The one night killing spree that shocked whole of Sheffield

One of Sheffield’s most horrific murders was the beheading of a child by its father, who then went on to try and murder the mother and another woman in an evening killing spree.

Wednesday, 17th June 2020, 4:42 pm

Elizabeth Slater, who was around two years old at the time of her death at the hands of 20-year-old Alfred Waddington in August 1852.

Waddington, of Lord Street, in the Park area of Sheffield, had fathered Elizabeth to Sarah Slater, of Brown Street, Park, but had not married the woman and was reluctant to pay financial support for the child.

So much so that the week before the murder, Sarah had gone to the ity’s magistrates to force Waddington to make a financial contribution.

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The murder of toddler Elizabeth Slater in Victorian Sheffield is one of the city's most horrific.

There had subsequently been an altercation between the two, where Waddington, a grinder, was heard to shout “he would never pay another farthing”.

On the night of the murder, Sarah had left Elizabeth with an older child to look after her while she attended an education class at the Mechanics’ Institute, where Waddington appeared at around 8.30pm on August 18 and called her outside - initially telling her that the child had broken its neck.

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According to a report in The Times newspaper from the following day: “Waddington appeared at the door of the classroom and called out "Sarah Slater, you're wanted." She went to him, and asked "What have you done with the child?" She told him, and he then said, "You must go with me; it has fallen off a wall and has broken its neck."

“She immediately ran out of the room with him. On arriving in Silvester Lane he said she need not trouble herself for he had murdered the child. He pulled out a large clasp knife and said "Here's some of its blood”.

“The monster then fiercely attacked her and attempted to cut her throat. She guarded her neck with her hands, which were shockingly lacerated, and a little boy who saw the struggle called out "Murder!"”

Shortly afterwards, a young woman named Sarah Dobson - a friend of Sarah Slater - accosted Waddington after hearing rumours of the attacks and he immediately turned on her, stabbing her in the face.

He fled from her screams but later handed himself into constables, admitting that he had beheaded Elizabeth and dumped her body in Cutler’s Wood, where police found her remains the following day.

The following day, detailing the coroner’s hearing, The Times reported: “Mr Rayner, superintendent of police, detailed to the jury a confession which the prisoner had made to him when in custody. He admitted having murdered the child, but was sorry that he had done so. He said he was much attached to Sarah Slater, but she had taken up with another man, and he wished it had been Sarah rather than the child whose life he had taken. The jury returned a verdict of "Wilful Murder," and the prisoner was committed to York Castle for trial.”

Waddington was subsequently sentenced to death and was hanged in front of an 800-strong mob in York on January 8, 1853.

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