Date Of Execution: 8 Dec 1903
Crime Location: 4 Back Durham Street, Sunderland
Execution Place: Durham
Executioner: William Billington
James Duffy was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Ellen Newman 25 and sentenced to death.
He strangled her at 4 Back Durham Street, Sunderland on Sunday, 6 September 1903.
Ellen Newman had married in 1896 but had separated from her husband in June 1902 after which she went to live with James Duffy as his wife at 29 Windsor Terrace, Grangetown, Sunderland. They lived there from June 1902 until 12 November 1902 on which date James Duffy assaulted Ellen Newman, cutting her throat and then his own.
James Duffy was charged at the following January Quarter Sessions for wounding her and attempting to commit suicide and was committed to prison for a month with hard labour.
However, when he came out of prison he went back to live with Ellen Newman at 4 Back Durham Street, Sunderland. James Duffy did no work and was supported by Ellen Newman who was said to be on the streets at the time prostituting her body and his 14-year-old son who was employed at a bootmaker's in Sunderland and earned 5s a week.
Ellen Newman's sister said that she was at 4 Back Durham Street on 1 September 1903 at about dinner time when James Duffy and Ellen Newman had a quarrel. She said that when it ended James Duffy said that he had a bloody hot spot there for the bugger yet and pointed to his chest. She said that on one occasion James Duffy had said that she had made him do it once and she would make him do it again. Ellen Newman's sister said that she asked Ellen Newman to come home with her but said that Ellen Newman told her to mind her own business. She said that after the quarrel Ellen Newman had gone out crying. She noted that she had seen Ellen Newman give James Duffy money on several occasions to go out with and spend on himself.
She noted that Ellen Newman used to drink more than was good for her and that she had a quick temper and had hit her many times. She said that Ellen Newman had started to drink more lately and that she had struck her because she had interfered with her getting drink, noting that she did it with her fist. She also said that Ellen Newman had also taken a knife to strike her before but that James Duffy had stopped her.
She said that Ellen Newman had struck her with a knife two years earlier after she refused to give her the money for a dress that she had bought her because she was drunk.
An unfortunate said that she lived at 4 Back North Durham Street in the kitchen of James Duffy and Ellen Newman's rooms in which she shared a bed with her 7-year-old daughter and James Duffy's 15-year-old son. She said that she paid nothing but did pay for her meat as she got it. She said that James Duffy and Ellen Newman slept in the other room.
She said she got home on 5 September 1903 at about 11.15pm at which time James Duffy was sitting in the armchair asleep in the kitchen but Ellen Newman was not in. She added that James Duffy's son and her daughter were also there.
She said that she told James Duffy's son to put the bed down and then took off her daughters clothes and told her to go to bed. She said that James Duffy's son then got undressed and they then went to bed.
However, she said that she then went out to look for Ellen Newman but couldn’t find her and got back to 4 Back Durham Street at about midnight shortly after which Ellen Newman came home.
She said that she closed the door at which time James Duffy was still sitting in the arm chair. She noted that she heard James Duffy say to his son sometime earlier, 'Where is your money?', to which the boy replied, 'I have given it to Nellie'.
She said that when Ellen Newman came in that said to the boy, 'Where is your money?' to which he replied, 'It is in my trousers if you'll give them to me I'll get it'. She said that Ellen Newman then lifted his trousers and gave them to him and that he then gave her the money which she put in her purse. She said that Ellen Newman then said, 'I'll give you your pocket money tomorrow'.
She said that James Duffy heard what was being said.
She said that she then gave Ellen Newman 4s on account of her board, giving her a 2/- piece, a 1/- piece and two sixpences which she said Ellen Newman also put in her purse which she then put in her bodice.
She noted that James Duffy also saw her do that.
The unfortunate said that she saw Ellen Newman counting out her money before she and the son gave her their money and said that Ellen Newman had then said, 'I've only got about 6/- to pay the butcher'.
She said that James Duffy then said to his son, 'I thought you told me you had given the money to your mother' to which the boy replied, 'I know I did because you were tight'.
She said that James Duffy then got up and struck his son and said, 'I will not allow you to tell a lie'.
She said that Ellen Newman then said, 'If you hit him or badly use him there will be a change here on Monday, I am going to leave you. What have you to do with the boy's money seeing you don't work? He has to work to keep you'.
She said that Ellen Newman then said to her, 'I am not coming here again beside him'.
She said that James Duffy then said, 'Where are you going?' and Ellen Newman said, 'From a lazy pig like you who won't work'.
She said that Ellen Newman then left the house and that James Duffy then asked her where she had gone and said that she told him, 'Into a neighbours. I don't think she is coming back'.
The unfortunate said that James Duffy then tried to hit his son but said that she stopped him and her little girl jumped out of bed and that James Duffy then sat down in a chair. She then said to him, 'Go to bed Jim and keep quiet', and that James Duffy then put his coat off and went into his bed room. She said that she then took the lamp into him and said good night.
The unfortunate said that James Duffy had been taking his boots off at the time which would have been about 1am and that she returned to the kitchen and went to bed. She said that she was later woken up at about 2am by two policemen knocking at the door and said that she got up and opened the door and then went into the bedroom and saw Ellen Newman lying dead across the bed. She noted that she had her clothes on at the time.
When the unfortunate was cross-examined she said that both James Duffy and Ellen Newman had had drink but that neither were drunk. She said that Ellen Newman had a hot temper but that she had never heard her threaten James Duffy but did say that she had threatened to throw a lamp at him two weeks earlier but said that she had stopped him. She said that James Duffy had broken a table over Ellen Newman and that she had then threatened to throw the lamp.
She said that Ellen Newman paid 3/- a week for the rooms and that she always gave James Duffy money for his pocket every morning to spend on himself. She noted that Ellen Newman got all the money to keep house and James Duffy by prostitution.
The woman that lived next door to James Duffy and Ellen Newman said that she had seen them both several times on the Saturday and said that James Duffy came in at night before 11pm and Ellen Newman came in sometime after 12 midnight but went out again after a few minutes. However, she said that sometime between 12.30am and 1am that Ellen Newman came to her house and that James Duffy later followed and asked her to come home to which she said she would and did.
A police sergeant that was on duty at the Central Police Station in Sunderland said that at about 1.45am that James Duffy came in in his shirt sleeves. He said that he was sober but had had a drink and told him that he had come to give himself up. He said that when he asked him what for James Duffy said, 'I have murdered my wife'. The police sergeant asked where and James Duffy said, '4 Back North Durham Street. I've strangled her. I could not stand it any longer'.
The police sergeant said that he detained James Duffy and then sent a police constable to 4 Back North Durham Street to take a look.
When a policeman went with James Duffy to 4 Back North Durham Street he found Ellen Newman lying dead across the bed having evidently been strangled. The police constable said that when he went to the house he found the door open and that he then went into a small passage or lobby and that on the left of the passage there was a door that was closed, but not fast. He said that the lamp was burning and that he saw Ellen Newman lying on a bed in the corner of the room fully dressed except for her hat. He said that she was lying on the bed in a slanting direction with boots on and in outdoor dress, lying on her back and with her hands to her side. He said that her head and face was inclined to the left and lying on her left cheek.
He said that when he examined her he found that she was dead and that there was blood oozing from her left nostril and her tongue was protruding and that there was a quantity of blood on her cheeks by her face. He said that there were several marks on her wrist as if great pressure had been used and that there were red finger marks on the front of her neck.
He said that the bed clothes had been pulled down and that there was a mat by the side of the bed that was disarranged. The police constable said that he then woke the other people in the house up and took Ellen Newman to the mortuary and then went back to the police station and said, 'She is dead, she had been strangled'.
When James Duffy was searched they found Ellen Newman's purse on him which contained 15/6, the money that the previous quarrel related to.
When James Duffy was charged with murder he said, 'I have strangled her. I could not stand her any longer'.
The surgeon that was called out to examine Ellen Newman's body said that when he saw her she was lying obliquely across the bed fully dressed but without her hat. He said that her face was blue and swollen, that her lips were blue and that her tongue was protruding. He said that she had small excavations in front of her throat at the upper part of the wind pipe near her larynx and that there was blood coming from her left nostril. He also said that he noticed small marks like nail marks on her throat as well as bruises on both of her wrists, mostly the left.
He said that when he carried out the post mortem on 7 September 1903 that he concluded that her death was caused by asphyxia caused by forcible compression of the wind pipe by the hands of someone other than herself. He added that he thought that it would have taken a little over three minutes to kill anyone if the windpipe were completely closed. He added that she would not have been able to make any noise.
When the surgeon examined James Duffy he said that he found blood on his hand and said that when he asked him about it James Duffy said, 'It is the woman’s'.
The surgeon noted that James Duffy was a powerful big man and also that Ellen Newman was a strong woman.
When James Duffy gave a statement he said: I have known deceased for some time. I have seen her the worse for drink and have been so myself. We've quarrelled then. She had a quick temper. I saw her try to throw the lamp at us. She often did it. I saw her attack her sister with a knife. I took it away from her. 5th September I was worse for drink. She was the worse for drink. We had words before she went to bed. She started being impudent. I got up and shoved her and she started to get the lamp. I got hold of her and pushed her on the bed and she got hold of my privates and I just did it. I had her by the throat. I put my clothes on and went to the police station.
When he was cross-examined he said, 'She used to give me money. I had money coming in from the society, 4 weeks, 9/- a week. I tried to get work and could not. She threatened me with the lamp. It was the time I broke the round table. It was nothing. The table was all broken. I went to the neighbours and saw deceased and asked her to come home and she did come home. The unfortunate brought the lamp into the room and put it on a box in the window and it remained there and was found there by the policeman. I never said anything to anyone before today about her having got hold of my parts.
James Duffy was convicted at the Durham Assizes on Saturday 21 November 1903 and later executed on 8 December 1903 at Durham Gaol.
On the night before his execution James Duffy was said to have slept soundly and after waking early partook of a sparing breakfast after which he was visited by the chaplain who remained with him to the close. James Duffy was reported to have walked firmly to the scaffold and his death was said to have been instantaneous. He made no statements before his death.
see National Archives - HO 144/733/113358
see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Tuesday 08 December 1903
see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 08 December 1903