Thursday, 11 April 2013

Seaman Hanged For Killing His Landlady

In 1863 a sailor was hanged after killing his landlady after he fell into arrears with his rent.

Mrs Rowlands, a Welsh lady kept a seaman's boarding house in Brook Street and gave lodgings to 21 year old Benjamin Thomas, who also originated from Wales, at the beginning of May.

Thomas soon fell into arrears but secured a place on a ship and got an advance note from an agent which was security for payment on his return. However after Thomas decided he did not want to take on the job she realised the note was worthless and told him that he faced imprisonment for three months.

On the 12th May, Thomas and Rowlands were talking when Thomas went into the cellar and called her after him. He then set about her with a potato masher, beating her about the head until she was dead. He then returned upstairs and set about a lady called Elizabeth Benbow with the masher, striking her six times before turning his attentions to Mrs Evans, following her outside into the court to assault her. When neighbours came out to see what was going on he calmly threw the masher away and walked off laughing, but was soon caught up and turned over to police.

At his trial before Mr Justice Blackburn the following August Thomas was described by the press as 'sullen and ferocious'. He twice had to be restrained by several police officers as he turned violent in the dock, eventually having to be handcuffed. His lawyers stated that to have committed such a grotesque act Thomas must have been mentally deranged, but this was not accepted and he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Rowlands had committed the atrocity on the same day as Spanish sailor Jose Maria Alvarez stabbed a local man to death, less than 200 metres away in Fazakerley Street. They were hanged together in public at Kirkdale, with Thomas being described by reporters as 'irascible', having threatened to kill one of the Welsh ministers sent to offer him spiritual guidance beforehand.

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