Forum:  Family History

Thread:  The Otley murder Elizabeth Todd

Pam (User)   Posted on: 03-Sep-2013 20:55:48.
Can anyone help me please? I am sure I once saw a book called 'the Otley Murder' but don't know who wrote it. Elizabeth Todd was my Great Grandma and I would be very grateful if anyone can help. All my Internet searches haven't been successful.
jim (User)   Posted on: 03-Sep-2013 21:22:09.
Could the book you seek be "Valleys of Death", 2001, by Paul Langan? This apparently deals with eight murders and two manslaughters in the Aire and Wharfe valleys, one of them being that of Elizabeth Todd.

Pam (User)   Posted on: 03-Sep-2013 21:27:20.
Thank you for your reply but I don't think that is the one. I am buying that one but I'm sure I saw a whole book entitled The Otley Murder. Feel so annoyed with myself for not buying it as soon as I saw it!
Si (Administrator)   Posted on: 04-Sep-2013 09:29:20.
Hi Pam.
I've posted on some threads on SecretLeeds before about this incident. (See page 3 of Infamous Sons and Daughters of Leeds thread.)
The book Jim mentions is the one I learnt about the murder from. However, there is some information and pictures in "Otley and District" by Paul Wood, part of the Britain in Old Photographs series. I'll post what there is.        

Si (Administrator)   Posted on: 04-Sep-2013 09:31:46.
This is the picture of James Jefferson, the murderer.

The caption reads:
"James Jefferson, a miner from North Shields, who was charged with the murder of Mrs Elizabeth Todd on Tuesday 5 May 1908. The wife of John Todd the shoemaker of Pool Bank, Mrs Todd had left her home at 4 p.m. that afternoon to walk down Leeds Road to visit her mother in Otley. At 4.10 p.m. Arthur Coates Helliwell, an Otley grocer, witnessed the crime while driving his trap towards the town. Sgt. Herbert Cook later confirmed that he found the prisoner and a woman's body in a field by the road. Despite a plea of insanity, at his trial on 20 July... (Jefferson) ...was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted after appeal and Todd spent the rest of his days in an asylum."

The field in question is on the left as you leave Otley by Leeds Road, just before the tree-lined beck which passes beneath the road by the left kink (see below.)    
Si (Administrator)   Posted on: 04-Sep-2013 09:48:09.

"Sightseers congregate at the scene of the gruesome crime alongside Holbeck Wood corner on Leeds Road. Elizabeth Todd's murder created a larger crowd outside the Otley courthouse (still in existence - the first picture was taken there) on the morning of Wednesday 6 May 1908. Great public sympathy was shown to the family."

I've seen old photographs which show crosses carved into the stones of this wall, and have searched for them a couple of years ago, but there is no trace. Perhaps the wall has been rebuilt, or the road level raised.

Si (Administrator)   Posted on: 04-Sep-2013 09:52:10.

"The funeral cortege of Elizabeth Todd moving down Pool Road towards the cemetery on the afternoon of Friday 8 May 1908. Each of Mrs Todd's three children carried flowers to the graveside, and the Otley police formed a protective ring around the family's private grief."

Greater detail can be found in the "Valleys of Death" book (I no longer have it) but there may be more information in Otley Museum.    
uncle mick (User)   Posted on: 04-Sep-2013 14:26:21.
A couple of newspaper reports of the murder

Pam (User)   Posted on: 04-Sep-2013 17:50:22.
Thanks for this information Si. I know the crosses on the wall have gone as I've been to look. The first time I saw the photo of James Jefferson was at Otley museum. I've so been to look for Elizabeth's grave but with no success. I saw it when I was a child (with my Grandad) but as an old man he gave his permission for her grave to be moved. I will go and check the other thread out!
Steve Jones (User)   Posted on: 04-Sep-2013 18:49:03.
You can also read about it here in a pdf of a 1908 newspaper on it:

also has this:

which contains a mention of the case by a psychiatrist who was involved in it.

Steve Jones (User)   Posted on: 04-Sep-2013 18:54:07.
apologies the latter text I mentioned above mentions a different murder case in Otley.
Steve Jones (User)   Posted on: 04-Sep-2013 18:57:18.
brief but interesting mention here regarding suppression of information on the murder:

Pam (User)   Posted on: 04-Sep-2013 19:01:17.
Steve Jones wrote:
apologies the latter text I mentioned above mentions a different murder case in Otley.

Thanks Steve. I have seen the 'New Age' account and I think that the case is still referred to in psychiatric terms as to whether Jefferson should have stood trial and been sentenced to the death penalty. I believe that doctors and psychiatrists were responsible for his Appeal.