Hooton Wood Tragedy – Inquest Verdict Of ‘Wilful Murder

August 1926

Mexborough & Swinton Times, August 13, 1926

Hooton Wood Tragedy.
Inquest Verdict Of ‘Wilful Murder.’
Writing In A Diary.
Police Court Proceedings.

The second stage of the Police Court proceedings concerning the Hooton Cliff Wood tragedy opened at Rotherham on Tuesday.

Cecil Roodhouse (25), of 16, Dene Crescent, Rotherham, was remanded at the West Riding Police Court, charged with the wilful murder of his sister, Kathleen Roodhouse, whose body was found in Hooton Cliff Wood, near Hooton Roberts, on Sunday afternoon, August 1st. Roodhouse himself informed the police that he committed this act, and led by him to the wood, police officers found the body of his young sister covered with twigs and branches of leaves. There were wounds on her head, and marks on her throat suggested that she had been strangled.

Large crowds assembled outside the West Riding Police Station, on Tuesday, to await the arrival of Roodhouse, who was being brought from Leeds.

At five minutes to eleven o’clock he was brought before the magistrates in the upper court. They were Mr. J. S. Colton Fox, who presided, and Messrs. E. Dunn, J. Chapman, E. Rose, T. Beeden, and J. Drabble.

Roodhouse was dressed in the same clothes as he wore last week, but he had a neck-tie without a collar. Although he was quite composed, he had red patches under his eyes, and his anxious look showed clearly how heavily he found the ordeal through which he was passing. He was manacled.

His appearance was exceedingly brief, and he was only in the court for a few seconds.

He was again remanded until next Tuesday. No further evidence was given.

Supt. Horton said that it would be necessary to make further inquiries before the case was proceeded with. The evidence in the case had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and he asked for a remand until next Tuesday.

Mr. Keith M. Roddis (Rotherham), who appeared for the defence, did not offer any objection, and the remand was granted.

‘I have done Kathleen In.’
Amazing Inquest Story.

A pitiful message sent by Cecil Roodhouse to his brother was an important item of evidence at the resumed inquest proceedings, conducted by Mr. J. Kenyon Parker, District Coroner, at the Rawmarsh Council Offices, at noon, on Tuesday. There was a jury of nine, the foreman being Mr. Walter Priest.

Large crowds again assembled outside the Rawmarsh Council Offices to await the arrival of the accused man. Cecil Roodhouse, however, did not appear at the inquiry.

Mr. Keith M. Roddis attended on his behalf.

Superintendent T. Horton, of the West Riding Constabulary, represented the police.

‘Please let Edgar come up. I want to talk to him because it will be the last time I shall see him. I am going to give myself up to the police, because I have done Kathleen in,’ ran the message referred to, from Cecil Roodhouse to his brother.

After a four-and-a-half hours hearing, the jury returned a verdict of ‘Wilful murder’ without leaving their seats.

Mr. J. Kenyon-Parker, addressing the jury, said they probably knew that he opened this inquest without a jury on August 3rd, when he took evidence of identification after viewing the body, to enable him to give a burial order. The deceased girl was identified by her mother, Eleanor Roodhouse, who lived at 20, School Terrace, Conisborough. She said that her daughter was aged 17, and lived with her, and she was a spinster of occupation. Her daughter left home on Saturday, at 6-30 p.m., with her brother Cecil Roodhouse, to go to Rotherham for a few day’ visit. Witness thought that they intended to go by bus. Kathleen had a parcel with straps, and Cecil had no luggage. Cecil lived with his uncle, Mr. Barker, at 16, Dene Crescent, Rotherham.

‘This is a serious case, as you all know,’ added the Coroner, ‘ a criminal case, and you must dismiss from your minds anything that you have heard or read and act only on the evidence before you to-day. I am bound to warn you that evidence is serious. Your duty is a most serious one, and as far as I can see, it will not be a difficult one, as the evidence seems very straightforward and conclusive.’

Mother’s Evidence.

Dressed in deep mourning, and wearing a thin black veil, Mrs. Roodhouse, mother of the dead girl, presented a pathetic figure. Her face was very pale, and there were dark shadows under her eyes as if the terrible strain which she had undergone was beginning to make itself felt. However she gave her evidence in a composed voice.

Sometimes it was very low, and it was evident that she was doing her best to bear up bravely.

Mrs. Roodhouse, continuing the evidence which she gave at the opening of the inquest a week ago, said that she first heard of the visit to Rotherham on Saturday, July 31st, when her son Cecil came over to Conisbrough. Her daughter was not expecting to go to Rotherham, and her son asked Kathleen if she would go.

‘Are you busy,’ he asked, and she replied ‘No.’ He said, ‘Then I want you to go to Rotherham on a visit.’ and added, ‘your cousin, Minnie Hampstead, who lives as St. Ann’s Road, Rotherham, wants you to go on a visit,’

Witness said that Kathleen arranged to go, and she packed a parcel of clothes, which was fastened with straps. She was quite certain that Cecil had no luggage or parcel with him.

Bought Spirits Of Salt.

Kathleen went down to a chemist shop before she left her house. Cecil asked Kathleen to fetch him two penny-worth of salts of lemon, for soldering. Witness gave her the bottle for the salts of lemon. The bottle, which was a one-ounce blue poison bottle, was produced, and witness exclaimed, ‘Yes, that’s it.’

Mrs. Roodhouse added that she did not go with her daughter to the shop. Kathleen went out, and then came back with the bottle, which was wrapped in paper. She gave it to Cecil and said, ‘I have got it for you.’ He took the bottle and put it in his side pocket. Cecil gave Kathleen the money for the salts of lemon. Witness had known Cecil buy the salts many times for soldering. She mentioned that he stayed in house for about three hours, and had tea with them.

Distresses Over Strike.

Witness thought her son was quieter than usual, and was distressed over the strike. They both left her house about 6-30 p.m. Kathleen carrying the parcel with leather straps. Witness knew that it contained two overalls, three dresses, a nightgown, some handkerchiefs, and a pair of stockings. She saw this parcel again at Mr. Barker’s.

‘Two Out Of The Way.’

The Coroner then handed to the mother a note written by Roodhouse before he gave himself up to the police, and sent to a relative in Rotherham, asking to see his young brother Edgar.

Mrs. Roodhouse identified the writing, and the Coroner read the note, which was as follows:

‘Please let Edgar come up. I want to talk to him because it will be the last time I shall see him, because I am going to… Here the Coroner Found difficulty in deciphering the writing, and said, ‘I can’t read it.’ He handed it to Mrs. Roodhouse, who remarked, ‘I can’t see without my glasses.’ Eventually, a police officer read the note, which continued, ‘give myself up to the police because I have done Kathleen in last night, and she lies in Hooton Wood. – Cecil.’

Mrs. Roodhouse also identified her son’s writing in a diary. One extract red by the Coroner said:

‘There are five of us in the way – Cecil, Mercia, Aubrey, Kathie and Edgar.’

A later entry read:

‘That is two of us out of the way – Kathie and Cecil.

Salts Used For Soldering.

Reginald Troughton, chemist, 14, High Street, Conisbrough, gave evidence of selling two penny-worth of spirits of salts in a blue poison bottle to a young girl as Conisbrough, on July 31st. Spirits of salts, or, to give in its proper name, hydrochloric acid, was very often used for soldering. Sometimes it was used as a disinfectant.

Mr. Roddis: Was there enough in the bottle to poison a person?

Witness: It might, but I have known persons take two or three times the quantity and still live. It is possible that it would poison a person if it stayed on the stomach.

Mary Jane Hill, wife of John Thomas Hill, 5, North Road, East Dene, Rotherham, aunt of the prisoner and of the dead girl, said that she saw Cecil at 1-30 on Sunday afternoon, August 1st. He was 40 or 50 yards from her house, lying on the grass. She saw him from her window, but did not go to him. Ten to twenty minutes later, a child brought the note quoted above, and the bottle which had contained spirits of salts. She read the note, which was signed ‘Cecil.’ It surprised her very much indeed and she did not know what to do. She took the note to her brother-in-law, Mr. Barker, at 16, Dene Crescent, the uncle with whom accused had been living, when she went to Mr. Barker’s house Cecil was still lying on the grass, but witness did not go to Cecil or speak to him. The child who brought the note asked her to send some milk for Cecil to drink. She sent about half-a-pint in a glass jar. Witness did not know the child.

Painful Enquiries.

Francis Barker, brass worker, of Dene Crescent, said that when he read the note brought by Mrs. Hill he thought there was no truth in it. He went to Mr. Hampstead, who drove him in his car to Conisbrough, in order to find out whether Cecil had taken Kathleen away. When he found this was true, he became suspicious, but did not tell the mother.

The Coroner: I think you were very discreet.

Witness said that he handed the note to the Rotherham West Riding Police the same day.

On Tuesday, August 2nd, at Rotherham West Riding Court House, he was shown a brown paper parcel containing clothes which he identified as belonging to Cecil.

Minnie Hampstead, wife of Henry Hampstead, coal merchant, 26, Fitzwilliam Road, Rotherham, said Kathleen and Cecil were her cousins. She last saw Cecil on July 18. She had not seen Kathleen for four years and had not authorised Cecil to invite Kathleen to stay with her.

Parcel In A Ditch.

Ellen Parkin, wife of Charles Parkin, retired engine winder, of Hooton Roberts, appeared rather distressed as she gave her evidence. She said that on Saturday, July 31st, at about half-past seven at night, she was walking with a Mrs. Hunter along the Wapping Road in the direction of Hooton Cliff, when she noticed a man coming towards them carrying a brown paper parcel.

When he saw them he turned into a gateway leading to Hooton Field. He did not go into the field, and at once returned to the road without the parcel. He then passed them and did not speak.

The Coroner: Did you notice anything about him?

Witness: He looked very agitated, and perspiration stood on his face. She added that she could not now identify him. He looked to be about 24 years of age, and wore his shirt open at the neck.

When they got to the gateway she saw a brown paper parcel in the ditch. She did not open it, but later informed her husband.

Charles Parkin, husband of the last witness, said he got the parcel out of the ditch and examined the contents. The parcel contained shirt, socks, collar and tie. He left the clothing on the bank, and then went back to the ladies by the Cliff, on the way home they met some men, who divided the clothes among them.

Mrs. Sarah Hunter, 78, Cherry Tree Street, Elsecar, who accompanied Mrs, Parkin on her walk, corroborated.

Tired And Haggard.

Mrs. Alice Hoyland, of Hooton Roberts, said that on Saturday, July 31st, between 8 and 8-30 p.m., a young man came to the door of her house and asked if she could let him have a pint of milk. She told him that she could only spare a gill. She gave it to him in a pint pot, and he drank it in her presence. He paid her 6d., and she gave him 4½d. change.

The Coroner: What did he look like?

Witness: He had a dark suit and cap. I did not notice anything only that he looked tired and haggard.

The Coroner: You did not see any burns on his mouth, did you? – No. He had no difficulty in drinking the milk.

At this juncture the inquiry was adjourned for lunch, and again resumed at 2-30 p.m.

Pressure On The Wind-Pipe.

Dr. J. J. Hargan, house surgeon at Rotherham Hospital, said he had made a post-mortem examination of the body. The cause of death was asphyxia, due to pressure on the wind-pipe. He found abrasions and contusions on both sides of the neck, which might have been caused by manual pressure.

There was one wound at the back of the scalp, but the skull was not fractured. The wound might have been sufficient to have killed the girl without her being asphyxiated. It could have been caused by a stone. In his opinion, the girl was throttled. There was very little evidence of a struggle, and the fact that she was stunned would account for this. The body was that of a well-built, well-nourished girl of about 18 years. Her internal organs were quite healthy, and there was no suggestion of any sexuality about her death.

On Sunday, August 1st, about 5-30 p.m., he examined Cecil Roodhouse at the Police Station, Rotherham. He found slight ulceration of the inside of the mouth apparently caused by the use of some caustic.

In answer to the Coroner, Dr. Hargan said that milk had been used as an antidote for hydrochloric acid.

Coroner’s Report.

Mr. Roddis: Did you notice anything about the state of his mind?

The Coroner: I can’t have that. That is not for this jury.

Mrs. Mary Jane Hill, aunt of Cecil Roodhouse, was then recalled.

The Coroner reminded her that she told them that a child brought her a note and a bottle. ‘Was there any liquid in the bottle,’ asked the Coroner.

Witness: No, it was quite empty.

Detective-officer Miles, of the Rotherham Borough Police, said that at 2-40 on Sunday afternoon, August 1st. He was in the police office with Sergeant Patterson, when Cecil Roodhouse came in. Sergeant Patterson asked the man what he wanted, and he said, ‘I have killed my sister.’ Witness, cautioned him, and Roodhouse said, ‘It is true. I killed her last night.’

He went on to say something about the previous Friday, and witness asked him if he wished to make a statement. He replied, ‘Yes,’ and asked witness to take it down.

Witness took it down at the man’s dictation, and read it over to him, whereupon he signed it.

‘I Hit Her On The Head.’

Detective-officer Miles then read the statement, which ran as follows: –

Detective-officer F. Miles, in the course of his evidence, said the following statement was made to him by Cecil Roodhouse:

I am a miner and live at 16, Dene Crescent, Rotherham and after having been cautioned do wish to make the following statement voluntarily and of my own free will. I have been out of work since the strike started. I was then living at Ryecroft. I had been out of work about six weeks when my aunt at East Dene asked me to go and live with her. My aunt’s name is Mrs. Barker. My uncle and cousin had been working, but finished for the holidays last Friday. I have tried twice to get relief from the Guardians, but they would not let me have it. Last Friday, my uncle made enquiries about it, and told me to go to St. George’s Hall between 2 and 5 o’clock, but I did not go as I thought I should not get it. On Friday night my cousin Cyril spoke to me about it and told me to go. I spoke to my aunt about my clothes, and she told me they were wet, and I had to go for them the following morning. I did not go for them myself, but sent my brother, who brought them to me about an hour later, that would be about one o’clock at dinner time.

I then went to Conisbrough, where my mother and sister live. My sister has been out of work a long time, and did not seem bothered about getting any; so that left only my uncle to work for four of them. I then told my mother and sister that I had come to fetch my sister to Rotherham to some relatives to work for a week. About 6 o’clock I left my mother’s house with my sister and walked with my sister into Hooton Wood, to a place where I had left my parcel of clothes before going to see my mother.

I went right through the wood to the side of a corn field where there is a steep cliff drops over. It was there that I hit her on the back of the head with a piece of rough limestone. It seemed to stun her. She then screamed out and I put my one hand over her mouth and one on her throat and throttled her.

I have missed something out, and I ought to have said that before we set off for the wood I sent her to a chemist at Conisbrough for two pennyworth of spirits of salts, and told her to tell them it was for soldering purposes. She brought the salts, and after I had killed her I sat down at the side of her and drank the salts, which made me vomit. When I found that the salts did not have any effect on me, I dragged her under the bush and covered her over with branches and leaves. I shoved one of my parcels under the cliff side and buried it. I carried her hat and my other parcel into the lane at the other side of the wood. I threw the parcel into the stream at the side of the lane and hid her hat in a bush on the other side of the lane.

I had taken a shilling out of her purse, and I went to a farm at the bottom of Hooton Roberts and bought a gill of milk to take the effect of the poison away. I then came to Rotherham by tramcar, and slept in a lodging house last night. About 1 o’clock this dinner time I sent a note to my aunt, asking her if she would let me see my brother, as I had killed my sister. My brother did not come up, so I decided to come to the Police Station.

This statement has been read over to me.

Led Officers To Spot.

Witness said he then took Roodhouse to the Rotherham West Riding Police Office. The man said he would show witness where his sister was in the wood. With other police officers he accompanied Roodhouse to the wood, and the man pointed to the body, which was covered with leaves and elder branches. Roodhouse also pointed underneath a projecting rock where there was a parcel containing clothing belonging to Kathleen Roodhouse.

The body was afterwards removed to Rawmarsh Mortuary.

Inspector Wilson, of Rawmarsh, said that Roodhouse was placed with eight other men. Mrs. Hoyland failed to identify him as the man who called at the farm for the milk, and Mrs. Parkin also failed to identify him. Mrs. Hunter placed her hand on prisoner’s shoulder and said: ‘I think this is the man.’

Hairs On A Stone.

Sergeant Culling, of the West Riding Constabulary, who accompanied Detective-officer Miles, when he found the body, said that a piece of rough limestone was found near her left shoulder. The stone was produced.

Mr. Walter Priest: Did you find any marks on the stone?

Witness: There were one or two hairs, but no signs of any blood.

The Coroner, summing up, said he thought the jury would be amply satisfied that the evidence fitted in with the actions of Cecil Roodhouse. They were not considering a case of suicide, where the jury were very early influenced in the direction of insanity. The question of insanity had nothing to do with the coroner and the jury. It might be very important in another court. If they thought there was any question of insanity, the sooner they got it out of their minds the better. They had to consider the cause of the death of Kathleen Roodhouse.

The actions of the prisoner seemed to show a certain amount of premeditation. They had to decide if this woman was murdered. Did they believe this confession of her brother, and was it not backed up by every tittle of evidence?

As stated, the jury returned a verdict of ‘Wilful murder,’ within a few seconds of the summing up.