On 25th September 1948, this terraced cottage in Southowram, also known as Craggan, was the scene of most brutal murder. The seventy year old occupant, Ernest Hargreaves Westwood, was discovered by his neighbour just before noon of that day, lying on his bed with severe head injuries. He was rushed to Halifax Infirmary but died later in the afternoon. The crime outraged the hilltop village. Westwood had been a well-respected member of the community, serving as organist and choir master at the nearby Methodist church and despite having retired from his main career, he continued to work collecting small debts in the district.
Police did not have to wait long to find their culprit, who turned himself in the following Monday pleading “I didn’t mean to kill him. I lost my temper.” The murderer was Arthur George Osborne, a twenty-eight year old originally from Bognor Regis, who’d been living locally for several years. He was recently unemployed, whilst his wife had been committed to Storthes Hall mental hospital in Kirklees. He claimed that the murder was the result of a burglary that had gone wrong and he had only killed Westwood accidentally during a confrontation, striking him on the head several times with the handle of the screwdriver he’d used to effect entry.
During the trial, it emerged that not only was Osborne a murderer, he was also a potential bigamist. A second marriage to a girl in Chichester had been due to take place on the day of the murder but it was cancelled when he failed to appear. Despite a recommendation by the defense that he be charged with the lesser crime of manslaughter, the jury returned a verdict of murder on December 1st. At this time, all such verdicts carried a mandatory capital sentence and whilst the judge appealed for clemency, the Home Secretary saw no reason to make an exception and Osborne was hanged at Armley Jail on December 30th 1948.
The house on Law Lane in which the murder had taken place remained empty for a couple of years after the act, during which time it acquired something of an evil reputation amongst local folk, scarcely surprising for a building with such a macabre history and air of abandonment. When Police Constable Vincent Egan moved into the cottage with his wife in 1950, they were fully aware of its past but remained undeterred. Nonetheless, prior to their subsequent departure from the village in January 1954, Mrs. Egan told the Brighouse Echo of a mysterious disturbance she’d experienced during her first week in the house.
It was a dark and stormy night, as is so often the case in such stories, not to mention in the hilltop village of Southowram. Her husband had gone out to walk his evening beat so Mrs. Egan was alone in the house, which still lacked a “warm, occupied atmosphere”. No sooner had she gone to bed than she her heard a rapping from above her head and from the corner of her eye saw the trapdoor into the underdrawing seemingly rise and fall of it own accord. As it continued to do so, she fled the building to search for her husband. He assured her that it must be a draught but given the reputation of the house, many at the time thought otherwise.