British Executions

Arthur Jeffries

Age: 44

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 29 Dec 1904

Crime Location: Salters Lane, Holmes, Rotherham

Execution Place: Leeds

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Billington


Arthur Jeffries was convicted of the murder of Samuel Barker and sentenced to death.

He stabbed him in a dark alley off Psalters Lane in Holmes, Rotherham on 12 November 1904.

At the trial Arthur Jeffries was described as a short, thick-set man, dark, unshaven, wearing a white and mauve neckerchief and a rusty coat and vest. He pleaded not guilty.

When the court opened the judge described the case as 'the extraordinary case of one poacher killing another'.

Arthur Jeffries had been a member of a rabbit poaching gang at Rotherham, but the other members, including Samuel Barker had recently refused to let him go out with them on account of his violent temper.  They had refused to allow him to go out with them for about two months.

At the trial other members of the poaching gang who had lived in Sarah Street, described themselves as quiet and peaceable poachers, to which there was laughter in the court. It was added that Arthur Jeffries had been the only violent member of the gang and that it was because of that that they had not allowed him to go out with them.

He had on several occasions, whilst under the influence of drink, threatened to 'do' for them and on one of the occasions had been seen flourishing a dangerous weapon made by grinding down a file to a sharp point that he was thought to have probably used for cobbling.

About a month before the murder one of the members of the poaching gang had spoken to Arthur Jeffries about some netting and said that Arthur Jeffries head said, 'I'll righten up with one of the gang before so long'.

On 12 November 1903, Samuel Barker had been returning from the theatre with some friends about 11.10pm when they passed close by the entry to the court where Arthur Jeffries lived.

Arthur Jeffries had been standing with his wife at the entry and when Samuel Barker said goodnight, Arthur Jeffries replied goodnight and used a foul expression, to which Samuel Barker replied, 'The same to you', whereupon Arthur Jeffries immediately struck at him. Upon that Samuel Barker seized Arthur Jeffries by the coat collar and the two men then disappeared down the narrow passage, still clinched. One of Samuel Barker's friends tried to get down the passage but failed and it was heard that what actually happened in the passage, no one could say.  However, scuffling could be heard and the two men were seen to emerge into the court whereupon Samuel Barker, who was bleeding, fell to the ground and never moved again.

He had a fatal wound between his ribs that was 8½ inches deep that reached his aorta.

However, the murder weapon was never found. It was also noted at the trial that no one saw Arthur Jeffries stab Samuel Barker or could even say that Arthur Jeffries had been carrying the weapon.

The court had been just off Psalters Lane and it was noted that in order to get into the court it was necessary that a person should go down a narrow passage that was between three and four feet wide and five or six feet long.

The police report stated that the inference from the evidence that Arthur Jeffries had waited with his weapon for Samuel Barker for the express purpose of murdering him seemed irresistible.  It was noted that another man, who had been walking in advance of Samuel Barker saw Arthur Jeffries pass them, running towards his home with a parcel, after which he was seen standing at the entry with some weapon apparently concealed up his sleeve and it was thought that upon seeing Samuel Barker coming home that he had gone home to get the weapon.

However, the jury at the trial recommended Arthur Jeffries to mercy, although the police report stated that it was impossible from the evidence to surmise on what grounds the jury made that recommendation and stated that the murder seemed to be as bad a one as could be.

It was noted that there was no real evidence of Arthur Jeffries having been drunk and that all the evidence indicated that he had been in full possession of his senses at the time.

It was noted that as Arthur Jeffries was in the condemned cell that he kept sending out for tobacco as he was a heavy smoker. He was said to have walked without assistance to the scaffold and that when on the drop to have said, 'Lord, receive my spirit'. The bolt was then drawn and his death appeared to have been instantaneous. In a farewell note to his wife he said, 'I have always been unlucky, so it may be for the best'.

The exact location of the court in Psalter Lane is not clear and the area has since been redeveloped and replaced with industrial units.

see National Archives - HO 144/776/124347

see Dundee Courier - Friday 09 December 1904

see Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Thursday 29 December 1904

see Dundee Evening Post - Monday 14 November 1904

see Shields Daily Gazette - Friday 09 December 1904

see National Library of Scotland