Yorkshire Evening Press

18th October 1917


A shocking discovery was made at Elvington, near York last night. Harry BARKER, aged 28, a cashier and trades manager of an important York Institution, and his wife, Norah BARKER aged 28, being found dead in their bedroom with their throats deeply gashed from side to side. Both were in night attire, and on their bed was a blood stained razor.


Mr Barker, who is a son of ex-police constable Harry Barker, of the York City Force, now on the staff of the Minster Police, was due to report for military service at Fulford barracks today.

He and his wife formerly resided at Haxby road, York, but 6 or 8 months ago  took a furnished cottage at Elvington, which is about 7 miles from the city. Mr barker travelled daily to business by the Derwent Valley Light Railway, and usually returned home by the 6 0'clock train. He did so on Tuesday, when he appeared to be quite cheerful and showed no signs of concern at his impending transfer to the Army.


In fact, one of his fellow passengers remarked that he had never seen a man take it in such good part, while today one of his business colleagues told a representative of the "Yorkshire Evening Press" that Mr Barker was keen to join up, and had only consented to his previous exemption on account of the difficulty the Institution experienced in filling his place.

To a friend a few days ago, Mr Barker said that he was looking forward to joining the Army. He was keen to enter the R.A.M.C., and his employers had promised to keep his situation open for him pending his return to civil life.


The deceased was again seen later on Tuesday night. Nothing, however, was seen of either him of his wife yesterday.

At about 7 0'clock in the morning a neighbour heard a heavy thud which appeared to come from the furnished cottage occupied by Mr and Mrs Barker, but naturally attached no significance to it.

When, however, nothing was seen of the couple during the day and the fowls in the garden remained unfed, some of the villagers became curious, and the Vicar's wife met the 6 0'clock evening train at the station, and communicated her suspicions to her husband, who had spent the day in York.

He, with the others, went to the cottage, but no response could be got by their knocking. The front and the back doors were locked. The back door was also bolted and the key of the front door was in the lock. It was apparent that someone was inside.


One of the bedroom windows was slightly open so a ladder was obtained and an entrance was effected by a resident in the village.

A gruesome sight confronted him. On the bed was Mr Barker lying on his back with a deep gash in his throat from ear to ear. Life was extinct and there was every appearance that he had fallen back onto the bed after the wound had been inflicted.

Close to him on the bed was the blood stained razor, and between he bed and the wall facing the window there lay on the floor, huddled up, the body of Mrs Barker, whose throat was also cut too, and was dead. In both cases rigor mortis had set in- a sign that death had taken some few hours previously.

The police were sent for and Inspector Peckitt of Escrick, Sergeant Cross, of Fulford, and a constable from Wheldrake were soon on the scene and commenced their investigations.


It is believed that Mrs Barker was very much depressed at her husband having to join the Forces. Before her marriage she was a teacher at St. Denis school, York. Mr Barker was an enthusiastic member of the Volunteer Training Corps.

The tragedy created a very painful sensation; for Mr and Mrs Barker were highly esteemed both in York and Elvington, and the deepest sympathy is felt in the city for ex-Sergeant Barker, the father of the deceased man, and with Mr and Mrs Shaw, the parents of the deceased woman, who reside in Markham street, York.


Page 4 of the paper the same date:

A representative of the "Yorkshire Evening Press", who visited Elvington today writes:

The scene of the tragedy is a pretty little creeper-clad cottage at the bottom end of the village, opposite the school house. On all sides one hears nothing of the deceased, but that they were a happy and most devoted couple and on good terms with everyone with whom they came into contact with. The tragedy has cast quite a gloom over the village

Mr and Mrs Barker went to reside in Elvington about the latter end of May last and took a furnished cottage, Mr Barker going to York to business each morning and returning in the evening. The reason for them residing there is given as being a consequence of anxiety over the air raids.


October 19th  1917




The Coroner summing up said the evidence negatived the idea of anybody, except the two people who were killed, having anything whatever to do with it. they were alone in the house at the time, and whatever occurred in the room they were alone responsible. It was almost conclusive that the tragedy occurred at about 7am on Wednesday when the neighbour heard a thud. It was for the jury to say whether the husband cut the wife's throat, and then his own, or whether it was a double suicide, or whether the wife cut the husband's throat, and then her own.

There  was little evidence to support the last theory. Having deciding what took pplace, there would remain the question of state of mind. With regard to that, it was certainly the most extraordinary case he had come across in the course of his long experience. These two people apparently- according to testimony of relations and neighbours- a devoted couple. the husband seemed willing to do "his bit" for the country. There was no shrinking from that, and his wife, no doubt sorry to lose him. It really was the most incomprehensible thing. One had heard of compulsive insanity, a sudden attack of insanity coming upon a person, and the absence of any motive in this terrible case it seemed to suggest a sudden attack of insane impulse which led the man to cut the wife's throat.

The father of the deceased man, recalled at  the request of the jury, said that about three and a half years ago his son suffered a nervous breakdown.


The jury returned the following verdict:

" The deceased man went downstairs in a fit of temporary insanity, fetched his razor, and cut his wife's throat, and also his own"


OCTOBER 24th 1917


Mr and Mrs Barker and family wish to thank all kind friends, both at York and Elvington, for sympathy shown to them in their sad bereavement; and also for floral tributes