The Murder of Mary Blewitt

The last time Cornish born tinner Charles Oliver Blewitt (1867 – 1900) and his wife 33 year old Mary Ann were seen together was in their house in Star Fold, Beeston, Leeds about 9pm on 8 June 1900, shortly afterwards the blinds were pulled down and the house closed up.

Star Fold, Beeston
Star Fold, Beeston

The neighbours thinking it strange that they had not seen either of the Blewitts for quite some time informed the police who on the 17 June broke down the front door and walked right into a murder scene.

Mrs. Blewitt was found sitting in a chair with her throat cut, there were wounds to her wrists and hands where she had fought to protect her throat; a shawl had been thrown over her head and shoulders. There was a large pool of blood on the hearthrug and a pair of bloodstained boots were found where the murderer had stepped into the pool of blood then changed his boots before leaving. The crime appeared to have taken place during a meal.

Although Charles Blewitt was nowhere to be found, he had been seen early on 9 June walking along the road between Dewsbury and Heckmondwike, a witness stated that he had shaved off his moustache. Blewitt managed to find employment at Cornelius Redman & Sons Limited in Halifax under the assumed name of Oliver Jackson (Jackson being his wife’s maiden name), he remained here until a fellow worker saw his picture in the paper and informed the police. They arrested him on the 3 July taking him to the police station at Halifax Town Hall where he was held before being collected by Leeds City Police who returned with him to Leeds to face trial.

Blewitt was to be tried twice for the murder at the Leeds Assizes, the first trial before Mr Justice Ridley, resulted in the jury disagreeing and so a new trial was started in front of Mr. Justice Bruce, he was prosecuted by Mr Banks and Mr Grotrian and defended by Mr WJ Waugh and Mr CF Palmer.

Although the defence in  the second trial stated: “There was no direct evidence, there was an utter absence of motive and there was nothing in the prisoner’s conduct consistent with guilt”, the jury returned a verdict of guilty after only three-quarters of an hour’s deliberation.

The judge assumed the black cap and said:

“Charles Oliver Blewitt, the jury after a careful trial, and after hearing a most able defence by your Counsel, have found you guilty of the crime with which you have been charged. I have only to say that I agree with that verdict. You will have every opportunity, which you denied your victim, of making preparation for your great change. It only remains for me to pass the sentence of death.”

The sentence was then passed in the usual way and Blewitt was taken calmly to his death cell. His appeal having failed, Charles Oliver Blewitt, who was 33 years old, was hanged on the 28 August 1900 at Armley Prison by James Billington.

Although his family members remembered a kind and caring man who had never been in trouble, The Times reported that: ‘The condemned man was callous and indifferent to the last and made no confession.’

Whatever he was, he paid for his crime with his life and his deed in no way reflects on his surviving family, it is part of criminal history and should be remembered as only that.


This post was written by Ken Burton using our Create an article for South Leeds Life page.



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