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Home » Murders and Beheading – The Grisly Cutthroat Bridge History of the Peak District

Murders and Beheading – The Grisly Cutthroat Bridge History of the Peak District

When you hear the name ‘Cutthroat Bridge’, it conjures thoughts and images of grisly events and murders most foul. Often such lurid names have a quite innocent etymology, translations from Old English. In the case of Cutthroat Bridge, just east of the tourist honeypot of Ladybower Reservoir, the initial reaction is quite accurate. Cutthroat Bridge history includes two brutal murders, ancient and modern.

Cutthroat Bridge, just below Hordron Edge, near the Ladybower Brook, has indeed been linked to two murders.  The first case some 400 years since, and the second is more contemporary and involved the ex-partner of a 1990’s pop star.

So what is the history behind this otherwise idyllic spot, used as a parking spot by walkers and climbers out to enjoy all that the Dark Peak has to offer?

Header Image: © Copyright Steve Partridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

1635: Death of a Salesman​

Cutthroat bridge long predates the busy major road which now crosses it. Originally it was a packhorse bridge along the pony track running between Sheffield and Manchester. In the 17th century, Sheffield was established as the major site of cutlery production outside of London. The millstones that the Peak District is known for have a strong link with Sheffield’s cutlery manufacture. Manchester also being an important manufacturing centre, packhorse trails were a means of travelling between the two cities, crossing over the Pennines.

The name of the bridge derives from an event in 1635. A traveller was found close to the bridge at Highshaw Clough on the Derwent Moors. His throat had been slit from ear to ear. Although still alive and conscious he was unable to speak. Carrying no possessions his finders had no way of knowing who he was or how he ended up in his dire predicament.

A local man named Robert Ridge along with two other companions took the unidentified victim to nearby Bamford Hall where he passed away a day or two later.

Nothing was known about the victim who stood little chance of surviving such a grievous wound, in the years of leeches and woodlice, and barber-surgeons carrying out operations with dull, rusty implements.  Not being recognised as a local man it is assumed that he was a merchant of some kind, robbed for his wares and any money he may have been carrying.

Updating of Cutthroat Bridge​

The old packhorse bridge, now locally known as Cutthroat bridge after the incident with the unfortunate traveller was widened in 1821 by the Duke of Devonshire. To accommodate horse and carriage traffic which was heavier in the 19th century an arch was built on the north side.

The bridge was later widened once more to accommodate vehicular traffic on the road which became the A57, a major route crossing the Pennines.

It is from this modern era that the next chilling tale of Cutthroat bridge arises.

The A57 road crosses cutthroat bridge, viewed from Highshaw clough. Cars are parked beside the bridge and other cars are travelling round the bend. A cyclist rides uphill having just crossed the bridge
Cutthroat Bridge from Highshaw Clough, carrying the main A57 ‘Snake Pass’ road between Sheffield and Manchester

The Beheading, The Body, The Pop Star and her Ex-Lover​

Cutthroat Bridge was the site of another gruesome murder in the winter of 1995.

On the 23rd December of that year, the headless body of a 57-year-old man was found at the Cutthroat bridge layby. The victim had also been stabbed multiple times. The body had been hidden behind some rocks, with the head nowhere to be found in the area. Police investigating the discovery began searching for McCarthy’s missing stepson, Anthony Antoniou.

The case reached public attention not least because of the wanted man’s links to UK R&B star Gabrielle, whose song ‘Dreams‘ spent 3 weeks at number one in the UK music charts in the summer of 1993

Antoniou was Gabrielle’s ex-partner and the father of her nine-month-old child; although he had reportedly walked out on them the day after the child was born.

Following the murder, Antoniou turned up at the singer’s flat unannounced, staying there for a brief period. After Antoniou was arrested, Gabrielle gave evidence in the trial and was cleared of any involvement. The court heard that the singer had almost zero involvement with Antoniou since the birth of their child.

Anthony Antoniou
Anthony Antoniou

According to a statement from Gabrielle, the singer considered Antoniou “a kind and considerate man” and that she considered that killing someone would be “totally out of character”, only fully realising the truth after reading a copy of his statement.

The Victim: Walter McCarthy

Antoniou’s victim, Walter McCarthy was found with a total of 52 stab wounds to his headless body that was found in the Cut Throat Bridge lay-by close to Ladybower reservoir.

McCarthy’s head had been chopped off with a Japanese ceremonial sword and buried over 150 miles away in woodland in Bedfordshire. McCarthy had been lured into the car in which the murder was committed, believing that he was heading on a business trip with Antoniou, then owner of a chip shop in Sheffield, together with Antoniou’s friend and accomplice Timothy Redhead, the owner of the car

Following Antoniou’s arrest, a court heard how McCarthy had once told Antoniou that a head remained conscious for 20 minutes after being removed from the body. Antoniou reportedly taunted McCarthy’s severed head for 20 minutes following the murder. He then placing it between his feet in the footwell of the Nissan car that they had been travelling in.

The car was later found abandoned in London after an attempt to destroy the car was unsuccessful.

Both murderers were soon apprehended following the botched attempt to torch the vehicle. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment at Nottingham Crown Court

The Def Leppard Drummer

Cutthroat Bridge also has links to another musician. This time thankfully no throats were cut. It was close to CutThroat Bridge that Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen was involved in the car crash that cost him his arm.

It was shortly after racing his Corvette around a corner and over the bridge that Allen, in a road duel with the driver of an Alfa Romeo car, lost control and crashed, crushing his arm.