Leicester Journal, Friday 15 September, 1854
(William Holyland, 1813-1854 married Elizabeth Toon, born 15 September 1810, daughter of James Toon and Ann nee Possnett). Mr Musson was the warden of the gaol: other names are witnesses.


An inquest was held at the gaol on Monday last, before Mr. Gregory, on the body of William Holyland, late of Syston, who was committed for trial for an assault on Robert Taylor, and who was found dead in his cell on Saturday afternoon, having cut his throat with the knife given him with his dinner.

Mr. Musson produced the warrant for the committal of the deceased.

William Godfrey, one of the warders of teh gaol, deposed that on Saturday afternoon on going round to collect the knives andd cans after the prisoners had dined, he saw the deceased lying on the floor of his cell. He immediately summoned the principal warder (John Goadby,) and on entering the cell they found the prisoner quite dead, his throat being cut. The knife given him with his dinner was covered with blood. He had not eaten any of his dinner. The witness added that he had never seen anything in the conduct of deceased to call for particular remark.

George Greasley, the warder under whose care the prisoner had been during the greatest part of his incarceration, deposed to taking him his dinner at on o'clock on Saturday. He had not, during the time the deceased had been under his care, observed anything remarkable about him. After seeing any of his friends, he used to appear fretful adn low spirited, but never complained of being unwell and had never been punished. He was at work on Satuday chopping wood, which was however by his own choice, work being optional with the prisoners before trial.

William Noble, another warder, said that on Saturday the deceased had seen some friends, adn when he left them was observed to weep. It was however very common for prisoners to weep after seeing their friends, and witness therefore took no notice of it.

James Teesdale, assistant storekeeper, deposed that he went to the cell of the deceased on the previous Monday to see if he wanted any more work to do, when he found him weeping. That was the first time he had seen him do so. He said it was on account of his wife and family. The next day he found him reading the Bible and he appeared to have been weeping again. The deceased did his work well, and witness had never had occasion to find fault with him.

Mr. Bullock, house surgeon of the Infirmary, gave evidence to the effect that the decesed was quite dead when he was summoned to the case. The quantity of blood he had lost was sufficient to cause death. The wound was just such as a man might be expected to inflict on himself with such an instrument as the knife now produced.

Mr. Benfield, surgeon to the gaol, corroborated Mr. Bullock's evidence as to the nature of the wound, adding that deceased had enjoyed good health during his imprisonment, but appeared from the aspect of his countenance to be of an anxious disposition. He had never through however that his mind was affected.

Phillis Baker, of Syston, sister to deceased, gave evidence to the effect that on the day he was taken into custody for assaulting Taylor, he came into the house and lay with his head on the table for some time without speaking. He then got up and went towards the railway. Fearing he meant to throw himself under a train, she followed him. A train passed before he reached the line, and witness then ran back to the town for assistance. She did not see the deceased any more till he was in custody. This witness deposed also that the deceased had an uncle who had been deranged for eight years, and a cousin who had been four years in the County Lunatic Asylum, and who though now at liberty did not seem in her right mind. He had himself also been in a low and uneasy state of mind for the last six months.

P. C. Ward deposed that he had known deceased five years. He was much given to drink, and when intoxicated was like a madman. At other times he was dull, and witness thought he had been much depressed since he was tried some time ago for manslaughter.

Mr. Matthew Toone, brother-in-law of the deceased, confirmed the evidence of the last witness as to his violent conduct when intoxicated, and also stated that he had been much cast down since his committal, as he did not expect it.

John Hall, a warder of the prison, deposed to conducting deceased to the visiting room on Saturday for an interview with his wife. He wept on seeing her, and they had some conversation about his being bailed out. He seemed to think that his friends were not doing for him as much as they could in the matter.

The jury found, that the deceased destroyed himself while in an unsound state of mind.

He was 42 years of age and leaves a widow and several children.

(Transcribed from the newspaper article by Alison Toon. All transcription errors are mine. Reproduced with kind permission of

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