Date of Birth:
Charles Benjamin Backhouse
and his younger brother, Frederick, both miners, lived at
75, Piccadilly, Swinton, near Rotherham. It was an address
well known to the police, especially the local constable,
John William Kew, a member of the West Riding Force.
The Backhouse family had a reputation for violence. On 5th
July 1900, a summons had been served on Frederick for an
assault on his brother's wife. That summons had been
served by constable John Kew and was due to be answered on
Two days before, on 7th July, the brothers vanished from
Piccadilly and so, on the 9th, Frederick did not bother to
turn up for court and, as a result, had been fined forty
shillings in his absence, or sentenced to serve one months
All this seemed to have little effect on the Backhouse
brothers though. Just five days after the summons had been
served, Charles bought a revolver and nine cartridges and
the two brothers were seen using the weapon to threaten
various people in the town. Naturally this matter was
reported to the police and it was P.C. Kew who went along
to investigate, later that same day.
As Kew arrived at the house at Piccadilly, the brothers
were just leaving. The officer stopped them and said that
he was entitled to search them. He then put his hands out,
as if to begin that search.
Immediately Charles Backhouse took a step backwards, drew
the gun and shot Kew in the stomach. Even though he was
badly wounded, Kew managed to grab Charles and pulled his
hands, one of which still held the gun, behind his back.
At this point, Frederick ran forward, seized the gun from
his brother and shouting; "Here's another for you." fired
again at Kew, hitting him in the right hip.
As the brothers ran off, Kew fell to the ground and was
then helped to his own house which was close by, where he
managed to say who had shot him. He died the following
day, the post mortem showing that the wound inflicted by
Charles had been the fatal shot. When they were arrested,
Frederick admitted that they had shot Kew, claiming that
they were drunk at the time.
At the trial, the jury sought to return a verdict of
guilty of murder in the case of Charles, and guilty of
aiding and abetting in the commission of the offence, in
the case of Frederick. The judge explained that this
amounted to a verdict of guilty of murder for both
brothers, to which the foreman of the jury then said that
they wished to recommend Frederick to mercy on account of
him being just nineteen years of age. Both men were then
sentenced to death.
On 14th August 1900, two days before he was due to die,
Frederick Backhouse was reprieved, being sentenced instead
to life imprisonment.
There was no such mercy for
his brother who was hanged alongside
Thomas Mellor, the
first double hanging of the new century, and the first
executions outside London, they were hanged at Leeds on
16th August 1900.