The Execution Of William Waddle

On 22nd September, 1888, the murder of Jane Beadmore took place in the small mining village of Birtley, to the south of Gateshead, in County Durham, in the north of  England, and, at first at least, there were suspicions that it may have been carried out by the same perpetrator who had been responsible for the Whitechapel murders.

Discovering the body of Jane Beadmore.
The Murder of Jane Beadmore At Birtley.


However, it soon transpired that the murder of Jane Beadmore had, in fact, been carried out in a jealous, drunken rage by her jilted lover, William Waddle.

Waddle was eventually arrested, tried for her murder and was sentenced to death.

His execution took place on the morning of Monday, 18th of December 1888 at Durham Gaol.

Later that day, The Daily Gazette For Middlesborough carried the following report on the execution, along with a recap of the details of the crime itself and the capture of William Waddle:-


The closing scene of the dreadful drama of Birtley Fell was witnessed this morning within the walls of Durham Gaol, from which so many murderers have been launched into Eternity.

It was a raw, cold morning, and the icy air and dismal surrounding of the scaffold seemed to chill the very marrow in one’s bones.


The weather, however, did not prevent a large crowd of people assembling in the vicinity of the gaol.

The first comers were seen straggling up towards the gates as early as half-past-seven, and by a quarter to eight, there were at least a hundred spectators present to witness the hoisting of the black flag.

The scene inside the gaol was, in many respects, like those which have so often been described.


The culprit, after a fair night’s sleep, awoke at six o’clock – his soul apparently crushed beneath the awful thought that this was the last time he would ever see the rising sun.

The chaplain of the gaol did what he could to prepare the culprit for his doom. His spiritual ministrations at an end, the executioner (Berry) came upon the scene.

This was at a quarter to eight.


The process of pinioning only took a few minutes, and then the melancholy procession started for the scaffold, headed by the Sheriff’s officer and the chaplain of the gaol, who in measured tones read the Church of England Burial Service as the culprit made his way painfully to the small wooden shed in which the scaffold had been erected.

A stalwart warder walked on each side of the culprit, and immediately behind him came the executioner, carrying the white cap and the straps with which he was to fasten the legs of the condemned man. Just behind the executioner there came the Under Sheriff (Mr Edmund Hutchinson) and the representatives of the Press brought up the rear.

Waddle wore the clothes which he had ou at the time of his trial, and presented altogether a most piteous, spectacle as he dragged himself across the dreary prison yard.


On arrival at the scaffold, the executioner quickly adjusted the strap, and as he drew the white cap over the culprit’s head – shutting out the world forever – a shudder was seen to convulse the culprit’s frame.

In another instant, the fatal bolt was drawn, and the unhappy victim of jealousy and mad revenge was ushered into the presence of his Creator.


On Sunday, Waddle confessed his guilt.

It appears that the Dean of Durham, (Dr. Lake), in common with almost everyone else, has taken a very strong interest in Waddle’s case, and, in the face of recent events that gentleman appears to have felt the unsatisfactoriness of carrying out the extreme penalty of the law on a conviction by purely circumstantial evidence.

Dr. Lake on, Thursday last, applied for admission to the gaol in order to see the prisoner, but the prison authorities deemed it their duty to refuse.

On Saturday, however, Dr. Lake telegraphed from York to the Home Secretary for permission to see Waddle, and in good time he received a reply enabling him to enter the prison at Durham.


About half-past two o’clock on Sunday, accompanied by the prison chaplain, The Reverend Mr Treadwcll, Dr. Lake drove from the Deanery to the gaol and was at once admitted and escorted to the condemned cell, where they found Waddle and his attendant warders.

Waddle showed in a most marked manner the distress of mind under which he was labouring, and in a voice broken by emotion, he told his visitors that he could not imagine what impulse had seized him and caused him to commit such a crime.

He continued to speak, but, he was in such an agitated state, that only fugitive portions of his utterances could be gathered by those around him.

One who was present at the interview described what took place as very distressing.


The Dean, in a most feeling and gentle manner, placed his hand on the shoulder of the wretched young man, and in a mild, calm voice said, “My poor man, you are in great distress of mind, would it not be better for you to make a clean breast of it?”

To this Waddle responded, “Yes, sir. I did it.”

The Dean at once asked, “Whatever could have possessed you to commit such a crime?”


Waddle answered in a low voice and was understood by those standing by to say that he had been drinking and that Jane Beadmore came to him from some farm house.

Here his emotion was so intense that the interview, which had extended over an hour, was closed, Dr. Lake, however, promising to renew his visit the day following.

Waddle gave no details, and his confession amounts to the bare fact that he alone committed the murder.


The Dean of Durham yesterday drove to the prison, and was at once ushered into the condemned cell for a last interview with the convict.

Waddle appeared much calmer in mind than on the previous day, and readily engaged in prayer with the Dean, giving his responses in a modest and thoroughly unpretending, but, at the same time, fervent manner throughout.

He again, as he did on Sunday, more than once admitted his guilt, and in answer to a question put by Dr. Lake, “Did the young woman scream when you attacked her,” answered that he could not remember anything that took place on that night when the unfortunate girl lost her life, for the whole occurrence was a complete blank on his memory.


He, however, again repeated that he had been drinking during the afternoon of that day, and he also stated that he had read the whole facts of the Whitechapel murders, and knew the whole of the details of those atrocities.

He said that he had committed a great crime, and that he would suffer punishment justly for his offence.

The interview then closed.


The crime for which Waddle has suffered the extreme penalty of the law was one which attracted an unusual amount of attention all over England, principally from its resemblance to the Whitechapel atrocities, which were then the all-engrossing theme of conversation.


Jane Beadmore, the victim, also known by the name of Jane Savage, was a young woman of delicate health who lived at Birtley North Side with her step-father, Joseph Savage, who is employed as a miner at Springwell Colliery.

Waddle, who had lived in Birtley for some time, commenced to pay his attentions to the murdered woman some fourteen or fifteen months ago, and they “kept company” regularly until a week before the dreadful deed was committed. They were often seen together walking in the woods and fields of the district and were generally looked upon as being engaged.


But this rustic courtship was destined to have an abrupt conclusion. A quarrel took place between them. Beadmore took up with another sweetheart, and the two parted in anger. Waddle seems to have brooded over his rejection with gloomy, morose feelings, until he became actuated by a desire for revenge.

On the morning of Saturday, September 22nd, it was noticed that he was somewhat strange in his manner, but nothing was thought of this at the time; and, after receiving his pay, he went to the cottage where he lodged with Mrs McCormack.

Shortly after seven o’clock he left the house, and was never seen again in that locality.


Meanwhile, Jane Beadmore, having jilted her former admirer, had seen very little of him, and had not renewed the acquaintance so suddenly broken.

On the Saturday referred to, she went to the dispensary for some medicine, and had returned to her home about three o’clock in the afternoon. She remained indoors until seven o’clock in the evening, when she said she would go down as far as Oxclose, a public-house in the vicinity, and meet her brother, who had been bowling that day on Newcastle Moor, and who made it a habit to call at the Oxclose at the conclusion of his day’s sport.

That meeting was destined never to take place.

The unfortunate girl started on her ill-starred journey, making a call on the way at a public- house, where she bought some sweets, and also stepping in to see a neighbour who occupies Birtley North Side Hinds Farm.

She left there at a quarter to eight o’clock, and at eight was seen by two men going up the lane leading to Vale Pit.

What followed can only be conjectured, but it seems that she then encountered Waddle, who was probably the worse for drink, and entered into conversation with him.


He upbraided her with her desertion of him for another flame, and he asked her to renew the relations which had formerly existed between them.

She refused, and his importunities changed to threats.


Her determined resistance of his advances seems to have maddened Waddle, and to have been the spark that rekindled the old feelings of revenge and murder. He drew a knife from his pocket, and savagely attacked the defenceless creature.

Two blows were aimed at her head, one deep wound being inflicted on the cheek, and another one behind the ear.

The third blow was fatal, the knife entering the lower part of the stomach, and penetrating so deeply as to strike the vertebras, and break a piece off.

The abdomen was cut open by the knife, and a portion of the intestines protruded.

Having satisfied himself that his victim was dead, he left her lying partly in the gutter of the Ouston Colliery railway, where the body was discovered next morning by a blacksmith named John Fish.


Waddle left the neighbourhood at once, and begged his way North, stating that he was trying to get a job at harvesting.

The murderer was at large for more than a week, and his capture was effected in a somewhat remarkable way.

He had got as far as Berwick, where he sold his clothes to a Mrs Brodie, and bought some older ones, making five shillings by the transaction.

Then he was heard of at Yetholm and Kirk Yetholm, but baffled all attempts at capture.


Coming into Yetholm by way of the farm of Halterburn, a Mr Stenhouse, wool merchant, of Yetholm, encountered Waddle, who was evidently making his way to the hills.

The jaded look and wild and peculiar appearance of the man attracted Mr Stenhouse’s attention, and he was impressed with the belief that the man before him must bo Waddle.

He at once entered into conversation with the wayfarer.

In answer to a question by Mr Stenhouse, Waddle said he was in search of harvest work, and that he had come from Coldstream. Mr Stenhouse said that he thought he could give him some work, and asked if he knew any people in Coldstream. “Oh, yes,” was the reply, and he gave the names of one or two persons and the name of an inn, all of which have since proved to be fallacious.

“Your name is William Waddle,” said Mr Stenhouse.

After considering for a while the man said, “Oh, no; my name is William Tweddle.”

“When did you leave the neighbourhood of Birtley?” Stenhouse asked.

“On Sunday morning,” was the reply.

“What has come over Jane Savage? Mr Stenhouse pressed.

The answer was, “She was my wife.”


Sure by this time that he had been conversing with Waddle, Mr Stenhouse asked the man to accompany him into the village, which he did very quietly.

Arriving at the Police Station, the amateur detective found, to his dismay, that there was no one about, Constable Thompson, the local policeman, being absent on the search, but with admirable presence of mind he got his companion within and locked him up.

Thompson came upon the scene shortly afterwards, and, in his presence, the man signed his name “William Waddle,” and, it is stated, confessed to committing the crime.


Waddle was tried at Durham Assizes before Baron Pollock, and although he was ably defended, a plea of insanity being set up, he was found guilty, and condemned to death; and his execution this morning at Durham Gaol was the final act in a North-country drama of jealousy and revenge, of disappointed love and brutal crime.”