Murder at Foxholes

I am indebted to Elaine and John Jordan of Castleford for a copy of the following extract from the Wakefield Express of 10th August 1895. Elaine took up the search for the story from her ancestors who were the Illingworth family in Methley. Some of the Jury of local men that were summoned for the preliminary inquest were :-
George Risker – Landlord Old Bay Horse PH
Phillip Connell – Landlord Lord Nelson PH
Thos Asquith – Grocer, Methley Junction
Thos Green – Landlord Mexborougn Arms PH
John Allison – Dairyman Coney Moor Farm
Thos Thompson _ Surveyor to the Local Board
Levi Winterburn – Grocer, Mickletown

A great sensation was caused early in the week by the mysterious disappearance of John Illingworth, hanger-on employed at Foxholes Colliery, Methley. It appears that Illingworth,who had a wife and three children,was twenty-six years old, and lived in Foxholes Pit yard.

On Saturday evening he left home, telling his wife he was going for a walk and would return about ten o’clock. Where he went at first is not known, but at 9.45 he turned up at the Fox Inn Altofts, and soon afterwards Alfred Beaumont, who lodges at the inn came in. There seems no doubt that Illingworth had had a good deal to drink, and he got a bottle filled with half a pint of whisky. Owing to his beginning an altercation with some of the customers the landlord got him to leave about 10.45, and Beaumont went after him to see him safe over the bridge. Beaumont, it would seem was far from sober. What took place outside is not known, further than that.

Beaumont on his return said Illingworth was a queer chap, and wanted to fight, but he had seen him on his way all right. As Illingworth did not turn up at home that night inquiries were instituted and the river was dragged.

Meanwhile the police, hearing that Beaumont had spoken about having Illingworth’s watch, went to the Fox Inn, and found the watch and chain in the bed in which Beaumont sleeps. Beaumont was at once apprehended and taken to Wakefield on a charge of stealing the watch. No tidings being still forthcoming as to Illingworth the matter assumed a very grave aspect. Dragging of the river was continued, and at 1.30 on Thursday afternoon the body was found about 150 yards from Foxholes Lock, which is not far from where Beaumont said he left Illingworth on Saturday night. The body which was much decomposed was conveyed to the deceased’s late residence.

Yesterday at noon Major Taylor held an inquest at the Mexborough Arms Inn, Scholey Hill, Methley. The jury was composed as follows:- Messrs James Mathers, foreman, John Riley, Levi Winterburn, George Risker, Philip Connell, Thomas Asquith, George Rooke, George Wood, Thomas Green, John Allison, Thomas Thompson, and Joseph Taylor. Sergeant Asquith was in attendance on the coroner.

Considerable interest was manifest in the proceedings, in the circumstances surrounding the death of the deceased causing no little excitement in the district. The man Alfred Beaumont who is charged with having stolen the deceased’s watch and chain, was present at the inquiry. He was brought from wakefield gaol in a cab under the care of Supt. Shepley and Inspector Akeroyd. It was considered best to bring him in this manner to avoid a scene. Very few persons witnessed his arrival.

The jury proceeded to view the body, which lay at the house in Foxholes Pit -yard, and they were away about three-quarters of an hour. On their return, evidence was called, the first witness being the deceased’s wife.

Mrs Illingworth appeared to be in a delicate condition and was overwhelmed with grief. While giving her evidence she repeatedly exclaimed “Lord help me” and “My poor Jack” and she was specially distressed when
her husbands watch and chain and cap were produced.

The evidence given was as follows:- Mrs Nancy Illingworth said deceased was her husband. His name was John Illingworth,and he was 26 years old on the 8th July. He lived at Foxholes Pit-yard, and was employed as a hanger-on at the pit bottom at Foxholes Colliery. He had been strong and healthy and always cheerful, he had nothing to trouble him. She last saw him alive about 6.30 last Saturday. He was then at home. He said he was going for a walk. He went out alone he was in the habit of going for a walk on Saturdays and he said he would be back about half past ten.

Witness heard nothing about him or from him that night. She heard from his uncle on Sunday morning that he had been seen at Wakefield. She had seen deceased’s watch and chain. (pointing to it on the table. witness said “That is my poor Jacks”). She could tell his watch and chain it had Perkin on it. (The watch was a silver lever. no 15649. Perkin Wakefield) Witness continued that she was shown the watch and chain on Tuesday by P.C. Scott. She saw nothing else at the time but she saw his cap on Thursday. Looking at a cap produced she said “That is my poor Jacks cap” She did not know how much money he had,she knew he had a shilling but did not know how much more. She was quite sure her husband had a watch and chain on him when he left the house on the Saturday, he would not go out without it and he would not give it away. He had bought it at Mr Perkins at Wakefield.

Mary Ann Plimmer wife of Eli Plimmer landlord of the Fox Inn, Altofts, said she did not know John Illingworth the deceased. She saw a stranger a little before 10 o’clock on Saturday. He came in alone and another man was just behind. The second man was Alfred Beaumont. They came into the filling bar. They came very friendly up to the counter. She heard deceased called Jack and they all called him Jack. Beaumont said he did not know deceased, but Illingworth said he knew Beaumont. There were several customers in, she was behind the counter, and the stranger (Illingworth) said “Fill me a pint of beer missis” and addressing Beaumont he said “Will you have a pint” He said “No I will only have a glass.” Afterwards he put down a half-pint bottle and said “Fill me this with whisky.” Illingworth said “What is it.” and she told him, and he put a coin down either a florin or a half crown and said “That will pay for it.” Beaumont and Illingworth were talking to a man named Robert Woodhead and asked him if he would have a glass, but he declined as he said he always paid for his own. Illingworth then asked Woodhead if he knew “Soldier Jack” Woodhead said he did not know Soldier Jack and that he did not know him. Illingworth then said” You are a liar, you do know him. Your wife and Soldier Jacks wife are sisters.” Woodhead said “Sit you down I don’t want to have anything to say to you.” Witness’s husband who was sitting by Beaumont said” You go and sit you down I will have no disturbance here.” Witness also said “Young man, you go and sit you down, and give over talking to the gentleman. I don’t think you know him.”

Illingworth said he did know him. Witness said “You are mistaken about his wife she is a Methley woman.” and Illingworth said “So is the woman I mean” Witness asked if he had to go over the river and he said he had. Looking at the clock she said it was time he was going, as they did not put people over the river very late. He replied he should not want them to put him over the river as he had a boat of his own. She said “Then you are a boatman?” and he made no reply to that. Witness then said “Where is your boat?” He then replied “This side of the river.” She thought he was a sand boatman, and told him to be careful how he got into his boat, and he replied” You need not be afraid of me getting into the water. If I get in I can get out.”

She said “There are plenty of good swimmers who get into the water and cannot get out” In the meantime he was haggling Robert Woodhead. He called for another pint of beer which she served. He asked the company if they would have a song, and one man said “Lets have a song and lets have a bit of quietness.” Illingworth sang two songs and the company joined in the chorus. About quarter to eleven Witness’s husband took hold of Illingworth quietly by the coat and told him he would have to go out and said “You should not go against that man (Beaumont) and Illingworth replied “I was only kidding him” If he had been quiet he could have stopped. She recognised deceased coat by the shape of the collar,and she noticed he had a watch chain on.

Supt Shepley asked who left at the same time as Illingworth? – Witness: Alfred Beaumont left at the same time. Beaumont lodged with them six months the last time, he was with them a good bit before that. He was in the house all day on Saturday after he had finished his work, which is sand getting. Beaumont left at 10-45 and she saw him again at about 11-15. She asked Beaumont if he had seen that man (Illingworth) over the bridge safe, as she was very particular when they left her place to see them safe away. Beaumont replied “Yes missis I have.” She asked how far he had taken him and he said “I have taken him just over the bridge. and watched as far as I could see him.” She asked him if he could do and the young man said he could do alright. Beaumont said the man who had left was a queer man for he was wanting to fight. Alfred had been drinking all the afternoon, but he was a man who could take a lot of drink. Beaumont was the drunker of the two, and the other was bad enough.

The first she heard of the man being missing was on Monday morning she did not see him early on Sunday. Beaumont was out early on Sunday: He told witness he went out early, but he did not tell her any particular time he went out. Beaumont was at home all Sunday. He was seen to bed on Saturday they never left him up. She was up the last, but did not know when Beaumont went to bed. She never saw Beaumont on Monday. On Monday a young man asked “Had you a stranger in here on Saturday night?” and she said “Yes” and the man then told her Illingworth was missing. The first she said to Beaumont about the matter was to tell him there was a man missing and remarked “I should think it is not the young man you saw over the bridge on Saturday night. He went off right enough.” Beaumont said nothing about a watch or chain or cap.

She was present when the chain was found, which was on Tuesday about eight o’clock. When she got home a policeman came and asked if anyone had been in the bedroom (Beaumont’s) since he was there. He said he wished to go up again, and he did so. He lifted up the bedclothes in a particular place and found the watch and chain between upper and lower sheets. That was the bed Beaumont always slept in. The officer asked her if it was like the chain deceased wore, and she said she thought Illingworth wore a chain like it. Witness went to the wash-house on the Wednesday and found two coats hung up. She examined the pockets and found two caps. She did not know whose they were, but believed they belonged to Beaumont – his working caps. She did not know whether deceased was wearing one of the caps on Saturday night. Illingworth was not drunk but he was not sober: the two men were about alike. Alfred Beaumont was as nice a man as walks.

Dr Taylor of Oaklands Methley, said he knew John Illingworth very well. He last saw him a few weeks ago. He saw the dead body at 10 0’clock that morning at deceased’s home at Foxholes Colliery-yard. He judged that he had been dead five or six days. There was a bruise on the bridge of the nose and one behind the right ear, which had been caused prior to death. The body was well nourished, but very much decomposed.

Witness’s son John William Taylor, M.R.C.S.E, L.R.C.P.E. assisted him in making a post-mortem examination. First opening the head, they found the brain healthy. There was no frothy matter in the larynx to indicate drowning: the lungs, larynx, trachea and bronchial tubes were healthy. he found no blood in the heart. The stomach was empty and healthy, also all the abdominal organs were healthy. Cutting down to the spine they found the sixth vertebra fractured, and came to the conclusion that that was the cause of death. It would cause instant death. It could have been caused by a fall from a height on to the head, or by a sudden push from behind causing him to fall forward. In witness’s opinion the cause of death was not drowning: he thought the man must have been dead before he got into the water. In reply to the foreman witness he said he did not think falling down the bank would cause the fracture. The body was empty of food but any quantity of gas was present. He could not say how long it would take to absorb the liquor taken by the deceased.

Eli Plimmer, landlord of the Fox Inn Altofts, corroborated his wife’s evidence. He also said Illingworth knocked Mr Woodhead’s hat off as he sat on the form, and picked up a pint pot in his left hand with intention of throwing it at Mr Woodhead. He did not think the two men (Beaumont and deceased) were much amiss for drink and there was not too much difference between them. The man who walked over the bridge did not seem to have any thing the matter with him. It was not necessary for Beaumont to go over the bridge with Illingworth. Beaumont was out early on Sunday morning but could not say the time.

P.C. Scott came and found a watch under the mattress of Beaumont’s bed. the officer asked where he had got it, and Beaumont said his brother gave him it six months ago.

Mr Robert Woodhead, farmer, Foxholes farm, Altofts, stated that he was at the Fox Inn, Altofts on Saturday. It was about 9.10 when he went in. A stranger came in and someone followed him just after which was Beaumont the time being about a quarter to ten, later on the landlord asked the stranger to go out. He could walk right enough: he was not what he should call fresh. He saw them on the bridge. On Sunday morning about 8 or 9 he saw Beaumont on the bridge. He asked him how he got on with that man on Saturday night and he replied “I took him through your gates and then left him, as he said he could manage. He was a man who came over in Mr Wood’s boat. The boat was on this side of the river and the oars in witness’s turnips.

Fountain Wilson, miner, Calder Terrace Bottom-Boat, said he had known John Illingworth ever since he was a child. He heard on Monday that he was missing, and along with others dragged the river till six o’clock, and again on Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Thursday they found the body about 1.30. It was found floating, and at a point which had been dragged several times. he helped to get the body out of the water and assisted to lay it out.

Alfred Beaumont, river sand getter, who lodges at the Fox Inn, Altofts, was asked if he desired to give any evidence, and having said he would do so, was duly sworn. This having been done, he after further consideration, decided not to say anything.

P.C. Scott, who apprehended Beaumont and found the watch and chain in his bedroom, was present and ready to give evidence, but as the enquiry had been carried on from 12 o’clock until nearly five, it was decided not to call him, as he could only corroborate the evidence given by Mr & Mrs Plimmer.

The Coroner then briefly summed up, pointing out that the cause of death was not drowning, but a fracture of the spine before deceased got into the water. If death was not caused by drowning the surroundings pointed to his having fallen down the bank and injured himself in that way. The circumstances were altered by the three articles belonging to Illingworth being found, and which had been got from the deceased before he got into the water. The men seem to have been on friendly terms, and were seen after eleven going over the first bridge and then over the second one. When Beaumont came back to the Fox Inn he seems to have remarked that the man was queer, as he wanted to fight. The Coroner reminded the jury that the watch was found under the mattress of the bed on which Beaumont slept, and to which no one has access but him, and that the watch chain was also found in the same bed, and that the cap of Illingworth was discovered in a coat belonging to Beaumont. The question was– how had they got there? If Beaumont had given an explanation it might have cleared up the matter, but he declined to say anything. They were asked to say what they thought of such transactions as that. If Beaumont broke the mans back and put him into the water, then he was guilty of murder. The jury then deliberated for nearly half-an-hour, and returned a verdict of “wilful murder” against Alfred Beaumont-the man in custody.

On Wednesday Alfred Beaumont, aged 40, a boatman, residing at the Fox Inn, Foxholes Lane Altofts, was charged before Mr Thos Hargreaves, at the West Riding Police Court, Wakefield, with stealing a silver lever watch and steel chain, the property of John Illingworth, a hanger-on at Foxholes Colliery, near Methley, on August 3rd Supt. Shepley, in stating the case, said the prisoner was found in possession of a watch and chain belonging to Illingworth, who at present was missing, but who was last seen in company with the prisoner, near the bridge over the Calder leading from Altofts to Foxholes a little before eleven o’clock on Saturday night last.
On account of prisoner being the last person seen in the company of the missing man, an enquiry was made which led to the house being searched where prisoner lived. (The Fox Inn), and the watch was found between the bedding and the mattress of the bed used by him; he was accordingly arrested. The watch and chain produced had been fully identified as the property of the missing man, and seen in his possession when he left home at half past four on Saturday afternoon,last.

P.C.John Scott, stationed at Methley Junction, deposed from enquiries made yesterday. I proceeded to the Fox Inn Altofts, and there saw the prisoner. I put several questions to him, and asked him if he would allow me to search him and his belongings. This he refused to let me do and I then told him he would have to go with me to Methley. I took him to the boat that goes across to Foxholes colliery yard, and then he said he would allow me to search his things. so I took him back to the Fox Inn. In a garret of the house between the bedding and the mattress, I found the watch produced. Prisoner said his brother gave it him six months ago. I took him and the watch across the river to Methley. The wife of the missing man, Illingworth, having identified the watch. I charged the prisoner with stealing it. he afterwards said the watch had been given him by Illingworth at ten minutes to eleven on Saturday night. I returned to the Fox Inn and found the steel watch chain produced, in one of the sheets in prisoner’s bed. I know the prisoner by sight. Prisoner had no questions to ask the witness.

Mrs Illingworth was evidently much affected, and sat while giving her evidence. She said ‘This watch and chain are my husbands. He bought the watch at Mr Perkins in Wakefield, and we have the number down.’ Mr Shepley said Mr Perkin had a memorandum that the watch was sold to Illingworth in March 1893 The officer stated that it was believed the missing man was in the river, and men had been continually dragging for the body which it was hoped to find soon. Mr Hargreaves (to prisoner) ‘Have you anything to say why you should not be remanded ‘ Prisoner: ‘No’.
The prisoner was remanded till Monday next.
Who dunnit – looks to me like Beaumont took a liking to the watch and followed Illingworth across Stephenson’s bridge. My theory is that he hit him on the head in order to get the watch and chain and found that the poor chap had expired, at which I suspect he tumbled the body into the river below and made a run for it.

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