Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Hanged Over A Bucket of Water

A dispute over the cleanliness of a bucket of water led to the execution of a sailor in 1915. 

28 year old Young Hill was from Wilson, Louisiana who worked as a muleteer - somebody who looks after mules - on the SS Antillian which sailed from New Orleans on 6th July 1915. On 25th July the ship unloaded some cargo at Avonmouth before sailing on to Liverpool and while the ship was on the River Mersey waiting to dock the next evening that the tragedy occurred.

At around 7.30pm while the ship was lying off Canada Dock Hill was asked to take some water to a fellow crew member who was sick. He poured some water from a bucket into a kettle but was told by Crawford that this was dirty as he had washed hid feet in it. Crawford went to get some clean water but when he returned Hill grabbed him from behind and pulled his head back before cutting his throat with a razor. Crawford managed to get away but Hill caught up with him and slashed him again, this time causing instant death. Hill was later described as looking 'wild' and threatened to cut the head off anybody who approached him. It was only when Captain Gittins produced a revolver that Hill, who like his victim was described as 'coloured' by the press, gave himself up.

When the ship berthed in Huskisson Dock at 10pm the bloodstained razor was handed to detectives by the Captain and on his arrest, Hill claimed he acted in self defence after Crawford threw a punch at him, which he ducked to avoid. Hill stood trial at the Liverpool Assizes in October where witnesses said there was no initial assault on Hill and he was found guilty. Hill was sentenced to death although the jury did recommend mercy due to his nationality but this was not upheld by the Home Secretary.

On 1st December, after being attended to by Father St John, Hill was hanged at Walton along with John Thornley, a Cheshire man who had killed his girlfriend. There were just five people outside the prison gates, far less than normal, when the death notices were posted.

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