Unsolved Murders

John Mallow Brooks

Age: 37

Sex: male

Date: 7 Aug 1920

Place: Tyler Street, Sheffield

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

John Mallow Brooks died following an altercation.

A man was tried for his manslaughter but acquitted.

He died from a fractured skull following a disturbance at the Tyler street huts on the evening of the August Bank Holiday.

John Brooks had lived at 121 Tyler Street.

He had earlier been out to a pub wearing woman's clothing for fun.

After the disturbance he told his wife that the man had taken a hammer from his wife, and then hit him with with a sharp instrument, something like a hatchet.

A friend of John Brooks said that they had gone out to the Pheasant Inn together on the Bank Holiday night and that John Brooks had been wearing women's clothes and that on the way back John Brooks had knocked at the man's hut who was later tried for his manslaughter. The man had lived at 9 House, 3 Row, Tyler Street.

The friend said that John Brooks knocked at the hut and called out, 'I want to speak to you'.

The friend said that at that time there was no one there other than John Brooks and himself and that there was no response. He said that John Brooks knocked again but that there was still no reply and the friend said that he tried to persuade John Brooks to go home and call on the man in the morning.

When the friend was asked why John Brooks was calling at the man's hut at the inquest, he said that John Brooks wanted the man to apologise for a blow he had struck him a fortnight earlier. The friend noted that John Brooks was not in a temper and was not quarrelsome at the time. The coroner added that it was a strange time of night, 11pm, for John Brooks to ask a man to apologise and the friend said that that was why he asked John Brooks to go home and make him apologise in the daylight.

The friend said that he went away for a short time and that when he returned he saw John Brooks with his hands to his head, but said that he didn’t see any blows struck.

A woman who lived in 12 House, 3 Row, Tyler Street, said that at about 10.20pm on the night of the August Bank Holiday, she saw two men and what she took to be a a woman come from the fourth road to the third road and then heard some shouting and saw the man come out of his hut followed by a woman. She said that she then heard the man call the other men Bolsheviks. She said that the woman, who she thought was the man's wife then raised her hand  to strike a person who was dressed as a woman and then saw the man strike John Brooks on the head with what she thought was a hammer.

The woman said that she then heard the man say, 'That's a hospital case. We know who you all are now', and then said that he was going for his pal.

The woman said that after the man struck John Brooks, four stones were thrown at the man's hut.

When the man gave evidence at the inquest he said that he had been employed at Messrs Firth's since November 1919 and had served 13 years in the Royal Engineers previous to the war and later rejoined, coming from South America to do so and said that he saw a great deal of service abroad.

He said that on the August Bank Holiday night he had gone to bed at 10pm and that sometime afterwards he heard a number of men kicking at the next door and shouting, 'Come out'. He said that they were using threatening language with one remark being, 'We will murder you'. He said that several men then went round to the back of his hut and shouted, 'If you don't come out we will fetch you out'.

He said that the men tried to open his door and that a lot of stones were flying about and that he then heard the smashing of glass in the children's bedroom and said that the children were screaming. He said that he then went to the door and that as soon as he pulled the bolt, three men rushed for him and he was hit on the shoulder with a brick, causing a bruise.

The man continued, 'I then ran amongst them, hitting right and left with a poker. He said that he didn't recognise any of the men but said that he was pretty sure that he hit two of them.

He said that there were another four men outside and that they also rushed at him.

He admitted that he had said that it was 'a hospital case’ but said that he didn't think that it was anything worse than that.

At the inquest, two stones were then produced, and the man identified them as the ones that had been thrown into the children's bedroom.

The man's wife said that she told her husband not to go out with something else they would 'down him' and said that her husband replied, 'All right, I will take the poker'.

The man's wife said that she afterwards heard her husband say, 'That is a hospital case. Now I will find the culprit'.

When a juror asked the woman whether her husband had been acting in self-defence she said 'yes', but the coroner interrupted and said, 'That is a matter for you and me, gentleman, not the witness'.

A doctor who gave evidence at the inquest said that the wound to John Brooks's head could have been caused by a poker.

The man was tried for manslaughter at the Leeds Assizes on 7 December 1920 but was acquitted.

John Brooks was also known as William Brooks.


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


see Leeds Mercury - Wednesday 08 December 1920, p4

see Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Thursday 12 August 1920

see Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Wednesday 08 December 1920