Over the years a number of prisoners have tragically died in Bradford’s Police cells. There have also been cases of suicide committed in the Town Hall, including the tragic case of a police Constable Harry Borstel. The officer shot himself after having been publicly shamed in court to having had an affair. The woman concerned tragically died whilst having an illegal abortion.
THE TRAGIC OVERDOSE OF A DOCTOR.
Joseph Hainsworth was a 40 year old Bradford surgeon who fell on hard times due to his growing dependency on alcohol and laudanum; a 19th century, opiate-based patent medicine.
On the Monday evening, of the 23rd May 1875, Joseph Hainsworth was discovered in the cellars at the Bradford Infirmary and the police were called. Coincidentally the same PC Jenkins attended. He arrested Dr Hainsworth for being found in the hospital cellar for unlawful purposes.
He was taken to the Town Hall where he was again placed in a police cell. The following day he was found in a collapsed condition. Despite the surgeon’s best efforts he died at 2.45pm that afternoon from laudanum poisoning.
A SUICIDE IN THE CELLS
At nine o’clock, on a cold Monday evening on the 3rd October 1887 James Hepworth, a 48 year old stone mason’s clerk was brought into custody for breaking and entering a shop. He was searched and placed in a cell.
At 12.25 am the following morning the prisoner was found suspended in a kneeling position on the cell floor. His inert body was facing the cell wall with his arms hanging limply in front of him. His braces were fastened around his neck and attached to the cell bars.
CHRISTMAS DAY TRAGEDY
By Christmas Day, 1918, the war to end all wars was over. The armistice had been signed some three weeks earlier and there was great rejoicing as surviving soldiers returned home to their loved ones.
One such soldier was Edmund Watson, a 21 year old former RAF gunner who had been twice wounded in battle. After his discharge he suffered from mental health problems as did many other discharged servicemen. This condition was often referred to as ‘war worry.’
During the early hours of the following day Watson was found hanging from the pipes by two towels tied around his neck. He was pronounced dead by the police surgeon. The inquest found that he had ‘committed suicide during temporary insanity.’
A TRAGIC AFFAIR
Vera Stonehouse, a 35 years old single woman, tragically met her death due to a failed abortion in May, 1939. The abortionist, Clara Louisa Hardy 62 years of age was committed for trial for manslaughter on the 21st November, 1939.
During the court proceedings Harry Gustav Borstel aged 33 years, a constable in the Bradford City Police and a married man, gave evidence at the hearing. He admitted being intimate with the deceased and being responsible for her subsequent pregnancy. He had since reconciled with his wife.
Police Constable Borstel, who had 15 years’ service, worked in the police property store at City Hall. After leaving the court he returned to his duties at City Hall working with a colleague PC Spencer with whom he had worked for the past eight weeks.
About 3.10pm that afternoon, Borstel had gone into an adjoining office. A short time later there was the sound of a loud report from the room.
When PC Spencer investigated he found PC Borstal lying on the floor with a head wound and a service revolver near his left hand. He was removed to hospital where he subsequently died.
The inquest found that he had ‘committed suicide during temporary insanity.’