Unsolved Murders

Jessie Clift

Age: 75

Sex: female

Date: 3 Sep 1912

Place: 17 River Street, Montrose

Jessie Clift died after an assault at her home.

A 20-year-old man was tried for her murder, but it was heard at the trial that she had been so unhealthy that she could have died at anytime without violence and the murder charge was reduced to assault.

The man tried was the grandson of Jessie Clift's brother, who was also assaulted in the attack.

The charge against the man was that on 31 August 1912, in the dwelling house at 17 River Street, Montrose, occupied by a man, that he had 1) assaulted the man by seizing him by the throat, throwing him down, and striking him repeatedly on the face and head with his fists to the effusion of blood and danger of his life, and that 2) he had assaulted Jessie Clift, the man's sister, by seizing her, throwing her down, and stamping on her body with his feet, in consequence of which she died on 3 September 1912, and thus did murder her.

The grandfather said that he was 82-years-old and had been a hairdresser in Brechin for 60 years but had retired about three years earlier and had gone to live in Montrose and said that Jessie Clift, his sister, had kept his house following the death of his wife.

He said that his son, the father of the man accused of murdering Jessie Clift was a watchmaker in Brechin but said that there had been a charge against him some time before for which he had engaged and paid for a solicitor. He said that a few days before 31 August 1912 he had written to his grandson telling him about the matter with the solicitor and his son, the man's father, and said that his grandson wrote back asking for his aunt's address in New Zealand. However, the grandfather added that he did not ask his grandson to come and see him.

However, the grandfather said that on 31 August 1912 at about 5pm he got a telegram from his grandson from Glasgow saying, 'Will be tonight, leaving 5.18 N.B. Hope to see you at station'.

The grandfather said that he went to meet his grandson at the station but said that he didn't come off the train. He said that he then went back home, but later went to the Caledonian Station to see his granddaughter off to Brechin, and that by 9pm he was back at home and in bed.

However, he said that sometime after he and his sister had gone to bed there was some loud knocking at the door and that when he went to see who it was, he found his grandson at the door with another person carrying a bag.

The grandfather said that he didn't notice whether his grandson had been drinking when he first arrived but said that following what then took place he thought that he had. He said that he was not what one might call drunk and said that he didn't bring any booze into the house.

He said that the grandson then had some supper, prepared by Jessie Clift and then asked him for some money, saying that he thought that the grandson wanted him to finance him to go to New Zealand, but said that he told him that he didn't have the money to give him.

However, the grandfather said that after he refused to give him the money, the grandson became excited. He said that he asked him to discuss the matter quietly, but said that instead of that he flew and caught him by the throat, grasping him with his right hand and striking him with his left hand. The grandfather said that the grandson forced him down on the bed and hammered him there. He said that he was blinded by the blows and could not see, saying that his grandson was cursing and threatening to do for him. He said that he struck him many times on the face, head and body and that after he was sore all over. He said that both of his eyes were blackened and closed up and that at the time of the trial that his head had still not healed up. He said that he lost a good deal of blood in the attack.

He said that during the attack, Jessie Clift came between them and that the grandson took her by the shoulder and threw her onto the floor. He said that at that time he got out of his grandson's hands and ran to the door and then turned to see his grandson's foot up and then said to him, 'You damned scoundrel, you have killed my sister'. He said that he didn't see his grandson's foot come down. When the grandfather was cross-examined, he said that after Jessie Clift was thrown onto her back, so far as he knew, she never rose again, and looked to him as though she were dead.

The grandfather said that the fight had taken place about five or ten minutes after the grandson arrived at the house.

A labourer who occupied the attic over the house said that he heard a long knocking at the door at about 9.50pm that was followed by loud talking and that he then heard someone go into the house below. He said that shortly after he heard quarrelling that went on for about half an hour. He said that he could hear the grandfather's voice but could not make out what he was saying. However, he said that when he heard the grandfather shout out, 'Murder', he ran downstairs and tried to open the door, but said that it was locked. He said that he then ran for a neighbour and later the police came.

When the doctors carried out the post-mortem they said that Jessie Clift had a blood clot on her brain and that in their opinion she had died from cerebral haemorrhage. They added, 'From the facts of the alleged assault supplied to us, we are further of opinion that the existence of cerebral haemorrhage was directly attributable to violence and shock'.

However, when the judge asked the doctors to provide an opinion based on the facts of the autopsy alone and without the understanding that there had been an assault they concluded that she had died from cerebral haemorrhage but that Jessie Clift's blood vessels were just as they expected to find in the body of an old person, saying they were riddled and liable to burst. The judge then suggested that the shock of seeing her brother knocked about might have brought about an apoplexy and the doctors agreed.

The charge of murder was then withdrawn on the grounds that insufficient evidence had been placed before them on that charge.

The grandson said that he was a barman and worked in Glasgow and had arranged to spend a week with his grandparents from his moth's side in Edzell and that he was going to break the trip by visiting his grandfather in Montrose. He said that when he arrived in Montrose on the evening of Saturday 31 August 1912 his grandfather was not at the railway station and so he got a boy to carry his bag and direct him to River Street. He said that he stopped off on the way and got some mince and that when he got to 17 River Street at about 9.30pm his grandfather let him in, and Jessie Clift got out of bed to cook the mince for him. He said that he asked his grandfather out for a drink with him and said that they went out and the grandfather had two glasses whilst he had a nip of whisky. He said that they then went back home, taking a half bottle of whisky with them and four bottles of stout. However, the grandfather denied that they had gone out together or had anything to drink. However, a publican in Montrose said that he remembered the grandson and grandfather coming in at about 9.40pm and each having a nip of whisky and taking away a gill of whisky and two bottles of stout.

The grandson said that when they got back, he asked his grandfather about his father’s case and said that the grandfather said that his father was a thief. He said that he told his grandfather to stop that and that his grandfather then rose to strike him and that he then also rose and said that Jessie Clift then got between them and interfered. He said that his grandfather then pushed him back onto the bed and that he then struck back and that his grandfather then shouted, 'Murder', and 'Police', and that he then put his hand over his mouth.

He said that all he did was prevent his grandfather from striking him.

The grandson was convicted of assault and sentenced to 6-months imprisonment due to the jury's recommendation to mercy on account of his youth.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see The Scotsman - Tuesday 15 October 1912

see Dundee Courier - Tuesday 15 October 1912

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Wednesday 04 September 1912

see Dundee Courier - Saturday 07 September 1912

see Dundee Courier - Friday 06 September 1912

see Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin review; and Forfar and Kincardineshire advertiser. - Friday 18 October 1912

see National Records of Scotland - AD15/12/153