Thursday, 20 June 2013

Sea Captain Stabbed In Garston

In 1866 a Greek sailor stabbed a captain who was doing a good turn in taking him back to his ship, but avoided a murder conviction due to him convincing the jury he had feared for his safety.

On Sunday 11th February 1866 four sea captains had a quick drink at the Garston Hotel and left at 11pm to return to their ships. Whilst walking to the docks they came across Antonio Patrona, who was clearly drunk and Captain Evan Hughes took his arm and said that he would escort him to his ship, which he did so with the others walking further behind.

Patrona went quietly with Hughes until he reached his ship and then sang in Greek, leading to the appearance of his brother James and another sailor, George Oriata. Very soon afterwards Hughes returned from the quay and fell into the arms of Henry Jones, saying that he had been stabbed. The Patrona brothers ran away but Oriata was quickly arrested, and was identified by Hughes as having kicked him.

When police searched his ship the Antonia, Patrona was unable to produce his knife unlike all the other sailors, telling them 'Me have bad memory.' A knife the same as those belonging to the other sailors on the ship was found the following morning about 20 yards away. Using his Captain as a translator, Patrona claimed that he had acted in self defence after being hit with an umbrella but he was arrested and after Hughes died two days later he was charged with murder and committed for trial at the Liverpool Assizes.

On 31st March Patrona stood trial, a surgeon revealing that Hughes had five stab wounds and that the rupturing of the bowels had resulted in his death. Under cross examination, Hughes's fellow captains admitted they did not actually see what had gone on, only that they had heard a 'scrimmage.' Patrona's defence counsel put it to the jury that he was fearing for his own safety and didn't speak English very well and as such he should only be guilty of manslaughter. After 45 minutes deliberation the jury agreed and also gave a strong recommendation for mercy. Mr Justice Mellor took this into consideration and sentenced Patrona to just nine months imprisonment with hard labour.

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