A PIERCING scream ripped through the Colne Valley air.
The scream came from Sarah Bailey, shocked to discover a murdered girl’s body lying in a pool of blood.
Medical expert Dr Haigh examined the body on the upstairs landing of the Ivy Hotel, Linthwaite, and pronounced the young barmaid dead.
Fifteen-year-old Catherine Dennis’s throat had been slashed with a sharp knife.
The hapless servant girl weighed just five stones and her clothes were in disarray.
This was the scene at a murder which happened 120 years ago in Linthwaite.
Now the tragic story has been researched and recreated to feature in next month’s issue of True Detective magazine.
The gruesome events began to unfold on the afternoon of Friday August 21, 1891, at the Ivy Hotel, Manchester Road, which has been a private house for many years.
The pub’s owner, Mrs Margaret Brook, had gone into Huddersfield town centre on business, leaving the honest and hardworking Catherine in charge.
The Welsh girl had been at the Ivy for a year and in those days it was not uncommon for children to work in public houses.
At the time, 32-year-old farm labourer James Stockwell was drinking heavily at the bar with some other men.
What happened over the next two hours remains unclear. But at 4pm a butcher’s boy arrived with some meat to find the pub empty.
He left his parcel on the kitchen table and mentioned the fact to a drystone waller working in a field behind the Ivy.
He called over neighbour Sarah Bailey and they went to investigate.
They made their grim discovery some moments later.
Witnesses said that they had seen
James Stockwell leaving the pub just before the butcher’s boy and the police launched a manhunt.
Seventeen days later a severely emaciated Stockwell gave himself up to police. He had been sleeping rough and living on apples and beans.
Although he could not remember what had happened, he admitted to drinking heavily for two or three days.
On December 15 he pleaded “not guilty” to murder at Leeds Assizes.
A witness from Wakefield Prison hospital, where Stockwell was being held, said the defendant had told him that Catherine had teased him by knocking off his hat and pulling his moustache.
As a result Stockwell had chased her upstairs.
This account was never corroborated. No blood or the murder weapon was found on the farm labourer or his clothes.
Two Huddersfield medical experts gave evidence that James Stockwell’s intemperate life and his antecedents made him predisposed to “impulsive insanity”.
It took the jury just 10 minutes to find him guilty and he was sentenced to death.
Hangman James Billington was paid £10 8s 6d for the execution at Armley Gaol in January 5, 1892.
The story had a sad postscript. Catherine’s mother was so affected by the death of her daughter that she lost her mind and died in an asylum.
The full story can be read in the June issue of True Detective magazine. It is available from newsagents or online at www.truecrimelibrary.com