Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Fatal Consequences of Drunkenness


A husband who rowed with his wife after he came home drunk ended up causing her death when he kicked out, but at his trial he was cleared of manlaughter. 

At 8 o'clock in the morning of 25th May 1833 John Kearns, a labouring porter, returned in an intoxicated state to his home in Dickenson Street. His wife Annie told him to take his breakfast and go to work, but instead he called her by what the Liverpool Mercury described as an 'infamous name' before tipping the table over. 

When Annie called him names in reutrn, he threw a stone, poker and fender at her, all of them missing. They then fought for ten minutes before, a neighbour intervened and kept them apart. Kearns had a wound to his head which was dressed, but he refused to go to bed and Annie declined to go and seek solace at her sisters. 

Fifty year old Kearns left and went into the street, with Annie shouting abuse after him, causing him to return whilst in an even more furtious state than earlier. Despite the best efforts of a neighbour to hold him back, Kearns kicked Annie in the neck whilst she was picking something up, rupturing the windpipe.

Annie died two hours later and Kearns was taken into custody. At an inquest two day later Annie was described by neighbours as a mild and inoffensive woman. Any quarrels they said, was down to her husband's habitual drunkenness. After a verdict of manslaughter was returned the Coroner, James Aspinall, issued a warrant committing Kearns for trial at Lancaster Castle Regret was expressed that five children had now been deprived of their natural guardians and protectors. 

On 14th August, Kearns was tried and evidence was given that the item Annie was about to pick up was a brick to throw at him. The jury concluded the death was accidental and he was acquitted. 

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Unsolved Sectarian Killing

When Liverpool was struck by a wave of Sectarian violence in 1909, nobody was ever brought to account for the death of a carter who died after being struck on the back of the head.

On the evening of 21st June 1909 a carter named Andrew Cathcart and two workmates were heading up Hopwood Street when they were approached from behind. The other two got away but twenty six year old Andrew was hit on the back of the head by a wooden implement, possibly a rolling pin. Although he fell down, he did manage to get back to his feet quite quickly but after a few more steps, he went down again, losing consciousness.

The attack was Sectarian in nature as on the previous day over fifty Protestants had been arrested for attacks on Catholics in and around Prince Edwin Street. Andrew would normally have walked down Latimer Street but avoided there knowing a large crowd of Catholics had gathered. As carters were more often than not Protestants, they were particularly vulnerable to revenge attacks. Although Andrew was a Protestant, family members said he was not affiliated to any lodge or order. 

On hearing what had happened his sister Annie went to the Northern Hospital and saw him lying barely conscious with a bandaged head. He mumbled "mean fellows" to her. 

Andrew spent a week in hospital before returning to his home in Pugin Street. He continued to feel better but on Saturday 3rd July, whilst having supper, he felt a pain in the back of is head and slumped forward. Annie sent for a local doctor, who pronounced life extinct. 

A fifteen year old boy called Lawrence Duffy gave a statement to the police that Daniel Munroe, who lived at 111 Hopwood Street, had carried out the attack. Based on this, Munroe was arrested and taken to the Athol Street bridewell and charged with murder. 

Munroe was remanded in custody pending a coroners inquest. By the time this took place on 21st July another suspect, Edwin Costello, had also been arrested and charged. 

There was  a lot of conflicting evidence. Although it was agreed by eye witnesses that Andrew had been struck on the back of the head with the implement, only one could say Costello struck the blow, while one woman said it definitely wasn't them. When asked to look at the two prisoners and state if one of them had done it, Lawrence Duffy now said he couldn't be sure. 

In summing up the Coroner said that witness evidence was unreliable and it would be unsafe to return a verdict of wilful murder against either Costello or Munroe. The jury came back with an open verdict leading to the discharge both prisoners. 

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Boy Killed By Car As He Played

The driver of a car that killed a seven year old boy was jailed for a year after being cleared of manslaughter but convicted of dangerous driving. 

On 4th June 1945, three young boys were playing at the corner of Dingle Lane and Dingle Mount when a car came careering out of control towards them. Rather than turn the corner into Dingle Lane, it carried on straight and collided with a pillar box, trapping seven year old Leslie Stockton. 

The driver of the car was 31 year old Sidney Davies, an insurance agent who lived at 18 Corinthian Avenue, Stoneycroft. On getting out of the car he immediately fell to the pavement and said to a police officer who attended "I am sorry old man, I have had a good night." Leslie, who lived in Dingle Mount with his parents, was taken to hospital but died from his injuries. Sidney was charged with manslaughter and dangerous driving and committed for trial. 

 The following month at Manchester Assizes the prosecuting counsel was Rose Heilbron, who went on to have a number of legal firsts for a woman. She told the court that he drove the car recklessly and under the influence of drink, but acknowledged his staggering may have been made worse by having a wooden leg. Sidney's defence was that his wooden leg had slipped from the brake onto the accelerator and that if he appeared drunk, it was due to the shock of the accident. 

The jury found Sidney guilty of dangerous driving but cleared him on the manslaughter charge. He was then jailed for one year and banned from driving for ten years. 

Triple Tragedy in Litherland

A husband whose mental health suffered as a result of a house move committed murdered his wife and son before committing suicide. 

On the evening of 6th April 1960 a neighbour of the Gibbon family who lived at 23 Hawkshead Drive, Litherland, became concerned when she smelt gas from the property next door and realised she had not seen or heard any of the occupants that day. When it was seen that milk bottles were still on the doorstep, police were called. 

On forcing entry to the property, the found a terrible scene.  In the bedrooms, still in their nightclothes, were the bloodied bodies of Amy Gibbon and her sixteen year old son William. Both had been battered about the head. In a cupboard under the stairs, was the hunched body of 46 year old Charles Gibbon, next to a severed gas pipe.

An inquest heard from neighbours and family members. They had been a loving family who moved to Litherland from Speke just two months earlier to be nearer Charles's brother. However Amy had expressed concern to neighbours that he may have a nervous breakdown.  He had been finding many faults with the house and regretted buying it, spending many an hour of an evening out walking rather than be there. He was also worried about mortgage payments, despite having a good position as an assistant cashier with a biochemists.  

The inquest returned a verdict that Charles had murdered Amy and William, before committing suicide whilst the balance of mind was disturbed. 

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Widowed Woman Strangles Daughter

A Tuebrook woman devastated by the death of her husband strangled her young daughter. When she stood trial for murder, she was found to be guilty but insane.

On the morning of 25th January 1937 Ethel Brown, a 25 year old widow living in 35 Witton Road, Tuebrook, had an argument with her mother, who then left the house. Around 10am Ethel ran to the home of Mrs Yeates in Adshead Road, hoping to find her mother but she wasn't there. Ethel sobbed "Help me, I have killed Maudie" and then collapsed. 


After Ethel came round, Mrs Yeates accompanied her to Witton Road, where Maud's body was lying on a bed in a back bedroom. She had been strangled with a tablecloth and Dr Cohen from Marlborough Road was called to confirm the death. Ethel was in a hysterical state by the time two detectives arrived to arrest her and arrange the removal of the body to a mortuary. 

When she calmed down, Ethel made a full confession, telling the detectives "I did it, I did not mean to do it, I do not know what came over me." That afternoon she appeared at the police court and remanded into custody. Maud was buried at Anfield Cemetery. Her death had come just four months after that of her father, who died in September 1936.

Ethel was first due to be tried on 11th March, but she was ill with pneumonia and the judge allowed the case to be referred to the Manchester assizes the following month. 

On 30th April 1937, Dr Shannon from Strangeways gaol gave evidence that she was insane at the time she committed the crime.  Ethel's mother said she was an affectionate woman who was passionately fond of her daughter, but this changed after she became widowed and she was often distressed. Ethel was then detained at His Majesty's pleasure. 


Thursday, 16 April 2020

Shot Dead Next to the River Alt

An ex soldier who shot is lover dead next to the River Alt in 1920 was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. 

On the night of Sunday 21st March that year 35 year old Herbert Salisbury was arrested for being drunk and disorderly after falling in the road near the Blundell Arms at closing time. He had a revolver and cartilages in his possession and when asked where his wife was, replied "My wife is lying dead on the river bank, past Tommy Rimmers, on the main road. I shot her last night". Salisbury was held in custody whilst officers searched the location and found a body at the spot he had told them about.

The woman concerned was not Salisbury's wife but Alice Pearson, who had left her husband to co-habit with him. They had met in September 1918 whilst he was in hospital in Leeds, having been wounded on active service in France as a machine gunner for the American army. Salisbury had lived in Rhode Island for twenty years working in hotels, having been born and raised in England.     

38 year old Alice left her husband and began to travel the country with him from town to town after he was discharged from the army in February 1919, living off her savings. Alice was the daughter of a successful boot dealer and had not married until she was in her early thirties. The couple lived in Liverpool for some time before taking lodgings in Castle Street, Southport, in early March 1920.

On being told that a body had been located Salisbury replied "Thank God for that, we planned to end our lives together when the money was done. We had £700 and the money you found in my possession (£2) was all we had left".

Salisbury's trial took place at the Liverpool assizes on 22nd April. He pleaded guilty but the judge insisted on hearing the evidence to allow the jury to consider a verdict. The exact circumstances of the fateful day were never fully determined. It was known they had been expected back at their lodgings and were seen together outside the Royal Hotel in Formby at 6.30pm. An hour later, Salisbury was at the Blundell Arms on his own showing off the revolver. The court heard how a brave pub customer had heard Salisbury's claim that he had pumped four bullets into a woman and disarmed him when he fell and held him until the police arrived. 

Salisbury's counsel asked the jury to consider his state of mind and also whether manslaughter was more appropriate. In summing up however, the judge said drunkenness was no excuse and that if he fired a gun at a woman's face, there must have been intent to kill. It took just twenty minutes to return a guilty verdict and Salisbury showed no emotion as he was sentenced to death.

Salisbury made no appeal and was hanged on 11th May in a double execution at Walton gaol. The man hanged alongside him was William Waddington, an Oldham miller who had killed a seven year old girl.  

Friday, 10 April 2020

Shocking Double Murder and Suicide

In 1951 a man shot his wife and mother in law dead before going on the run. He turn the gun on himself the following day as the police net closed in on him.

The double shooting took place on 16th April that year at 32 Underley Street, off Smithdown Road, where Archbishop Blanch school now stands. Lilian Parr lived there with her 25 year old daughter Lilian (known as Beryl) and 29 year old son in law Walter Beech. The young couple were in disagreement over Walter's decision to rent two rooms locally, as Beryl didn't want to leave her 55 year old widowed mother living alone.

At around 6.50pm their neighbour in number 30, Mrs Barber, heard a scream. After getting no answer when she knocked on the front door, she and her husband went round to the backyard and saw the bodies of Lilian and Beryl lying on the kitchen floor. Both had been shot in the chest. Another neighbour,Thomas Gladwinfield from number 34, ran to a phone box and dialled 999.

A huge manhunt was launched, with fifty officers searching local parks, gardens, cemeteries and wasteground for the murder weapon. A warning was issued to the pubic regarding approaching Walter, with the Liverpool echo stating "He may still be armed and is likely to be dangerous". He was described as five feet eleven and three quarter inches tall, slim build, fresh complexion, dark brown hair, clean shaven with blue eyes. He was last seen to be wearing a navy blue raincoat, brown gloves,a collar and tie.

Lilian was a cleaner at Olive Mount hospital and described as very nice and exceedingly popular. Beryl, a nurse at nearby Sefton General hospital, had been married to Walter,a gas welder, for five years and was expecting their first child. For three years of the marriage, Walter had been in prison after being found guilty of housebreaking with firearms in Blundellsands. Friends of Lilian described her as "one of the most pleasant of girls" but that Walter did not like her having friends and was jealous of the mother-daughter relationship.

Around 24 hours after the killings, police received a tip off that Walter was in the Princes Park Hotel, on Upper Stanhope Street. Two detective sergeants went there and saw him at the bar with a lady, then asked him to step into another room of the pub. He have his name as Ray Lewis and said he was a seafarer from a Dutch ship, who had taken rooms across the road. On being told by the detectives that they knew who he was, Walter then took the gun from under his armpit and shouted "Stand back or you will get it, you are not taking me".

In an incredible act of bravery, DS John Beaverstock edged forward and said "Don't be a fool, put that gun away". Walter then pointed the gun towards the stomachs of Beaverstock and his colleague DS Joseph Gillbanks, shouting "Stop, it is loaded and you will get it". He then turned the gun around and shot himself in the head, toppling over. A search of Walter found he was carrying  copy of a newspaper containing reports of the killing she had committed.

The lady Walter was with identified herself as Elizabeth Pierce, a 25 year old waitress from Ireland. She said she had first met him on the Monday evening and had a drink then arranged to meet him the following afternoon, but denied spending the night with him. Elizabeth described Walter as "a nice quiet young man".

Lilian and Beryl were buried together at Allerton Cemetery, while Walter was laid in an unmarked public grave at Anfield Cemetery. Neither grave has any maker indicating who is buried there.