Discharged from the army in 1903 after serving in India and South Africa, John Silk returned home to Chesterfield, Derbyshire, to live with his mother. She was Mary Fallon, 51, who could get about only with crutches, and her son gave her a hard time.

On the evening of AUGUST 5th, 1905, the 30-year-old ex-soldier was seen drunk near his home, swearing there would be a murder that night. When his mother asked him to fetch her half a bottle of whisky, he refused, stormed off and resumed drinking.

When he returned at 11.15 his mother’s lodger Thomas Meakin had come home. The lodger would later testify that Silk was spoiling for an argument. He complained about a lamp in the room being in the wrong position, and struck his mother when she went to move it. The lamp overturned, leaving the room in darkness, and Meakin went to fetch a policeman. As he left he heard glass breaking, and on his return – having failed to find a constable – he found he’d been locked out for the night.

The door was no longer bolted the next morning, however, when a newsvendor called and found Mary Fallon lying dead on the floor, the leg of a broken chair and a broken crutch beside her. They had been used to beat her about the head, and when police were called to the scene they found Silk asleep in bed.

An autopsy revealed that in addition to her head injuries Mary Fallon had also suffered four broken ribs. Charged with her murder, Silk pleaded at his trial that he’d been too drunk to know what he was doing. But that was no excuse, the judge instructed the jury. They found John Silk guilty, and on December 29th, 1905, he was hanged at Derby.