The grim discovery of a boy’s mutilated body is at the centre of a new crime novel set in Victorian Bradford.

In the case of the murder of seven-year-old John Gill - affectionately known as Johnny - there are parallels to be drawn with murders carried out in London by Jack the Ripper.

Also on the list of possible suspects, is the local milkman William Barrett. Or the crime could have been committed by a complete stranger, an opportunist.

The harrowing account of the brutal murder, in 1888, was labelled as one of the worst murders in England’s criminal history.

John’s body was discovered in a stable block by butcher’s apprentice Joseph Bucke.

‘Revulsion consumed him. He rushed into the open and fell over his own feet as he slipped repeatedly on the wet cobblestones, trying desperately to find traction in his haste to escape the atrocious scene.’

Joseph rushed into the street to the bakery to raise the alarm. “Mr. Teale, sir, come sharp! I’ve found a body at the stables! It’s ‘orrible, sir! All cut up an’all! I think Jack the Ripper wor ‘ere, sir!”

This easy to read book is filled with evocative, graphic descriptions. The unsavoury details of how the corpse was found are not for the faint-hearted and bring strong reminders of the reports of the Peter Sutcliffe killings in West Yorkshire the1970s and early 1980s.

Author Kathryn Bax, who writes under the name of Kathryn McMaster, has been thorough in her research. She delves into the background of those living in the community, exposing the grief and trauma of John’s parents Thomas and Mary Ann Gill, on hearing that the body is that of their son.

Then comes the process of unravelling the facts, and finding out who killed the young boy.

Similarities between the murder and the Ripper killings in London are explored.

‘Doctor Lodge had one more visitor that day, a Doctor Phillips, who had travelled all the way up from London. He was the divisional surgeon from Whitechapel where equally hideous murders had taken place of late, involving several prostitutes. He had come to Bradford, at the request of Chief Constable James Withers, to find out if the murder of John Gill could be linked in any way to the murders in London done by the hand of Jack the Ripper.’

After examining the body, the surgeon concluded that Johnny had not been killed by the same hand as those who had died in the East End of London.

The resulting arrest and charging of William Barrett, and the court case that followed, based on insufficient evidence, is a travesty of justice. Sadly, such ill-considered events can still take place today.

'In the end, all the evidence was circumstantial', however, when they added up, 'It overwhelmingly showed a picture of guilt,' writes Kathryn.

One of the saddest aspects of the case is that John’s family was completely ignored throughout the process.

‘Thomas died many years before Mary Ann, in November 1909 at the age of 54, taken to his grave far too soon, probably brought on by stress and intense grief. Mary Ann visited Johnny’s grave in the Windhill Cemetery on Owlet Road every Saturday for forty-four years, until her own death at the age of 76, in June 1932.’

The family were buried together in the same grave.

A writer of fiction novels based on true crimes, Kathryn Bax lives on the edge of a forest in a stone farmhouse in Italy.

When she is not researching crimes or writing books, she is to be found traipsing around the farm in gumboots bottle-feeding lambs in the spring and picking olives in the autumn. She is also the co-founder of One Stop Fiction where readers can read free and discounted books.

*Who Killed Little Johnny Gill? Is published by Drama Llama Press; It is also available from Amazon.