Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Lake District Romance Ends in Grandmother's Death

In 1963 a couple who met whilst on holiday in the Lake District got romantically involved, but it ended tragically when the man's grandmother was strangled to death by the woman.

18 year old Christina Penrose met a 19 year old Liverpool male called David on a hiking holiday in July of that year and began a relationship, which was continued after Christina left Nottingham to move to Liverpool. Even though David's father sent Christina back to Nottingham and paid her train fare, she returned and the couple stayed with relatives wherever they could. Eventually Christina was able to lodge with David's 82 year old grandmother Alice Swain at 55 Peter Road in Walton, while David returned to his parents home in Maghull.

On 13th October neighbours were concerned for Mrs Swain's safety as she hadn't been seen for three days. After getting no reply David and his father broke into the property, where they found Christina unconscious with her head in the gas oven, which was switched on. His father, a doctor who had a practice in Norris Green, rendered first aid and they then searched the rest of the house, finding Alice's body huddled in the living room. Police were called and found letters that appeared to have been written by Christina, one of which said 'I have killed Nan.' A pathologist estimated that Alice had been dead for 24-48 hours and a post mortem revealed she had been strangled.

Christina was taken to Walton hospital and remained there for a week. She was arrested on discharge and charged with murder, appearing at the Magistrates Court on 21st October. Her solicitor Harry Livermore told the court that he had found it impossible to communicate with Christina and she didn't seem to understand the situation she was in. He went on to say he hoped she would be given very careful treatment at Strangeways Gaol in Manchester, to where she was remanded.

On 28th January 1964 Christina appeared at Liverpool Crown Court where the prosecution accepted her plea of guilty to manslaughter on he grounds of diminished responsibility. She was defended by leading QC Rose Heilbron, who called Dr Calder, the senior medical officer at Strangeways to explain that she had schizophrenia and now suffered memory loss as a result of the carbon monoxide poisoning. Mr Justice Stevenson then ordered her to be detained at Broadmoor under the Mental Health Act.

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