The Bill o’Jack’s Murders: The Multiple Retellings of a Mystery

In the 190 years since the Bill o’Jack’s murders, there have been numerous books, articles, poems and plays published on the story. Some are creative, some are more academic. Do any of them shed any light on what might have happened?

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The Bill o’Jack’s Murders: Suspicion Falls on Reuben Platt

By the end of April 1832, it was still not known who had murdered Thomas and William Bradbury at Bill o’Jack’s. The main problem was that there was no way to identify a suspect. The only direct evidence against anyone was the mumbled words of William Bradbury as he lay dying. It was not even certain what he said. But this did not stop suspicion from falling, if we can believe the words of Joseph Bradbury in Saddleworth Sketches, upon Reuben Platt…

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The Bill o’Jack’s Murders: Finding a Motive

Although the original assumption was that the prime motive for Bill o’Jack’s murders was theft, this is not the only possibility. Both William and Thomas Bradbury had been in disputes with other people. Thomas, in particular, seems to have been a violent and dangerous man who enjoyed causing trouble. Not only that, but Thomas may have been involved in another case that came before the Coroner during the week he was killed. The case of a local servant and her illegitimate child…

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The Bill o’Jack’s Murders: The Red Bradburys

As the people who had been detained on suspicion of murdering William and Thomas Bradbury were gradually released, it seemed that the culprits would never be found. But then two new suspects emerged – a father and son who it was claimed had a strong motive for silencing Thomas Bradbury. For years afterwards, the family were believed to be involved. But was there actually any evidence against the “Red Bradburys”?

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The Bill o’Jack’s Murders: The Night Before

While we can be fairly certain of most of the events which followed the discovery of William and Thomas Bradbury at on 3 April, there is much less clarity about what happened the night before. Almost everything we know comes from the evidence of one man, Reuben Platt. He spent maybe a couple of hours with Thomas Bradbury that evening before the two went their separate ways . His description of their encounter with three suspicious men formed the basis of a frenzied hunt for suspects in the following days, and much speculation since.

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The Bill o’Jack’s Murders: The Tales of Thomas Smith, Ammon Platt and Joseph Bradbury

Apart from the three journalists who covered the story for the newspapers, we have two other accounts of what happened in the hours after the discovery at Bill o’Jack’s. But the major source for many who wrote about the murders afterwards was a book called Saddleworth Sketches. And its author, the mysterious Joseph Bradbury, did not always tell the truth…

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