John Ackroyd's
attack on
Jonathan Holdsworth.

Jonathan Holdsworth, formerly a shoemaker at Trafalgar in Halifax, later took in lodgers.

One of his lodgers, John Ackroyd, was a shoemaker at Skircoat.

On the evening of 17th July 1857, Ackroyd attacked Holdsworth whom Ackroyd believed had circulated rumours about Mrs Ackroyd which had troubled her, saying that she had conducted herself in a manner unworthy of her conjugal relationship with her husband.

Whilst drinking at the Old King Cross Inn Ackroyd told a fellow-drinker George Simpson

I shall cut off [Holdsworth's] head before he sleeps tonight

and as they parted, he added

You will never see me any more. The next time you see me will be at York Castle, and there I shall be hung. Goodnight, farewell, I shall watch for the opportunity

About 9:30 in the evening, Ackroyd went to Holdsworth's house armed with a knife, seized him by the neck, and cut a great gash on the Holdsworth's throat. Mrs Ann Thomas, one of Holdsworth's lodgers and a powerful woman, seized his arm, and diverted the blow, though Holdsworth received a long and deep wound from the lip down to the lower jaw.

As they handed him to the police, Ackroyd said

I came to do it, and I've done it; I've murdered you, and I'll give myself up.

I went on purpose to kill him and I hope he will be dead before morning

Holdsworth was bleeding profusely from his wounds – one extending across the throat, 2 inches long, and a quarter of an inch deep, and the other from the right corner of the mouth to below the lower jaw bone – collapsed from the loss of blood. He was attended by the surgeon Dr William Nowell, his life being for some time in very great danger. In all, 5 surgeons came to attend to Holdsworth.

In December 1857, Ackroyd was charged with cutting and wounding Jonathan Holdsworth with intent to murder him.

The court heard that the facts were inconsistent with Ackroyd having any intention to murder, and although it was clear that when in a state of excitement with regard to insinuations made against his wife, that excitement increased by liquor, he had attacked Holdsworth, though not with an intention of killing him.

The jury were asked to find him guilty, not of the grosser charge of murder, but of wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm, under a second count in the indictment. A witness was called to give Ackroyd an excellent character as a quiet and peaceable man.

The jury found the prisoner guilty and sentence of death was recorded against him.

His Lordship said there could be no reasonable doubt that the Ackroyd intended to murder Holdsworth and for that crime his life was forfeited to the law, but under the circumstances he felt himself justified in recommending the case to the merciful consideration of the Crown, and the probabilities were that his life would be spared, though he must expect to be subjected to some severe punishment.

Ackroyd was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment at York

The York Herald of 27th March 1858 reports John Ackroyd sent from York Castle to Millbank Prison for 15 years.

This is discussed in the book Halifax Murders

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 14:06 / 28th April 2021 / 5395

Page Ref: X2097

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