The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent dated Tuesday 25th September 1888 referred to a "Murderous Assault in Club Mill Yard" which resulted in the death of a young Sheffield woman named Rebecca Evans from a broken neck. The attack had occurred the previous evening

It seems pretty straight-forward. Frederick Lait ran after Rebecca into Club Mill Yard, caught her, and pushed her with "great violence against the bake-house door." When she tried to escape Lait grabbed her by both shoulders, planted his knees in her back and pulled her over, and in doing so kicked her. Whilst Lait ran away, Rebecca was left gasping at the scene of the attack, and within a very short time, was dead.

The following day Lait was brought before the local magistrates on the charge of manslaughter, but the hearing was adjourned pending the Coroners inquest and somewhat surprisingly Lait was released on bail. I must admit that I'm rather surprised that Lait was only charged with manslaughter. Unlawful killings without malice or intent are considered as manslaughter but IF the newspapers are correct Lait's attack on Rebecca seems to show both malice AND intent. But no capital murder charge?  

The indifference Lait showed at the time of the crime "I don't care" also manifested itself at the proceedings before the magistrates where he appeared to be "unconcerned" at the seriousness of the offence. I was therefore non -plused when I accessed the newspaper report of the Coroner's inquest. 

The verdict was that the deceased died from natural causes immediately after an attack on her by Frederick Lait. The natural causes were a fit brought on by over-excitement and a full meal that was undigested at the time of death. Mr Charles Atkin who conducted the post mortem three days after her death confidently asserted that violence "had no part in her death" and that there were no marks either internally or externally to indicate a violent struggle. Similarly there were no fractures or haemorrhaging. The discolouration at the back of the neck was "post-mortem", and was due entirely to her head "wagging" about after she had died.

I cannot believe this for one moment - the description of the attack from several witnesses clearly indicates that this was a vicious assault. Even the deputy coroner remarked in his summing up that Lait had made a "brutal attack" on Rebecca that involved her being kicked and falling down in a heap. And yet nothing untoward was found in the post mortem. I just cannot understand how Mr Atkin could assert that the discolouration at the back of the neck was post mortem when it could quite easily have occurred prior to death. 

I would argue that if Lait had not attacked Rebecca she would have lived. The family reported at the inquest that neither she or her relatives had ever been subject to fits, and the surgeon remarked that her brain, head and spinal cord were in "good normal condition"

The deputy coroner also contradicts himself when on the one hand he states that there is "nothing to warrant a charge of manslaughter" and then proceeds to tell Lait that he had an "extremely narrow escape from being committed for manslaughter". On the evidence presented at the inquest Lait should have been formally committed to trial for manslaughter and not just released with a severe reprimand for his "murderous assault in Club Mill Yard"

The deputy coroners plea to his father that he should receive a "good horsewhipping!" on a frequent basis as a means of correcting his behaviour is more than likely to have gone unheeded. I checked the 1881 Census and found the following information

Name Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation
Frederick LAIT Head M Male 36 Eye, Suffolk, England Coach Painter
Hannah LAIT Wife M Female 25 Louth, Lincoln, England
Fredk. LAIT Son Male 8 Louth, Lincoln, England Scholar
Walter LAIT Son Male 4 Sheffield, York, England
Earnest LAIT Son Male 1 Liverpool, Lancashire, England

Source Information:
Dwelling 147 Dunlop Street Census Place Attercliffe Cum Darnall, York, England
Family History Library Film 1342128 Public Records Office Reference RG11 Piece / Folio 4665 / 64 Page Number 27

The name Lait is quite unusual for the North of England, and a search of local newspaper archives found the following court case from June 1865. The Hull Packet and East Riding Times (Hull, England), Friday, June 23 and 30, 1865

I was fairly confident that this was Frederick Lait's father who was in court, but I could not be sure as there was nothing in the report that I could tie back to. I was also unable to trace the outcome of the case. But a report in The Police Gazette dated Friday, September 15, 1871 clarified matters.

"Description of FREDERICK LAIT and ANN BATESON, charged with stealing a silver Watch (since recovered), from a dwelling-house in the borough of Louth, on the 24th ultimo.
Frederick Lait is 25 years of age, 5 feet 2 inches high, fresh complexion, brown hair, grey eyes, cut on forehead; dressed in a blue pilot coat, dark trousers, strong lace-up boots, and cheesecutter cap; he is a coachbuilder by trade, and a licence-holder, No.5302, was convicted of a felony at Hull, June 29th, 1865, and sentenced to 7 years penal servitude.

Ann Bateson is 5 feet high, dark brown hair, lame of the left leg, and walks with a crutch; dressed in light print dress, black velvet jacket, and grey duckskin hat.
They are travelling together as man and wife, and it is supposed that Lait will seek employment as some ironworks. Information to be given to Head Constable Roberts, Town Hall, Louth, Lincolnshire - Bow-street, September 8"

And a check on the 1871 Census revealed the following that Frederick was one of 900 convicts at Portland Convict Establishment for Male Convicts who were included in the count on Sunday April 2nd, 1871 (RG10/2006 page 4)

 "Frederick LAIT; Convict; Unmarried; 25; Coach Builder; Louth, Lincolnshire"

And so Frederick's father looks as though he was an habitual criminal. After six years imprisonment he is released and then proceeds to steal more property that does not belong to him.

It is unlikely that he was apprehended for this offence because less than two years later his wife was giving birth to his son Frederick.

I could not locate the family in the 1891 Census but 10 years later they crop up again this time in Dronfield near Sheffield

Name Frederick Lait Relation to Head of Family Head Age Last Birthday 56 Sex Male Profession or Occupation Coach Painter Condition as to Marriage Married Where Born Norfolk Eye Address 35 Scarsdale Rd Civil Parish Dronfield Rural District Town or Village or Hamlet Dronfield Ecclesiastical Parish St John The Baptist Parliamentary Borough or Division North Eastern County Borough, Municipal Borough or Urban District Dronfield Administrative County Derbyshire

Name Frederick Lait Relation to Head of Family Son Age Last Birthday 28 Sex Male Profession or Occupation Coal Hewer Condition as to Marriage Married Where Born Lincoln Grimsby Address 35 Scarsdale Rd Civil Parish Dronfield Rural District Town or Village or Hamlet Dronfield Ecclesiastical Parish St John The Baptist Parliamentary Borough or Division North Eastern County Borough, Municipal Borough or Urban District Dronfield Administrative County Derbyshire

Also living with Frederick senior (56) at 35 Scarsdale Rd were

 his wife Hannah (age 45)  and his son's Frederick's family (28) - wife Florence (27), daughter Bertha (7) and son Albert (6). Both the two children were born in Dronfield which seems to indicate that the family may have being living there for a number of years. 

Ten years later the 1911 Census states

Personal Information Name Frederick Lait Relationship to Head of Household Head Condition Married Gender M Age 38 Estimated Year of Birth 1873 Occupation Coal Miner Hewer Employed Y Working at Home N Place of Birth Lincoln Grimsby Enumerator Information Address 35 Scarsdale Road Dronfield Parish Dronfield Town Dronfield Type of Building Private House Number of Rooms 4 Rooms Inhabited Y Reference RG14PN21166 RG78PN1260 RD438 SD5 ED5 SN136 Administrative County Derbyshire Registration District Chesterfield Registration Sub District Dronfield Enumeration District 5.

The 1911 Census is a trifle puzzling. Both Frederick senior and Hannah are missing and Bertha is now listed as a 17 year old sister not grand-daughter. a nephew aged 4 Samuel Siddall is also living with them. The census states that they have been married 14 years and have no children!

Albert in the meantime is lodging at the home of John and Kate Bamforth

Name Albert Lait Relationship to Head of Household Boarder Condition Single Gender M Age 16 Estimated Year of Birth 1895 Occupation Miner Employed Y Working at Home N Place of Birth Derbyshire Dronfield Nationality British Enumerator Information Address 147 Hesley Lane Thorpe Hesley Rotherham Parish Ecclesfield Town Thorpe Hesley Rotherham Type of Building Private House Number of Rooms 5 Rooms Inhabited Y Reference RG14PN27674 RG78PN1585 RD508B SD2 ED10 SN214 Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Registration District Wortley Registration Sub District Ecclesfield Enumeration District 10


The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent dated Tuesday 25th - 26th September 1888 - 4th October 1888    


Surname First name(s) Age District Vol Page
Marriages Dec 1896
LAIT Frederick Chesterfield 7b 1310
Thompson Florence Chesterfield 7b 1310

Deaths Jun 1912
Lait Frederick 69 Chesterfield 7b 762

Deaths Mar 1915
Lait Frederick 42 Chesterfield 7b 1062

Births Sep 1893
Lait Bertha Chesterfield 7b 798

Births Sep 1894
Lait Albert Chesterfield 7b 717

Surname First name(s) Mother/Spouse/Age District Vol Page
Marriages Dec 1916
Lait Bertha Denis Duckett Chesterfield 7b 1411


Return To Main Homepage

This page was last updated on 17/02/12 16:08