Burrows' trial by Glossop Magistrates for the murder of Tommy Wood (first day).

Glossop Advertiser 30 March 1923

Prosecuting Counsel's Pertinent Queries.
Plenty of Questions by Prisoner.

Yesterday (Wednesday) morning Albert Edward Burrows again arrived at the Glossop Railway Station in the custody of two warders, and he was quickly conveyed to the Glossop Town Hall, where the charge against him was gone into, a good number of witnesses being called.
There was a crowded Court.
The magistrates on the Bench were his Worship the Mayor (Mr. S Bamforth), presiding, Mr. J. Malkin, and Mr W. Holdgate.
Mr G. R. Paling prosecuted on behalf of the Crown.

Mr. Paling, addressing the Bench, stated that he appeared on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions The defendant, Albert Edward Burrows who had given his age as 62 years, was a labourer, and he was charged with the murder of Thomas Wood, a little boy. aged about four years, on the 4th of this month. The defendant resided in what was known as Back Kershaw Street, Glossop, and the deceased boy resided with his parents just opposite. The deceased boy, continued Mr. Paling, was the son of Fred Wood, who was also a labourer, of just over 20 years of age. At 9 o’clock on the morning of the tragedy the little boy got up for breakfast, and was dressed in a grey jersey, with knickers, stockings, and clogs. He had his breakfast about 9 o'clock, and then went to his uncle's to get some fish, and some time between 10 and half-past he returned with this fish and went again to his uncle’s. He played about at his uncle’s for a little while and at 11 o’clock left there, apparently with the intention of going to his grand-parents, but he never reached his grand-parents at all.
“What he had for breakfast,” said Mr. Paling, “did not contain anything in the shape of fruit, nor did he eat, as far as we know, any fruit at all whilst he was with his uncle.” The next time he was seen was somewhere about quarter-past 11, in Hollincross Lane, where he was in company with the prisoner, and the little boy was then eating an apple. This was rather important, as the Bench would see later, and prisoner and the boy turned down Slatelands Road. About half-past 11 prisoner was seen with the boy in Slatelands Road. “The next time we pick him up,” said Mr. Paling, “is about 10 minutes to 12, as near as we can tell. A lady was going along the road from Glossop to Charlesworth, and when she got to a place called Robinson's Farm, or Robinson’s hen-pen, and to the top of Robinson’s Brow, she saw through a gate in the field some old slag heaps, and between these two slag heaps she saw a man with a child, helping him across the brook which meanders down from the hills there. The boy was never seen alive again after that except by the prisoner.” At half-past 12 the prisoner had a conversation with a man named Burgess, who lives at Hargate Hill Farm. Burgess was working just on the edge of the stone quarry; this was Sunday morning, with very few people about, and it was quite close to the edge of the road, and just behind the wall; and the first sound Burgess heard was of somebody suddenly stepping on to the road, and prisoner leaned over the Wall and asked Burgess, “Who is working down in the quarry”? Burgess replied “Some Glossop men are working there.” They both came to the entrance to the quarry, and after further conversation prisoner left. Burgess would tell them that he was perfectly convinced that the defendant came across the footpath which leads from the moors, straight down to Hargate Hill Farm, and not down the roadway. When he saw him there, prisoner was alone. He then made his way from Hargate Hill across the fields, crossing Green Lane and down into Simmondley Lane. He was seen by a lady crossing one of the fields, and she would tell them that she knew him fairly well, that his manner was very strange, and that he was perspiring as if he had been hurrying, and was wet. In Simmondley Lane he was next seen by a constable, who walked with him from the new houses that had been erected under the housing scheme to the Junction Inn, and they talked together. The constable would tell them that he knew Burrows, and that he was very talkative, was excited, and perspiring, and wet. Burrows apparently left there with the intention of going up High Street, and the constable walked along Primrose Lane. Prisoner after going a little way up High Street, turned back again and went along Primrose Lane. On arriving at the bridge at Slatelands Road, he saw some boys playing in the water, and throwing some sticks for a dog to catch, and to one of these boys he first made any remark at all about the deceased boy. Then he said “If you see young Tom Wood, send him home, he is lost.” A few minutes afterwards he met a friend of his, a man named Mr. Shortland, who lived in Kershaw Street, and he was also in Slatelands Road, and prisoner said to him “There is Fred Wood’s lad down there (pointing to the boys playing in the river; would you take him home; if I do he (the boy 's father) will only curse me.” Shortland replied “No, you have no right to interfere with anyone’s children.” After that they went together down the road, and stopped opposite the hen- pen belonging to a Mr. Kinder, and Burrows there pointed to something lying in the pen about six yards away and said “That is little Tommy Wood's purse.” “This was the purse,” said Mr. Paling, holding up a very small one. Continuing, Mr. Paling said prisoner said that Tommy had told him he was coming up the road when one of the boys threw the purse, over into the hen-pen. Prisoner then arranged to meet Shortland in the afternoon, and together they went for a walk up to the moors and over the Nab. Shortland would tell them that the whole time they were out walking in the afternoon prisoner seemed most peculiar in his manner and kept on asking Shortland “Let’s go and have a look at that air shaft in Mr. James’ field (this was the Dinting air shaft) where they throw calves and things down. Shortland would tell them that he thought prisoner’s manner was most peculiar, so peculiar that Shortland said “No, I am not going there; I am going over the Nab; I refuse to go there.” On the following day, between 8 and 9 in the morning, when Shortland was still in bed, prisoner came round to his house and knocked at his door, and asked him what time he met him in Slatelands Road, and Shortland said “About half-past one.” Prisoner then stated “Oh, well, I have made a mistake in a statement I have made to the police; I must correct that.” At that time 9 o’clock in the morning of the 5th of March,” said Mr. Paling, “he had made no statement at all to the police.” He then went to the boy's grandmother and offered to show her the purse which was lying in the hen-pen, and Mrs. Wood, along with two neighbours, proceeded to the place and recovered the purse, prisoner telling her that “at half-past one yesterday (4th of March) while I was in Slatelands Road I saw Thomas Wood and three other boys. When I was passing, Tom Wood said “Mr. Burrow’s, that boy threw my purse over there” (pointing to the hen-pen). I asked him “Which of the boys”? and Tom said “The big one”; so that on the day after the boy was missed prisoner was still telling this story of a boy throwing this purse over into the hen-pen. That afternoon he again went with Mr. Shortland for a walk over the moors, and, again, he had a peculiar desire to go and see the air shaft and his peculiar manner was also noticed.
Why, asked Mr. Paling, did Burrows continually draw attention to this purse? How did he know it was there at all?
And was not his story that he had heard a boy say it had been thrown there, a cunning invention?

Then there were statements which Burrows made to the police, written and verbal, beginning on March 4th. In the first one of these prisoner stated that he wanted to correct the impression given by a number of reports that were going about and which were not true.
On March 6th Burrows told Sergt. Clayton that he had last seen the little boy looking over into the hen-pen in Slatelands. He made another statement on the 7th which the police found to be untrue, and on March 9th, meeting Inspector Chadwick in the street, he gave him a document on which was written: Correct statement of A. E. Burrows on Tommy Wood. No other statement is true.
In this document Burrows said he had seen Tommy Wood before 2 o’clock and that a lady had seen him at 4 o’clock, and that he understood the boy had been seen even later than that. These statements were found to be untrue and an absolute tissue of lies, despite the fact that burrows said they contained the gospel truth.
Burrows, interrupting: Just a minute, your worship. It was not a falsehood? It was what the people said.
The Clerk: You cannot speak now. You can speak later.
They would also be told the story which Burrows had related to Inspector Chadwick of being on the moor with the boy looking for thrushes nests, and of Burrows going off in search of a rabbit and returning at the end of ten minutes to find that the boy was missing. Burrows had subsequently said he was not away from the boy for more than two minutes. When the inspector suggested they should do some grappling in the shaft Burrows, said: “Oh, you won’t find him there.”
On March 12th, eight days after the boy was missed, Burrows volunteered a further statement, in which he admitted that he was with the boy before half-past-one. This was the first time he admitted seeing him before that time.

This was a curious statement. When, on March 13th, grappling was started and the body of the boy was recovered, prisoner was seen among the hills watching the operations in a crouching attitude. He was pursued by members of the search party, and discovered hiding in a bush and made the peculiar remark when he was captured: “I don't know what made me do it.”
Whether, said Mr. Paling, this referred only to his running away or to something else I cannot yet say. Nor can I attempt to explain why the prisoner should ask the people for mercy at that time.
I cannot presume to say whether he expected rough treatment.
Burrows’ declaration that he would not be like Charlie Peace, and would not tremble when he went to the scaffold, was also something which he could not explain.

Dealing with the state of the body of the boy when recovered, Mr. Paling referred to the bruises on it.
There was also, he said, an abnormal condition, about which medical evidence would be called to show that it was consistent with a very grave offence having been committed against the boy whilst he was alive.
Near the pit shaft there was a screen of bushes, and it was possible that from this screen the boy could either have fallen or have been thrown down the shaft. The bruises on his body were consistent with such a fall. The fact that a portion of an apple was found in the boy’s stomach was also very important. That apple had been eaten between half-an-hour and three hours before his death — his death must therefore have taken place between 11 o'clock and 2-15.
The prisoner was the only person who was with the boy during that time.

There were one or two questions which suggested themselves, said Mr. Paling.
Why, at 1-30, does Burrows point-out a boy to Shortland?
Why does he say, “There is a boy down there” knowing that Shortland is a short-sighted man?
Why does he show him a purse in a hen-pen?
Why does he manifest that great anxiety of which we have been told;?
Why does he make these statements — some of them not true — to the police?
Why, in particular, does he make that remark in which he said that be had tried to save the boy's life by pulling him out of the way of a motor car? Because, said Mr. Paling, it is wholly essential for him to show that the boy was alive at half-past-one. He is most anxious to show that the child was then alive.
Why did he run away?
Why did he hide?
Why, when arrested was found on him a thermos flask and some mutton sandwiches?
“My contention is that he was leaving the neighbourhood for some time if the body was found.”
As for the theory that has been expressed, that it is possible for the body of the boy to have passed from the upper shaft to the lower one, I hope to be able to prove to you later that such a thing would be impossible. The distance is 165 yards between the two shafts and the water levels in each shaft are such that it would be practically impossible for this to happen.

When Mr. Paling had concluded his opening statement Burrows stood up and said, “I have an application to make. I want the witnesses to go out of Court. I don’t want the same game as last week, and I don't want the inspector to keep talking to the witnesses in the box. I only want fairation.”
The witnesses were then ordered out of Court.

Mr. C. E. Storey, surveyor, produced plans of the district over which prisoner took the police and the various places in which he met different people mentioned in his statement.

Mr. E. Battey, Norfolk Street, Glossop, stated that on Thursday, March 10th, he took a number of photographs in company with Inspector Chadwick. The photographs he took were those now produced in Court, and included one of the wimberry bush, where prisoner said he left the boy; one of the lower or Dinting air shaft as seen from the roadway; view of the same air shaft from the opposite side; closer views of the aperture in the wall; the position where in his second statement prisoner said he left the boy, a white spot on the photograph indicating the rabbit burrow mentioned by Burrows; the top of Simmondley air shaft; another view of the aperture in the wall of the Dinting air shaft.
Prisoner requested to see the photographs, and they were handed to him and critically scanned by him, and he asked “Where is the wall that divides the hollow and the hill after you cross the swamp coming from the direction of Glossop?”
Mr. Battey: It is in the middle distance of the photograph — it is in the centre of the photograph.
Prisoner: Where is the rabbit hole?
The Clerk: There is a little white spot.
Mr. Battey: And the wall that divides it runs down the centre.
Prisoner then handed back the photographs to the Clerk.

Fred Wood, father of the deceased boy, was next called. He stated that the deceased was born on the 24th March, 1919. On Sunday, the 4th March, when the boy left home about half-past nine in the morning he was dressed in a grey jersey with red collar, short knickers, black stockings and lace-up clogs. He had no hat on. Deceased had two hats but both were in the house on that day. Deceased took out with him a small purse,which he (witness) now identified. Witness went on to describe what the boy had to eat for breakfast, his visit to the boy's uncle and his return home with a parcel of fish, and also to his leaving the house shortly afterwards with the intention of returning to his uncle’s. He (witness) did not see him alive again after that. Prisoner had many times taken his son Tommy for a walk in the neighbourhood.
James Wood, of 5, Freetown, Glossop, uncle of the deceased, stated that the boy left his house about 11 o’clock. He did not see him alive afterwards. When the body was recovered from the air shaft he identified it as that of his nephew.
Irvine Broadbent, paper mill employee, of 1, Cooper Street, Glossop, deposed that he was in Hollincross Lane between 11 and 11-30 on the morning of Sunday, 4th March, when he saw the prisoner there with a child. He also saw prisoner give the child an apple. Burrows and the child went down Slatelands Road. He could not say how the child was dressed. His attention, through some cause or other, was particularly taken up by the prisoner, “Something came across me and I could not take my eyes off him,” continued witness.
Prisoner: You say your attention was drawn to me. Was it because I was good to the boy?
The Clerk pointed out to prisoner that the remarks of witness about this had not been taken down, therefore he could not ask him anything about that. He must confine his questions to the evidence that had been read out.
Witness (looking towards prisoner): “You know it is the truth what I've said.”
Prisoner: Yes, he’s spoken the truth.

Samuel Buckley Robinson, farm labourer of 15, Queen Street, Glossop, stated that whilst with a horse in Slatelands Road at 11-30 on March 4th he saw prisoner going down the hill with a little boy about 4 or 5 years of age. He had a conversation with him for about two minutes, and then prisoner and the child went down the road in the direction of the open country. During the conversation prisoner asked him if he was going to the smithy.
Prisoner: Are you quite sure I asked if you were going to the smithy?
Witness: Yes
Prisoner: It was Sunday, you know.
Witness: Yes.
Witness, continuing, said he went up Slatelands Road, and the prisoner went down, but he did not see him turn out of Slatelands Road.
By the Clerk: He knew prisoner by sight, and knew his name.
Prisoner asked how witness knew his name when during the conversation he asked what his name was?
Witness (in reply to the Clerk) repeated that he knew prisoner by name.

Jane Tregarthan Sidebottom, wife of Peter Sidebottom, of 24, Turn Lee Road,Glossop, repeated her evidence when at the Coroner's' enquiry as to seeing a man and child on the shale heaps at, Simmondley on the date in question. The child appeared to be dressed in grey.
In reply to prisoner, witness said she could not recall speaking to a man anywhere about there. She might have done so. If she did speak to anyone she would be able to identify him again.
The hen farm alluded to in the evidence was a farm house where she had seen hens running about in the yard.
Questioned by prisoner as to the distance she alleged between her and the man and child she saw on the shale heaps, witness said she did not presume to be a good judge of distance, but she guessed the shale heaps to be almost 200 yards from where she was.
Prisoner: Was you told last week to say 200 yards.?
Witness: No.

Frank Burgess, farm labourer, Hargate Hill, said he was near the entrance to the stone quarry at Hargate Hill about half-past twelve and heard the sound of somebody coming from the footpath on to the road, and on looking up saw Burrows coming towards the wall. He walked a little way down the road along the wall side about 25 yards to the entrance. He (witness) stopped where he was. Prisoner asked something about the men working in the quarry and what the time was. He (witness) went towards prisoner, told him the time, and then walked with him a short distance along the road. Plaintiff left him and turned off to the right he (witness) going to the left. He saw no one with prisoner, and neither did prisoner say anything to him during the conversation about a child.
In reply to questions by the prisoner, witness said he was cutting sods and saw prisoner before he saw him.
Prisoner: Now pull yourself together, and think. What did I ask you?
Witness: You asked me about the men working in the quarry and about the time.
Prisoner: What before the time?
Witness : Nothing.
Prisoner: Are you certain?
Witness: Yes.
Prisoner: For some reason or other he is keeping something back. (To witness): You were carrying a spade and took two sods into the yard.
Witness: I was.
Prisoner: What did I say?
Witness: Nothing else.
Prisoner consulted an envelope on which was some writing, and after crossing something out he turned to witness and in a somewhat dramatic manner exclaimed: That will do. Thank you.

Miss Mary Harrison, Hargate Hill Farm, Dinting, corroborated her evidence as to passing prisoner in the fields between Simmondley Lane and Green Lane.
By Prisoner: I know the brook that runs through the fields. Prisoner was on the side of the brook nearer Hargate Hill when I met him.
I did not see anything in his hand nor sticking out of his pocket.
I did not notice any thing wrong except that he was hurrying down.
Police Constable Fred Bradbury spoke to seeing prisoner about 15 yards along the footpath leading to Hargate Hill. Prisoner drew witness’s attention to his soaking wet feet and trousers, which were wet up to the knees. They walked together down to the Junction Bridge, prisoner being very talkative on the way. Prisoner went along High Street West and he (witness) went up Primrose Lane. Prisoner appeared irregular in his manner. That was unusual, as on previous occasions when he had met him prisoner never was talkative.
Prisoner: Who spoke first, you or me?
Witness: You spoke first.
Prisoner: Who was I talking to?
Witness: To an insurance man in the name of Lavin.
By the Clerk: When I was coming down the road I heard prisoner talking to a man who lives in one of the Corporation houses. He was standing at the corner of his garden. They were talking about some water running down into the front garden.
Prisoner: Didn’t I ask you a question about the water?
Witness: You asked me which I thought was the best way to turn the water to run clear from the garden. There was a hollow in the field and prisoner suggested turning the water into it.
Prisoner: And what was your answer?
Witness: I was only standing there two or three seconds, and I said the best way in my opinion is to turn it into the gutter back again, and let it run down the road.
By Prisoner: Probably he would not have noticed the wet condition of prisoner’s boots and trousers had he not called his attention to them. He (witness) did not remember prisoner asking him when they were going to widen the bridge.

John Dale, 90, Victoria Street, Glossop, chemist's assistant, was next called and deposed that on Sunday, the 4th of March, he was in Slatelands Road at the bridge near Slatelands House. That would be about 25 minutes past one, and there were with him his brothers Irvine and George, and Frank Steel and two dogs. They were there about 10 minutes on the brook course over the wall. They saw Burrows there about half-past-one, and he was walking from Bridgefield up Slatelands Road. He said to them if you see young Tom Wood, send him home; he is lost. Burrows then went straight on up Slatelands Road. They remained at the spot about five minutes after the prisoner passed, and then went home, and it was quarter to two just as they were going in the back yard at home.
Burrows: Did you see anyone else with me?
Witness: There was no one else with you at the time. I did not see you afterwards that I know of.

Frank Steel, 82, Victoria Street, cotton operative, gave evidence bearing out his previous statements, to the effect that on Sunday, the 4th of March, he was with John Dale at the bridge in Slatelands Road about 1-25 p.m. After they had been there five minutes prisoner came from the direction of Bridgefield up Slatelands Road. He said something about a boy being lost.

Thomas Shortland, 9, Kershaw Street, substantiated his statement as to Burrows telling him that Fred Wood's lad was down the road with some other boys; further, that they went down Slatelands Road, and prisoner pointed to something in Mr. Kinder’s hen pen, and stated that it was a purse and belonged to one of Fred Wood's lads, and that one of the boys with him had thrown it over. Witness related the walk they had together in the afternoon, when prisoner seemed frightened of something, and very nervous. Prisoner was strange in his manner and would not leave him. Prisoner told him about the missing boy on the Monday morning, which was the first he heard of it. On Monday afternoon he and prisoner went for a walk and made for Simmondley. They went up the field called the “Kenock” — towards the “Nab”. Prisoner said he did not want to go that way, but to the air-shaft in James’ field where they “put cows and calves down.” He witness did not want to go to the air-shaft, although prisoner kept insisting that they should go back in the direction of it. It was very singular, but “something seemed to tell me to keep the other way,” and I did.
On Thursday evening prisoner came down to his house and produced a dog collar and said “I have never had anything to eat since this lad was missing. I want something for this, something to eat.” He (witness) took the collar in exchange for a pound of cheese.
During the whole of the times that he was with prisoner on Sunday, the 4th March, he did not mention a word about the missing child.
Prisoner suggested going for a walk on Sunday afternoon. He did not see anything up Simmondley. While they were talking near the hen pen prisoner pointed out some children going up the fields. Prisoner never mentioned the missing boy when they met near the watercress bed on Sunday afternoon
Prisoner: What was the reason you would not go over towards Simmondley on Sunday and Monday?
Witness: You never wanted to go on the Sunday.
Prisoner questioned witness at length as to what they saw on the Nab on the Monday and by permission of the Bench put a direct question — “Did you see any duck feathers?”
Witness: Yes.
Prisoner: When we saw these feathers what did you do? Did you look for any duck eggs?
Witness: No; you did. (Laughter).
Prisoner elicited from witness that he went for many walks on the Nab and in the fields, when not working.
Prisoner: How do you pass your time away year after year when walking out?
Witness: I walk out for my own pleasure.
Prisoner: You don't go scrawling after courting couples?
This question brought a strong rebuke from the Mayor as to the irrelevancy of the question when Mr Paling remarked that he did not think prisoner appreciated what he was saying in trying to place one of his important witnesses in a serious position with regard to character.
Prisoner said there was another question he wanted to ask, one which must be asked Permission having been given, he turned to witness and said: “Now, Shortland look me in the face. Why have you missed so much out?
Witness: I've missed nothing out!
Prisoner: That will do for the present.

Dr. Milligan repeated the evidence which he gave at the enquiry, and in stating that from the result of the examination he was of opinion that death was due to asphyxia by drowning. Mr. Paling suggested the words “in water,” whereupon the medical gentleman retorted “Well, I didn't think about beer at the time” (Laughter). In reply to a further question by the prosecuting solicitor, Dr. Milligan said “the state of the anus was in keeping with an act of great indecency having been committed with the boy”.
The prisoner put several questions to the doctor as to his opinion of the bruises on the body by falling down the air-shaft, one being “If the body came in contact with the hard sides of the shaft before entering the water, what would you expect to find?”
Dr. Milligan replied that he did not quite understand tho question.
Prisoner: In pit sinking anything hitting the side once, keeps on rebounding.
To the Doctor: Do you agree that the injuries might be caused that way.
Witness: If a body rebounded back many times I should expect to find much more injuries.
Prisoner: You would not expect the body not to be damaged by falling down there? Not if it struck a hard surface.
Dr James Henry Dible, Lecturer in Bacteriology, University of Manchester, was the next witness called. The medical evidence by this gentleman was fully reported in our last issue. At the conclusion of his examination in chief, Mr. Paling put the following questions:—
Was the appearance of the body consistent with having been dropped down a pit shaft 105 feet deep, with 8 feet of water at the bottom? — Yes.

With reference to portions of the apple found in the stomach, witness said the apple had been eaten from between half an hour to three hours before death. Those times were the extreme limits. Giving evidence in cross-examination as to the injury to the spleen, witness said such an injury could be caused internally and show no possible sign externally. A violent twist or turn might cause such injury; or the striking on the water of a body falling 97 feet.

Mrs. A Wood, grandmother of the dead child, Wood Street, Glossop, detailed the conversation which took place between her and prisoner with regard to the purse in the hen pen, and stated that they proceeded to the place, and prisoner pointing to a place in the pen, said “It is just about there.” Mr. Plant picked it up from the spot indicated, and it was ultimately handed to witness. There was nothing in the purse. On Sunday, the 11th March, prisoner called her over to his house after the searchers had gone out, and prisoner told her things that the little boy used to do when he went to prisoner’s house. He said it was like as if an aeroplane had come and picked him up. He also said that he had seen deceased with three other boys down Slatelands Road about 1-30 the previous Sunday. She asked him who the boys were, and he said he did not know. He said that little Thomas had said to him (prisoner) “That boy (pointing out the biggest boy) has thrown my purse oven there”. Prisoner said “Perhaps the boy thought there was money in the purse,” but there was only an old rubber heel.
Burrows: Did the boy love me — did he think a lot about me?
Witness: I don't know anything about that; all that I know is that the boy told me that Mr. Burrows took him in a barrow for coal. He never said anything about love or anything.

Burrows: Is the boy's mother here?
Witness: How do I know whether the boy’s mother is here or not?
Burrows then sat down, and this concluded the proceedings for the day.
Mr. Paling suggested to the Bench that the case should be adjourned to 10-15 a.m. on Thursday next, April 5th. Mr Paling remarking that he would then be in a position to finish the case.
During the day sixteen witnesses had been called, and we understand that there are about seven more to give evidence.

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Last updated: 29 September 2023