Sunday, 1 June 2014

Locals Ignore Desperate Woman's Plight

A Danish seaman who killed a prostitute in Upper Frederick Street was sentenced to life imprisonment for manslaughter following an incident in which locals showed shocking indifference to the victim.

19 year old Matthew Dedone spent the evening of 6th September 1880 drinking in Cottam's public house, on the corner of Frederick Street and Forrest Street. His drinking companion was Humphrey Murphy and Dedone produced a knife saying that if anybody tried to hurt his friend then he was prepared to use it on them.

At around 10pm Dedone and Murphy left the pub and headed their separate ways. Shortly afterwards a local 30 year old prostitute called Cecilia Rigby did so as well. What happened over the next hour was never fully established but at 11.10pm Dedone was seen walking along Pitt Street with a knife, then dragging a woman screaming into an entry and then back out again whilst repeatedly punching and kicking her.

Nobody tried to intervene in this episode and Dedone then asked his former landlady Ann King, who was sat on her step, if she would take in Cecilia as a lodger and offered some money. She refused and Dedone apologised for his actions and went away, with Ann continuing to sit on her step talking to her friend Mary Nolan.

It was not until after midnight that anybody offered assistance to Cecilia when dock labourer Francis Kehoe was returning home and walked past Ann and Mary who were still talking. A few yards later he saw Cecilia lying on the ground in Upper Frederick Street and found that she was dead. A police constable was called and the body was removed to the Royal Southern Hospital, where a post mortem found she had died after being stabbed in the lung and heart. Dedone, who had now disposed of the weapon, was apprehended soon afterwards at his lodgings in nearby Greetham Street.

Dedone was charged with murder and appeared before Mr Justice Mellor at Liverpool Assizes on 13th November. Witnesses told how they had seen him and Cecilia arguing around 11pm with Dedone demanding the return of his shilling, before he went on to carry out the brutal assault. Dedone's defence was a simple one, that he was not there at that time but had instead gone home at 10.30pm and stayed there, so the witnesses must be mistaken in identifying him. This was contradicted by the evidence of his boarding house keeper though, who said he had returned at 11.45pm.

In summing up, Justice Mellor said that the jury had to be satisfied that Dedone was the killer and needed to ask themselves if there had been any provocation that could reduce the verdict to manslaughter. After forty minutes deliberation, a verdict of manslaughter was returned. Before sentencing, Dedone reiterated his innocence, insisting that he was in his home at 10.30pm and went straight to bed. Justice Mellor said that both he and the jury were satisfied that Dedone was responsible for the killing and that given a knife was used in the killing, the verdict was a very lenient one. He then sentenced Dedone to penal servitude for life.

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