Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Unsolved Murder of a Boy in Anfield Cemetery

The killing of a teenage boy whose body was found in Anfield Cemetery has never been solved. 

Widowed mother Margaret Howell of Bidston View in Walton Road last saw her thirteen year old son Edward alive when he left home at 6.30am on Friday 11th June 1875. He was on his way to work as an apprentice stonemason for Mrs Stirling's monumental works at Anfield. 

Edward did return home for his dinner whilst his mother was out at work, but on going back out looking for bird nests he never returned. His disappearance was reported to the police and posters were distributed asking for information about his whereabouts. 

At 10.55am on Saturday 19th June a body was found in some trees at Anfield Cemetery by four dock labourers. It was removed to the deadhouse there. Margaret identified the body as that of her son, who appeared to have strangulation marks around his neck.

At the inquest on 22nd June Margaret was asked by The Coroner Mr Driffield about her son's passion for birdnesting. She explained how he had promised her he would only find one more nest then would stop. She also did not believe he would have gone looking for nests in the cemetery, but more likely met his death whilst trying to escape a beating from someone on whose land he had trespassed. She described him as 'generally a healthy boy'. His uncle John Garrity, who also worked as a mason at Mrs Stirling's yard, described him as 'well and hearty and never in strange mind.'

Portrait of Richard Assheton Cross, 1st Viscount Cross.jpg
Richard A Cross, Home Secretary
Dr Matthew Hill of Bootle, who carried out the postmortem, said that he believed death was the result of strangulation with a cord or possibly a neck tie. Crucially, he suggested that the low state of decomposition indicated that Edward had not been killed at the cemetery, but more likely elsewhere before being carried and dumped there.  The cemetery's gardener George Priestly explained that he had twice been where the body was found that morning and not seen it, while the bushes and shrubs appeared to have been placed over it deliberately for concealment. This was confirmed by a police constable. 

Two brickmakers who worked in Cherry Lane told how they had been working at 6.45pm on the day Edward disappeared and had heard two screams from the direction of the cemetery. They also had passed through the cemetery the following Tuesday about fifteen yards from where the body was found, and noticed a cap that was later identified as being Edward's. They both said that they had heard one local resident was extremely strict with anybody who went on their land.

After the jury returned a verdict of 'wilful murder against a person or persons unknown' police made exhaustive enquiries but found no real clues to the killers identity. This led to the Home Secretary authorising a reward of £100 on 17th July to anyone who could provide information leading to a conviction. Such was the lack of information that he also granted Her Majesty's Pardon to any accomplice who would give evidence against the killer. Despite this, nobody came forward and the killing of Edward Howell remains unsolved. 

Monday, 24 September 2018

Killed By A Bale of Cotton

When a man died after being hit by a bale of cotton that was thrown down the stairs, two men were charged with manslaughter.

At 8am on 26th December 1861 William Gordon, a fifty year old letter carrier for the General Post Office, was delivering mail to the offices of Joynson & Maitland in Druid's Court, Dale Street. 

Dale Street (Liverpool Picture Book)As he was climbing some stairs to the first floor he struck by a bale of cotton and knocked backwards. This bale was being taken to a waiting cart by two employees of cotton merchant Pierre Mussabini who occupied the top floor of the building. 

Gordon was taken by cab to the Royal Infirmary where he made a statement to police, saying that he had seen bales of cotton thrown about before and that nobody was in charge of it on this occasion. The two employees, Archibald Cunningham and Dennis Mulheren, were then questioned. They both claimed that Mulheren had been in front of the bale and slipped, causing it to topple over and crush Gordon.

At 10am the following day Gordon passed away at his home in Guilford Street, off Everton Road. A surgeon put his death down to fracture of the spine at the neck caused by external violence.  He was buried two days later at St James Cemetery, with about one hundred post office employees attending his funeral. 

At the inquest before the Coroner Mr P F Curry on 30th December, a verdict of manslaughter by gross negligence was returned, leading to Cunningham and Mulheren being committed for trial. Gordon had worked as a letter carrier for the Dale Street district for 28 years and all bars and hotels in the street agreed to take donations that could be passed to his widow.

On 26th March 1862 Cunningham and Mulheren, described as 'respectable looking' in Liverpool Mercury, appeared at the Spring Assizes. Their defence was that they were bringing the bale of cotton down the stairs in the usual manner and on slipping, Mulheren had jumped out of the way not knowing Gordon was about to go onto the stairs. This was accepted by the jury and both werefound not guilty and discharged from the dock. 

Friday, 21 September 2018

Teenage Girl Accidentally Shot By Brother

There was a tragedy in 1888 when a fifteen year old girl was accidentally shot dead by her brother, who did not realise the gun was loaded. 

On the afternoon of Sunday 11th November that year at 62 Chatham Street, Catherine Lang asked her widowed mother Elizabeth for a book called Good Thoughts By Great Minds. She was told to go upstairs and see her brother Hugh as he had it. A few moments later Elizabeth heard the sound of a gunshot and on going to a bedroom to investigate, was pushed out the way by Hugh who was in a distressed state. 

Catherine was lying on the bed with a wound to the head, while a revolver was on the floor. A doctor was called but life was pronounced extinct and he stated that death had been instant. Hugh, who was a junior clerk and in a state of total shock, accompanied his grandfather John Dickson to the detective office. 

Hugh made a statement which read "My sister wanted a book which was in the room where my cousin sleeps. I went to get the book, she followed me. I was on my knees getting the book when I saw her sitting on the bed. I saw the revolver which I had in the box and pointed it at her in a playful manner. She said 'Oh, I am not frightened of it.' I must have pressed the trigger too tightly and it went off. I did not know it was loaded, although I must have loaded it myself. The revolver was my fathers."

John Lang, a commercial traveller, had died eleven years previously and detectives established that it had belonged to him. Hugh was detained at the detective office pending an inquest, which was arranged for two days later before Clarke Aspinall at the Coroner's Court. 

Hugh's mother Elizabeth explained that she was aware Hugh had a revolver belonging to his late father, but was unaware there were also cartridges. His uncle and cousin both said they had heard the shots and at first thought it was a firework. Hugh gave evidence himself, saying that he had two pistols and a revolver belonging to his late father, but he hadn't remembered which of them was loaded.

Mr Aspinall told the jury it was one of the most painful cases he had ever dealt with and it was for them to decide if the firing was accidental or not. They returned a verdict of accidental death, with a comment that firearms should not be allowed to come into the control of youths. The Coroner told Hugh that he was free to go and that it was clear he and his sister were greatly attached and he had been greatly affected by the incident. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Lodging House Accused Acquitted

Field Street (Liverpool Picturebook)

When a widow died after being kicked by a fellow lodging house tenant, doubts over her health led to him being acquitted at his trial.

On 12th August 1917 at a lodging house in Field Street, Everton, 41 year old widow Mary Cockford was talking to her sister whilst stood on the steps. Labourer Edward Kennedy returned home about 930pm and shouted at Mary to stop blocking the entrance. 

When Mary's sister tried to calm him down, Kennedy kicked Mary in the breast and stomach. As Mary then stood up and tried to straighten her hair, Kennedy seized it and pulled her down. She landed heavily and became unconscious, dying soon afterwards.

Kennedy, also aged 41, was arrested on suspicion of murder and held in custody until the inquest which took place three days later. Evidence was heard that Kennedy had taken a dislike to Mary as she used to allow his wife to stay in her room when they had quarrelled. Medical evidence suggested that Mary had a weak heart and stomach condition, but they would not have led to death unless exposed to excitement or violence. This led to the coroners' jury returning a verdict of manslaughter.

At the Crown Court trial however, medical experts were not as certain about the cause of death. under cross examination they admitted that Kennedy's blows only 'might' have led to the heart failure. This led to him being acquitted and freed from the dock. 

A Fatal Night Out

A woman's decision to go out with her friend while her boyfriend worked a nightshift proved fatal when she was battered to death by him the following day.

In 1968 James Tierney, a 41 year old hotel porter who was separated from his wife, began cohabiting with twenty year old Joan Edwards at a flat in 22 Princes road, Toxteth.

On the evening of 22nd July that year Joan went out with another female who lived in the property, calling Tierney at his work to say that she would be out all night. The two women then met a couple of Arab sailors in a public house and went on to a club, before accompanying the two men their ship.

The following morning Joan went shopping and then to the cinema, too scared to go home to face Tierney. He located her in a pub that afternoon, dragging her into a van being driven by his friend and battering her. He continued the assault back at the flat, eventually inviting a friend to see what he'd done and calling an ambulance shortly after midnight. 

Joan was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital, the cause of death being found to be cerebral hemorrhage due to repeated blows to the head. When interviewed by detectives, Tierney said he was very fond of Joan and hadn't meant to kill her, but admitted beating her with his fists and then a stick from a broken maiden. He went on to say 'I could not stop myself when I started, because I did not like the way she had carried on'.

At Liverpool Crown Court on 28th October Tierney was defended by leading Q.C Rose Heilbron, whose offer of a guilty plea to manslaughter was accepted by the prosecution. In mitigation, she told the court 'She had gone off and stayed away overnight and he had made a long search before he found her. None of this condones what he has done, but it is only fair to put forward the reason for the provocation that led to this assault. He had lost his self control and was in a frenzy because she had gone off with another man'

In his pre sentencing remarks the judge, Mr Justice Lyell, said 'This is as bad a case as I have ever known. This was not just one sudden blow, this was a long drawn out brutal attack'. He then imposed a sentence of twelve years imprisonment.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Acquittal for Lodging House Keeper

A landlord who struck one of his tenants was charged with manslaughter after she died, but later acquitted at his trial.

In the early hours of 7th August 1905 John Scott Moon, the keeper of a lodging house in Towson Street, was having an argument with his wife. They were interrupted by 73 year old widow Elizabeth Smith who told Moon that he should be ashamed of himself. Moon then went up the stairs to the landing where Elizabeth was stood, and smacked her in the eye saying 'I will give it you you for interfering'.

Despite having a cut to her eye Elizabeth didn't seek treatment until the following day, when a doctor ordered her immediate removal to the workhouse hospital. When her daughter visited, Elizabeth told her that she felt like she had been hit by a sledgehammer and felt something crack. She died on 22nd August, with a postmortem finding that death was the result of a blood clot behind the injured eye. 

Fifty year old Moon was arrested and charged with manslaughter, appearing at the Liverpool assizes on 1st December. Medical evidence was heard that Elizabeth had senile disease of the brain and any slight injury could accelerate death. Moon stated that he had acted in a moment of mad passion and had been under the influence of drink. After much deliberation, the jury found him not guilty. The judge discharged him from the dock, commenting that the jury had opted for 'the safer course'.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Baby Argument Leads to Wife Strangulation

An argument between a married couple of their baby led to the death of the wife by strangulation, but the husband was convicted only of manslaughter due to the lack of premeditation. 

On 21st March 1966 at 18 Holland Street in Fairfield, 29 year old Indian paint sprayer Manohar Malhotra and his wife Sudershana argued over feeding their baby. This resulted in an attack by Manohar and Sudershana being rushed to hospital only to be pronounced dead on arrival. 

Manohar was charged with murder and committed to trial at Liverpool Crown Court. However a postmortem had showed that Sudershana had died of asphyxiation but also that there were only marks of one hand on her throat. This led to the prosecution counsel Mr Forrest accepting a guilty plea to manslaughter. He acknowledged that if Manohar had intended to kill, then he would have used both hands.  

A statement from Manohar was read out that said "I was very angry and got hold of her throat. I pushed her away and she fell to the floor". His defence counsel Mr George Bean told the court that the marriage was a happy one, it was a moment of petulance and he could never have imagined such an act could have such disastrous results. 

In sentencing Manohar to three years imprisonment, the Mr Justice Paul told him "If you treat your wife like that in a fit of temper and she died, you must be punished".