Documents relating to William James Terrell


The following documents report the death of William James Terrell

The Yorkshire Evening Post [Saturday 22nd June 1895] reported

The Doctor & His Housekeeper
A Quarrel, a Blow, a Suicide

A sensational discovery was made last night, Mr William James Terrell (age 68), a surgeon was found dead at 32 Oxford Terrace, off St James's Road, Halifax.

The deceased had practised as a doctor of medicine in the town for a number of years, and although an unqualified man he had a good practice.

He was a widower, and about eighteen months ago Mary Smith, a young woman of about 25 years of age, entered his service as a housekeeper.

Disagreements occasionally took place between them and once or twice serious quarrels occurred.

In fact, the deceased went so far as to say that he would shoot her and then poison himself.

A couple of pistols were found in the house.

The relations between the two became so strained that she decided to obtain another situation.

She eventually got a place at the Golden Lion Hotel in Cheapside, Halifax, and on the 10th inst, a cab drove up to the house in Oxford Terrace and she left with her luggage.

The loss of his housekeeper seemed to have disturbed his peace of mind and after seeing her at the Golden Lion she promised to take tea with him the following day.

On arriving at the house she was surprised to find Mr Terrell not at home.

She remained at the house of a neighbour and about half past seven the deceased returned home. She later told him that he was a fine gentleman to invite her to tea and then make no preparations. The intentions regarding her appear to have been of a desperate character. She said he invited her into the cellar-kitchen but she declined to do so. There were several letters lying about the room, one of them bearing the name of Miss Smith. While looking at the letter she observed a shadow on the floor and upon turning round she was startled to find Mr Terrell had got a coal hammer and raised his hand as though to strike her. She tried to seize the hammer and, whilst she was doing so, the deceased struck her a severe blow under the right eye. She tried to open the door only to find it had been secured. She then smashed a pane of glass in the back window and was assisted into the yard panting and bleeding about the face. The crashing of glass immediately drew a large crowd. The injuries appeared so severe that many in the crowd came to the conclusion that she was dying. Dr Hopton ordered her to be wrapped in a blanket and removed to the Infirmary, but on arrival there she was found to be in a less serious condition than had been anticipated. After the blood was washed from her face, there appeared to be little the matter with her and not long afterwards she was able to leave the Infirmary, returning to Oxford Terrace. A large crowd was still there, many of whom had thought her hours were numbered.

She declined to make any charges against her former employer, appearing more concerned lest some harm happened to him. Recently, the deceased had informed some of the neighbours that he would probably be found dead in the house some day, and asked them, in the event of their missing him for a few days, to inform his relatives. He had left a key with one of the neighbours for that purpose. He hinted that he had heart trouble.

Dr Walter Smith who lives nearby went with Detective Inspector Bradley to the house. They found the deceased lying on the bed with his arms extended and fully dressed. The gas was burning and the blinds drawn.

A bottle of prussic acid was found on a table and there was about a quarter-spoonful of prussic acid in the bottle and the stopper was in. By the side of the bottle was an unloaded pistol and another was found in one of his coat pockets.

Mary Smith said that he had several times threatened to shoot her and then poison himself and that he had, in fact, left letters which clearly indicated what were his intentions.

An inquest was to be held this evening and the Coroner instructed Dr Walter Smith to conduct a post mortem this afternoon.

It was said that the deceased, though a medical practitioner had not passed his final examination.

He was the son of a wealthy calico printer of Manchester who left him in comfortable circumstances


© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 19:54 / 7th April 2023 / 6375

Page Ref: MMT863

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