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Max Mayer HASLAM





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 22, 1936
Date of birth: 1913
Victim profile: Ruth Clarkson (a spinster in her seventies)
Method of murder: Beating with a heavy tyre lever, a section of iron railing, and a plank
Location: Nelson, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Strangeways Prison on 4 February 1937

The body of Ruth Clarkson, an elderly spinster, was found on 22nd June 1936 in her squalid home in Clayton Street, Nelson. Neighbours had noticed that there had been no sign of the old lady, or her dog, for several days and reported their concerns to the local police.

Officers gained entrance through the back door, which had been forced and relocked, to find the battered corpse. Miss Clarkson's dog was found hanging from a bedpost. While Miss Clarkson lived a penurous existence, surrounded by filth and decay, she was actually extremely wealthy with a very valuable collection of jewellery.

It was not long before detectives heard about items of jewellery being pawned and they were told that the items were being pledged by a dwarf. From that clue it did not take long before 23-year-old Max Mayer Haslam was in custody. He had a lengthy criminal record of minor theft. When he was searched not only was jewellery found in his pocket but so was a key which was later found to fit Miss Clarkson's back door. Haslam had recently had money to spend in the pubs and two of his associates, Thomas Barlow and John Davieson, told how Haslam had shown them items that he said he had stolen. Barlow even told officers that Haslam had offered him 200 to help him dispose of a body.

At his trial at Manchester Assizes evidence was given that Haslam's bloody palm-print had been found in the house and that bloodstains had been found on his boots. On 10th December 1936 the jury returned a verdict of guilty and Haslam was sentenced to death. He was hanged at Strangeways on 4th February 1937.


Dwarf murders old spinster in Clayton Street Nelson Lancashire in 1936

On 22 June 1936, neighbours of Ruth Clarkson, a spinster in her seventies, were becoming concerned for her wellbeing as they had not seen her or heard her dog barking for several days. It was rumoured locally that although Miss Clarkson lived a squalid and apparently poverty-stricken existence, she was actually a wealthy property owner and had a horde of money and expensive jewellery hidden somewhere in her rubbish-strewn and rodent-infested terraced house.

On the same day, two detectives from Nelson police station Detective Superintendent Linaker and Detective Chief Inspector Fenton called at the spinster's house in Clayton Street after receiving information from a 'nark' that a dwarf had been selling quality pieces of jewellery to local pawnshops. The policemen knew of the rumours of Miss Clarkson's Victorian jewellery collection, and wanted to check that it was still in her possession.

Despite knocking loud and long at the door of Number 56, they failed to gain entry and one of the worried neighbours told the detectives that Miss Clarkson's niece, Edith Edmunson, had a key and lived nearby. They got the key and used it to go into the house via the back door, which appeared to have been forced open and then relocked from the outside with a key.

Even the two seasoned officers were shocked by what they found. Lying amongst a midden of old newspapers, discarded bottles and tins, and half-eaten food, was the spinster's raggedly dressed and blood-soaked body. Her head was split open in several places and her lower limbs were exposed, but she had obviously put up a fight, as there were also blood spatters on the walls and ceiling. Close to Ruth's lifeless form lay a heavy tyre lever, a section of iron railing, and a bloodstained plank, which the detectives presumed to be the murder weapons. Upstairs, they found Miss Clarkson's pet terrier hanging by its neck from a length of twine attached to a bedpost. The dog's body had already begun to putrefy, and was riddled -with maggots.

Leaving the house guarded by several police constables, Linaker and Fenton went in search of their suspect. They knew of only one man in Nelson who was, in the terms of the time, classed as a dwarf Max Mayer Haslam, a surly petty criminal who had only recently been released from Strangeways Prison, and frequented local pubs and lodging houses in company with a small group of Nelson's misfits and ne'er-do-wells.They came across him in Pendle Street where he was walking with unemployed labourer,Thomas Barlow, and when they later searched him at the police station found him to be carrying several items of jewellery and a key of the type missing from Miss Clarkson's house. Haslam insisted that he had owned the jewellery for a long time and the key was for the back door of his father's house in Hey wood. The key proved not to fit any of the locks there, but when tried in the door of Number 56 Clayton Street, the lock opened without difficulty.

The police arrested Max Mayer Haslam for the murder of Miss Clarkson and he stood trial at Manchester Assizes on 8 December 1936. The trial, presided over by Mr Justice Lawrence, lasted for two days and a variety of witnesses gave evidence. Two of the most important prosecution witnesses were Thomas Barlow, who was with Haslam at the time of his arrest, and John William Davieson. Both these men stayed at the same Nelson boarding house as the accused, and were frequently in his company. They separately told the court that Haslam had admitted to killing Miss Clarkson and her dog and had shown them various items he had gained by his crime. Haslam also had a good deal of money, some of which he had used to buy drinks in the pub for his friends and later to pay for tickets for them to visit the picture house.

Barlow also testified that when the two detectives had stopped the pair on Pendle Street on 22 June 1936. Haslam had just offered him 200 Pounds to drive a body up to the swamp at Coldwell and throw it in.

Haslam's defence lawyers counter-claimed that Barlow and Davieson had gone to No. 56 Clayton Street a week before the murder to 'case the joint' and had returned themselves to rob and kill Miss Clarkson. Medical and forensic evidence, however, showed that Haslam had recent small fingernail scratches behind his ears and on his chest when his arrest took place, and a palm-print left on a bloodstained chair at the crime scene had matched a print taken from Haslam's right hand. He also had a possible dog-bite on his right index finger and traces of human blood were found on the toecap of his left boot. When faced with this evidence, Haslam replied,'Not guilty. That's all I have to say.'

Having heard further evidence from a man claiming to have sold Haslam the tyre lever used in the killing, and having dismissed the accused man's alibi of being at a cricket match at the time of the offence, the jury took less than an hour to find him guilty of the murder of Ruth Clarkson.

Max Mayer Haslam was hanged at Strangeways Prison on 4 February 1937. An anti-hanging protest, led by Misses van der Elst, took place outside the jail whilst the execution took place, and at 9.15 in the morning, they played the hymn 'Nearer my God to Thee' as the officials posted the death notices for all to see.



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