Lover murdered in the sand dunes

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IS it true that a woman was murdered on the sandhills, off Clifton Drive North, St Annes, by a soldier, after the end of the 1914-18 War?

Mrs C M St Annes

ON the morning of Christmas Eve, 1919, the body of a young woman, aged 25, was found in a hollow in the sandhills on the seaward side of the road.

She had died of gunshot wounds, and her hat and umbrella were found close by.

A bank book in her possession identified her as Mrs Kathleen Elsie Breaks of Ryecroft Farm, Dudley Hill, Bradford. She was also carrying a letter from a Fairhaven resident.

Late on Christmas Eve, police detained a Mr Frederick Rothwell Holt of Lake Road, Fairhaven, as he left a Lytham hotel.

On Christmas Day, at 7.30am, he was charged with causing Mrs Breaks’ death.

Holt, aged 31, was well known in the area, and was of independent means.

He had been a Lieutenant in the Lytham Company of the 4th Battalion North Lancashire Regiment (Territorials).

When war broke out in 1914 he was posted to France, but after only a short period invalided home.

For 18 months prior to her murder, Mrs Breaks was separated from her husband. She worked in a record shop in Bradford and was back living with her parents. She left home against her mother’s wishes, on December 22, stating she was going to Blackpool.

She dined at the Palatine Hotel and then asked staff how to get a tram to Lytham, and that was the last time she was seen alive.

A few days later, a revolver was found near to where she had died.

It was traced back to a gunsmith in Preston, who confirmed it had been sold to Holt.

He and Mrs Breaks had first met at a Fylde Hydro in summer, 1918.

When she returned to Bradford, Holt became a frequent visitor, becoming known to some members of her family.

Following her death, it was discovered that she had only recently taken out a life insurance policy for £5,000 on herself, and that the premiums were being paid by Holt.

Furthermore it was discovered she had recently made a will, leaving the bulk of her life insurance policy to Holt, in the event of her death.

Love letters were also found from Holt to his victim.

His trial was held at Manchester Assizes, and his defence was that he was mentally unfit to plead.

This plea was dismissed and the trial went ahead. The Attorney General prosecuted.

After a five-day trial Holt was found guilty and was sentenced to death.

The case put St Annes in the national spotlight, with all the daily papers giving the trial prominence.

Much of this information and more can be found in Gabriel Harrison’s book Rage of Sand, the Story of St Annes on Sea.

Alex Maitland

Matt Warhurst