British Executions

Arthur Birkett

Age: 22

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 23 Jul 1912

Crime Location: Jubilee Mill, Gate Street, Blackburn

Execution Place: Manchester

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Arthur Birkett was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Alice Beetham 18 and sentenced to death.

He cut her throat at Jubilee Mill in Gate Street, Blackburn on 20 May 1912.

They were both weavers at Jubilee Mill and just after breakfast he followed her into the mill and then grabbed her from behind slashing her throat with a razor.

He had bought the razor earlier in the morning on 20 May 1912 from a saddlers at 23 Higher Eaman in Blackburn. The saddler said that Arthur Birkett came in between 8.10am and 8.15am and said, 'I want a razor about one and three'. The saddler said that he went to the showcase and got a box of razors and handed him one and then handed him another saying, 'It is a very good one, it is hollow ground'. The saddler said that Arthur Birkett chose one and said, 'This will do', and handed him half a crown and he gave him a shilling change and put the razor into a case and said that Arthur Birkett then left the shop going off in the direction of Jubilee Mill.

A woman who lived at 12 Laurel Street that knew both Arthur Birkett and Alice Beetham, and worked at Jubilee Mill with them said that she had known Arthur Birkett for about 12 months and Alice Beetham for about 2 years.

She said that she had seen Arthur Birkett and Alice Beetham together frequently for about six or seven weeks and said that on a Sunday in April 1911 they both came to her house. She said that later, on 13 May 1911 she went with them both to the Victoria Hall to see some pictures, and said that they seemed quite friendly, saying that they left together.

The woman said that she later saw Alice Beetham in the mill on 17 May 1911 and had a conversation with her and said that that afternoon she, Arthur Birkett and Alice Beetham all walked home together. She said that she later saw Arthur Birkett sometime between 7.30pm and 8pm when he came to her house. The woman said that they had some other people in the house at the time and that Arthur Birkett asked her to go into the back kitchen, which they did, and said that whilst they were stood on the back-kitchen doorstep leading to the yard he told her that Alice Beetham had either chucked or thrown him over. The woman said that she said to Arthur Birkett, 'Never mind, there is plenty more', and said that just then her husband came in to the yard and Arthur Birkett told him that Alice Beetham had chucked him. The woman said that just as her husband was going, Arthur Birkett said that he would chop her bloody head off. The woman said that she told him not to talk so silly and then went back into the house.

The woman said that Arthur Birkett then sat down next to her and said that he and Alice Beetham had been to the pictures together and had seen a picture of two lovers quarrelling or something, saying that one didn't like the other, and said that he then asked Alice Beetham, 'Were not like that are we Alice?', but said that she didn't answer. The woman said that Arthur Birkett remained for a while and then went out.

The woman said that Arthur Birkett came to see her the following day, Saturday 18 May 1912 in the morning and asked her to go and see Alice Beetham and ask her not to think about what he had said. The woman said that she had breakfast and then later went and saw Alice Beetham and made a communication with her.

The woman said that Alice Beetham came to her house the next day, 19 May 1912 to see her.

The woman said that the next day, 20 May 1912 she went to the mill at the usual time, 6am and saw both Arthur Birkett and Alice Beetham there at work. She said that she saw the breakfast interval she saw Alice Beetham go off for some weft just before 7am, through some swing doors into the weft warehouse and to then return to the weaving shed with her weft. She said that as Alice Beetham was coming out of the weft warehouse Arthur Birkett came to the door  and was pulling it open. She said that they looked at each other but didn't speak.

However, the woman said that she saw Arthur Birkett and Alice Beetham later talking together during the breakfast hour.

She said that she also saw them after the breakfast hour, saying that she had sight of where Arthur Birkett worked. She said that she saw Alice Beetham pass her at about 8.45pm going in the direction of the weft warehouse, noting that she had a weft can in her hand. She said that she saw Arthur Birkett then follow behind her, also with a weft can in his hand and said that they both went through the door. She said that the door swung too after they passed and said that the next thing she saw was the door open twice and close again and said that the third time that it opened she saw Alice Beetham push the door open and then drop back again. The woman said that she hadn't seen Arthur Birkett at all whilst that was happening and said that she then went to the door to see what was the matter and said that she then saw Alice Beetham lying on her back, with her feet just past the doorway. She said that Arthur Birkett was also there on the ground somewhere by her side, having made an attempt to cut his own throat.

The woman said that she could see blood flowing from Alice Beetham's neck and so she ran back into the mill and told a man what she had seen.

A man that worked on a loom at Jubilee Mill about 16 yards from the weft warehouse said that at about 8.45am, in consequence of what someone told him, he went to the weft door and saw Alice Beetham lying on the other side of the door in the weft warehouse with her throat cut. He said that there was a lot of blood there. He said that he then saw Arthur Birkett lying near her on the ground. He said that he then helped to carry Alice Beetham out into the yard, but said that she was dead, and said that soon after he and the manager then carried Arthur Birkett out into the yard. He said that he didn't notice anything about his throat but said that when he went out ito the yard a short time after and saw Arthur Birkett having his throat bandaged. He said that he then heard a man ask Arthur Birkett, 'What have you done this for?' and said that Arthur Birkett replied, 'Because she has thrown me over'. He said that he then heard the manager ask him where the knife was and said that Arthur Birkett said, 'It is something sharper than a knife', and the manager then said, 'What is that? A razor?' and the loom worker said that he then went back into the weft warehouse and found the razor about two yards from where they had been lying, open and covered with blood.

When Arthur Birkett was taken to the police station and cautioned, Arthur Birkett said, 'It is all through her father'. He was then taken to the infirmary where his throat was attended to and then gave a statement saying, 'I bought the razor at Paces, and gave one and sixpence for it. I didn't intend to harm the girl, but only intended to take my own life. I walked about until one o'clock on Sunday morning and when I saw Alice going for some weft this morning, I followed her and asked her to make it up again. But she refused. I got hold of her and don't remember what took place after. I am very sorry for what has occurred'.

When he was searched the razor case was found in his pocket along with a shilling piece.

When Alice Beetham was examined, the wound to her throat was found to have cut through all her major vessels and structures and to have gone back to her vertebral column, marking the bone there itself.

After sentencing Arthur Birkett wrote to his mother saying that he was glad he was going to die, and even if he had the choice between five years and death, he would choose death as he wouldn’t want to live without Alice Beetham. He asked his mother to visit Alice Beetham's grave as often as she would his and think of them together. He said that he hoped Alice Beetham would forgive him and that they would be together in heaven.

Following his sentence, it was noted that considerable sympathy fell on Arthur Birkett and 66,000 signatures were collected asking for a reprieve and sent to the Home Secretary, but the sentence was not interfered with and Arthur Birkett was executed on 23 July 1912.

It was noted that the murder created a tremendous sensation both at the mill and in the surrounding area and effected the workers so much that the manager found it impossible to continue working there and the mill eventually closed.

see National Archives - ASSI 52/184, HO 144/1218/225650

see Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 23 July 1912

see Dundee Courier - Saturday 06 July 1912

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 23 July 1912

see Lancashire Telegraph