Not Guilty of Murder – 7 Years For Man Who Killed His Brother

March 1957

South Yorkshire Times March 16, 1957

Note: The name has been changed

Not Guilty of Murder
Seven Years For Man, 22, Who Killed His Brother    

John Thomas Bell (22), of Maple Grove Conisbrough, who was said to have killed his 21 years old brother, Sidney, by stabbing him in the stomach with a carving knife at a New Years Party at Old Edlington, was found guilty at Sheffield Assizes on Tuesday of manslaughter and was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. He was found not guilty of murder.

Mr Justice Oliver said: “It still remains a grave and terrible crime you have committed. The plunging of the dagger into the vitals of your brother is a terrible thing.”

The hearing of the case began on Monday, when Mr P Stanley Price, Q.C., prosecuting, described the case as “an unhappy story.”

It began, he said, at the Old Edlington home of a Mrs Coult, who was giving a party last New Year’s eve.

John Thomas Bell, senior, a miner, said that Sydney had returned home from National Service only six weeks earlier. He described the two brothers as “both good lads,” who often went out together. They were, he added, good friends.

Harold Lyon, stone burner, of March Vale Terrace, Conisbrough, said that there were some quarrelling incidents during the New Year’s eve party.

Went Outside

After an incident involving his own son, said Lyon, the two Bell brothers went outside subsequently, he alleged, he saw John Bell lying on the ground outside the house.

“I helped him to his feet,” said Mr Lyon. “Back inside the house he (accused) sat in a chair crying. His lips were puffed and there was blood on his face.

“A little later he asked for his coat and said he was going home. I saw him again shortly afterwards in the house. Then, I saw him go towards his brother Sidney.”

Mr Lyon said after, accused of made a “pushing gesture” at his brother, Sidney cried out: “he has stabbed me.”

“Sydney staggered across the room clasping his stomach,” said Mr Lyon. He took two or three gasps, and then his head fell to one side.”

“I Was in a Temper”

At Tuesday’s hearing, Detective Inspector Harold Wright said that in an alleged voluntary statement, John Bell said that with his brother kicking him “It made me want to get top side of him. I was in a temper. My mind just went blank. That’s why I did it.”

Cross-examined by Mr J.F.Drabble, QC defending, the officer agreed that John Bell was barely literate.

PC K McCall said that John Bell had a good Army character.

John Bell told the court that after his release from national Service in November 1956, he and his brother were the best of friends, though “we had arguments the same as others.”

He said he knew Jean Lyons very well, but was not courting her and had never taken her house. On New Year’s Eve we had a large quantity of drink than ever before, then went to the Lyons house and onto the party at old Edlington. He did not know why his brother asked him to go outside. He did not know it was anything to do with Jean Lyon.

His brother kicked him in the face and the next remembered sitting in a chair beside the fire with his close dirty and torn. When he remembered his brother that kicked him it made in while they went to his brother and asked him why he had kicked him.

Mr Drabble: do you remember weather on the way out you picked up a knife? – I do not remember.

He said his brother did not reply when he asked why he had kicked him.

“I thought my brother was coming towards me to give me another clout. I can’t remember what I did.The next thing I remember is the knife dropping on the floor. I stepped backwards from my brother and dashed for the door,” he said.

After running down the road he fell because of the amount of liquor he had had and, when he returned to his senses, he went back to see what he had done.

“I found my brother was dead. I felt very ashamed of myself.” He added. Neither he nor Sidney was courting Jean Lyon.

In cross-examination he agreed with Mr Price that he and his brother had “always been quarrelling.” Sidney and Jean had spent a good deal of the evening together.

Mr Justice Oliver: there had been dancing? – Yes.

Mr Price: had you had a dance with Jean? – No.

Bell admitted: “I have always wanted to get even with him, ever since we were young.”

He had aimed a blow to go outside before being struck himself. What he had done was to get the top side of his brother. Sidney had had about the same amount of drink as himself.

Energetic Worker

Mr William Lewis, cooking Road, Conisbrough, general foreman of Conisbrough Urban Council, said John Bell worked under him during most of 1956 and was an honest, sociable and energetic worker.”

Mr Drabble said the accused replied time after time as though mesmerised: “Yes, yes, yes,” under cross examination with scarcely a dissent in between.

“He is not very bright and needs our protection. I am asking you to say he is guilty of the very serious offence of manslaughter, but not guilty of the more serious offence of murder.

“The grounds that he was provoked into doing what he did.” He submitted that had there not been provocation Sidney Bell would be alive today.

“The accused was a man whom the jury might think would not know the difference between murder and manslaughter if it were explained to him 100 times.