23 July 1912 – Arthur Birkett

Arthur Birkett

Arthur Birkett1

Driven mad by his inability to secure the girl of his dreams, Arthur Birkett decided on desperate measures and paid the ultimate price.

Just four days short of his 23rd birthday, the lovelorn lothario was hanged for his actions, following the tragic murder of a young girl.

Dumped

Birkett was a weaver by trade at the Jubilee Mill in Blackburn. There he met a fellow cotton weaver, Alice Beetham, whom Birkett truly coveted. They hooked up for a while before she eventually dumped him – some say it was because her dad didn’t approve, while others speculate that he was way too keen.

Indeed Birkett was besotted and, unable to have her to himself, he found a way to prevent her getting with anyone else.

One day at work he tried to get back with her. She refused and he grabbed hold of her. In a flash he’d taken a razor to her and slit her throat so deep the 18-year-old was virtually decapitated. He then turned the murderous blade on himself, but failed to inflict a fatal incision.

Blood bath

According to a report from local historians and the council, she was alive when someone found her, but she died of her horrific injury, bathed in her blood. Birkett, on the other hand had sustained wounds, but survived and was shipped off to hospital where he stayed until he was well enough to attend trial.

One by one, fellow factory workers came forward to testify. One of Beetham’s friends said that the accused had vowed to ‘chop the top of her head off’, which Birkett refuted vehemently.

However, in his own words in the run-up to the trial, he did admit ‘I got hold of her and did not remember what took place afterwards. I am sorry for what occurred.’

Courting favours

But ‘sorry’ didn’t cut it with the jury and Birkett landed the death penalty for murder. His mum was understandably devastated and even wrote to Queen Mary to entreat her to step in on their behalf.

But it was all to no avail. Birkett was hanged at Strangeways aged just 22 years of age, while a crowd of around 700 amassed outside the jail.

1 This image was provided by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council for use in the Cotton Town digitisation project: http://www.cottontown.org.

Also on this day

23 July 1403 – Thomas Percy, 1st Earl of Worcester
23 July 1886 – Calvin James
23 July 1886 – Lincoln Sprole

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