The police were dubious when George Henry Storrs complained that a gunshot had shattered a dining-room window at Gorse Hall, his Cheshire mansion at Dukinfield. Officers suspected that the self-made, 49-year-old mill-owner had broken the window himself to prompt them to keep a closer eye on his property. Nevertheless, they agreed to detail a constable to watch the house at night, and Storrs installed an alarm bell on the roof.
Six weeks later, on October 29th, 1909, officers rushed to the house when the bell was heard ringing at midnight. They arrived to find Storrs awaiting them. He was holding his pocket watch, and had rung the bell to test how long it would take them to come. Irritated, they withdrew their nocturnal surveillance of Gorse Hall without telling him.
Despite his wealth, Storrs lived modestly with his wife Margaret and their nine-year-old adopted niece Marion Lindley. He had few close friends apart from his coachman James Worrall, who lived in a cottage in the grounds with his wife.
At 9.15 p.m. on NOVEMBER 1st the Storrs cook Mary Evans was preparing their supper, when a man entered the kitchen and put a revolver to her head. She turned and fled down the hallway to the dining-room where Storrs, his wife and niece were awaiting their meal. Following her, the man encountered the housemaid Eliza Cook halfway down the hall. She froze in fear.
When Mary Evans burst into the dining-room crying that there was a man in the house, Storrs and his wife rushed to the hallway and confronted the intruder. Margaret Storrs grabbed a heavy ornament to use as a bludgeon, and her husband grasped the mans wrist to disarm him.
I wont shoot, the man said, handing Mrs. Storrs his gun as she was about to strike him. Taking the revolver, she dashed upstairs and rang the alarm bell, while her niece, the cook and the housemaid ran to fetch help.
Worrall was drinking at a pub when he heard the alarm bell. He was hurrying back to Gorse Hall when he met eight men that Marion had fetched from the Liberal Club. They were returning from the Hall, where they said they had found George Storrs lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. One of them had asked who attacked him, but Storrs was preoccupied with his wifes safety. Instead of replying, he had asked if Margaret was all right. She had come downstairs to him almost immediately, and he died a few seconds later.
The police arrived to find that the intruder had vanished. His revolver turned out to be broken. He had used it only to scare. His murder weapon was a knife, and he had stabbed George Storrs 15 times before fleeing.
The three women and Marion provided vague descriptions of the killer they had seen only briefly, and the police arrested Storrss cousin Cornelius Howard, 31, on suspicion. The arrest was made solely because he was a relative of the victim and also a well-known local burglar only recently released from prison.
When Howard was placed on an identity parade the cook and the housemaid said he looked like the intruder, but they couldnt be sure. Marion picked him out as the man she had seen, but Mrs. Storrs said he bore no resemblance to her husbands killer.
Howard was nevertheless charged with the murder. The nine-year-old girls identification of him as the intruder was the only evidence given against him at his trial, and witnesses supported his alibi that he was in Huddersfield at the time of the crime. To nobodys surprise, he was acquitted.
Seven months after Storrss death Mark Wilde, 28, was arrested after he stabbed a man walking with his girlfriend near Gorse Hall. He was convicted of assault, and jailed for two months. But because he resembled the descriptions of the Gorse Hall intruder, he was rearrested on his release and charged with George Storrss murder.
Again, the evidence of identification was shaky. On an identity parade Wilde was singled out by the cook and the housemaid, but Marion Lindley said his resemblance to the killer was only slight and Margaret Storrs failed to recognise him. At his trial Wilde, too, was acquitted of the mill-owners murder, and he celebrated his release with a party attended by Cornelius Howard.
Worrall, grief-stricken by the death of his employer and friend, had hanged himself a week before Howards trial. His suicide prompted suggestions that he was the killer, but this was nonsense. The witnesses could not have failed to recognise him if he had been the intruder, and the case remains unsolved.