Have you heard of the bizarre Crookes Laundry murder from 1922, where the owner was killed and buried in the cellar?
One of Sheffield’s strangest murders happened in 1922 when the owner of a laundry in Crookes was killed by an employee, who then told another worker that ‘he had gone back to China’.
Sing Lee moved to Sheffield following the First World War and set up several laundries around the city, but lived alone above his premises at 231 Crookes.
The 33-year-old employed two people in the Crookes premises – a fellow countryman called Lee Doon and a local woman named Lily Siddall.
On the evening of Saturday, September 22, Sing closed the shop at 9pm as usual and asked Lily to work on Sunday as normal, but when she arrived the following day there was no sign of him.
She asked Doon of his whereabouts and he replied in his broken English that he ‘had gone back to China’, adding that he was now in charge of the business.
Immediately suspicious, she became increasingly so when the following day she saw two hired labourers digging a large hole in the cellar, and when she spotted Sing’s hat still on the hatstand, she questioned Doon who told her he had gone out and bought a new one for his trip back to China.
Knowing this to be a lie because all the shops would have been closed during the period between her last seeing Sing and arriving for work the next day, Lily decided to turn detective.
She travelled to Liverpool where he knew Sing had family and told them of her concerns, and they travelled back with her to Sheffield and reported the matter to police.
And when officers went to the laundry the following Saturday, they discovered Sing’s body stuffed into a trunk and buried under a pile of coke in the cellar.
Doon was arrested and charged with murder and, at his trial, claimed they had quarrelled over Sing’s addiction to opium and claimed that they had got into a fight – him accidentally killing Sing.
But forensic evidence showed that Sing’s skill had been fractured in several places, a rope had been tied tightly around his neck, and no traces of opium had been found at the murder scene – in essence, he had been murdered in his sleep.
Speaking through an interpreter throughout the trial at Leeds Assizes in December 1922, Doon could not explain why he had a large quantity of cash belonging to Sing on his person when he was arrested, and the prosecution’s argument that the motive for the murder had been one of robbery was accepted by the jury and Doon was sentenced to hang.
Throughout the trial and to the point of execution, Doon is said to have remained calm at all times, and his only request was that he be beheaded rather than hanged, as this was the traditional method of execution in China at the time.
Doon didn’t get his wish, and he went to the gallows at Armley Jail in Leeds on January 5, 1923.