1917 - Murder and Suicide

Mexborough and Swinton Times May 26, 1917

Wombwell Woman’s End
Discovery At Tinsley
Remarkable Story
Inquest Details

The circumstances relating to the deaths of William Ward (26), munition worker, of 187 Attercliffe Road, Sheffield, and formerly a greengrocer, Mitchell Street, Wombwell, and Mary Ives (36), of 36, Jansen St, Sheffield, wife of John Edward Ives, sub- postmaster, Wombwell, were enquired into before Mr J Kenyon Parker, coroner and the jury at the Atlas hotel Canklow, on Saturday.

Supt Haynes and inspector Aspinall, of the Rotherham West Riding police, attended enquiry, and Mr A J Greaves was the foreman of the jury.

Evidence of the husband

John Edward Ives said he was the sub- postmaster at Wombwell. He identified the dead woman as his wife. He was not absolutely sure, but he thought she would be 37 years of age next July.

She had been lodging several months at 36 Jansen St, Sheffield, and had worked on munitions. She was at his house at Wombwell on Saturday evening, and left on Sunday. He did not hear from her after that until her death.

The first he heard was on Thursday at 1030 and the police called and told him of her description, and he recognised the initials on a ring. The policeman called and told him she and also that William Ward were dead. The policeman did not go into details as to how her death had been caused.

Witness was very much upset, and the constable asked him to speak on the phone and he could not. When witness reach Rotherham on Friday morning about 930 o’clock, that was the first intimation that she had died from violence. He was told by a police officer then that she was dead with her throat cut. He knew the circumstances now.

Have you any opinion as to whether she had been murdered or killed herself? – I have not the least possible doubt that she was murdered by William Ward.

Will you please state your reason? – She has told me that he has threatened to murder her.

Did you know William Ward? – I knew William Ward, but I do not think I have ever spoken to him.

I’m not going into matters more than I can help, but has there been trouble between you and your wife about this man Ward? – Yes, there has been trouble. (Witness at this stage seemed much affected.)

Has she been in love or infatuated with him? – I think it was infatuation only; that was all, I think. She has always been an epileptic subject, and suffered a great deal from the head, and had fits for a good number of years, almost ever since I have known her. She has been to hospitals and doctors, and they could do nothing for her.

Your wife was insured in the Prudential? – Yes, she has been insured from infancy.

Is that your wife writing? – Yes, it is.

Do you happen to know of any criminal charge against this man Ward? – I only know that he attempted to stab a girl at Wombwell. She was a barmaid; for which he got 12 months imprisonment.

Do you know how long ago that was? – As near as I can say it is about two years.

Do you know anything about Ward, where he came from, and whether he is married or single or has any relatives? – As far as I know he has relatives at Wombwell.

The man identified

Walter Byrd, miner, 13, Mitchell Terrace, Wombwell, said the deceased man Ward was his wife’s brother, and he was single. He had been working as a labourer at steelworks in Sheffield, and lodged at 187 Attercliffe Road.

Witness last saw the deceased Ward on Tuesday night at his house at Wombwell. Deceased and his fingers trapped and had been on compensation about three weeks.

Witness first heard of the death of deceased and policeman about 11:15 PM who told him that Ward had committed suicide; he did not know where, and they were to go to Rotherham Police station next morning.

Answering the Coroner, witness said he knew there had been relationships between Ward and Mrs Ives, and that they had lived together at Doncaster last August.

You know your brother-in-law got into trouble before, and was sent to prison? – Yes.

Was that in November 1914? – It was three years come September.

He was tried at Leeds Assizes? – Yes, sir.

What was it for? – Attempted murder on a woman.

Was that woman Mrs Ives? – No,  sir.

Do you know that it was also for attempting to commit suicide? – No, sir.

Do you know whether he was insured? – No, sir.

Who is going to bury him? – I expect his mother will have to bury him.

Just before the Tragedy

John Sturman, of Church Lane, Tinsley, said he had seen the dead man and woman, but had not known either of them. Last Thursday about 1:45 PM, he was going at Bawtry Road, and saw them walking up Wind Hill on the main road leading from Tinsley to Canklow. They were going towards can claw over about 50 or 60 yards in front of him. They turned off the road into the footpath, and he lost sight of them. They seemed to be quite on friendly terms.

The next see her about 3:50 PM was that they had been found dead. He was told by the cow man where he was employed. The place where the man and woman was found dead will be 70 or 80 yards from where he saw them walking.

Supt Haynes: When you saw the officer yesterday, did you not tell them that they seem to be “haggling”, at one another as they were walking along?

Witness: I cannot explain it. They did not seem to be “haggling”; they seem to be some difference in their walk, but whether they were quality I could not hear.

From the manner they were walking, did you form the opinion that they were quarrelling? – There was something; I cannot describe it.

The coroner: I suppose you did not take that particular notice? – No sir; I had a horse to look after. I was leading the horse.

A juror: Was anyone else near at the time to see these people? – When I first came out of the yard there was a young man with me. He only just came to the top of the hill and went back with the chain horse.

An Awful Discovery

Harold Bennett Wright, blacksmith of 34° Greasbro’ Road, Tinsley, said on Thursday about 3:35 PM he was walking round the fields on a Public Footpath from Shepcote Lane, Tinsley to the main road leading to Brinsworth.

He saw a parcel like a hardhat wrapped up. The parcel was produced, and contained a hardhat. It was about two or 3 yards from them. He first walked past, and something leading to turn back and have a look at young man and woman. He stood and watched a minute or two, and as they did not movie what back and went through the gate into the field. He saw the man’s hand over the woman was all over blood, and went up to them. They were lying side by side, the man to the right of the woman.

They were lying on their chests, the man with his left arm round the woman’s waist. Witness noticed blood on his left hand over the woman’s body. He had in his right hand a knife, which, when it was produced, witness identified.

The Coroner: Did you turn them over. I just want to know what happened, and not to blame you.

Witness replied that he did not turn them over. He just lifted a leg of both of them to see if they were alive. He saw that the manner cut the woman’s throat and cortisol, and there was a lot of blood about.

The Coroner: The opinion you formed was that he had cut the woman’s throat and then is wrong?

Witness: Yes sir. Proceeding with his evidence, he said he walked up the field and saw an old farmhand working and he drew his attention to the deceased, and they both went towards the bodies. He then reported what what he had found told the Tinsley police station, and he believed the farm and went back to his work, and did not remain beside the bodies.

At to the police station they rang up Attercliffe division and Inspector Cotterill came down and questioned witness, and it was found that the bodies were laid outside the city boundary, and Inspector Cotterill then rang up the Rotherham police, and witness went home, and put on his coat and returned to the field, and Detective Sgt Shaw came.

It was about 3:35 PM when he found the bodies and when he had been home and put on his coat and returned it would be at 4:30 PM. There was an old gentleman, a farmer and several people at the place.

There did not seem to have been any struggle whatever when he found the deceased, and their clothes were not disarranged. He saw the razor when the bodies were removed; it had been underneath.

Answering question, witness said his opinion was that the man had murdered a woman, and then cut his own throat. He did not hear any screams before he saw the deceased.

Detective Sergeant’s Story

Detective Sgt William Shaw said that he was the first police officer to arrive at the spot where the bodies were found. He got there about 5:30 PM and Wright and an old farm labourer were there.

So far as he could see the bodies had not been touched or move. Witness corroborated the statement of Wright asked the position of the bodies, and said he took the knife out of Ward’s right hand. The knife was not tightly clasped by the hand. The razor was found as the bodies would be removed.

He noticed the woman’s throat was cut, starting from near the right ear for about an inch, the skin being simply pierced and cut and became deeper, and severed the windpipe and jugular vein. It was a big gash. The woman’s was a clean cut, and in his opinion had been done with the razor, which was bloodstained. It was a bigger wound than the one on the man’s throat. The man’s throat was cut from the left and the windpipe pierced half way through. The wound was jagged, and witness was of opinion it was course by the penknife found in Ward’s hand. The wound had the appearance as if the penknife had been stuck in and suddenly jerked out. There was not the slightest sign of any struggle. The bodies were laid on the grass and their clothes are not disarranged. The woman had her spectacles on.

Whilst waiting for the conveyance he found a razor case (produced) in the man’s rain coat pocket.

Witness a got a number of letters from a tin box belonging to what is lodgings, and had gone through them all. Some of the letters belong to the deceased woman, written to her by her husband as well as letters written by her toward, but all were in possession of the latter. There was no note of any description left at her lodgings.

The Coroner: did you find anything in the letters to throw any light upon their deaths?

Witness: In the last letter there are two lines.

The Coroner: is this all one letter?

Witness, was shown a lengthy letter; Yes sir. Replying to questions he said as near as he could tell that date was April 20, 1917. The letter had been identified by the witness, John Edward Ives, as his wife’s handwriting and in it she asked Ward, “Did you tell Mr Ives that you threaten to take my life?”

In a letter she had written also: “Rather than be dependent upon this long, I will drown myself.”

These were the only two remarks witness could find bearing on their deaths. In his opinion, it was a case of murder and suicide; and not the slightest doubt about it. The distance from where the bodies were found to the Atlas Hotel, Canklow was about three quarters of a mile, and the bodies were removed on a dray.

The Man and the Razor

Annie Sands, widow, 187 Attercliffe Rd, Sheffield said Ward had lodged at her house for five-week. She had never seen him use a razor nor a razor belonging to him. She had heard him say that his hand was too unsteady to use a razor, and he always went to it a barbershop. She had never seen the defence sees with a razor produce, but had seen the knife, because while Ward’s finger was bad her little boy used to cut tobacco with it for the deceased man.

Witness did not know Mary Ives, but had seen a photograph, with Shawn to her by deceased, who told her that it was a married woman he had brought away from her husband at Wombwell, but witness did not know where she was living.

Walter Bird was recalled, and in answer to the coroner said he knew Ward well. Ward was not a man who shaved himself; neither was witness were that he had a razor. Ward had lived with him about four years, and I’ve never shared himself during that time. He used to go to the barber.

The Coroner, showing to witness the razor case: Have you ever seen that before?

Witness, after examining: I have said, in my house.

Loses it? – It belongs to me.

Is that your razor? I will have it washed if necessary.

Witness looked at it for a short time and replied: Yes.

You did not know that razor case have been found in his pocket? – Not sir; I did not.

Northat the razor had been found underneath him? – No sir

How long as he got hold of them? – I cannot say. I was working at home.

Was he at your house? – Yes, he came the night before.

You’re not miss them then? – No sir.

You’re quite sure they are yours? – Yes, sir.

Do you say he took them without you knowing? – Yes sir.

The Verdict

The Coroner remarked that he did not propose to call further evidence, as he thought they had got plenty. There was no doubt that Mary Ives and William Ward at one time lived as husband and wife together at Doncaster, and had been visiting one another since that time.

After reviewing the evidence, he said it pointed in the direction that the man first murdered the woman and then committed suicide. With regard to the state of mind with Ward there was no evidence whatever.

The jury returned a verdict to the effect that Ward had murdered Mrs Ives and then committed suicide, and that there was no evidence as to the state of mind.

The Coroner said he wished direct superintendent Haynes attention to the good and careful way in which Detective Sgt Shaw and made enquiries into the matter also given his evidence at the inquest.

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