Mystery solved! Stolen skull is returned to York pub after police track down the thief
It was one of the first crimes of the year in York – and among the most unusual police have investigated.
As YorkMix reported on 3 January, the skull of an executed prisoner was stolen from its display case at the Golden Fleece pub on Pavement.
The skull was from Elizabeth Johnson, the last prisoner to be put to death at the Knavesmire gallows, known as York’s Tyburn, in 1800.
Pub staff appealed for the artefact’s return to no avail. But the pub staff had a clear CCTV image of the suspect and contacted the police.
Officers launched an investigation and used CCTV from the pub and other sources to identify the suspect. A man in his twenties immediately admitted the theft and proceeded to show police to his fireplace where Elizabeth’s skull was sitting.
The officers were delighted to be able to return Elizabeth back to the pub.
The offender has been dealt with via an out of court disposal and has since written a letter of apology.
The offender was dealt with via a community resolution disposal. It’s a one off opportunity for the suspect to make amends for their actions – if they don’t have any previous record.
The victim agrees the reparations which can vary between a simple letter of apology through to paying for damages.
It allows the victim to get swift justice. But also keeps the suspect out of court and prevents them from getting a criminal record for what genuinely could be a ‘stupid mistake’
Source: North Yorkshire Police
PC Davies, who investigated the offence with his tutor, is seven weeks into his policing career. He said: “Before joining the police I was advised that no two days will ever be the same. This crime has certainly confirmed this.
“It was an interesting crime to investigate and at the same time has improved my knowledge on local history.
“I am chuffed that we were successful in identifying the offender and returning the stolen property.”
Elizabeth Johnson was hanged on Knavesmire on 23 August 1800, the last execution to take place there.
Her crime? She was found guilty of “uttering a forged £1 bank note with intent to defraud the Bank Of England in the parish of Pontefract on June 7th 1800”.