The Execution of Lorraine Lax - Armley January 1926
The Murder of Elizabeth Lax
"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live" ~Norman Cousins
In April 2009 I received an email from Kevin Lax the great grandson of LORRAINE LAX who was executed in January 1926 for the murder of his wife Elizabeth Lax in August the previous year. I had heard of the case - it features in the book by Judge David Bentley "The Sheffield Murders 1865 -1965." And apart from the chapter in the book the case seems to be forgotten - there is very little information either on-line or in print
Kevin was particularly unhappy with how his great grandfather was portrayed in the book and so I obtained a copy and read the relevant chapter. Superficially it was a domestic row that escalated rapidly and ended in the death of Kevin's great grandmother ELIZABETH LAX. Armed with the dates I went to the local Archives and accessed the relevant newspaper reports to ascertain the details if not the facts of the case.
The murder took place on the morning of 31st August 1925. The local paper The Sheffield Star gave a full account of the tragedy and its immediate aftermath
ANOTHER SHEFFIELD TRAGEDY
WOMAN FOUND WITH WOUND IN HER THROAT
HOME OF POVERTY
HUSBAND WALKS INTO POLICE OFFICE WITH CUTS IN NECK
Mrs. Elizabeth Lax (30) of 51 Ripon Street, Attercliffe, Sheffield was this morning found dead in her home with her throat cut.
Her husband Lorraine Lax (29) walked into the Attercliffe Police Station with minor injuries in his neck
The Fire Brigade ambulance was sent for and woman taken to the Royal Infirmary where she was examined by Dr. Don but life was already extinct
Seven stitches were put into the husband's wounds. He was taken to the Infirmary by four police officers
When Police-Sergeant Garside reached the house at 7.20 a.m. he found the woman on the bed, her right side with her head leaning against the wall. She was in a crouching attitude with one leg drawn under her body
The constable who was with Sergeant Garside gave medical assistance but was unsuccessful. The two officers bandaged the gashed throat and then accompanied the woman in the ambulance to the Royal Infirmary
The husband went to Attercliffe police-station in the company of a man called Norman Ancliffe and reported himself to the officers there.
After treatment at the Royal Infirmary, Lax was conveyed to the Firvale Institution with a policeman in attendance.
PATHETIC STORY OF MAN'S LAST THREE-HALFPENCE
Lax who is a collier, and his wife lived with their three children at the front of 51 Ripon Street Attercliffe, a house occupied by Mr and Mrs H. B. Ancliffe and their daughter. They had been living there about 18 months, having removed from Woodhouse, the native area of the man. At 61 Ripon Street lived Mr and Mrs G Bedford, the parents of the dead woman. It is stated that ever since their marriage six years ago, the couple had not been living to happily together and had separated on more than one occasion, the first being shortly after the wedding.
Mr Ancliffe, a middle aged man interviewed by "The Star" shortly after the tragedy said that he was downstairs in the room with his son Norman (18) at about 6 when he heard a scream coming from the front of the house. His wife rushed out of the kitchen into the passage, he (Mr Ancliffe) following.
I ran down the passage Mr Ancliffe claimed and just as I got to the street I saw Lax walking out of the front door with wounds in his throat. He said to "Take me to the police-station" and I asked him where is Lizzie (referring to his wife) and he said "I expect she is dead"
Norman his son volunteered to accompany Lax to the police-station. His father said that during the journey to the police-station Lax hardly spoke a word. As they were starting however he asked for a cigarette and said that he would like a drink. On the way he told Norman that he only had 11/2d in his pocket and had asked him to take it to his three children Lorraine (5) George (4) and Frank (2)
Mr Ancliffe senior, added that Lax and his wife had been occupying the front room for 18 months and were to have terminated their tenancy of the rooms this weekend. He did not think that they had been happy, the trouble between them, he thought, was largely due to money matters.
As soon as the dead woman was removed from the room in which the tragedy had occurred the police locked it up and allowed nobody in.
It appears that the bed in the front room on the first floor on which the woman was discovered is close to the door separating the front from the back of the premises so that anyone desiring admission to the front could only do so by the street door.
At 61 Ripon Street (the home of the young woman's parents ) the occupants were very distressed. Mrs Bedford, the mother, was prostrated by grief when she heard the news of her daughters death. The sad news was gently broken to her by a relative.
According to Mr Henry Gardner, a son in law, who lives at 54 Ripon Street with his wife, he heard a knock at the door at about 6.45 and found Miss. Clara Ancliffe outside. She was excited and said "Come up at once to Lizzie".
"I followed Miss Ancliffe, quickly" Mr Gardner said "and pushed open the door of No 51. The three children were there, one of them on the bed with its mother and Mrs Lax herself was laid on the bed in her night-attire and partly covered by bed-clothes.
My wife was outside and I handed the three children to her and she took them to her mothers. I examined Mrs Lax and thought that she was dead. I felt at her foot and it was quite warm which indicated that she had not been dead long: then I summoned a doctor.
"There was blood on her clothes and she showed no signs of life. He face was drawn and there was a severe wound in the throat."
Mr Gardener a young man who had been married about three years had spent his married life with his mother in law. He had not had much to do with his brother in law and his wife although they only lived a few doors away.
The three children who are bereaved by the tragedy are bonny youngsters with fair, curly hair and smiling faces. One of the neighbours in conversation with "The Star" said that he had four children but he would not mind adopting one of the three bereaved "kiddies"
The affair profoundly shocked the neighbourhood and during the morning Ripon Street a long thoroughfare running from Attercliffe Road in the direction of Darnall was dotted with little groups of people discussing the tragedy in hushed voices.
It is expected that Lax who is at present in Firvale Hospital will recover from his injuries which although necessitating several stitches are only superficial.
Police from Attercliffe station were early on the scene of the tragedy investigating the affair. Sergeant Garside and Detective Sergeant Garnham examined the room in which the drama had occurred
A report also appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post (dated 31st August 1925)
The following day, Tuesday 1st September 1925, The Sheffield Independent gave a similar report on the tragedy
YOUNG WIFE DEAD IN ONE-ROOM HOME
HUSBAND TAKEN TO HOSPITAL
A terrible domestic tragedy occurred in the Darnall district of Sheffield yesterday when Mrs Elizabeth Lax (30) of 51 Ripon Street was found dead with her throat cut.
Her husband Lorraine Lax aged 29 is detained in Firvale Hospital with a wound in his throat but is not in a serious condition.
The tragedy was discovered shortly before seven o' clock. Lax, his wife and their three young children have occupied a room at the front of No 51 Ripon Street which is tenanted by Mr Harry Bailey Ancliffe who lives there with his wife and family. Mrs G Bedford mother of Mrs Lax lives at No 61 Ripon Street.
Mrs Lax was married five or six years ago. She has been separated from her husband on a number of occasions and about 18 months ago she came to lodge at Ripon Street.
In order to maintain privacy between the two families the door which led from a small passage at the bottom of the stairs into the front room was kept locked. The Lax family always used the door leading on to the street and consequently the two families saw little of each other. Mr and Mrs Lax and their younger child slept in a bed and their two other children in a cot. the bed was pushed up to the door so that it was impossible to enter the front room from inside the house.
6 A. M. SCREAM
WOUNDED MAN APPEARS AT FRONT DOOR
The first intimation that anything was wrong in the Lax apartment came shortly after 5.30 yesterday morning when Mr Ancliffe and his son who is 18 were in their sitting room
Mr Ancliffe heard a scream and when he went to the front of the house to see what was a matter he saw Lax running out of the front door fully dressed
"He was pulling his coat collar round his neck" said Mr Ancliffe in an interview with a representative of The Sheffield Independent yesterday.
Lax spoke to me and said "Take me to the police station I asked him where his wife Lizzie was and he replied I expect she is dead"
" I could see that there was a wound to his throat added Mr Ancliffe. I called my son Norman and he took Lax to Attercliffe police-station
Mr Henry Gardner, brother in law to Mr Lax who lives at 61 Ripon Street, said that Clara Ancliffe the daughter of Mr Ancliffe came to his home just before seven o' clock and told him "to get up and see Lizzie"
"I went up to the house" said Mr Gardner "and saw Mrs Lax lying on the bed. The three children were also in the room and I devoted my attention to getting them out."
"There were two children in the cot and the other on the bed. I handed the little boys to my wife and she took them into our home"
Mrs Lax was lying on the bed in a crouching attitude. She was close to the wall and looked as though she was dead. One leg was protruding and I found that the body was still warm. there was some blood on her nightclothes and also on the wall. She was partly covered by the bedclothes"
Later the body of Mrs Lax was removed to the Public Mortuary. The husband was taken from Attercliffe police-station to the Royal Infirmary where her was treated for a wound to his throat. Later he was removed to Firvale Hospital.
Lax had been working as a miner in the Woodhouse district.
It is understood that he and his wife live din Woodhouse at one time. He is said to be of a "quiet disposition" and Mr Ancliffe said "that the family kept themselves to themselves". Lax rejoined his wife at Ripon Street about 12 months ago, and has never associated with other people in the street to any great extent.
Mr Ancliffe said that he was unable to find the Lax family any more accommodation in the house. He had in fact given them notice to quit the room on several occasions but it had never been carried out. He intended to get an order for possession of the room this week.
WOUNDED AT LOOS
The three children of the Lax family were all boys. They are George aged 4, Lorraine aged 5 and Frank aged 2. It is stated that the baby was on the bed with the mother when the tragic discovery was made.
Lax is the youngest son of Mr and Mrs T W Lax who live at 16 Birks Avenue Woodhouse.
In an interview Mrs Lax said that her son had been working at Birley pit recently. He had been a collier for a number of years and saw considerable service during the war in France
He was badly wounded in the battle of Loos, and his nerves were shattered by his war experience, the couple had been fairly happy since their marriage
Mrs Lax said that her son had received notice to quit from Ripon Street and on account of finding another suitable home
He had tried to get a house in the Woodhouse district so that he would be nearer the colliery. The couple had slight domestic differences on several occasions and they separated occasionally. Lax is one of four sons.
Superficially the case seems straightforward - it was a domestic dispute that rapidly escalated until one of the protagonists killed the other. I such cases the next step was to hold an Inquest. I have not yet posted information from the Inquest but hope to do so by the beginning of December 2009.
The Execution of Lorraine Lax - Armley January 1926 -
Births Mar 1897
Lax Lorraine Sheffield Volume9c Page691
Surname First name (s) Mother/Spouse/Age District Vol Page
Marriages Jun 1920 Bedford Elizabeth Lax Sheffield 9c1658 Lax Lorraine
Deaths Mar 1926 Lax Lorraine age 28 Bramley Volume 9b page 302
Births Sep 1857 Lax Thomas Worstenholme Sheffield 9c 367
Deaths Dec 1925 Lax Thomas W 68 Sheffield 9c 728
Births Jun 1921 Lax George Bedford Sheffield 9c 1414
Births Jun 1923 Lax Frank Bedford Sheffield 9c 1140
"The Sheffield Murders" 1865 -1965" by David Bentley, published 2003 byALD Design & Print, Sharrow Vale Road Sheffield
The Sheffield Star 31st August 1925
Yorkshire Evening Post dated 31st August 1925
The Sheffield Independent 1st September
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