Jump to content

Recommended Posts

It's a distant branch of my family, but I have come across this report for the murder of Mary Ann Swann

LONDON Oct 20th

The story of the Bedlington (Northumberland) tragedy was told when the inquest was resumed on the body of MARY ANN SWANN, 72, who was found with her throat cut and head injured, in a cottage at Hirst Head Farm, Bedlington, where she lived.

A miner named George Smith is in custody on a charge of murdering the woman.

Evidence was given that Smith was seen near the farm house about midnight on August 25. He accosted a domestic servant named Mary Brown and threatened to murder her. Next morning the deceased's nephew, who keeps the farm, found the old lady dead in the kitchen. She had been outraged.

A woman named Plant, who was living in Smith's house, said Smith came home on the Sunday morning at 4.40am. He washed his trousers, socks and shirt. The water in which they were washed was as though blood had been in it. She saw a blood-mark on Smith's right foot. Imprints of stockinged feet were discovered in the farm cottage. Blood was found on Smith's clothing.

The jury returned a verdict of "wilful murder" against Smith, who was committed for trial.

Police Station at Blyth 27th August 1906

Police officers report to coroner concerning death.

Name : Mary Anne Swann

Age : 72 Years

Occupation : Spinster

Address of deceased : Hirst Head Farm Cottage

Found dead at 11:30am on 26th August 1906.

Seen Dr Manners after death. Body is now lying at Hirst Head Farm Cottage.

Cause of death : MURDER

The information of witnesses severally taken and acknowledged on behalf of our Sovereign land and King touching the death of Mary Ann Swann at the house known by the name of Court House at Bedlington in the county of Northumberland, on the twenty eighth day of August 1906 before me, Joseph Richard Davidson Lynn, Gentleman, one of His Majesty's Coroners for the said County, on an inquisition then and there taken on view of the body of the said Mary Ann Swann then and there lying dead (the said several witnesses having first duly sworn), as follows with :

John Carr Swann saith:-

I live at Hirst Head Farm, Bedlington. I identify the body viewed by the coroner and jury as that of my aunt Mary Ann Swann – She was a spinster. 72 years of age, residing at Hirst Head Farm aforesaid – she lived alone in the old house there – she was found dead in her house on Sunday morning last 26 August instant.

John C Swann

Inquest adjourned to Friday 14th day of September 1906 at 3pm. Jurors bound over in £10 each.

Henry J Rutherford

Deputy coroner

John Carr Swann recalled saith:-

On 26th August 1906 about 11:30am, from what I was told, I went to the deceased house – I obtained a ladder and I entered the house by her window of the west bedroom – it was in this bedroom my aunt slept - the bedroom window was closed but unfastened.

On entering the bedroom I found the bed disarranged, part of her bed clothes being on the floor and a quantity of blood upon them – I then went down stairs to the kitchen and saw my aunt lying upon a hearthrug in front of the fireplace – she was lying on her back in a pool of blood – there was a large wound in her throat, and she appeared to be dead, she was in her night dress.

I then sent for the police and Dr Morris.

John C Swann

George Crawford saith:-

I am a miner and I reside at Glebe Row, Bedlington. Smith is my brother in law.

On Saturday the 25th August 1906 about 6pm I entered the Black Bull Inn at Bedlington and saw Smith there.

Shortly after I left the Black Bull in company with Smith and we went to other public houses in Bedlington and had several drinks of beer, Smith paid for some of the beer, Smith became quarelsome in the Masons Arms and I got him out. I tried to get him to go home but he was very obstinate and refused to go, shortly after I left him, he appeared to be under of the influence of drink.

Geo Crawford

Mary Ellen Brown saith:-

I am a domestic servant in the employ of the witness Swann. I knew the deceased Miss Mary Ann Swann.

On Saturday the 25th August about 11:30pm I went to the deceased house and saw her there. I received a door key from her and she appeared to be in normal state of health. I said "Good night†to her and did not see her again.

Mary Ellen Brown

Sarah Bella Hay saith:-

I am a single woman and reside with my parents at 5 Hirst Terrace, Bedlington, near Hirst Head, Bedlington.

On Saturday the 25th August last about 10:15pm I was going from Bedlington to Hirst Head – When I got to the west entrance to the farm I saw a man dressed in a dark suit of clothes and wearing a light cap and whom I have since identified as George Smith in custody – He was standing against one of the gate posts. When I saw him I turned back and went a short distance towards Bedlington, as I did he shouted "Come on Miss, walk on†and then he sat down – I returned to the entrance and again saw Smith standing – as I passed him he rushed towards me with his arm out stretched, I said to him "I will bring a policeman if you dont let me pass†He then doubled his fist and said "You c***I will murder you†and "Come here Mary Anne or Mary Lizzie†I then went up to the avenue at a sharp pace and when half way up I met Joseph Gillespy – Smith then came forward and attempted to strike me, but Mr Gillespy closed with him and I went away – Smith appeared to be intoxicated.

Sarah B Hay

Joseph Gillespy saith:-

I am a farmer and reside at Broadway House, Bedlington.

On Saturday 25th August last between 10:15 and 10:30pm I was standing half way up the west entrance to Hirst Head farmstead when I heard a noise in the direction of the highway – the witness Sarah Bella Hay then came hurrying towards me and a man who I have since identified as George Smith following her – when Smith came forward he pushed against me and made as if to strike me – I closed with him and we both fell to the ground, I got up and went away leaving him there. He appeared to me to be intoxicated.

J Gillespy

Herbert Edward White saith:-

I reside and keep a refreshment place at Vulcan Place, Bedlington.

On Saturday the 25th August last between 10:45 and 11pm a man whom I have since identified as George Smith, now in custody, came into my house and bought a pie and a plate of peas giving me 2d for them – after eating the pies and peas he asked for another, I gave him a pie and he said "I have no money but i will come back tomorrow and give you the money, they call me George Smith, every body knows me, i used to live in this shop†He was attempting to put the pie in his inside jacket pocket, I took it out and found it to contain a black happed razor similar to this one now shown to me – I returned the razor and case to Smiths pocket.

Mr H E White

Thomas Hemstead saith:-

I am a miner and reside at No 4 Millbank Crescent, Bedlington – My house is about 100 yards from where the deceased resides.

About 6:30pm on Saturday 25th August last I fastened my back yard door also the ashpit door which leads into the yard – I then went out for the evening and returned home about 11 o'clock about half an hour afterwards I looked at both doors – I then went into my kitchen which adjoins the yard and sat there a few minutes when I heard a slight noise at the kitchen window, I went into the yard, struck a match and saw George Smith moving away from the window – I got hold of him and said "What do you mean by being in here?†He said "Do you know me?†I got to the yard door and unbolted it. Smith then went out of the yard and as he passed me he drew his fist and struck me on the chest - I closed with Smith and flung him to the ground – He got up and I struck him in the face – I closed with him a second time and again struck him. He still continued to fight and I let him up and he went away.

In going away he shouted "I'm George Smith and I dont care for any c*** in the place†I then saw Smith go into the direction of the school masters house which leads in the direction of the Hirst Head Farmstead – He was under the influence of drink.

Thomas Hempsted

Christina Binks saith:-

I am a married woman and reside at the Gas Works, Bedlington.

My house is situated about 400 yards from the west entrance of Hirst Head farmstead.

On Saturday night 25th August 1906 at 11oclock I had occasion to leave my house and went out by the back door leaving it open.

I returned in a few minutes and heard a noise in the scullery. I looked there and saw a man dressed in dark clothes and wearing a light cap – I ran out of the house and on returning with my husband the man was gone.

I was afterwards taken to the police station at Blyth and shown several men – I identified George Smith now in custody as the man I found in my scullery on the night of the 25th August last.

Christina Binks

Mary Plant saith:-

I am the wife of William Plant of Cowpen Village.

On Saturday the 25th August last I went to reside at 52 Clive Street, Cowpen Way, Blyth with George Smith and his wife at 9am.

Smith was in his house when I went and told him I had had a disturbance with my husband. - He remarked "Well Im sorry I cant send for a gill of beer as I have no money†about noon on the same day I saw Smith dress himself in a dark suit of clothes and a very light coloured cap – He said to his wife "Im going to Bedlington to see my mother you had better give me something Jennie. I can not go to Bedlington with nothing†He then went to the top of the desk bed and I saw him take 2/4 from it – He left the house and I did not see him again that day. About 4:40am the following day I was awakened by Smith knocking at the house door – I know that was the time as I had looked at the clock – His wife let him in and I heard him in the room – Mrs Smith went into bed and shortly after I heard Smith making a scraping noise as if he was scraping clothing – I fell asleep shortly afterwards – When I awoke Smith was in bed asleep.

About 9am I noticed he was in the act of getting up. I said to him "Are you getting up already†and he replied "I cannit sleep†and he got out of bed and put on a different pair of trousers to the ones he had been wearing on Saturday – He washed himself and left his shirt sleeves rolled up – He had some tea, but would not eat anything. He took a shirt off the clothes line and went to the stairhead closing the door behind him – He then took a clothes brush and the jacket and vest which he wore on the Saturday down stairs and I heard him brushing them - He returned, wrapped the jacket and vest in brown paper, put them in box and placed another box on top of the box containing the clothing – Shortly after I heard him washing the trousers in a pail of water on the stairhead – He had only 2 pairs of pants, the pair he was wearing and the pair he wore on Saturday – I also saw him washing his blue socks – He hung the socks over the oven door – When he finished washing them he said to me "You know our Jennie will do anything for me†shortly afterwards I saw the trousers hanging on the line in the cellar downstairs – They looked as if they had just been washed.

I noticed the water Smith had been using for washing – It was a red colour.

He was engaged washing and cleaning his Saturdays clothing and going from the room upstairs to the room down stairs until between 1 & 2pm – He then had dinner and sent his wife for a pint of beer giving her a 2p piece to pay for it – later on he gave me a 6th piece to go for another pint of beer, which I did – I also saw him give two of his children a penny each.

He then went to bed and got up again about 4pm and washed himself – He was barefooted and I saw him take a wet flannel and rub one foot – He then came and sat down at the fireplace opposite side to me – He had one leg crossed over the other and I had noticed that one foot (I think it was the right one) stained as if with blood – I did not say anything to him about it – Whilst talking Smith said "What time was it when i came n? , I think it was about 2 o'clock†I said (referring to the previous morning) "Aye there it was 20 minutes to 5†- He made no reply. Smith had a black eye that day – He had not this on the Saturday.

I was present in Smiths house when Mrs Smith handed a jacket and vest to Sgt Metcalf and I saw the Sgt take the trousers off the line and afterwards saw him receive 2 shirts and a hanker chief from Mrs Smith in the empty room.

I also noticed that the sleeves on one of the shirts had been partly washed.

The suit now shown to me is the one Smith was wearing the Saturday.

Mary Plant

X Her mark

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 53
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Here is the complete story of the murder at Hirst Head Farm. Hope this gives a good insight into it.

Any extra information would be great if anyone has any.

A terrible murder took place at Hirst Head Farm, Bedlington, between August 25th and August 26th, 1906, when the body of seventy two year old, Miss Mary Ann Swann was discovered. Her home was originally the farm house at Hirst Head, but some years previously a new and larger house was built on an adjoining site and the older building became available solely for the use of Miss Swann, who lived alone. Her father Mr. Robert Swann was a member of one of the best known families amongst agriculturists in the North. For generations the Swann's had carried out their business as farmers and butchers in Bedlington and other East Northumberland districts. After her father died she lived with her brother Robert, who sadly died in June 1899. The management of the farm then passed on to Mr. John Carr Swann, a nephew of the deceased lady.

Miss Swann was last seen alive at about 11.30 pm on Saturday August 25th, when she was about to retire for the night. John Swann who lived in the larger house, heard no unusual sounds to arise his fears for the safety of Miss Swann on the Saturday night. However it was Mr. Swann's maidservant, Ellen Brown, who last saw Mary alive on the Saturday night. Miss Swann did not put in her usual appearance about the farm on Sunday morning, and at 11.30 am, Mr. J. Swann and the farm steward, Mr. Robert Richardson, made their way into the house by the use of a ladder after having vainly attempted to get an answer.

A shocking spectacle then presented itself before their eyes. Miss Swann was lying in a pool of blood near the fireplace in the kitchen, clothed only in her nightdress, and there was an ugly wound to her throat, having apparently been inflicted by some sharp instrument. A razor was discovered a short distance away from where the body lay. The disordered state of the house pointed in the direction that Miss Swann had been murdered in a brutal fashion.

Her bedroom was upstairs and this and other rooms in the house had been evidently ransacked. There was both money and jewelry to a considerable amount in the house at the time. However it was assumed that the murderer failed to notice all this as both money and valuables were found untouched in the house after the murder was committed. All that lay on the floor was two empty purses.

Mr. Swann summoned Dr. Morris of Bedlington to the house, but it was to no avail as it was discovered the woman had been dead some hours. Next, Police Sergeant Metcalfe, who was in charge of Bedlington Police Station was notified of the murder, who subsequently notified Supt. James Tough, the chief of Blyth Police Division, and investigations were immediately set underway to trace the person responsible for this terrible crime.

During investigations neighbours would tell the police of a mans odd behaviour the night before. One name kept cropping up whenever the police questioned someone. That of George Smith. With this information Sergt. Metcalfe traveled to the home of George Smith who resided at Clive Street, Cowpen Quay, Blyth. He arrived there at 9.30 pm on the 26th August, and found Smith, drunk and sporting a black eye sitting by the fire in the kitchen. The sergeant then apprehended Smith.

George Smith was then taken to the Police Station, and after cautioning him, Sergt. Metcalfe charged him on suspicion of having murdered Miss Swann. Smith, who had a history of mental illness sat shaking his head, then made some rambling statements which were recorded by Sergt. Metcalfe. These were as follows: "Me murder a woman. ? I had a fight last night in Bedlington when I was coming home. I walked into a tree at Banktop, and that made the black eye, and I have had the toothache ever since. It might be a labourer's woman, a shoemaker's woman, a pitman's woman, or a farmer's woman; I cannot tell. I went to Bedlington to see my mother yesterday, and I have never murdered anybody. Murder a woman sergeant ?. Why, no man. You know me. Why, you are a funny bastard, but you have got the wrong 'un this time, but, mind, there's very few funnier bastards than me. I'm a queer one. You know I didn't steal the clock. It was a New Years clock, but I had to pay for the bastard all the same. Did you say murder, sergeant ? Murder, ? murder, ?murder.? Why, no, man. I was at Bedlington seeing my mother, mind. Yes, I was at Bedlington.â€

The following day the sergeant cautioned Smith, and charged him with the murder of Miss Swann. Smith who was sober by this time, replied, "I knaa nowt aboot it, lad.â€

When the case got to court, shocking medical evidence from doctors would be told. Police evidence, and bizarre stories would unfold from witnesses linking Smith to the murder.

One witness was Smith's brother, William, who was a hairdresser, and ran a barber shop in Bedlington. He gave his evidence and was seen to be full of emotion. Beginning his evidence he stated that on the afternoon of the Saturday in question his brother called at his shop to pick up an old razor and case which he had left with him some three weeks previously to be set. He shaved his brother with the razor, and three other men, his brother then paid him for it. His brother was sober, but struck him as being strange in his manner. He asked him to go with him for a drink, but he reminded his brother as to where he had been, (referring to a period in the Asylum,) and he told his brother that he ought not to take any drink. His brother said to him that drink did him good and kept him right. William remarked that he better go home to his wife. His brother then sat in the shop for about ten minutes, and was quite quiet before leaving. The next time he saw his brother was while he was attending a customer, about an hour and a half later coming out of a public house on the opposite side of the street, and it struck him then that his brother had an awful look.

Smith's brother in law, George Crawford, was next to give evidence. He gave a good account of the movements of Smith as he was with him for about three hours during the evening. Mr. Crawford, met up with Smith at about 6.00 pm, on the Saturday night, when he went to the Black Bull Inn, Bedlington. They had about two glasses of beer, and left to go to the Turks Head, where they had several glasses of beer.

Next they went to the Mason's Arms, which was the last pub they visited. They had several drinks together before the drink was stopped. The manager approached him and asked if he would get Smith out, which he did. Smith had paid his turn at the Turk's Head, but did not always do so, but paid for some. When they left the pub Smith, grabbed him by the collar when asked to go to his mothers, but would not as he wanted more drink. He then left Smith, at 9.00 pm.

How Saturday night began for Smith on August 25th can be interpreted by the evidence given by Mrs. Mary Plant of Cowpen Village. She stated that owing to having some disturbance with her husband, she went about 9.00 am in the morning to the house of George Smith and his wife Margaret. She was a friend of the Smith's. When she explained to Smith why she had come, he said he was sorry that he could not send out for a gill of beer, as he had no money. Smith dressed himself, and went out to get some powder, and later about noon, he went out for the day. He was wearing a suit of dark clothes and a light cap. His wife asked him where he was going, and he replied that he was going to Bedlington to see his mother. He asked his wife for some money, saying, "Jenny, I cannot go to Bedlington with nothing.†He then went to the desk bed and took 2s / 4d, about (12p) out of it, and went out. Mrs. Plant then slept at Smith's house that night.

Mary Plant was awakened on the Sunday morning at about 4.40 am, when Smith was knocking at the door. His wife got up and let him in, and then went to bed again. Mary took no notice of Smith, but she heard him making a noise, as though he was scraping his clothes with a knife. About 7.00 am, Mary got up, and noticed that Smith seemed to be asleep. Smith got up later at about 9.00 am, and Mary asked him why he got up so early. He replied that he could not sleep. He then put on a pair of trousers different to those he had worn on the previous day.

The Smiths lived in one room, and the clothes lay in that room. Mary did not see Smith take anything other than a clean shirt from the clothes line. Smith went to the stair head, and closed the door behind him. She did not notice what Smith was wearing when he went back into the room. Smith took a clothes brush, and a jacket and vest he wore on the Saturday, and went to the bottom of the stairs. He brushed the clothes, and returned upstairs, wrapped them up carefully and put them into a box. Later he put a tin trunk on top of the same box. Mary saw Smith washing his trousers in a pail of water on the stair head. He also washed his blue socks. Smith then took the socks into the room, and put them on the oven door to dry. He then said to Mary, "Our Jenny won't do anything for me.â€

Mary then went to the cellar for some coals, and saw the wet trousers hanging there. The water in the pail was red coloured. Smith was still busy washing and cleaning his Saturday clothes, which took him until Sunday afternoon.

Smith then sat down and had dinner. He sent his wife for a pint of beer, giving her a 2 shilling piece to pay for it. He then gave Mary more money, 6d, to go for another pint. Smith then gave his eldest child a three penny piece, and the two youngsters a penny each. He then went to bed, and got up about 4.00 pm. Mary noticed Smith was bare footed as he stooped down to wipe something off one of his feet with a wet flannel. He then sat near the fire opposite Mary, with his legs crossed. At first Mary thought she saw varnish on Smith's right foot, but she soon realised it was blood. Smith then asked her what time he had got home in the morning and Mary replied it was 4.55 am.

Sarah Bella Hay, a domestic servant, and living at Hirst Terrace, near Hirst Head Farm, said that at 10.15 pm on August 25th, she saw a man at the entrance of the farm.

He was standing against one of the gate posts. She had since identified him as George Smith. As she approached the gate entrance and saw Smith, she turned to go back towards Bedlington. Smith shouted "Come here, Miss,†and ran after her for some distance with his arms outstretched. Sarah, returned later and told Smith if he did not go away she would tell the police. He then doubled his fists and said, "You Bastard, Ill murder you.†Smith then stretched out his arms, and said "Come on Mary Ann†or "Mary Lizzie,†but Sarah could not say which.

Sarah proceeded down the avenue followed by Smith, and there saw a man Joseph Gilhespie a farmer from Bedlington. Smith came forward and attempted to strike Mr. Gilhespie. The two fell to the ground ending in Gilhespie striking Smith, he then noticed that Smith's breath stank of drink and he was intoxicated.

Cuthbert Edward White a refreshment house keeper in Vulcan Place gave an account of Smith's activities in his shop. He said that between 10.45 and 11.00 pm, Smith entered his shop and purchased a pie and some peas. Afterwards he asked for another pie, and said to Mr. White, "You need not be afraid of trusting me. I am broke, but will come back the next day and pay you.†He said they called him Geordie Smith of Blyth, and everybody knew him. Mr. White then offered to put the pie into an outside pocket, but Smith said he had a nice razor in there. Smith then showed him the razor which was a black handled one. Mr. White told him to be careful with it, and Smith then left the shop with the pie in one pocket and the razor in the another.

Thomas Hemstead, who lived about two or three hundred yards from the farm, stated that on the night in question he left home at 6.30 pm, and did not return until around 11.00 pm. When he left the house the yard door and the ashpit door were locked. At 11.30 he noticed both were open. He heard a noise outside the kitchen window. Going outside, he struck a match and saw a man trying the window. He then realised it was George Smith, a man he knew well. Mr. Hemstead then got hold of Smith and asked him what he wanted there. Smith said, :You know me,†and Hemstead replied, "Yes, and you know me,†to which Smith said, "Yes.†Mr. Hemstead then heard someone moving about the back door, and thinking he might get some help, or maybe see the police, he opened the yard door, but as soon as the bolt was drawn, Smith, struck him. They came together and Hemstead, threw Smith to the ground. Smith got up, and was still full of fight. This resulted in the two of them coming together again and Smith ending up on the ground once more. Smith then began to kick and bite while on the ground, which ended up with Mr. Hemstead grabbing Smith by the throat and nearly choking him. He then allowed Smith to go, and as he went he shouted, "I an George Smith, and I don't care a f??? for anyone. Smith then went in the direction of Hirst Head Farm.

More witnesses would give accounts of Smith's movements at the trial. Another witness, Christine Binks, who lived at the Gas House, Bedlington, near Hirst Head Farm, said that about 11.30 pm on Saturday, August 25th, she went to the back door of her house which was closed but not locked intending to lock it. She was away a few moments and heard a noise in her scullery. When she looked she saw a man standing with a dark suit, white cap, and a white shirt in front of her. She became afraid and ran out the house and returned in a minute or two with her husband. When they entered the house, the man had gone, having unlocked the front door and letting himself out. The man she saw was George Smith.

John Atkinson, from Mill Bank Terrace, Bedlington, stated that in the late hours of August 25th, he heard a scuffling in the yard. He went out to see what the noise was and found Smith, who he knew, sitting in the wash tub. Atkinson, asked Smith, what he was doing there. Smith then replied, "You won't hit a man for sitting in a barrel,†He then told Smith to go away. Smith made no reply, but just stared at Atkinson like a wild man. He then got up and walked away backwards. Atkinson, then noticed that Smith, whom he had known for about ten years, had no jacket or vest on, and his braces were hanging down.

Richard Walker, a farm labourer, of Gladstone Terrace, Bedlington, was next. He said at about 1.00 am, on August 26th, he was returning from Bedlington Station. It was not dark, but a fine starlight night when he saw a man come out of the entrance of Hirst Head Farm, and halt in front of him and make his way across the highway. The man looked towards Bedlington and then made his way towards Bedlington Station. It was the movements of the man that attracted his attention so much. The man was dressed in a dark suit and light cap, and appeared more excited than drunk.

Richard Nicholson, a miner of Bell's Place, Bedlington, stated that on August 26th, in the early hours of the morning between 3.00 to 3.30 am, he was returning home by way of Puddler's Lane.

On approaching White's Cottages, he noticed a man coming from the direction of Hirst Head Farm. The man passed on the other side of the road, and was walking where there was no footpath. He could not see the mans face and noticed he had a light cap and dark clothes on. The man then crouched into the hedge.

Sergt. W. Metcalfe, of Bedlington, recounted his visit to the house of Miss Swann, at about mid - day on Sunday, August 26th. He said he found the body of Miss Swann, lying in the kitchen on the hearthrug. Her throat had been cut and there was a mark above her left eye. There was much blood in the room, on the door and on the floor. An old open razor was lying underneath the right hand in a pool of blood. There was a candlestick with a candle in it lying near the body. A broken poker was found, one part lying parallel with the body and the other part lying twelve inches from her head. The pieces of a broken crumb brush were found in the room, and the front door key was lying on the sofa underneath the window. The window at the back was broken, leaving a hole large enough for a man to get through. He found blood stained footmarks on the stairs and in the parlour. There were appearances in the kitchen of a struggle having occurred. In the bedroom the bed - tick was turned up, as though someone had been searching under it. The draws and boxes were also open. In the bedroom was a basin containing water tinged with red.

He then went to Clive Street, Blyth, and arrested Smith. Smith was taken to the police station and made a lot of rambling statements. He then went back to Smith's house and took possession of his clothing. Back at the police station he got Smith to take off his shoes and socks, and saw what he believed to be blood on the soles of his feet. There was also blood on the knees of his drawers. All his clothing except a pocket handkerchief had marks of blood upon them.

Medical evidence was next given by Dr. Robert. Morris, of Bedlington. He described wounds on the body and said that when he saw it about mid - day death, had taken place about ten or eleven hours previously. The cause of death was bleeding from the wounds and shock.

Dr. W. H. Manners, police surgeon at Blyth, corroborated the evidence of Dr. Morris, as to the cause of death, and added that during the post-mortem examination he found a large bruise over the right ear and another on the left side of the face and forehead. The poker was an instrument which might have caused the wounds. A razor would have caused the wound to the throat and the other cuts on the body.

On Sunday evening he examined Smith at Blyth Police Station in the presence of Dr. Fox, who was there on behalf of Smith.

Smith was under the influence of drink, and his right eye was black. He also had three or four scratches to his face, and not so deep as to cause bleeding. Smith was wearing drawers, which were blood stained at the knees, as though he had been kneeling in blood. The socks were rather hard on the soles, but he could not detect the presence of blood at the time. There was blood marks on Smith's feet and all the sleeves of his garments. He continued, by saying that there was no wounds to Smith's body which would cause bleeding.

Supt. Tough, of Blyth, gave evidence as to taking impressions of Smith's feet, and these corresponded in his opinion with the prints on the step and on boards of the flooring. He then pointed out the peculiarity of Smith's socks, part of the leg being under the heel, which made the similarity of the impressions so obvious.

This concluded the evidence for the prosecution, and Mr. Jones proceeded to call his witnesses for the defence. Dr. Thomas William MacDowall, medical supt. of the County Asylum, Morpeth was the first. He stated that Smith was admitted to the institution in June, 1901, and was discharged as having recovered in February, 1904. Smith, suffered from a severe attack of insanity, chiefly maniacal, and was very excited; and on three occasions he made attacks upon his keepers. He had homicidal tendencies. Persons who so suffered recovered; but there were cases where insanity recurred, usually because of drinking to excess or of excitement. He had heard the evidence in this case, and in his opinion Smith's doings would indicate insanity.

If a man had an attack of frenzy, it was quite a common occurrence for him to have no recollection of what he had done during the frenzy. He had seen Smith, about a month ago and he was quite sane then.

Dr. MacDowall, was cross-examined by Mr. Joel, and went on to say that when Smith was discharged from the asylum, he was completely cured. If under the conditions he had described, a man avoided drink, he was to all intents and purposes, a sane man. Under the influence of drink, such a man would be like a somnambulist.

Dr. Ernest Bramwell, medical officer at the Tynemouth Workhouse and surgeon to the Tynemouth police was next to give evidence. He stated that he had a large experience of causes of insanity. He examined Smith on November 13th, in prison, and found him quite sane then. He said, he agreed with the evidence of Dr. MacDowall. From the evidence he had heard he was of the opinion that at the time of the tragedy, Smith, was insane.

No further evidence was called, and Mr. Jones proceeded to address the jury on Smith's behalf. He told them Smith was in such a condition on the night of the tragedy that he couldn't remember what had occurred. It was for that reason Smith wasn't called to give evidence. The evidence was purely circumstantial, though he admitted that it was strong, but it was a question whether it was sufficient to convince the jury that the poor lady met her death at the hands of the accused. There was no motive for such a crime. Supposing that the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to convince the jury that the death of Miss Swann was due to the accused, the prisoner he submitted, was at the time not sane. The previous history of the accused, and all the circumstances of the night of August 25th, pointed to a condition of insanity. While he was in the Asylum he exhibited the very symptoms which would have led him to such an act as this.

Mr. Joel, at some length on behalf of the Crown, said that every man must be presumed to be sane until the contrary was proved. The onus of the defence was to prove that the accused was insane.

Mr. Joel submitted that there was evidence of drunkenness and violence, but not of insanity. The absence of motive was no evidence of insanity. He commented particularly upon the method Smith had evidenced in apparently endeavouring to make the circumstances point to a case of suicide.

The Judge, Lord Alverstone, told the jury that the question whether Smith had committed the murder was not a question of great difficulty, but the question as to his state of mind at the time was one of considerable difficulty. In his opinion if the defence could have challenged any of the evidence he was sure they would have done so. You the jury, should come to the conclusion that Smith had caused Miss Swann's death. The Judge then turned to the point of insanity. He said it was open to them to find that if Smith committed the act he was insane at the time and was not responsible for his action in law. If his condition was induced by drink, the man would be guilty in the ordinary sense, but if he was insane temporarily so as not to know the difference between right and wrong, and not to understand the acts that he was doing, the jury would be justified in finding he was not responsible, even though part of insanity was caused by drink.

The jury retired to consider the verdict. After an absence of about twenty minutes they returned. Smith who was sitting in the dock quietly flanked by two police officers listened as the verdict was read out. The jury found him guilty of murder, but insane, and not responsible in law for his actions when the act was committed.

His Lordship then ordered Smith to be detained in a Lunatic Asylum until His Majesty's pleasure.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

The next are of Hirst Head Farm

Do you know anyone.

Rare pic this

i do, the lady on the far right is my grandmother, Eleanor Ester Latty, she was born at Hirst Head in 1895, had 2 brothers Robert, and William who wa killed in the first war, I have postcards addressed to Hirst farm from him to my grandmother whom everyone called Nelly, my great grandmother lived at the farm as well, she was called Mary, as for my great grandfather Robert Todd, he is a bit of a mystery. My grandmother married James Purdy, whose brother George, John wrote a book about him. I do have a couple of photos taken at Hirst Head, I would love to find out more. Eileen
Link to post
Share on other sites

Re the picture of the woman standing in the field, the woman standing on the far right is my grandmother Eleanor Ester Latty, she lived at thr farm with her mother Mary Todd and her two brothers William who died in thr first world war, and Robert, who is in the other photograph, standing in a field with the horse. I have quite a few postcards sent to Hirst Head, especially ones sent from France from my uncle Rob to my gran who he called Nelly. I have a couple of photographs taken around 1900 as well. If anyone has any more photographs I would love to see them.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

i do, the lady on the far right is my grandmother, Eleanor Ester Latty, she was born at Hirst Head in 1895, had 2 brothers Robert, and William who wa killed in the first war, I have postcards addressed to Hirst farm from him to my grandmother whom everyone called Nelly, my great grandmother lived at the farm as well, she was called Mary, as for my great grandfather Robert Todd, he is a bit of a mystery. My grandmother married James Purdy, whose brother George, John wrote a book about him. I do have a couple of photos taken at Hirst Head, I would love to find out more. Eileen

Thats great. The story of George as a POW is so sad and gives an insight into what went on in them camps.

Eileen, was George's parents caretakers for the school at Bedlington Station ?

I got a lot of pictures too if it is them.

Did you know that Grorge also used to padlock his bedroom drawers as to keep his belongings safe, after he returned as a POW ?

Just shows you the effect it had on them.

Another man from our area was Charlie Dick. He was the tattooist and moved from Alnick, to Bedlington then Blyth.

Now he was a master forger and forged the documents for escapees .

He told me that on one occastion they got word that the Gestapo were to raid them and they had just finished destroying everything by burning them, when the Gestapo arrived.

Can you imagine what would have happened to them for that ?

They also had their radio reciever and it was hidden, and never ever found. How important that was.

BTW. Got my first tatoo done of Charlie Dick and kept in touch with him for many years. The stories he told me i could write a book.

Maybe i will when and if i get better from this illness.

But the stories are out there and i have recorded a vast ammount.

Lets know on the family connection, and the Lattys, i believe i have info on them too, and will check them out in the future

Thanks Eileen

Link to post
Share on other sites

Lavery's in Belfast ... a fine old alehouse.

The storry is interesting. They were originally Laffertys. They left Ireland and changed their name for some strange reason to Lavery.

Ian Lavery the MP is my half cousin and his dad and mine were full cousins.

There are family in Newcastle upon Tyne too, who i recently met about 2 years ago. She traced me and i got the family tree from her too.

Last time she saw me i was sitting on her knee at my grandmas as my grandma was a Lavery until she married my grandfather Tom Dawson. He was gassed in the Battle of the Somme.

Link to post
Share on other sites

i also know that Jim Purdy saw the German aeroplane crash during WW2 beside the brickworks.

Its bomb that was left was in the field just up from Earth Ballance.

The bodies of the Germans were taken to Bedlington and kept in Tallytyres paints outbuilding.

Will look for pics for you later.

I know i have a pic of Jim Purdy in uniform and another with his brother, Bill as kids too.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi John where to start, yes thats a photo of my great grandparents who were caretakers at burnside school. The photo of the three people standing in the doorway are my greatgreatgrandmother Mary latty the child is my grandmother Eleanor Ester (Nelly) Latty she married James Purdy, his brother is George Purdy who you wrote about. They had two boys my uncle Jim who was traumatized by the german plane coming down in the brickworks, and my dad William Latty Purdy (Bill). Iv been doing my family tree, the Lattys came from Mitford. Id love to see your photographs sometime, sorry to here your not well, hope you get better soon. Thanks John

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi John where to start, yes thats a photo of my great grandparents who were caretakers at burnside school. The photo of the three people standing in the doorway are my greatgreatgrandmother Mary latty the child is my grandmother Eleanor Ester (Nelly) Latty she married James Purdy, his brother is George Purdy who you wrote about. They had two boys my uncle Jim who was traumatized by the german plane coming down in the brickworks, and my dad William Latty Purdy (Bill). Iv been doing my family tree, the Lattys came from Mitford. Id love to see your photographs sometime, sorry to here your not well, hope you get better soon. Thanks John

Eileen i will post what i have for you. Just put a few up what you have seen and i know that what i say is correct. Spent my life on history and local history since 14 years old now 58 and it is really nice to help people. I do my best, and Maggie likes what i do too. What an insight she has too on local history. Its with people like her that makes this forum so interesting. I just visit here as it is interesting too as regarding of what you know you still learn from people like yourself and Maggie. The forum members really give an insight into the past. We can only learn from everyones experiences in life. Sadly not all is recorded, but this forum does and that is why i love to visit it. I would like to take this oppertunity to thank everyone who is involved on history hollow a big thank you, and this just shows how important it is to record our life experiences and those of our families.

A big thank you to you all, and also to Keith for his memories, hard as they were to talk about, with the loss of his father in the coal mining topic. Just shows us all that we all take note and i am sure everyone knows i do.

Take care and thanks Eileen and everyone else, if i can help or indeed the group let me know.

I am going to ask other group members to get involved, its not just about the Sixtownships group but here as well, so i can say look out for new members very soon. I will be asking them to get on here and give input for all the members on here.

You all make this an experience to enjoy, and it really helps me when i am unwell, it keeps me going.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create a free account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Hide Adverts

  • Latest News

    • Get the latest Northumberland news and updates delivered straight to your inbox
      All they want to do is cradle their newborn baby in their arms.
      But Bedlington parents Carly Walker and Ryan Murphy have been forced to watch from the sidelines as their daughter fights for her life.
      Little Ayda Faith Murphy was born prematurely on March 31, weighing just 4lbs, at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary.
      Rushed for her first operation straight after birth and another at just four days old, she's battling terrifying odds after being diagnosed with a series of incredibly rare birth defects.
      An almost unique variant of gastroschisis, a defect of the abdominal wall, has left her intestines pushing up into her chest - a condition doctors estimate is suffered by no more than 10 babies worldwide.
      Meanwhile, her heart appears to have flipped over and lies on the wrong side of her chest, while she's receiving oxygen from a machine due to her underdeveloped lungs.
      Keep up-to-date with all the latest news in the county by visiting our Northumberland Live homepage.
      You can sign up to our daily Northumberland newsletter here.
      Facebook: Here's our main Northumberland page.
      Twitter: You can follow the Northumberland Live page here.
      Find The Journal's Northumberland editions on the British Newspaper Archive here.

  • Similar Content

    • By Bedlingtonian
      Perhaps you know the 'Bedlington Terriers' or the Bedlington Salvation Army Band Member

    • By Maggie/915
      When looking for Christmas presents it was agreed we were 'spoaching'
      Obviously Santa Claus had a problem
    • By johndawsonjune1955
      Been to see a very interesting person today.
      Had a chat on Bedlington and the Furnace.
      She has given me a photo of The Last of the Nailers.
      She says it is Bedlington and on the back it is dated 1858.
      This has got me puzzled as of the date but it is in her families photographs and she aint sure who it is of.
      She is getting on in late life now and have to take that into my thinking.
      Could this be the Gibson family of Bedlington and a previous family member have written this on the back of the photo ?
      I don't know, what do you think. ?
      Post something else later as soon as it is scanned. From the elderly lady too.

    • By johndawsonjune1955
      Do you think we could recreate Bedlington Front Street from years ago by using old pics ?
      I think it would be worth doing.
      Malcolm , i reckon it would be good for your project. What do you think.
      an example
      here's two pics , we could add on to these and re-create the street if we could get enough pics from that time

  • Latest Topics

  • Create New...