Dundas Street, Huddersfield. Witness last saw him alive at eight p.m. on Thursday, the 16th of January, but deceased left home on the 17th at 8-30 a.m., and never returned.

The Coroner — Have you never heard from him ?

Witness — Of him, yes; but from him, no.

The Coroner — When?

Witness said that on the 22nd of January it was reported that he was seen at Honley. He was at his employers on the Friday at 12-20.

The Coroner — Well, we should have to put something down about this unfortunate letter.

Witness said there was no proof that he was the writer except his disappearance. It was stated he sent the letter during the early part of the week to a lady at Huddersfield, that she was totally unacquainted with him, and the matter was put into the hands of the police.

The Coroner — This does not affect the enquiry. It has been in the papers that he visited the lady, and there was a detective officer who met him.

Witness — That led to his arrest.

The Coroner — And he was taken to the Police Office ?

Witness said that was a mistake on the part of the papers. He gave his name to Detective Inspector Wilks, of Huddersfield, at once. The letter asked for a sign to be given whether it was agreeable or not. That sign was given and he went. A detective officer was there, and his father gave him his name and address.

The Coroner — You believe that is the sole reason of his disappearance ?

Witness—We know no other reason.

In further evidence witness said deceased had been bookkeeper for the firm of Messrs. Woodhead and Barker for 30 years.

The Coroner — How do you account for him writing such a letter ?

Witness — The only possible reason is aberration of mind.

The Coroner asked witness if he had lately noticed anything peculiar in his manner ?

Witness replied not to a remarkable degree. His brother and he had noticed that he did not lately concentrate his thought on a subject, and in argument had not been so effective as usual. They had remarked on that before this occurred. He did not seem to have the concentration of thought he was remarkable for. His father was an expert swimmer.

Herbert Beaumont, aged 18, said he resided at Hey Top, Wooldale. On Saturday, at 10 minutes past three, he was spreading manure on land near the reservoir when he found an umbrella (produced) and a man's overcoat on the bank of Holmestyes Reservoir, Holmfirth. The umbrella was laid on a stone about six yards from the edge of the water, and the overcoat was laid on the ground beside it. It had been thrown down, not folded up. He looked round to see if he could see anyone, and he saw no one. He then took the articles home, and went and informed Police Constable Baker of the matter. He had only just gone to the place, and he saw no one about. He had not been at that place for the previous two months. The coat was a bit wet.

The Coroner — They did not look as if they had been put there that day ?

Witness — No, sir.

The umbrella was examined, and several of the jury expressed the opinion that the silver would keep its colour for some time. There was no name on the umbrella.

Police Constable James Barker said that on the previous Saturday, at about 3-40, Beaumont brought the information about finding the articles on the bank. He went up and made a search, but could not find anything. He got the clothes in his possession and took them to the inspector's office. He made further enquiries, but could get no further information. On the Sunday following he and the inspector went to the reservoir and made a further search, and they found a hat floating on the water side. On the Monday he and Police Constable Battye went to the reservoir and commenced dragging. About five p.m. witness brought the body to the top, and it was conveyed to the Shoulder of Mutton Hotel. The body appeared to have been in the water a week or two, judging from its appearance. The coat and umbrella on the side were in a sheltered position under the hedge.

A Juryman — How is it the coat and umbrella are in such good condition and the body has been in the water so long ?

Inspector Calcraft — We don't know that.

Police Constable Batty — It is a place where they could be a month and no one find them.

Police Constable Barker — It is a place which is not frequented. He had his legs tied, and his hands were tied behind his back.

Witness described how the hands were fastened by means of a slip knot.

The Coroner observed that that was not a knot ; it was a fastening. Many had asked him how a man could tie his hands behind him.

Inspector Calcraft gave the coroner particulars as to the contents of the pockets, and Police Constable Barker produced a quantity of thick twine which he took out of the trousers' pocket, and was similar to that used to tie the hands and legs.

Police Constable Barker also added that he had several times seen the deceased fishing last summer at the place, where the overcoat was found.

Mrs. Hannah Battye stated that she was the wife of Andrew Battye, Holmfirth. She assisted to lay out the body. She saw no injuries nor marks of violence on the body.

The Coroner — The fishes had not been nibbling ?

Witness said just a little on the inside of his hands ; his face was not at all disfigured.

The Coroner observed that there appeared no doubt but that the deceased committed suicide.

The Foreman said the fact that the legs and hands were fastened was accounted for by the reason that he was an expert swimmer.

The Coroner said the important question was the state of his mind. They had no evidence that he had been seen since the 16th ult. The son could only account for the action of deceased to mental aberration.

Thomas A. Cuthbert was recalled, and said that his father went to see the lady on Thursday, the 16th.

In reply to the foreman, witness stated that his father had made a will on the forenoon before he went out, but the will was not witnessed, although it is signed. They thought that pointed to his mind being unhinged, as he would know the will was of no use.

The jury returned a verdict of "Found drowned in Holmestyes Reservoir without mark of violence, and had drowned himself, but there was no evidence to show the state of his mind at the time."

In the early part of the enquiry one of the jurymen was taken ill, and the two reporters present were sworn in and the evidence was proceeded with.