Decapitated Daughter – Mexborough Man “Guilty,  but Insane.” – Sad Story at Assizes.

December 1928

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Tuesday 04 December 1928

Decapitated Daughter
Mexborough Man “Guilty,  but Insane.”
Sad Story at Assizes.

A verdict of “Guilty, but insane was returned yesterday by the jury at the West Riding Assizes at Leeds the case of Harold Marsden (38), miner, of 3, Pitt Street, Mexborough, who pleaded not guilty to a change of murdering his ten-year-old daughter, Mary Marsden, and to attempt suicide.

Mr. Justice Charles ordered him to be detained as a criminal lunatic during His Majesty’s pleasure.

Mr. C, Paley Scott, for the Crown said the prisoner had a wife and five children, youngest of whom was 16 months, and the eldest ten years. .Shortly after 3 o’clock on the morning of August 3rd a neighbour was aroused and went to the prisoner’s house, and found wife in a state almost of collapse leaving the house with one of the children. He went inside and found three more little ones coming downstairs. He saw them safely into his own house and went back and upstairs. He called out to the prisoner, “Harold, what’s the matter? Prisoner replied, “What’s up, what’s up.?” The neighbour did not go into the bedroom at the time because he could have done no good, but he sent for the doctor and the police. In the meantime somebody had aroused Mrs. Marsden, the prisoner’s mother, who lived opposite.

Mother’s Discovery.

She came and found her son covered with blood, his throat being cut. She asked him what he had been doing, and after-making some peculiar noises he said in a low voice;’ “There has been a murder.” She saw the little girl’s body lying in the room with the head completely separated from the body. Neighbours came and found the prisoner lying unconscious on the floor. They brought water and tried to revive him. He was heard by one of them to say; “Over the top, boys, and the best of luck.”

The doctor who attended his injuries formed the opinion that the prisoner, had a maniacal outbreak. A razor was found lying on the floor close to the man. There was no reason or sort of motive for the murder, added counsel. As far he understood, Marsden had lived quite happily and on terms of affection with his wife and children.

Mr. R. Atkinson, clerk, of 1, Pitt Street, Mexborough, said that early August 3rd he saw Mrs. Marsden coming downstairs in a terribly distraught condition.

Cross-examined by Mr. G. R. Hinchliffo (defending) witness said that the prisoner had always had a very great affection for his wife and children. In 1913 accused joined the R.A.M.C. and went overseas in 1914. In 1919, he suffered from shell shock and was in hospital. In 1925, when he was working at a colliery he met with an accident, which caused an injury to his head. For some weeks prior to the murder, witness noticed that the prisoner was depressed. When witness said on the morning of the crime “Harold, what have you done?” he did not appear to know.

Mrs. Marsden, of 2. Pitt Street. Mexborough, the prisoner’s mother, spoke to finding the prisoner sitting on the edge the bed. She asked him what was the matter and she put an arm round his neck and stroked his forehead. He said, “There has been a murder here.” and also said that he had been stabbed three times in the chest. Witness thought it would better if rested his head a pillow and she was in the act of getting the pillow from the bed when something dropped. Stooping down she found that it was her granddaughter’s head. In cross-examination, Mrs. Marsden said her son had always been a good boy, “one the best.” He was discharged from the R.A.M.C. with the rank of corporal. He had always been passionately fond of his children.

Doctor’s Shout for Help.

Dr. J. J. Huey, who was called to the house, said had been Marsden’s doctor for several years. Witness described an incident which took place on the evening of July 30th, when prisoner consulted him about eyesight. Whilst witness was writing a cortificato of recommendation to a ophthalmic surgeon, the prisoner reeled. “I grasped him by the upper arms to support him,” said the doctor. “I let him down on the floor, and as I lowered him no grasped me violently by the forearm. I had to kneel on his chest and shout for help. He kicked violently while in that position.” Witness gave him some water, and he came round in a few minutes. He formed the conclusion that it was paroxysm, and he did not think the prisoner was conscious of and responsible for what was doing.

Grierson, medical officer at Leeds Prison, said Marsden had been kept under observation day and night since August 15th. He had had a number of interviews with him, and in his opinion the prisoner was insane at the time of the crime and was insane now. He thought the prisoner probably knew what was doing, but did not know; that he was doing wrong.

Cross-examined, witness said the symptoms of melancholia were present in the prisoner.

Mr. Hinchcliffe briefly addressed the jury and said that whether the act was duo to shell shock or the accident in the pit, or to some extent both, he did not now.

On the application of counsel, his Lordship granted prisoner’s wife permission to see him, subject to prison regulations.