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Frederick Rothwell HOLT





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: To collect insurance money
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 24, 1919
Date of birth: 1887
Victim profile: Kathleen Breaks, 26 (his ex-lover)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Blackpool, Lancashire, North West England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Manchester's Strangeways Prison on April 13, 1920

Frederick Rothwell Holt was a young officer during the First World War who had been invalided out of the army suffering from depression and amnesia. When he had recovered sufficiently he moved to Lancashire and it was while living there that he met and fell in love with Kitty Breaks, who was already married.

Not letting this stand in their way she left her husband and they lived together for a couple of years.

In the early morning of christmas eve 1919 the 26 year old body of Kitty Breaks was found among the sand dunes at St Annes near Blackpool. She had been shot three times with a revolver. Holt's revolver and gloves were lying nearby. Her lover was arrested and charged with her murder.

At his trial at Manchester Assizes his defending counsel, Sir Edward Marshall Hall, showed Holt's persecution mania, telling of Holt's accusations against the police of sending germ-laden fleas and dogs to his cell, and declared the defendant unfit to plead.

It was to no avail and Holt was found guilty, the jury preferring to believe the prosecution's theory of a motive based on Kitty's £5,000 insurance policy.

His appeal was dismissed and he was hanged on 13 April 1920 at Strangways prison by John Ellis at the age of 32.


Frederick Holt

The case of Lieutenant Holt is unusual due to the fact that he was invalided out of the British Army after World War One, and was later sentenced to death for murder.

The Case Details

Lieutenant Frederick Rothwell Holt served with the 4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment during World War One. While serving in France, he was invalided out of the army with shell-shock and was suffering from depression.

He returned to Lancashire together with an inherited annual income of £500, settling down with Kitty Breaks, who was six years younger than Holt and separated from her husband. During November 1919, Breaks insured her life for £5,000 and made a will naming Holt as her beneficiary.

On 24 December 1919, Kitty Breaks shot body was found near Blackpool. Footprints were found in the sand near her body, and these were later confirmed to match Holt's boots. The additional evidence of Holt's ex-service revolver and one blood-stained glove were also found buried near by.

During Holt's trial for the murder of Kitty Breaks, he seemed to not be aware of what was happening in the court. He also claimed that the police had tried to kill him using mad dogs, germ-carrying flies and gas.

His defending barrister, Sir Edward Marshall Hall, claimed that Holt had gallantly served his country in the First World War and been injured. As a consequence of his injuries and being invalided from the army, Holt became insane. Marshall Hall stated that Holt was insane and did not realise or understand the consequences of his alleged actions.

The prosecution claimed that Holt had been living beyond his means, and that he murdered Breaks to claim on the insurance policy.

Holt was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. On 13 April 1920, Holt was hanged at Manchester's Strangeways Prison.


Lieutenant Frederick Rothwell Holt

On Christmas Eve, 24th December 1919 the body of 26 year old Kathleen Breaks was found dead lying among the sand dunes on the beach at Lytham St Annes near Blackpool. She had been shot three times with a revolver. Footprints, a Webley service revolver and blood stained gloves were found nearby in the dunes.

Soon afterwards, Lieutenant Frederick Holt, who had been Kathleen's lover, was arrested, charged with her murder and tried at Manchester Assizes between the 23rd and 27th February 1920 before Mr. Justice Greer.

His defence of insanity was rejected. The prosecution's case was that Holt had murdered Kathleen Breaks (also known as Kitty) for her considerable life insurance, after he had persuaded her to make him her sole beneficiary. Holt appealed his death sentence claiming that having earlier contracted syphilis in 1920 in Malaya it had unbalanced his mind. He was examined by Home Office psychiatrists who rejected the appeal. Frederick Holt was hanged by public hangman John Ellis on the 13th April 1920.


13 April 1920 – Frederick Rothwell Holt

An ex-World War I soldier put his crime down to post-traumatic stress disorder, but he still ended up on the gallows. Lieutenant Frederick Rothwell Holt had murdered his girlfriend, then tried to plead insanity. But there was a huge question of a £5,000 life insurance policy hanging over the case…

Point Breaks

An invalid following the war, Holt retired from the army and shacked up Kitty Breaks in Lancashire, who'd split up from her husband. They had a tidy £500 income per year, which Holt had inherited and things were seemingly going well. So it was a bit of shocker that, on Christmas 1919, when everyone should be preparing for the wintery festivities, Breaks' body turned up on the beach at Lytham St Annes, near Blackpool. She'd been shot three times.

Footprints nearby matched his boots and his gun and a bloodied glove were also found buried near the corpse.

On this evidence, Holt was hauled in for questioning and it transpired that just a month before the murder, Breaks had taken out life insurance to the tune of £5,000, and guess who was the sole beneficiary? Holt: and that formed the basis of the prosecution. He stood accused of living beyond his means and killing his girlfriend so he could pocket the payout.

A lad insane

Holt, on the other hand, accused the police of setting mad dogs on him and trying to kill him with germ-ridden flies and poison him with gas. In other words, he was claiming post-traumatic stress and depression. However his plea of insanity fell on deaf ears and the jury found in favour of the prosecution.

He then appealed asserting that he'd caught syphilis while serving in Malaya and this had tipped him over the edge. But the Home Office refused to entertain the idea after he was checked over by psychiatrists.

Holt was executed, aged 32, at Strangeways in Manchester by John Ellis.


Lieutenant Frederick Rothwell Holt


Kathleen Breaks



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