Monday, 29 September 2014

Widow Killed by Jealous Brother-in-Law

A man whose brother was killed in action during World War 1 was hanged after he murdered his sister-in-law when she spurned his advances.

The war had not been a happy one for Mary Ellen Rooney, who lost two husbands as a result of the fighting.The second was killed in action in France in July 1918 and after this happened she went to live with her mother in Elm Grove, off Smithdown Lane.

Her second husbands older brother William Rooney, a 51 year old labourer, lived opposite with his mother. Mary used to do house work for William's mother but became afraid of going there due to the unwelcome advances and when she refused to go to the picture house with him, William threatened to kill her and knife.

When Mary's uncle confronted William about the threat, he said it was his younger brother who acted like this and she must have been confused due to her grief. Mary went away for a week or two but on return was visited by a soldier on leave, to whose presence William objected and he challenged him to a fight in the street.

On the afternoon of 2nd November, Mary agreed to go for a drink with William and they appeared on friendly terms. However that evening when Mary went into a shop in Paddington to buy some eggs. William followed her in and grabbed her shoulder, then stabbed her in the neck twice before some passers by managed to overpower him. A doctor driving past saw Mary bleeding and gave assistance, but there was little he could do as the jugular vein had been cut. She was rushed to hospital but died as doctors prepared to operate.

William gave no resistance and admitted what he had done when a policeman arrived at the scene. The inquest was held on 5th November, with William's mother giving evidence that his father was currently in the Rainhill asylum and two of his sisters and a brother had also had a history of mental illness.

A memorial service was held for Mary at St Stephen's Church in Grove Street and William was committed for trial at the Manchester Assizes that took place three weeks later. During the intervening period, an armistice was signed but there would be no reprieve for William  the defence being unable to show that William was not in control of his actions. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, showing no emotion as the verdict and sentence were read out. On 17th December, William went to the gallows at Strangeways gaol.

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