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 (
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.

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