The Four Murders on the Site

July 1926

Murder !

1886 Murder of a Policeman by a Denaby Collier

James Murphy worked at Denaby Main in the 1880’s and was looked upon as ‘a poacher of a desperate description, ’ with features well   remembered by persons in the district. In July 1886 he was living in Dodworth near Barnsley and had been repeatedly convicted for housebreaking and other offences.

He was served with a summons for drunkenness by PC Austwick, which seemed to aggravate him. At about 11.30 on Saturday night, July 31st, he was creating a disturbance in the village. Austwick     ordered him home. Murphy went away, but he returned shortly after with a gun, and deliberately fired at the officer remarking, “Where are we now?”

Austwick had a 4 inch hole in his chest and died two hours afterwards. Murphy disappeared taking the gun with him. News reached our district that Murphy was hiding in this area and a manhunt took place, joined by the inspector and sergeant, but to no avail. Murphy was eventually caught not far from where he lived, after being disarmed with an umbrella ! He was tried, sentenced to death and hung at York on November 29th.

1906 The Park Road Murder

James Dalton , a Conisborough bookmaker, had served a two year       sentence for robbery with violence at Mexborough. Upon his release in August 1906 he returned to find his wife had taken up as housekeeper and was co habiting with James Dagnall, a collier working at Cadeby Main, at Dagnall’s house on Park Road. Dalton made arrangements and was to take his wife to live at Mexborough, out of Dagnall’s influence on September 1st.

On Wednesday evening, August 31st, the trio, together with other family members, had a few, surprisingly, friendly drinks in Dagnall’s house before retiring to rest. Dagnall had wished them goodnight     cheerfully enough and appeared to be in a normal disposition.

At around 3.30 am Dagnall entered the bedroom occupied by the Dalton’s, armed with a hatchet and a cut throat razor. He attacked Dalton and wounded his wife. The bedroom had all the appearance of a ‘slaughterhouse’, and Mrs Dalton commented that her husband’s head was almost severed from his body. Dagnall had also made an attempt to take his own life and both men were rushed into Doncaster Royal Infirmary. Dagnall recovered but Dalton died on the Monday.

James Dagnall was tried and sentenced   to death on January 1st 1907. The jury recommended mercy and a petition with 1,000 signatures was raised. His reprieve was granted the day before the date of his hanging.

1925 The Conisborough Viaduct Tragedy

Violet Emily Turner was an attractive 20-year-old whose husband had left her the previous year to return to his parent’s greengrocer business in Lancashire. On August 24, 1925 she travelled to see her husband regarding maintenance of their three children, which he had never provided, and she returned without success.

She had ‘taken up’ with 17-year-old George Temperton, whom she had met in May. The couple had aquired lodgings in Rossington, on the pretence they were married. Turner’s family found out about this and on the day of Violet’s return, several members of the family went to visit them to persuade Temperton to come home. He went back with them to Edlington at about 5 o’clock.

George had said he was going back to his mother’s but unbeknown to the family he had arranged to meet Violet at 9.30 pm, near the Conisborough viaduct, taking his brother’s razor with him. Violet and George made a suicide pact. Violets’s last words were; “Will you promise me to cut your own throat?” George agreed and after cutting Violet’s throat he attempted to cut his own but failed, although he severed his own wind pipe. At 10.10 pm George knocked on the door of the “Wingate Cottages”, Conisborough, and announced that he had, “ done my woman in under the viaduct.” First aid was rendered to stem George’s bleeding, the police were called and were directed to the scene of the tragedy. There Violet was lying on her back with a very severe cut on her neck. The cut was so severe that the head was nearly cut off – even the spinal column had been cut.

At Leeds assizes on December 14th, the jury retired for eight minutes and returned to pronounce a verdict of “guilty.” The judge then assumed the black cap and pronounced the death sentence.The sentence was commuted on Christmas Eve to penal servitude for life.

1926 The Murder of a Sister

The Roodhouse family had been very unfortunate. Joseph Roodhouse was killed in the Cadeby disaster, leaving his wife and a family of six. Among the family was Cecil Roodhouse and his sister Kathleen now aged 17. Cecil was aged 24, a coal miner, and in 1926 there was a prolonged National Miner’s strike. The Government had withdrawn relief for single miners and there was much distress and privation amongst them. Cecil had a plan to reduce the financial pressure on the family by eliminating two of them; Kathleen and himself. He told his mother and sister that he was taking her to Rotherham to work for some relatives. About 6 o’clock, on 31st July, he left his mother’s house at Conisborough with his sister and took her into Hooton Wood. There he hit Kathleen on the back of the head with a piece of limestone and stunned her. She screamed out and Cecil put one hand over her mouth and one on her throat and choked her to death.

Before they set off Cecil had bought two pennyworth of spirit of salts for his attempted suicide. After he killed his sister, he drank the salts but they did not have any effect on him. Cecil gave himself up to the police and was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death. Almost on the stroke of New Year’s Eve, Roodhouse was pardoned and his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.