You can never judge what past will reveal

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TWO people living thousands of miles apart are now sharing fascinating stories of their ancestry thanks to the Hartlepool Mail.

Kath Brooks’ originates from Hartlepool, and has often shared stories with Family Roots of her grandfather John Hayes.

John’s claim to fame is that he became a key witness in a trial in May 1899.

But unbeknown to her, the story rang a familiar note with New Zealand man Dave Grantham – because his great grandfather was the judge in the same trial.

Now, after being put in touch with each other by the Hartlepool Mail, they have started exchanging emails.

And each has also shared their story with Family Roots.

Kath told us how her granddad John Hayes was an assistant at a Mr Seal’s Ironmongers, in Church Street, Hartlepool. On May 5, a man called Thomas Thompson bought a revolver at the shop, and a box of fifty cartridges.

But Thomas Thompson was not a happy man and had a tempestuous relationship with his wife Emily.

It was reported that she had given birth to a son, whom Thomas claimed “was not the child of a coloured man”.

Emily said the child’s father was a local doctor.

Thomas went to the police then, four days later, shot and killed his wife, Emily, and stabbed and killed their lodger, David Isaac Phillips.

Thompson received the death penalty at Durham Gaol, but this was changed to life imprisonment.

Kath’s relatives told her how her grandfather had been very proud of the fact that Judge Grantham had complimented him on his knowledge of guns, when he was called as a witness at Durham Assizes.

John was only 18 at the time and working as an apprentice ironmonger. He was the first witness called at the trial.

He confirmed that he was an assistant at Mr Seal’s Ironmongers, and on May 5, the prisoner bought a revolver at the shop.

Judge Grantham told the jury that he was “glad to know that they had coupled with their verdict a strong recommendation to mercy”.

Kath said there was another ironic link between herself and Dave as her own mum had a maiden name of Grantham.

She sID: “My mother was Jean Grantham, her father came from Hull and after doing lots of research I have found that many of the Grantham families originated in East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

“I think I have got as far back as the 1700s.

“I have some memories of my grandfather, he died in 1959 when I was eight years old. He had lots of white hair and a military moustache, having served as a sergeant in the RAF.”

l Next week, we will give Dave’s side of the story.

And if you would like share your ancestry, contact Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377 or email