British Executions

James Howarth Hargreaves

Age: 54

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 19 Dec 1916

Crime Location: 9 Orange Street, Ashton-under-Lyne

Execution Place: Manchester

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


James Howarth Hargreaves was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Caroline McGhee 36 and sentenced to death.

He battered her to death at 9 Orange Street, Ashton-under-Lyne on 9 August 1916.

James Hargreaves had lived with his sister at 9 Orange Street and was a labourer and a widower.

Caroline McGhee was the wife of a school teacher but had separated from him for 18 months during which time she sometimes cohabited with James Hargreaves at 9 Orange Street although at the time of the murder she had been living with another woman.

On the afternoon of 8 August 1916 Caroline McGhee and her friend had several drinks with James Hargreaves at the Nelson Tavern after which he left them.

Caroline McGhee and her friend later went to the Commercial Hotel at 7.45pm where they picked up two soldiers and had drinks with them. James Hargreaves later joined them and the five of them later went to James Hargreaves's house at about 10.45pm where Caroline McGhee produced a bottle of whisky and James Hargreaves fetched some tripe.

At about 11.30pm Caroline McGhee's friend and one of the soldiers left and at about midnight the other soldier left. It was thought that the other soldier and Caroline McGhee had previously proposed that the other soldier could stay the night with Caroline McGhee but that James Hargreaves had objected.

Nothing more was heard until the following morning, and James Hargreaves's sister, who had been asleep in the house said that she heard nothing in the night but when she got up the following morning she found him sitting dressed in his room. She said that James Hargreaves said, 'I feel miserable. I wish I were dead out of the road. I have a good mind to poison myself'.

It was noted that at that time that James Hargreaves's sister thought that James Hargreaves's bed was in order but it was said that there was no doubt that Caroline McGhee's dead body was at that time concealed under the bed clothes.

Later that day, at 2.25pm, James Hargreaves went up to a police constable and said, 'Oh what must I do. I have murdered a woman at our house last night. I hit her on the head with a poker'.

Later at the station he said, 'She came drunk and brought a bottle of whiskey, we had it between us, Mrs McGhee, she's a woman parted from her husband for years. She threw the bottle at me. I caught it. She said she was the missus there, one thing brought on another, she smacked me in the face. I hit her back, she hit me again and I hit her on the head with the poker and her number was up'.

When the police went to look they found Caroline McGhee's body lying on her back partially dead on James Hargreaves's bed.

She had a severe wound on the left side of her head and the back of her skull was smashed to atoms by many blows with a bloodstained poker.

Splashes of blood on the ceiling and wall pointed to blows having been delivered while the woman was lying on her face on the bed. Pieces of bone from her skull and her false teeth were found in the fire grate.

In his evidence, James Hargreaves later said that after the second soldier had gone Caroline McGhee quarrelled with him for not allowing the soldier to stay the night and then hit him in the face and twice on the belly and threw a bottle at him that he caught after which he said he lost control and didn't know whether he hit her with the poker or not.

He said that he later found her body lying on the floor in the morning and put it on the bed, but it was pointed out by the judge that the blows to the back of her head with the poker must have been inflicted while she was on the bed.

It was also noted that there was no evidence that James Hargreaves had been intoxicated at the time of the murder.

He was convicted with no recommendation to mercy. James Hargreaves made no appeal and was executed on Tuesday 19 December 1916 at Strangeways in Manchester.

see National Archives - ASSI 52/231, ASSI 52/248, HO 144/1470/324090

see Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Wednesday 29 November 1916

see Lancashire Evening Post - Tuesday 19 December 1916

see Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Wednesday 20 December 1916