Murder at Foxholes

murder at foxholes

The Wakefield Express, Saturday August 10th 1895

Murder of a Methley man at Altofts. Inquest yesterday.

I am indebted to Elaine and John Jordan of Castleford for a copy of the following extract from the Wakefield Express of 10th August 1895. Elaine took up the search for the story from her ancestors who were the Illingworth family in Methley.

A great sensation was caused early in the week by the mysterious disappearance of John Illingworth, a hanger-on employed at FoxholesColliery, near Methley. It appears that Illingworth, who had a wife and three children, was twenty-six years old, and lived in Foxholes Pit yard. On Saturday evening August 3rd 1895 he left home, telling his wife he was going for a walkand would return about ten o’clock. Where he went at first is not known but at 9.45 he turned up at the Fox Inn, Altofts, and soon afterwardsAlfred Beaumont, who lodges at the inn came in.

There seems no doubt that Illingworth had had a good deal to drink, and he got a bottle filled with half a pint of whisky. Owing to his beginning an altercation with some of the customers the landlord got him to leave about 10.45, and Beaumont went after him to see him safe over the bridge. Beaumont, it would seem was far from sober. What took place outside is not known, further than that. Beaumont on his return said Illingworth was a queer chap, and wanted to fight, but he had seen him on his way all right.

As Illingworth did not turn up at home that night inquiries were instituted and the river was dragged. Meanwhile the police, hearing that Beaumont had spoken about having Illingworth’s watch, went to the Fox Inn, and found the watch and chain in the bed in which Beaumont sleeps. Beaumont was at once apprehended and taken to Wakefield on a charge of stealing the watch.

No tidings being still forthcoming as to Illingworth the matter assumed a very grave aspect. The dragging of the river was continued, and at 1.30 on Thursday afternoon the body was found about 150 yards from Foxholes Lock, which is not far from where Beaumont said he left Illingworth on Saturday night. The body which was much decomposed, was conveyed to deceased’s late residence.

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Yesterday at noon Major Taylor held an inquest at the Mexborough Arms Inn, Scholey Hill, Methley.

The jury was composed as follows

Messrs James Mathers, foreman, John Riley, Levi Winterburn, George Risker, Philip Connell, Thomas Asquith, George Rooke, George Wood, Thomas Green, John Allison, Thomas Thompson, and Joseph Taylor. Seargeant Asquith was in attendance on the coroner.

Considerable interest was manifest in the proceedings, in the circumstances surrounding the death of the deceased causing no little exitement in the district. The man Alfred Beaumont who is charged with having stolen the deceased’s watch and chain, was present at the inquiry. He was brought from Wakefield gaol in a cab under the care of Supt Shepley and Inspecter Akeroyd. It was considered best to bring him in this manner to avoid a scene very few persons witnessed his arrival.

The jury proceeded to view the body, which lay at the house in Foxholes Pit -yard, and they were away about three-quarters of an hour. On their return evidence was called, the first witness being deceased’s wife. Mrs Illingworth appeared to be in a delicate condition and was over whelmed with grief. While giving her evidence she repeatedly exclaimed “Lord help me” and “My poor Jack” and she was specially distressed when her husbands watch and chain and cap were produced.

The evidence given was as follows:- Mrs Nancy Illingworth said deceased was her husband. His name was John Illingworth, and he was 26 years old on the 8th July. He lived at Foxholes Pit-yard, and was employed as a hanger-on at the pit bottom at Foxholes Colliery. He had been strong and healthy and always cheerful, he had nothing to trouble him. She last saw him alive about 6.30 last Saturday. He was then at home.

The watch was a silver lever. no 15649. Perkin Watchmakers , 1 Cross Square, Wakefield, WF1 1PD.

Witness continued that she was shown the watch and chain on Tuesday by P.C. Scott. She saw nothing else at the time but she saw his cap on Thursday. Looking at a cap produced
she said “That is my poor Jacks cap” She did not know how much money he had, she knew he had a shilling but did not know how much more. She was quite sure her husband had a watch and chain on him when he left the house on the Saturday, he would not go out without it and he would not give it away. He had bought it at Mr Perkins at Wakefield.

Mary Ann Plimmer wife of Eli Plimmer landlord of the Fox Inn, Altofts, said she did not know John Illingworth the deceased. She saw a stranger a little before 10 o’clock on Saturday. He came in alone and another man was just behind. The second man was Alfred Beaumont. They came into the filling bar. Tey came very friendly up to the counter. She heard deceased called Jack and they all called him Jack.

Beaumont said he did not know deceased, but Illingworth said he knew Beaumont. There were several customers in, she was behind the counter, and the stranger (Illingworth) said
“Fill me a pint of beer missis” and addressing Beaumont he said “Will you have a pint” He said “No I will only have a glass.” Afterwards he put down a half-pint bottle and said “Fill me this with whisky.” Illingworth said “What is it.” and she told him, and he put a coin down-either a florin or a half crown and said “That will pay for it.” Beaumont and Illingworth were
talking to a man named Robert Woodhead and asked him if he would have a glass, but he declined as he said he always paid for his own.

Illingworth then asked Woodhead if he knew “Soldier Jack” Woodhead said he did not know Soldier Jack, and that he did not know him. Illingworth then said “You are a liar, you do know him. Your wife and Soldier Jacks wife are sisters.”Woodhead said “Sit you down I don’t want to have anything to say to you.” Witness’s husband who was sitting by Beaumont said “You go and sit you down I will have no disturbance here.” Witness also said “YOung man, you go and sit you down, and give over talking to the gentleman. I don’t think you know
him” Illingworth he did know him. Witness said “You are mistaken about his wife she is a Methley woman.” and Illingworth said “So is the woman I mean”

Witness asked if he had to go over the river and he said he had. Looking at the clock she said it was time he was going, as they did not put people over the river very late. He replied he should not want them to put him over the river as he had a boat of his own. She said “Then you are a boatman?” and he made no reply to that. Witness then said “Where is your boat?” He then replied “This side the river.” She thought he was a sand boatman, and told him to be careful how he got into his boat, and he replied” You need not be afraid of me getting into the water. If I get in I can get out.” She said “There are plenty of good swimmers who get into the water and cannot get out”

In the meantime he was haggling Robert Woodhead. He called for another pint of beer Which she served. He asked the company if they would have a song, and one man said “Lets have a song and lets have a bit of quietness.” Illingworth sang two songs and the company joined in the chorus.

About quarter to eleven Witness’s husband took hold of Illingworth quietly by the coat and told him he would have to go out and said “You should not go against that man (Beaumont) and Illingworth replied “I was only kidding him” If he had been quiet he could have stopped. She recognised deceasedcoat by the shape of the collar, and she noticed he had a watch chain on.

Supt Shepley: who left at the same time as Illingworth? Witness: Alfred Beaumont left at the same time. Beaumont lodged with them six months the last time, he was with them a good bit before that. He was in the house all day on Saturday after he had finished his work, which is sand getting. Beaumont left at 10-45 and she saw him again at about 11-15. She asked
Beaumont if he had seen that man (Illingworth) over the bridge safe, as she was very particular when they left her place to see them safe away. Beaumont replied “Yes missis I have.” She asked how far he had taken him and he said “I have taken him just over the bridge. and watched as far as I could see him.” She asked him if he could do and the young man said he could do alright. Beaumont said the man who had left was a queer man for he was wanting to fight.

Alfred had been drinking all the afternoon, but he was a man who could take a lot of drink. Beaumont was the drunker of the two, and the other was bad enough.

The first she heard of the man being missing was on Monday morning: she did not see him early on Sunday. Beaumont was out early on Sunday: He told witness he went our early, but he did not tell her any particular time he went out. Beaumont was at home all Sunday. He was seen to bed on Saturday: they never left him up. She was up the last, but did not know when Beaumont went to bed. She never saw Beaumont on Monday.

On Monday a young man asked “Had you a stranger in here on Saturday night?” and she said “Yes” and the man then told her Illingworth was missing. The first she said to Beaumont
about the matter was to tell him there was a man missing and remarked” I should think it is not the young man you saw over the bridge on Saturday night. He went off right enough.” Beaumont said nothing about a watch or chain or cap.

She was present when the chain was found, which was on Tuesday about eight o’clock. When she got home a policeman came and asked if anyone had been in the bedroom (Beaumont’s) since he was there. He said he wished to go up again, and he did so. He lifted up the bedclothes in a particular place and found the watch and chain between upper and lower sheets. That was the bed Beaumont always slept in. The officer asked her if it was like the chain deceased wore, and she said she thought Illingworth wore a chain like it.

Witness went to the wash-house on the Wednesday and found two coats hung up. She examined the pockets and found two caps. She did not know whose they were, but believed they belonged to Beaumont his working caps. She did not know whether deceased was wearing one of the caps on Saturday night.

Illingworth was not drunk but he was not sober: the two men were about alike. Alfred Beaumont was as nice a man as walks.

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