Date Of Execution: 7 Dec 1901
Crime Location: Hudleston Street, Cullercoats
Execution Place: unknown
John Miller and John Robert Miller were convicted for the murder of John Ferguson 60 and sentenced to death.
They murdered him on 20 September 1901 in the afternoon at his house.
John Miller was a dealer, hawker, and travelling showman whilst John Robert Miller was a musician.
John Ferguson was the step-father of John Miller whilst John Robert Miller was John Miller's nephew.
John Ferguson had married the second wife of John Miller's father.
John Ferguson and his wife lived at 55 Hudleston Street, which was the upper of two flats. On 20 September 1901 in the afternoon John Ferguson and his wife were in the kitchen when there was a knock at the door. For some reason not known his wife tried to stop him from going to the door but he went answered it.
Earlier in the day at 2.30pm John Miller and John Robert Miller had gone into a shop at 70 Saville Street in North Shields and John Miller had said 'We want to look at some knives'. John Miller then said that John Robert Miller was going to sea and that he wanted a special kind of knife. They then selected a knife and John Robert Miller paid for it.
After buying the knife John Miller and John Robert Miller were seen heading off to Cullercoats and were later seen there leaning over some railings. At about 3.30pm they were then seen by a boy coming from the Bay Hotel and heading off towards Hudleston Street which was about 200 yards away. They were observed to have been both drunk with John Robert Miller being the worst.
When they got to 55 Hudleston Street John Robert Miller rapped at the door whilst John Miller was seen to go into the next doorway where he appeared to secrete himself. When the door was opened John Robert Miller was seen to go into the house followed by John Miller after which the door was shut.
It was noted that the distance between the two doors was 4 feet 2 inches.
John Ferguson's wife said that one of then men then stabbed John Ferguson between the doorway and the foot of the stairs, although she said that she could not pledge which one it was. She said that one of the men bolted the front door and it was thought that it had been John Miller whilst John Robert Miller was using the knife. After stabbing John Ferguson they went over the landing at the head of the stairs and went down the stairs at the back and out into the back lane.
John Ferguson's wife said that she called out 'You are murdering my husband'. She said then that one of the men then went upstairs and showed her the knife and said to her 'Do you see that knife?' and she said she replied 'Yes, you villain, you have murdered my husband', and that the man said 'Yes' and threw the knife down and passed down the stairs.
Immediately after they went out into the back lane John Miller and John Robert Miller were seen. John Miller was seen leaning against a door quietly lighting his pipe whilst John Robert Miller was seen washing his hands and heard to referred to how hot his head was and how he was going to bathe it in cold water. A woman then said to John Miller 'Ferguson has been stabbed' and John Miller replied 'Yes, four or five times'. The woman said that she then heard John Robert Miller say to John Miller 'You have tantalised me. You have irritated me. You gave me drink, you gave me the knife'.
The post-mortem stated that John Ferguson had about eight wounds and that he had died from haemorrhage.
The man that sold the knife at 70 Saville Street said that he had known John Miller for over 20 years and identified John Robert Miller as being the other man that had been in the shop to buy the knife. The man said that he showed them some sheath knives and that John Robert Miller had paid for it. The knife had cost 11 pence. The man identified the knife the next day as the knife that he had sold when the police brought it to him to see. The shop owner said that he was sure that it was John Miller that had said he was going to sea and that he was sure they wanted a knife because one of them was going to sea and not because they were going to sell it to someone that was going to sea. The shop owner said that the knife was of a character that a cook would take to sea. He said that John Miller had rejected the first knife that he was shown because it was too large. He said that both John Robert Miller and John Miller were under the influence of drink and that John Robert Miller appeared stupid.
After the murder, the man that said that he had seen John Robert Miller and John Miller earlier on leaning over the railings said that he heard that something had happened and went to the back lane where he saw a crowd of people and said that he saw John Miller standing against a back doorway with a patch of blood on his face and John Robert Miller standing amongst the crowd in the lane. He said that he then went into the house and went yp the stairs where he saw John Ferguson's wife with a lighted candled and John Ferguson lying on the floor in a pool of blood. He said that he looked to see if John Ferguson was moving but he wasn't and that he then listened to see if he could hear him breathing and then felt for his pulse and said that it then became apparent that he was dead.
The man said that he then went outside and asked if there was anyone that would come up and help John Ferguson and then asked if there were any women that would go up and help his wife.
The man said that he did not at first mention seeing blood on John Miller's face because he was not asked.
When the man went back out John Robert Miller was seen to be wandering backwards and forwards and was all of a tremble.
The young boy that had seen John Robert Miller and John Miller go into the house said that about 10 minutes later he was attracted by a crowd in the back lane and said that there were about 50 people there, including John Robert Miller and John Miller.
Another person said that they had heard John Robert Miller say to John Miller in the back lane 'You worked me up to this pitch'.
It was noted that it was a strange case because there was no quarrel between John Ferguson, and John Robert Miller and John Miller. However, John Ferguson's wife said that they had given John Robert Miller and John Miller money from time to time and that that might have been at the bottom of it. It was also said that it appeared pretty clear from which John Robert Miller had said that it had been him that had killed John Ferguson but that John Miller had been the instigator.
It was noted that John Ferguson's wife had at first said that John Robert Miller had come up to her with the knife with the blood on it but had later said that she couldn't distinguish between either of them.
When they were later questioned by the police John Robert Miller was heard to have said 'I deserve all I get for being such a fool. I was mad drunk, or I would not have done such a thing. That is all I have got to say. God bless everybody'. John Robert Miller was also heard by another policeman to have said 'It was I who committed the murder, it was I who murdered the man.'.
A doctor that examined John Miller said that he had blood stains on the left breast of his coat and on his left ear and that his hands were clean as though they had just been washed.
The police noted that whilst it was John Robert Miller that probably carried out the stabbing that John Miller appeared to have been the prime mover and instigator. They noted that he had been present at the buying of the knife, present when they called at Dove street, present on the scene of the murder, and that it seemed to be fair to believe that it was he that had closed the door and bolted the inner glass door from the inside to prevent interruption. They said that whilst he was 67 years of age, the part he took in the murder seemed to be the most heartless and cold-blooded.
The issue of drink and delirium tremens was considered in the case of John Robert Miller. When he was examined by a doctor he appeared excited and hysterical and that on the 23 September 1901 he developed delirium tremens and that he was absolutely insane from 23 September to 27 September 1901. It was also noted that he had been admitted into the North Riding Lunatic Asylum in November 1898 and that he had remained there until February 1899. It was also noted that as a child he had been kicked by a horse and at a fair had had a stick thrown at his head. However, at the trial a doctor that examined him said that he could find no disease that prevented him from knowing the nature and quality of his act or from knowing that the act was wrong.
see National Archives - HO 144/573/A62991