Mrs. Martha Jagger paused and listened as she washed her dishes on the evening of JULY 29th, 1904. She had heard crockery smashing, and groans and a strange gurgling, and the sounds came from the cottage next-door in York’s Alma Terrace. She ran out to her back yard where her husband John was mending a fence with their neighbour Joseph Liddle. “Something’s wrong at old John’s,” she told them. “You’d better go and look.”
Her husband and Liddle put down their tools, went round to John Dalby’s front door and knocked. There was no response, and they found it was locked. Hearing a faint groan, they ran round to the back, arriving as the door opened and 78-year-old John Dalby staggered out, his throat cut from ear to ear, his chest covered with blood. He tried to speak, but couldn’t.
Then he collapsed. As John Jagger knelt beside him another man came out through Dalby’s back doorway. “I’ll fetch a doctor,” the man said. Then he vaulted the fence and ran off.
Police called to the scene found that, despite his age, John Dalby had put up a fight. Furniture was upturned, dishes broken, and his watch and chain had been taken. As he was rushed to hospital his son-in-law Francis Chatwin arrived at the house. Several witnesses had seen a man arrive at Dalby’s home, and Jagger and Liddle had seen the man leave. Nobody had recognised him, but all gave good descriptions, and Chatwin told the police, “That’s Edmund Edmund Hall, the old man’s son-in-law…and the black sheep of the family.”
“Where will he be making for?” asked Inspector Henry Morrell.
“Leeds that’s where he lives,” said Chatwin. “He’ll be on the next train.”
With Chatwin, the inspector took a cab to the station, arriving shortly before the Leeds train was due to leave. Hurrying down the platform with the inspector and peering into the carriages, Chatwin spotted Hall sitting in a third-class compartment. Arrested and taken to the station-master’s office, Hall was found to have John Dalby’s watch in his pocket. That was enough for Inspector Morrell. He charged Edmund Hall with attempted murder, amended to murder the next day when John Dalby died in hospital.
At his trial at York Assizes, the court heard that Edmund Hall, a former soldier, had done only casual work as a labourer since leaving the army. He had made several unsuccessful attempts to borrow money from his father-in-law, and he had made his last, fatal visit determined not to leave empty-handed.
Found guilty, he walked calmly to the gallows on December 20th, 1904, missed by none of his family.