Date: 29 Aug 1961
Place: Sandwith, Cumberland
Harold Cook died after being stabbed in the neck by a man on 29 August 1961.
The man, a friend of his, was tried for his murder at the Cumberland Assizes but acquitted after he claimed that he had acted in self-defence.
At the trial the judge said that if the account of the incident given by the man, a 34-year-old pit brusher from Whitehaven, was proved to be the truth that the prosecution 'might have some rather anxious thoughts about whether it would be right to ask the jury for a guilty verdict based on their evidence'. The prosecution then said that after careful consideration of the evidence, 'We propose to offer no further evidence against the prisoner'.
The judge then said, 'That seems to agree with my own view exactly. It is a matter for the jury to decide'.
The jury then found the miner not guilty.
Harold Cook had been a colliery shift worker and had lived in Buttermere Avenue in Seacliffe. He had been friendly with the daughter of the licensee of the White Horse Inn at Sandwith, a 16-year-old girl, and on 28 August 1961 had taken her to the cinema. He had been seen by the pit brusher who later mentioned to the 16-year-old girl's mother that he had seen her daughter with Harold Cook at Kells.
However, it was heard that Harold Cook had been upset by that, stating that it had caused him some bother and that he had later taken it up with the pit brusher and that after grabbing the pit-brusher by the collar that the pit brusher had stabbed Harold Cook in the neck.
The night after the pit brusher had told the girls mother about having seen Harold Cook and the girl together at the cinema, Harold Cook and his brother had some drinks with the pit brusher at the White Horse Inn where they also played some darts and were described as having been on perfectly amicable terms.
They left around closing time to walk home and it was said that as they approached the Dog and Partridge public house in Sandwith that Harold Cook took hold of the pit brusher by the coat and pushed him against a hedge over the matter with his girlfriend but that the pit brusher denied having said anything about him.
It was said that Harold Cook's brother then joined in the fight and continued to fight with the pit brusher until they heard Harold Cook shouting after which they broke off the fight and found Harold Cook bleeding from the face.
Harold Cook's brother then realised that he was also bleeding from facial injuries, although he said that he had not noticed the pit brusher having had anything in his hand whilst he was fighting him.
Harold Cook was taken to Whitehaven Hospital but was found to be dead on arrival.
The pit brusher later gave himself up at Kells police station at 11.25pm that same night.
Harold Cook's brother, who was a miner and lived in Buttermere Avenue, Seacliffe in Whitehaven, said that at about closing time on Monday 28 August 1961 that he had been in the White Horse Inn in Sandwith where he had a conversation with the pit brusher about Harold Cook, noting that the 16-year-old girl was not there. He added that they also had a game of dominoes.
A bath attendant that had been in the White Horse Inn on the night of Monday 28 August 1961 said that he had heard the conversation about Harold Cook having taken the girl to the cinema. He said that when the girl’s mother and Harold Cook's brother told him that Harold Cook had taken the girl to the cinema that the pit brusher turned round and said that they couldn't have done so as he had seen them at 8pm outside Parrsley's shop at Woodhouse. The bath attendant noted that there would have still been plenty of time for them to have got to the cinema and that Harold Cook's brother then told the pit brusher that he didn't know Harold Cook anyway. He said that the pit brusher then said that he did, adding that he saw him taking the girl to the sister, pointing to licensee's son who was in the pub, referring to her as his sister.
The bath attendant said that shortly after closing time he left the pub with the pit brusher and that when they got outside he asked him whether he could not see the danger of trouble he was causing, noting that the girl was only 17 and that she might have had to answer questions about going to the pictures. However, he said that the pit brusher said that the girl’s mother would not mind as the girl had been running around since she was 13 and adding that he wanted to put the girl’s mother right as Harold Cook was a ram.
The bath attendant said that he had a conversation about it the following day at work with Harold Cook and his brother.
He said that the following day at the Haig Pit Baths that he overheard a conversation between a man and Harold Cook.
He said that later that night he went again to the White Horse Inn and that at about 8.45pm the pit brusher came in and asked him again if he wanted to play dominoes with him but said that he didn't play with him. He said that they later all left together at about 10.30pm, him, Harold Cook and the pit brusher and that as they were walking past the Dog and Partridge Inn that Harold Cook asked the pit brusher what he had said about him and his girl.
He said that Harold Cook had not done anything before he asked the pit brusher that. He said that he asked the pit brusher what he had said and then clicked hold of him, taking him by the lapels of his coat with both hands, at which time the pit brusher had been standing with his hands in his pockets.
He said that the pit brusher had not said anything up until then and that he then hit him on the side of his chin with his fist at which point the pit brusher then whipped his hand out of his pocket and struck Harold Cook on the side of the neck, but noted that he didn't see what he had in his hand.
He said that Harold Cook still had hold of the pit brusher's lapels but then turned around and staggered away. He noted that nothing had been said up until that point.
Harold Cook's brother said that he and the pit brusher then started to fight and said that the pit brusher said to him that he would get him as well.
He said that he was fighting with his fists and that as far as he knew that the pit brusher was fighting with his fists as well.
He said that the fight went on for about ten minutes until he heard Harold Cook shouting at which point he told the pit brusher to stop fighting, which he did, and that he then went to Harold Cook's assistance about 30 yards up the road towards Kells, followed by the pit brusher.
He said that as he reached Harold Cook that Harold Cook fell and he saw that he had blood on his face and that he then ran back to the White Horse Inn to fetch some blankets, leaving the pit brusher with Harold Cook. He noted that on his way to the White Horse Inn that he noticed that his face was bleeding.
When the pit brusher made a statement he said, 'How it all started was this, last night I was coming from work and I seen young Harold with the girl, you know, the landlord's daughter, him what keeps the pub. They were walking towards some place. He waved at me you know. This was Monday night not last night. After my supper on Monday night I went to Sandwith and had a couple of pints, that was the night I joined their darts club, and Harold Cook's brother was pitching with me. We weren't really playing a game, and he happened to say to me, 'Harold’s courting he has went to the pictures with the girl'. Never thinking owt about it I said 'They'll be a bit late for the pictures'. I never meant any harm by it, but seemingly someone had a go at Harold Cook about it when he bought the girl back. Tonight there I went to Sandwith for some flowers and I called in at the pub and the chap I was going to get them off wasn't in. Nothing was said, I played darts with Harold Cook and his brother. We came out of the pub about twenty till eleven and nowt was said till we got to the Dog and Partridge. There was just the three of us there and Harold just seemed to click hold of us by the arms and shoved us into the dyke. As he pushed me he used a right mouthful. He said, 'Thou's a fucking cunt, thou got me into a bonny row last night'. Harold Cook's brother said, 'Yes, I heard about it at the pit'. But take no heed of that, cause they both had a lock of drink in them. Then Harold Cook's brother hit me on the neck. I can't tell you much more sergeant, fists seemed to come from all over and I fell. When I was on the ground that's when I pulled the knife out. I got up and showed them the knife and warned them to leave me alone, I thought it would frighten them. When they made a rush at us I just kept swinging it, the knife, to keep them at a distance. One of them was shouting like 'I'll kill thou'. Then me and Harold Cook's brother scrapped a bit and Harold walked away. Then two other fellows came up and Harold shouted for his brother. His brother ran after him and then shouted to me, 'Thou's killed him'. I then ran up to see what had happened. Well, I never meant to kill anybody. I never meant to hurt anybody. Then I stopped a car, I stood in the road with my hands up, and asked the driver to give him a lift to hospital. Harold Cook's brother went for an ambulance. The other two stayed with Harold and I thought I had better come to see you right away, which you know I did'.
When the pit brusher attended the police station he handed over a blood stained knife.
Harold Cook had had four wounds to his head and face, the most serious being the wound to his neck. His brother had lacerations to the face and hand.
The pit brusher was tried at the Cumberland Assizes on Thursday 5 October 1961 and acquitted after the prosecution offered no further evidence. He was also acquitted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm for which no evidence was offered by the prosecution after which the judge directed the jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty and the pit brusher was discharged.
see National Archives - ASSI 52/1171
see Aberdeen Evening Express - Thursday 05 October 1961
see Aberdeen Evening Express - Tuesday 19 September 1961