Thursday, 2 May 2013

Hanged For Murder Of An 'Unfortunate'

In 1879 a Toxteth man was hanged after stabbing a woman that he was in a relationship with, taking the reasons for the killing with him into the next world.

The murder of Eliza Patten, described as an 'Unfortunate' by the Liverpool Mercury took place on the night of Sunday 23rd March at what the paper also termed a 'house of ill fame' in Prince William Street. At 6.20pm a policeman was informed by a boy that a woman had been stabbed in the property and he found her lying on the kitchen floor.She was removed to the Southern Hospital but died shortly afterwards from loss of blood to the wound, which was to her neck and had penetrated the jugular vein.

The stabbing had been witnessed by others and the assailant was named as 21 year old Thomas Johnson, nicknamed 'The Demon', who had been involved with Eliza for the past two years. He managed to get away and took a ferry to Birkenhead, but the following night he was back in Toxteth and apprehended at a lodging house in Upper Mann Street.

There was no apparent reason for the killing, which took place on the same day the couple had booked into the house after being thrown out of a lodging house next door. They had drank beer with others there and Eliza cooked bacon and eggs for Thomas, who held her head in his lap as he talked with other residents. At 5.30pm they went upstairs together and Eliza came back down with a scratch on her neck and started to smoke a pipe, then soon afterwards Thomas came in and stabbed her behind the ear before running out of the property.

At  his trial that took place at the Liverpool Assizes on 9th May, three witnesses told how they had seen Johnson after the murder and he told them what he had done, admitting they had a row in which she had struck him with a candlestick but not elaborating on what it was over. The surgeon who had attended to Eliza told that the blow must have been delivered with considerable force given how far the knife had penetrated into the neck. Johnson's defence solicitor claimed that only a manslaughter verdict was necessary due to provocation and the fact that he had acted on impulse.

In summing up, the judge said that if the evidence was to be believed then murder was the only verdict possible, as Johnson was not under threat at the time he picked up the knife. It took the jury just two minutes to find him guilty and after being impassive during the trial, he collapsed when the judge passed sentence. He was carried downstairs and could be heard crying from the cells for some time. He was hanged at Kirkdale Gaol on 28th May.

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