Murder in Store
In November of 1907 the country was shocked by a brutal killing in a Co-op
store at Windy Nook in Gateshead. It was a cautionary tale of what can
happen when respectable citizens take the law into their own hands.
Goods had been going missing from the store with no signs of forced
entry. Members of the local Co-op committee feared it was an inside job
and didn't want to involve the police because it would bring scandal on
the good name of the North Eastern Co-operative Society.
So one dark night, three committee members and a young Co-op apprentice
lay in wait for the thief. They tackled him and there was a violent
struggle. Suddenly the man pulled out a gun and shot one man, John
Patterson, through the head. The victim died several hours later.
Christopher Carr was wounded in the hip which left him permanently
The intruder ran off, bravely pursued by one
Mrs Ather, who lived above the stores and was married to one of the
committee men. Clad only in a nightdress and brandishing an axe, she
gave chase but the killer made off.
soon led them to Joseph William Noble, a local colliery blacksmith. They
found large amounts of Co-op goods in his stores, plus tools of his
trade which could also be used for housebreaking.
there was one problem - the committee members all knew Joe Noble and
they all swore the man in the shop had been a stranger. But when Noble's
trial went ahead, the weight of circumstantial evidence persuaded them
that Noble must have been the man after all. The blacksmith went to the
gallows on March 24th 1908, protesting his innocence to the end. His
last words to the executioner were: "Don't hurt my neck".
Joseph William Noble was a Gateshead blacksmith, employed
by the LNER Railway convicted of the murder of John Patterson who was
shot dead at a Co-o store at Windy Nook.
To combat increasing burglaries
at the store that autumn, the owner posted a number of watchmen. All was
quiet until one night at the beginning of November 1907, when two
watchmen saw an intruder enter through a back door.
He was immediately
set upon by one of the watchmen called Ather. The other guard, John
Patterson, was fearful that his colleague was handing out a beating too
brutal and told him to calm down.
Both men then took hold of the
intruder but he managed to pull a gun from his pocket and fired point
blank at Patterson who fell dead. The intruder continued firing while
watchman Ather secured all the exits, but the man managed to escape
through a window and vanish into the night.
He was arrested soon after
and identified as Joe Noble, a local railway blacksmith who also made
and repaired handguns. Noble protested his innocence but was found in
possession of some items stolen from the store.
Noble was tried before
Mr Justice Chanell at Durham Assizes, and when asked if he had anything
to say before sentence of death was passed he remarked: 'You may break
my neck, but you won't break my heart!'
Henry and Thomas Pierrepoint
carried out the execution on the 24th March 1908 in Durham. Noble was
forty eight at the time of his death.