Farsley killer told police 'a dead witness cannot talk' after 1970s double murder

“He gave his life for us and let us never forget it and be grateful that he was a good steward."

By Georgina Morris
Saturday, 15th February 2020, 6:00 am

Those were the words uttered almost 50 years ago by the Rev Ronald Whitehead at the funeral of Inspector Barry Taylor, a father-of-two murdered while on duty in Leeds.

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Memorial service to mark 50 years since double murder at Sunny Bank Mills in Far...

It is fitting then that a memorial service will be held today to remember Insp Taylor and night watchman Ian Riley, who lost his life at the hands of the same killer.

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Ian Riley and Inspector Barry Taylor were murdered at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley on February 15, 1970.

The pair had simply been doing their jobs when they each encountered burglar Neil George Adamson at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley on the night of February 15, 1970.

He turned a sawn-off shotgun on them before going on the run, sparking a two-day man hunt involving dozens of police officers.

A court would later hear how he told police: “I figured that I should get no more for murder than attempted murder and, you know, a dead witness cannot talk.”

The events of that fateful night shocked the local community and had a profound impact on the families of the two victims.

A memorial service will be held at Sunny Bank Mills, where the two men were killed.

Mandy Cook, a niece of Insp Taylor, was born 17 months after the murders, which were discussed very little by her family as she grew up.

"The day after he was murdered, he was meant to be going to my mum's house for some Sunday lunch," Mandy said.

"She thought it was a practical joke when people were knocking on the door. She demanded to be taken to the morgue to see him herself. The last thing she remembered was she just fainted into a policeman's arms."

'In cold blood, he shot him down'

The front page of the Yorkshire Evening Post on February 16, 1970.

Coverage from the Yorkshire Evening Post at the time details the murders and the police investigation that followed.

The front page on February 16 included a first person account by engineer James Edward Hare, who lived in a house on the mill site.

He wrote: "When I got to about 50 yards from the main gate, I saw a police inspector running towards the gate. Then I heard a shot… the Inspector staggered maybe five or six yards and them slumped face downwards on the ground. At this time I was around 10 yards behind him and saw nothing of the gunman.

"I went to the Inspector whom I now know to be Mr Taylor to see if I could render any help. I shone my torch on him and saw he was bleeding from the nose and mouth but was still just alive."

A family photograph of Inspector Barry Taylor earlier in his policing career.

As two other officers arrived, Mr Hare went in search of the missing night watchman and checked inside the time office at the main gate.

He described finding the office in darkness but with glass in a little peephole broken: "I shone my torch through the broken glass and saw a man's feet and legs. I pushed open the door and found a body on the floor, the upper part had been covered with a coat.

"I moved back the coat and found to my horror it was our night watchman, Mr Riley, and he was dead: there were shotgun wounds around his neck.

"I think the murdered must have come over a boundary wall at the back, then walked down to the time office at the main gate where Mr Riley was. Then, in cold blood, he shot him down."

Coverage in the same edition details how the man hunt had been extended to include the district between Pudsey and the Swinnow estate at Bramley.

It said: "Throughout the hours of darkness the search went on with armed policemen standing by ready to rush to any place if the gunman was sighted."

Ian Riley with his wife Rosemary on their wedding day in July 1964.

'It sent shivers down my spine'

Mandy, 48, now lives in South Shields but has visited Sunny Bank Mills on a number of occasions.

"They actually took me through my uncle's last footsteps," she said. "It sent shivers down my spine just thinking about what happened.

"I think the whole thing from him hearing the alarm going off and getting to the mill was only 11 minutes.

"When you go and visit, people are so friendly and it's surreal to think anything like that could happen."

It was a sentiment shared by her uncle's widow when she was interviewed at the family home in Calverley by a YEP reporter.

In a piece which ran on the day after the murder, Marjorie Taylor described how she had been woken at 3.30am that day by officers knocking at the door.

Sitting in the living room with her three-year-old son and four-month-old daughter, she said: “We have been here only three weeks, and I never expected anything like that around here. It seems so quiet."

Her 30-year-old husband was described as having had a bright future ahead of him and one of the youngest inspectors on the West Yorkshire force.

Mrs Taylor told the reporter her son had asked if his daddy was at home, adding: "I said he has gone away for a long time and he thinks he is on another course. He is too young to understand properly what has happened.”

'The family just weren't allowed to talk about it'

It was a different story for Mr Riley's nephew, Paul Colbeck, who was a pupil at Waterloo Juniors in Pudsey at the time of the murders.

Now 58 and living in York, he said: "The family just weren't allowed to talk about it. If we saw anything on the news, it would be turned off.

"I was eight at the time and my sister would have been four. I was old enough to understand. I guess that's the way parenting went in those days."

He said he is lucky enough to remember conversations with his uncle, who was married and lived with his wife Rosemary in Red Lane, Farsley.

Teachers at his school were also good at looking after him following the tragedy, he said.

"I remember going into morning assembly and the headmaster saying they were going to do a collection for both families," Paul said.

"I seem to remember one of the teachers was from Farsley. I think he knew my uncle and the burglar involved."

The appeal fund for the dependants of both men killed had been started by the then Mayor of Pudsey, Coun Reginald Milder.

YEP reporter on scene as murderer arrested

The February 17 edition of the YEP reported that the owners of Sunny Bank Mills had donated £5,000 towards the fund, while the newspaper's owners had given £200.

That evening's paper also detailed the capture of Adamson after 60 police officers had swooped on a terraced house in Colne, Lancashire, at around 3am and surrounded it for two hours.

A reporter who was at the scene wrote: "Cars cordoned off each end of the street - floodlighting the area with their headlamps. Uniformed men and CID - many of them armed - stood by. Detectives huddled in house doorways as the drama began.

"As the snow raged through the stabbing headlamps, police from time to time used loud-hailers. For a long time there was only silence from the dark house. We stood waiting tensely and nervously."

Detective Chief Superintendent Joe Mounsey, of Lancashire County CID, eventually entered the house unarmed and alone, emerging a few minutes later with Adamson.

After the 31-year-old from Pudsey gave himself up, he appeared at Pudsey Borough Court charged with the two murders.

He would go on to be sentenced at Leeds Assizes on May 11 to life imprisonment, having admitted two counts of murder and seven further offences.

Mr Justice Cantley told him: “I propose to recommend to the Secretary of State that a minimum of 30 years should elapse before your release. I do not mean by that that you have any reason to hope that after 30 years you will be released.”

A report in the YEP noted Adamson appeared to be weeping as he left the dock, while two women in the public gallery also wept.

'He gave his life for us and let us never forget it'

Two days after Adamson was arrested, the funeral of Insp Taylor took place in the village of Swinefleet, near Goole.

Police officers from throughout West Yorkshire lined the route to the church, with the YEP reporting that more than 200 people, including high-ranking police officers and villagers who knew Insp Taylor as a boy, had crowded into St Margaret’s Church.

The Rev Ronald Whitehead told the congregation that Insp Taylor was a man who had shown exceptional service to duty and responsibility.

He said: “We are proud of him in his faithfulness and in his responsibility during years as a policeman. He gave his life for us and let us never forget it and be grateful that he was a good steward."

By contrast, Mr Riley was remembered at a memorial service on May 17 along with everyone who had been cremated at Airedale and Wharfedale Crematorium between February 11 and March 23 that year.

Paul does not remember going along as a schoolboy, but will be there to represent his family at the memorial service being held at 11.30am today at Sunny Bank Mills.

He found out about it after a friend told him about a Facebook page created to remember the tragedy.

"What has been interesting for me is people starting to talk comment and say they remember Ian," he said. "Somebody said they went to school with him and knew my auntie. I would never have known that. I'm finding out things as we go along."

It is through this page that plans for the memorial service have been pulled together, with Mandy acting as a driving force for the 50th anniversary of the murders to be marked.

The present day owners of the mill also plan to put a memorial bench in place at a later date, to create a permanent reminder at the scene for the first time.

"Everybody that I've spoken to that was around then said that it really shook them up because it was such a small little town," Mandy said.

"I just think it's not right that it's not commemorated in some way. Them being killed in a matter of minutes, for it to be overlooked, it just needs a little bit more respect - not just for me and the family, but for the town."

Ian Riley's death certificate.
The front page of the Yorkshire Evening Post on February 17, 1970.
The front page of the Yorkshire Evening Post on May 11, 1970 focused on the sentencing of Neil George Adamson.
Paul Colbeck as a toddler with his uncle Ian Riley.
Ian Riley was among the people remembered at a memorial service at Airedale and Wharfedale Crematorium on May 17, 1970.