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 you.

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 divided.

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’s Thanks
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 Assizes.

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 to him.

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 moment.

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 statement.

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 worships please.

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.

Creative Commons License Rhodes Family History by Ian Rhodes (© 1999-2021) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on a work at https://rhodesfamily.org.uk.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by contacting me.