Murder UK

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Kill Total: 1 Kill place: Wales
Kill date: 5th September 1900 Victim(s): John Dawes
Date of Birth: Marital Status:
AKA: Occupation:

Until the beginning of September 1900, Joseph Holden had lived in the workhouse at Bury. In due course he moved in with one of his married daughters, who lived in Nuttall Street, and repaid her kindness by killing her son, John.

Late on the night of Wednesday, 5th September Holden walked in to his local police station and confessed that he had drowned John Dawes in a quarry, at Limefield. Holden went on to describe how he had first thrown the boy on to some rocks and then had grabbed him by the neck and breeches and thrown him into the quarry. He had then gone down into the quarry himself and thrown the child into the water. The body was later discovered, in six feet of water, exactly where Holden had said it would be. Medical reports would show that the child had still been alive when he was put into the water and that death had been caused by drowning.

Police investigations soon showed that Holden had also attacked another of his grandsons, George Eldred of Ingham Street, on 21st August, whilst Holden was still living in the workhouse. He had taken this child to a different quarry, at Birtles, not far from Limefield, and told him to cut some tobacco.

Whilst the boy was engaged in this task, Holden had picked up a large stone and thrown it at the child's head. He would later say that this had been an accident, saying that he had thrown the stone and hit the child by mistake. It may well have been this incident which caused Holden's daughter to invite him to live with her in the hope that a more stable family life would make her father more content.

At his trial, at Manchester, Joseph Holden, looking far older that his fifty seven years, pleaded guilty to the charge of murder. The defence was one of insanity and the jury had first to determine if Holden was in a fit medical condition to plead.

After due consideration, Holden was found to be fit to plead and again said that he was guilty. After being sentenced to death, Holden left the dock showing no concern for his fate.

Later, in prison awaiting his execution, Holden would express remorse for what he had done, but no real motive for the crime could be suggested.

On 11th December, seven days after Holden had been hanged, a question was asked in the House of Commons, by Mister Harwood, the Member for Bolton. He sought confirmation that all had been done to inquire into the sanity of Joseph Holden. Mister Ritchie, for the Home Department, replied that two eminent gentlemen, experts in the field, had made a full investigation and he had decided, on their findings, not to interfere with the due course of the law.

Holden was hanged at Manchester on 4th December 1900.