Unsolved Murders

Joseph Scott

Age: 66

Sex: male

Date: 9 Feb 1910

Place: Copley House, East Brierly, Bradford

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Joseph Scott died from strychnine poisoning.

An open verdict was returned.

He had been a partner in the form of Messrs. Scott Knapton and Co. who were manufacturers in Beehive Mills in Bradford. He was also a well-known horse breeder. He was also a widower.

He had come home after being taken ill whilst being driven to the station and when he got home he died.

When the remains of the coffee that was found in the breakfast cup that Joseph Scott had drunk from that morning were examined it was found that one ounce of the fluid contained half a grain of strychnine. The analyst that examined the fluid said that a dose of half a grain had been known to be fatal and said that if Joseph Scott had drunk half a cupful, he would have swallowed one and a half grains of strychnine.

His housekeeper said that he had complained about his coffee on the Wednesday morning and said that when she tasted it she afterwards vomited. She said that he had asked her to taste it and said that she found it very bitter and said that when she got back to the kitchen she became ill. It was also noted that the groom had also tasted the coffee and that he too was ill.

The housekeeper said that the coffee had been made the previous evening and left on the scullery table and then warmed up. She said that she added an equal quantity of cream to the half-cupful.

Joseph Scott had lived in Copley House, East Bierley and was being driven to Birkenshaw station to take the train to Bradford on the Wednesday when he was taken ill. He had ordered his coachman to drive him back when he became ill and when he got home he died.

It was stated that the only persons who could have gone into the scullery beside the housekeeper were the coachman, the groom, and another servant.

When the police searched for the vessel in which the coffee had been made, the housekeeper told them that the pan had been destroyed. She said that she had poured away the remains of the coffee thinking that no one would want to drink it and washed out the pan. When the police later spoke to the groom he gave them a number of tins and bottles that had contained horse medicine, most of which were poisonous.

A policeman said that he searched Copley House and said that he found a packet marked on the outer cover, 'rat poison', in Joseph Scott's room. He said that it contained strychnine and sugar of lead and that the packet was wrapped in newspapers very firmly and had not been opened for a long time, stating that the label was dated 1900, but looked to have been written since them.

At the inquest, a policeman said that on the Friday, the day the inquest opened, the housemaid had told him that she had had some rat poison in the house but had told him that it was not injurious to human beings. The policeman then said that the housemaid then asked him, 'How do you think I have gone on today?' and the policeman said that he said, 'All right', and then added, 'I suppose you have found out what is the cause of Mr Scott’s death', and said that the housekeeper said, 'What!', in an anxious tone, and then said, 'That is your business, not mine'. The policeman then said that the housekeeper questioned him twice as to whether anything had been discovered at the post-mortem but said that he told her that he could not tell her.

The policeman then went on to say that on the same day that he had spoken to the housekeeper at the inquest, the groom spoke to him and asked him if he had noticed how bright the housekeeper was, noting that he was surprised as she was usually the other way.

A chemist in Borstall said that he supplied the groom with two and a half drachms of strychnine hydrochloride in a bottle on 5 February 1910 after he brought him a note signed 'J Scott' with the word strychnine spelt 'strikney'. It was shown that the writing on the note was not like that on some of Joseph Scott's cancelled cheques, which were produced. The chemist said that it was about 9 o'clock when the groom had come to his shop which was about two miles away from Copley House. The chemist said that when he told the groom that he could not supply twopennyworth, the groom said that he wanted two shillings worth to poison magpies. It was noted that a butcher had been in the shop at the time and had told the chemist that the groom was a friend of his and that the chemist then gave the groom one and a half drachms of strychnine hydrochlorate in a bottle.

The chemist that supplied the strychnine said that when he read the word 'strikney' he had thought that the scrap of paper had been written by a gamekeeper and said that mole catchers always spelt it 'strikney'.

The man that appeared for the groom objected at the inquest and said that the chemist had only had a cursory glance at the scrap of paper.

A gamekeeper at Copley House stated that before Joseph Scott died, on 8 February 1910, he had found the groom in his hut in the wood, about 500 yards from the house standing up looking at a picture. He said that after Joseph Scott died he found the bottle that the groom had purchased from the Borstall chemist with the poison. The gamekeeper said that he had never seen the bottle before and that Joseph Scott had never given him poison. The gamekeeper did say that he kept strychnine for killing vermin but said that he kept it in a tin can enclosed in another box. He said that the poison that he used was got for him by the woodman. He also said that the groom had no business in the hut in the wood.

He said that after Joseph Scott had died he searched his hut because he had wanted to find what had caused his masters death. He said that he found the bottle that had contained the strychnine bought from the Bortstall chemist thrust in a corner under the thatch behind three other bottles.

The gamekeeper denied that the groom had given him the poison to kill rooks.

He said that he remembered the date that the groom had been in the hut because he had put a dot on the calendar for that date, adding that he could neither read nor write, saying, 'I can't tell 'a' from a bull's foot'.

The gamekeeper also said that a mole catcher had visited the hut the day before Joseph Scott was killed, but said that he didn't use poison in his work, but trapped the moles.

The groom said that Joseph Scott had given him 2s and a paper to purchase the drug on the Saturday before his death, which he said he presumed, was to be used by the gamekeeper.

At the inquest, the housekeeper said that Joseph Scott brought home his will on the night before his death. She said that he had not mentioned his will to her recently. She said that she didn't know that he had brought his will home with him, saying that he had brought home a big envelope and then taken it up to a guest’s room where he put it in a drawer, but said that she suspected that it was his will.

His inquest returned an open verdict stating that strychnine poisoning had been the cause of death but that they were unable to state how the poison found its way into his cup.

The Coroner noted that it might have been possible for Joseph Scott to have used one of the mugs to mix poison but noted that if the mug in which the coffee was made had contained poison, then he would have been poisoned the night before because the coffee he drunk on the morning was part of the coffee that had been mixed the night before. The Coroner also said that from the time the coffee was mixed the previous night, Joseph Scott could not have put anything into the mug, and therefore, if the poison was put into the coffee while it was still in the mug before it went into Joseph Scott's room, then it was certain that Joseph Scott did not put it in.

The Coroner then said, that if the jury were satisfied that the poison was in the mug then Joseph Scott could not have committed suicide, and that if death was not due to accident and Joseph Scott had not poisoned himself, further questions arose as to who poisoned him. He said that the evidence showed that during the night the stud groom had limited access to the coffee mug, and that the housemaid and housekeeper also had access to it. He noted that of course, the person who had the most to do with it was the housekeeper who had prepared the drink in which the poison was afterwards found. He said that it might have been possible that the housekeeper had tasted the coffee at the request of Joseph Scott to avert suspicion and noted that it was curious that the housekeeper had said that she had suffered from vomiting as vomiting was most unusual in the case of strychnine poisoning.

The Coroner noted that the groom had bought the poison which he had said he had given to Joseph Scott, and then asked, 'How did it come to be in the hut, where it was found?'.

The Coroner said that there might be suspicion but said that it was not convincing.

The jury retired for 30 minutes and then returned their open verdict.

The gross value of Joseph Scott's estate was £17,868. He had bequeathed £1,000 on trust for the poor of Hunsworth, £500 to the poor of Cleckheaton, £100 to Bradford Infirmary, £2,000 to his housekeeper, £50 to his coachman, and £10 each to his other servants. The remainder was left to his niece, during her life or until her marriage, after which it should be used for the erection and endowment of a church at East Bierley in Bradford where he lived. It was further stated that if that was not feasible within ten years that the money was to be divided between the Bradford Infirmary, the Bradford Eye and Ear Hospital, and the Bradford Children's Hospital.


see Northern Daily Telegraph - Saturday 26 February 1910

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Saturday 12 February 1910

see Ross Gazette - Thursday 17 February 1910

see Nottingham Evening Post - Friday 25 February 1910

see The Cornish Telegraph - Thursday 03 March 1910

see Cornishman - Thursday 03 March 1910

see Globe - Tuesday 22 March 1910

see The Cornish Telegraph - Thursday 03 March 1910

see Shetland Times - Saturday 05 March 1910

see Tenbury Wells Advertiser - Tuesday 01 March 1910