Unsolved Murders

Henry Charles Joyce

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 4 May 1911

Place: Cheret Park, Yorkshire

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Henry Charles Joyce had been a gamekeeper at Cheret Park.

He was beaten over the head and then shot dead in Royston Field in Cheret Park between Wakefield and Barnsley.

His double-barrelled shotgun was found not far from his body with both barrels loaded.

He had a wound to the top of his head and a gunshot to the groin. The medical evidence stated that the wounds could not have been self-inflicted.

Two miners from Cudworth 2 to 3 miles away were arrested and tried for his murder but acquitted after it was found that it might have been an accident.

The court heard that the prisoners had got up around 3am and at about 5.30am were seen by a butcher walking along the bottom of a field about 600 yards from where Henry Joyce was found dead in Royston Field. A short while later the butcher saw the men again on the road and noticed what he thought was one of them carrying a short stick but was thought probably to have been part of a gun that they would have been carrying.

Henry Joyce had left his home at 5am to do his rounds which included Royston Field. At about 5.30am Henry Joyce had been talking to a farm labourer in a field close to Royston Field when they heard a shot towards Royston Field and Henry Joyce went off towards it.

Between 5.30 and6.00am a man riding a horse saw Henry Joyce looking over a bridge into Royston Field and after passing he turned to see three men struggling together and striking each other in Royston Field. A moment later he heard a gunshot and turned to see one of the men fall to the ground and the other two walk up to him and look at him. However, the man then rode off.

Later in the day one of the men accused arrived home wearing the other accused man’s jacket and they both later went to the Sharlston Hotel in Sharlston where they offered to sell two leverests and a cock to the landlord at his own price.

The body of Henry Joyce was later found in the field that evening. There were two cuts on his head running in parallel to each other which the prosecution stated was from a blow by a double-barrelled shotgun. He also had a jagged wound to his groin measuring 3 by 2 inches.

Two small pieces of a gun were found in the field which had belonged to the men’s gun and Henry Joyce's gun was found some yards away indicating that he had approached the men unarmed.

When the police went to one of the men’s houses and asked him if he had heard that a gamekeeper had been shot he said ‘Yes’, and when asked if he knew anything about it he said 'No, I haven’t been out poaching since a week yesterday'.

When asked what they had been doing the first said 'I went out on my bicycle during the day. I got wet through. The roads were wet, and I skidded and lamed my hand. When I got home at six o'clock I went to bed until my clothes were dry. At 8 o'clock I was called up to my tea and some people came over to my house. I did not turn out again until 7 o'clock the next morning.'

The other man said 'Well, I was boozing all day'.

The counsel said that both statements were entirely false and a complete suppression of the true facts.

The police searched one of their gardens and found two double barrels of a gun buried which matched the parts found in Royston Field.

Later, whilst in prison one of the men said that he had been crouching in a hedge waiting for his friend to drive two hares towards him when Henry Joyce pounced on him and seized hold of his gun. He said that they said, 'Hold on we'll give you our names and addresses' and 'We'll break the gun' and there was a struggle for it. He said that during the struggle he managed to get the hammer down on one barrel but the other hammer was still fully cocked.

He then said 'We broke the stock of the gun between us. He kept the barrels and the stock went onto the ground. The keeper struck at me with the barrels and slightly hit me on the back of my left hand. My friend struck him on the head with a stick. The keeper struck twice at him, but did not hit him. The third time he struck at me was when the barrel went off and shot him in the lower part of the body. We did not think at the time it was so serious as to cause death. The keeper said 'Oh, I am shot' and fell to the ground. We then went away. I took my gun home and told my wife to throw it away somewhere. The other accused man then made a statement saying that the affair was a pure accident.

They were both acquitted after it was determined that there was not sufficient evidence for either murder or manslaughter and that it could not be ruled out that it was an accident.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see Dundee Courier - Thursday 30 November 1911

see Western Gazette - Friday 12 May 1911

see Dublin Daily Express - Monday 24 July 1911

see Yorkshire Evening Post - Wednesday 29 November 1911

see Aberdeen Journal - Thursday 30 November 1911