Friday, 11 October 2019

Agnes - The Terror of the Neighbourhood

A woman who beat a drunk man to the ground evaded any charges when he died, due to the postmortem drawing inconclusive results.

On Saturday 31st October 1857 William Evans, a 67 year old gunmaker described in the Northern Daily Times as a 'habitual drunkard', was confronted near his lodgings in Crosshall Street by Agnes Gallagher. She demanded he buy her drink or give her 3d. Evans refused and Gallagher knocked him down before continuing to punch him as he lay on the ground.

For the following two days Evans felt unwell and didn't get out of bed, but on the Tuesday he managed to whisky. His health continued to deteriorate and he died at 4pm on Wednesday 4th November. 

The surgeon who carried out the postmortem determined that death was as a result of inflammation of the lungs, but could not say if this down to violence. This led to an open verdict being returned at the inquest, at which the Coroner censured Gallagher for her conduct. The beadle of the court described her as 'the terror of the neighbourhood.'


Sunday, 6 October 2019

A Garston Tragedy

A Garston father who killed his toddler son whilst drunk was so overcome with grief that he died just two months after being sentenced to seven years in gaol.

On Monday 26th August 1912 James Gibbons, a 39 year old shunter for the London & North Western Railway Company went out drinking at the King Street Vaults with some fellow employees. After two hours, he returned to the home in Saunby Street where he lived with his wife and three children. He had some supper and went to bed, lying alongside the youngest John, who was two and a half.

Around 11pm Mrs Gibbons heard crying and went upstairs to investigate. She saw her husband asleep but was horrified to see John's throat had been cut. She ran into the street to raise the alarm and withing minutes two police officers were on the scene. Closer examination showed that the head had almost been severed and the poor child was beyond help. A razor blade was next to the bed.

James was woken and on seeing the body, told the officers that he would go quietly. Ashe was being taken to the Bridewell he said "This is what drink does for you. My mind is a blank".

An inquest heard how James was "worn and dejected" and had his head bowed during the proceedings. His wife's brother told that although James was prone to drink, he was attached to the children, especially John. The barman from the King Street Vaults said he had drank four pints, but was in a sober position when he departed and "remained quite capable of being served". However two neighbours described how James staggered into the street laughing and couldn't find his door key. They did acknowledge that he loved his children and often played with them. 

Although the inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter, the Stipendiary Magistrate committed James for trial at the assizes on a charge of murder. On 7th November, the jury found James guilty of the lesser charge, with a strong recommendation for mercy. This was on the basis that he was so drunk that he was irresponsible for his actions. After being sentenced to seven years penal servitude, James collapsed and had to be carried to the cells.

The health of James continued to deteriorate in Walton gaol and just two months after he was sentenced, he died on 18th January 1913. The site of Saunby Street is now occupied by Saunby Close.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Ship's Captain & Mate Guilty

A captain and First Mate who mistreated a crew member were found guilty of his manslaughter in their trial at St Georges Hall.

On 1st September 1892 the Watchman left New York bound for various ports in Brazil. It had a crew of ten and was on a voyage scheduled to last several months. Amongst the crew was George Orr, who became a target or the brutality of the First Mate Patrick Fitzgerland. Orr and another sailor named Judson were regularly beaten with rope ends and belaying pins for little or no reason. On one occasion the Captain, William Crawford, ordered Fitzgerald to stop but he refused to do so, saying he would 'swing for it' one day.

Crawford got directly involved in the cruel behaviour and on 10th December he handcuffed Orr to the mizzen mast with hands above his head for several hours. After being briefly released, he was tied up again overnight wearing light clothing, his pants being allowed to fall down. Judson heard Orr being beaten and on waking up at 7am, he saw the poor man in a bunk breathing heavily and covered in scratches and black and blue bruises. He died a few moments later.

When the vessel reached Rio Grande a special naval court was commissioned, which ordered Crawford and Fitzgerald to be sent to England for a manslaughter trial. They arrived in Liverpool on 10th May 1893 aboard the Dryden and were immediately remanded in custody.

A the assizes trial in August, evidence was first heard from a seaman named Judson. Under cross examination Judson he that he and Orr had left the ship for two days at Rio Grande, due to their being no grog on board. However he denied that Orr was in any way  a loafer and said he was afraid to tell the captain about the extent of Fitzgerald's brutality. A German seaman called Karl Vogt said that Orr was beaten every day for two months, and that he never saw him refuse orders. He did accept though that Orr was weak and had not realised there was an underlying heart problem.

Another crew member, Harry Gamble, testified to seeing Orr tell Fitzgerald he was too weak to work after being released from irons, leading to a further beating. Under cross examination, Gamble admitted that Orr had told him back in New York that he had a weak heart. Gamble stated that he had been one of two seamen that had carried Orr to a bunk and washed him down. He also said that no other crew members apart from the captain and mate had beaten him.

The deposition that had been made in Rio by Crawford was then read out. This said that Orr was put in irons for stowing away and refusing orders, and that he believed the cause of death to be solely as a result of heat disease. Fitzgerald's deposition said that he had never hit Orr, only shaken him and that he disobeyed orders. 

A surgeon believed the cause of death to be exposure, which would have been accelerated by heart problems. The ships log recorded cause of death as heart disease.

In their closing submissions, defence counsel said that Orr had refused orders, other crew members would not allow him to work with them due to his personal hygiene, and that nobody was liable for his death. In summing up, Judge Hopwood said that a captain has powers but must use them in moderation. He told the jury to determine if his powers were used in the reasonable cause of preventing a mutiny. 

After deliberating for twenty minutes, the jury found both crew members guilty with a recommendation for mercy. Defence counsel pointed out they had already been in gaol on remand for six months. However in his sentencing remarks, Hopwood said that the matter was very serious as no mention of punishment was made at all in the log book. Both Crawford and Fitzgerald were sentenced to nine months imprisonment with hard labour.



Thursday, 29 August 2019

Killing of a Cowkeeper



When a cowkeeper died after being punched in the nose in a rent dispute, his attacker was guilty of manslaughter but not punished by the court. 

Thirlmere Road (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)At 8pm on Monday 29th May 1893, Elizabeth Hughes went to Alfred Johnson's butchers shop in Thirlmere Road to collect rent for a coalyard that he rented from her. Johnson told her he had already given the money to her husband and knocked her to the floor. 

Soon afterwards Elizabeth's husband David, a 54 year old cowkeeper, came to remonstrate with Johnson on his doorstep. As he did so, he was punched in the nose by Johnson's lodger George Derricot,  who was hiding behind the door. Dr Williams of Breckfield Road North was sent for and he managed to stop the bleeding then sent David home. 

The following morning David took his milk cart out as usual, but when he stated bleeding whilst in London Road he went to seek treatment at the Royal Infirmary. He was attended to and sent home, but two days later on 1st June he felt worse and was admitted to the hospital. With his condition deteriorating, a deposition was taken from him on the 4th June in the presence of Derricot. David died the following evening, one week after the assault.

At the inquest Elizabeth's daughter Catherine Jones said she had gone to Johnson's premises with David on hearing that her mother had been knocked down. She then described how David undertook no provocation at all before being stabbed. Several residents of Thirlmere Road said that Elizabeth had been abusive to Johnson and he had simply pushed her away, while David had entered the shop and grabbed him by the throat. Johnson himself said that Derricot had not used any implement, and simply punched David to get him back out onto the street. 

A insurance canvasser called Robert Heyes, who didn't know any of those involved, said that David did not put his hands on Johnson and he heard Derricot shout "Let me at him".  Dr Davies from the Royal Infirmary said that David had suffered a black eye and broken nose, and that death was  as a result of blood poisoning. Dr Davies also stated that David's kidneys were very diseased and this probably caused the continued bleeding. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against Derricot and he was committed for trial at the assizes.

On 28th July, Derricot's defence lawyer claimed that although technically manslaughter, the death was more accidental. The judge accepted this viewpoint and due to Derricot's previous good character he was discharged to "come up for judgement when called upon".

Monday, 8 July 2019

Unlawful Slaying in Bootle

When a man died after a fight in Bootle in 1935, the other person involved was charged with manslaughter but acquitted. 

Hermitage Grove
At 11pm on Saturday 9th November that year a fight took place in Aughton Road between Robert Langton and Paul Taylor.  Twenty one year old Taylor went home to his lodgings at 2 Hermitage Grove. On being asked by his landlady Mrs Morgan why he had a bump on his head said that it had been from "a scrap". She made him supper and he went to bed in a room that he shared with Mrs Morgan's son. Before going to sleep Taylor said he had a headache and the following morning he was found to be dead. 

When detectives visited Langton, a dock labourer, at his home in Florida Street to arrest him he responded "Dead, I thought I got the worst of it, I don't know what to say". He was taken in for questioning and on the Monday morning appeared before magistrates, where his father aid £25 so that the twenty three year old could be released on bail.  

An inquest heard that Taylor had died from a brain haemorrhage triggered by a ruptured meninginal artery, directly as a result of violence. At a committal hearing in Bootle Police Court on 19th November, other males present stated that Langton was upset by a remark Taylor had made about a girl he was with. They had fought, but shook hands at the end of it. Langton accepted striking Taylor, but insisted he had not thrown the first punch and also stated he had received a cut lip. Langton was committed to the Manchester Assizes for trial and again granted bail. 

The trial took place just seven days later. Medical evidence showed that Taylor's skull was thinner than normal. The defence also suggested that he could have struck his head against a wall during the scuffle and that this was what caused the injury. With these doubts having been raised, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty without leaving their box and Langton was discharged.  

Monday, 1 July 2019

Six Weeks For Paraffin Lamp Killing

When a woman threw a paraffin oil lamp at her husband as he returned from work, it exploded and he died from his burns. She was charged with manslaughter, but given a lenient sentence by the judge. 

At 9pm on 2nd March 1883, forty six year old carter Henry Hibbert returned to his home at Maynard Street (off Upper Parliament Street, where commerce Way is now situated). He was very soon back in the street again screaming for water as his clothes were on fire. 

Henry's wife Sarah ran out after him and along with a neighbour named Ellen Campbell, wrapped clothing around him to put the flames out. Within fifteen minutes a police constable arrived and found Henry sat in a chair inside his property with burns to face and body. He told the officer that Sarah was responsible, as she had thrown a paraffin oil lamp at him. 

Both husband and wife were taken to the Infirmary, as Sarah had burns to her hands. After they were dressed she was taken to the Bridewell and charged with assault, while Henry remained in hospital. The following day he was visited by his boss, a fruit trader who lived in Windsor Street. Henry told him that as soon as he opened the door the  lamp was thrown at him and the ball of it burst when it struck his head. 

Henry died ten days later and after an inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter, Sarah was committed to the assizes for trial an appeared before Mr Justice Day at St Georges Hall the following month. She pleaded guilty and despite Day's reputation for tough sentencing, she was imprisoned for just six weeks. At the same assizes, a woman who stole a mans trousers was sent to gaol for eighteen months. 

Shot by a Scorned Woman

In 1896 a woman shot dead a Liverpool merchant who she believed had broken a promise to marry her. She was sentenced to death but was reprieved due to her mental state and spent 55 years in Broadmoor. 


In the early 1890s, whenever Edgar Holland went to London on business, he enjoyed liaisons with Catherine Kempshall, a Sussex born theatre chorus girl. When Holland decided to end the affair, she was furious and sued him for breach of promise in 1895, claiming that he had reneged on a marriage proposal. 

Water Street in 1895 (Liverpool Picturebook)
The dispute was settled out of court by counsel, but Kempshall was unhappy with this as in return for a financial settlement Holland wanted all letters returning. She successfully applied to the High Court for this agreement to be set aside. In July that year Kempshall represented herself but the judge ruled against her, saying that there had been no promise of marriage.

Kempshall then undertook a year long campaign of harassment against Holland. Taking up lodgings at 40 Irvine Street in Edge Hill she bombarded him with letters. She would often turn up unannounced at his office in Water Street and and home in Penkett Stret, Wallasey, where she told his housekeeper that she would shoot him. 

In an attempt to keep Kempshall at bay, Holland occasionally gave her sums of money and wrote saying he was willing to offer a settlement but only if she instructed a solicitor. However she responded by saying that there was no need for her to do so as law was a "thieving profession".

Eventually a meeting was set up between the two at Holland's office at Drury Buildings in Water Street, facilitated by his solicitor Mr Alsop. Holland again told her that although he had no moral or legal obligation, he was prepared to provide for Kempshall but only via a solicitor. She again refused, saying that they were all liars and rogues. Then she took a revolver from under her coat and fired it four times at Holland, the bullets hitting him in the chest, thigh and hand. Alsop bravely ran around the table and pinioned her, causing the firearm to fall from her hand. A policeman was sent for and Kempshall was found to also have a dagger in her possession.

Holland was taken to the Northern Hospital, where surgeons removed a bullet that had penetrated his lung. He was so weak that he was unable to make a deposition and his condition remained critical. Kempshall was taken to the Bridewell where she was charged with attempted murder. A search of her lodgings found further ammunition in a small box. 

Two weeks later, Holland from a collapsed lung. This cause of death was attributed solely to the bullet wound and he was generally considered to be in good health otherwise. This led to Kempshall being committed to the assizes on the charge of murder. 

There was a huge crowd outside St Georges Hall on 19th March the following year as crowds sought admission to Kempshall's trial. She appeared in the dock dressed in all black and wearing a hat and veil. Although appearing weak and distressed, she replied in a firm voice "I am not guilty" when asked to enter her plea. She then undertook an extraordinary tirade in which she insisted the gun had gone off accidentally and called Alsop a liar, before saying she hoped none of the jury were Holland's friends. She had to be told firmly to "shut up" by her counsel.

In opening the case for the prosecution, Mr Pickford said that there was no doubt that Kempshall has shot Holland, with the only thing under question being her state of mind at the time. Alsop was the first witness and he recounted the day of the shooting as well as confirming that a bundle of letters produced, all signed by Kempshall, had all been sent to his office. An employee of Holland said that Kempshall had gone to Drury Buildings on fifteen occasions when he was away on business in Switzerland.

Two doctors testified that Holland's death was solely as a result of the shooting. When challenged on why they didn't operate on the collapsed lung, they replied that he was in too weak a condition and would have died from shock or exhaustion. Maud Park, who had rented a room out to Kempshall at Irvine Street, said that it had been taken under the name of Lock and that she said a solicitor owed her money. Holland's housekeeper was unable to testify due to ill health, and evidence was then heard that Kempshall had spent fourteen days in gaol for slapping the solicitor who represented him in the civil proceedings.

For the defence, the first witness was solicitor William Quilliam who had seen Kempshall in her cell soon after her arrest. He described how she didn't appreciate why she was there, was unable to give coherent sentences and would constantly throw herself back in her seat. Dr Wigglesworth, of the Rainhill Asylum, stated that although Kempshall as sane on other topics when it came to that of Holland, she was suffering delusions that all solicitors and judges were conspiring against her. This, he said, had influenced her conduct as it made her of unstable and excitable temperament. 

Dr Beamish, the Medical Officer of Walton Gaol said that Kempshall had been very weak on arrival and immediately taken to the hospital wing. He was of the opinion that she was suffering from mania persecution as she could discuss other topics calmly but would become excitable at the mention of Holland's name. Another surgeon, Dr Davies, told the court he believed that Kempshall was insane "where Mr Holland was concerned". 

In the closing speech, Kempshall's counsel Mr Madden said that her demeanour in court and words used in the letters showed that her mind was in a disordered state, something that medical professionals had confirmed. She then interrupted however, saying "I am not a maniac, I am quite sane, it is the truth what I say". Drawing his speech to  a close he urged the jury to spare her life as "she knew not what she did".

In his summing up, which lasted half an hour, the judge said that suffering from delusions did not make somebody criminally irresponsible. He told the jury to consider the nature of the delusion and crucially, did it make Kempshall believe that she had to shoot Holland because he was armed himself and about to kill her. At 7pm the jury retired to consider their verdict and after ninety minutes returned to court having found her guilty of murder, but with a strong recommendation of mercy.

Asked if she had anything to say before sentence was passed, Kempshall gave a long speech in a calm and composed manner. She said she had been misled by her solicitors, that Alsop was a liar and that the gun went off accidentally as Holland rushed and tried to dislodge it from her when he saw she had it. There were gasps in court as she said she did not want a reprieve. When sentence of death was passed Kempshall said "He will" in respect of the Lord having mercy on her soul. She was taken to the condemned cell at Walton Gaol where she developed a resigned acceptance to her fate.

A petition was raised by Mr Quilliam at his offices in Manchester Street. Support came from surprising quarters, with Alsop and also Holland's brother Walter both calling for the death sentence to be commuted. A total of 17,796 signatures were gathered and on 31st March a reprieve was granted. This was on the basis of a review of Kempshall's mental state, which concluded that she be removed to the Broadmoor Asylum. Reports stated that Kempshall showed no emotion as she was told of the decision.

Catherine was taken to Broadmoor by train from Woodside on 1st April. She was never released from the institution, dying there in 1952 at the age of 88.