It was both the best and worst night of Fred Gill’s life. His girlfriend at last let him have sex with her, but on the same evening of JULY 27th, 1930, he was in a jam. He was desperately short of cash for their week’s holiday which was to begin the next day with their departure from Keighley, West Yorkshire, for Whitehaven.
The next morning Oliver Preston, a 53-year-old moneylender, was found lying severely injured in his Keighley office from which money was missing. He had been attacked the previous evening, and a steel bar about a foot long lay beside him, together with a bloodstained copy of the previous day’s Yorkshire Evening Post. He was taken to hospital where he died on July 28th without recovering consciousness.
Fred Gill, a 26-year-old crane-driver, had been seen outside Mr. Preston’s office on the evening of the attack, and detectives learned that he was a client behind with his repayments. He had told a witness who saw him outside the office that he was applying for a further loan. Earlier that evening he had been seen rummaging in a scrap heap at the machine-shop where he worked. He had said he was looking for something to use as a poker, and the steel bar found in the moneylender’s office was similar to scrap at Gill’s workplace.
A news vendor recalled that shortly after 6.15 p.m. on the night of the attack Gill had taken an evening paper, saying he would pay for it after going to have his hair cut. He hag returned and paid for the paper half an hour later.
In the interim another of Mr. Preston’s clients had gone to his office. He had found it locked, and had heard what sounded like groans and someone moving about on the other side of the door.
Later that evening Gill had gone to his girlfriend’s home and had taken her out shopping. By the time Mr. Preston was found lying unconscious in his office the next day, the couple were on their way to Whitehaven, where Gill impressed his girlfriend by spending a week’s wages in half an hour. He treated her to the best of everything, and he still had £16 when detectives arrived from Yorkshire on July 28th and charged him with murder.
He was known to have been broke shortly before his departure on holiday, yet he had since spent freely. Totted up, his expenditure and cash in hand equalled the sum missing from Oliver Preston’s office.
Gill claimed he’d won the money backing horses, but the jury at Leeds Assizes didn’t believe him. They found him guilty of murder, and he was hanged on February 4th, 1931.