Sunday, 1 April 2012

Otley’s Most Brutal Murder


Special April 1st Ghouls Day Blog for Autumnforest’s Horror Event. And Good luck with your book.

On Tuesday 5th May 1908 James Jefferson brutally murdered Mrs Elizabeth Todd. 
James Jefferson 5th May 1908
Elizabeth Todd (31) mother of three children and wife of an Otley shoemaker. Had been on her way to visit her mother in Otley when Jefferson(21),  waylaid her a man who was an utter stranger to her, the chubby-faced, five-foot-two killer looked no more than a boy, he had a long criminal record, mostly for theft.
He Cut Off Her Head by the Roadside
A witness a Mr Arthur Hellewell, a grocer in Otley. Quoted to the police that “He rubbed his eyes in disbelief, but they were not deceiving him.” It was the afternoon of MAY 5th, 1908, and with his horse and trap he was going back to his shop. On reaching Holbeck Wood Corner on the road from Leeds to Otley, he had only a mile to go when he saw a man on the footpath at the roadside, busily hacking away at a woman's body. He had just finished cutting off her head.” Hellewell asked the man what he was doing. Receiving no reply, and seeing that the woman was beyond help, he whipped up his horse and hurried to Otley Gasworks, where he phoned the police. Two gasworks employees went back with Hellewell to the scene, one of them taking a crowbar as a precaution. The man was now a few yards away in a field. He had stripped the woman and was trying to cut off one of her arms. They shouted to him to throw down his knife, but he ignored them until he was threatened with the crowbar. Then he dropped the knife, and the men grabbed him.
Smoking a cigarette while they awaited the police, Jefferson said he'd been walking from Leeds to Otley with burglary in mind when he spotted his victim and attacked her, tucking the woman's umbrella, hat and corsets under his arm before they took him to the road. He could sell the umbrella for 7s. 6d. (About 37p) he added, the corsets for 2s. 6d. and the hat for 1s. 2d. he said,
A police sergeant arrived and took him to Otley police station, where the man said he was James Jefferson, a 21-year-old coal miner.

At his trial at Leeds Assizes his plea of guilty was changed to not guilty on the judge's instructions, after the court heard medical evidence that he was unfit to plead because his mind was liable to wander and he was having delusions. 

On July 20th 1908 Jefferson was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but his appeal on the grounds of insanity was successful and he was committed to an asylum.

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