Unsolved Murders
John Williams

John Williams

Age: 6 months

Sex: male

Date: 27 Jun 1930

Place: Chairbarrows Colliery, Cleckheaten

Source: discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

John Williams was thought to have been thrown down a disused pit shaft at Chairbarrows Colliery in Cleckheaten sometime in the summer of 1930.

His father was charged with his murder but acquitted. He said that the child was dead at the time he threw him in.

On 21 February 1931 John Williams's mother, who was an inmate in the Batley Poor Law Institution told the Workhouse Master that her husband had thrown John Williams down a disused pit shaft at Chairbarrows Colliery in Cleckheaton sometime in the summer of 1930. The Workhouse Master then informed the Dewsbury Borough Police about what she had said.

The Dewsbury Borough Police then took a statement from her which was forwarded to the Superintendent in charge of the Bradford Division and she was interviewed again the same night, however, her second statement differed considerably from the first. In the first statement, she had said that the father had throttled John Williams and that she had tried to stop him but in the second statement she said nothing of the father throttling John Williams.

The following day she was cautioned and made a further statement in which she definitely alleged that her husband threw their child down a pit shaft and added that she had seen him throttle the child beforehand. She said that it was sometime after May 1930.

The mother had also said that when she had told the father that she was going to tell the police that he had threatened her.

The police later got statements from three other women who said that they had seen the woman and her husband on the morning of 27 June 1930 at around 6.40am with a perambulator near to Chairbarrows Colliery. They said that they then saw the husband lift something that looked like a child out of the perambulator and go to the shaft and that when he had returned to the roadway a few minutes later he didn't have the bundle with him.

When the father was questioned he said that he had found John Williams dead and became scared that he would get into trouble and so he threw his body down the shaft.

He had his wife were tramping at the time.

It was not possible to find the child's body because the shaft was about 120 yards deep and half full of water which was pouring in from either side. It was also said that the four guide ropes of the cage had been cut when the pit was dismantled rendering diving operations impossible.

It was heard that it was only his wife that could give evidence to say that the father had strangled John Williams or that he had been alive when the father had thrown him down the shaft. There were questions raised regarding whether the mother was competent to provide evidence under section 48 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 but the trial went ahead.

After the father was acquitted of murder he was charged with secretly disposing of a baby's body in order to prevent a coroner's inquisition but acquitted of that charge too.


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

see National Archives - DPP 2/9

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Thursday 14 May 1931

see Sheffield Independent - Wednesday 13 May 1931

see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Thursday 14 May 1931

see Nottingham Journal - Wednesday 13 May 1931

see Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 14 May 1931