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Source: Bell's Weekly Messenger, No.1815, Sunday, January 9, 1831


Horrid Murder at Apethorpe
near Hyde, Lancashire

On Monday night last, as Mr. Thomas Ashton son of Mr. Samuel Ashton, of Gee Cross, near Ashton-under-Lyne, where the alarming recent turn-out of the cotton-spinners has taken place, was returning to the Apethorpe factory, he was shot at by some base assassin, and killed on the spot. The deadly weapon was loaded with slugs, one of which, it appears, pierced his heart, and the other went through the back bone. He was just returning from taking his tea to the factory, and had to pass through a dark narrow lane, where the dreadful crime was committed. The report brought several people to the spot, and the unfortunate young man was conveyed back to his own house a corpse in ten minutes after he had left it. The sensations of the family, which is very numerous hereabouts, may be better felt than described. They are the largest spinners in this part of the country, and bear an excellent and honourable character. The deceased was only 22 years of age, and was beloved by all the working classes. No cause can possibly be assigned for this inhuman transaction, unless that he was mistaken for some other person, as the mills of all the Ashtons are in full employ, and at the regular prices.—On Wednesday an inquest was held on the body at Gee Cross. Some of the witnesses who were examined proved that several of the men had quitted their work at the Apethorpe factory, in consequence of feeling dissatisfied with the wages that were allowed them. Those who had evinced a desire to be reinstated were referred to Mr. James Ashton, who, it seems, took an active part in the business of the factory. A man named Platt, who applied to be reinstated, was refused, he then said, "There must be an example made somewhere." This man did not afterwards apply to the factory for employment. On the night of the murder three men were seen together on the road, and one of them had a gun in his hand. Meeting a man named Wood, whose person and figure corresponded with that of Mr. Thomas Ashton, one of the men looked at him in the face for some moments, and then passed on. The Jury returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against some person or persons unknown. Platt, and another man, named Stansfield, are in custody. A reward of 500l. has been offered for the discovery of the murderer or murderers by the father of the deceased.