A Truly Nasty Piece of Work.

Kate Drayton separated from her husband in the beginning of 1914 and soon after she returned back to live with her father, who took in lodgers at his house on Strafford Terrace, Denaby near Rotherham. One of the lodgers was a miner who worked at the colliery there, a man called George Kirkham. It was not long before he started to pay attention to his landlord’s attractive daughter. After some months he asked her to move in with him, but Kate, having been married and separated before, was simply not interested and she refused. Only then did she see the other side of George Kirkham. After this refusal he firstly began to cajole her and then finally to threaten her.

Kate at first took little notice of his threats, but then one day he showed her a revolver that he always carried with him. Kirkham took her by the arm and told her that if she did not do as he had asked, he would make sure that ‘her life would not be worth three halfpennies when he had done with her.’ It was at this point that Kate became very afraid. She told her father of Kirkham’s threats and he immediately ordered him to leave the lodging house and find somewhere else to live. Kirkham moved into lodgings in Mexborough, but he still could not get Kate out of his mind and continued to hang around her fathers house at Denaby, hoping to catch her on her own.

On Wednesday 29 April 1914 he was outside the house just as Kate was leaving. She had planned to visit a friend, but grew more and more nervous as he followed her to her friends house. Kate quickly ran inside, but it took some time before she finally began to calm down. When Kate told her father about it he was furious, and quickly reported the incident to the police. As a result of this George Kirkham was taken into custody. When he was brought before the West Riding magistrates at Doncaster on Saturday 2 May 1914, he was charged with using threats towards Kate Drayton. She was defended by Mr F Allen who told the court that his client was terrified of the prisoner in the dock.

He pointed out that the man was well known in Denaby to carry a gun, and that he had threatened on several occasions to use it. Mr Allen asked the bench to bind the prisoner over to keep the peace and order him to stay away from his client. Kate then took the witness stand and related how Kirkham had threatened her on many occasions. She related a previous incident when he had given her a bottle containing some liquid. He made her drink some of it, but when she did so, it gave her a burning sensation in her throat. A colleague who worked with Kirkham was the next witness, and he gave his name as Joseph Henry Grice. He said that he was the prisoner’s uncle and he too lived at Denaby.

The witness indicated just how ruthless his nephew could be. He confirmed that he had also heard him threaten to shoot Kate, and had stated in front of others that he would ‘have his revenge’ on her somehow. Grice said that the prisoner had also threatened that if he was ever sent to prison on Kate’s account, he would have his revenge on her when he came out. Grice told the court that his nephew had shown him some cartridges for the gun, and had also admitted that he had some poisonous drugs in his possession, which he was not afraid to use. Another witness called Arthur Garbutt stated that he too was a Denaby collier, and the prisoner was a work colleague of his. He too confirmed the previous witness’s account and said that Kirkham had also told him that he ‘would out her’ before he had finished.

Garbutt told the court that he had advised the prisoner to get rid of the gun, saying this if he didn’t ‘he would find himself in very deep trouble’ but Kirkham had told him he had no intention of getting rid of it. On the contrary he told him he was determined to use it if he did not get his own way. After hearing from these witnesses it was time for the prisoner to make his own defence. He confirmed that he had gone to Kate’s house on the day in question, but said it was after he had received a letter that she had sent to him. He denied that he had ever made any threats towards her and that ‘he thought too much of her to say such words to her.’ Kate’s defence solicitor, Mr Allen closely questioned the prisoner as to his feeling towards her, but Kirkham said that he had resigned himself to the idea that he did not wish to have any more to do with Kate or her father.

Kirkham then claimed that he only carried the gun around with him to frighten people, and in actual fact, he said the gun was broken. He claimed that he had simply used it to frighten Kate’s father and brother with it, after they had both threatened him to leave her alone. Significantly he added that he knew that Kate was afraid of him and admitted that he had forced her to drink something from a bottle on that one occasion. Mr Kelly asked him what was in the mixture, but Kirkham said that it had only been a mixture of whisky and something called ‘phospherine.’ This sadistic man however claimed that he had only given her the drink ‘in fun.’ Thankfully the Doncaster magistrates saw through Kirkham’s claims of innocence and ordered him to keep the peace for six months in the sum of £10 with two sureties of £5 each.

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