The Viaduct Murder – A Suicide Pact – Youth Sentenced to death

December 1925

Mexborough and Swinton Times December 11, 1925

The Viaduct Murder
A Story of Midsummer madness
Tragic End to Illicit Love Affair
A Suicide Pact
Youth Sentenced to death

“Though she behaved as any mother would, her very proper behaviour resulted in the awful death of Violet Emily Turner.” This in effect, was how counsel defending George Temperton (18), miner of 27 Wellington Road, Edlington, charged with murder at Leeds Assizes on Monday, went to the root of the case.

The trial of the young miner lasted four hours. There were no more than the usual number of people in court, but in the women’s gallery were five persons either relatives of friends of the prisoner or Mrs Turner. During the evidence of the prisoner from the witness box, they all wept, and continued to do so through a moving speech made by counsel for the defence. When the verdict of “Guilty” was pronounced by the foreman, one of them fell back, crying “Oh!” And buried her face in her hands.

The prisoner himself showed no emotion, and when sentence was passed he quickly stepped down from the dark to the cells below.

Mr Justice Fraser conducted the trial. Mr F.C. Burnand appeared for the prosecution, and Mr J.A.Green, instructed by Mr W.L.Crawford, of Doncaster, was for the prisoner.

In answer to the charge, the prisoner pleaded “Not guilty.”

The Prosecution

Mr Burnand said the dead woman had been living apart from her husband since November of last year. She had three children, one of them a baby, and having separated from her husband she went into domestic service.

It was apparent that while in service she had been keeping company with the prisoner, for in May the prisoner was passing 64 Princess Avenue, Edlington, where Mrs James, mother of the dead woman lived. On seeing the prisoner she went out to him, and said “I hear you are going about with Violet,” and then told prisoner that Violet was a married woman with three children. He replied: “Being married makes no difference; I care that much about her and no matter where she goes I shall find her.”

The Fatal Week End

In July Mrs Turner left her employment and went to live with her mother, and was living with her at the “fatal weekend”, which began on Saturday, 22 August. On that day about 2 PM Mrs Turner packed her clothes and her mother packed the baby’s clothes. That having been done, the woman left her mother’s home, taking the baby with her. At for that afternoon, she arrived with her baby and the prisoner at the house of Harold Broxton, 111 Aberconway Crescent Rossington. The prisoner asked if they might have lodgings and told Broxton they had been married 12 months and had one child. Broxton let them the front bedroom. They went to bed at 8.30 that night and the next morning, after breakfast prisoner left the house telling Broxton he was going home to get his pit clothes.

He left and did not reappear until about four that afternoon. He said, “I cannot get my clothes. They won’t give them to me.” He brought with him a bicycle. At 7 o’clock that evening he went away on the his bicycle until 9.30 when he came in again without his clothes, and said, “The house was locked, and I cannot get in.”

That night they went to bed again, and the next morning Broxton left home for work, leaving the prisoner and Mrs Turner still in bed.

Relatives Intervene

At 1 o’clock on that day, a Monday, there arrived at this house the prisoner’s mother, sister and sister-in-law. They had gone to that place because they discovered that the prisoner was living there with Mrs Turner, and they went to persuade them to separate and return to their homes.

Mrs Temperton had a lengthy conversation with the prisoner and tried to persuade him to return home, but he refused. Sometime after that Broxton arrived home from his work and found the three people downstairs, while the prisoner and Mrs Turner were upstairs.

He was called for by the prisoner who said, “I am sorry this has occurred. My parents have arrived and I shall have to go back home.” Prisoner then arranged with Broxton that the money due to him for the lodgings should be paid out of prisons wages. Broxton was to draw the wages and forward the balance to the prisoner.

An “Agreement”

The afternoon passed with these various conversations and at 5 o’clock all the five of them with the baby left. They were going on to Edlington and as they were going through Edlington Wood, the prisoner said, “I don’t like going through the village while its light. I will wait until it is dark.”

Mrs Temperton replied “Don’t stay in the wood; go on to my house.” He went on his bicycle to the house of his sister-in-law at 6 North Square, Edlington.

Just after 7 o’clock the four who walked arrived at the house and there they spent some time.

“Now,” said counsel to the jury, “you will hear that during the time they were there, there was no quarrelling, and for part of the time the prisoner was in the living room alone.    I am telling you for this reason: in the living room wall on a bracket by the mantelpiece there was a razor belonging to the prisoner’s brother. That razor you will hear something of later.”

At 9 o’clock the prisoner left the house, say “Good night, Nell, I am going home, now.” That was to his sister. At about a 9:15, Mrs Turner left the house.

She arrived at 31, St John’s Row, the home of her mother, with her baby. She took off her fur hat and gloves and put on a heavy coat and small hat, went out of the house, leaving behind, with her mother, the baby. That was at 9:15 p.m.

At Conisborough

“it was during the next hour,” said counsel, “that I’m going to submit to you, that this man took the life of Violet Emily Turner.”

The next they knew about it was that at 10:10 PM there was a knock on the door at the house, “Wyngate Cottages,” Conisborough. On going to the door a miner named Harvey found the prisoner who tried to speak to him, and made a sort of rattling noise. The prisoner took hold of Harvey’s hand and directed it to his throat, and Harvey then realised it was cut            .

He went back to the kitchen, followed by the prisoner. Having some knowledge of First Aid, Harvey did what he could to stop the bleeding. What was important was that the prisoner said, “I have done my woman in under the viaduct.” A few minutes later Harvey took the prisoner to a house where there was a telephone, the house of Mr Oswald. The police and a doctor were telephoned for    .

The prisoner then said to Mr Oswald: “I have done a woman in, in the Cliffs under the viaduct.” Oswald asked if she was dead, and the prisoner replied, “Yes, she is dead now. She won’t move.” In due course, at a 10:45, the police arrived, and PC Hibbert saw the prisoner’s throat, and the prisoner at once took out of his right hand pocket a razor, and said, “I have done it with this.” He then handed the razor over to the Police Constable.

That was the razor belonging to Temperton’s brother and had been taken from the bracket in the sitting room. He said to the constable, “I have done a woman in under the Cliffs at Conisborough.”

Dr King arrived and dressed the prisoners wounds  and prisoner was taken off to the Doncaster Infirmary with PC Hibbert.

At the Infirmary the constable examined the prisoner’s coat and found in his breast pocket a watch and a lemon coloured handkerchief, the property of the dead woman.

The Search

Meanwhile a search had begun at Conisborough, and in the very place which the prisoner had described on the bank of the river Don, under the viaduct on the Cliffs, the party found the body of the woman, Violet Emily Turner. She was lying on her back, one arm by her side and the other over her head. She had 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. The clothes were not disarranged and there was no signs of a struggle.

The Fatal Wound

The Doctor would say that she had been dead about two hours. The body was removed to the Castle Inn, Conisborough, and the Dr, on a further examination, found the neck wound to be 5 inches long, and that the main arteries and the jugular vein with all the muscles had been cut down to the spine, and even the spinal column was cut. At the post-mortem examination, the cause of death was found to have been the bleeding from that very severe cut in the throat. Her unconsciousness must have been almost instantaneous and death must have followed in a very few moments if not almost at once.

In order to make that cut considerable force must have been used, and Mrs Turner could not have inflicted the wound herself. The doctor also came to the conclusion she was lying down at the time the wound was inflicted.

Witnesses were then called, and evidence given as in the lower court bearing out counsel’s statement.

Mrs Eleanor James, wife of Fred James, of 31 St John’s Road, Edlington, mother of Violet Turner, said in a evidence that the three children of Mrs Turner were aged four years, two years and 18 months respectively.

Cross-examined she said when her daughter’s husband left, he went to Manchester and took the boy aged two. He never maintained his wife or supported her in any way, and she (Mrs Turner) went into service to get money for the support of her two children.

The prisoner and Mrs Turner were very fond of each other and were always together. When she told witness she was going to live with the prisoner, witness said she did not think it was right.

Mrs Turner replied, “If Temperton will find me a home I will go and live with him, no matter what anybody says. If we can get some furniture on the hire system we shall get two rooms and make the best of it.”

Counsel: In the house in which you were going to live, there was not sufficient room for her? – I would have made room.

You only had two bedrooms for your husband and yourself, Mrs Turner and her two children and another of your daughters? You would have tried to have accommodated her?


Harold Broxton, miner of 111, Aberconway Crescent, Rossington, was the next witness, and spoke to having let rooms to the prisoner and Mrs Turner.

A Happy Boy

Cross-examined, the witness said the couple had no furniture. The prisoner was of a rather happy disposition. He and witness worked in the same stall at the colliery. When the prisoner called witness upstairs on the day that the relatives visited the home, the prisoner was very depressed and very serious.

“One of the Best.”

Ellen Temperton, wife of Joseph Henry Temperton, who was brother to the prisoner, gave evidence, and in cross examination said the prisoner’s father had been unable to work regular, while the boy had been a regular worker.

Counsel: He was, in fact, a good son to his mother?

Yes, absolutely; one of the best.

The next witness was Leonard Harvey, miner of 47, Gardens Lane, Conisborough, who answered the door at Wyngate cottage and rendered first-aid to the prisoner. He was not cross-examined.

A Lonely Spot

Charles Oswald, manager of the Conisborough glassworks, to whose house the prisoner was brought by Harvey, next gave evidence, and in answer to counsel for the defence he said the spot where the body was found was very lonely.

PC Hibbert, in his evidence, said when he charged prisoner, on September 23, He answered, “I have nothing to say at present.” In reply to a charge of having attempted to commit suicide, the prisoner said, “I did try to take my own life.” Witness was not cross-examined.

Temperton’s own story

Mr Green called the prisoner into the witness box.

Mr Green: I want to bring you straight away to the time when you went away with Mrs Turner. You did agree to go with her and went to Broxton’s house? – Yes

Did you both then definitely decide to live together as man and wife and continue so to do? – Yes sir

You went to your own house to get your pit clothes, and you are unable to get them? – Yes sir

On Monday your mother, sister and sister-in-law all came to Broxton’s house? – Yes sir

After persuasion you told them you would go back with them? – Yes sir.

During most of the time your mother and sisters were persuading you to return, Mrs Turner was in the bedroom upstairs? – Yes

A Suicide Pact

When you eventually agreed to go, did you are Mrs Turner come to any agreement between yourselves?

Yes sir. We came to an agreement that we should both go together and commit suicide.

Did you make an agreement also as to where you would meet that night after pretending to go back to your respective homes?

Yes, we made an agreement to meet.

And you afterwards did meet her?

At the top of Brickyard Lane, where we had agreed to meet.

Is it true you went on ahead to your sister-in-law’s house on the bicycle? – Yes sir.

Took the Razor

And the Razor you did take from the shelf?

Yes sir I knew where it was.

And you put in your pocket? – Yes

You went away at 9 o’clock and said “Good night, Nell I am going home.” – Yes

As a matter of fact did you go to the top of the Brickyard Lane to wait for Mrs Turner joining you?

Yes, I went straight there.

Eventually did Mrs Turner join you at the brickyard? – Yes

The Last Walk

Did you and she then walk together to the viaduct? – Yes

How far would you walk together?

We took a short cut and went across the fields.

It is a lonely place, is it not? – Yes

Did you show Mrs Turner a razor? – Yes sir

What did she say? – She said “We will do it with this.”

A Terrible Promise

Did she say anything to you about yourself before you use the Razor?

She said “Will you promise me to cut your own throat?”

Did you promise that you would ? – Yes

Did you then use the Razor and cut her throat? – Yes

Were you holding her at the time?

I had my arms round the back of her head and she was leaning against the support.

And immediately you cut her throat you let her drop on the bank? – Yes

Did you then do your best to cut your own? – Yes, sir

Were you very fond of each other? – Yes sir

And did you cut her throat and tried to cut your own because you both wanted to die rather than part? – Yes

A Clear Admission

Counsel for the prosecution then addressed the jury, and said the prisoner had gone into the box and told them that he took a razor from the place where he knew it was because they had agreed together to commit suicide. They went to the viaduct and there the prisoner said she said to him when he showed the razor, “We will do it with that.”

Counsel continued: “You may believe his story or you may not. It does not matter a bit, in my submission.”

The jury might come to the conclusion that the prisoner took the woman’s life with no kind of an agreement that they had agreed to do it, but if they believed the story that he took that razor and cut her throat, “Then,” said the Counsel, “I say definitely to you that it is an admission as clear as it could possibly be, that he murdered that woman and I say in law that is an admission of murder.

“I warn you against feelings of sympathy that naturally must spring up in one at a time of such a serious charge as this. We must all feel very, very sorry indeed to see this boy in these tragic circumstances. There may be some sort of reason although there is no excuse at all. But we are not to bother with this. You have a perfectly straightforward duty to perform and I am sure not one of you will shrink from it.”

Speech for the defence

Mr Green then addressed the jury for the defence. He said that in English law there were no degree of murder: but the jury might, if they wished set the work of mercy moving by bringing in a certain recommendation.

Here they had a boy only 18 years of age. He met a woman whom he at first believed to be single, and fell in love with her.

Mrs Turner was a woman who had been deserted by her husband. After being a service she came home, dragged down, unfit for further work.

“Under the circumstances she faced what must have been a very bad outlook. Her answer to her mother who said this thing was not right, was: ‘if Temperton will find me a home I will go and live with him. If we can get furniture on the hire system, we will make the best of it.’

“For the first time the boy appreciated the difficulty of what was entailed by what he did when the parents arrived at the house where they were living together. I think it is one of the most dreadful things in this case that what was no doubt the proper attitude of the mother should have had such an awful result. Yet she behaved as only any mother would have done.”

They must remember the position in which Mrs Turner was. The protection of this young healthy man was seized like a straw would be seized by a drowning man, and they could imagine what would happen when that support was taken away. When they had people plunged into despair as they knew these two people were, they could believe that they would say what the deceased woman said: “We cannot live apart. If we cannot live together, we will end it.”

Counsel suggested the motive was clear, it was nothing else but the despair of having to give up their lives together, and to have to throw up that longing they had for each other. It was one of the most pitiful tragedies that had come into the lives of these two families.

Counsel concluded: “I suggest it is a case where the jury well and should take the most merciful view that you possibly can take. I asked you to return the most merciful verdict my Lord’s direction will allow.”

The judge then summed up the evidence and defined the legal meaning of murder, in which he said if two persons agreed to commit suicide and only one of them died, then the survivor was guilty of murder. It was, he said, the intent of the prisoner, not the motive, which was crucial. He reminded them of the oath they that taken and which he himself taken, and said they had a duty to perform the public as well as the prisoner.

The jury retired for about eight minutes, and on their return, the foreman pronounced a verdict of “Guilty.”

The Foreman said they wish to make a strong recommendation to mercy on account of the youth of the prisoner.

The Judge then assumed the black cap, and addressing the prisoner, said, “you are been found guilty of the wilful murder of Violet Emily Turner. The strong recommendation to mercy which the jury of return with their verdict will be forwarded by me to the proper authorities. It is my duty to pass upon you the only sentence sanctioned by law in respect of the crime of murder.”

The death sentence was then pronounced.