The Confession of Ernest Bramham - Sheffield March 1945

The first newspaper report I came across that featured Ernest was in February 1929 when he appeared before the Bench in Sheffield on a charge of attempted breaking and entering into the premises of a local forage dealer in Alma Street Sheffield. 

He was sentenced to six months in Armley Goal on 10th October 1932 for shop and warehouse breaking - the above is his admission record in the register. He is the entry at the bottom of the page

The following year he was back in Armley Goal again for shop and office breaking. The latter was achieved by the use of false keys whilst the former was achieved by removing slates from the roof. This time he received 12 months penal servitude

He was due for release on 2nd June 1934 according to the record. But he wasted no time in getting apprehended again for office and warehouse breaking. On 23rd July 1935 he received an eighteen month sentence for his endeavours 

Daily Independent dated 27th July 1933

Daily Independent 8th January 1938

Daily Independent dated 22nd January 1938

He pleaded guilty to the following - being found in the Central Jewish Synagogue - four charges of breaking and entering - one charge of stealing a case of sherry - one of taking a car without consent and asked for ten other charges to be taken into consideration. He pleaded not guilty to burglary and stealing cigarettes and spirits from the Blue Bell Hotel High Street Sheffield. He received three years "for praying on society"

It would be fair to say that Ernest Bramham was an habitual criminal  - his record (I may well have missed some of his crimes) is by any stretch appalling which is reflected in the increasing length of time he was being incarcerated. But he was only 25 years of age when he was sent down in January 1938.  The other thing to note apart from the fact that he always seemed to get caught is that he stuck very much to office, shop and warehouse breaking and there is no indication that he ever resorted to violence during the robberies or when trying to escape from his pursuers. At 5ft 4" to 5ft 6" he was hardly a threatening presence.

And so this report that appeared in the local press in March 1945 was an absolute departure from all what he had done before

There is an article I did a few years ago on the site about the murder which provides the backdrop to this and I urge anyone to read it. I left the murder unsolved. 

The Sheffield Telegraph dated Thursday 1st February 1945 had the headline


No further evidence was was given at the adjourned inquest and the Coroner Mr A Lockwood announced yet a further adjournment. The paper reported that all available officers were working on the case, and that their enquiries were covering a wide area of the city.

The inference is that the police were still no further forward with the case. This was re-enforced when the Inquest was resumed on Tuesday 6th March 1945 and a verdict announced. The verdict was "murder by some person or persons unknown" which was hardly surprising given the evidence.

And so after two months the police were getting no-where until ERNEST BRAMHAM who certainly knew about the inside of a police-station decided to confess to the murder of his own volition. It appears that on the evening of Wednesday March 28th 1945 whilst Bramham was attending the police station on "other business" he asked the duty inspector to call at home the chief of Sheffield C.I.D. The Chief went straight to the station and met Bramham who calmly informed him that he was responsible for the murder and told him verbatim what had happened that Saturday lunchtime in Ecclesall Road.   


Friday 13th April 1945

Rather strangely for someone who had made a full confession about the murder to Supt. Allen, he pleased NOT GUILTY and reserved his defence. The trial took place at the Yorkshire Spring Assizzes in Leeds thirteen days later. Ernest pleaded not guilty to the murder despite his alleged confession to Supt Allen. This is how the first day was reported by Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury (Friday 27th April 1945)

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury dated Friday 27th April 1945

The following day the hearing was resumed and reached a conclusion surprisingly quickly. Despite the denials by the defendant that he was never in Ecclesall Road that Saturday and that he never made the confession, the jury took less than 25 minutes to find him guilty of Eleanor Hammerton's murder. 


Sheffield Telegraph dated 28th April 1945 

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury dated Saturday 28th April 1945

Mr. Justice Humphreys said to Bramham "You have been found guilty of a callous and brutal murder" The guilty verdict left Mr. Justice Humphreys with no option to pronounce the mandatory death sentence

"Ernest Bramham, you are sentenced to be taken hence to the prison in which you were last confined and from there to a place of execution where you will be haonged by the neck until dead and thereafter your body buried within the precincts of the prison and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul".

It must be noted that the jury made no recommendation for mercy and given the brutality of the crime and the age of the victim it is not surprising. And it would be hard to believe that Mr. Justice Humphreys would intervene at the Home Office. He called it "a callous and brutal murder" and he was a judge not noted for any liberal tendencies. Murder in the furtherance of theft more or less guaranteed the execution of the offender in 1940's Britain and yet on 15th May 1945 this newspaper reported that Ernest had been reprieved on the grounds of insanity. The Home Secretary had accepted the certification and ordered his removal to Broadmoor.     


This is the first time in his long and varied criminal career that Ernest was ever called insane. There has never been any mention of of insanity at any of his committals and trials. And it was not used at his trial for the murder of Eleanor Hammerton.

There is something that is un-toward in this whole affair. But any attempt to uncover what really occurred is thwarted by the fact that the official documents relating to the case are closed until 2046 - over 100 years after the event

BRAMHAM Ernest: convicted at Leeds 16 April 1945 of murder and sentenced to death...
This record is closed
Opening date: 01 January 2046
Reference: PCOM 9/691
BRAMHAM Ernest: convicted at Leeds 16 April 1945 of murder and sentenced to death (commuted)

Date: 1929-1945
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Former reference in its original department: B493
Legal status: Public Record (s)
Closure status: Closed Or Retained Document, Open Description
Access conditions: Closed For 100 years
Closure criterion: Not used at this date
Lord Chancellor's Instrument: LCI 55 - Series containing both closure and accelerated opening instruments
LCI signed date: 1980 April 21
Record opening date: 01 January 2046

I can only rely on what is printed in the newspapers but it is self-evident to me that the arrest and conviction was a "set-up" from start to finish. Ernest Bramham was a career criminal and not a very good one. And so I find it incredulous that he would "attend a police station" and make a full and frank confession to a murder. He would have known from the outset that such an admission would literally be a death sentence. And yet according to the police and the prosecuting counsel this is what he did - he made a voluntary statement and was not pressurised at any point. Bramham of course denied that he ever made a confession but an habitual criminal is very unlikely to be believed. But if you read the parts of the statement that were read out in court you get the distinct feeling that they were not the words of Ernest Bramham but those of Detective-Superintendent Allen.

My personal view is that the Sheffield police had got nowhere in the two months following the murder of Eleanor. Despite an extensive manhunt and exhaustive investigations, no murderer had been identified. And then on March 28th 1945 a well-known local housebreaker is apprehended and the police decide that they can put the murder onto Ernest which they do. There is a slight possibility that Ernest was party to the affair. According to Bramham, Detective-Superintendent Allen had threatened that he was facing a total of at least twelve years in prison for his activities but he may, just may. have offered him the option of a confession to the murder. and an arrangement that avoided the death penalty. This would have to be cleared at the highest levels in the Home Office beforehand but judging by the events at the trial and its aftermath it is the only logical explanation. Ernest Bramham should have hanged for the murder but did not.

One would have expected that Bramham would have remained in Broadmoor for the rest of his natural life given the ferocity of the attack and his total lack of remorse (can you be remorseful for an act you did not commit?). But I have found this burial record 

BRAMHAM, Ernest (Labourer, age 51).
Died at Royal Hospital; Buried on January 18, 1964 in Consecrated ground; 
Grave Number 3892, Section JJ of Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield.
Parent or Next of Kin if Available: . Remarks: Officiating Minister, H J Spalding: Removed from Sheffield Parish.

If it is the same Ernest Bramham that committed the murder, it confirms my suspicion that Bramham was framed for the murder. He was released from Broadmoor cured of his insanity at sometime after 1945

This suspicion is re-enforced by these two newspaper reports 


Manchester Guardian dated 29th January 1945

6th February 1945

Both make references to the Hammerton murder, but the second report refers to the assailant as being a giant of a man. This could not have been Ernest Bramham as he was only 5ft 6" tall at best. There clearly was a person in Sheffield that was not Ernest Bramham who attacked shop-keepers by hitting them over the head. As far as I am aware, the culprit to these attacks was never caught.


Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury dated Friday 27th April 1945

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury dated Saturday 28th April 1945

Sheffield Telegraph dated 28th April 1945 

Manchester Guardian dated 29th January 1945


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This page was last updated on 25/01/18 15:49