British Executions

John William Ellwood

Age: 43

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 3 Dec 1908

Crime Location: 18 Swaine Street, Bradford

Execution Place: Leeds

Method: hanging

Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint


John William Ellwood was convicted of the murder of Thomas Wilkinson 58 and sentenced to death.

He battered him to death at 18 Swaine Street, Bradford on 31 July 1908.

John Ellwood had been employed by Fieldhouse and Jowett for the previous 14 years until around January 1908. He had left the company because he could not get along with one of the partners there.

Thomas Wilkinson had himself also worked for the company for 12 years as a cashier and they had always been on good terms.

At 9am on Friday 31 July 1908 Thomas Wilkinson sent a note to John Ellwood via the office boy from Jowett's works to John Ellwood's house. After reading the note John Ellwood destroyed it.

Later at 11am the office boy said that he heard Thomas Wilkinson tell someone on the telephone, possibly John Ellwood, that he would later be at the company’s town office at 18 Swaine Street at about 2pm or 2.10pm. It was thought that the other person had been John Ellwood and that that had been how he had known where Thomas Wilkinson would be.

Thomas Wilkinson had left his house that day with a purse containing about £8 or £10 in gold, and later in the day, as usual, he was to go from the company works to the bank which was near Swaine Street, to cash £63 worth of cheques for wages and to pay in drafts.

It was accepted in court that John Ellwood was in the Fountain Brewery at 1.45pm. The police report stated that the whole case then depended on whether he then went North to Swaine Street and committed the murder and then went west to his house or whether he took a sharp west from the Fountain Brewery and went home via a completely different route.

It was said that at about 2pm John Ellwood bought a poker from 89 Manchester Road from a man. However, the man, when he saw John Ellwood improperly as he was in a cell, either could not or would not identify him as the man that had bought the poker, but he swore that it was him positively before the magistrates and at the trial.

Then at a little after 2pm a man that was sat on the doorstep of 20 Swaine Street said that he saw John Ellwood, who was carrying a thin paper parcel, enter the street and go into 18 Swaine Street for 2 or 3 seconds and then come out and then leave the street but come back again and go into the office at 18 Swaine Street again. He said that John Ellwood was inside for about two minutes and that he then saw him come out again and speak to another man, that was later declared a crucial witness in the case, and then go back into the office for another two minutes before coming back out again and speak to the same man again after which he saw them both leave the street.

When the other man was questioned he said that he had hesitated outside 18 Swaine Street because he had heard someone say, 'Oh Oh!', in pain coming from the building and that he had then said to the man that he identified as John Ellwood, 'What's up' and said that John Ellwood had replied 'we've been having a bit of bother'. The man said that John Ellwood had the paper parcel in his hand at the time and looked flush and said that when he came out again he didn't have the paper parcel and that when he asked him, 'How have you got on' John Ellwood had told him, 'All right'. Also, the man that said he spoke to John Ellwood said that he noticed that John Ellwood's hands were covered with blood.

Another witness, a woman that had gone into 16 Swaine Street and had been seen doing so by the first man said that she had seen John Ellwood talking to the second crucial witness and had also heard a scream come from the office.

It was noted that both the men and the woman all identified John Ellwood from amongst a several other men. It was also noted that the second and crucial witness had given a very detailed description of John Ellwood to the police before John Ellwood had been arrested. However, he had said that the man that he had seen had been wearing a billycock hat and that that had probably been a mistake as John Ellwood had been wearing a cap. Further it was noted that it was not of much importance in view of the singularly strong evidence of the three persons who had never seen John Ellwood before but who had all had an excellent opportunity of noting his appearance in Swaine Street that day and had been able to give evidence identifying him.

Thomas Wilkinson was later found in the office ar 18 Swaine Street in a dying condition with his head battered in by at least ten blows with a poker that was found in the room. The police found that Thomas Wilkinson still had on with him the drafts and the cheques for £63 which he had not yet cashed but found that his purse with the gold was missing.

John Ellwood was later seen by a woman whilst passing 70 Chesham Street at 2.30pm which was about a mile from Swaine Street and coming from that direction. She said that she asked him the time and he had looked at his watch and told her that it was 2.30pm.

Then a little later at about 2.30pm or 3pm John Ellwood was seen by a woman at the Longside Hotel who he paid £10. 6 as part of £10.12 Club Money that he had owed and that had been due the day before.

John Ellwood was then seen a little later in the West End Tavern, a little further along, by the licensee between 2.45pm and 3pm.

When John Ellwood was arrested the police found 14 spots of blood on his clothes and a small spot on his hat. He said that he accounted for that by having picked up a child that had cut his nose and lip on 28 July 1908.

However, John Ellwood said that after leaving the Fountain Brewery at about 1.45pm or 2pm he had turned sharp off to the left and gone home to 62 Edinburgh Street arriving home at about 2.15pm or 2.20pm according to his wife. He said that he had then left almost at once and called at the Gardeners Arms between his house and the West End Tavern and then went on meaning to pay his Club Money at the Longside Hotel. John Ellwood also said that by some mistake he did not take the straight route up Cobden Street but went to Richmond Road and then up Richmond Hill until he came to a point south of a certain house where he then went through a passage and into Chesham Street and so into the back of the Longside Hotel to pay his Club Money. During his statement to the police the police report stated that he gave a very lame story to account for how the woman that had seen him on Chesham Street and asked him for the time  at 2.30pm had seen him coming from the direction of Swaine Street when he had denied that, instead saying that he had come from the direction of his own house.

At his trial John Ellwood's defence made a point that Thomas Wilkinson was not in the habit of going to the company Town Office on Fridays and as such John Ellwood would not have expected to find him there, but it was pointed out that there was the issue of the note that John Ellwood had destroyed and also the telephone call in which John Ellwood had made an appointment with someone for between 2pm and 2.10pm.

John Ellwood applied for leave to appeal his conviction but it was dismissed. It was thought that he wanted to call his wife to state that upon leaving home he had called at the Gardeners arms at about 2.20pm that day but the police report stated that that would have been useless as no doubt he did call there on his way home and that it would have probably been nearer 3pm. The police report noted that there could be no doubt about John Ellwood's guilt in the light of the evidence of the man that had seen him come out of the Town Office of Fieldhouse and Jowett at 2pm.

It was noted that John Ellwood was not short of money and that he had been canvassing about 16/- a week and that his children contributed to his household. However, he was the secretary of a Money Club and there was suspicion, no more, that he was short of the funds which he had to distribute.

When considering his character, the police report noted that it did not seem of much importance when having regard for the nature of the crime which was described as a cold-blooded murder obviously undertaken in the hope that Thomas Wilkinson would have been to the bank and would have had a considerable sum in cash with him. It stated that John Ellwood was disappointed that he had to content himself with a purse of sovereigns with which he immediately paid off his Club Money at the Longside Hotel with.

John Ellwood was found guilty of the murder with no recommendation for mercy.

see National Archives - HO 144/892/172029