The Trial of Dr. Burke at the Leeds Assizes (2)

The above excerpt taken from his trial at the Leeds Assizes, was the understanding of Dr. Burke’s drink problem at the time.

It was never brought up in court that mental health issues ran in his mother’s family or that for a time he was a member of the Good Templars, an organisation that was strongly opposed to the use of alcohol.

The Order of Good Templars is a great international brotherhood, based on the practice of Total Abstinence from intoxicating drinks. We derive the name of Templars from our mission in the great crusade against intemperance.

Dr. Burke joined the fraternity perhaps in a bit to end his drinking. He knew that he had a problem, but was helpless in the face of it. His alcoholism coupled with a less than ideal home situation, plus the fact that his wife left him on many occasions in an era, when nobody left anyone else was enough to send him over the edge. But it did not explain why he pulled the gun on his beloved daughter.

The doctor carried a gun for protection, which was not unusual, especially if he was called out at night to an area that was described in court as “wild country”. He did not carry it especially to do harm to anyone on the fateful night. Somehow on February 4th 1888 two bullets were discharged, one lodged in the chest of nine year old causing her death, the second in his own at his own hands. The second, perhaps a suicide attempt grazed his chest and only caused a flesh would. It did not end his life there and then.

When Mr. John Blackburn, surgeon of Barnsley Hospital, where Dr. Burke was treated after the shooting, was cross examined. He was more of less vague and noncommittal, neither helping or hampering the doctor’s case.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph 05 May 1888