Tributes to ‘smiling assassin’ top Blackburn judge

Brian Duckworth, a ‘brilliant man’

Brian Duckworth, a ‘brilliant man’

First published in News Blackburn Citizen: Photograph of the Author by , Hyndburn reporter

ONE of the country’s longestserving circuit judges will be remembered in a memorial service at Blackburn Cathedral next month.

Brian Duckworth died aged 79 at his home in Abbey Village late last month and was cremated at Pleasington Crematorium last Wednesday.

The Blackburn man’s youngest son yesterday paid tribute to a ‘very caring and loving husband, father, and grandfather.’ Felix, 37, said: “He was a great guy. He was rather brilliant.

“He had a sharp, clever mind and was always there with a joke and a mischievous sense of humour.

“He lived a full life, he said that himself and he was happy with what he achieved and what he had done.”

Born on July 26, 1934, Mr Duckworth was the grandson of Henry Wolstenholme, who helped design King George’s Hall in Blackburn.

After the war, he was schooled in Ilkley, and later studied at Sedbergh School before reading history at Oxford University.

Mr Duckworth went on to be a leading barrister, appearing in many major cases across the north west.

Nicknamed the ‘Smiling Assassin’ because of his reputation for handing down stiff sentences with charm and eloquence, his most notorious case was that of the ‘handless corpse’, when five men were convicted for their part in the 1979 killing of Martin Johnson, whose mutilated body was found weight down with bricks in a water-filled quarry near Chorley.

Mr Duckworth underwent a heart bypass in 1983 and became a judge a year later, sitting on the Bench until 2004 when he retired as a full-time circuit judge, at a time when he was the longest-serving in England.

Outside of law, Mr Duckworth chaired the Samlesbury Hall Trust, and was the president of the Blackburn Prayer Book Society.

A keen golfer, Mr Duckworth played regularly at Pleasington Golf Club, and also enjoyed caravanning holidays, collecting wine and walking his dogs.

As his health slowly deterioted, Mr Duckworth has his right leg amputated in 2008 because of circulation problems.

He passed away on Sunday, March 23, and was survived by his wife Carolyn, sons Rupert, 47, Ben, 39, Felix, daughter Henrietta, 43, and four grandchildren.

The memorial service will be held at the Cathedral from 12.30pm on Friday, May 2.

Comments (1)

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4:27pm Tue 15 Apr 14

noddy57 says...

l remember the handless corpse trial, but l did not know this chap was the smiling assassin ,you have to hand it to him he led a full and much respected life,,its such a shame though we all cannot emulate such eminence, RIP
l remember the handless corpse trial, but l did not know this chap was the smiling assassin ,you have to hand it to him he led a full and much respected life,,its such a shame though we all cannot emulate such eminence, RIP noddy57
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