CORONER JE Brown Humes addressed the jury as he drew the inquiry into two sensational deaths to a close. He said: “As men of the world, you have heard that Robert Leighton, a man of high passion and fierce temper, had been openly associating with this woman for a number of years.

“You have heard that until a few months ago, he had gone regularly to the house where she was living with her husband, and they associated in public houses and that she had gone to him in the hut he used as a gamekeeper.

“You cannot come to any other conclusion than that this was a guilty association. It is going to resolve itself into a very sordid story of immoral intercourse between two married people. An association of that kind is pregnant with possibilities of tragedy.”

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And so it was at 10pm on April 22, 1933, Leighton, 55, of Crook shot the woman he had been associating with, Florence Ada Kirkup, 40, of Gurney Valley, several times after they quarrelled on the road to Close House.

The Northern Echo: SENSATIONAL STORY: The Northern Echo's front page of April 24, 1933

SENSATIONAL STORY: The Northern Echo's front page of April 24, 1933

Ada lived long enough to summon her husband, Thomas, and tell him repeatedly that “Bob Leighton shot me”. She died a few hours later in Darlington Memorial Hospital after shouting “fetch Bob” several times.

Bob Leighton, though, had “disappeared into the darkness” and police were scouring south Durham for him.

We first met Mr Leighton in Memories 325 when, in 1899, he was accused of shooting mineowner Henry Stobart of Witton Towers, Witton-le-Wear, who had found him poaching in his woods. However, he got off because of poor policing and he was chaired through the streets of Crook as a hero. In Memories 327, there was a hint from Alan Thexton from Harmby, near Leyburn, that there was more to this story than met the eye, and now Tony Young, of Weardale, has pointed us in the right direction.

Having shot his mistress, Leighton went looking unsuccessfully for his mistress’ husband and then he fled for home in Nelson Street, Crook. He found it surrounded by police, so he nipped to Jack Simpson’s house in West Road and tied some items – a flashlamp, a watchchain and seven shillings – to the fence along with some letters and a note saying: “Give these to my wife, Jack.”

One of the letters was to the coroner. “Goodbye, Mr Humes,” it said. “Do what you can for the wife and family. Be a godfather to them, for my sake. This would not have happened but the first shot was an accident. I was clean off it but I have now sobered up. It is now 4am. I shall be out of this life by six o’clock.”

Having deposited the letters, Leighton had gone to a railway carriage in the sidings by Crook station and shot himself through the head. His body was found at 1pm on April 23.

The inquests were held on April 25. Mr Brown Humes read the letter Leighton had written to his wife, Annie.

“Sorry to have caused you this pain, but I cannot go on any longer,” he said. “You will be better off after the shock. Ada said she would bleed me white, which she has.

“I am not a coward and I am not going to cause the ratepayers any expense.

“Don’t go to any expense to bury me and don’t fret and worry, but think of the bairns to look after you in after years. I have nothing to add to this. I loved you all. Goodbye, Bob.”

The evidence showed that Leighton, who had been secretary of the Bowden Close Miners’ Lodge for 15 years, and Ada had been “openly associating” for eight years. Mrs Leighton, “sobbing bitterly”, told the jury: “I am sure she had a good deal of money out of him.” The shooting came when Leighton was unemployed and had run out of money – Ada, it seems, wanted to end the relationship.

The jury in Darlington decided that she had been “wilfully murdered”. The jury in Crook decided that Leighton was “felo de se” – a felon upon himself, which means he had deliberately taken his own life, in itself a criminal offence.

The Northern Echo: INQUEST REPORT: The Northern Echo of April 26, 1933

INQUEST REPORT: The Northern Echo of April 26, 1933

The funerals were held the following day. The streets of Crook were crowded as Leighton was laid to rest in the cemetery, and much sympathy was shown towards his widow, his bairns, and his aged mother.

Ada’s funeral was at Close House Methodist Church where the proceedings were “watched by hundreds of people”. The Northern Echo said that the Rev GW Coundon “made striking reference to the tragedy” in his address.

He said: “A tragedy like this ought to make some people pause as to where they are walking. The wages of sin is death. If this does not set some people who live in this village thinking, then the Lord help them.”

But he also said: “I think the best thing that can be said is what Jesus once said: ‘He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone’.”