Vice Chairman Michael Cochrane opened the meeting advising that five apologies had been received. He then took a few minutes to pay tribute to recently passed member Gordon Richardson highlighting his time in the Forces and on the Railways with his move late in life to Harrogate to be nearer his daughter. His funeral will be at Stonefall Crematorium on Thursday March 8th at 340 p.m. and afterwards at the Traveller’s Rest.

Today’s Speaker was our very own Chairman His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson who would share with us “Still More Curiosities”. He started with a definition of the word “curiosity” but his anecdotes would focus on where curiosity led people and the consequences.

The first story concerned Kenneth Barlow and his recent second wife Elizabeth. In May 1957 Kenneth Barlow apparently discovered his wife unconscious in the bath, tried to revive her and called his own Doctor. The Doctor had concerns about the unexpected death, having an awareness that a first wife had also died at a young age, and called the police and requested a pathologist and a Dr. David Price subsequently attended. The husband’s story about his wife’s death started to unravel due to suspicions about his attempted resuscitation with water in the cavity of her arm and it being rare for a healthy 32-year-old woman to drown in a domestic bath–also, whilst not unusual as Kenneth was a nurse, a couple of used syringes were found in the kitchen. Dr. Price’s post-mortem noted widely dilated pupils in the deceased, noted she was two months pregnant, and took blood samples for analysis for poison. Further detailed investigation on the body revealed two injection sites and were able to ascertain insulin in the body although she was not diabetic.

Kenneth Barlow was eventually charged with murder (which he denied), tried at Leeds Assizes in December 1957, was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment being released after 26 years in 1984.

The next Curiosity led to the discovery of the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe who in May 1981 was tried for thirteen murders, seven attempted murders, found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. His reign of terror in West Yorkshire was carried out over five years and led to a massive investigation carried out from Millgarth Police Station Leeds under the control of Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield. The investigation made little initial progress and was gravely hampered by the disgraceful actions of “Wearside Jack” with hoax letters and an audio tape which wrong-footed enquiries and was given too much credence by the officer in charge.

However on 2nd January 1981 in Sheffield Sgt. Bob Ring accompanied by a probationary officer found Sutcliffe and a sex worker in a car, in suspicious circumstances, and took him in for questioning (not as a Ripper suspect at this stage) but subsequently found Sutcliffe trying to dispose of a hammer and knives which led to a confession. According to Ring it was “old-fashioned coppering!!”

The Weardside hoaxer eventually faced justice in 2006 due to D.N.A. matches and John Humble received an eight year stretch.

Derek concluded his morning’s talk with the tale of the Halifax “Slasher” from 1938 which created mass hysteria in the area with the attacks on females subsequently found to be false and shared some information about Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address ,very short and more prepared than legend has it, and interestingly preceded by a long-winded oratory from Edward Everett that took over two hours.

A number of questions were answered at the end and the Vote Of Thanks was given by John Taylor on behalf of the thirty-four attendees.



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