Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Garston Wife Killing

In 1888 a man subjected his wife to a brutal battering in Garston that was treated very laxly by the authorities, but despite causing her death he escaped with his life when the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter.

James and Ellen Neill were in their forties and had lived in Vulcan Street for twenty years. James was a labourer at the nearby docks and both drank heavily, with Ellen appearing in court thirteen times for drunkenness.

On Wednesday 29th August the Neill's neighbour Mrs Doyle heard them arguing over money and when she went to see if everything was ok, she found Ellen cowering in the lobby, with James screaming that he would 'swing for her' if she didn't find some money. What happened after that isn't clear, but at 9.30am James was brought back in a drunken state from a local pub by one of his five children and went to bed to sleep it off.

At around 4.30 that afternoon Mrs Doyle heard arguing again and went around, where she saw James banging Ellen's head against the tiled floor. Mrs Doyle sent one of the children to find a policeman and was then powerless to prevent the sustained attack, that then consisted of James standing on a bacon box over his wife's stomach and kicking her at least twenty times. He then told her that he would roast her and started kicking hot cinders from the fire over her now nearly naked body, her clothes having been largely torn off.

Unbelievably, when PC Palmer arrived he was invited by James to 'come in and see the drunken bitch' and after seeing Ellen lying on the floor with vomit over her and concluded that she was drunk and went away. The following afternoon another policeman called for a medical examination and a doctor found bruises on her eyelids and neck, as well as burns on the chest, but again no action was taken.

Ellen remained in bed for three more days, with James spending most of Saturday 1st September, the day she died, at her side. He made no comment when being taken into custody except to say he hadn't intended to kill her. Two days later the Coroner's court returned a verdict of wilful murder.

James was tried at the Liverpool Assizes on 22nd December, and it was fortunate for him that Mrs Doyle was ill and unable to give evidence. James's defence counsel suggested that Mrs Doyle had a grudge against him,and also managed to cast doubt on the injuries to the brain that caused Ellen's death as the doctor who carried out the post mortem said they could have been obtained by falling.

The jury in the case returned a verdict of manslaughter. In passing sentence, Mr Justice Wills told James that he had engaged in 'desperate violence with an utter recklessness of consequence' and ordered that he serve sixteen years in gaol.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Death of a Prizefighter

In 1875 a prizefight that the police were powerless to prevent took place at Aintree racecourse, resulting in the death of one of the men involved.

Simon Looney and John Mahoney were both Irish dock labourers who lived in the Vauxhall area of the city. Mahoney, who was known as a good fighter but didn't go looking for trouble reluctantly agreed to fight Looney who wouldn't stop challenging him to one.

The fight, for which both men were paid £5, was set for the early morning of Sunday 1st August but police were tipped off and dispersed a crowd of a few hundred men from the canal locks at Love Lane. Later that morning, what the Liverpool Mercury described as 'crowds of low characters' were seen by police heading towards Kirkdale and on towards Walton. The men eventually got to Aintree, where many started playing games and running races to try and convince the police nothing untoward was happening.

A ring was formed and guarded by men with sticks and belts, and the heavily outnumbered police were unable to stop the fight from starting. Mahoney and Looney shook hands, with Mahoney telling his opponent that it was bad that two Irishmen should have to fight like this. Mahoney gradually gained the upper hand after the first four or five rounds were even, then after 40 minutes he was ready to pronounce himself the winner. However many of the crowd, which numbered about 400, rushed towards the ring and insisted they fight on. After Looney was knocked to the ground with a blow to the cheek, he said he would not fight any more and was taken to Bootle Hospital by his friend, while Mahoney and his friends began the long trek back to Vauxhall.

The police managed to arrest five men who were taking charge of the ring and attempts to take a statement from Looney were unsuccessful. He died the following morning and when Mahoney heard this news he handed himself in to Great Howard Street police station.

On 16th August Mahoney and five others were found guilty of manslaughter, with the jury recommending mercy. In sentencing Mahoney to four months imprisonment, Mr Higgin Q.C. told him he had every opportunity to pull out of the fight, but took into account his previous good character and surrendering to the police on hearing of Looney's death. The other five were sentenced to six weeks imprisonment.

In a twist to this story, Mahoney was assaulted the following March  by a Patrick Moran in Tenterden Street. Moran told him that he had killed a good man and that he would swing for him. Moran then punched Mahoney up to fourteen times in the face. He was subsequently convicted of common assault and sentenced to two months imprisonment.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Liverpool Cab Murder

Shortly before Christmas in 1890 a shocking murder took place when a man stabbed his mistress whilst they were both in the back of a cab.

Margaret Stewart, who also went by the name of Isabella Cowie, lived in what was described by the Liverpool Mercury as a 'house of ill fame' in Lambert Street (situated between London Road and Islington). Around the 11th December she got involved in a liaison with porter Arthur Penfold, who had previously served in the army.

On the afternoon of 17th December Ellen Ash, the landlady of he house, saw the couple leave at about 3pm. Both were sober and it was never established what they did for the rest of he afternoon but at 730pm they took a cab in Ranelagh Place, asking the driver to go to Lambert Street. On arrival, Penfold casually told the driver that he had stabbed his companion because she asked him to and that he should call for a policeman.

When an officer arrived, Penfold was arrested and walked towards the Central Police Station in Dale Street, during which he twice asked to go into a pub and kept putting his hand over his left pocket. On being searched , he was found to have a knife in his pocket which was covered in blood. Margaret was rushed to the Royal Infirmary where she died, having received six stab wounds which punctuated her heart and liver.

Although it was beyond doubt that Penfold had killed Margaret, proving he was responsible was going to be somewhat difficult for the prosecution. There was no apparent motive and he handed himself in immediately afterwards. At the trial Dr Wigglesworth from the Rainhill asylum said that it was possible the act had been due to a temporary bout of insanity caused by an epileptic fit, but although there was a history of epilepsy in Penfold's family and he had once attempted suicide, no diagnosis had ever been made.

In summing up Mr Justice Day, known for his hard line stance, told the jury that it was up to the defence counsel to prove insanity and that no evidence had presented to say that Penfold had ever received treatment for mania or insanity.The jury quickly returned a verdict of murder and Penfold was sentenced to death, but after a campaign and petition by members of his family the Home Secretary intervened and this was commuted to life imprisonment.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Toxteth Mother Kills Her Baby

A tragedy occurred in the Granby area of Toxteth in 1891 when a mother killed her 5 month baby during a temporary bout of insanity.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 4th February Sergeant Calten was on duty in Kingsley Road when he was approached by a screaming woman named Catherine Groarke. She had blood covered hands and told him she had killed her baby because the devil had taken it.

After taking Catherine into Kingsley Road police station he went to her home address of 67 Cairns Street where he made the gruesome discovery of 5 month old Ada Groarke lying dead in a bathtub. Her throat had been cut severing the windpipe and a bloodstained carving knife was on the floor. Two other children, aged 5 and 18 months were in the house and they were left in the care of a constable while a doctor was sent for to certify death.

Sergeant Calten formally charged Catherine with murder and she responded by saying that her children wouldn't stop crying and she had intended to then take her own life by drinking a solution of water and lit matches. At 9pm Catherine's husband Thomas, a draper in Bon Marche, returned home to the tragic scene.

Catherine appeared before Mr Justice Day at the next Liverpool Assizes on Friday 13th March. She wept bitterly throughout the proceedings, during which Dr Wigglesworth from the Rainhill asylum told how there had been a history of insanity in her family and that she had always treated her children kindly. He concluded that she was 'undoubtedly insane' at the time of the killing and did not know that what she was doing was wrong.

After the jury returned a verdict of 'guilty but not responsible' Justice Day detained Catherine at Her Majesty's Pleasure.





Thursday, 21 November 2013

Tenant Kills Landlord

An attempt by a couple who tried to evict their lodgers in 1891 ended in tragedy when the husband was killed during a fight with the main tenant.

Robert Hinchcliffe, a labourer at Coburg Dock, lived with his wife Alice in a court in Upper Mann Street in Dingle. They were in their twenties and rented the top room of their house to 21 year old labourer William Griffin, who lived there with his 12 year old sister Mary.

For reasons that were never made clear, Mr & Mrs Hinchcliffe wanted Joseph and his sister out of their house but despite serving notice to quit  they still didn't leave.  On Friday 11th September 1891 the Hinchcliffes went to a funeral then drank with other mourners, before returning home around midnight.

Alice went to the top floor and asked Griffin when he would be leaving, leading to a scuffle taking place in which a lamp was knocked out of Alice's hand. Robert then challenged Griffin to a fight and both men went into the courtyard and began swapping punches, with Joseph falling to the ground at one point. Seeing her brother in trouble, Mary got a kitchen knife and gave it to Griffin.

Within seconds of Griffin being given the knife Robert cried out 'Oh Alice I am stabbed' and fell to the ground. He was dead by the time police arrived and officers then found Griffin and his sister in the cellar. Griffin made no attempt to escape and told them that he was wholly responsible and they would find the knife in the top floor room. After questioning Mary, she was taken to the workhouse and Griffin to the Main Bridewell in Cheapside.


Griffin was charged with manslaughter and at his trial Mary had to give evidence confirming she had passed him the knife. However another witness, Catherine Jones, who lived in the court alone, said that she saw both men fighting and that Griffin had been in trouble. He admitted having the knife in his hand, but didn't deliberately use it and maintained that Robert had rushed at him, leading to the knife piercing the heart.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty but with a strong recommendation for mercy. In light of this and Griffin's previous good character, Mr Justice Lawrence sentenced him to twelve months imprisonment with hard labour. Two months later there was further tragedy for the Hinchcliffe family when Robert's sister Mary was battered to death by her husband, who was convicted of manslaughter at the same Assizes.



Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Children Find Mother Kicked To Death



A terrible tragedy that occurred amidst squalor and deprivation took place in 1891 when a mother was kicked to death by her husband who was later convicted of her manslaughter.

Mary Jane Miller lived in a court in Harding Street, which was situated off Falkner Street, along with her husband John and five children, whose ages ranged from three to sixteen. Times were especially hard for the family and John was put out of work in August 1891, leading to a temporary break up of the marriage in early November when  Mary and the children moved out for a few days. During this time John sold most of he furniture, squandering what he had managed to get for it on drink.
Falkner Street in 2016
On Friday 13th November John and Mary drank in a neighbour's house, where an argument broke out about the furniture, leading to John rising up to strike Mary, only for the neighbour to intervene. At 2pm the couple were seen walking arm in arm across the court and this was the last time Mary was seen alive. The couple's children returned home from school at 4pm, and John gave them 2d to get him some ale, then asked that they chop some wood so the chips could be sold for a further 2d which  was also spent on drink. He did this whilst the body of Mary lay by his side, but the children did not notice that she was dead.

That night the children were put to bed by John on a bed of straw in the upstairs room. They were so tired by their work they fell asleep quickly, but the following morning the eldest son (12 year old John) awoke at 7pm to see that his father wasn't there and that his mother was cold and clearly dead, her face covered in blood. John and his 10 year old brother James raised the alarm with neighbours and police officers and a doctor arrived, but it was confirmed that Mary had been dead for several hours and a hatchet was found underneath a sack.

John was quickly located at his brother-in-law's house in Mann Street, where he begged to be able to kiss his children one last time before being taken into custody. He was taken to the police headquarters at Dale Street and appeared before the Stipendiary Magistrate Mr Stewart two days later charged with murder.

Back in Harding Street, crowds gathered outside the house when news spread of the killing. Mary's body was removed to the Prince's Dock mortuary, with the two oldest children (John and 16 year old Sarah) remaining at the house being looked after by a neighbour. The younger ones were placed in the care of a children's home in Islington, and all were allowed to see the body of their mother.

John's trial took place at the next Liverpool Assizes on 10th December, with his two eldest children in tears as they gave evidence. John told how he had found his mother dead on the Saturday morning, having known she had failed to answer any questions the night before. Sarah told how she was at her aunts in Mann Street when her father came round in an agitated state, saying that her mother was dead and he didn't know how. Dr Wigglesworth from the Rainhill Asylum told the court that there was a history of insanity in John's family and that he was of 'low mental organisation'.

In summing up, Mr Justice Lawrence told the jury that there was no evidence to say that John was mentally ill, but if he had drunk himself into such a stupor that he had no control over himself, then a verdict of manslaughter could be returned. It took the jury half an hour to find Miller guilty of manslaughter and Justice Lawrence didn't mince his words during sentencing, telling him that he had committed a crime 'under circumstances of greater horror it was impossible to conceive.' Telling Miller that if there was something wrong with his mind it would be taken care of, he imposed term of 25 years penal servitude.



Sunday, 17 November 2013

A Victorian Child Killing Tragedy

In 1891 the level of deprivation and lawlessness amongst children in parts Liverpool was demonstrated when a 10 year old boy drowned and two younger boys were charged with his murder.

On Tuesday 8th September 1891 the naked body of a boy was recovered from a pool of rainwater in a pit at a building site on he corner of Stanley and Victoria Street in the city centre. At first it was assumed he had got into difficulty whilst bathing and his clothes had then been taken by somebody else who was in need of them.

The body was taken to the Prince's Dock mortuary and identified by his mother that evening as David Dawson Eccles, who lived in Richmond Row. Elizabeth Dawson Eccles told detectives that she had last seen her son at 1pm on the Monday afternoon, when he went to Bevington Bush school, and that he had gone wayward of late and taken to sleeping out.

Elsewhere in the city, in Baptist Street (which was situated where John Moores University's Byrom Street building is now), the Mary O'Brien was shocked to read about the discovery in the newspapers, as on 7th September her 8 year old son Robert Shearon had come home wearing clothes that weren't his. Earlier that day, she had hidden all his clothes to stop him going out as he had slept out for two nights, but Shearon escaped his home wearing a sack with holes that he cut in it for his arms.

Mary had refused to believe his explanation that he had 'found them' in Victoria Street and after reading of the discovery of the body she took the clothes to the Central Police offices in Dale Street. They were soon identified as David's clothes and a detective was sent to Baptist Street to speak with Shearon, who immediately confessed that he had pushed him into the pit, but 'Crawford' had done it as well.

The other boy involved was 9 year old Samuel Crawford, who also lived in Baptist Street. He was arrested on Friday 11th September and told police that on the Monday he and Shearon had met David near St George's Hall and asked him to go to Victoria Street. After climbing into the building site from Cumberland Street, David refused to climb onto a plank, so they pushed him into the pit. When David climbed back out, they stripped him and pushed him in again, then ran away.


Both boys were charged with murder, and appeared before the Crown Court on 9th December where they could barely see above the dock rails. The jury heard how Baptist Street was one of the 'lowest streets' of Liverpool and that both boys had grown up without a father and had no sense of religious or moral values. Both admitted pushing David into the pit, but there was doubt about whether they could have known this would cause his death. As such, the jury returned a verdict that they were guilty of murder but 'not responsible' due to their age.

Mr Justice Lawrence however was reluctant to release the boys back to their mothers and with their consent instead placed them into the care of Father James Nugent, who ran schools for a number of deprived children in the city.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Murder at the Asylum

In 1900 there was a terrible tragedy at the Rainhill Hospital when one inmate killed another with a knife that they had managed to obtain from one of the kitchens.

The Lancashire County Asylum, to give the hospital its official title, was first opened in 1851 and by 1900 had extended to have a capacity of 2,000, making it the largest psychiatric facility in Europe. One of the patients was 29 year old Mary Grainger, who had been transferred there from London on 28th March, having first been admitted to an asylum following bouts of depression and delusions that people were out to poison her.

Grainger had been stable for 6 weeks and was being considered for discharge when the incident that led to her being detained indefinitely occurred. On the morning of Wednesday 1st August Medical Superintendent Joseph Wigglesworth was eating his breakfast when he heard screams coming from an upstairs room. On going to investigate he found Grainger, who had been employed in his quarters for just two days after being transferred from the matron's kitchen, sawing away at the neck of Hannah Hancox with a kitchen knife.

Wigglesworth managed to restrain Grainger but the blood loss to Hancox was so great that she died two hours later. Two days later at the inquest Grainger had to be removed from the courtroom by nurses on the order of the coroner after repeatedly interrupting he proceedings to ask what they were all about.  Wigglesworth explained to the Coroner that the Grainger had not caused any prior concern and had probably got the knife out of the matron's kitchen cupboard. He also explained that in the immediate aftermath she had told him she had a urge to kill somebody, not minding whom, indicating a sudden homicidal impulse.

The coroner's jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and Grainger then appeared before St Helens magistrates' court where she was committed for trial. She was then transferred to Walton Gaol but at the end of the month the Home Secretary, having been made aware of he full facts of the case, intervened and ordered her removal without trial to the Broadmoor Asylum for Criminal Lunatics. Rainhill Hospital closed in 1992 and has now been demolished.

Liverpool Mercury 27th August 1900





Monday, 28 October 2013

Servant Girl Kills Her Newborn Child

A servant girl in Everton killed her baby in 1876 but despite the evidence against her was spared a conviction for murder by a sympathetic jury.

22 year old Elizabeth Plant was working for draper Robert Skinner in Pembroke Place, and allowed to keep her position despite her pregnancy. On 6th January 1876 gave birth to a baby girl then cut its throat with scissors before placing the body in a box.

Plant then went to Salisbury Street to the home of Mrs McMillan,a tailor's wife, saying she had been sent there by Mrs Skinner to stay for a few days prior to confinement at the workhouse . There she asked another lodger to wash a blood stained sheet and scissors and two days later when confronted about the whereabouts of her baby calmly said that she had killed it and left it in the box at Pembroke Place.

Mr Skinner opened the box and found the body under some dresses and a doctor who was called confirmed that the baby had been born alive and had the throat cut. Plant was removed by police to the workhouse hospital and after an inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder against her on 11th January she was committed to trial at the next assizes.

On 29th March Plant stood trial with the prosecution case being straight forward given her admissions and findings of the post mortem. Her defence barrister explained that it was possible the baby had died during childbirth or she had panicked and killed it during some temporary mental derangement. The jury accepted this and, seeing a pitiful young woman of previous good character in the dock, found her guilty of manslaughter.

Judge Brett told Plant that he 'feared much that is was more than mere manslaughter' but she could not be looked upon 'without pity'. He sentenced her to ten years imprisonment and Plant, who had acted eccentrically during the trial shouting and crying bitterly, fainted before being carried out of the dock.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Unsolved Murder of a Baby

In 1883 a young baby was found murdered in the lake at Stanley Park and his identity was never established.

On Friday 20th April 1883 at midday a gardener called Charles Moss noticed the body of baby floating in a secluded part of the lake. He pulled it out and called for a policeman, who arranged for the baby, a boy, to be removed to the mortuary at the Walton workhouse.

An examination by doctors at the workhouse established the baby was about three months old and that a shirt had been tied tightly around the neck. The following Monday an inquest was held at the workhouse, where Mr Moss told the Coroner that the area of the lake where he found the body was secluded by trees and nobody on the footpath could have seen it floating there.

Dr Anderson, who had conducted the post mortem concluded that the baby had been well nourished and looked after, but had undoubtedly been murdered, most likely by strangling and suffocation. He also suggested the baby could still have been alive when placed in the water and ultimately died of drowning.

The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder by persons unknown. Despite a reward being offered for information leading to a conviction, the identity of the child was never established.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Killed by a Brick.

An escalating quarrel fuelled by drink between neighbours in Everton led to the death of a newly wedded young man in 1895.

The tragedy occurred in a court off Mansfield Street in Everton, where events started to unravel on the night of Saturday 17th August. Corporation refuse collector Stephen Dougherty and his wife, who had only got married at St Anthony's Church in Scotland Road on 31st May, were drinking with 30 year old labourer William O'Neill and some of his friends. Dougherty's sister started shouting at O'Neill, leading to him throwing her out of the house and a serious argument breaking out between the two men, which led to police being called and separating everybody to their own homes.

The following morning O'Neill seemed  determined to renew the row, his brother John telling Dougherty that he would meet the same fate as William Davies, who had been killed in Walton the previous week. At about 3pm Catherine Price, who lived with him, threw a ginger beer bottle at Dougherty's window, smashing it. O'Neill then climbed on to the roof of his house and took some loose bricks from the chimney stack, throwing them into the court. Mrs Dougherty ran to find a policeman and while she was out of he court a brick struck her husband, who was leaning out of his window, on the side of the head and he fell 30 feet to his death, which was instantaneous. When a police constable arrived, O'Neill handed himself over without putting up a struggle. With his wife unconscious after fainting, Dougherty was taken to the Infirmary where he was pronounced dead and she formally identified him in the Prince's Dock mortuary in the evening.

Liverpool Mercury 20th August 1895
At the Liverpool Assizes on 25th November, O'Neill's counsel tried to say Dougherty had fallen accidentally to his death and it was just a coincidence if any bricks thrown by O'Neill had hit him on the head.  However none of the witnesses called could confirm this and although Dougherty had acted aggressively the previous evening, there was no evidence that he had engaged in any provocation on the day he died. It took the jury half an hour to find him guilty and the death sentence was passed by Justice Collins, who said he would not waste any time commenting on the circumstances of the crime.

After an appeal by relatives, O'Neill had his sentence commuted to penal servitude for life by the Home Secretary and on 19th December he was taken by train to Knutsford Jail to serve his sentence.


Son Butchered By Father

Just a few days after William Davies was battered to death in Walton, there was a tragic incident in Toxteth when 2 year old Robert Edward Jones died after having his throat cut by his father.

The Jones family consisted of 31 year old Robert, his wife Mag and 4 children aged between 1 and 6. They lived at 18 Hemans Street, which was situated between Upper Hill and Upper Warwick Streets, where the Carter-Thackeray estate now stands. Mr Jones was a grocer in nearby Upper Pitt Street and had been known to be depressed for sometime and drinking heavily, although he had not been drinking on the night in question before the murder.

At around 5am on the morning of Saturday 17th August 1895 Mr Jones got up and made a cup of tea for his wife, who was in their bedroom with the youngest child while the three older children were in the back room. Shortly afterwards his wife got up to settle 2 year old Robert back down after he had awoke, then went back asleep. At around 7.30am though she was woken by her husband who was crying and told her that he had 'killed Bobby'. Mrs Jones then found her son sat up on the bed with his throat cut and blood pouring from the wound, but although a doctor was quickly sent for after 6 year old Ethel knocked at a neighbours for help, he was certified dead.

Jones, who had spent time in a lunatic asylum in Tuebrook earlier in the year, was arrested and appeared before the Stipendiary Magistrate that morning. He was pale and drawn in the dock, where he was remanded in custody for seven days on the charge of wilful murder. At the inquest in the Coroner's Court on the Monday, little Ethel told how she had woke up to find her father standing over her little brother who was bleeding heavily, while a carving knife was on the floor. She then said that he had calmly picked the boy up and sat him at the edge of the bed, before leaving the room. The jury accepted Ethel's evidence and returned a verdict of wilful murder against Robert Jones.

Mr Jones appeared at the next Liverpool Assizes on 29th November, where he was found 'guilty but insane.' The evidence of medical practitioners who had dealt with Mr Jones, in addition to the total lack of motive - he had been a doting father to his children - meant there was no doubt about what the verdict should be in this tragic case. He was sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure.



Saturday, 12 October 2013

Acquitted of Murder - But Still Hanged

In 1830 a Liverpool merchant died after being shot during a robbery in West Derby Road. Yet although the two men charged with the murder were acquitted, they were hanged anyway after being convicted of other robberies.

On the evening of 9th October Charles Burns, a wine merchant whose businesses premises were in Exchange Street East, was walking along West Derby Road towards his home in Tuebrook. About half a mile after passing the Necropolis (now Grant Gardens), a man jumped out from behind a hedge and held a pistol at him. Burns turned to run away in the direction of Liverpool but was shot in the back, but he did manage to get up and knock at the home of a Mr Turton, who sent for a surgeon.

The surgeon who arrived managed to remove the bullet from Burns's abdomen and he was taken home. However he had lost a remarkable amount of blood and died 24 hours later, having been able to give a description of the robber as being about five feet nine inches tall and wearing dark clothing. Having failed to seize anything from Burns, the culprit remained in the same place for an hour and a half before robbing John Arrowsmith, this time with two accomplices. Arrowsmith was a cousin of Burns who was on his way to Mr Turton's to assist in bringing him home.

The following Thursday a man tried to pawn a pencil case in Tithebarn Street. Noticing that it was engraved Arrowsmith a constable was called and the man, who had come to Liverpool earlier in the year from Dublin and was a 50 year old named Thomas Mulvay, was taken into custody. The following day his two brothers, John (34) and Michael (30) were arrested at their home in Naylor Street, where they lived with Michael's wife.

Lancaster CastleThe brothers were charged with a number of robberies that had taken place in the area and committed for trial at the next assizes, then transferred to Lancaster Castle to await trial. Then in a remarkable development on 8th March 1831 Michael Mulvay expressed to the gaol chaplain that his brothers had been responsible for the shooting of Burns and he wished to turn King's Evidence against them.

The trial took place just three days later on 11th March, with Michael claiming that all three had gone out with the intention of committing a robbery but it was John who told Thomas to shoot. When cross examined over his motives for giving evidence against his brothers, Michael said he did so because he loved justice, and he had not done it expecting to have robbery charges against him dropped. John and Thomas both denied the murder, saying they had been drinking in Hoey's in Tithebarn Street that night, but the owner of the pub, Matthew Hoey, said they had only been in their Sunday to Wednesday.

After 15 minutes deliberation, the jury found the defendants not guilty of murder, but the ordeal in the courtroom wasn't over yet for all three brothers. Michael was kept in custody while enquiries were made as to whether he should be sent to York in relation to other offences, but he was released the following Thursday when it was deemed he was not being charged with anything. 

On the same day, John and Thomas stood trial in relation to two robberies in the vicinity that had taken place in July 1830. The jury heard how the victims' belongings had been found at their home and they were found guilty and sentenced to death. As they sank to their knees begging for mercy Justice Littledale told them that they were 'responsible for several depredations in the neighbourhood' and he 'should not be doing his duty to the public were he to recommend them to His Majesty's mercy.'

The execution was set for 2nd April and both brothers admitted to the Rev. G. Brown, the Roman Catholic Priest of Lancaster, that they had been responsible for 7 robberies in total and John confessed to having shot Charles Burns, who left a widow and one child. At noon both brothers mounted the scaffold and went to their deaths holding hands. John died instantly but Thomas, having turned after the rope was placed around his neck, struggled violently for five minutes and his death had to be hastened by the executioner pulling at his feet. After hanging for an hour they were buried in St Mary's churchyard.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Murder of a Customs Officer

In 1834 the Liverpool Inspector of His Majesty's Customs was shot dead by a disgruntled employee, who was later hanged in public for the murder.

William Southgate took up his Inspector's post at Liverpool in 1832, while his killer Norman Welch had worked as a locker since around 1818. However after Welch was demoted to the lower paid position of weigher he vowed revenge on those responsible, telling colleagues that 'I am a wronged man and I will make an example of somebody.' He particularly seemed to want to target Mr Southgate, who had given him warnings previously for drunkenness and eating his dinner whilst on duty.

On Thursday 16th October 1834 Welch, who was aged 56, got his wages and spent some of them on a pistol, before going on a drinking spree. The following morning he left for work telling his wife, with whom he had six children, that she would never see him again. At 10am he calmly walked up to Southgate in the yard of the Custom House and shot him from close range, the ball piercing the abdomen. Southgate let out a scream and fell forwards while Welch, in front of several shocked onlookers, tried to put some laudanum, a form of opium, in his mouth but was stopped by others and wrestled to the ground.

Southgate fought for his life after a surgeon who was sent for managed to remove the ball from his abdomen, but he died 48 hours later. Welch showed a total indifference and said nothing when he was brought before the Mayor, Alderman Peter Bourne a few hours after the shooting. However by the time of he Coroner's inquest on 22nd October he was showing a great deal of remorse and readily agreed to have a clergyman spend time with him.

Welch stood trial at the Lancaster Spring Assizes on Friday 20th March 1835 and claimed insanity but this defence was not upheld and it took the jury just a few minutes to find him guilty. He was sentenced to death and the hanging was set for just six days later, Thursday 26th March. Welch maintained an air of resigned acceptance prior to the execution, telling the gaolers that it would be the happiest day of his life.

In front of a crowd of about 2,000 at Lancaster Castle. Welch struggled violently for several minutes after the bolt was drawn. After his body had hung for an hour, it was put in a coffin and buried within the grounds of the castle.


Sunday, 23 June 2013

Wife Battered in Parlour

In 1881 Everton man Joseph McEntee was hanged for killing his wife, whose body was found by fellow tenants whilst he went on the run.

Joseph, who worked as a tailor, lived with his wife Ellen (aged 50) in a three storey house at 89 Rose Place, occupying the parlour and top storey. Another family named the Penningtons rented the first floor.

Rose Place (wwww.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
On the morning of 5th April 1881 one of the Pennington children, a little girl came downstairs and found a blood soaked rag on the floor and noticed that the parlour door handle was missing. She then looked through the keyhole and saw the corpse of Ellen, but was told off by her mother for being nosey. However when Martha Pennington went down herself she looked and could only see the prisoner, but when he went out she opened the door using a stick and found the battered body of Ellen.

The police and a doctor were called, who ascertained that there were five stab wounds on the body and that the death had probably occurred the night before. A niece of Ellen came forward to say that she had called to see her at 10pm and Joseph had been evasive as to her whereabouts, and had appeared to step over something as he answered the door.

A description of Joseph was circulated around police stations and he was arrested that night in Garston in a drunken state, having pawned a watch there for 30 shillings. Although he had had his moustache and beard shaved off a police constable noticed the blood on his hands and boots, which were matted with hair. When he was searched he was found to have a door knob in his pocket and was reported to have said 'its all through drink' as he was arrested.

At his trial on 10th May, witnesses acknowledged that although the couple were known to drink heavily, they were not renowned for quarrelling and that Joseph had always provided well for Ellen. His defence counsel claimed that he had returned home to find Ellen murdered and been so bewildered that he just wandered about drinking in an aimless manner. In his summing up, Mr Justice Mathew stated that the defence had acknowledged that a murder had taken place and it was simply up to the jury to decide if the circumstantial evidence pointed to Joseph as the killer. After retiring for 20 minutes they returned a verdict of guilty.

When asked if he had anything to say, Joseph replied 'Its no use now I have been found guilty.' After being sentenced to death Joseph shook hands with his counsel and was taken down to the cells. Although his solicitors tried for a reprieve on the grounds that Joseph had no murderous intent this was refused. He was hanged at Kirkdale Gaol on 31st May, a crowd of several hundred gathering outside the walls. The thud of the 'drop' was clearly heard outside and one woman in the crowd wept bitterly, saying she had known him since he was a boy and he hadn't meant it.









Thursday, 20 June 2013

Sea Captain Stabbed In Garston


In 1866 a Greek sailor stabbed a captain who was doing a good turn in taking him back to his ship, but avoided a murder conviction due to him convincing the jury he had feared for his safety.

On Sunday 11th February 1866 four sea captains had a quick drink at the Garston Hotel and left at 11pm to return to their ships. Whilst walking to the docks they came across Antonio Patrona, who was clearly drunk and Captain Evan Hughes took his arm and said that he would escort him to his ship, which he did so with the others walking further behind.


Patrona went quietly with Hughes until he reached his ship and then sang in Greek, leading to the appearance of his brother James and another sailor, George Oriata. Very soon afterwards Hughes returned from the quay and fell into the arms of Henry Jones, saying that he had been stabbed. The Patrona brothers ran away but Oriata was quickly arrested, and was identified by Hughes as having kicked him.

When police searched his ship the Antonia, Patrona was unable to produce his knife unlike all the other sailors, telling them 'Me have bad memory.' A knife the same as those belonging to the other sailors on the ship was found the following morning about 20 yards away. Using his Captain as a translator, Patrona claimed that he had acted in self defence after being hit with an umbrella but he was arrested and after Hughes died two days later he was charged with murder and committed for trial at the Liverpool Assizes.

On 31st March Patrona stood trial, a surgeon revealing that Hughes had five stab wounds and that the rupturing of the bowels had resulted in his death. Under cross examination, Hughes's fellow captains admitted they did not actually see what had gone on, only that they had heard a 'scrimmage.' Patrona's defence counsel put it to the jury that he was fearing for his own safety and didn't speak English very well and as such he should only be guilty of manslaughter. After 45 minutes deliberation the jury agreed and also gave a strong recommendation for mercy. Mr Justice Mellor took this into consideration and sentenced Patrona to just nine months imprisonment with hard labour.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Fined For Killing Omnibus Conductor

In 1866 a bus passenger received an extremely lenient sentence after being convicted of killing the conductor of the omnibus on which he was travelling.

On Friday 19th January that year Charles Grice was travelling from London Road to West Derby and boarded the Cabbage Hall omnibus by mistake, soon jumping off at the corner of Moss Street. The conductor John Wardle chased after him and demanded payment of the fare, but Grice said it was ridiculous for him to pay given the distance travelled and pushed him away. When Wardle asked again, Grice pushed him so hard that he fell into the path of another omnibus and had his arms and chest run over by the wheels.

Wardle was taken to the Royal Infirmary where he died from internal injuries at 1am on the Saturday morning. Within hours Grice, a respectable man who ran carriers (a taxi of the time) between Liverpool and West Derby, made his first appearance in court charged with manslaughter and was released on £100 bail.

When he appeared before the Assizes on 2nd April Grice called upon several witnesses to testify to his good character. The jury found him guilty of manslaughter and strongly recommended mercy given Grice had admitted the incident from the beginning and expressed his regret at what had happened. Mr Justice Mellor decided not to imprison him, but instead imposed a fine of £10.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Man Hanged For Killing Aunt Over Shoes

A man was hanged in 1874 after he killed his aunt, for whom he worked , when she confronted him over a pair of allegedly stolen shoes.

21 year old Henry Flanagan was described by the Liverpool Mercury as having led a 'dissolute, wicked life' and reached a 'deplorable level of depravity.' Originally from Leitrim in Ireland, he was taken to Glasgow by his parents at the age of 15 and married a Scottish woman with whom he had a daughter in 1872.

Flanagan worked as a shoemaker and would often travel for work, which brought him to Liverpool where he was employed by his aunt Mary Flanagan at Bent Street, which was situated on what is now grass landscaping opposite the junction of Scotland Road and Leeds Street. Mary was a 50 year old widow who employed four shoemakers, with Flanagan acting as the foreman.

On Saturday 4th April the four employees finished work about 4pm and sent for ale, drinking at the shop premises along with Mary until they were intoxicated. Flanagan was then seen by Mary to drop a pair of her shoes, leading to her claiming he intended pawning them to get more drink. This enraged him but things soon calmed down and other members of the household either went out or to bed, leaving Flanagan and Mary alone in the kitchen. Flanagan then raped and strangled Mary then went to sleep on a bed, leaving her lying on the floor.

Lime Street Station (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
At some point in the night Flanagan went to bed upstairs and when he was informed at 8am the following morning that Mary was dead he acted quite calmly, simply getting his coat and stating to others that he was going to Manchester and invited a friend called George O'Neill to go with him.

At Lime Street station Flanagan was told that there was no train for another six hours and he said he had to be out of town earlier and would walk instead. At a shop Flanagan bought some tobacco and paid with a gold sovereign, telling the keeper not to hand him the change (19 shillings) back as he had plenty of money. Both men walked as far as Prescot, stopping for ale several times along the way, then Flanagan announced that he was going to try and get to Glasgow.


At about 9pm that night Flanagan was found in a drunken state by a policeman in Knotty Ash. He said that he had been walking from Manchester since the Friday and was near death from starvation. He was taken to Old Swan police station (which is now the Nat West Bank on Prescot Road) where it was found that his description matched that of the man wanted for Mary's murder and he was charged, telling the officer 'it cannot be helped now.'



At his trial Flanagan's defence counsel argued that the evidence against him was purely circumstantial. However the fact Mary's purse was empty and he was in possession of a substantial amount of money and the fact his waistcoat was found next to her body helped the jury convict him after just a few minutes deliberation. A few days later Flanagan was visited at Kirkdale Gaol by his wife, child and parents, who had all travelled from Glasgow. He made a confession to them that he had robbed and strangled his aunt, but there was no intent to kill.


The execution was fixed for 8am on Monday 31st August 1874 and as the press were being admitted into the gaol, a man came running across the fields demanding to see Flanagan. The request was refused and he left, telling journalists that he was a 'very good mate.' Flanagan went to his death extremely calmly, even assisting the executioner William Marwood in placing the rope around his neck. He was hanged in a double execution along with Mary Williams.






Mother of Seven Hanged

In 1874 a Bootle mother was hanged despite pleas for mercy, leaving seven children in the care of the workhouse.

Irish born Mary Williams lived in Raleigh Street with her husband, to whom she had been married ten years, most of them unhappily. She was regularly in trouble and in 1872 was sentenced to seven days imprisonment for non payment of a fine.

On 20th April 1874 Williams got into an argument with some female neighbours who set about beating her. The brother of one of the women was Nicholas Manning, who later that evening was seen in the street by Williams who threw cups at him, causing him to run away towards his father's house, shouting that he had never struck a woman in his life. Later on he was back and Williams produced a revolver from under her apron and fired it at him, before handing herself over to police and saying that she had done it and would do it again. Manning was taken to Bootle Borough Hospital where he died two weeks later.

Williams maintained at her trial that she had only intended to frighten Manning and not cause him harm, but she was found guilty of murder. Her husband, a 27 year old dock labourer, told authorities he was unable to cope and handed six of their seven children over to the Walton Workhouse (left, photo by Sue Adair). The youngest, aged just eight months, was allowed to stay with Williams in gaol until she had been weaned before going to the workhouse.

Despite numerous pleas, including by the Mayor of Bootle, for the sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment, the Home Secretary refused to grant a reprieve and there were heartbreaking scenes when Williams said goodbye to her children when they were brought from the workhouse to see her three days before the execution. Williams was hanged at Kirkdale Gaol on 31st August in a double execution with Henry Flanagan, who had killed his aunt. Williams was the first woman hanged at Kirkdale for 30 years.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Murder And Suicide in Victorian Old Swan

In 1866 a man murdered his married cousin whilst her husband was away at sea before going on to commit suicide.

Ship's purser Thomas Train and his wife Ann lived at Wood Grove (now hardly in existence as a cul de sac opposite Kwik Fit on Edge Lane). A 20 year old servant named Margaret Golding also lived with them and Ann's cousin John Moss, who had recently returned to Liverpool from Australia where he had made cigars, also regularly stayed there and seemed to have a very close relationship with her.


For two weeks in May 1866 Thomas Train was back with his wife and expressed his disapproval of Moss's presence. At Thomas's request Moss left, but he would visit daily for a meal with Ann while Thomas was visiting Liverpool. On Tuesday 23rd May Thomas set sail aboard the Delamere, leaving Ann with instructions to leave the house in Old Swan and move to a new home in New Brighton. Moss immediately reappeared and stayed for the next two nights, then on Thursday 24th May Ann began packing up for the move, aided by her cousin and servant.



As the three of them were packing, there was a disturbing moment when Moss picked up a carving knife and began to sharpen it, saying that he didn't like this world any more and he could easily kill himself by cutting the jugular vein. By teatime though he was quite calm and after eating they continued packing. At about 930pm Ann asked Margaret to go to another room and get a dress and as she did so she heard screams. On returning upstairs she saw Moss striking Ann with a hatchet. Margaret ran outside for help and came back a few minutes with two neighbours, who found the body of Ann lying on the floor, with part of the brains lying beside the head. Police were called and they searched the house and found Moss's body in the scullery with a carving knife lying beside it, his jugular vein having been cut.



At the inquest into the deaths, it was revealed that a letter had been found in Moss's pocket, apparently written that day and for the attention of Thomas. In it he referred to Ann as 'nearly my sister' and that she was not a 'fit consort' for Thomas and as such he was 'ridding you of her'. The jury returned  a verdict of murder and suicide, having decided that Moss was of sound mind and taken his own life to prevent the law doing it for him.


Thursday, 6 June 2013

Army Reservist Kills Sweetheart

In 1895 a 26 year old man killed his girlfriend in Toxteth and was only spared execution thanks to a late reprieve from the Home Secretary.

Coal-heaver Edward O'Brien, who lived in Havelock Street in Seacombe, had for about 5 years been seeing 21 year old servant girl Sarah Jenkinson who lived in Embledon Street, off Upper Parliament Street. But in July 1895, when O'Brien was away in Warrington for training in his role as an army reservist, Sarah began a liaison with somebody else.


On 29th July 1895 O'Brien returned to Liverpool and heard of Sarah's new love before going on to spend most of the day drinking. At 1045pm went to Embledon Street, where Sarah and her new boyfriend were, along with some other friends. O'Brien demanded to see her but she refused to come outside and he went up to her bedroom and dragged her from it down to the kitchen then cut her throat from ear to ear with a razor. Sarah went out into the year but collapsed and was dead by the time police arrived at the scene a few minutes afterwards.

O'Brien was apprehended by police in the next street, having made only a half hearted attempt to escape and was taken to the Olive Street Bridewell where he said 'I am very sorry it is all through the drop of drink.' O'Brien was sentenced to death but this was commuted to life imprisonment following a 10,000 signature petition that contained signatures from people on both sides of the River Mersey.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Tragedy of Walton Doctor And His Son

In 1895 the son of a Walton doctor was killed by a member of his staff, a death which was followed a few months later by that of the doctor himself.

Dr. Richard Ireland, who was a visiting practicioner to the Liverpool Workhouse in Brownlow Hill, lived at 2 Harlech Street off County Road along with his wife and two sons. His assistant Patrick O'Callaghan also lived with them.


On 3rd August Dr. Ireland went away for a week, meaning not much work got done by O'Callaghan who often spent the days drinking, sometimes with Mrs Ireland. On Thursday 8th August, Mrs Ireland didn't even get dressed and had a friend, Mrs Sayers around around and drank for most of the day, whilst O'Callaghan drank alone. In the evening William was sent to bed and a row took place between O'Callaghan and Mrs Ireland, who refused to share her drink with him.

O'Callaghan was so overcome with rage that around 1am he went to the bedroom and dragged her 11 year old son William out of bed, beat him with his fists and then threw him with such force against a chair that his stomach was ripped open.  William managed to get under the bed for safety and Annie Washington, a 13 year old servant girl who sometimes stayed at the house, ran outside to get help after being woken by the screams.

When Police Constable Deacon went into the bedroom, he asked William to come out but he said his intestines were hanging out and after a doctor was called he was taken by horse ambulance to Bootle Hospital where he remained in a critical condition. O'Callaghan was arrested and charged with grievous bodily harm. He appeared at Islington Magistrates on on the morning of Saturday 10th August and remanded in custody for a week, with a police inspector stating that it was doubtful that William would make a recovery.

William failed to pull through, dying the following Wednesday after peritonitis had set in. At his inquest, held at Bootle police station on Friday 16th August, a verdict of wilful murder was returned and O'Callaghan was committed for trial at the next Assizes. William was buried at Anfield Cemetery on the Sunday, the funeral corterge being followed by a large crowd, some of whom expressed hostility to Mrs Ireland for being in a drunken state when her son was killed.

At O'Callaghan's trial in on 28th November, he maintained that he had not intended to cause any harm to William, but instead to simply to frighten Mrs Ireland. A surgeon from the Bootle Hospital said that death hadn't resulted directly from the injuries, but instead from the peritonitis and exhaustion which had been brought on by them. The day after the outrage, William had been able to give a statement to the police and this was read out in court, describing how he had been 'hammered' by O'Callaghan who kept catching up with him as he tried to get away.

O'Callaghan managed to avoid a conviction for murder on the basis he was so drunk at the time and hadn't used any implements when hitting William. He was instead found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 12 years penal servitude. In a sad postscript to the tragedy, Dr Ireland died of typhoid at the age of 58 the following month.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Husband Kicks Wife To Death In Front Of Children

In 1824 a brutal husband subjected his wife to a three hour battering which resulted in her death and his transportation to the colonies.

39 year old Joseph Wilkin, a bailiff's assistant who was originally from Scotland, lived with his wife Alison and six children in a cellar in Blake Street, which was eventually cleared to make way for the Copperas Hill postal sorting depot. Joseph's wage was not a good one and Alison earned additional income to maintain their family by sewing, but was also prone to drink heavily.

On the night of 25th November 1824 Joseph returned home at 10pm when the rest of his family were in bed. After one of his daughters opened the door to him he pulled Alison from the bed and repeatedly beat her whilst she was on the floor and when she managed to get up and sit on a chair, he knocked her off it and set about her again. This ferocious behaviour was still going on when the night watchman called out that it was midnight and when a jug of water was knocked onto the floor and smashed, Joseph pushed Alison's face into it so that it cut open.

The vicious beating finally ended at 3am when Joseph picked Alison up and laid her in bed before getting in himself. At 4.30am, he woke and found that Alison was dead and sent one of his children for a neighbour Mrs Reed, who called for medical assistance. The surgeons who examined the body found that there were cuts to the head, neck and limbs, ten broken ribs and a punctured lung. Joseph was by then crying and gave himself up to the watchman who took him to the Bridewell at 530am.

Joseph was charged with murder and tried at the Lancaster Assizes the following March. He had previously lived there and was well known in the town, leading to an overcrowded courtroom for his trial. The most solemn part was the evidence of his 11 year old daughter Margaret, who wept as she told of the beating and how her mother had once tried to hang herself after her father left home for a period. The owner of the property, Mr Stephenson, said that he had often heard Joseph beating Alison but on the night in question he was on the top storey of the house and didn't hear anything.

In summing up, Justice Bailey told the jury that the charge could be reduced to manslaughter if they were satisfied that Joseph had not intended to cause death and pointed to the fact that no weapons were used and he had sent for assistance and not tried to escape. This was the verdict that was returned and Joseph was sentenced to 'transportation for the term of his natural life'. He left Britain on the convict ship Medway in July and arrived in Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania) the following March.


Man Kills Brother In Law After Drinking Session

In 1899 the decision by two Kirkdale family members to stay off work and spend the day drinking had fatal consequences when one killed the other after a row.

On 6th November 1899 dock labourer Thomas O'Byrne, who was 29 and lived at 1 Blackfield Street in Kirkdale, decided not to go to work and go out drinking with James Toolan, who was married to O'Byrne's sister Joanna. All three lived at the same house along Thomas and Joanna's mother Bridget.

Their drinking session began before breakfast and at 930am they went to a pub, taking Bridget with them. After returning to the house at 1130am Thomas went out to get some more liquor but when he got back he found that Bridget had gone out. This angered him and he told both Joanna and James that he would 'do for you' if anything happened to her.

As the two men argued across the table Joanna tried to intervene but before she could do so Thomas picked up a small knife that was used for cutting tobacco and plunged it into James's chest. James ran outside but collapsed in nearby Latham Street. A pub landlord called for the police but James was pronounced dead on arrival at Stanley Hospital.

At the inquest on 16th November Joanna told the coroner that both men were usually best of friends but were 'stupidly drunk.' On 1st December Thomas appeared before the Liverpool Assizes charged with murder, which he denied on the basis that he was too drunk to know what he was doing. His defence counsel argued for total acquittal so he could continue looking after his aged mother, but the jury found him guilty of manslaughter, accepting that there had been no intent to kill. He was sentenced to ten years penal servitude.



Thursday, 23 May 2013

Insane Woman Cuts Daughter's Throat

One of the last murders to take place in the 1800s saw a mother cut the throat of her four month old daughter in Toxteth.

Rose Earle lived in Chesterfield Street with John Fletcher, a commercial traveller, and their four month old baby, also called Rose Earle. On the morning of Monday 14th August 1899 Rose, who had told John a few days earlier that her mind was going, called her domestic servant Ellen Woolley down to the cellar. When Ellen arrived Rose told her that she had 'done it' and took her to the front bedroom where baby Rose was lying on the bed in a pool of blood.

Ellen ran for assistance and Mrs Campbell, a resident of Upper Parliament Street, came into the house. When she asked Rose what had happened she replied that she had been unable to leave her baby with anyone when she had gone. A police officer was called and as she was arrested Rose replied 'Yes, Yes, I am very very sorry.' A doctor arrived at the house whilst Rose was having a fit and carried out a post mortem, concluding that the baby had died after having the windpipe cut.

Whilst on remand at Walton Gaol doctors had serious concerns about Rose's ability to enter any pleas or understand the court proceedings. She often refused food as she believed it had been poisoned and said that she had been called upon by God to destroy herself. Dr Wigglesworth from the Rainhill Asylum said that she was unfit to plead and the judge directed that she be detained during Her Majesty's Pleasure.


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Murder By A Mother In Kirkdale

In 1892 there was a shocking domestic tragedy in Kirkdale when  two children were strangled by their mother.

At 5am on 15th February 1892 John Lascelles left his home at 54 Freeland Street to go to work at the Great Howard Street goods depot, where he was a guard for the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company. His wife Mary and children -six month old Elizabeth and three year old John Henry were still in bed- with Mary commenting that she was still not feeling well, having been struck by a bout of influenza the week before. 

John was 38 year old former piano teacher Mary's second husband, her first having been the Captain of a steamship that drowned nine years earlier. They were described by the Liverpool Mercury as a couple who were 'very respectable quiet folks'.

Freeland Street (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)Around 9am Catherine Newey, a relative of Mary's called around, as she often did so as she had been suffering from depression since Elizabeth's birth. Catherine was horrified when Mary opened the door wearing a nightdress which was covered in blood, and with a washing line tied around her neck. She ran off to get help from neighbours, who entered the property to find Mary sat on the kitchen floor trying to pull the cord tighter.

Three women managed to free the cord and laid Mary down as she pointed towards the ceiling, her arms apparently cut and a knife nearby. A police officer was sought and he went upstairs where he found the bodies of the two children on the bed. Both had been strangled. An ambulance took Mary, whose life hung in the balance, to the Stanley Hospital and her husband was called home from work to the terrible scene at his home. He told the police officer that a few days earlier he had heard his wife say to a friend that it would be good to all die together, but hadn't realised just how serious she had been about this. Later that evening Mary's life was out of danger and she enquired about her children, having no idea that they were dead.

Mary remained in hospital for three months before she was charged with murder, telling police that she had no recollection of the events. At her trial on 28th May a doctor from the Rainhill Asylum told the jury that she was insane at the time of the killings. She was found guilty of murder but not responsible for her actions and as such detained at Her Majesty's pleasure.


Monday, 20 May 2013

Condemned Man Warns of Drink Danger

In 1891 John Conway was hanged for the killing of 10 year old Nicholas Martin, whose body he had dumped in Sandon Dock.

The last time Nicholas was seen by any of his family was at a quarter to nine on the evening of Saturday 16th May, when he was playing ball outside his house in Bridgewater Street. His mother went to some shops and returned half an hour later and he was nowhere to be seen. However as Nicholas had a habit of going to an uncle's house in Great Howard Street he wasn't reported as missing to the police until the Monday.

On the Tuesday morning two gatemen at the Sandon Dock Basin pulled a black bag out of the water and found that it contained the badly mutilated body of Nicholas, whose feet had been cut off. Word soon got around the city of the find and Nicholas's father, also called    Nicholas, identified the body at a mortuary that evening. 

Enquiries focused on the black canvass bag that Nicholas's body had been placed in and it was soon found that it had been sold from a shop in Park Lane on the Monday afternoon. A vital clue left in the bag was some brown paper with the stamp of the Sailor's Union, who had an office in Stanhope Street. This allowed police to act swiftly and a search of the premises found a large quantity of blood. The following day the union's representative in South Liverpool, former marine fireman John Conway, was arrested at a lodging house in Bridgewater Street.

At the inquest Nicholas's mother was so distressed at the description of his body that she had to go and sit in the coroner's room. A verdict of wilful murder was returned and his funeral was held at the Church of St Vincent de Paul  and he was buried in Ford Cemetery.

Conway's trial took place on the 31st July and 1st August. The circumstantial evidence against him was overwhelming. Fellow boarding house lodgers identified the razor which was believed to be the murder weapon as his, boys said they saw Conway talking to Nicholas shortly before he disappeared and the shop owner confirmed that Conway had bought the bag. A cab driver also said that he had picked Conway up from Stanhope Street on the Monday night and dropped him off at the Pier Head carrying the bag which he was struggling with but refused help. 

Conway's defence was that the murder had been committed by an unknown foreign sailor and pointed out that he was of previous good character, had no motive and had been drinking and acting normally with friends on the Sunday. It took the jury half an hour to reach a verdict of guilty and Conway was sentenced to death.

Conway was executed at Kirkdale Gaol on 20th August, having finally made a written confession to the murder the day before in which he said that he had developed a morbid mania to see someone dying. As he was led to the scaffold he said to the executioner James Berry 'beware of drink.' Berry had miscalculated the drop and Conway was almost decapitated as he was hanged, leading to him returning straight home to Bradford and refusing to talk to reporters.