16 July 1904
The Adjourned Inquest — Cockayne Present
On Monday forenoon, at the Dukinfield Police Court, Mr
Coroner NEWTON re-opened the inquest on the body of Sarah
COCKAYNE, aged 54, who was found dead, with her throat
cut, at her residence, 1,
Robert-street, on the morning of the 21st June, and
whose husband, Robert
Marshall COCKAYNE, stationary engineer, aged 55, the
supposed murderer, was also found with a gash in his throat
inflicted by himself in an attempt to take his own life
after murdering his wife.
Since the adjournment of the inquest and
the funeral of Mrs COCKAYNE, on the 24th, COCKAYNE has
been an inmate in the Ashton Infirmary, under the care
of the house surgeon, and watched by two officers of the
Cheshire Constabulary. The injury to his throat, which
was about four inches in length, but not very deep, has
satisfactorily healed in the meantime.
On Monday morning Sergt. CLAYS and Const.
HALL took a cab to the Infirmary, and brought him to the
police station in Chapel-street, to be in readiness for
the adjourned inquest at 11.30. Mr George HEATHCOTE, solicitor,
has been instructed by the family to represent them before
the Coroner, and on Sunday he had an interview with COCKAYNE
at the Infirmary.
The jury assembled at half-past eleven o’clock
under the foremanship of Councillor J. GRIME. A few of
the relatives of the deceased woman and the prisoner were
present. Outside the court house there were groups of
men and women, but no excitement prevailed. Superintendent
CROGHAN and Inspector W. SKITT conducted the inquiry on
behalf of the police. Mr G. HEATHCOTE represented the
prisoner, who occupied a seat in the dock, guarded by
Constable DALE. The public were excluded.
The jury were kept waiting for a quarter
of an hour pending the arrival of the foreman of the jury.
As the clock struck 11.45 Councillor GRIME came hurriedly
into the room, and apologised for his lateness. He was
very sorry to have detained the court. Something had gone
wrong with his clock. He left himself in the hands of
the coroner to deal with him. — The Coroner: We
will let you off this time. — The Foreman: Thank
Mr HEATHCOTE then informed the coroner that
he appeared for the prisoner, and asked that he be allowed
to leave the dock and take a seat near him. The Coroner
assented, and COCKAYNE was brought out of the dock and
accommodated with a seat next to his solicitor. He had
a white bandage round his neck, appeared very dejected,
and sat with bowed head whilst listening to the evidence.
The pale features and numerous lines about the face were
only too indicative of the physical pain and mental torture
he had undergone since the grim tragedy.
The first witness called was Harold COCKAYNE,
son, and the Coroner read over to him the following evidence
given at the first inquiry:—
Harold COCKAYNE said: I am a labourer, and
resided with my father and mother at No. 1, Robert-street,
Dukinfield. The deceased, Sarah COCKAYNE, was my mother
and was 54 years of age. She was the wife of Robert Marshall
COCKAYNE, a stationary engine driver. On Monday, the 20th
June, I went out of the house at 11 o’clock in the
forenoon, and returned at 1.45 pm. My mother was then
in the house. She had had some drink.
I went out again at 2.20, leaving my mother
in the house alone. I again returned at 10.30 pm. I found
my mother upstairs in bed. She was drunk. At 10.45 my
father came home. He was then drunk. He asked me where
my mother was, and I told him she had gone to bed. He
asked me if she was drunk. I did not answer him. He then
said, “I know she is, as she has not washed up the
tea things.” He then commenced to swear at me, because
I was out of work and said he would not stay in the house.
I told him I should go out if he did not give over. He
the told me to go out, and I did so, and went to sleep
at my sister’s at 348, Clarendon-street.
On the following morning I returned home
at 9.55. I went to the front door and found it fastened.
I knocked, but could not get any answer. I went to the
back door and found that fast. I knocked and my father
came down and opened the door. He was partly dressed,
having on his trousers and shirt, the latter being covered
with blood running from his throat, which I saw was cut.
He did not speak to me, but “scrawled”
upstairs on his hands and knees. I followed him up and
went into the front bedroom where I saw my mother sitting
on a box near the door. She was dressed, and her clothes
were covered with blood. I thought she was dead, and I
ran downstairs and went to my sister’s and told
her what I had seen.
The Coroner: You have taken weapons from
your father after he had threatened to cut your mother’s
throat? Witness: Yes. The Coroner: Was your father sober
then? Witness: No
Florence Marshall HARRISON, wife of James
HARRISON, living at 348, Clarendon-street, Dukinfield,
said: The deceased, Sarah COCKAYNE, was my mother, and
I last saw her alive on Sunday, June 19th, about 12.30
noon. She made no complaint about my father. Both my father
and mother had been in the habit of quarrelling when in
drink, and quarrels often took place. Some years ago my
father left my mother, taking with him £40 which
my mother had saved. He spent the money.
Up to that time my mother was a sober woman,
and afterwards she took to drink. I have heard my father
several times when in drink threaten that he would murder
her. I have taken knives and razors from him, and have
found knives and razors between the bedding and mattress
on which they slept. The memorandum book (produced) and
the handwriting therein were my father’s.
My brother Harold came to my house about
11 pm on June 20th. He remained all night, and I left
him at the house about 9.15 the following morning. I next
saw him near my mother’s house at 9.40, and he then
told me what had taken place. My mother generally addressed
my father as “dada” when not in drink.
Superintendent CROGHAN: Did he often take
drink? He was generally drunk when he came home at week-ends.
— Was he nasty in drink? Sometimes he burst the
articles. — The foreman: From the evidence before
us she only began to drink less than three years ago.
— A juryman: That was in the son’s evidence.
— The Coroner: Haven’t they been separated?
— The witness: They separated for seven weeks after
he took the £40. On another occasion they lived
apart for two years.
Harriet SAXON said: I am the wife of Wright
SAXON, and live at 3, Robert-street, Dukinfield, next
to No. 1 where the COCKAYNEs lived. On the 20th June,
at 11.15 pm, I was standing in front of my house when
I heard the sound of COCKAYNE’s voice shouting as
though he was falling out with his wife. I heard him say,
“I will cut your ------ head off.” They sounded
as though they were in the house-place. I heard Mrs COCKAYNE
scream, and afterwards a noise of someone falling in the
bedroom. That was after he said he would cut her head
off. I could not hear anything she said.
After the scream I went into my home and
to bed. I did not hear anything in COCKAYNEs’ home
after that. I have often heard them quarrelling before
that night. I have never heard him say he would cut her
head off before that night, and I have never heard him
ill-treating her or beating her. She has never shown me
any bruises. I have heard her scream before, and thought
nothing about it. That is the reason why I went into my
house, and did not make any report.
Constable Michael MOORE said: I am a constable
in the Cheshire Constabulary, stationed at Dukinfield.
About a quarter to ten o’clock on the 21st June,
from information I received from my landlady, Sarah Ann
HOGAN, I went to 1, Robert-street. The front door was
open. I went upstairs into the front bedroom, and found
Mrs COCKAYNE in a sitting position on a box near the door.
Her head was resting against the wall, and her head leaning
to the right side.
I examined her, and found her throat with
a gash in it. She was apparently dead and cold. Her clothing
was saturated with blood. There was a pool of blood on
the floor at her feet. I noticed bloodstains on the floor
near the bed. The prisoner COCKAYNE lay on the bed unconscious
and never spoke. He had on his shirt and trousers. I sent
for Dr PARK, and remained in the room until Dr HAMER arrived.
He looked at Mrs COCKAYNE first, and then examined COCKAYNE,
and proceeded to dress a wound in his throat.
A juror: Were there any signs of a struggle
in the room? No, there was nothing to indicate much of
a struggle. — Were her hands cut? No, there did
not appear to be any wounds whatever on her.
Dr Roland HAMER was the next witness called.
He said: I am a surgeon practising at Ashton. On the 21st
of June, at 10.15, the date of the murder, I was called
by the police to No. 1, Robert-street, Dukinfield. I found
Mrs COCKAYNE in a sitting position on a box near the door
with her throat cut. She was dead. I found the husband
lying on a bed in the same room with his throat cut, unconscious.
I stitched the wound in his throat, and ordered him to
be removed to the Ashton Infirmary.
On the 22nd of June I made a post-mortem
examination of the body of the murdered woman. I found
no wound or injury on any part of the body other than
the throat. On the left side of the head below the ear
there was an incised wound four inches long, passing from
the left side of the neck across the throat in a downward
direction, and extending an inch or so to the right side
of the neck. The first part of the wound was clean cut,
and the second portion appeared jagged, as if several
cuts had been made.
Between the chin, about a quarter of an
inch below the first wound, there was another incised
wound two inches long and about a quarter of an inch deep.
The first wound had all the superficial structures severed,
and one of the cartilages deeply notched. The sterno-mastoid
was divided. The anterior jugular and internal jugular
were injured, the first being totally divided and the
latter partially so. The superior thyroid artery had been
The cause of death, in his opinion, was
syncope, the result of haemorrhage caused by the wounds.
— The Coroner: Now, after the post-mortem examination,
do you consider the wounds were inflicted by herself?
No, I do not. — The Coroner: Any questions? —
Supt. CROGHAN: Would death be instantaneous, doctor? No,
she would live about 20 mins. or half-an-hour after the
wounds were inflicted. Do you think she would be placed
on the box, or sit there herself? — Well, the box
was a small one; she might have been placed there.
After the jury had considered their verdict,
the Coroner said: The jury have unanimously come to the
conclusion that Robert Marshall COCKAYNE killed Sarah
COCKAYNE on the morning of the 21st of June last. He will
therefore stand charged with the wilful murder of his
wife, and will be committed to take his trial on that
charge. I understand he has nothing to say in answer to
the evidence given against him, but he wishes now to make
some little statement to the jury with regard to the treatment
he has received in the hospital.
Prisoner, who was evidently labouring under intense emotion,
said in a broken voice: I want to thank the doctor, matrons,
sisters, and nurses belonging to the District Infirmary
for the patience and forbearance they have extended to
me whilst under their care. I am sure the District Infirmary
is a great credit to the borough of Ashton-under-Lyne.
I also wish to thank those who have attended
to my spiritual welfare (here the daughter of the prisoner,
who was in Court, burst out crying). I also wish to thank
the police for the kind way in which they have looked
after me. He was sorry to be the first to be charged with
such a serious offence in that new court-room of Dukinfield.
Tears streamed down his face, and he sat down utterly
exhausted. Prisoner stood committed to the next Chester
At the Dukinfield Police Court, on Tuesday, before Alderman
C. H. BOOTH and J. PICKUP, COCKAYNE was brought up charged
with the wilful murder of his wife. The public were admitted,
and there was goodly attendance in the auditorium. Mr
WILLIAMSON, of the treasury, prosecuted, and Mr George
HEATHCOTE defended. When the case was called, COCKAYNE
was brought into the dock, but on the application of Mr
HEATHCOTE he was allowed to sit next his advocate, guarded
by Constable Robert JONES.
Mr WILLIAMSON briefly outlined the salient
facts of the case. The prisoner was then charged in the
usual manner, and asked if he had anything to say? Mr
HEATHCOTE replied: Not guilty. He added that he did not
propose to offer any remarks upon the case at this juncture,
but would call witnesses as to the prisoner’s character.
William BARLOW was then called. He said
he lived in Queen-street, Manchester, and was a timekeeper
at Messrs Dunn and Co.’s ironfounders, Ancoats.
Up to the 20th June last the prisoner had been employed
there for three and a half years as engineer. He had known
COCKAYNE very well all that time, and had seen him under
the influence of drink often enough after working hours.
On such occasions prisoner seemed to lose control of himself.
He had a good character as a steady, reliable workman.
Mr WILKINSON had no questions to put to the witness.
John KAY, 11, Solon-street, Beswick, Manchester,
said he was a furnaceman employed at Messrs Dunn’s
foundry. He knew the prisoner, and had seen him under
the influence of drink after working hours. He was very
regular at his work, and did not lose any time.
Samuel HOLT, 11, Hadfield-street, Butler-street,
Oldham-road, Manchester, said he was foreman for Messrs
Dunn and Co, and the prisoner was under him. He had always
been regular and steady at his work. He was a most useful
man, could be depended upon, and the firm felt they had
lost a very good servant, in fact, they and the workpeople
could hardly believe he would do such a thing as this.
Sometimes they could hear the expression in the workshop,
“Bob’s had ‘em again,” meaning
that the prisoner had been drinking, but he never lost
any time through drink.
Edith Marshall COCKAYNE said she was the
daughter of the prisoner of the deceased. She lived with
her sister at 318, Clarendon-street, Dukinfield. When
sober, her father was a very good father and husband.
When in drink, he would use threats to her mother, but
never when sober. After threatening her mother at night,
he would express his sorrow next morning and ask for forgiveness.
Witness remembered her father having an
accident about seven years ago, and having to have stitches
put in the top of his head. After that accident, her father
was different when he had drink. He was more violent,
and they thought he would go worse mentally if he did
not keep off drink. Drink had always upset him worse since
the accident than before.
George KEEN, carter, Turner-street, Manchester,
said the prisoner had lodged at his house for 18 months.
When sober he was a very quiet man, but when in drink
he went off his head. He was rude, and shouted loudly.
He was very regular at his work. He seemed to be on affectionate
terms with his wife, and referred to her as, “Mt
Sally.” She came to stay with him several times
from Saturday to the Monday, and finally persuaded him
to go home with her.
Mr HEATHCOTE said that was all the evidence
he proposed to call. He now wished to make an approach
to the Bench, under the Poor
Prisoners’ Defence Act, 1903, that they would
certify for legal aid at the next trial at the Chester
Assizes, so that he might have counsel to defend him.
The magistrates had it in their power to certify that
the prisoner should have a solicitor and counsel assigned
The magistrates and the deputy-clerk having
consulted, Alderman BOOTH said they had considered the
matter, and also the section of the Act of Parliament
to which Mr HEATHCOTE had called their attention, where
it said, “having regard in the nature of the defence
set up by the prisoner as disclosed in the evidence given,
or made, by the prisoner, it is desirable, in the interests
of justice, he should have assistance.” He thought
they all had every desire that the prisoner should have
assistance and a fair trial, but there was nothing in
the defence disclosed that morning which should entitle
prisoner to such assistance.
Mr HEATHCOTE said he had shown what the
line of defence would be. That the Bench would be able
to gather from the evidence he had called. — Alderman
BOOTH: That he did not know what he was doing when in
drink? Mr HEATHCOTE: Yes. — Alderman BOOTH: That
is no defence in a case of this sort. If drink brings
this on, he should not take drink. Although we have every
desire to be perfectly fair, at the same time we are guided
by the reading of the Act of Parliament.
Mr HEATHCOTE: If you certify for costs,
the enormous sum of three guineas will be spent. —
Alderman BOOTH: It is not a question of amount. —
Mr HEATHCOTE: I am asking this as a matter of principle.
— Alderman BOOTH: And as a matter of principle we
shall be obliged to refuse it. — Mr HEATHCOTE: Well,
as a matter of law, I ask you to certify. — Alderman
BOOTH: And as a matter of the law and principle, we shall
be obliged to refuse. The Act of Parliament was not meant
to cover a case of this kind. You know the judge always
assigns control. — Mr HEATHCOTE: Yes, at the last
Alderman BOOTH: Your witnesses will be sent
to the Assizes at the expense of the county. They will
be bound over like the witnesses for the prosecution to
give evidence in favour of the prisoner, and their expenses
will be paid just the same as the witnesses for the prosecution.
Mr HEATHCOTE: Quite true, but ----. Alderman
BOOTH: Practically the whole of your costs, with the exception
of counsel, will be defrayed. — Mr HEATHCOTE: This
is an important case ----- Alderman BOOTH: It is an important
case, no doubt, to the prisoner, but the Act says we are
to have regard to the nature of the evidence in the prisoner’s
Mr HEATHCOTE: Do you say I have not indicated
the defence? — Alderman BOOTH: No, but the defence
as indicated I would rather not make any comment upon.
We want to act in accordance with the law, and with every
regard that the prisoner should have a fair trial. —
Mr HEATHCOTE: May I take it that you cannot grant my application?
— Alderman BOOTH: I don’t see how we can grant
a certificate in this case. — Mr HEATHCOTE: As your
Alderman BOOTH ( addressing the prisoner,
Robert Marshall COCKAYNE): All that we have got to say
here is that you are committed to take your trial on this
charge at the Chester Assizes. The witnesses were then
bound over, and the trial ended. The Assizes will open
on the 19th instant.