Sunday, 15 June 2014

Liverpool's First Police Killing

The first killing of a police officer in Liverpool took place in 1838 when an inspector died whilst trying to disrupt a prize fight, leading to six men being transported for life.

On the evening of Monday 28th May that year Inspector George Wharton was in Blair Street, when a member of the public told him that there was a fight taking place nearby in Parliament Street. In going there with two constables he found nothing, but was redirected to the top of Hill Street where two men were stripped to the waist and a large crowd gathered.

Wharton managed to take one of the men into custody, but as he was leading him away some of the mob followed him, with Edward Connolly hitting him over the head with a plank enabling the prisoner to escape. Other males were surrounded Wharton's colleagues who were trying to arrest the other fighter. Inspector William Ross was held by James Macklin, then hit over the head by Patrick Canning with an eighteen inch stick and fell to the ground. He was then repeatedly kicked and hit with bricks and planks by James Durning and Martin Murphy, as well as Connolly who returned there after hitting Wharton. George McCarty was in the background shouting 'GO ON'.

As his colleagues tried to assist they were tripped by other members of the crowd, which number twenty to thirty. They managed to escape and secure further assistance, but by the time they got back Ross was unconscious and bleeding on the ground. The crowd had made no attempt to disperse and were not outnumbered to taken into custody, while Ross was carried to the Infirmary.

Despite the best efforts of surgeons to save him, Ross died on 6th June with Dr Nottingham telling the Coroner's inquest that he was no doubt the death was a result of the injuries received, which had caused inflammation of the brain. The funeral took place on 8th June, with a 90 minute procession from the Infirmary to Mount Street cemetery. All police officers who were not on duty, numbering 300 in total, were in attendance.

On 14th August, the six men who were all in their late teens or early twenties were tried for wilful murder at the Assizes in Chapel Street. Although there was no doubt that all had been there and five had taken part in the assault, it wasn't clear who had actually struck the blows which proved fatal. As such all were found guilty of manslaughter, including 19 year old McCarty who had done no more than shout at the others to take part in the assault.  Mr Justice Williams said due to the enormity of the offence he had to pass a severe sentence and sentenced them all to transportation for life.

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