Sunday, 13 October 2013

Killed by a Brick.

An escalating quarrel fuelled by drink between neighbours in Everton led to the death of a newly wedded young man in 1895.

The tragedy occurred in a court off Mansfield Street in Everton, where events started to unravel on the night of Saturday 17th August. Corporation refuse collector Stephen Dougherty and his wife, who had only got married at St Anthony's Church in Scotland Road on 31st May, were drinking with 30 year old labourer William O'Neill and some of his friends. Dougherty's sister started shouting at O'Neill, leading to him throwing her out of the house and a serious argument breaking out between the two men, which led to police being called and separating everybody to their own homes.

The following morning O'Neill seemed  determined to renew the row, his brother John telling Dougherty that he would meet the same fate as William Davies, who had been killed in Walton the previous week. At about 3pm Catherine Price, who lived with him, threw a ginger beer bottle at Dougherty's window, smashing it. O'Neill then climbed on to the roof of his house and took some loose bricks from the chimney stack, throwing them into the court. Mrs Dougherty ran to find a policeman and while she was out of the court a brick struck her husband, who was leaning out of his window, on the side of the head. He then fell 30 feet to his death, which was instantaneous. When a police constable arrived, O'Neill handed himself over without putting up a struggle. With his wife unconscious after fainting, Dougherty was taken to the Infirmary where he was pronounced dead and she formally identified him in the Prince's Dock mortuary in the evening.

At the Liverpool Assizes on 25th November, O'Neill's counsel tried to say Dougherty had fallen accidentally to his death and it was just a coincidence if any bricks thrown by O'Neill had hit him on the head.  However none of the witnesses called could confirm this and although Dougherty had acted aggressively the previous evening, there was no evidence that he had engaged in any provocation on the day he died. It took the jury half an hour to find him guilty and the death sentence was passed by Justice Collins, who said he would not waste any time commenting on the circumstances of the crime.

After an appeal by relatives, O'Neill had his sentence commuted to penal servitude for life by the Home Secretary and on 19th December he was taken by train to Knutsford Jail to serve his sentence.

No comments:

Post a Comment