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Nelson Leader, Friday 04 December 1931

Brierfield Driver Charged with Manslaughter.

Trial at Assizes.

Yesterday's Hearing Adjourned.

A Brierfield man, Harry Brown (32), timber salesman, of 6, Wolverden Road, pleaded "Not guilty" at Manchester Assizes yesterday, to a charge of the manslaughter of Mrs. Ellen Burrows (50), of The Bungalow, Barden Lane, Burnley.

The charge arose out of an accident in Barden Lane on Saturday, September 26th, when Mrs. Burrows received fatal injuries through being knocked down by a motor-car alleged to have been driven by Brown.

Mr. N. B. Goldie, K.C., M.P., and Mr. E. L. Fleming, M.P., appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. J. C. Jolly, instructed by Mr. G. B. Roberts, of Nelson, was for the defence.

Mr. Fleming in opening the case, said that on September 26th, just before 7 p.m., Mrs. Burrows with her little boy was walking along the footpath in Barden Lane.

At the same time Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, who were walking towards Burnley, saw a two-seater car travelling in the opposite direction, and estimated its speed at 40 miles an hour.

Mr. Robinson was attracted to take notice of the car by its speed, and some days afterwards identified it in the Burnley police yard.

As the car passed, Mr. Robinson noticed that the driver and a young woman seated by him were laughing and talking to each other.


The next witnesses were three young women, who would say that as they were crossing the canal bridge towards Fence they heard a terrific noise behind them, and on looking round saw the car approaching, and stood against the hedge to keep out of its way.

They would say that the car was travelling at a high speed as it crossed the bridge.

One of the girls, Gladys Williams, noticed that as the car flashed by it swerved to one side and then to the other and then ran towards Mrs. Burrows.

They did not see the car strike her, but she was found on the opposite side of the road, in the carriage way.

The car was found some yards further on down the road, upside down and very badly damaged.

A Mrs. Seedall, another witness would say that she saw the car bounce in the air as it crossed the bridge.

All the witnesses who saw the car in its progress towards Fence would say that it was travelling at a high speed.

After the accident Mrs. Burrows was taken to hospital, where she died the following Tuesday.


The car was later examined in the police yard by P.S. Wincott, the motor mechanic of the fire brigade, who found that apart from the damage received in the accident there was no mechanical defect in it.

Mr. Fleming submitted that the accident was caused by the speed of the car, which was driven in a reckless manner, and without regard for life or limb of anybody in the road.

A large number of witnesses were called for the prosecution.

Elsie Ann Driver, Edge End Farm, Nelson, Brown’s passenger, said that she met accused at the Wellington Hotel, Burnley, by appointment. They left soon after 6-30 p.m. in Brown’s car and went to Worsthorne, Roggerham, Haggate and Harle Syke before going along Barden Lane. She expressed the opinion that the car was driven at a reasonable speed. As they crossed the canal bridge she saw Mrs. Burrows in the road close to the footpath.


Mrs. Burrows, as the car approached, pushed her little boy on to the footpath, and then she seemed to walk straight into the car. There was plenty of room on the right-hand side for the car to pass the woman. Witness was thrown on to the road when the accident occurred.

Eric Butterworth, motor driver, 275, Barden Lane, said that he heard the car passing his house, and from the noise which it made he judged that its speed was very fast. After the accident he put Brown and his passenger in his car to take them to hospital. On the way he called at a shop, and when he came out the young lady had gone.

Several witnesses gave evidence as to the car's speed and the manner in which it was driven. One of them, Jane Ellison, a weaver, of Hallows Street, said the speed was "very fast," and the wheels seemed to leave the ground as the car passed over the canal bridge. As the car approached Mrs. Burrows was walking on the edge of the footpath.

Gladys Williams, of Francis Street, Burnley, one of the three young women walking along the footpath, described how she heard a grinding noise, and turning round saw the car travelling at “a terrible speed.”


The car swerved slightly to the right, and the radiator struck Mrs. Burrows, who was on the edge of the footpath.

Ellen Hargreaves, machinist, of Abel Street, Burnley, said that the car "bounced" as it crossed over the canal bridge.

Ada Catherine Seedall, of Wod End Farm, Reedley, said that the motor leapt up into the air as it negotiated the bridge, and the driver seemed to lose control.

Mrs. Elizabeth Alice Hartley, of Lodge Farm, Burnley, described how from her living room she saw the car lift up twice off the ground and switch round into the gateway.

P.C. Fisher said he found marks of the car having travelled on the footpath.


Mr. Jolly, for the defence, said that evidence would be given of a mechanical defect in the car which accounted for the accident. Whatever error of judgement he might have been guilty of, Brown was not criminally negligent, and no one regretted more than he that he was the unfortunate cause of the death of Mrs. Burrows.

As he approached the canal bridge he applied his foot brake and sounded his horn. The bridge was humped-backed, and as the car passed the wheel liften about four inches off the ground.

Afterwards he drove the car for about 80 feet on his correct side, and then felt a tug on his steering column, which seemed to pull him over to his left-hand side.

Expert evidence would be that the tug was due to the loose condition of the steering bracket. He saw Mrs. Burrows in front of him. He ran on the footpath for 12 feet, and as he was in the act of attempting to right himself and get into the road again Mrs. Burrows, who had pushed her little boy on the pavement, suddenly jumped in front of him as if to cross to the other side of the road, and he was unable to avoid her.

Giving evidence, Brown estimated his speed at 30 miles per hour. He slackened speed and sounded his horn as he approached the bridge. Mrs. Burrows was walking in the road and the boy in the channel, and she turned on to the footpath when he went over the bridge.


When she saw him on the footpath she evidently thought he was going to continue along the footpath, and she ran into the road. He had turned back on to the road at the same time, and the car struck her. He could not avoid her.

He declutched and put on his foot and hand brakes just as the back wheel was passing over Mrs. Burrows, and that threw the car round.

Cross-examined by Mr. Goldie, Brown said that the canal bridge was admitted to be one of the worst in the county. He had his car under perfect control.

The persons who described his pace as terrific were probably no judges of speed. He estimated his own speed over the bridge at 20 miles per hour. It was ridiculous to say that his speed was terrific.

Hilder Strange, consulting engineer of Manchester, said the "pull over" to the left was due to a mechanical cause. In answer to Mr. Goldie, witness agreed that there was evidence of considerable speed.

At the conclusion of the evidence the hearing was adjourney until tomorrow, when counsel will address the jury.

Brown was granted bail.