Murder of James Jacobs [1858]

The Bolton Chronicle [Saturday 8th May 1858] reported

Murder of James Jacobs
A shocking murder occurred on Tuesday in the printing office of the Halifax Guardian.

About 2 o'clock when the men and apprentices were returning from dinner, the eldest of the latter, William Blackburn Dawson took up a pair of dumb bells, kept on the premises, and began to play with them as it was usual to do.

In a minute or two, he struck James Edward Jacobs, one of the three journeymen at work in the jobbing office on the head with them, giving him a succession of terrible blows and laying him prostrate on the floor.

The other two men, horrified at the spectacle, ran into the news office, and Dawson, after bolting the jobbing office door, dispatched his victim by beating him with a large iron lever of the screw press and hacking at his head with a hatchet. The men – James Hyslop a compositor, Frederick Foster, a man named Harrison, & Rothwell Bates – had in the meantime mustered, and got up to the fastened door, through holes in which they could see the murderer, with a wild savage look. The youngest apprentice John Tiffany broke down a part of the door by hacking it with his clogs. Dawson opened the door and passed down the steps, his short sleeves covered in blood, and the hatchet in his hand. He was captured, and when someone asked

Where is Jacobs?

he cried out

Jacobs is alright – he is alright – Jacobs is alright. He was removed in a cab to the police office.

The victim, a strongly built man was in a most terrible state.

An inquest was held the same evening and adjourned until the next morning. Mr Tucker, a surgeon, said the prisoner had consulted him as to his state of body, complaining of pain, he also expressed a fear that he was an imbecile. On this expression, the prisoner rose from his seat, and uttering fearful yells it took eight or nine men to hold him. Mr Tucker thought Dawson was insane when he did that deed.

Verdict – Wilful murder against William Dawson.

The Foreman of the Jury:

Before we separate, I ought to say that the jury have abstained from passing any opinion as to the mental state of the prisoner, as they considered it not within their province after what had been said by the Coroner.

The prisoner was committed for trial on a charge of wilful murder.

On 14th July 1858, Dawson was tried for wilful murder at York Crown Court and was committed to an asylum during Her Majesty's pleasure


© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 12:32 / 17th May 2021 / 4779

Page Ref: X455

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