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.


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