Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War a 7 year old girl was killed when she was struck by a poker that was thrown by her father in a row over a pawned vest.
The tragedy occurred in Ernest Street, Toxteth (now no longer there, but off Miles Street to the south east of the Tesco Extra) on the evening of Saturday 25th July 1914. William Archibald Kay, a dock labourer who was a father of eight, returned home and handed his wages to his wife, telling her to get his vest back from the pawn shop.
When Kay's wife asked if the vest could wait for another week he became annoyed and an argument broke out, concluding with him ordering her to 'get out'. When she told him to 'guide his temper' he replied 'I'll guide you' and pushed her into the lobby, then threw a poker after her. The poker missed his wife but struck 7 year old Mary Jane on the head.
Mrs Kay was so shocked at what happened that she fainted in the street, and Kay immediately picked the girl up in his arms and shouted for passers by to call a doctor. When Dr Chavasse arrived, Mary Jane was dead and a devastated Kay surrendered himself to the police, telling him that he had done it to 'my little favourite.' A post mortem revealed that death was caused by haemorrhage caused by the blow.
On 28th July the inquest took place. Mary Jane's brother Robert told the Coroner that the family lived comfortably and although his father was addicted to drink at times and could be quarrelsome, he had never hit his wife. Mary Jane was his favourite child and had been in hospital a few weeks earlier with an infection, but made a full recovery. Kay was still wearing his dock labourers uniform and sat dejected throughout the proceedings, sobbing when his affection for Mary Jane was mentioned. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and Kay was committed for trial at the Liverpool Assizes.
When the Assizes opened on 27th October, Mr Justice Darling indicated that he did not believe this case amounted to murder and Kay was allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter. The following day, Kay received a sentence of just six months imprisonment in light of his previous good character.