Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Beaten To Death At Sea

In 1868 the First Mate of a ship that arrived in Liverpool from the Caribbean sentenced to life imprisonment after his brutal treatment of one of the crew members led to his death.

On Tuesday 19th May the Lydia arrived in the town, having sailed from Yarmouth in Nova Scotia, Canada via Jamaica. Four Crew members told police that on 28th April the First Mate Ansell Larkin had intervened in an argument between two crew members. One of them, Scottish sailor Daniel McDonald was struck in the face by Larkin and the following day went missing on deck as he tried to avoid being put to work due to his injuries.

When McDonald was found hiding under a lifeboat by Larkin, he was beaten with rope and an iron belaying pin, before being kicked in the face and chest, leaving open wounds all over his body. All of this was watched and encouraged by the Captain Dennis Schofield. He was then kicked and Larkin forced him to work even though he could barely walk or open his eyes because they were so swollen, which made standing to steer the vessel impossible. McDonald spent most of the next two days in his bunk where he was unable to eat and died on Saturday 2nd May, being buried at sea.

Larkin was tried on 20th August, with crew members disputing the logbook version of events surrounding the death, stating that they had only signed it as they were scared of the consequences of no doing so. Larkin's defence, however, told the court that the witnesses could not be trusted and Larkin had a difficult job during the voyage keeping them in order. They claimed that the injuries to McDonald had actually been caused by another sailor.

In summing up, the judge Baron Kelly said that six of seventeen crew members had given plausible evidence that was consistent with each other, yet the Defence hadn't been able to call any members to contradict this, even though all of them were on or around the deck at the time. It took the jury fifteen minutes to convict Larkin of manslaughter and he was sentenced to penal servitude for life, the judge telling him 'I cannot find words to express my horror of the merciless and cruel way in which you have dealt with one of your fellow creatures.'

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