Monday, 13 January 2020

An Argentine Tragedy in Cleveland Square




A fight between two Argentine sailors in 1889 ended in tragedy when one of them produced a knife and stabbed the other in the abdomen.

AlmBrownAcorazado.jpgOn 19th July that year some crew members of the Almirante Brown, an Argentine naval vessel undergoing repairs in Birkenhead,  went on a drinking session near the Sailors Home in Liverpool's Canning Place. 

When a dispute arose over what pub to visit two of the men, Louis Ramirez and Ramon Gonzalez began fighting in Cleveland Square. Gonzalez had the upper hand, twice knocking Ramirez down. This led to Ramirez drawing a knife from his sheath and plunging it into Gonzalez's abdomen.

Gonzalez was rushed to the Southern Hospital in Caryl Street where he died a few hours later. Ramirez had initially managed to escape and discard the knife but he was soon caught on his room at the Sailors Home.


Twenty year old Ramirez was up before the assizes court just ten days later where he was found guilty of manslaughter. The vessels captain addressed the judge and described Ramirez as peaceable and good tempered as a rule. 

Addressing Ramirez through a translator the judge said to him "I do not think by any means that yours is one of the worst cases, but it is a serious case. You have killed this man as a result of your violent temper after receiving considerable insult. I take into account the fact that you are not an Englishman and it may be that in your country less is thought of using the knife than we think of it here". He then imposed a sentence of six months imprisonment with hard labour.


Pub Kettle Killing

A pub customer unhappy at being asked to leave threw a kettle at the landlord, causing scalding which led to his death. 

On the evening of Sunday 14th October 1860 George Simpson, his wife, brother and sister in law were in Roberts' Spirit Vaults, Copperas Hill. When they were refused service for being drunk, the manager William Evans told them to leave. 

George rushed behind the bar and picked up a kettle from a stove, throwing it at William. The kettle hit him on the head and as William fell down, his face was heavily splashed with boiling water. 


William died five days later from delirium tremens, the onset of which had been brought about by shock due to scalding. An inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter against George Simpson and a warrant was made out for his arrest by the coroner. 

At the assizes on 14th December, George did not dispute the facts of the case. His employer, a furniture dealer in Church Street, was a witness to his good character, referring to him as "strictly honest, peaceable and well conducted". Mr Justice Blackburn then sentenced him to nine months imprisonment with hard labour.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

A Fatal Quarrel Over change

When a row erupted in a Yate's Wine Lodge over some change, one man was left dead but following a trial, the other was acquitted.

On the afternoon of Thursday 15th October 1925 James Shevlin, a 42 year old engineer, was drinking in Yate's Wine Lodge in Great Charlotte Street. He paid for a drink with half a crown and when his change of a shilling and eleven pence was placed on the bar, it was quickly picked up by 29 year old hawker James Varley. 

Shevlin demanded the money back and Varley gave it to him, saying they should meet up outside. Varley went out of the Great Charlotte Street exit but Shevlin, keen to avoid confrontation, left by the door that led to Deane Street. Sensing this, Varley went round to Deane Street and struck Shevlin, who didn't respond and ran off towards Ranelagh Street. Varley gave chase and struck Shevlin again opposite Lewis's, but this time Shevlin fought back. He was seen by an excited crowd to take something small and shiny out of his pocket and hold it out to Varley, who fell down bleeding.

Varley was rushed to the Royal Infirmary but died soon after admission. Shevlin, who had been detained by a passer was at Warren Street bridewell, where he was told he would be charged with wilful murder. A small penknife and pair of tweezers were found in his overcoat pocket.

A post mortem established that there were three stab wounds around Varley's groin. One of these had severed he femoral artery and vein, causing a hemorrhage that led to death. The cuts were consistent with having been caused by a penknife. 

At the inquest the following Monday Shevlin cross examined Dr Brown who had treated Varley at the hospital. When asked if the injuries could have been caused by tweezers rather than a penknife Dr Brown replied that it was "possible but not probable". Shevlin then gave a frank explanation of what happened. He said "I have only one eye and was frightened of having that hurt. I wanted no quarrel with Varley so as he continued to hit me took a pair of tweezers out of my pocket to defend myself and held them out towards him hoping that the crowd would separate us." Shevlin denied that he had been running away and stated that he was just trying to find a policeman. 

After a period of deliberation, the jury found that Shevlin had stabbed Varley with the penknife. However they acknowledged it was under a great deal of provocation and there was no intent to kill. He was then committed to the assizes on a coroner's warrant for trial on a charge of manslaughter.
On 2nd November prosecutors acknowledged that Varley had struck Shevlin first but the use of a knife was a disproportionate form of self defence. Shevlin gave evidence himself, denying thrusting any weapon. He maintained that he carried small instruments to fix watches, and did not even know what he had in his hand. All he was concerned about, he testified, was saving his remaining eye. Summing up, his defence counsel said the wound would not have proved fatal if it was half an inch either way.

In summing up, Mr Justice McKinnon said that all parties had agreed on the fact that Varley was the aggressor up until the final few seconds. If it was to be accepted as self defence, then the force needed to have been adequate. He also drew attention to the fact that implement caught Varley in a very unlucky spot hence causing death. Finally, the judge said that if they were satisfied Shevlin held out the instruments as a deterrent, but Varley threw himself upon them, then it should be an acquittal.

Without leaving their box, the jury found Shevlin not guilty and he was free to return to his home in Chesterfield Street. 


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".