The search for Tommy Wood, the arrest of Burrows and the initial court proceedings.
Glossop Advertiser 16 March 1923
TOMMY WOOD ! ! !
LITTLE FELLOW DISCOVERED IN HUNDRED FEET OF DARKNESS.
SENSATIONAL RECOVERY FBOM SIMMONDLEY PIT SHAFT.
Chase over Hills after Wanted Man.
BURROWS DECLARES “I HAVE A CLEAR CONSCIENCE.”
Public Feeling Runs High : Amazing Police Court Scenes.
HOW THE POLICE GOT BURROWS AWAY AFTER REMAND BY MAGISTRATES.
Up to early this week there had been no solution of the mysterious disappearance of Thomas Wood, the four-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Wood, of Back Kershaw Street, Glossop, which had baffled police and public for nearly a fortnight.
On Sunday a numerous band of searchers — over 100 men accompanied by dogs taking part — turned their particular attention to Simmondley district. Acting on a prearranged plan, which co-ordinated their efforts, they made a thorough search of the fields and moorland district which skirt Simmondley on the top side and on the Nab and Charlesworth sides, ravines and other secluded spots being thoroughly investigated. Patiently they searched, covering a large area of ground, but late in the afternoon they had to give up the task without having found any trace of the missing boy. Other parts of the district .were also scoured by smaller sections of searchers, but, greatly to their disappointment, it was a blank day for all concerned, and the terrible anxiety of the parents was unrelieved.
Monday brought a dramatic development in connection with the mystery. Information had now come to the knowledge of the Glossop Police that on the day of the boy’s disappearance he was taken for a walk by a Glossop man to the village of Simmondley, about a mile out of the town, and on the moorland side of the Turnlee stream which has in the interval been persistently dragged.
This man was alleged to have admitted taking the child for a walk and to have stated to the police that when about 150 or 200 yards from the air shaft of a disused coal-pit at Simmondley he left the boy in a secluded spot for about 15 minutes while he went in search of rabbits, and on returning found the child had gone.
On Monday this man accompanied the police to the spot, pointing out the route followed. At the old, disused pit shaft several members of the Borough Police Force, acting under the instructions of the Chief Constable, proceeded with further exploration work, which was necessarily of a somewhat difficult character. Grappling irons were used for a considerable period, but unfortunately the rope attached to the irons gave way and the latter remained in the bottom of the shaft, and grappling operations had to be subsequently discontinued for the day.
In corroboration of his statement the man described a walking party who he supposed came from Manchester, and whom he saw at the time on a ridge 200 yards away overlooking the spot on which he stood with the boy. The party consisted of men and women, the former, carrying bags.
The air-shaft is about 111 feet deep, and is estimated by the police to contain from 5ft. to 9ft. of water. There is an outlet for the water leading into the old workings, but the police opinion was that there would be an insufficient flow to carry a body far from the shaft.
Little Tommy Wood had many friends amongst the neighbours within 100 yards radius of his home, with whom his bright, intelligent ways and prattle made him very popular, and it is stated that he had been in the habit of going from one house to another on little friendly visits. It is further stated that he had previously been for walks with the man in question, but not to such a distance from his home.
The operations of the police created intense interest in the district, and gave rise to many false rumours to the effect that the body had been recovered, but all these statements were, of course, void of truth up to Monday night.
Tuesday noon brought a dramatic sequel to the nine days’ search. On the morning of this day, the Chief Constable and his men left the Police Station in motor vehicles equipped with new grappling irons and ropes, and proceeded beyond the spot where they had searched the previous day. This place, which had been explored and searched without result, is an old mill shaft on the left, or top side of the roadway from Simmondley to Charlesworth, and is fenced only by wooden palings, through which anyone could crawl. It is partly concealed by weeds and grasses, of a rank nature, and the police passed this, and went into a field on the opposite side of the road — a field in the occupation of Mr. James, and adjoining the road leading from the highway down to Hargate Hill Farm. In this particular meadow is an old pit air-shaft, fenced round by a stone wall some 6ft. 6in. high, but in the wall on the lower side — that nearest to Hargate Hill fields footpath — is an aperture about a yard square, and through which, we understand, ashes, etc., have been thrown down the shaft. Here again, grasses and weeds, and other rank vegetable matter partly conceals the pit, but on mounting the wall one is able to look some distance into the shaft, from which a disagreeable odour emanates. It is said by some people that this is not the air-shaft to the coal pit above, but is the shaft of the Dinting pit, the entrance to which is a tunnel in the vicinity of Adderley Place, Dinting, and which, it is further stated, was first sunk about 1845. How far these theories or views may be correct we are unable to state, but we believe it to be a fact that several persons are alive today who worked in the Dinting pit, one of such persons having driven the pit ponies there!
Be that as it may, however, it was to this particular air-shaft on the right hand side of the main road that Mr. Wilkie and his men directed their attention on Tuesday morning. Planks were placed across the top of the walls — a span of about four yards — and crossing the centre of the air-shaft. From these planks P.C. Sam Roe and a man named Albert Connor, who was helping the police, operated the grappling irons at the end of a long rope, and in a short time the hooks fastened upon some object. As the men drew up a heavy load there was a splash, and the weight on the ropes considerably lightened though still remaining heavy. As the irons neared the top of the pit it was seen they were fast in a basket, something like a cop-skip used in a cotton mill, and in a poor state of preservation. This basket was filled with stones, earth, tins, and general refuse and was hauled out of the way and deposited in the field.
The splash heard by the searchers had evidently been caused by something either falling out of the basket, or becoming disentangled from the basket or hooks, and so once more the two men lowered the grappling irons. Time after time they tried until, almost as hope was being abandoned, the irons caught again, and this time the rope was drawn up very gently. In a few moments it was seen that the body of a little boy was caught in the irons, and to the daylight came this lifeless form.
Quietly and reverently the body was laid upon a sheet; it was at once identified as that of Tommy Wood by an uncle of the unfortunate little fellow, who was aiding in the search, and then, covered with the sheet or cloth, it was removed to the waiting motor, and transferred to Glossop Police Station Mortuary, there to await, a post mortem examination.
Immediately the body had been recovered from the shaft the Chief Constable, who evidently had a shrewd suspicion that the man Barrows was watching them from the heights above, gave a few short, sharp directions to his men, and they followed an evidently pre-conceived and clever plan, by closing all outlets in the direction of Charlesworth. Information came that Burrows had been seen on the tops near Simmondley, and quickly a body of civilians followed the direction Burrows was alleged to have taken. Going towards the Chunal end of Glossop, just below the Plainsteads, the men in chase got a glimpse of the man they were wanting, and in a field known as Garside’s Intake — commonly called “The Intucks” — Burrows was found hiding under a holly bush.
Many are the rumours one hears of what was said by pursuers and pursued, but for the present we prefer to say nothing about them. It was not long after the securing of Burrows by civilians that Detective-Sergt. Wilson arrived on the scene, and took charge, of the wanted man. He was given no chance of escape, for the body of civilians stuck to arms, legs, and scarf round the neck, and in a Borough motor lorry of the Sanitary Department, Burrows, the men who had caught him, and Detective Wilson made the journey from Chunal to the Police Station.
Meantime news of the finding of the boy’s body, and the chase after Burrows, spread throughout the town with lightning-like rapidity, and by the time the motor lorry with its human cargo reached Glossop Police Station, an angry, and restless, crowd vowing vengeance had congregated in the roads loading to the Police Station. Again, however, the Chief and his men very capably handled the situation, and unresisting Burrows was quickly removed from the lorry to the interior of the police offices, and the doors closed on the excited throng.
Late on Tuesday night Dr. Milligan (the Medical Officer of Health) and Dr. Waddell made a superficial examination of the body, but declined to make any statement as to the probable cause of death, and Mr. George H. Wilson, Deputy Coroner for the High Peak Hundred, ordered a post mortem to be made.
Mr. Wilkie made the announcement to the Press that Burrows would come before the magistrates at ten o'clock the following morning, when only sufficient evidence would be given to justify a remand, after which the Coroner's inquiry would be formally opened by Mr. Wilson.
A further chapter in this story of tense human interest opened just before ten a.m. on Wednesday morning, at which hour Burrows was to appear before the magistrates at the Glossop Town Hall. He was brought from police headquarters to the Town Hall in a taxi, and, as he got out of the vehicle, there was an amazing scene. A crowd of about three hundred people had assembled — many of them women — and at sight of the man the crowd became frenzied. They surged round the taxi in menacing fashion, and as Burrows came out of the vehicle, handcuffed to P.C. Johnson and with Detective-Sergt. Wilson on the other side of him, an attempt was made to reach Burrows. Women booed and shouted angrily, newspapers were thrust at him, and one person managed to strike him with a newspaper so the strong cordon of police closed around him and hurried him to the welcome shelter of the Town Hall.
In the Court Room the magistrates on the bench were his Worship the Mayor (Coun. S. Bamforth) presiding, Ald. J. Malkin, and Coun. T. Swire, and when the doors of the court were opened to the public the small room was speedily filled. All eyes at once centred upon Burrows, as he occupied a seat behind the dock, between Detective Wilson and P.C. Johnson. His age is given as 62 years, but it must be admitted he carries his years lightly. Wearing a well-worn brown serge coat, Burrows is a big-framed man, with head rather bold at the front, and a little grey hair over the ears. He has an iron-grey moustache, is of fresh complexion, and is very well known amongst the Whitfield inhabitants of the Borough, in which locality he resides.
“Albert Edward Burrows,” called out the Chief Constable, and smartly the man between the officers sprang to his feet. Still handcuffed to the constable, and with the detective on the other side, he walked into the dock.
Almost as he did so, Chief Constable Wilkie began his statement to the Bench, and to the words of the Chief, Burrows listened very attentively, without making any comment.
The Chief Constable then said:—
“The prisoner, Albert Edward Burrows, is detained by the police in connection with the death of a boy, Thomas Wood. On Sunday, March 4, information was given to the police that the lad Thomas Wood, aged four years, residing at 96, Back Kershaw Street, Glossop, was missing.
“The police made immediate inquiries into the disappearance of the boy and on Monday, March 5, for some unknown reason so far, prisoner volunteered a statement to the police — or rather it would be more correct to say he left with the police a written statement — purporting to be the movements of the lad from about 1-30 p.m on the Sunday on which he was missing.
“This led the police to drag the Turn Lee Brook and to search the Glossop Brook, the assumption then being that he had fallen into one or other of them. The search was not successful.
“On Saturday, March 10, the prisoner, who had been actively assisting in the search, gave another written statement to Inspector Chadwick, whom he met in the street, and this statement attempted to show that the lad had been seen at 4-50 p.m. on the day he was first missing; and it also said he had been seen at the bottom of Primrose Lane, near to the Junction (the Junction Inn, Glossop).
“I do not intend to read these statements at this juncture unless you (the magistrates) insist upon me doing so. I do not think it would be advisable.”
The Chairman nodded.
“The police,” said the Chief Constable, “continued their inquiries quite independently of the information given them by Burrows, and he was again interviewed by the police in consequence of some information which had come to our knowledge.
“On Monday he volunteered a statement that about 11-30 a.m. on Sunday, March 4, he took the boy for a walk through the fields to Simmondley, and while on the Moss near Hargate Hill, he left the boy in a hollow until, as he says, he went to catch a rabbit. When he returned, in a few minutes, the boy was missing.
“He returned to Glossop, travelling via Hargate Hill fields, and Simmondley Lane, where he met a police officer on ordinary patrol.
“On his own statement this boy had been left by him anything within twenty minutes prior to that, and he did not say a word to the police officer about it.
“In fact, it was not until Monday, March 12 — when the police were searching Simmondley — that the prisoner volunteered to assist us. He said, “I will show you where I took the lad.”
“Police officers searched the way he said. There is a disused old mill air shaft, on the top side of the road to Charlesworth.
“The police dragged it, but were not successful. This is on the top tide of the road opposite Hargate Hill Farm.
“Yesterday we resumed our operations, and in the disused air shaft on the opposite side of the road we were successful in recovering the body.
“The prisoner was not then with the police.
“On the day previously he had been seen on the moor watching the police, I am told, and immediate search was made for him.
“He was detained by some civilians, who had taken part in the search for him. My information is that he was hiding under a holly bush. He was immediately handed over to one of my officers.
“You will see from these statements,” added the Chief Constable, “that the police inquiries will be rather lengthy in this case.
“I have to report to the responsible Government Department (the Public Prosecutor), and I ask for a remand in custody until to-day week at 10-30. If you wish evidence of arrest, I shall call it”.
The Magistrates Clerk intimated that was the usual course.
Detective-Sergeant R. Wilson, of the Glossop Borough Police Force, said he was present on the previous day at 1-30 p.m., when the body of the boy Thomas Wood, was recovered from a disused air shaft at Hargate Hill. He was instructed to search for the prisoner, and he was handed over to him at Garside’s Intake by some civilians.
The Chief Constable: These will be called as witnesses at the proper time.
Detective Wilson said he conveyed tho prisoner to the Police Station.
The Mayor (addressing Burrows): You will be remanded until this day week at 10-30.
Burrows nodded, and, at a signal from his police escort, he turned round and walked smartly out of the dock.
The Inquest Opened and Adjourned.
About quarter to 11, in the same room, the Deputy Coroner for the High Peak (Mr. G. H. Wilson, solicitor) opened the inquest on the body of the boy, which had been previously viewed at the Police Station Mortuary by a jury over which Mr. Henry Fielding was appointed foreman.
The first witness called was Fred Wood, of 96, Back Kershaw Street, Glossop, a labourer, who said : —
I am father of the boy Thomas Wood, who would have been 4 years of age on the 24th of this month. I have viewed the body and identify it as that of my son whilst lying at the Police Mortuary Ellison Street. This was yesterday, the 13th.
P.C. Sam Roe said, acting on instructions of the Chief Constable, he assisted in grappling operations at a disused air shaft on Tuesday, March 13th. The air shaft was in James’s field, Simmondley, and he was using the irons about one o’clock noon. He was lowering the grappling hooks, which became fast, and as he drew them upwards they suddenly went much be lighter and we heard a splash at the bottom of the shaft. On getting the hooks to the surface we found a basket fast to them which was partly filled with stones, cans, etc. We lowered the hook several times more and then found it fast again. We drew it steadily up, and on coming into the light we saw it was a body. On reaching the surface the body was identified as that of Thomas Wood by the uncle of the missing boy. The body was wrapped up in a sheet and conveyed to the Police Mortuary at Glossop. The shaft would be about 100 feet deep
The Coroner: Was there a wall round the mouth of the shaft?
Witness: Yes, A wall about six feet high is round it.
The Coroner: Any break in the wall?
Witness: Yes. There is a hole through the wall about a yard wide.
The Coroner: How far from the ground?
Witness: About two feet.
The Coroner: What was the positions of the irons on the body ’
Witness: The hook was caught in the leg of the boy’s trousers on the right side, I think, and level with the pocket.
Albert Connor, 60, Freetown, said he was a labourer. On Tuesday, March 13th, he was present at the air shaft whilst the search was going on with grappling irons in James's field. He assisted P.C. Roe in grappling the bottom of the shaft. We got the hooks fast, and found there was a tremendous weight on them We lifted it a distance up the shaft by pulling the ropes, when suddenly it went much lighter. We brought what still remained fast to the hooks up to the surface, and found it was a skip loaded with stones, tin cans, and that sort of thing. We put the grappling irons down again several times, then we found there was something else on the hook. Bringing this up the shaft steadily until it got to daylight we found it was the missing boy Thomas Wood. He was identified by relatives. The boy was laid in the field and covered with a coat, then Inspector Chadwick placed him in a cloth and removed him to the motor which was waiting on the road, and in which, he believed, the body was taken away.
The Coroner: Do you know the depth of the shaft?
Witness: I do, sir. The exact depth of the shaft down to the water is 37 yards.
The Coroner: Do you know the depth of the water?
Witness: I cannot say what the depth of the water is.
The Coroner: Did you notice where the hooks caught the child’s clothing?
Witness: Yes. At the right-hand side of the trousers just by the right hip.
The Coroner: Is there a wall round the shaft mouth?
Witness: There is.
The Coroner: What height?
Witness: About six or seven feet.
The Coroner: Any break in the wall?
Witness: Yes, on the lower side.
The Coroner: What size about?
Witness: About 18 inches diameter, I think.
A Juror: What height from the ground is the hole?
Witness: Anywhere from 2ft. to 2ft. 6in.
The Coroner: What depth is it?
Witness: About 18 inches. The hole is nearly round — as near as they could get it.
The Coroner: No, it is not round. This hole is very material.
A Juror: Is the breach in the wall a recently made one?
Witness: Anyone who saw it and would look down the inside, it appears as though there has been some of the wall recently “shoved” down.
The Coroner: Did you see the shaft before grappling took place?
The Coroner: Was the breach in the wall then?
Witness: It was!
The Coroner: Was there room for the body of a child to pass through this opening?
Witness: There is room for the body of a child to get through.
The Chief Constable: You saw the hole recently? — Yes.
The Chief Constable: When? — On Sunday, the 11th March.
The Chief Constable: And was the breach the same then as on Tuesday?
Witness: It was exactly the same on the Sunday as when I went there on Tuesday. I examined the breach carefully.
The Chief Constable: It was very crumbly? — Yes. If you touched it, it would go.
Witness had not been near the shaft between the date of the boy missing and Sunday, March 11. During the grappling operations no stones were knocked off the top of the wall, but stones fell out of the broken wall.
The Chief Constable said this was a point he would like to make clear. The aperture was there admittedly when the police went, and it had been enlarged since the date the boy was missed.
He would bring evidence to prove that later, a number of unauthorised persons had been there and put their heads through to see if they could find anything. It was in such a crumbly state that, some of the stones had fallen in. It was a matter quite easy of explanation.
This closed the evidence, and the police official in charge of Burrows said, “He says he wants to ask a question”.
Burrows then got up immediately and stated that the most important point had been missed.
“About that shaft higher up,” he said, “where I took the police, where I saw the boy safe. The top shaft had no fence round it.”
The Deputy Coroner suggested it might be better if he made his statement at a later date.
Burrows: “Well, I can save it for later on, but the top shaft is not fenced in at all. There is a waggon road between the top and the bottom shaft and the water flows from one to the other. Anything falling down the first goes to the second. I have a clear conscience.”
The top shaft apparently referred to by Burrows is on the left side of the main road to Charlesworth, and the bottom shaft (where the body was found) is on the right hand side, below the main road.
The inquest was then adjourned until Tuesday next at 10-30.
During the inquest proceedings the crowd outside had swelled considerably, and there were about 300 people packed round the Court door and on the other side of the road when the proceedings closed.
Fearing another scene, the police decided on a ruse which completely outwitted the crowd.
They brought the taxi in which Burrows arrived to the door, and two police officers mounted guard. The crowd waited expectantly.
In the meantime Burrows, under the direction of the Chief Constable, was taken to the back of the Town Hall, handcuffed to his guard, and taken out into the Market Ground at the rear.
There another car drove up, and he was quickly ushered in and taken away, very few seeing him enter the taxi.
Burrows was taken later by train to Strangeways Gaol.
A rumour is current in the town to the effect that a diver may be employed to descend the air shaft down which the body of Tommy Wood was found, to ascertain the volume and flow of water. At the time of going to press, we have no confirmation of this rumour.
Mr. Wood and family request us to express their deep thanks to all who have aided them in the search for their child and to say how gratefully they appreciate the expressions of sympathy tendered by the public.
The interment of the remains of Thomas Wood will take place on Saturday afternoon at 3 o’clock, from 60 Wood Street, and they will be laid to rest in Whitfield Churchyard. Messrs W. Howard and Son, Hadfield Street, have the arrangements in hand.
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Last updated: 29 September 2023