Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Child Killer Drowns Himself

There was a double tragedy in 1901 when a man killed his landlord's daughter before drowning himself in a dock, with no motive for his crime ever being established.

6 year old Eveline Christopherson lived with her parents at 36 Parr Street and for some extra income they took in a lodger, labourer John Bennett who was originally from Hull. On Tuesday 15th January Mrs Christopherson had to go out for shopping and left Eveline in the house with Bennett, but when she returned both were missing and the child's room was in a disorderly state.

After nobody in the neighbourhood could shed any light on the situation Eveline was reported as missing to the police and shortly before midnight her body was found in an ashpit behind the house. Her throat had been cut and she appeared to have been strangled, a cloth having been tied tightly around her neck. Eveline's brother had  been in the street and seen Bennett run off at about ten past six, having just carried a bundle into the yard which he saw through the keyhole when he knocked on the door.

Police soon circulated Bennett's description and all train stations were watched. Although all the evidence pointed to Bennett as the killer, there was still no known motive as he has shown no untoward tendencies towards his hosts, although he had been morose on many occasions.

On Monday 21st January Eveline was buried at Anfield Cemetery, with a large crowd lining the route as her coffin was taken there from Parr Street. On the same day, a spiritualist contacted the police to say that Bennett was hiding in a brick shelter on the banks of the Leeds and Liverpool canal near Preston. Enquiries with the North Lancashire Constabulary confirmed that they knew the shelter in question and it could be somewhere were a fugitive would hide out. However a search of the premises and area found no trace of him.

The whereabouts of Bennett were finally solved on 23rd January, when a body was found on the sill of Salisbury Dock. It matched Bennett's description and was identified by a police constable who once worked with him on a railway, as well as Mrs Christopherson. Bennett's father, an iron moulder, also travelled from Hull.

Inquests were held three days later into the deaths of both Eveline and Bennett, who had been heard to say he would murder someone and swing for it if he couldn't find work. After hearing of Eveline's injuries and the fact that Bennett's trouser pockets had been filled with stones, the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder by Bennett on Eveline, and suicide for him.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Pub Singer Killed

A man who enjoyed a sing song in a Scotland Road pub with friends ended up dead when a fight broke out after another customer objected to the noise. 

Scotland Road in 1908 (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)On the afternoon of Saturday 13th March 1886 Patrick Heston, a 23 year old labourer went to watch a foot race in Walton with four friends. They then headed back towards Liverpool, stopping off for some beer in in Walton Lane and then Korn's public house at 203 Scotland Road.

Whilst drinking in the parlour they started to sing and did so for about twenty minutes. When a 40 year old named Thomas Doulan arrived, he told Heston at the end of a song that he couldn't sing any more and to sit down. Although Heston did so, his friend Patrick Rogan acted angrily and Doulan then took out a knife and said he could settle him, before waving it about indiscriminately.

Heston dived between the two men and gasped 'I am stabbed in the heart' before falling down. The pub landlord John Shied managed to get Doulan in a headlock, but he was still able to wave the knife about and slash two other men. Heston was carried into the snug but he died before an ambulance arrived from the Northern Hospital.

Justice Grantham
When police arrived Doulan was given into their custody, but he claimed that Rogan had struck him first and he had also been hit by another of Heston's friends. A post mortem revealed that the knife had penetrated into Heston's left breast and another artery had been severed on his leg. Doulan was charged with murder and first appeared at the police court on 16th March. It was clear from his appearance that there had been a severe scuffle, as his face was covered in scratches and his lip was cut.

Doulan appeared at the assizes before Mr Justice Grantham on 25th May. Evidence was presented to suggest that he had been placed under a great deal of provocation and he hadn't deliberately plunged the knife into Heston, rather waved a knife about at random. After being found guilty of manslaughter he was sentenced to just six months imprisonment.




Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Jury's Extraordinary Leniency to Mother

Only a sympathetic jury led to a Victorian domestic servant avoiding the death penalty for killing a newborn baby as on sentencing the judge made it quite clear what he thought of the case and her involvement in it.

On 1st December 1885 the body of a baby boy was found in the cellar of Mr Murphy's emigrant lodging house in St Paul's Square. It had been covered in coal and boxes as if to create a makeshift tomb and was wrapped in clothing that was identified as belonging to Murphy's 23 year old domestic servant Kate McDonnell.

The body had a scarf tied tightly around its neck and a medical examination ascertained that the baby had been born alive and been breathing after the umbilical cord was cut. The cause of death appeared to be strangulation as the tongue was hanging out and when Mr Murphy told police he had challenged McDonnell over a suspected pregancy in September, she was arrested and charged with murder.


She stood trial on 17th February 1886 before the notorious Justice Day, her defence being that she knew nothing about the child being born or how her clothes came to be wrapped around it. Mr Murphy repeated his suspicions about McDonnell having been pregnant but admitted under cross examination that she was hard working, honest and he had total confidence in her.

Two doctors gave evidence and stated that the baby had lived for 24 hours before dying of of strangulation and that the knot had been tied very tight. The evidence was overwhelming that the baby had been born alive and deliberately killed, so it was up to then jury to determine if McDonnell had given birth to a baby had killed it, or she had been set up by somebody else. Unbelievably after two hours deliberation the jury decided that she was not guilty of murder, but instead found her guilty of concealment of birth. This was despite no suggestion being put forward by the defence that McDonnell could have given birth only for somebody else to kill the baby.

Justice Day minced no words in his sentencing. The man notorious for showing no mercy told McDonnell that this was one of the worst cases of infanticide he had ever dealt with and that 'Nobody could doubt that you either murdered the child or were party to its murder.' He then imposed the maximum sentence that the law allowed form concealment of birth, which was two years imprisonment with hard labour.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Brazilian Jailed For Life For Stabbing

An argument between some sailors over a servant girl led to a fight in which one was killed with a knife and the another jailed for life for manslaughter.

On the evening of 17th March 1861 a Brazilian seaman named Joachim Francisco went to Florentine's boarding house in Carpenters' Row to visit some friends. In the kitchen, he tried to get a kiss off the servant Mary McNulty, only for another man to tell him he had no business doing that, which Joachim took exception to.

Joachim challenged the other man, named Francisco, to a fight and followed him out of the door. Francisco stood outside waiting, only for Joachim to walk up to him and stab him in the neck, without any other words or blows exchanged. Joachim then ran down towards the docks but Francisco didn't go down immediately even though blood was coming from his neck.

When Francisco collapsed he was taken to hospital by a policeman but found to be dead on arrival. A bread knife was then found between his legs. Joachim returned to his lodgings in Frederick Street around 9pm, by which time news of he stabbing had spread to his landlady Mrs Joseph. A servant Mrs Crue called for a policeman and the sailor was arrested following a scuffle. His room was then searched and a blood stained shirt recovered, as well as a razor blade which had been discarded into the fire.

At Joachim's trial two other sailors and Mary McNulty testified to having seen the stabbing taken place, saying that it had come without provocation although Francisco readily agreed to the fight. McNulty also told the court that the although she didn't see Francisco pick up the breadknife, it had been on the kitchen table during the quarrel. A chemical analyst confirmed that blood was found in the razor blade.

Joachim's defence counsel argued that many of the words between Francisco and Joachim had been in Spanish and McNulty couldnt possibly have known what was said. He also argued that Joachim had a sheath knife on him, which would have been a far more appropriate murder weapon and that if he knew Francisco had the breadknife, it was natural to get a pre-emptive strike in first.

In summing up, the judge said that even if two people had a prearranged fight, if one died then it was murder. However, if the fight was a sudden impulse one, then it was manslaughter unless one party had a hugely unfair advantage in terms of weapons. The jury deliberated for half an hour and returned a manslaughter verdict, given that Francisco had a carving knife on his person. Justice Hill though felt the killing was a most aggravated one and sentenced Joachim to transportation for life.