Yorkshire Evening Post (24/Jan/1896) - A Huddersfield Mystery: Disappearance of a Paddock Man

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.




The disappearance of Mr. John Ralph Cuthbert, a gentleman about 50 years of age, reported in The Evening Post last night. is the subject of a good deal of speculation and interest in Huddersfield to-day. For very many years past Mr. Cuthbert has resided at Church Street, Paddock, coming there from Spring Wood, which is in the locality where he had married a Miss Smith, also a native of the vicinity. He had a family of two sons and a daughter, and some year? ago adopted an orphan niece, who had been taught no regard Mr. and Mrs. Cuthbert as her father and mother. All the members of the family are regular attendants at the Paddock Congregational Chapel, winch in next door to the house, and are regarded in that suburb of Huddersfield as a very quiet, respectable family. Mrs. Cuthbert has the reputation of being a very sympathetic lady, always ready to extend a helping hand to those in trouble or distress of any kind, and, in fact, all the members of the family are held in the highest respect by those who know them.

The disappearance of the head of the household a week ago to-day has been a sad blow, and the attendant circumstances are calculated to make their grief the more acute. For it appears that a young woman, who occupies a responsible position in Huddersfield, has for some time past been the recipient of letters containing suggestions of an improper nature. These were accompanied by pictures and sketches of a similar character. The writer finally suggested a meeting with his correspondent, and the latter, after communicating with the local police, arranged to meet him on Thursday evening last. Certain signals which were to be made by the young lady were arranged by the writer of the letters, and these were duly made. The letter-writer fell into the trap that had been arranged for him. He fulfilled his appointment, was confronted by a detective officer and conveyed to the police office. He there gave his name and address, and he was then allowed to depart. He gave the name of John Ralph Cuthbert, of 105, Church Street, Paddock.

On the same evening Mr. Cuthbert was present at a meeting at the Paddock Congregational School Room in connection with the elder ladies' sewing class. The husbands of the lady members of the class have been arranging to give a tea party a fortnight hence, and Mrs. Cuthbert being a prominent member, her husband was in attendance. According to the statement of a lady who was present he appeared to be in quite his usual health and spirits, and nothing singular was noticed in his demeanour. On the following morning he attended at the warehouse of Messrs. Barker & Woodhead, woollen merchants, of Huddersfield, where he was employed as a cashier, and fulfilled his duties without any change in his manner being noticed. At noon he went away, and has not been seen since.

It was thought that he was indisposed, but subsequently Mr. Sykes, a member of the firm, opened his drawers, and found in them a number of documents, including, it is said, a will, which he has taken possession of. The character of the documents found give the impression that Mr. Cuthbert intended to commit suicide, but the police are using their best endeavours to trace him.

Detective Inspector Wilks, of the Huddersfield Borough Police, in an interview with a representative of The Evening Post, said that no warrant, summons, or other legal step had been taken against Mr. Cuthbert by the young lady concerned. At the same time, he said, the police were endeavouring to trace his whereabouts just as they would that of any man reported missing, and there was a strong probability that if he was found the whole of the facts relating to the letters would be made public. It was impossible at the present juncture to say anything more as to the character of the letters or as to the information in the hands of the police authorities.

Subsequently a reporter called at the place where the young lady concerned is said to be employed, and saw her. In reply to a question she said that she did not wish to give any information to the representatives of the press.

Inquiries at Paddock show that Mr. and Mrs. Cuthbert were there held in the highest regard and esteem. Mr. Cuthbert is a deacon at the Congregational Chapel, and was for some time one of the superintendents at the Sunday school, a position which he was compelled to resign in consequence of ill-health. He continued to act as a teacher in the school, and was interested in every department of the work of the church. He lived next door to the school, and occasionally has occupied the pulpit for special services there. He was also, it is said, Good Templar, and a total abstainer. In fact, his whole character, both in church and in private life, was beyond reproach, and it has been a severe blow to Paddock people to find that his name was even mixed up with such a scandal as that which is now before the public. In his capacity as a Congregational church worker he was admirably supported by his wife and family, and the whole of the family have been universally esteemed.

Mrs. Cuthbert is the recipient of a good deal of public sympathy in her very sad trouble, not only because of the high esteem in which she is held for her many acts of kindness to the poor, the afflicted, and the suffering in the village, but because of the high character which her husband has always held.

The young woman knew nothing whatever of the man before his arrest.