British Executions

John Raper Coulson

Age: 32

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 9 Aug 1910

Crime Location: 4 Springfield Place, Dudley Hill, Bradford

Execution Place: Leeds

Method: hanging

Executioner: Thomas Pierrepoint


John Raper Coulson was convicted of the murder of his wife Jane Ellen Coulson 29 and son Thomas Coulson 5 and sentenced to death.

He cut their throats at 4 Springfield Place in Dudley Hill, Bradford on 24 May 1910.

John Coulson was an engineer's labourer and had for some time lived upon bad terms with Jane Coulson and had accused her of going with other men. However, it wasn't known whether or not it was true that she had been going with other men although she had borne a good character as a mill-worker/weaver for 14 years.

John Coulson had a conviction of 'drunk' in 1908.

On 23 May 1910 Jane Coulson took out a summons for assault against John Coulson which was served on him at the foundry.

The next day, 24 May 1910 John Coulson said that he asked her whether she was going through with it and said that when she replied that she was he cut her throat and then cut Thomas Coulson's throat.

Jane Coulson had been seen in the morning by a neighbour that had called at 6am and John Coulson was later seen at 8.45am at the pawnbrokers and it was thought that he had murdered her between those hours.

The neighbour had called again at 9am but had found the house locked.

After killing them John Coulson left the house and pretended that Jane Coulson had gone off, taking Thomas Coulson with her.

He then pawned her wedding ring, apparently to get drink, and as the day wore on he became drunk and talked freely of having killed them to friends and people in a pub and also told a sister in a farewell letter he wrote her.

John Coulson had also gone to his works at about 11am where he had shown a fellow workman the summons on the back of which was written the statement that he had murdered his wife and child and that his body would be found in the dam.

He also later showed the same summons around at the pub.

The police later went to his house at about 8.30pm where they found him alone and taxed him about it, but he denied it and told them that his wife had gone off with his son. They found his house to be all tidy, quiet and orderly downstairs and went away. However, they returned a while later at 11pm for other reasons and found the house locked up. They gained access and when they went upstairs they found Jane Coulson's and Thomas Coulson's bodies in the bedroom with their throats cut through to the spine with a carving knife. The carving knife was on the bed close to Thomas Coulson's body.

It was thought that Jane Coulson had struggled during the attack as she had three cuts on her left thumb and the wound to her throat had been made with several strokes. The blood in the room also showed that she had moved after receiving the first wound.

After the first visit to his house by the police John Coulson had gone off and made a half-hearted attempt to drown himself in a drain and when he came back to his house, by which time the police had arrived, he was wet through.

When they charged him with their murders he said, 'It's all right, I've just been to the dam to drown myself'.

At his trial there was practically no defence and the jury didn't leave the box and returned a guilty verdict with no recommendation to mercy.

After being sentenced, John Coulson called out, 'Thank you. That is just what I expected, sir'.

John Coulson's conviction was compared in a police report to that of Edward Woodcock who was also convicted of murder and sentenced to death with no recommendation to mercy as Edward Woodcock was reprieved although he had a worse character than John Coulson, and it was thought that when considered side by side that the they would form a striking and unaccountable contrast.

see National Archives - HO 144/1093/195751, HO 45/24605