Friday, 22 April 2022
Thursday, 21 April 2022
A woman was charged with murder after the body of her new born son was found in an ashpit behind the public house where she worked. However she was convicted only of concealment of birth after the prosecution failed to prove the baby had been born alive.
In the summer of 1858 Maria Smith became a servant for Charles Davies at the Jamaica Vaults, which now stands derelict at 330 Vauxhall Road. She provided a good character reference from her last employer and Charles had no idea that she was in what newspapers described as "the family way".
On the morning of 23rd November, Charles came downstairs and found Maria in a room next to the bar on her hands and knees, wiping away blood. Maria denied she had been abused by anybody and Charles ordered her to fetch Mrs Davies, then go to bed and rest.
When Charles checked on Maria at 3pm she was no better and Dr Lambier was sent for. After carrying out an examination of her, Maria admitted she had given birth and directed the doctor to an ashpit, where the body of a male baby was found. It was brought into the parlour and laid out, with the doctor noticing there was bruising on the head.
An inquest heard evidence from Dr Lambier, who described the injuries and said that they were in a location where there had been extravasation from brain. He believed the baby had been born alive. This led to a verdict of wilful murder and Maria's committal to the Assizes for trial. For the time being, she remained under police supervision in the Jamaica, as she was too ill to be removed.
On 15th December, Maria appeared at St George's Hall before Mr Baron Bramwell. Despite the coroner's verdict, the prosecution could offer no evidence that the baby had been born alive. This meant that 23 year old Maria was relieved to have her plea of guilty to concealment of birth accepted. After what news reports described as "a suitable admonition", she was sentenced to one year's imprisonment.
Wednesday, 20 April 2022
In 1901 a doctor living in Farnworth Street fought with a man he employed who later died from is injuries. He was found guilty of manslaughter but sentenced leniently.
On Tuesday 3rd December that year, 38 year old John Fleetwood Baines was dismissed from his role as a porter for Dr James William Ayres. The following Friday, he had two pints of beer in a Farnworth Street public house then went to see Ayres demanding money he said he was still owed. The sound of scuffling was heard and Ayres was then seen to put Baines out into the street before punching him, causing him to fall and hit his head on the kerb. Ayres then went back into his house and came back out with a bucket of water, throwing it over Baines and saying "Take that Jack".
Baines was helped up and taken to his sister's house by Richard Kelly, a painter who had been in the pub at the same time, asking for any stale beer that he could mix with varnish. His sister Agnes however didn't seek medical help, thinking his drowsiness over the next couple of days was the result of drink or medication. She did go and see Ayres, who told her he had only thrown water over her brother and he would do the same to her if she didn't go away. It was only when he coughed up blood on the Monday that she called for the parish doctor who immediately sent him to Mill Road Infirmary. Baines died on 15th December, leading to Ayres being charged with manslaughter.
At the Assizes trial the following February, Ayres pleaded not guilty. However Kelly, as well as three others, said they saw the blow being struck. One of these was Annie Nelson, who was on her way to her home in Exley Street, who said the sound of Baines's head hitting the ground made her feel faint. There was laughter when Ann Leghorne, who had been looking out of her window, was challenged by the defence over her angle of sight. She replied that she didn't see what a mangle had to do with it.
In the closing statements, Ayres's defence counsel suggested that he was being convicted "principally on the evidence of a lot of women who differed in their statements." Baines was dismissed as a habitual drunkard that was barred from some local pubs, who had gone to see Ayres solely to start a row. Any blow, it was contested, was merely struck in self defence. Attention was also drawn to his sister not calling a doctor for four days and it was suggested that the fractured skull could have been a result of Baines falling from the couch on which he had been sleeping.
Summing up, Mr Justice Bucknill said that the key point was whether Ayres struck a blow with the intention of causing harm, or in self defence. He told the jury to disregard the character and drunken habits of Baines and focus solely on the actions and motivation of Ayres. Referring to Baines's sister as neglectful, he also advised the jury that she was not on trial and this had to be taken out of their considerations.
The jury deliberated for 45 minutes and returned a verdict of 'guilty under great provocation'. In passing a sentence of four months, the judge said he was 'pained beyond expression' to do so to a man of his profession, but there was only one law of the land and it affected all persons alike. Ayres, who had already spent ten weeks in custody, was allowed to see his wife before being taken down to the cells.
Sunday, 6 March 2022
It was a bad Friday 13th for two Scandinavian sailors in 1929 when they fought, leading to the death of one and the other being charged with manslaughter.
On Friday 13th September that year, fifty year old Norwegian Alfred Nyberg, a fireman on board an Elder Dempster liner, arrived in Liverpool and took lodgings in Upper Pitt Street. That night there was a party in the house, at which gramophone records were played along with singing.
Most of those present went to bed at 2am but Nyberg then got into an argument with thirty year old Swedish fireman Perly Petersen, who had been in Liverpool for a week. Petersen struck Nyberg who fell, cutting his head. Other boarders rushed Nyberg to the Southern Hospital but he was pronounced dead on arrival. Petersen found a policeman in Great George Square and told the office he had acted in self defence.
When he appeared before magistrates the following morning charged with manslaughter, Petersen was granted bail on sureties of £25. A week later, Petersen was back before the court for a committal hearing. He said that he had objected to Nyberg removing food from the pantry without permission and a quarrel ensued, during which the Norwegian had scratched his face. With no witnesses to the incident, and it being acknowledged Nyberg was in poor health anyway, it was determined there was no case to answer. Petersen sobbed bitterly as he was released from the dock to waiting friends.
Saturday, 26 February 2022
When a man killed his brother with an iron scraper following a drunken argument, he was found guilty of manslaugther. Despite his remorse the judge showed no leniency and sentenced him to fifteen years in gaol.
On 9th September that year two brothers who worked as ship scrapers, John and William Birmingham, argued over money at the court where they both lived in Chadwick Street, Vauxhall. They had both been drinking and William claimed that John owed him a small sum, but he denied all knowledge of it.
They exchanged blows but 36 year old John then went inside and came back out with an iron scraper. A neighbour wrestled it from him John as he tried to strike William but he went back in and found another one. This time John laid a violent blow just above William's right eye and he fell down immediately. He was rushed to hospital and John was arrested and charge with assault.
The following morning at the police court John was remanded for a week. He said to the bench "I am sorry it was all over half a crown". William's skull had been fractured and he lingered in the Northern Hospital until 17th September when he passed away, aged 26. He was buried in a paupers grave at Ford Cemetery.
John was further remanded pending the inquest, responding with "I'd as soon see myself dead as my brother." Before the coroner Clarke Aspinall, medical evidence was heard that death was directly as a result of he injury inflicted and a verdict of wilful murder was returned.
When John was brought back to court for committal hearing, he cried throughout the proceedings. William's widow Sarah refused to testify against John, saying they had always been the best of friends and this was the first time they had ever fought. In committing John to the Assizes, the Stipendiary Magistrate Mr Raffles said "This is a very lamentable affair that would have never occurred but for that cursed drink which brought ruin and misery to thousands."At the assizes on 21st December prosecutors described it as a painful case. It was accepted that John expressed immediate regret for what happened and that he had accompanied his brother to hospital, making no attempt to escape. The jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
In being asked if he had anything to say before sentencing, John cried bitterly and replied that he was very sorry it happened. The judge was having no sympathy however. Describing it as a most aggravated case, Sir George Hayes said he had to send a warning to drunkards and imposed a sentence of fifteen years imprisonment. John was in total shock as he was removed from the dock.
Tuesday, 8 February 2022
In 1868 a man borrowed 4d to make a part payment of a shilling debt he owed to a friend. When challenged over the reason he borrowed the money, he stabbed his friend to death and was gaoled for twelve years after being found guilty of manslaughter.
On arrival, Braithwaite asked to borrow 4d from Corbitt. Donovan immediately asked for that money as part payment of a shilling debt he was owed by Braithwaite, who complied. An argument then broke out in the back yard between Corbitt and Braithwaite, who was now quite drunk. This led to Donovan fetching Corbitt's wife to call her husband away. He then went inside to her, but as Braithwaite left the house he stabbed Donovan just below the breast.
Donovan ran a few yards before falling down. Two police officers who were in Christian Street were summonsed to the scene and they found him in a dying state. The 22 year old was pronounced dead by a doctor who arrived shortly afterwards. On being told that Braithwaite lived in Portland Street, two officers went there and took him into custody. Braithwaite had by then sobered up a little but replied that he knew nothing about any death.
At the inquest Corbitt was in the unenviable position of giving evidence that would incriminate one of his friends in the death of another. He said that they had spent the afternoon drinking and Brathwaite was in a far worse state than Donovan. Describing the incident when a man brushed against Braithwaite, he told the coroner that his friend had shouted after the man and Donovan was amused at this calling him a 'drunken tailor'. Corbitt had told Braithwaite it was wrong to borrow money from him to pay back Donovan, leading to him becoming more agitated.
Of the fatal blow, Corbitt admitted seeing Braithwaite strike Donovan but did not know he used a weapon. He did recall however that whilst they were out drinking, Brathwaite had used a small knife to cut some cheese. Corbitt's wife Martha gave more damning evidence, saying she had seen Braithwaite open a knife just before Donovan was struck. A youth named John Davies, who was walking past and knew none of the men, said he saw Brathwaite rush at Donovan without provocation. The doctor who carried out the post mortem reported that Donovan's organs were healthy and the blow was made with such violent force that the knife had passed through an eighth inch of bone before cutting the vein.
Braithwaite, a 24 year old tailor, appeared at the Liverpool Assizes on 21st December. The only decision for the jury to make was whether it was a case of murder or manslaughter. Due to the killing having taken place in a moment of passion, he was found guilty of the lesser charge. However Justice Hayes referred to it as a most aggravated case, especially in respect of Braithwaite opening the knife. Commenting that drunkenness was no excuse, he imposed a sentence of twelve years penal servitude.
Wednesday, 2 February 2022
In 1885 a Walton butcher was charged with manslaughter after a customer he had chased out of his shop died. However when the case was tried he was found guilty after the jury concluded that death was as a result of a fall rather than being struck.
On Saturday 18th July that year 64 year old John Williams went to work at 5.15am as a labourer on the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway. He then spent the early afternoon drinking in the Prince Leopold pub in Rice Lane.
Around 3pm John went to but half a pound of steak from butcher Samuel Hockenhull's shop. John complained about the quality of the meat and was ordered out by Hockenhull, but as he was leaving he picked up a large knife and through it towards the counter.
Hockenhull ran out of the shop and caught up with John at the corner with Wellfield Road. Within seconds John was on the floor with blood pouring out of a head wound with Hockenhull trying to raise him back up. John was taken to his lodgings in Salisbury Road and died on the Sunday evening without ever regaining consciousness.
At an inquest Hockenhull's assistant Andrew Hancock described how filthy language had upset ladies who were present. He stated that John said he would go for his boss and then threw the knife. In respect of what happened on the corner with Wellfield Road, he said that Hockenhull grabbed John by the collar and he immediately fell over. A woman who was stood on the other side of the road said she saw Hockenhull his John, but her friend could only say it was a push and she didn't actually see him fall.
After an inquest verdict of manslaughter Hockenhull was committed for trial on a coroner's warrant but granted bail. The case was heard before Mr Justice Manisty on 4th August. In addition to conflicting evidence from witnesses as to whether John was pushed or fell, medical reports stated that although the cause of death was a ruptured blood vessel, there was no skull fracture and John had not struck the ground with considerable force. This led to a not guilty verdict and Hockenhull was released from the dock.