The Murder of John Dobson

John Dobson was a weaver.

A widower, he lived with his son, Joe, also a weaver, at Mount Tabor.

John had long ill-treated his son. Joe he ran away to Wakefield and subsequently joined the army, but his father encouraged him to desert.

Joe married and the couple went to live with John, although they constantly quarrelled.

When Joe was away, John threatened his daughter-in-law with a razor. On hearing about this, Joe got a gun and shot his father dead.

On 4th July 1843, Joe murdered John.

Mayhall recounts the story

There had been family quarrels during the day, and the son at last swore a dreadful oath that if there were powder and shot in Halifax he would shoot his father.

Having his deadly object in view, he went to a neighbouring house for the purpose of borrowing & pistol.

Foiled in his object, and knowing that a gun was kept at the house where he had formerly lodged, he proceeded to a place in Boy Lane, where he purchased some powder, some shot (No. 6,) and some caps.

With this ammunition he went to his late landlord's, and cutting down an old gun which was suspended upon one of the beams, took it to the door, where he first tried the lock with a percussion cap, and then charging it with powder, fired it, and finding the gun to be in good repair, he finally charged it, and was noticed by a young man standing by to put in an extraordinary quantity of shot, from a paper he had in his pocket. Thus armed, he proceeded towards home, saying in a jest he was going to learn to shoot.

About three o'clock in the afternoon the parricide came home. The father was out but came in a few minutes afterwards. The dwelling was but scantily furnished. The son, it appears, deliberately loaded the gun, and rammed it. He then asked his father if he meant to perform some act he had told him to do. The old man did not answer.

The question was asked a second time, but still no answer was given.

Then I'll shoot thee

was the diabolical declaration of the son, who levelled the piece and fired. The gun however did not go off.

Quick as lightning, a second cap was put on the lock, and the gun fired. The old man uttered a deep groan, and then falling upon the hearthstone the next moment was dead, a portion of the shot having passed through his heart.

The wife of the parricide was standing close to the old man at the time the gun was fired. The muzzle of the gun could not have been distant more than a quarter of a yard from the breast of the old man, and consequently the whole of the charge was lodged in his person.

Hearing the report of fire-arms, several neighbours immediately ran to the spot, but in the meantime the wretch had made his escape, and throwing the gun into a neighbouring field, ran off towards Halifax, followed by six or seven men.

For a while the pursuer had the murderer in sight, but unfortunately lost him in Snakehill Wood, and he succeeded in making his escape.

Joe was subsequently apprehended in Huddersfield.

He was tried at York on the 19th of December, and was found guilty of wilful murder. At his trial, he made an impassioned plea explaining his mental condition after years of abuse. He was hanged at York on 20th or 30th January 1844.

© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 18:14 / 8th March 2023 / 5231

Page Ref: X224

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