Friday, 21 February 2014

Russian Sailor Hanged at Kirkdale

In 1884 an out of work Russian seaman lodging in Liverpool was hanged after stabbing a former lover who refused to have any more to do with him.

28 year old Elizabeth Hamblin rented a room in Anson Place, off London Road. She got into a relationship with a 23 year old Russian national named Ernest Ewerstaedt, who was renting a room in St James Place having not been required for further work after arriving on a sailing from Riga. However Ewerstaedt's poor financial situation led to Hamblin ending the affair, leaving him particularly annoyed as she appeared to be seeing other men at the same time.

On the 19th September Ewerstaedt went with John Prange, who he was lodging with, to see Hamblin in Anson Place. Prange went to her room and was told by Hamblin, who was sat talking to two men, that she didn't want to see Ewerstaedt. He reacted angrily to this and said that he would be buying a gun the next night.

Ewerstaedt spent the afternoon of Saturday 20th September drinking with a fellow Russian sailor named William Gillick and then bought a dagger in Park Lane, but didn't say what he wanted it for. He then headed up to Anson Place on his own after Gillick had gone to his lodgings at the Sailors Home in Canning Place. After having a drink with Hamblin and her neighbour in Gildart Street, he showed them the dagger and said he would do a bloody deed with it that night. Both women then returned to Anson Place, followed by Ewerstaedt a few minutes later. After pacing up and down for some time he knocked but there was no answer so he went to the back entry and climbed over the wall, demanding that Hamblin have more drink with him. He was shown into the parlour but before Hamblin could respond Ewerstaedt plunged the dagger into her breast and she fell down dead, with her attacker leaving the property via the back door.

What Ewerstaedt hadn't realised was that the whole incident had been witnessed by a local 10 year old called Henry Titherington who had been intrigued at seeing him walking back and forth outside Hamblin's house. This led to police apprehending Ewerstaedt in the entry, and a search of the house found the body lying face down in the parlour, with the dagger hidden in the water closet.

Thousands of people descended on Anson Place the next day to view the scene of the crime, while further details emerged of Hamblin's private life. Her landlady said that she had been married four years earlier but her husband had since left for Australia. She had no other family, her parents having died while she was a child, leaving her to be brought up by the Kirkdale Industrial Schools.

At the Police Court on 22nd September Ewerstaedt didn't ask for an interpreter, having explained that he understood English perfectly well having been living in Liverpool on and off for a year. After hearing the evidence of Henry Titherington, the Stipendiary Magistrate Mr Raffles remanded the prisoner for three days, at the end of which he was committed for trial at the next Assizes. During this committal hearing, Ewerstaedt claimed that he was drunk on the night of the murder and was fighting with two men who had daggers, but he was not responsible for the killing.

Ewerstaedt was tried on 21st November, the prosecutor describing him as a 'Russian Finn.' With the Russian consul in attendance Ewerstaedt, who was described by the Liverpool Echo as of 'inoffensive appearance' listened to the proceedings with 'not the slightest interest.' Both his fellow sailors gave evidence that helped condemn him, in that Gillick said he was present when the dagger was bought and Prange said Ewerstaedt had threatened to buy a revolver. A shopkeeper confirmed he had sold the dagger, although he couldn't identify Ewerstaedt, while neighbours in Anson Place told how they had seen Ewerstaedt produce it in the pub and another female said that she saw a man shout 'me kill my Lizzie' on the corner of Anson Place and London Road. 10 year old Titherington repeated his evidence from the first court hearing.

The Defence Counsel Mr Segar described how Ewerstaedt had woke on the Sunday morning believing the whole thing was like a dream, but he knew he had been fighting with two men. Segar stated that Titherington's evidence was unreliable due his age and anything else was purely circumstantial, laying the blame for the murder on two men who had not been caught. But there were no witnesses to testify to the presence of these two men meaning Justice Day's summing up was not favourable to Ewerstaedt. After returning a verdict of guilty, he was sentenced to death.

Ewerstaedt spent a lonely three weeks at Kirkdale gaol awaiting execution. He didn't receive a single visitor apart from the Reverend Gerald Krusmann from the Lutheran Church in Renshaw Street, to whom he continued to insist two other men were responsible . He was hanged by James Berry on 8th December in a double execution along with Arthur Shaw, a 31 year old tailor who had killed a woman in Manchester. 

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