Date: 11 Aug 1935
Minnie Lawson was beaten to death with a hammer and a poker in her one roomed cottage from which she ran a general shop.
A farm labourer was charged for her murder but later released after it was stated that there was insufficient evidence against him.
The police went to her cottage at about 12.10pm on the Sunday 11 August 1935 and found Minnie Lawson lying dead on the floor. It was thought that her wounds had been caused by a blunt instrument.
The farm labourer was charged with her murder on 17 August 1935. When the charge was read out in court he said he denied the murder three times. When reading out the charge the clerk said, 'On or about August 10', but was then interrupted by the farm labourer who said, 'I deny it. I know nothing about it'. When the policeman read out his evidence and detailed cautioning the farm labourer, the farm labourer said, 'I am not frightened to say anything. I am innocent of any crime. I know nothing about the murder'. Then, after the inspector concluded his evidence, the farm labourer said, 'I do not know anything about the murder'.
He was later released on 6 September 1935. It was stated that the Director of Public Prosecutions had considered the evidence as a whole and determined that there was not sufficient evidence to justify him asking the Justices to commit the farm labourer to take his trial on the charge of murder. As such, the prosecution offered no evidence and the charge was withdrawn and the farm labourer was released from custody.
The charge against him was that he had murdered her between 9.30pm on Saturday 10 August and 10am on Sunday 11 August 1935.
Minnie Lawson had lived in a one room cottage in which she carried on the business of a general store. The one-bedroomed cottage was the middle one in a block of three that stood away from the road.
She was last seen by a customer that had gone to her shop at about 9.45pm on the Saturday night, 10 August 1935.
Smoke was seen the following morning at about 10am Sunday 11 August 1935 by a 16-year old girl that had gone to her shop to make a purchase and her body was then found on the floor. The girl went to get help and a neighbour that was in his garden at the time ran into Rose Cottage and threw water on the burning bedding. It was thought that the cause of the fire was a wooden box at the side of her bed which was found smouldering. It was said that it was impossible to say whether a candle, which had burned down, had been the cause of the fire or whether it had been deliberate.
Her post-mortem revealed that her skull had been fractured in several places and it was stated that it was thought that she had been murdered between 9.45am and 10am that morning. The doctor that went to see her body said that based on the temperature of her body he thought that she had been dead for several hours, approximately between 8 to 12 hours.
The doctor said that she had ten lacerations on various parts of her scalp and three wounds to her face, 13 in all. He said that he thought that they had been caused by the stroke of some blunt instrument. He said that there were multiple fractures of practically the whole of the right side of her skull in addition to a complete fracture of her upper jaw which was quite separate from the bones of her face. He added that her brain itself showed extensive haemorrhage over the whole surface and in addition there was a small laceration of the brain substance which he said all pointed to a very severe blow.
The doctor said that there were bloodstains on her right and left forearm and hands, left upper arm, right breast and the inner aspect of her left breast as well as some blood stains above her right knee.
He said that the marks on her head were consistent and said that there were two holes in the top of her skull that fitted the tack lifting end of a hammer. He said that there were some other marks that were consistent with having been caused by some other instrument such as a poker.
He added that there was no evidence of any sexual outrage.
The doctor said that the cause of death was haemorrhage following fracture of the skull and said that in his opinion her injuries could not have been self-inflicted.
A bloodstained poker was found at her cottage along with a hammer.
It was noted that none of her takings or stock had apparently been disturbed.
Her sister said that the name of Minnie Lawson's cottage was Ivy Cottage, although it was generally referred to as Rose Cottage.
One of the suspects that the police said that they were interested in speaking to was a man aged about 26 years who was said to have possibly been trying to sell women's dress materials to Minnie Lawson.
None of the neighbours said that they had heard anything unusual during the night.
It was noted that Minnie Lawson would keep her shop open later during the summer.
Minnie Lawson's husband had died two years earlier and she had lived alone.
see Free Library
see Western Morning News - Monday 19 August 1935
see Morpeth Herald - Friday 06 September 1935
see Leeds Mercury - Tuesday 20 August 1935
see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Monday 12 August 1935
see Morpeth Herald - Friday 23 August 1935
see Western Daily Press - Monday 19 August 1935
see Western Daily Press - Tuesday 20 August 1935
see The Scotsman - Wednesday 14 August 1935
see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Monday 19 August 1935