Murder Most Foul
In the early hours of Sunday 11 May 1890 the peace was shattered by the screams of a 19 year old prostitute as she met her death at the hands of Frederick Terry in a house of ill repute at No.1 Alberto Street, Stockton.
Terry was the 21 year old son of the Manager of the Gas Works at Croft. Some three months before these dreadful events took place he had moved to Stockton where he lodged with a married sister in Seaham Street, in the Tilery district of the town. He had given up his job at the gas works when his father had retired through ill-health and had taken a job as a labourer at Blair’s Engine Works in Norton Road.
His victim, Sarah Ann Inns, was the step-daughter of Henry Merryweather, a plate-layer from Northallerton. In September 1889 she had taken a situation as a domestic servant at Mandale Farm, South Stockton, then the residence of Mr Mark Robinson J.P.
Just before Easter of 1890, Inns had written to her family to say she had found a better situation and would be moving to Middlesbrough. What she actually did was throw up her position at Mandale Farm and move to an address in North Street, South Stockton where she soon fell into dissolute ways. Before long she was a regular on the streets of Stockton, making a living as a prostitute and calling herself ‘Annie’.
It was at this time that she met up with Frederick Terry. He was described as a quiet young man of slight build with a faint moustache and sandy coloured hair. It is unclear whether Terry was aware from the outset that she was leading an immoral life as he clearly developed a strong affection for her. The pair would often be seen together in public houses and bars around the town centre, although he wasn’t known to be a regular drinker before moving to Stockton.
Given the lifestyle of the object of his affections it is not surprising that Terry took strong exception to Annie’s conduct. She would often be in the company of other men when Terry met up with her and, on the Friday before her death, Terry had seen her kissing a man in the Star public house in Bishop Street.
Whether this was the cause of the events that were to follow is not known but what is certain is that on that same day Terry went to Mr George Power’s shop on the High Street, just opposite the Parish Church, and there bought a ‘cut-throat’ razor and case.
At about 7.30pm on the evening of Saturday 10th May Terry was seen by two of Annie’s companions, one called Maude and the other Clara Mossom, in the Star. He bought them both a small claret and asked them if they had seen Annie. Mossom at that time was lodging with a Mrs Macdonald at No.1 Alberto Street.
Later that evening, as Mossom was making her way home, she saw Terry standing on the pavement outside of a pork shop on Norton Road. He explained he was waiting for Annie who was inside buying something for their supper. Mossom asked Terry if he was planning to spend the night with Annie and he said he was. When Annie came out of the shop she offered Terry some money, presumably the change from the purchase. He said she could keep it but she refused saying the money wasn’t hers. The three walked on together to Mossom’s lodgings where Annie, who was known to Mrs MacDonald, asked if she could have a room for the pair of them for the night. She introduced Terry as her husband.
Mrs McDonald agreed to the arrangement and allocated them the front room on the ground floor. The couple were both sober and appeared to be on friendly terms. They spent some time in the kitchen where they consumed the food that Annie had bought before retiring to their room before midnight.
At around 5am the next morning the occupants of the house were awoken by several loud screams. One of the other lodgers, Thomas Lockwood, rushed downstairs and pushed open the door of the front room. He was confronted with the sight of Terry standing over Annie who was on the floor in a half-kneeling position with her back to the door. Terry was clutching the left arm of his victim with one hand and in the other hand he held the razor, now dripping blood.
Lockwood rushed at Terry and knocked him aside, grabbing the unfortunate Annie and dragging her from the room and into the kitchen. He returned to see Terry standing in the middle of the room looking dazed and still holding the razor. He closed the door and locked it from the outside and went back to the kitchen to find that Annie was already dead. She was dressed only in a chemise and red flannel petticoat, while Terry was fully dressed, the presumption being that he had got out of bed and put on his clothes before carrying out the horrific attack.
Reasonably sure that Terry could not escape, Lockwood ran from the house in search of a policeman. Before long he saw Police Sergeant Morrison on Norton Road who accompanied him back to the scene of the crime.
On entering the room Sergeant Morrison found Terry sitting on the bed, he appeared to have made a half-hearted attempt to escape by the window but, on finding it nailed shut, seemed to have resigned himself to his fate and offered no resistance to being arrested.
He was taken to the police station on Church Road in Stockton where Sgt. Morrison charged him with ‘causing the death of a female, name unknown’. Terry replied rather oddly saying ‘I don’t know her name, if I had known her name I would have told you’.
Terry appeared to show complete indifference to the crime he had committed and the predicament he found himself in. When offered breakfast he accepted it and ate it heartily, despite his face, hands and clothing being covered with the blood of his victim. He was eventually given a clean suit of clothes into which he changed without comment.
On being notified of the crime, Superintendent Bell, Chief of Stockton Police, accompanied by Inspector Gould rushed to the scene, calling at No. 6 North Terrace on the way to enlist the services of Dr Wilson. They found the deceased lying on the floor of the kitchen in a pool of blood. There was a trail of blood leading from the front room along the passage, marking the path taken by Lockwood as he tried to rescue the girl, and blood spattered around the murder scene.
Subsequent medical examination showed the extent of the poor girl’s injuries. The fatal wound was to her throat, a gash of about seven inches long and running from ear to ear. It had severed the wind-pipe, gullet and jugular vein down to the spine. There was a four inch wound on the left cheek, two more wounds on the left side of the neck and a further four inch wound, two inches deep, to the right breast. There were slash marks on the left arm and wrist and all of the girl’s fingers on both hands were cut to the bone where she had desperately clutched the blade of the razor as she tried to fight off her attacker.
The case was heard in Stockton Police Court, Church Road on the Monday after the crime was committed, justice was a bit swifter in those days.
Throughout the four days of the hearing Terry showed no emotion as each of the witnesses was called to give testimony. Sitting in the dock with a listless expression paying little attention to what was going on around him and displaying no signs of anxiety. Throughout his time in custody Terry is reported to have slept well and ate normally. He was visited by members of his family and spent a lot of time reading the Bible his brother had brought in for him. When discussing the murder with his aged parents he said he could offer no explanation as to why he had committed the crime, although accepting that he must have done it. On Thursday 15 May, Terry was committed for trial at Durham Assizes and moved to Durham Gaol.
Dr. Smith, the chief medical officer at Sedgefield Asylum, examined Terry on several occasions during his time in prison and found him to be ‘a rather weak minded person, more like a sixteen year old youth than a young man of twenty one’. During one of these examinations Terry had talked of the shadow of a man appearing to him on three separate occasions which had a terrifying effect on him. The last ‘visitation’ was in his prison cell in Durham, three days after he had been committed to the Assizes on the charge of Capital Murder. On this occasion he had asked the shadow if God would answer his prayers as he had prayed for forgiveness every night since her had been imprisoned. He claimed that it was the same shadow he had seen before and that it had leaned down low over his bed and then he had woken up.
During his trial a number of witnesses, including his sister Emma and his parents, gave evidence of his odd behaviour, his visions and the headaches from which he had been suffering for some time.
In July 1890, after having pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Ann Inns, Frederick Terry was declared insane and sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.