Thursday, 9 November 2017

Maltese Hanged for Norris Green Man's Death

In 1948 when 22 year old man from Norris Green was stabbed to death in Staffordshire, his Maltese killer was hanged at Walton gaol.

George Semini
Shortly after 10pm on Friday 9th October that year three young Liverpool men were stood outside the Talbot Hotel in Church Street, Newcastle Under Lyme. When a 24 year old Maltese man named George Semini walked past with a local lady, Majorie Seabridge, one of them made a remark about her height. Semini reacted ferociously, knocking one of them to the ground. Two passers by tried to restrain him but Semin broke free and knifed all three Liverpool men before running off across some wasteland.

Two of the men's wounds were not so serious, injuring the knee and One of the three men, 22 year old Joseph Gibbons, had been stabbed in the chest and died an hour later at the North Staffordshire Hospital. Joseph was originally from Berkswell Road in Norris Green and had been working in the area as a welder at a gasworks. He and his friends were at the end of their contract and had just been paid, so were enjoying a last night out in the area before returning to Liverpool the next day.

Twenty Four year old George Semini, a Maltese national who working at a local mine in Knutton, was arrested at a miners hostel. He was charged with murder and remanded in custody at a special sitting of the police court the next morning. At the inquest Joseph's father described him as peaceful and of amiable disposition and said he had recently been discharged from the army.

At this trial at the beginning of December, portrait photographs were produced of Semini holding a knife. Semini did not deny the stabbing, but said it all happened in a haze and couldn't remember exactly what happened. The fact he had been held back but broke free did not bode well for him and he was found guilty. As he was sentenced to death, Marjorie Seabridge broke down and cried and a Maltese in the public gallery shouted 'Injustice'.

Semini's lawyers appealed on the basis it was a chance medley, but this was rejected. Lord Chief Justice Goddard said in his reasons that there was no reason to draw the knife and called the stabbing a dreadful and cowardly act of revenge. 

The day before his execution Semini was visited by his friend Joe Marguerat,. Semini asked him to buy a gold locket and chain so a photograph of him could be put in there for his wife and son in Malta. On the day itself, 27th January 1949, Marguerat was one of two Maltese nationals outside the gates of Walton gaol and told reporters he had promised to look after Semini's family. Semini also had an unlikely sympathiser in Joseph's mother, who wrote to him in prison saying she knew he hadn't intended to kill him.





Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Killing of a Carters Wife

A man who tried to rape a carter's wife and killed her when she rejected his advances was jailed for ten years.

On 11th May 1869 Stephen Brennan, described in the press as half witted, was invited for tea by a carter named Joseph White who lived at 249 Vauxhall Road. When Joseph went out, Brennan attempted to violate his 63 year old wife Mary. On being rebuked, Brennan struck Mary, breaking her nose and causing considerable bruising to her face.

Vauxhall Road (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
Mary died on 7th July and a postmortem by Dr Samuels revealed the heart, lungs and kidneys to be in poor condition. He had no doubt however, that death had been accelerated as a result of the injuries inflicted by Brennan. An inquest revealed a verdict of wilful murder leading to Brennan, who was already in prison awaiting trial for assault, now facing a murder charge.

Brennan appeared at the assizes on 17th August and was found guilty of manslaughter. He was jailed for ten years, the Liverpool Mercury saying that the killing had involved circumstances of the most fearfully revolting character. 


Mans One Year For Killing Two Decades Earlier


A man who killed a woman in the heat of the moment in 1950 was not brought to justice until he confessed twenty one years later. Even then, he was jailed for just a year.

In the early hours of 26th September 1950 a woman was found unconscious with head wounds on some wasteland off Great Newton Street. Aged between 35 and 45, she was taken to the Royal Infirmary and treated for a fractured skull and broken jaw never regained full consciousness. However before slipping way she did manage to mumble 'Annie Howard' to a police officer that was by her bedside.

Great Newton Street in 1960s (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
Officers believed that that the woman's handbag was missing and that she had been struck on the head by a blunt instrument. A search of the area found two bloodstained bricks nearby. Enquiries established that she had been seen that evening with a man whose identity couldn't be established and that he may have been foreign.

Twenty One years later, in July 1971, a man named William Collins went into a newspaper office in Manchester and confessed to the crime. When interviewed by police, he said that Annie had tried taking money from his pocket and he hit her with a half brick. He described the incident as taking place in a dark drunken moment and said he had been having nightmares about it ever since.

Collins, who was now 54 years old and lived at Mallowdale Close in Hulme, was charged with murder but at Liverpool Crown Court on 7th October that year the prosecution accepted his plea of guilty to manslaughter. He was then sentenced to one years imprisonment, Mr Justice Caulfield telling Collins that he believed he would be happier to serve punishment for his crime than continue with his guilty secret.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Sister killed Over Shirt.

A man killed his sister in Kensington after she refused him permission to pawn a shirt. 

On  the afternoon of Monday 27th February 1899 Jane Canning went on an errand and returned to her home in Houlton Street, Kensington. She found her seventeen year old daughter Ada lying on the landing, having been battered about the head. She was barely alive, her injuries being so bad that part of her brain protruded.

Jane's 25 year old son James, who just half and hour earlier had been quietly sat by the fire, was nowhere to be seen and the backdoor and gate were open.

James was located a few hours later in a nearby pub by his brother and admitted hitting Ada several times. The following morning Ada succumbed to her injuries, which included a fractured skull and James was arrested.

On being taken into custody James told officers 'I struck her on the head with a poker, you see what drink does for me. Thank God I did not use a knife, I did not mean to kill her. James had recently been discharged from the army for striking an officer and spent most of his time drinking, in between occasional labouring jobs.

James appeared at the police court on the afternoon of his arrest and was remanded in custody. At the coroner's inquest, a verdict of wilful murder was returned after the brother's evidence was heard. 

On 1st May James appeared before the assizes where the jury heard how he had tried to pawn a shirt on the fateful day, but Ada tried to stop him. His mother Jane broke down several times while testifying, saying that he normally adored Ada. The police officer who made the arrest said that James had told him he loved his sister.

In the closing speech, James' defence counsel pleaded that due to his drunkenness his state of mind was not as it should have been. In summing up though, the judge said that his drunken state was his own doing.  However, he also pointed out that there had been no previous quarrel and he did not appear to have intended to kill.

James was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter without the jury leaving their box. However the judge, Mr Justice Ridley, showed no leniency, referring to the circumstances of his army discharge as an indication of his character. He then imposed a sentence of fourteen years penal servitude.   

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Parental Neglect at Woolton

A distressing case in 1895 saw a woman jailed for two months after being prosecuted when her baby daughter died in the workhouse.

On 13th September 1895 Inspector Cole of the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)  attended 25 Rodick Street in Woolton, the home of a middle aged widow named Mary Rawlinson. It was a distressing sight, with Mary sat behind a box in which her six month old daughter was lying. The poor infant was emaciated, wearing wet clothes and covered in vermin. Two other girls, nine year old Mary and seven year old Ann were naked and also had vermin swarming all over them. 

Rodick St in 1930s (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)Inspector Cole pleaded with Mary to take her children into the workhouse in Whiston but she refused, saying she would rather die on the streets than go there. She did however agree to go the following day and baby Alice was immediately taken from her and examined by a doctor. She was found to be almost skin and bone, weighing only seven and a half pounds, as opposed to the expected twelve pounds and four ounces for a baby of her age. Her skin was also covered in bites and sores and she died ten days later.

Dr Hall from the workhouse refused to issue a burial certificate and referred the matter to the coroner. On 30th September an inquest was held at Whiston workhouse and three women all said they had nursed Alice while her mother worked as a laundress in Cressington. They denied neglecting her in any way and felt she was healthy. 

The doctor revealed that the postmortem had shown death was as a result of congestion on the brain and asked if this was down to neglect, he replied that it was his suspicion that it was. Mary denied any neglect, saying that she often went hungry herself to ensure her children were fed. She told how she used to receive three shillings a week relief from the guardians but this was withdrawn as Alice was illegitimate. 

The Coroner Samuel Brighouse expressed concern at the withdrawal of relief and asked Reverend Sylvester from the guardians to explain this. He insisted that it was only 'outdoor relief' that wasn't paid, and that Mary could be accommodated in the workhouse. Asked why this was, he said that paying money in the community would encourage women to have more illegitimate children. This received a rebuke from Brighouse, saying that the other children shouldn't be made to suffer as a reslt of this.

Samuel Brighouse The jury returned a verdict of death by natural causes, saying they didn't believe Mary's actions had contributed to the death. However the NSPCC continued with the prosecution. On 4th October at the Woolton Sessions it was heard how Mary's husband had died a few years earlier and although she worked hard, she was also of drunken and dissolute habits. The prosecutor said that they were not seeking a manslaughter conviction, rather one for neglect of all three children, with that being a factor in Alice's death.

Evidence was heard from Dr Hall and a portress as to Alice's condition on being taken to the workhouse. They were of the opinion that she was improperly fed and that the bedding had been greatly neglected. After being found guilty the chair of the bench said it was some of the most harrowing evidence he ever heard. Saying he was sure neglect had accelerated death, he sentenced Mary to two months imprisonment with hard labour.  

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Dale Street Skeleton

In 1862 some workmen in Dale Street uncovered a skeleton, believed to be that of somebody who met a violent end some years earlier. 

On 17th September that year workmen were digging up newly vacant land, making it ready for the construction of  Municipal Building. They came across a skeleton and quickly summoned the police who placed the grisly find in a sack and took it to the detective office to await an order from the coroner.  

The land had previously been occupied by a number of what the Daily Post described as 'disreputable houses' and speculation was rife that the person had met their end by 'foul means'.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Estranged Husband's Death Sentence Reprieve

A man who was jealous of his estranged wife's lifestyle killed her by cutting her throat, but was reprieved from the death sentence.

George and Martha Sutherland married in 1925 but two years later were separated, leading to them both living in lodging houses; George in Wilton Street, Martha in Soho Street.  Martha was said to be making a living by 'immoral means', much to George's anger. Things came to a head on 22nd October 1927 George came across his estranged wife in a pub in Islington with a man named Rogers.

Soho Street in the late 1960s (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
Later that night George went to Martha's lodgings to confront her, leading to her replying that she would go with who she likes and threatening to throw a plate at him. Martha went alone to a shop and George followed her, cutting her throat with a razor. He then told a passer by to fetch a policeman and was taken into custody without resistance. Martha was taken to the Royal Infirmary but pronounced dead on arrival. She was 25 years old, the same aged as George who worked as a fruit porter.

At the bridewell George realised the seriousness of his situation and said that Martha had tried to cut him, he took the razor off her and waved it as a deterrent, only to cut her. On being charged with murder he responded 'What I did, I did to save myself getting cut.'

George was tried by Justice Finlay at the Manchester assizes where a key witness was Professor McFall of the University of Liverpool. He was of the opinion that a cut on George's arm had occurred after he had slashed Martha's throat. George was found guilty of murder but with a strong recommendation for mercy. In passing sentence of death, the judge said he would forward this on to which George imply replied 'thank you.' George's sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment by the Home Secretary.