Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Nurse Murdered In Hospital


In 1884 a terrible event happened at the Mill Road workhouse hospital when a nurse was murdered by a former inmate who was only released from prison earlier that day.

On the morning of Saturday 23rd February that year Adam Rutherford was released from Walton gaol after serving a four month sentence for robbery. A former soldier aged 38 who had served in India and South Africa, he had been in poor health for some time due to a bullet wound to his groin that caused frequent ulcers, causing him to be in and out of the workhouse hospital.

Rutherford called in at his uncle's house on Breckfield Road North and then went to a police station to ask for some discharge money, telling the officer he was likely to be sleeping in the workhouse that night. Rutherford then went drinking and rather than seek a formal admission, he instead climbed over the railings at about 2am and gained entry to the building via a window which had a broken catch.

Rutherford waited in a passageway until Jane Groom, who was the only  nurse on duty at night, went for a break from her ward rounds in the sitting room. As she arrived Rutherford cut her throat twice with a razor, with one of the slashes cutting through to her spine. Those on a nearby ward were awoken by her screams and got up to find Groom with blood pouring from her throat, pointing to the sitting room. Rutherford was found in there with his own throat cut and was restrained while the police and a doctor was sent for.

Doctor's arrived but there was nothing that could be done to save Ms Groom and she died about half an hour after the slashing. They then turned their attentions to Rutherford, whose wounds were not so serious and he was placed in a hospital bed under the watch of a policeman. When questioned by a clergyman, Rutherford said he had no idea he had murdered Ms Groom and could only remember inflicting his own wounds.

At the Coroner's Court in Dale Street the following Wednesday witnesses told how Rutherford had previously rowed with Ms Groom when she had removed a boy from the ward who was engaging in bad language. Attention was drawn to the faulty window catch, but the Board of the West Derby Union insisted that anyone who was determined enough would have gained entry. A verdict of wilful murder was returned against Rutherford, who was progressing well and had started to take in liquids. The following day Ms Groom, a 52 year old spinster who had worked there for ten years, was buried at Toxteth Park cemetery in Smithdown Road.

Despite his early progress, Rutherford's condition deteriorated again and he died on the morning of 27th March of a bladder infection. An inquest into his death concluded that his state of mind couldn't be determined due to it not having been ascertained to what extent alcohol effected his mind when coupled with infections to his wound.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Life Sentence for German who Killed Compatriot

In 1875 a German national who stabbed a fellow immigrant from the same country was sentenced to life imprisonment after the judge decided that the killing was too disproportionate to be considered an act of self defence.

Jacob Schneider, who was a 47 year old labourer who lived in Sparling Street (left) in the St James area of the city, while his victim Peter Patchence, also a labourer lived in nearby Shaw's Alley.

Schneider spent the early evening of 22nd July 1875 drinking and got involved in an altercation with another man before making his way home around 830pm. On passing Patchence's house in Shaw's Alley he called his wife, who was sat on the step knitting, a 'bitch' and was told to go away by Mr Huber, one of the Patchence's lodgers. He then moved on and shouted 'bitch' at another woman, who threw a bowl of water over him.

Patchence had been in bed when Schneider walked past but on hearing the verbal exchange he got up and followed him to the corner of Sparling Street and Shaw's Alley. Patchence then threw Schneider to the ground and as he was standing over him about to throw a punch, Schneider took a knife out of his pocket and stabbed Patchence in the abdomen two or three times. Mrs Patchence called her husband away as he didn't need to have his hands dirtied any more and as he got up he shouted that he had been stabbed.

A police officer arrived on the scene and found Schneider with his hands covered in blood complaining that a woman had thrown water over him. A passer by told the officer that he had stabbed a man and warned him to be careful. After being handcuffed, the knife was seized and Schneider was then taken into a chemist were Patchence was receiving treatment and confirmed what had happened.


Schneider was taken to the Main Bridewell charged with stabbing, while Patchence managed to make his own way to the Southern Hospital where he was treated for protruding bowels. He died three days later and on 30th July the Coroner's Court returned a verdict of wilful murder.

At the Liverpool Assizes several German sailors who lodged in the vicinity gave evidence, saying they had seen the quarrel and that Schneider had stabbed Patchence three or four times, including as the victim was moving away. Schneider's defence counsel tried to have him cleared of all charges, but Justice Archibald summed up by saying that the jury had to take into account whether the level of provocation justified thrusting the knife so many times. The jury found him guilty of manslaughter, passing a note to the judge stating that they had been close to a murder verdict.

Telling Schneider that his offence was 'one of the highest class of manslaughter' Justice Archibald sentenced him to penal servitude for life.




Violent Mob Conspire to Hang Their Victim

A violent assault by a group of friends on an incident neighbour led to one of them ending up dead in 1875, leading to a conspiracy to blame their victim for the crime.

On the afternoon of Sunday 25th April 1875 Jeremiah Cash was set upon for no apparent reason by up to eight individuals in Raymond Street, Vauxhall. In his desperate attempt to get away into the safety of his own property, he struck out in self defence leading to 22 year old Winifred McCabe falling to the ground and receiving a head injury.

When the police arrived, it was alleged that Cash had assaulted McCabe with a meat cleaver and he was arrested for wounding, while she was taken to hospital. She was discharged the following day and went home to bed but she never left it, dying on 18th May. At the inquest six witnesses told the Coroner that they had seen Cash quarrel with McCabe's brother before going inside and returning with a cleaver under his coat, which he then used to striker her.

Cash was committed for trial at the Liverpool Assizes but there were sensational developments on 19th August. The six witnesses told the court the same story but Cash had a dozen witnesses who stated that he was attacked without provocation, with some of them saying they then saw Maria Cain come out of her house and drop a meat cleaver from under her dress. Crucially, Cain's young son stated that he had seen her leave with the cleaver and he feared she was going to kill somebody with it. After acquitting Cash, who had worked for the same employer for 18 years with an unblemished record, Mr Justice Archibald ordered that all those who had given evidence against him be charged with perjury.

Cain was the first to be tried for perjury on 16th December, when another neighbour told the court he had overheard her concocting the cleaver story in the pub on the day of the row but had been too scared to tell anybody about it. Cain was found guilty and sentenced to a total of 14 years imprisonment, 7 years for lying to the Coroner and 7 in respect of the Assizes. The sentences were to run consecutively, Justice Archibald telling Cain that he 'could hardly think of  a crime more wicked' given a man's life was at stake. The following day five more were tried and sentenced to gaol terms of between 18 months and 7 years.



Wife Killed in Row Over Support Money

A man battered his wife to death in 1875 following a drunken row over the money that was needed for the upkeep of their son who was on a reformatory ship. The killing, which resulted in a life sentence for manslaughter, demonstrated the wretched conditions that some were living in at that time.

James Fox, a 43 year old plasterer, finished work at noon on Monday 5th July 1875 and went on a drinking session, eventually ending up in a pub in Jenkinson Street in Everton, where he lived in a cellar with his wife Margaret and two of their children.

At about 2pm Margaret joined James in the pub and asked him for money, as that morning she had pawned her shawl so that she could pay some support money at Dale Street police station for the support of their son, who was an inmate on board the Clarence reformatory ship, moored in the River Mersey. An argument broke out during which Margaret raised her hand to strike James, but she was taken home by a neighbour, Mrs Stringer.

James followed them home half an hour later and in full view of both Mrs Stringer and his son, hit his wife over the head with a brush. Margaret rushed out of the property and ran to the pub, followed by Mrs Stringer who begged her not to return home while James was in such a rage. Margaret then asked Mrs Stringer collect her youngest child Mary from the cellar, but after this had been done she chose to return home anyway.

Margaret's decision to return home cost her her life. James hit her on the head with a kettle and after she fell kicked her in the back, belly and face, before lifting her up onto the bed and leaving her. This assault took place in front of their 8 year old son, who was then given a shilling to go and buy some mussels. At 5pm Mrs Stringer returned with the youngest daughter and saw James sat on the bed next to his dead wife, asking if she could go and get him a gill of ale.

James stood trial on 18th August, with Mrs Stringer and his son as key witnesses, as well as other neighbours who had seen him pulling Margaret's hair outside the house. The defence counsel dismissed the son's evidence as unreliable and tried to discredit Mrs Stringer due to her fondness for drink. After careful consideration, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, taking into account comments in Mr Justice Archibald's summing up about premeditation and provocation.

During the trial James had often wept and evidence was presented to show that when not drunk he was a kind and affectionate husband. However Justice Archibald showed no leniency, even though he had said during his summing up that people in the cellars needed reaching out to and elevating up the social scale, so they could learn that there was more to life than drink. Telling James that there was a very narrow line between this case and wilful murder, he imposed a sentence of penal servitude for life.