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Sun Inn Murders 100 Years "the Whole Story"

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Yes its 100 years on April 15th.

The murders that shook not only Bedlington, but the country.

Two policemen and the incoming landlady died at the hands of John Vickers Amos.

What do you know about the murders ?

I will tell you the whole story, bit by bit in this forum and conclude with what i know after many years of research.

If you can add to this story please do so.

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The Sun Inn at Bedlington in Northumberland stands on the south side of Front Street West, between the Community Centre and Elliot's Garage, on the embankment overlooking the ancient cross in the Market Place.

This was to be the place where one of the most terrible tragedies took place in the County of Northumberland, in the afternoon of Tuesday April 15th 1913, when three people were murdered. The owner and licensee of the property at that time was Mr. James Wood Irons of Newcastle. Mr. Irons engaged as Manager on, January 27th, 1913, John Vickers Amos, also known by the patrons of the Inn as "Jocker.†Amos was eventually tried for the murders.

Amos was born in 1878, and married in 1899, he had three children at the time of the murders, the oldest being twelve years and the youngest three. He worked for a few years as a miner at Linton, in the county of Northumberland, a few miles from Bedlington. During October 1912 owing to ill health in the United States he returned to his native district where he was well known and highly respected, with between £300 and £400 in money he had saved whilst overseas.

He had been to America four times, and during the last seven years leading up to the murders he had worked in Alabama. During his time overseas he first worked as a miner, then as a foreman. The latter part of time he was in America, namely June and July 1912, where he was involved in two extensive explosions of coal gas below ground. The first one on June 20th, resulted in two men being killed and fourteen severely burned. Amos himself received burns going back into the scene of the explosion three times, rescuing two of the injured men. He was himself laid up for three weeks. The effects of the explosion and the injuries he received affected his health very badly. He suffered from severe pains in the head which affected his sleep, and made him very nervous

The second explosion about a month later killed eight men, and left many seriously burned, Amos himself was blown about fifteen yards but was not burned, he subsequently had to be carried out that day. The results on his health were the same as the first explosion but with added effects, as he suffered from memory loss. One night he was told he had slept in a field, although he did not recall the event..

The Sun Inn was completely refurbished and rebuilt a short while before these horrific murders, by the owner, James Wood Irons, who was also a commercial traveler. Irons, who resided at 48 Devonshire Terrace, Newcastle, employed Amos as his Manager on January 27th 1913. The terms of his employment were such that he was to receive thirty shillings a week, plus five per cent. Amos was to pay all the expenses for cleaning purposes. There was a deposit of £30 from Amos. The owner had a habit of visiting the premises on regular periods to see how the business was being run. On February 28th the owner visited the Inn and did a stock check with Amos. The invoices were then passed on to the stocktaker who made up the accounts. After the stock take was made out it was noticed that there was a shortage of £7.5s.6d. Sixteen days later on March 16th another stock take was carried out with a deficit of £21.11s.3d.

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Irons spoke to Amos about this shortage and Amos said that Irons had received every penny due to him. Irons then said "Amos I am not blaming you for taking the money, and I am not blaming Mrs. Amos; but you are the Manager, and are responsible.†Amos replied "That is quite right; just what I would do myself if I were in your place.†Irons then went on to say that they were making a hole in their bond. Mrs. Amos then said "I am going to have a stocktaker of my own.†with this Irons replied "Any stocktaker will do for me, provided he is a professional stocktaker.†Finally an arrangement was made for a stocktaker to come on April 6th, but he never turned up. Irons was present on that day with his stocktaker, Mr. Jack Sylvester, who went through the stock with Amos. Shortly after that Irons got a statement from Mr. Sylvester, which showed a deficiency of £17.2s.8d, in three weeks, and he then made up his mind that he must dismiss Amos, and wrote to him to that effect, pointing out that there was a total deficiency of £45.19s.5d.

Irons then decided to approach Richard Grice of Seghill, to take over the management on April 15th. On Tuesday April 15th, Irons went to the Sun Inn at 11 am. When he entered he said to Amos, "Good morning†and Amos replied, "Is it true that I am finished here.†Irons said "Yes you have guessed right.†Amos was then said to say something to the effect of, "We will see who is boss here,†and asked about his bond. Irons said they would see about that when they got the stock adjusted, and they commenced to take the stock. Irons then went to the Police Station to let him know about the altercation with Amos. He returned to the Inn and continued to take stock. Mrs. Amos then came in, she was rather excited, and said to Irons, "What about the bond ?.†He told her that he would see about the bond when the stock was taken. Around thirty minutes passed when Irons noticed Mrs. Amos had a Winchester rifle in her hands. Amos said to her "Where are you going with that gun ?.†She replied, "Mrs. Richardson wants to do some practice shooting with it.†Amos said "That gun is not going out of this house.†The gun was then taken upstairs again. Irons later went to the railway station, where he met Mr. And Mrs. Grice. The Grice's were accompanied by Mrs. Craggs, who's husband managed the Beehive Inn at Seghill. It was also the Cragg's who had recommended the Grice family to Mr. Irons. The Grice family came by the 11.35 am train, and had arrived at Bedlington about noon, Irons then went to Bedlington with them. Some time after noon, Amos's son, George, was given half a crown by his father to buy a box of cartridges. He then went to Joyce the Sadler's, which was situated across the road, and was served by Mr J Oliver, who charged him 2s. 4,1/2d. Irons and his company went to the Sun Inn and Irons began to take stock, he then told Mr Grice to take possession, as the stock then belonged to him. Amos then said, "I'll —– soon let you know who is boss here.†He made his way upstairs saying, "I'll clear the —— lot.†Irons then made his way out of the building and went straight to the Police Station for help. When he returned he asked Amos if he had cooled down, and Amos said he had. Amos then gave Irons all the loose cash, but there was no report sheet, and Amos went upstairs. Mrs Amos was then called upstairs by her husband, he came down a short time later and handed over the report sheet to Irons. The report showed takings for the Sunday at, £1. 3s. 6d, and £1 for Monday. This Amos said was correct. Irons then returned a sum of money to Amos, being a percentage, and money in lieu of notice. Irons then asked Amos to remove his furniture into the club room until he could get a house, and so allow the new tenant to get in.

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Amos replied, "Give me five minutes breath.†Irons and the others went into the cellar to initiate Mr Grice into the business. A few minutes later Irons heard a woman shouting that murder was going on upstairs, and two shots were heard, Irons went to the smoke room and saw Mrs Craggs, who told him something, which resulted in him rushing out of the door and going straight to the police station.

The first officer to arrive at the scene was P.C. Mussell. He went into the Inn and had not been in more than two minutes when two shots were heard. The shots were clearly heard and attracted the attention of several young men who were standing in the street talking to each other. Sgt Barton was only about ten yards away and he too heard the shots and instantly began to proceed up the steep pathway leading from Front Street to the Inn. The Sergeant went to the back door followed by J. W. Young, J. Morris and George McQueen, suddenly as the seargeant disappeared around the corner the rear of the premises. Mrs. Grice was seen at one of the upstairs windows in great distress. She cried out piteously, "Oh, hinnies, save me, save me.†Then at that moment Amos came out of the front door armed with a Winchester repeating rifle. Witnesses said that he looked quite rational in every way, except that he wore no hat and was without his jacket. Amos then said to Young "Now git,†and placed the rifle to his shoulder. A man named Wilson who had also arrived on the scene said to Amos, "Don't shoot me, Jocker,†but Amos replied to him "Git.†As they retreated, Amos then aimed the rifle at the upstairs window where Mrs. Grice was still looking out of, she imediately stepped back and dissapeared from his view. Amos then re-entered the building and encountered Sgt. Barton. Amos was then heard say to the Sergeant, "Get out of the way,†and then "Well, if you will have it,†this remark was then followed by the sound of a rifle being fired. Sadly the officer was hit in the breast, and died. He was found lying in a large pool of blood in a passage. Mrs. Grice was found in the cellar about an hour later, with one side of her face almost blown away by the rifle. She was still alive when she was found, but there was no hope in saving her, and she eventually died from her injuries.

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Meantime strange things were happening outside the inn. Amos reappeared still carrying the rifle, two or three people decided to venture up to Amos and request him to give the rifle up, but he declined and threatened to shoot if they did not leave him alone. In a short time around 200 people had gathered opposite the inn and Amos continued to watch them in a remarkably cool way. On one occasion he placed the rifle on the ground , took a cigarette from his vest pocket , lighted it, and after picking up the weapon, began to smoke the cigarette quite complacently. Then twice after this he placed the rifle to his head and shouted "I still have two cartridges; one for that —— (meaning Mr Irons), and I am keeping one for myselfâ€.

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A friend of mine, as his college project, made a short film about this.I'll see if I can get a copy.

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The Sun Inn at Bedlington in Northumberland stands on the south side of Front Street West, between the Community Centre and Elliot's Garage, on the embankment overlooking the ancient cross in the Market Place.

This was to be the place where one of the most terrible tragedies took place in the County of Northumberland, in the afternoon of Tuesday April 15th 1913, when three people were murdered. The owner and licensee of the property at that time was Mr. James Wood Irons of Newcastle. Mr. Irons engaged as Manager on, January 27th, 1913, John Vickers Amos, also known by the patrons of the Inn as "Jocker.†Amos was eventually tried for the murders.

Amos was born in 1878, and married in 1899, he had three children at the time of the murders, the oldest being twelve years and the youngest three. He worked for a few years as a miner at Linton, in the county of Northumberland, a few miles from Bedlington. During October 1912 owing to ill health in the United States he returned to his native district where he was well known and highly respected, with between £300 and £400 in money he had saved whilst overseas.

He had been to America four times, and during the last seven years leading up to the murders he had worked in Alabama. During his time overseas he first worked as a miner, then as a foreman. The latter part of time he was in America, namely June and July 1912, where he was involved in two extensive explosions of coal gas below ground. The first one on June 20th, resulted in two men being killed and fourteen severely burned. Amos himself received burns going back into the scene of the explosion three times, rescuing two of the injured men. He was himself laid up for three weeks. The effects of the explosion and the injuries he received affected his health very badly. He suffered from severe pains in the head which affected his sleep, and made him very nervous

The second explosion about a month later killed eight men, and left many seriously burned, Amos himself was blown about fifteen yards but was not burned, he subsequently had to be carried out that day. The results on his health were the same as the first explosion but with added effects, as he suffered from memory loss. One night he was told he had slept in a field, although he did not recall the event..

The Sun Inn was completely refurbished and rebuilt a short while before these horrific murders, by the owner, James Wood Irons, who was also a commercial traveler. Irons, who resided at 48 Devonshire Terrace, Newcastle, employed Amos as his Manager on January 27th 1913. The terms of his employment were such that he was to receive thirty shillings a week, plus five per cent. Amos was to pay all the expenses for cleaning purposes. There was a deposit of £30 from Amos. The owner had a habit of visiting the premises on regular periods to see how the business was being run. On February 28th the owner visited the Inn and did a stock check with Amos. The invoices were then passed on to the stocktaker who made up the accounts. After the stock take was made out it was noticed that there was a shortage of £7.5s.6d. Sixteen days later on March 16th another stock take was carried out with a deficit of £21.11s.3d.

I posted these last year:

Dark Day for Bedlington.mp3

The Bedlington Murders.doc

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While this was being witnessed by a horrified crowd, word was sent to the police station where Inspector Culley realised the seriousness of the position, got on the phone to neighbouring districts requesting assistance. Police officers were sent by train from Blyth, by motor from Morpeth, with others coming from Choppington, Ashington, and other outlying districts. The Chief Constable of the County, Captain Fullarton James, arrived in a motor car. Supt Marshall of Morpeth also travelled by motor car with six or seven officers accompanying him. Supt Tough reached the village on a motor cycle and other officers on push bikes.

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As soon as Amos saw the police officers beginning to move into the area, he changed his tactics . He suddenly went to the rear of the premises and fired two shots, one of which evidently struck the back door, he then made his escape into the fields. This was to result in a manhunt that would last for about three hours.

In the meantime reinforcements were quickly arriving from neighbouring districts to assist in the hunt for Amos. Police officers were armed with revolvers and a few civilians were armed with rifles. The officers in charge were Chief Constable Fullerton James, Supt Jas Tough, who had charge of Bedlington, and Supt Marshall. Orders were then passed on to throw a cordon around the fields in which Amos had made his escape, this was done swiftly. The whole countryside all the way to Netherton Moor was scoured by the search party, but the capture of the murderer was looking unlikely as darkness was setting in fast.

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His discovery and arrest came in dramatic fashion, just as many of the searchers were losing hope in finding him. Mr Joseph Potter a civilian, armed with a gun, who lived at Netherton Lane, was searching the neighbourhood of Church Lane, when his attention was directed to a culvert underneath the roadway. An open runner from the village is formed into a culvert to pass under the Church Lane on it's way to the river. The culvert was about 2 ft. 6 inches high and 2 ft wide, it was approximately 400 yards from the Sun Inn, good cover was provided by a high hedge and a deep channel of the runner to the culvert. Mr Potter peered into the culvert and believed he had seen something like a man crouching inside. Potter shouted into the culvert for the man to come out, but no one answered back, so Mr Potter discharged a couple of shots into the culvert. Amos then cried out in pain and crawled out bleeding from injuries to his head. In a token of surrender he held both his hands up, and said "what is the matter.†Inspector Culley then went into the culvert and retrieved Amos's gun. Amos was then taken into custody by Inspector Hutchison, of Blyth, assisted by, P. C. Scott, also of Blyth, and headed by Inspector Culley, carrying the gun, a singular procession was formed, hundreds of men, women, and children following in it's wake.

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Amos, with blood streaming down his face, firmly held by police officers on either side, presented a pitiful spectacle. On arriving at the police station, it was found that he was suffering from gunshot wounds in the head, which required medical attention. The services of Dr Saccho, Choppington, Dr Howarth, Bedlington, and Dr Hudson, Netherton, were requested, and they succeeded in removing some of the pellets from Amos's head, his injuries were not considered serious. It was expected that Amos would recover sufficiently enough to be charged with the murders of the three unfortunate victims.

The bodies of the deceased were kept overnight at the Sun Inn, under the charge of PC Dixon, of Bedlington. Inspector Culley decided to make another visit to the Inn during the evening, and while there he discovered another gun.

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Of the dead officers, Sergt Barton was one of the most respected officers in Northumberland County Constabulary. He had only another five years service to put in before qualifying for a pension. He came to Bedlington, decorated as a hero by the late, King George VII, for his heroic act at the wreck of the vessel, Ian McTavish. He left a greater hero, still heroism which too often meets with the reward, so little merited death. Nevertheless, even in death the fact that the Sergeant fulfilled his duty as an officer of the law to the very last would have been little solace to the grief stricken widow and two children. A little of the heroism which he displayed at the Sun Inn has been unfolded, but it is generally recognised that he played the man's part and did what he considered his duty towards those whom he had sworn to protect. He was said to be a most obliging officer, neither was he inclined towards procuring convictions, and he gained for himself that which is to be treasured, the respect and esteem of all with whom he came into contact. His death would have been deeply deplored by countless people.

post-1337-0-12407500-1362530234_thumb.jp

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Yes its 100 years on April 15th.

The murders that shook not only Bedlington, but the country.

Two policemen and the incoming landlady died at the hands of John Vickers Amos.

What do you know about the murders ?

I will tell you the whole story, bit by bit in this forum and conclude with what i know after many years of research.

If you can add to this story please do so.

(Please note this story and pics are copyright) Don't use without permission please

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P. C. Mussell was a trustworthy, capable officer, who was destined for speedily promotion. Of splendid physique, he was said to be an attraction in himself. Although his muscular propensities may have stood him good stead in times of difficulty, he was never the one to take advantage of anyone. Sadly he was only married just over a year, and to his young widow every sympathy would have been felt. Both the officers resided at the Bedlington Police Station. Mr Grice was also in a state of shock, he was in another part of the house when the tragedy occurred. He only saw his wife after she had been shot.

(This is a very interesting letter)

The vicar of Bedlington, The Rev R J Pearce, wrote to the, Blyth News and Wansbeck Telegraph, over his concerns from the tragedy. He wrote, The recent tragedy at Bedlington seems to lend special force to cry, often heard before and unheeded, that our police force ought to be allowed the protection of firearms in the execution of their duty. As the law now stands, the vilest of criminal, the man who from youth up has never learned to control his passions, the most unscrupulous evildoer, is permitted to carry deadly weapons unquestioned. But those who have to preserve our lives and property from felonious assaults are absolutely forbidden the needful protection against fatal attacks. Surely this state of things ought to be remedied and remedied at once. (An argument which is still ongoing today )

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At a special court held at Bedlington on, Wednesday, April 16th, in the afternoon, John Amos was formally charged with unlawfully killing and murdering, George Bertram Mussell, Thomas Barton and Sarah Grice. The magistrates were Messrs. J. G. Weeks (chairman), Ald. A. Fairbairn and John Caine. There were not less than seventeen newspaper correspondents present. Amos was assisted to his place in the dock.

His head was swathed in bandages from the injuries he had sustained while being arrested. Amos watched the proceedings silently, and listened intently as Supt Tough stated the main facts against him. Supt Tough remarked that he would give, shortly, some of the facts of that unfortunate charge. He went on to say that he had been instructed by the Chief Constable to ask to be allowed to express the sincere Sympathy of the Chief Constable with the deceased officers families, and he had wished him particularly to say that the Chief Constable had not been at all surprised at the manner in which Sgt Barton and P.C. Mussell had behaved in face of what would afterwards be detailed in face of a man with a gun and the possibility of their being shot. Their previous actions in the force would justify him in expecting they would have acted as they had done. Supt Tough proceeded to state that perhaps he might be allowed to express the Chief Constables sympathy with the deceased woman's relations and personally the whole of the force in the North of England would endorse the sentiments he had expressed.

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With regards to the facts of the case, it would appear that John Amos had been Manager of the Sun Inn at Bedlington which was owned by a Newcastle gentleman Mr Wood Irons, the defendant acting as Manager for some months. It had been Mr Irons duty to look after the stock, and they would find from the facts when the case was gone into fully that there had been little matters of difference in regard to the stock, and Mr Irons had come to the conclusion he would have to alter the management, and on the previous day he had brought in Mr Grice to take over the management in the place of the prisoner, who was to be given a week's salary . Some little things happened which had not suited the prisoner, and from words that passed, Mr Irons deemed it advisable to seek police protection.

On Tuesday afternoon, the prisoner's conduct was such that Mr Irons requested P .C. Mussell to accompany him to the public house and P. C. Mussell did so, and for a time it seemed there would have been no trouble at all. Everything was going smoothly evidently.

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Then there was shooting and Mr Irons ran out of the house and sought the services of Sgt Barton, who came to the public house and went in. What happened exactly no one could tell. Sgt Barton went to the rear of the premises, and whilst there a witness saw the prisoner in the back gate with a gun in his hand. That witness had tried to persuade the prisoner to put the gun down. The Prisoner refused and threatened the civilian, then Sgt Barton appeared at the back gate coming from the inside. The witness heard the prisoner tell Sgt Barton if he took another step he would shoot him. The Sergeant lifted his left foot to take a step and the prisoner deliberately fired at the Sgt. Afterwards the witness entered the house and found the bodies. In another part of the public house the body of Mrs Grice was found. Mrs Grice was going to take over the house and was in the act of descending the cellar in the bar when she was shot by the prisoner. With the consent of the Bench , the Supt said he would call evidence of arrest and that of another officer, and asked that prisoner be remanded until April 22nd.

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