Monday, 3 June 2013

Tragedy of Walton Doctor And His Son

In 1895 the son of a Walton doctor was killed by a member of his staff, a death which was followed a few months later by that of the doctor himself.

Dr. Richard Ireland, who was a visiting practicioner to the Liverpool Workhouse in Brownlow Hill, lived at 2 Harlech Street off County Road along with his wife and two sons. His assistant Patrick O'Callaghan also lived with them.

On 3rd August Dr. Ireland went away for a week, meaning not much work got done by O'Callaghan who often spent the days drinking, sometimes with Mrs Ireland. On Thursday 8th August, Mrs Ireland didn't even get dressed and had a friend, Mrs Sayers around around and drank for most of the day, whilst O'Callaghan drank alone. In the evening William was sent to bed and a row took place between O'Callaghan and Mrs Ireland, who refused to share her drink with him.

O'Callaghan was so overcome with rage that around 1am he went to the bedroom and dragged her 11 year old son William out of bed, beat him with his fists and then threw him with such force against a chair that his stomach was ripped open.  William managed to get under the bed for safety and Annie Washington, a 13 year old servant girl who sometimes stayed at the house, ran outside to get help after being woken by the screams.

When Police Constable Deacon went into the bedroom, he asked William to come out but he said his intestines were hanging out and after a doctor was called he was taken by horse ambulance to Bootle Hospital where he remained in a critical condition. O'Callaghan was arrested and charged with grievous bodily harm. He appeared at Islington Magistrates on on the morning of Saturday 10th August and remanded in custody for a week, with a police inspector stating that it was doubtful that William would make a recovery.

William failed to pull through, dying the following Wednesday after peritonitis had set in. At his inquest, held at Bootle police station on Friday 16th August, a verdict of wilful murder was returned and O'Callaghan was committed for trial at the next Assizes. William was buried at Anfield Cemetery on the Sunday, the funeral corterge being followed by a large crowd, some of whom expressed hostility to Mrs Ireland for being in a drunken state when her son was killed.

At O'Callaghan's trial in on 28th November, he maintained that he had not intended to cause any harm to William, but instead to simply to frighten Mrs Ireland. A surgeon from the Bootle Hospital said that death hadn't resulted directly from the injuries, but instead from the peritonitis and exhaustion which had been brought on by them. The day after the outrage, William had been able to give a statement to the police and this was read out in court, describing how he had been 'hammered' by O'Callaghan who kept catching up with him as he tried to get away.

O'Callaghan managed to avoid a conviction for murder on the basis he was so drunk at the time and hadn't used any implements when hitting William. He was instead found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 12 years penal servitude. In a sad postscript to the tragedy, Dr Ireland died of typhoid at the age of 58 the following month.

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