Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Old Curiosity Shop Murder

The slaying of a defenceless 82 year old man in the quiet suburb of Aintree attracted national headlines in 1953.

Retired tailor George Walker owned a Victorian detached house  at 98 Warbreck Moor, the ground floor of which he used as a bric-a-brac shop. It was known locally as the Old Curiosity Shop. 

On 9th January 1953 Walker allowed 20 year old unemployed labourer John Todd to work unsupervised on a grandfather clock. Walker's sister Mary was suspicious of Todd, who had a knife dangling from a sheath attached to his waistband.  

The following Wednesday afternoon (14th January) Todd killed Walker by repeatedly striking him with an axe, which the old man used for breaking coal. He then took Walker's silver pocket watch and left the premises, his crepe shoes leaving a trail of bloody footprints.

The alarm was not raised for almost 24 hours, when one of Walker's dogs barked at the home of a Marion Owen, a woman who lived  in the next street. The police were called and on breaking into the property, his body was found in the hallway.

Walker's sister gave a description of Todd and this was confirmed by two boys who had called at the shop on the day before the murder, to be told by Todd to come back the next day. On the orders of his mother who was completely unaware at the time, Todd himself gave a statement to police after an appeal for anyone who had visited the shop recently to come forward, telling how he had bought a gramophone there.

Todd, who lived in Roxburgh Street in Walton, was arrested on 19th January after his girlfriend Iris Tucker read an account of the murder in a newspaper. On seeing the description of the man wanted for questioning -Todd had a pointed nose and a wart to the side of his left eye- she gave a statement to the police. The young man was charged with murder and appeared before magistrates the next day, the same day as George Walker's burial in Everton cemetery.

At the trial, Todd was defended by Rose Heilbron and claimed that Walker had fell against him with a bloody nose and that the silver watch was his own. When shown a photograph of the corpse, Todd tried to say that the mess had happened after he had left the property. After being found guilty on 9th April, Todd was sentenced to death by Justice Cassels who told him 'You cruelly and brutally battered that man to death.' 

He was hanged on 19th May 1953, the Home Secretary refusing calls from his defence team for an enquiry into the sanity of a man who prior to this occurrence had not been convicted of any criminal offences.

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