Anyone popping to the shop to buy a packet of humbugs should cast their mind back to the mid-19th century when a mix up with ingredients at a Bradford sweet-seller’s led to the deaths of ten people, including a number of children.

The so-called lozenge poisonings took place in the city in 1858. Sweet seller William Hardacre, who was known locally as ‘Billy Humbug’ or ‘Humbug Willie’ sold confectionery at the Saturday Green Market in Bradford.

Billy bought them from a supplier called Joseph Neal who made them at his premises on Stone Street near Manor Row.

To make the sweets cheaper he added an ingredient called ‘daft’ from the druggist Charles Hodgson’s shop at Baildon Bridge.

In October 1858 Hodgson was sick and his inexperienced assistant William Goddard selected arsenic in error. The result was multiple deaths and others with sudden, violent illness.

The case brought about new legislation and labelling requirements on poisons and drugs.

The shocking tale is one of a number included in Yorkshire author Wendy Rhodes’ new book Bloody Yorkshire, a compilation of 13 of the vilest crimes which stunned and gripped the nation.

Another famous and more gruesome case that features in the book is that of the murder and mutilation of seven-year-old John Gill who was last seen by his mother on the morning of December 27, 1888 when he climbed on to milkman William Barrett’s cart to help him on his round.

When he failed to return to his home in Thorncliffe Road, Manningham, his parents were frantic and made efforts to find out where he had gone.

On December 29, a local stableman came across the badly mutilated remains of the boy in a stable block near where the Gills lived. The many horrific injuries included part of his intestines and heart being removed and placed around his neck, both ears being sliced off and the removal of his genitals.

Barrett was arrested and discharged – twice, with the evidence against him being flimsy. To this day the murder remains unsolved.

Three years later, a horrific murder of a five-year-old, Barbara Waterhouse, took place in Horsforth, with all the grisly hallmarks of the Gill case.

Despite a thorough investigation, no link was proved. In this case, the victim’s family did get justice: Walter Turner, aged 32, a weaver, was charged and hung for the crime.

The author describes each case in detail, with murders in cities, towns and villages across Yorkshire.

One of what Wendy terms the ‘country’s vilest and inexplicable murders’ happened in 1847 in Mirfield where three people - an elderly couple and their servant girl - were brutally butchered to death without provocation.

It happened at Water Royd House, in a secluded position surrounded by fields and footpaths. The only way to it was via a private lane to the rear.

The scene was discovered by a young boy Joshua Green, who ‘was shocked to see blood oozing from under the front door.’ In his own words: ‘I saw bool running out, bubbling out, lumps like.’

Wendy describes the detailed investigation following the case, which, after reaching court, came to the wrong conclusion. But further developments soon rectified the situation

This well-written, carefully researched, illustrated book will appeal to historians, and those interested in true crime.

*Bloody Yorkshire by Wendy Rhodes is available from Amazon priced £7.99.

Helen Mead