Rotherham Murders: A half-century of Crime

Set in a social backdrop of recovery from two world wars, Margaret Drinkall’s Rotherham Murders concentrates on killings that took place in and around the town during the first fifty years of the twentieth century. Most of the cases have not been written about in recent years, but are now investigated and told by a modern crime historian. Read about the brutal death of a policeman, a sensational ‘body in a trunk’ murder which resulted in Scotland Yard detectives coming to Rotherham and the very first wireless appeal for help in catching the culprit. Other sad and foul deeds include mothers killing their own children, an unusual transvestite case, an early motoring crime and a gamekeepers grim revenge. Not for the feint hearted these cases will both shock and astonish in equal measure, true stories set within one of South Yorkshires most important industrial towns.

Chapter List

Chapter One:               He Died Like an Englishman 1900

Chapter Two:              ‘I Have Gone Mad’ 1914

Chapter Three:            Attempted Murder at Hoober Stand 1916

Chapter Four:              Murder of a Neighbour 1915

Chapter Five:              Murder at Maltby 1918

Chapter Six:                Death of Annie Fellows 1919

Chapter Seven:            Attempted Murder at Mexborough 1920

Chapter Eight:             Post Natal Depression 1916 & 1921

Chapter Nine:              Death of a Showgirl 1921

Chapter Ten:               A Mother’s Right to Defend Her Child 1922

Chapter Eleven:          Death on Gerard Road 1922

Chapter Twelve:         Till Death 1936

Chapter Thirteen:        The Gamekeepers Revenge 1936

Chapter Fourteen:        The Rotherham Trunk Murder 1936

Chapter Fifteen:          Malice Aforethought 1939

Chapter Sixteen:          The Body in the Ditch 1940

Chapter Seventeen:     The Unfaithful Wife 1941

Chapter Eighteen:        The Wicked Stepmother 1945

Chapter Nineteen:       A  Sexual Pervert 1950

Extract from the book

Post Natal Depression


Saturday 16th August 1919 was a beautiful day, just the kind of day when families would take a walk along the canal side. Such a family was walking down the side of the canal at Holmes just on the outskirts of Rotherham. The family consisted of father Fred Barrowcliffe and his wife and child who lived at Ferham Road Masbrough. Suddenly the beautiful day was shattered by a cry. Barrowcliffe noted a young woman had plunged into the icy water with a very young child in her arms which he estimated to be about four months old. He divested himself of his coat and waistcoat and jumped into the water where he managed to get the woman, aged about 39 to the bank with the child. His wife meanwhile had gone to fetch a police constable. In an effort to calm the woman he spoke gently to her as he was extremely worried about the little baby who seemed to be unconscious in her arms. The name of the woman was Lillian Boyd and she was a married, living with her husband and six other children at Harrison Street, Holmes. She told Barrowcliffe that she had intended to take her own life saying that she ‘had a lot of problems with a poisoned arm’. There was no sign of a constable and so Barrowcliffe walked her to the short distance to her house where the constable arrived shortly afterwards.


Barrowcliffe told the him that the child was still alive, but he was very worried as it looked in a very serious condition and so a medical surgeon was sent for. But by the time he arrived at the house, the baby was dead. Boyd was by now quite hysterical but despite this she was arrested and charged with the willful murder of her four month old son Fred Boyd. She was brought before the police court on Thursday 28th August 1919, where throughout the enquiry she was reported as being very quiet. She appeared to be in a very confused condition and on the one hand asking the constables in the dock with her ‘where is my baby’ and then ‘Isn’t this a terrible thing to do’, giving the reason that ‘it was the blood poisoning that did it’. The court heard the evidence of the witnesses and the surgeon and the jury had no option but to find her guilty of murder and to send her for trial at the Assizes.


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