Have you heard of Sheffield's long-forgotten 'bread and jam murder'?

Sometimes referred to as ‘the bread and jam’ murder, this long-forgotten killing happened in Sheffield in 1959 after a 69-year-old man strangled his wayward daughter in the Pitsmoor area of the city.

Friday, 5th June 2020, 5:19 pm
Updated Friday, 5th June 2020, 5:19 pm

It is believed the case was given the name because the victim, 39-year-old Margaret Widdison, was ill through drink and only fed her children bread and jam.

She was found slumped in a chair and with red marks around her neck at her home in Cross Macro Street in May, 1959.

According to newspaper reports at the time, her father, David Stanley Stewart, also of Cross Macro Street, a retired electrician had become depressed because he had been forced to give up work and because of his daughter’s behaviour.

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Cross Macro Street, where the killing took place in 1959

According to a report in the Sheffield Star from May 15, Stewart was arrested early the following day and charged with murdering his daughter.

The report states: “Detective Chief Supt George Carnill told the court that at 11.45pm yesterday he went to the house in Cross Macro Street where he saw Det Insp Robinson and with him went into the living room.

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“There in the chair was the body of Mrs Widdison. She was examined by Dr Gilbert Forbes.

A cutting from the Sheffield Star covering the case

“Between 2 and 4am today, I attended a post-mortem examination at the city mortuary and in view of what I was told by Dr Forbes at 5.15am I saw the accused at CID in the presence of Chief Inspector Longmore.

“I told the accused of my visit to the house, what had been found there, and that there was reason to believe as a result of the post-mortem examination, that the death had been caused by asphyxia due to a ligature being applied about the neck.

“Later this morning I cautioned him and charged him with murdering her. He did not reply.”

It would seem that, according to another newspaper report from 1945, Mrs Widdison’s husband had walked out on his new bride after two hours of marriage following a row with his mother-in-law.

They had married without her knowledge and the husband, one Alexander Roy Williamson, had assumed that he would be able to take over her business by marrying her daughter.

When she told him he couldn’t, he stormed out and went to stay with his sister. Margaret Widdison followed him there and stayed with him for three days, sleeping on the sofa, but eventually told her to get out.

It is not known whether she had children illegitimately at some point before or after, or whether the presence of children is hearsay from the time.

A report from June 1959 reveals that Stewart was found not guilty of murder but was sentenced to life imprisonment for manslaughter due to diminished responsibility. The judge ruled that he did not have to serve a whole-life term.

“The authority may take steps they think right to see that he is looked after for such a period as they think proper,” he said.

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