Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Handcart Horror

A shop employee thought he had got away with murder when he dumped the body of his manageress in the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, but he didn't account for its lock system which exposed his crime.

In 1913, 40 year old Christina Bradfield managed her brother John's tarpaulin shop in Old Hall Street. Her staff included 22 year old George Ball and 18 year old Samuel Elltoft. On 10th December, as Bradfield was counting the days takings, she was sexually assaulted and battered to death with a piece of wood by Ball. He then instructed Elltoft, who had been putting up shutters outside the shop, to help him dispose of the body.

The corpse was placed in a sack as Ball decided the next plan. Whilst doing this, he had to deal with Walter Eaves, a ships steward whose bowler hat was damaged by a shutter blowing off the window. Ball gave Eaves a florin in compensation, but Eaves remained in the street waiting for his girl. He then witnessed the two young men pushing a handcart up the road, with a suspiciously shaped sack on top of it.

After pushing the cart for half a mile, the sack was thrown into the canal, Ball believing it would eventually end up at the bottom of the River Mersey. The following morning typist Miss Venables turned up for work and was surprised to find that Christina was not there but Ball and Elltoft were. At lunchtime, John Bradfield decided to call the police as he found it highly unlikely that they would be entrusted with the shop keys and a check on all of her known acquaintances found she was not with any of them. 

Around the time Mr Bradfield was speaking to detectives, a gruesome discovery was made at the lockfields on the Leeds & Liverpool canal. The sack had got caught in the lock gate and been discovered by the master of a barge the next midday. After Mr Bradfield identified the body and confirmed that money was missing from the shop the police soon concluded who the prime suspects were. Elltoft was arrested at 1.30am the next morning at his home in Windermere Street but Ball had already disappeared. He was arrested at a boarding house a week later in Paradise Street, having been followed there by an old schoolfriend who spotted him at the Everton v Chelsea match at Goodison Park on 20th December. He had shaved his eyebrows and worn an eyepatch and glasses to try and disguise himself, but was cocky enough to have a drink in the Liverpool Arms in James Street.

At the trial which began on 2nd February, Ball and Elltoft gave completely different fictional accounts of the events of 10th December. Ball admitted dumping the sack in the canal but only because he had been threatened by an unknown man with a gun who had shot Christina dead and told him he would be killed too if he didn't dispose of the body. Elltoft  claimed he didnt witness the murder but was too afraid of Ball to do anything other than assist him. Walter Eaves though confirmed that Ball had not looked scared when he spoke to him and could easily have ran away, while Ball also couldn't explain why he was in possession of Christina's watch when he was arrested. 

Ball was found guilty of murder and hanged for murder on 26th February 1914. He finally confessed his guilt the day before and went to the scaffold with a resigned acceptance to his fate. Elltoft received 4 years penal servitude for being an accessory after the fact and initially appealed against this, but withdrew that when police found a large quantity of cash hidden in a bedstead meaning he could have faced an increased sentence. After being released from Dartmoor prison, he was later killed in action during the First World War

1 comment:

  1. I am related to Miss Venables, the young typist.