The Stabbing on Howard Street, Rotherham

On Monday 25 May 1903 a 23 year old girl called Martha Parkin was on her way to work, being employed at the confectionery works of Messrs Kenyon Son and Parkin on Morpeth Street, Rotherham. She was about to begin on the morning shift which started at 7 am, so she didn’t want to be late. Martha was still thinking about an argument she had with her twenty four year old boyfriend, Richard Hattersley as she left the house. She had been going out with him for the last five months, but he had got very possessive and quarrelsome just recently and she had had enough. Two days earlier, Richard had come to the house she shared with her mother on Grieves Road, Rotherham, and that’s when she had finally told him that she wanted to break up with him.

Richard had not taken it well, yet Martha was determined that she would not give in and take him back. Nevertheless she was worried, as in the past he had shown signs of having a vicious temper. As Martha turned into Midland Road, her heart sank as she saw Richard Hattersley waiting for her outside the house he lived in with his parents. Seeing her approach, Richard came out from the doorway where he had stood waiting for her and joined his former lover. Martha reluctantly allowed him to walk with her to work, but she warned him that she had not changed her mind. She wanted, if at all possible, to keep the break-up as amicable as she could. Nevertheless he pleaded with her to take him back and promised to change, but the girl was obdurate as she tried to let him down gently.

Walking as quickly as she could, Martha had almost reached her destination as the couple turned into Howard Street. Now knowing that the confectioners works was not far away, she began to increase her pace. Suddenly Richard grabbed her arm and stopped her just outside the Rotherham Theatre. He said to her ‘If you wont have me, then you shan’t have anyone else’ before knocking her viciously to the ground. Martha screamed as he then started to stab at her with the knife he had drawn out of his pocket. Fortunately other people, including Police Constable Grimmer were not too far away. When that officer heard the girls screams he ran to the scene, just in time to see the girl on the floor and her attacker running away.

PC Grimmer immediately saw that she was bleeding and he judged the condition of the girl to be a serious one from the amount of blood that Martha was losing. It was pouring from injuries that she had received to her hands, head and arms. Grimmer blew on his police whistle and thankfully another police officer swiftly came to his aid. It was Police Constable Swain and he summoned a cab in which he was then able to take the injured girl to the hospital. Grimmer then tried to pursue the girls attacker, but he had long gone. Police enquiries soon established his identity however and on Tuesday 26 May Richard Hattersley was arrested and taken into custody on a charge of malicious wounding.

The prisoner was brought before the magistrate the next day and when asked if he had anything to say, Richard told the court ‘I did not intend anyone else to have her. I am very sorry, It was my temper that did it.’ He was defended by local solicitor Mr W M Gichard who brought the first witness to give his evidence. He was the surgeon at the Rotherham Hospital, Dr Harold Kerr who told the court the girl had been brought into the hospital around 7.30 am on Monday morning and he could immediately see that, despite the amount of blood, that her injuries were thankfully mostly superficial. Consequently after attending to them, the patient was allowed to go home.

He told the court that Martha had since become an outpatient and that he would continue to keep an eye on her for another week or so, but was expecting a full recovery. Mr Gichard asked him if the injuries could have been made worse by Martha attempting to defend herself, to which the surgeon was forced to agree that they might have been. The next witness was Martha herself and she appeared in the court with her hands and head bandaged. She was given a seat and allowed to give her evidence from a seated position. Martha gave an explanation of the cause of the attack and said that she had prevented the prisoner from stabbing her in the heart, only by trying to grab at the knife with her hands.

The witness related how thankfully her screams attracted other people, and Richard had then run off. When cross examined by the prisoners defence, Martha admitted that it was Richard’s usual custom to walk her to work some mornings. However she hotly denied his suggestion that she had told him that she wanted to go out with anyone else. When asked the reason why she had broken up with him, Martha replied because he would not leave her alone. She stated that ‘no matter where I went, he was after me.’ Her father was the next witness and Thomas Parkin told the court about a harrowing conversation he had with the prisoner just the day before. He said it was on the Sunday when Richard told him flatly that he would make sure that his daughter never went out with anyone else.

Parkin told him ‘If I know you put a hand on my daughter to harm her, I shall give you something with my fists’. However the prisoner remained unmoved and simply repeated that he would kill her. Mr Gichard asked the witness what had been his opinion of Richard up to the pair having the argument. Parkin was forced to admit that Richard had always come across as a decent and respectable man, who was hard working and attentive to his daughter. In addressing the court for the defence, Mr Gichard asked that the magistrates send the prisoner for trial at the local Quarter Sessions rather than the Assizes, as he knew they would deal more leniently with him. He made an effort to minimise the crime, pointing out that it was just an ordinary case of wounding, and therefore not serious enough to be sent to the Assizes.

Mr Gichard stated that the prisoners conduct had been extremely foolish, and he would need to be punished for it, but if he was sent before the Assizes, he would be unlikely to be able to pay for a defence counsel. The bench acceded to his request and Richard Hattersley was sent to take his trial and the Rotherham Quarter Sessions. Although he was allowed bail with sureties of £20 for himself and two other sureties of £10 each, Richard was unable to provide any sureties, so he was forced to remain in custody. Subsequently Richard Hattersley appeared before the Rotherham Midsummer Quarter Sessions on Tuesday 14 July 1903. It was reported that there were just two cases to be heard before the Recorder, Mr Harold Thomas that day and they were both for unlawful wounding.

Mr R Leader was the prosecution in the case of Richard Hattersley and he gave the jury an outline of the case so far. The prisoners defence was Mr T E Ellison who stated that before this had happened, Richard was known to be a man of extremely good character. He said that he had been very much in love with Martha, and therefore had been heartbroken when she said she didn’t wish to see him any more. The prisoners defence pointed out that medical evidence had proved that the wounds were all superficial in nature, which showed that Richard had no malicious intent. Mr Ellison claimed that he had simply lost his head and had probably just intended to frighten the girl if anything. The defence reminded the jury that Richard had already been in prison for two months.

The prisoners employer Mr Edward Sugden then also gave Richard Hattersley an excellent character, before the Recorder summed up for the jury. He told them:

It is the duty of every man to protect the woman he loved, and if she did not chose to love him, as her lover he had no right to take the law into his own hands, as the prisoner had done on this occasion. If the injuries had been serious, I would have been bound to pass upon hima more serious sentence of penal servitude. As it is, I sentence him to eighteen calendar months imprisonment with hard labour.’

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