ELHAS News - February 2017

Meeting Report February 2017

At our February meeting we welcomed Andrea Hetherington who gave us a wonderful talk "A Horrible Crime of Murder - Dark Deeds from 19thC Hunslet". Andrea is a criminal solicitor so her talk was most apt. She is the author of several publications including the history of Proctor Bros a prominent Leeds company. It was whilst she was researching for this that she came across the story of Thomas Malkin and the heinous crime he committed.

Andrea began by saying that contemporary reporting of the crime referred to it as "the most cold bloodied murder ever perpetrated in Leeds". She explained that the crime, which occurred on the 8th of October 1848, took place in Hunslet, then a village on the outskirts of Leeds. Hunslet at that time consisted of 14 chapels and churches, 7 flax mills and 36 public houses. Both the flax mills and the public houses were to feature in the story. Thomas Malkin was a youth of seventeen years who worked as a bobbin maker in Holdsworth's Mill. Like many of his station then he was unable to read and write. He had apparently been in a relationship with Esther Inman for over a year, but Esther appears to have been wanting to cool the relationship. However on the fateful night she came out of the house to meet him quite willingly. Shortly afterwards she appeared at her door covered in blood and fell dying into the arms of her stepfather.

Thomas disappeared after the incident and there was even a suggestion that he had drowned himself. However he was found within a couple of days in Vicar Lane in Leeds. Andrea explained the differences between the Victorian justice system and nowadays. Then it was common for an inquest to not only establish the facts but also to record a verdict. This was the case in Esther's inquest which was held at the Sun Inn in Hunslet.

The verdict was murder and Thomas was held to be the perpetrator. He was therefore referred to the Assize Court at York, the equivalent of the Crown Court today. This was the court for offences which carried the death penalty. Andrea had advised us that by 1837 only the crimes of murder and treason carried the death penalty, although earlier in the 19th C, a period known as the Bloody Code, more than 200 offences were punishable by death. Men, women and children as young as seven years of age could be hanged for the slightest of offences. Speaking of the Victorian morbid obsession with murder, Andrea explained that word of this crime spread nationally and was the subject of many newspaper articles and single page broadsheets or broadsides. The trial was held on the 20th December 1848 presided over by judge Baron Platt. Thomas was unable to give evidence on his own behalf but he did have representation. Although he had professed himself to be "perfectly innocent", evidence was brought which showed he had fashioned a 'broche', a sharpened metal instrument and several people had seen him with Esther on the night of the murder. A guilty verdict was quickly returned and he was sentenced to death by hanging. Although there were several requests for clemency, this was carried out on the 6th of January 1849. By this point it was known that he had confessed to his family and the prison chaplain. Newspaper reports said as many as 12,000 attended the public execution, many of whom had walked all night from Hunslet. Although the subject was gruesome we enjoyed this interesting talk and the background information Andrea supplied about the justice system and crime generally in Victorian times, ensured our attention for the whole evening. She ended her talk with the chilling statistic that in 2015 two women per week were murdered by ex or current partners.


The next meeting on Monday 27th March 2017 will be an illustrated talk by emeritus Professor Joyce Hill entitled "Anglo Saxon Churches in Yorkshire"