One of the most tragic and gruesome murders that was investigated by Bradford Police was that of the young boy John Gill.
John Gill was a 7 year old boy who lived in Thorncliffe Road area of Manningham and was at first thought to have been a victim of Jack the Ripper who had murdered and mutilated five prostitutes in the Whitechapel area of London:
- Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols, murdered Friday, August 31, 1888.
- Annie Chapman, murdered Saturday, September 8, 1888.
- Elizabeth Stride, murdered Sunday, September 30, 1888.
- Catharine Eddowes, also murdered that same date, September 30, 1888
- Mary Jane (Marie Jeanette) Kelly, murdered Friday, November 9, 1888.
During November, 1858 seventeen people died from arsenic poisoning from eating lozenges laced with arsenic. The lozenge maker, known as Mr Neal had a shop in Shipley. In the manufacturing process he used a ‘bulking agent’ called ‘daff’ or ‘terra alba’; which was literally plaster of Paris. The sole purpose of this ingredient was for adulteration. It was supplied by the Bradford chemists Mr Hodgson and his assistant Mr Goddard.
Mr Neal had sent his assistant for the ‘daff’ and found that the chemist Mr Hodgson was ill in bed. However due to his insistence his servant, Mr Goddard, was directed by Mr Hodgson to a casket that contained white powder. Accordingly 12 lbs of the ‘white powder’ in an unmarked cask was handed over and eventually subsequently used in the preparation of peppermint lozenges. William Hardaker, a market trader who sold sweets in Bradford market, bought five pounds of the peppermint lozenges at seven and one half penny per pound.
He sold the entire consignment the same night. Unfortunately for Mr Hardaker he also partially ate one of the lozenges and became very ill. He was subsequently paralysed for life.
Many customers met a similar fate and seventeen died.
The subsequent investigation found that the sweets contained deadly amounts of arsenic which had been inadvertently supplied by the chemists from the wrong cask of chemicals.
The chemist Mr Hodgson, his assistant Mr Goddard and the sweet manufacturer Neal were arrested and tried for manslaughter. However in the absence of evidence of criminal negligence they were all acquitted.
Body in the Bonnet-Box Inquest, 13th March, 1895.
Report of Inquest : ‘Yesterday, at the Bradford Town Hall, the Deputy Borough Coroner (Mr J. G. Hutchinson, jun.) resumed his enquiry into the circumstances attending the death of a newly-born male child, whose body was found in a bonnet-box in a third class compartment of a train from London, at the Bradford Midland Station several weeks ago.
The inquest has scrapped that the inquest had been adjourned until occasions in order that the police might have time to make enquiries. -The Deputy Coroner yesterday asked Chief Inspector-Detective Dobson if the police could throw any further light on the mysterious affair.-Detective Dobson: have you any desire for another adjournment? -Detected Dobson: No, sir. I don’t think any good can come of it. I may say that I am fully convinced that this body has come from beyond Sheffield .-The Deputy-coroner’s own up the evidence briefly, and explained that the only cause open to the jury was return a verdict of “wilful murder against a person or persons unknown.” -Verdict accordingly.’