Saturday, 26 December 2015

Dead Baby Found in Bundle of Rags

Despite the incredibly suspicious circumstances surrounding the discovery of the body of a newborn baby in 1842, the mother was convicted only of concealment of birth.

On Tuesday 7th June a servant named Mary Bruce failed to show for work in Sandon Street, the message being sent by her parents that she was being asked to perform duties that she wasn't fit for. When further enquiries were made by the Mary Cole, the mistress of the house, she established that a live in servant named Elizabeth Russell had undergone 'something different to the usual course of nature.'

Two days later Agnes Harding, a nurse to Miss Cole's family, was sent for to examine Elizabeth, who admitted she had been in the family way for seven months and had put the body of  a baby boy in the privy. A police constable recovered the body and a doctor who carried out a post mortem asked for two other surgeons to be present. They concluded that the pregnancy had gone its full term and that the baby had been born alive due to the lungs having absorbed air. The only abnormalities were injuries to the head, which appeared to have been caused by a sharp instrument.

Elizabeth was taken to the Bridewell where she shared a cell with a woman called Ann Smith who had been arrested for a breach of the peace. When asked by Ann why she was there, Elizabeth replied that it was in relation to a child and she had panicked when the baby didn't cry, tying a handkerchief around the neck. Her intention, she said, was to remove the baby from the privy and go to Wales.

At the inquest which was held before Mr P F Curry on 13th June the doctors, Ann and Agnes gave their evidence along with young Mary Bruce, who was only eleven years old. She said that on the day in question, she saw an infant sized bundle of rags being placed in the privy by Elizabeth, who said they had been left by some workmen. Mary went on to say she asked Elizabeth if she could have the rags, but this request was refused on the grounds they were dirty.

In summing up, Mr Curry praised the advances in anatomical science and stated that this was one of the clearest cases that had ever come before him, leading to the jury returning a verdict of wilful murder and Elizabeth being committed for trial and remanded at Kirkdale gaol.

At the assizes on 8th August Elizabeth's counsel suggested that due to Mary Bruce's young age and Ann Smith's bad character they were not reliable witnesses. They then called into question the medical evidence, saying it was possible any head injuries could have been caused when the child was laid down, Elizabeth believing it to be already dead. 

The trial judge told the jury that they had to take into account the state of mind the parties were in at the time of the events. After an hours deliberation, Elizabeth was acquitted of murder but found guilty of concealment of birth. She was then sentenced to two years imprisonment.



Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Thirteen Year Old Prostitute Killer

A teenager who retaliated against a prostitute who had hit him by stabbing her in the neck was found guilty of manslaughter and given an extremely lenient sentence by the judge.

On the evening of Thursday 28th April 1842 Elizabeth Smith, who was said to run a 'house of ill fame' in a court off Preston Street, went out to purchase a candle. She was abused on the street by one of the local ladies of the night, 25 year old Eliza May.

Mrs Smith's thirteen year old son William was in the street making a toy boat and persuaded his mother to return inside and said that he would go for the candle. However May blocked his way and began beating him about the head. This led to him retaliating by stabbing her in the neck with a small knife that he had been using.

The incident was seen by a passing surgeon, Dr Williams and he took May to the druggists in Whitechapel. Due to the severity of the bleeding, a car was called to take her to the Infirmary but she was dead on arrival. A post mortem found that the jugular vein had been severed. Smith had initially absconded but was caught by police the following day.

On Saturday 30th April an inquest took place before the Borough Coroner Mr P F Curry and returned a verdict of manslaughter. Smith was committed to the assizes for a trial which took place on 6th August. The jury found him guilty but recommended mercy on account of his 'extreme youth' and the judge, saying that their had been provocation, imposed a sentence of just one weeks imprisonment.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Stool Killing

A man who battered his wife to death with a stool narrowly avoided a murder convicttion and was instead found guilty of manslaughter and transported for life.

On 15th June 1846 a labourer called Charles Lear was sat on the steps of his home in Gore Street, Toxteth Park, when he saw a mug thrown onto the street from a house nearby. Kate Wignall who lived there came to the door but was pulled back in by her husband Richard who then shut it.


Five minutes later Kate opened the door again but this time she was on her knees and Richard was beating her about the head with a stool. She then fell down and Richard kicked her in the ribs before raising his cap above his head and shouting 'That is the way to do business.' He then went to his father's house nearby while other neighbours, disturbed by the commotion, rushed to the aid of Kate who was bleeding heavily from facial wounds.

A police inspector named Samuel Maddox arrived shortly afterwards, only to find that Kate had died from her injuries after being taken down into the cellar. Richard Wignall had tried to escape but was restrained by a joiner named William Ellis, who had heard the cries of 'murder' but at first taken no notice as he felt it was a generally disturbed neighbourhood. Ellis handed Wignall over to Inspector Maddox, who also seized the stool which had been used as a weapon.

Wignall was taken to the Bridewell where he said an argument broke out over him forgetting to repair some panes of glass. A post mortem was carried out on Kate's body and found that all the organs were healthy. There was bruising in various places, while the cause of death was put down to effusion on the brain.

A coroner's inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder and Wignall was remanded in Kirkdale gaol pending his committal to the assizes. All he had to say was that he was drunk at the time and his wife was not a sober woman.

Wignall appeared before Mr Justice Wightman on 28th August. Due to the fact an argument had occurred the jury found him guilty of manslaughter although added that it was 'one of the most aggravated cases on record.' In addressing Wignall before sentence the judge told him it was an awful crime that had deprived a mother of her son and a child of both parents. He then ordered that Wignall be transported for life and he landed at Tasmania early the following year.


Monday, 30 November 2015

Two Months Jail For Wife killing

A man who habitually abused his wife and eventually caused her death after elbowing her in the face was sentenced to just two months imprisonment.

On the evening of Saturday 1st October 1864 John Robinson, a forty year old tinplate layer asked his wife Catherine for money for ale, but she refused his request. John then struck her with his elbow in the face and stomach, leading to her screaming for help from the landlady of the house where they lodged in Cavendish Street, which was situated where the St Johns Ambulance offices off Scotland Road are now.  

The landlady Mrs Winter tried to stop the bleeding but was unable to do so, but John would not get out of bed to assist in taking his wife to the dispensary. When heavily pregnant Catherine threw some blood at her husband he threatened to knock her downstairs if she asked him again.


In the early hours John eventually agreed to go to the dispensary, from where they were referred to the Northern Hospital. As she was being helped there, Catherine said to her husband 'Take more time for I am dropping, this is the last walk I will have.'

On the Monday Catherine was visited in hospital  by a detective. She said the bleeding had started when she fell over after carrying some tins on her head, then it had occurred again after being punched in the face by John. He was then arrested and taken to the police office where he admitted assaulting his wife, but said he had only slapped her with the back of his hand.

Catherine gave birth to a stillborn male child on 6th October, doctors estimating that she was eight months into her pregnancy. Heavily effected by the loss of blood, her condition deteriorated and she died on 18th October. A post mortem revealed that both bones in the nose were broken as a result of considerable violence. 


At the inquest two days later the couple's fourteen year old son said that his parents had quarreled for as long as he can remember and that his father had often said whilst drunk that he would kill her one day. Mrs Winter said that another lodger had drawn her attention to the attack and that she feared Catherine was being killed. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and the Deputy Coroner Mr Wybergh remanded John pending his trial at the assizes.

At the Liverpool Assizes on 14th December the defence pleaded that Catherine had contributed to her own death by carrying the tins on her head. John was found guilty but with a recommendation for mercy. The judge, Mr Justice Mellor, said there were mitigating factors on the case and James was sentenced to a period of imprisonment of just two more months.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Justified Killing of a Father

A man who killed his father as he believed he was about to do harm to family members was set free after a trial found that his actions were justified. 

On the afternoon of 31st May 1909 William Haughton, a 57 year old father of five, went on one of his regular drinking sprees and returned to his home in Chesterton Street, Garston, demanding his tea. When his wife gave him some cold meat he threw it back at her then filled a basin with water and poured it over her as she sat motionless in a chair. 

Haughton went back out and returned at 10pm, by which time his wife and two teenage daughters were in bed. He stayed downstairs for a while playing a piano but at 11.30pm went upstairs and demanded some work trousers. His eldest son, also William, was woken by the commotion and remonstrated with his father, leading to the two men exchanging punches.

A few hours later Haughton died in hospital, having given a statement saying he had been hit four or five times on the head with a poker as he lay defenceless on the floor. A post mortem revealed that his skull had been fractured in two places. However when he was arrested  the son William said the two men had fallen down together and fearing for his safety, he had struck out with the poker in self defence.

William was charged with murder and appeared before Lord Chief Coleridge on 20th July. A statement that he had made on arrest was read out, in which he said 'I am sorry for what I have done, I hit him over the head five times with a poker to prevent him ill using my mother who is an invalid. I heard him beating my mother , I rushed and done my best to stop him.' William's sixteen year old sister Emily told the court that her brother was the one who put most money into the house and that her father had him pinned to the ground when he got hold of the poker.

The Reverend T P Howe gave William a character reference, saying he had been attending church twice a day for three years and that he was a 'quiet, inoffensive and respectable member of the community.' In the final submission, William's defence counsel suggested that his intervention was justified and that if he hadn't done so, his father may well have been there on trial instead. 

Without leaving their box the jury returned a verdict of not guilty of both manslaughter and murder. There was loud applause from the public gallery which was quickly suppressed. After the judge said 'Simple justice has been done, there is no occasion for applause' William was released.


Benefit of Doubt For 'Poor Friendless Woman'

A woman whose baby was found strangled in a basket was sentenced to just twelve months in prison after being found guilty only of infanticide.

In the summer of 1908 Alice Spelman, who was originally from Derby, worked at a hotel in the North Wales coastal resort of Llandudno, In the October she went to Liverpool and took lodgings in Vine Street, where she discovered she was pregnant two months later.

Alice took on a job as a general servant in Mill Street in February 1909 and was immediately asked by her mistress if she was pregnant, which she denied. On 6th March Alice was taken ill and taken in a cab to the Workhouse Hospital in Smithdown Road carrying a basket. When this was searched it was found to contain the body of a newborn child, which had a handkerchief tied around its neck with the ends stuffed in the mouth.

A post mortem showed that the baby had lived and died from strangulation and when she was arrested Alice said her mind was blank, all she could remember was that the child was born. When she appeared at the assizes Alice's defence counsel described her as a 'poor friendless woman' and said she had been orphaned at the age of five, with the evidence of strangulation being inconclusive. This was enough to sew the seeds of doubt in the jury and Alice was found guilty only of infanticide, leading to a sentence of just twelve months imprisonment.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Killed Over Uncooked Fish

A man who was convicted of manslaughter in 1909 after stabbing his wife when they rowed over his uncooked supper was sentenced to just seven years imprisonment. 

Denis Smith was a  an auctioneers porter who lived in Oakes Street with his wife Sarah, twelve year old son Joseph and eight year old nephew Owen.On Tuesday 9th February that year he returned home at around 330pm having already had a lot to drink. He then sent his wife out for more beer which they drank together with a neighbour. 

At suppertime told Sarah to go and get some fish but she was out for some time, leading to him berating her on her return. Sarah refused to cook the fish and was soon running out of the house screaming murder, with Smith chasing her. When he returned to the house and went asleep though, Sarah then decided to cook the fish and wake him, only for him to refuse to eat it as he believed it hadn't been done enough.

After more arguing Smith got out of bed and picked up a knife, swiping it at Sarah's face, catching her just under her left ear. After he was unable to stop the bleeding, Smith and his son took Sarah the short distance to the Royal Infirmary, both telling doctors that the wound was self inflicted. With suspicion not yet aroused, Smith left saying he was going to change his bloodstained shirt. However he didn't return and when Sarah died soon after admission, the police soon caught up with him at his sister's house in Islington.


On 11th March Smith appeared at the Liverpool Assizes before Lord Alverstone. Joseph repeatedly broke down crying as he gave evidence that his father had picked up the knife and brandished it at her. Smith too wept in the dock, as the defence counsel's submission that Sarah had fallen on the knife was rejected.

In summing up the judge said it would be unsafe to convict on the murder charge as there was no prior motive and Smith had shown obvious remorse. This led to him being found guilty of manslaughter and after evidence was called as to his previous good character and of his wife's drunken habits, Lord Alverstone imposed a sentence of just seven years imprisonment.



Monday, 23 November 2015

Son's Letter Triggers Killing

A woman who received a scathing letter from her son in the navy condemning her lifestyle cut the throat of one of her other children, leading to her being detained in an asylum. 


In 1907 Louisa Cameron was a 47 year old mother of six who lived at Vaughan Street in Toxteth (situated between Grafton and Tamworth Streets). Her husband George was a labourer who spent much of his time working away in Rhyl. The youngest child, nine year old Charles, had learning difficulties and had spent some time at an orphanage in Beacon Lane in Everton.

Louisa had been getting medical help for a nervous disability for some time and was seen by a doctor on 7th April that year, complaining of pains in the head. Two days later she received a letter from her nineteen year old son George who was in the navy. The letter was scathing about his home life, describing his parents as 'encouraging laziness' and asking them not to write to him before he was due back on leave in August.

On the same afternoon that his mother had received the letter, Charles returned home from school and asked her for some food, only to have his throat cut with a kitchen knife. Louisa then stood at her doorstep holding out her blood covered hands, pleading to passers by to let her die. When a neighbour called Elizabeth Tull asked Louisa why she had done what she had, she told her about the letter, how her husband was away and that a thirteen year old daughter had been accused of stealing a sovereign.

When a police sergeant arrived to arrest Louisa she cried 'Oh my child what have I done, I have been low spirited lately.' Explaining that he had asked for food when there was none in the house, a search by the officer found that there was bread, butter and fish. There was also money in Louisa's pockets.

When she was assessed by the doctor at Walton gaol, Louisa said that she was worried she might die and if that happened what would become of her son. As such, she had determined that he had to die before he did. The doctor was of the opinion that Louisa was melancholial, suicidal and homicidal and that if left alone, would have killed herself. This meant that when Louisa appeared before Mr Justice Pickford on 9th May she was found guilty but insane and detained in an asylum for an indefinite period.

Shakespeare Quoting Husband Kills Wife

A man who used to quote Shakespeare to himself was found guilty but insane after he stabbed and smothered his wife at their Vauxhall home.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Thomas Nolan and his wife lived a drab existence in a cellar in Portland Street, off Vauxhall Road. Thomas was a dock labourer who rarely bothered finding work, instead living off his wife's meagre earnings as a charwoman. 

Portland Street (www.liverpoolpicturebook.co.uk)
Sunday 24th March 1907 was just like any other for the couple, who spent much of the day drinking and were last seen together at 10pm. The following morning at 530am a 'knocker upper' banged on their door as usual and Thomas responded that they were up.

At 11.15pm that night Thomas went to the Main Bridewell and told the desk sergeant that he had murdered his wife with a hammer. He explained that he had been persecuted by a group of men from Gerard Street and did not want to be killed and leave his wife to face life alone. A constable was dispatched to Portland Street and the body of Mrs Nolan was found with her throat cut and smothered by a pillow. There were no signs of a struggle and she seemed to have been killed in her sleep. A bloodstained knife was found along with a hammer and handwritten notes in which Thomas suggested he had been shadowed by certain men and his home was being watched night and day. 

Enquiries with neighbours established that Thomas would often run up and down the stairs quoting Shakespeare, with descriptions of him including 'crack pot' and 'madman'. A prison doctor examined him and concluded that he was suffering from hallucinations brought on by chronic alcoholism. Another agreed that the attack had taken place during a bout of temporary insanity and at St George's Hall on 6th May Thomas was found 'guilty but insane' and detained 'until His Majesty's pleasure be known. The judge commented that the jury had taken 'a merciful view of the case.'

Mother Who Cut Son's Throat Detained

A Toxteth mother who cut her son's throat was found guilty of murder but insane, leading to her being detained as a criminal lunatic.

In 1906 Hannah Powell lived with her husband Thomas, a journeyman boilermaker, eleven year old son Johnny and fourteen year old daughter Christine in Sussex Street. This was situated in Toxteth off Upper Hill Street, on the site of what is now St Patrick's School. Also living there was an elder daughter named Emily and her husband Bill Brodie.

On the night of Saturday 12th May that year Hannah was found drunk in the street by Emily, who helped her to bed alongside Thomas who was already asleep. Around 730 the following morning Christine was woken by screams and saw John on the bed next to her with blood spurting out of his throat. She ran upstairs to fetch Emily, who found a bloodstained razor outside the room.

Hannah had by now left the house, shouting to neighbours that she had cut Johnny's throat as her husband had been nagging her all night. Emily's husband Bill went in search of Hannah and found her in Northumberland Street drinking ginger beer. A policeman who had been called arrived at the scene and Hannah gave herself up. Johnny was taken to the Southern Hospital but he was pronounced dead on arrival, his jugular vein having been severed.

At the Bridewell 52 year old Hannah again admitted what she had done and after appearing before magistrates on the Monday morning she was remanded to Walton gaol. When the trial opened on 3rd August Hannah had to be helped up the stairs from the cells to the dock by two warders. She then spent a minute sobbing before she was able to compose herself to hear the indictment. 

As the prosecuting counsel opened the case, Hannah sat rocking back and forth. There was no doubt that she had killed her son, the only question was to her state of mind at the time. Dr Price from Walton gaol said that he had been examining her since she was taken there, and although she gave coherent answers to questions he could not rule out her being in temporary derangement of mind due to waking suddenly from a drunken sleep. 

In his summing up Mr Justice Kennedy remarked that 'she must have known what she was doing' but also that 'she was subject to slight attacks of melancholia' and had been since another child had burnt to death four years earlier. Without leaving the box, the jury found Hannah guilty of murder but insane at the time of the act. The judge then ordered that she 'be kept in custody as a criminal lunatic until His Majesty's Pleasure be known. Hannah then wept as she was taken back to the cells.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Child Killer Gives Birth in Broadmoor

A woman who killed her daughter by cutting her throat went on to become the first person to give birth in the notorious  Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.

On the morning of 27th October 1864 two male occupants of a house in Lavrock Bank heard shrieks and quickly went to the room were they came from, which was occupied by the Dawson family. There they found  22 month old Matilda dead on the table, her throat having been cut. The girl's mother, 30 year old Catherine, was stood over another child, four year old Mary, with a kitchen knife in her hand. 


Lavrock Bank in 2016
The two children who remained alive were quickly snatched and taken to another room and while this was taking place, Catherine cut her own throat. The police and a doctor were sent for and Matilda's life was pronounced extinct. Henry Dawson, who worked down on the docks, was sent for and returned home to be told by his wife that the Devil was standing next to her and told her to do what she did.

Catherine's wounds were able to be dressed and she was then conveyed to the Bridewell. Once there she turned violent and began ripping her bandages off, leading to her removal to the Toxteth Park Workhouse, the one on Brownlow Hill refusing to take her as she was not a local resident. 

At the inquest on 29th October Henry told the Coroner Mr P.F. Curry that the family had been in Liverpool about six months, but that the previous year Catherine had spent two weeks in an asylum in Ashton Under Lyne. Her behaviour had been normal in recent months, but he had noticed a wild eyed look in his wife's eyes when he breakfasted on that fateful morning. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder but stated that Catherine was not responsible for her actions at the time. The Coroner however told them that they could not determine the mental health aspect and they could only return a verdict of wilful murder, leading to Catherine's committal to the assizes for trial.

As expected Catherine was found guilty but insane and detained at Her majesty's pleasure. Catherine remained at the Rainhill Asylum, where she had been on remand but managed to escape from there in March 1866. After being at large for a month she was captured at her husband's home and transferred from Rainhill to Broadmoor in Berkshire, which had opened two years previously. 

In her first few days at Broadmoor doctors attributed her sickness to the morphine that had been administered to her on the train to keep her calm. However when it didn't subside after a few days they discovered the true cause, that she was pregnant. On Boxing Day she gave birth to a boy, who was given the name Stephen. With Henry telling the officials that he was struggling to bring up the two other children and being unable to take another, baby Stephen was accepted by the Chorley workhouse. 

Catherine continued to keep in touch with Henry by letter but her mood was often low and she was unable to do her sewing work. Her wrists were covered in scars from her attempts to escape by breaking windows. In 1872 Henry died and the two surviving children were adopted by his landlady in Birkenhead. Catherine's health deteriorated further and she died in 1876 of tuberculosis. 




Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Killing of a Timekeeper

A man who was refused permission to take up his duties after returning to work drunk pushed his timekeeper into the River Mersey. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death but later reprieved.


At 6pm on Monday 9th October 1905 William Hitchen, began a nightshift at Toxteth Dock, where the 28 year old worked as a stoker on an engine. At 10pm he was given half an hours break and went with engine driver Thomas Moore to a nearby pub where they both drank one and a half pints of beer. 

Moore returned to his duties but Hitchen stayed away for another forty minutes. When he returned and the timekeeper Thomas Williams refused to book him back on. Williams then left the engine house and walked towards the river, followed by Hitchen. Some words were exchanged and Hitchen pushed Williams over the wall into the Mersey. 

Hitchen then went to rejoin Moore at the engine and casually told him that he had pushed Williams into the Mersey. The driver didnt believe this but a few moments later a labourer went up to him and said that the incident had really happened. Moore ran to the river wall and threw a rope down to Williams who was struggling, but before he could reach it he sank below the water. 

A boat was lowered but the body was not recovered until 2am, by which time Hitchen had fled across the Mersey to his Tranmere home. He was arrested an hour later saying to police 'I am very sorry' when being told that Williams was dead.

An inquest heard that Hitchen's actions had also been witnessed by a labourer named James Murray, who had been told by him 'I will do for that fellow tonight.' Another worker had seen Hitchen in the engine house was was told 'The timekeeper wouldn't book me on but he's alright now, where he ought to be in the river.'

Williams was a 24 year old widower whose wife had died thirteen months earlier. He lodged at 351 Park Road and his funeral was held at St Gabriel's Church followed by an internment at Toxteth Park Cemetery. 

At the Liverpool Assizes on 1st December Hitchen pleaded that he had been drunk at the time, but in summing up Mr Justice Ridley said that this could only be a factor if there had been provocation, which in this case there wasn't. 

The jury took 45 minutes to find Hitchen guilty of murder but with a recommendation for mercy on the grounds of the premeditation period being very short. He had held his head in his hands for much of the trial and fainted on hearing the sentence of death, leading to him being carried from the dock. 

More than 25,000 people signed a petition calling for a reprieve. This was then presented to the Home Secretary by his solicitor John Bateman of 115a Dale Street. Two weeks after the trial, it was confirmed that the sentence would be commuted to penal servitude for life.

Killed Over Coal

A dispute between two trimmers on board a Liverpool registered vessel led to one of them being gaoled for sixteen years.

At 4pm on On 8th January 1905 German Emil Baumann finished his four hour shift on board the Booth Line's Caereuse, which was sailing from Barbados to New York. He was challenged by his relief William Maguire, who felt he had not left sufficient coal to last the half hour it would take him to clean out the furnace.

About twenty minutes later Baumann appeared at the stoke hole and taunted Maguire, refusing to send any more coal down to him. He then challenged Maguire to a fight and the two men went onto the forecastle. Another seaman named James Mackay then saw Maguire fall down clutching his chest which had blood pouring out of it. The ship's doctor was called but Maguire was dead within minutes, with wounds in his chest and abdomen.

An inquiry in New York ruled that there was sufficient grounds to extradite Baumann to the United Kingdom and on 20th February he appeared before Mr Justice Wills at the Liverpool Assizes. Baumann claimed that Maguire had first come at him with a knife, but the witness Mackay said that only the German had a weapon. 

When the jury deliberated, Baumann was saved by the fact Maguire had willingly left his post to fight him. This led to him being found guilty only of manslaughter but the judge said it was very near to murder. He was then sentenced to sixteen years penal servitude.




Suicide Pact in a Hotel

When two lovers made a suicide pact at a Liverpool hotel, one survived leading to him being sentenced to death.

On Sunday 11th September 1904 a maid at the Waverley Hotel in Lord Nelson Street grew concerned about not being able to enter a room despite making several attempts during the day. At around 7pm the proprietor decided to force entry into the room, which had been booked in the name of Mr and Mrs Muir. On going in they found the female dead and the male alive but unconscious.

When the police arrived the male, 29 year old Allan Muir from Bootle came to but was in a delirious state. He was taken to the Royal Infirmary and then the Workhouse Hospital, where opium poisoning was diagnosed. A search of the hotel room found letters that appeared to indicate a suicide pact between the couple, who were not man and wife but instead two lovers. The female was Isabella Mackenzie, a mother of two from Glasgow who was separated from her husband.

On discharge from hospital Muir was arrested and charged with murder, as the law of the time decreed that if two people attempted suicide and one survived, the other was to be charged with murder. Muir replied to the detective on being told of this charge;  'I did not kill her, we both agreed to die together. She went out and bought the stuff and we both took equal amounts.'

Investigations into the couple's background established that they had met and began a relationship when they were crew members on board the Pretorian, which sailed between Glasgow and Canada. Three days before they were found in the room, they had gone to Muir's home in Bootle where there was a disturbance that led to the police attending. Their last day together had been spent having breakfast in the hotel before buying drugs from chemists in the Lime Street area.

At St George's Hall on 5th December a letter was read out from Muir to his wife, which said 'You have ruined my life with your tongue, you have driven me to this, may god forgive me. I sincerely hope the dear little children will not take after you.' Muir's defence suggested that his lover was a regular taker of opium and that it would have killed her one day, whether or not he was in the vicinity.

The judge's summing up was not favourable to Muir, as he pointed out that Mackenzie had wrote a letter to her husband begging forgiveness, indicating that she was planning to die. The jury returned a guilty verdict but with a recommendation for mercy. The judge passed the death sentence was was the norm but a week later the Home Secretary commuted this to penal servitude for life.



Sunday, 8 November 2015

Crockery in the Witness Box

When a Chinese crew member of a British vessel was killed in the 1920s, many of the witnesses at the subsequent trial took the oath by smashing crockery.

On 28th July 1925 an argument broke out amongst Chinese crew on the Sunderland registered steamer Palm Branch, which was sailing from St Thomas in Jamaica to Liverpool. The result of this was that one of them, Sing Looh ended up overboard. A boat was lowered but the search for him was abandoned after two hours.

On arrival in Liverpool on 11th August police boarded and after speaking to the Captain detained six of the crew. They then charged firemen Cheong Fook and Cheong Mo Fook, who were unrelated, with murder on the high seas. Cheong Mo Fook claimed that he had been hit over the head with a basin by Sing Looh and he had subsequently slipped into the water. Other witnesses though  said that the chief engineer had separated them and Cheong had then assaulted Sing Looh and threw him overboard with the help of his accomplice.

At the trial on 5th November two interpreters were required, one to interpret the evidence from Shanghainese to Cantonese, then another to translate into English. The Chinese witnesses took the oath by smashing crockery, the broken pieces of which littered the witness box. Cheong Mo Fook was found not guilty and discharged.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

An Adopted Baby Killed

A respectable middle class woman in Mossley Hill who had lost  a baby of her own adopted another one, only to kill during a spell of insanity.

Early in 1903 Elizabeth Sturgeon, the 36 year old wife of a drapers buyer who lived at 7 Dudley Road, gave birth to a stillborn baby. Devastated by this loss, she sought to adopt one and in June of that year answered an advert in the Liverpool Echo from someone in Litherland looking to take a baby off their hands.


Sturgeon showed great affection for the four month old baby girl who she christened Mabel. In early July she visited her parents in Lincolnshire where she acquired the services of a girl called Alice Porter who returned to Liverpool with her to help as a housekeeper and nanny.

On Tuesday 28th July Sturgeon acted very strangely, taking the unusual step of sending Alice to buy gin for her. She had a lie down and told her husband that she was in a vile temper, then wrote a letter to her parents saying that she was going to have a 'last walk' due to the cruelty of her husband who had tried to strangle her so he could live with a flower girl.

Sturgeon took Alice and Mabel out with her at 4pm on a long walk that ended up with them sat under a hedge in a field near Mossley Hill church The baby was crying in a strange fashion and Alice expressed concern to Sturgeon that she may suffocate the child when she put a handkerchief in her mouth to try and stop this. Alice then fell asleep after Mabel had gone quiet, having been given a small drop of rum by Sturgeon. 

In the morning, Sturgeon offered Alice a shilling as an inducement to walk across the parapet of a railway bridge. She did so but when halfway across she fell thirty feet, but was lucky to suffer only a sprained ankle.  Sturgeon told Alice to remain where she was and she would return the baby home then get help, but she was gone some time. When she did return, she told Alice that a woman was looking after Mabel and when she could find no trace her, reported the baby to the police as missing.

Nobody local had seen anything untoward and after speaking with her husband Bill Sturgeon over the letters his wife had written police arrested her on suspicion of murder on the Wednesday evening. A search of the area where they had last been seen was launched and Mabel's body was found the following morning a few inches underground in a lime pit off Solomon's Lane (where Geoffrey Hughes playing fields now are), her neck covered in stab wounds. 

Soon after the body was found, Sturgeon was remanded for a week at the police court. The inquest on 7th August heard evidence that she had been suffering hallucinations and was mentally deranged at the time of the tragedy. The coroner's court being unable to make a ruling on her state of mind, a verdict of wilful murder was returned and she was committed for trial at the assizes, 

Sturgeon was well dressed when she appeared at the assizes on 4th December, where the prosecution did not contest the medical evidence that she was insane. Justice Ridley then ordered that she be detained at His Majesty's Pleasure. Remarkably, instructed by her husband, Sturgeon's solicitor made an immediate application for her discharge, stating that the murder took place in about of temporary insanity that was now cured. However this was refused by the Home Secretary and she was removed to Broadmoor. She was released a few years later however and in the 1911 census is shown as living with Bill in Britannia Road, Wallasey.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Woman Cuts Her Husband Instead of the Bread

A woman whose abusive husband berated her for not mending his trousers properly stabbed him to death after he then told her to cut more bread for their children's supper.

On 2nd June 1903 at around 10pm, twelve year old Mary Lyon returned to her home in Salisbury Street, Everton after playing out. She was then asked to make sure her mother's friend Margaret Constantine got back to her home in Birchfield Street safely as she was drunk.

Mary saw Margaret back home, leaving her mother Catherine in Salisbury Street with her father Charlie and eight year old brother Charles. Both her parents had been drinking and Charlie said to Catherine 'You have not mended my trousers right.' She ignored him, leading to Charlie slapping her in the face and saying 'Cut more bread for the children.' With their son Charles watching in horror, Catherine pushed her husband away whilst holding the bread knife, which stabbed him in the chest causing him to fall onto the sofa.

Catherine ran into  the street screaming and a passer by named Henry Dowling came to see what was going on. She took him inside and Charlie was lying on the sofa. Young Charles said 'My mama done it' and Catherine responded 'I did not mean to do it.' Mary then returned from Birchfield Street and encountered the tragic scene.

Charles was pronounced dead on arrival at the Royal Infirmary, where the post mortem established that the wound to the heart was five inches deep. Catherine was arrested and admitted she was responsible for the killing, but insisted she had not meant to cause any harm. 

The inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder and Catherine was committed to the assizes for trial. However the Grand Jury, which carried out a preliminary review of the facts, decided that she should only stand trial for manslaughter. She was found guilty and sentenced by Mr Justice Bigham to three years penal servitude.

The Blundellsands Tragedy

A Crosby woman who killed two of her children and then attempted suicide herself was detained at His Majesty's Pleasure

Shortly before 9am on the morning of Sunday 31st May 1903 Joseph Cannell, a journeyman plasterer living at Brighton Vale in Blundellsands, went out for a walk with his three elder children leaving his wife Eleanor in charge of the youngest two. Joseph did not speak to Eleanor before going out which wasn't unusual, but there was nothing normal about the scene which greeted him when they returned at 2pm. 

Eleanor was in an excited state and told her husband that she had drowned their two youngest children. When Joseph saw that they weren't in their cots, he ran into the kitchen where he found eighteen month old Alfred and six month old Eleanor lying face down in a tub that was usually used to wash clothes. They were both dead and when Joseph went back to his wife's bedroom, she was trying to strangle herself with a rope that she had tied to a bedpost.

Joseph managed to cut the rope from his wife's neck but she ran off with the knife threatening to cut her throat. When Joseph managed to get the knife from her, Eleanor pleaded to be allowed to go to the beach to drown herself then tried to drink boiling water, causing her to vomit profusely. 

A doctor arrived and managed to sedate 38 year old Eleanor who was then taken to hospital. A letter was found in her clothing which read addressed to her father which read 'I cannot live in such trouble, forgive me and don't blame me too much.'

At the inquest on 12th June Joseph told the Coroner Mr Samuel Brighouse how his wife had been acting oddly in recent weeks and he had turned down work on occasions to stay at home and look after her. The day before the killing, he had been in a pub when she threw a glass of beer over him. Eleanor stated that she did what she did as she was upset and a neighbour said she had been erratic recently when the weather was hot. During the proceedings she often wept and cried out for her daughter Jane, who was in the horrible situation of giving evidence against her mother.


A verdict of wilful murder was returned by the coroner's jury and Eleanor then appeared at the County sessions House in William Brown Street, where she was committed to the assizes for trial. On 8th September Dr Price from Walton gaol said that she was unfit to plead and was suffering from melancholia at the time of the tragedy. This was not challenged by the Crown, leading to Justice Bigham ordering that she be detained at His Majesty's Pleasure.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Altcar Tragedy

A soldier on training at the Altcar camp near Formby was sentenced to death after battering a fellow serviceman after a night out, but was reprieved by the Home Secretary. 

On the afternoon of Saturday 16th May 1903 Private John James and Private Arthur Wilkes of the Royal Welch Fusiliers went out drinking in Formby. They went to several beerhouses before being turned away from the Railway Hotel for being too drunk at around 9pm.

James was 29 years old and had fought in the South African War then served in China, where he received an injury that meant his fighting days were over, but he remained with the regiment as a cook. Wilkes had yet to see any action and was at Altcar with his regiment for musketry training.

The circumstances that led to what happened next will never be known, but 21 year old Wilkes arrived back at camp on his own. At 330am another private, Frederick Boswell, was walking back to the camp along Fisherman's Walk and heard moaning coming from a ditch. On going to investigate, he found James in an insensible state with several wounds on his face. Boswell ran to the camp for help and returned with a Sergeant Jenkins and a stretcher. They took James to the camp hospital but after being laid on  a bed he took his last breaths and died. 

A key find near the scene had been a regimental belt, meaning that somebody at the following mornings parade would be without one. That person was set to be Private Burke, who had reported his belt as missing at 6am when he saw that it wasn't hanging up where it should be. The belt was then found in Wilkes's tent and he became agitated when confronted about it. He was also unable to explain where his regimental trousers were, having been wearing normal ones. This was enough for Sergeant Jenkins to authorise the detention of Wilkes and he was taken to Formby police station.

The following day Wilkes's regimental trousers were found hidden behind a radiator, covered in mud. Wilkes appeared at Birkdale Magistrates Court that day and was remanded having been charged with murder. An inquest opened on the Tuesday at the Railway Hotel, with the Coroner ordering the body to be laid out where it had been found so that the jury could get a full picture of the surroundings. When they went to view it though one member of the jury fainted and had to be taken to hospital, leading to an adjournment of a week.

When the inquest resumed it was at the police buildings in Birkdale. Knowing how much evidence was against him Wilkes decided to issue a statement via Inspector Hodgson. In this he claimed that the two men were on friendly terms whilst walking back but James insisted on returning to try and find more drink. Wilkes said that when he tried to stop him, James's replied 'You will have to go to the front and get some medals on you chest before you can stop me going to town.' He then claimed that James wrestled him to the ground and he had to use his belt to get him off and he had no idea what state he left him in. 

A verdict of wilful murder was returned by the inquest jury and Wilkes was formally committed for trial at the next Liverpool assizes. He appeared before Justice Bigham on 31st July, pleading not guilty on the grounds that he was acting in self defence. However, medical evidence showed that he had not received any injuries and was much stronger than James, who had a fractured skull, crushed nose and sixteen wounds on his face, hands and fingers. in summing up Justice Bigham said that if the jury was satisfied that it was Wilkes who carried out the act then it was a 'wicked and brutal murder.'

Wilkes was found guilty by the jury who recommended mercy on account of his youth. The judge said he would pass this on but that he should not hold out much hope of a reprieve. A petition was presented to the Home Secretary by Wilkes's solicitors who were based in North John Street but time was running out fast with the execution fixed for Tuesday 18th August and no news forthcoming. Finally on the 15th August a letter was received by the Governor of Walton Gaol saying that the sentence had been commuted to penal servitude for life.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Habitually Abusive Husband Kills Wife With Poker

A man who had been convicted three times for battering his wife was convicted of manslaughter after he killed her, but was given a lenient sentence by today's standards. 

In 1903 a 52 year old labourer named William Smith lived with his wife Isabella in Peach Street, occupying the parlour and two cellars of a house. Their daughter Mary Wyness, her husband and young children lived int he other rooms. Mr and Mrs Smith both drank regularly and Mary would often hear her father beating her mother following arguments.

On the afternoon of 15th February that year the couple both got drunk but nothing seemed unusual when Mary saw her parents in the afternoon. In the evening though she heard her mother nagging her father as he had not shared any betting winnings with her, instead spending them on drinks for other people. 

At 330am the following morning Mary was awoken by moans coming from the cellar and went to investigate. She found her mother lying face down, unconscious and covered in blood. She went upstairs to the parlous were her father was asleep and he helped her lift Isabella onto the sofa. Smith went out and fetched a policeman himself, bringing him back to the house and saying that his wife had fallen onto the ashpan. 

The officer was suspicious of Smith's version of events and took him into custody, lodging him at the Prescot Street Bridewell. A doctor who carried out a post mortem felt that the injuries to Isabella's chest could not have been caused by a fall and would have required 'extraordinary force.' Smith then admitted that he had struck her with a poker but not intended to cause great harm.

After an inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder, Smith was committed for trial at the assizes where he appeared before Justice Lawrence on 8th May. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter on the grounds that Smith had been provoked by his wife's excessive drinking. A neighbour had told the court that a few days before the killing it was Mary's wedding anniversary and Isabella had drank nine pints of beer.

The judge said he agreed with the jury's verdict and even though Smith had been convicted of assault on three previous occasions for battering his wife, a sentence of just twelve years penal servitude was imposed.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Mocked Man's Hatchet Revenge

A man whose patience snapped after he was mocked and beaten by his partner, causing him to hit her with a hatchet and cut her throat, was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for ten years.


On 25th August 1902 Francis Burke returned to his lodgings in Gladstone Street after work to find that Catherine Daly, with whom he cohabited, was not at home. After his landlord John Shingler said that he had no idea where Catherine was and his sister Lizzie, who lived nearby, said she had not seen him, Francis went back home and made some chips for his tea. While he was eating them Catherine returned, sporting a black eye. 



When asked how she got her injury Catherine, who was quite drunk, replied that she had been fighting with a woman named Mary Daly, the wife of her brother. John Shingler's wife tended to the eye whilst Francis sat on the front steps drinking some beer that he had sent out for. Catherine then started hitting him about the head and carried on drinking along with Lizzie who had since came round to see if everything was okay. Lizzie then joined Catherine in mocking Francis for not doing anything when he was being repeatedly slapped.



Eventually Francis's patience snapped and he got up and threw Catherine into a chair, but this didn't stop her getting up and hitting him again. After Lizzie left Francis and Catherine went to bed but in the early hours John Shingler was woken up by the couple arguing and he then heard a cry of 'murder'. On running to investigate he found that Catherine was lying on her back covered in blood and Francis was attempting to cut his own throat with a carving knife. 



Other lodgers managed to get the knife from Francis while Mr Shingler ran to the Northern Dispensary for a doctor and also found a policeman. Catherine was still alive and pointed to Francis when asked who had cut her. She was taken to the Northern Hospital where she died on 1st September, having been able to make a deposition stating that she had been hit over the head with a hatchet and then had her throat cut. Francis was himself close to death and remained in the Workhouse Hospital in Brownlow Hill for a month, on one occasion ripping the bandages from his throat. He was not considered fit to be committed for trial for murder until 2nd October.



Francis appeared at the assizes at St George's Hall on 5th December, where he said he recalled nothing from the moment he threw Catherine into the chair. After twenty minutes deliberation the jury found him guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of extreme provocation. He was then sentenced by Justice Jelf to penal servitude for ten years.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Killed by a China Dog

A woman who drank no more than some tea was killed when a drunken neighbour came to her home uninvited and threw a china ornament at her.

On Saturday 21st May 1859 William Evans, a blacksmith, and his 31 year old wife Sarah were sat in the living room of their Blenheim Street home drinking tea with some neighbours. Without warning Alice McAllister, who lived opposite, came into the house in a drunken state and began shouting obscenities, only to be thrown out by William.

Blenheim Street from www.liverpoolpicturebook.com
McAllister soon returned and picked up a candlestick which she threw at William, but he managed to duck and avoid it. His wife Sarah though was not so lucky, being hit on the head by a china dog ornament that was thrown with great force. McAllister then punched Sarah as she lay on the floor in an insensible state with blood pouring from her head.


William managed to fend McAllister off with a poker to prevent her doing any more harm and Sarah was taken to the dispensary where her wounds were dressed. She remained under the treatment of Dr Campion but she died the following Friday, 27th May. A post mortem revealed that there was a compound fracture of the skull and other injuries caused by great violence. 


When she was arrested McAllister said that the death was none of her doing and that William had struck his wife with a poker. However an inquest before Mr P F Curry returned a verdict of manslaughter against her, which led to her being committed to the assizes for trial. When she appeared before Baron Watson on 17th August, neighbours present testified to having seen Sarah get hit by the ornament, leading to a guilty verdict being returned. McAllister was then sentenced to three years penal servitude.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Free From Jail to Kill his Wife


A man who had served a three year jail sentence for stabbing his wife killed her just six weeks after his release and was found guilty of manslaughter. 

In the early hours of Tuesday 8th October 1901 Ellen Timlin was asleep at her lodgings in 42 Baptist Street when she was awoken by another member of the household, 32 year old Thomas McAllister. He was raging and told Ellen that he had killed his wife and would kill somebody else.He then started kicking out at Ellen but stopped when his wife Catherine returned.

Thomas told Catherine he was sorry for what he had done and she replied that she was a bad woman. The couple then went upstairs with Thomas saying he would look at the wound, which had been caused with a pocket knife, after a cup of tea. He later came back down and told Ellen that it was 'only the scratch of a pin' and that he had washed it and covered it with a plaster.

On the Thursday night Catherine was complaining of severe pains and admitted herself to the workhouse hospital, telling staff there that she had been separating a fight. The next night her condition had deteriorated and a detective inspector was called in to see her. She now said that she had been walking with Thomas's mother at the corner of Springfield and Christian Streets and that he had stabbed her in a fit of jealousy. A magistrate's clerk was summoned to take a formal deposition but by the time he arrived Catherine had died.

A post mortem revealed that the cause of death was haemorrhage caused by the wound which had punctured Catherine's left lung. When Thomas was arrested he said 'I am as innocent as a child, she went out on Wednesday to separate a fight and when she came back she complained of a pain underneath her breast.' At the inquest Ellen Timlin described Catherine as a'hard working steady woman' whilst Thomas was someone with a 'hot temper who is given to drink.' The Deputy Coroner Mr Gibson said there was no provocation to justify reducing the verdict to manslaughter and on this direction a verdict of wilful murder was returned.


At the Liverpool Assizes on 3rd December Ellen Timlin repeated the evidence that she had given at the inquest. After ninety minutes deliberation the jury found Thomas guilty of manslaughter leading to cries from Thomas who begged for mercy 'for the sake of my poor old mother and two orphaned sisters, the shock will kill her.' 

Mr Justice Bucknill however was in no mood for lenient sentencing, especially as Thomas had only come out of prison six weeks before the killing, having served  a three year sentence for cutting and wounding his wife. Referring to him as a 'worthless drunken blackguard' he said that the jury had been merciful enough and imposed a sentence of fifteen years penal servitude.


Monday, 5 October 2015

Hatchet Killing

A woman in Everton who killed a man by hitting him over the head with a hatchet was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. 

On the morning of 8th July 1901 coal heaver Luke Crean went to Canada Dock to try and find some work but was unsuccessful. Him and his friends then spent several hours drinking in pubs before going to the home of one of them in Adelaide Place around 3.30pm.


A disturbance broke out in the street between two rival religious factions and Crean went out to get involved and he ended up fighting with a man named Thomas Jenkins whose wife also got involved, striking him with a slipper.  There was a large crowd watching including 24 year old Annie Turner, who was pointing to her chest and shouting 'True Blue' and 'No Surrender.' She then went into her house and got a hatchet, hitting Crean on the head with two blows. 

As shouts of police went up Crean and Jenkins fell into the cellar and when an officer pulled him out of there, he managed to escape and run away. Turner returned to her house with the hatchet and despite being a Protestant herself said to a neighbour 'I have helped to kill one Orangeman and I will kill another.' Crean did not manage to get far, collapsing with blood coming out of his ear. He was taken to the Northern Hospital where he slipped into unconsciousness and died that evening.

An inquest on 10th July returned a verdict of wilful murder against Turner and she was committed for trial at the next assizes, which were just three weeks away. On 1st August she appeared before Mr Justice Ridley, her defence counsel arguing that Crean's injuries were a a result of the fall. The jury found her guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter and she was sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude.



Who Administered the Fatal Kick

When a woman was kicked to death in Everton in 1901, the person charged with her killing was acquitted as the prosecution were unable to prove who had administered the fatal kick.


On the afternoon of 14th May 1901 Mary McConville, a 29 year old unmarried woman, drank several gills of beer at her home in  Haigh Street with her brother Arthur and friend Annie Denham. At around 7.30pm Henry Ratcliffe, a sailor that lived with Mary when he was not at sea came around with some friends but didn't join the others in drinking.



What happened next nobody can be sure, but police had to be called due to Mary ending up lying on the floor in a pool of blood. A doctor from the dispensary was also called and he pronounced that Mary was dead when he arrived at 9.30pm. Arthur told officers that Ratcliffe was responsible and he was taken into custody, denying all knowledge of the crime. 



At the inquest the following day Arthur told the Coroner that Ratcliffe had hit his sister three or four times in the face. He then said that when Mary fell to the floor Ratcliffe began kicking at her abdomen and when he tried to intervene, Ratcliffe said to him 'You are not going to boss this house.' Arthur claimed that Ratcliffe wanted to fight him in the street but he refused and he instead went to William Henry Street to find a policeman.



Mary's friend Annie Denham also gave evidence at the inquest, but all she could recall was that Ratcliffe had knocked Mary down. However a neighbour called Margaret Worrall said that when Annie had come out of the house she had said that it was Arthur who had carried out the assault. The others present said that they had seen Ratcliffe push Mary to the floor but that he had not kicked her.



The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and 28 year old Ratcliffe was committed for trial at the Liverpool assizes, where he appeared before Mr Justice Ridley on 2nd August. The doctor who carried out the post mortem confirmed that a kick had caused the death but in directing the jury, the judge said there was no corroborating  evidence of who had carried it out. The jury found Ratcliffe not guilty and he was discharged from the dock.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Drunken Stabbing of a Son in Law

In 1901 a man who killed his son in law during a drunken fight was told by the judge that his crime was 'as near as to murder as could be' after being convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter. 

Patrick Finnegan, a 47 year old labourer, lived with his wife in Back Portland Street, off Scotland Road. His daughter was married to a marine fireman named William Carr and they lived in Portland Street, the two houses being separated from each other only by a yard. 

On the evening of Saturday 23rd March that year Carr returned home drunk and then went into the yard towards his parents in law's house looking for his wife. A quarrel broke out between the two men leading to Finnegan having cuts to his face and he went off in search of a policeman. 

An officer was located in Limekiln Lane and brought back to Back Portland Street, where Carr was talking to Finnegan's wife. The policeman persuaded Carr to return to his own home then took Finnegan to a dispensary for some treatment to his face wound. After this he went to the police and demanded that Carr be arrested, but was sent on his way.

At around quarter to one in the morning, Finnegan and his wife knocked on Carr's door and were let in by a lodger called Mary Uriel. Finnegan went upstairs to see Carr leaving his wife downstairs talking to the lodger, then soon afterwards the couple left. They were soon joined by their daughter Mrs Carr, who had been too afraid to return home to her husband and had gone to sleep on a step in Portland Street before being woken by a passing policeman.

At around 5am Mary heard moaning noises coming from Carr's bedroom which was directly above hers. She went to the Finnegans for help and Mrs Carr returned with her, finding her husband on the landing with a wound on his neck. The bedclothes were bloodsoaked and there was a trail of blood leading to where he had fallen. He was rushed to the Northern Hospital but pronounced dead on arrival, an artery having been cut.

On being questioned Finnegan claimed he had only gone to Carr's bedroom to look for his daughter, but he was unable to explain the blood on his own clothes or the bloodstained knife found in his own house. 
After being charged with murder Finnegan appeared at the assizes on 10th May. His defence counsel Mr Madden said that if Carr had been arrested for drunkenness earlier on then the tragedy had not occurred. Saying that 'all parties were deprived of their reason' Mr Madden maintained that Finnegan had initially only gone to Carr's room to look for his daughter. 

It took the jury ten minutes to find Finnegan guilty of manslaughter. In passing a sentence of twenty years penal servitude, Justice Wills said that the case was as near to murder as manslaughter could be.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Light Sentence For Killing Sister in Law

A man who killed his sister in law then went on the run was given an extremely light sentence in the circumstances. The judge commented that there had been a good deal of provocation although the killing would probably be seen in a different light today.

Tailor Patrick Ryan spent the evening of 5th May 1858 drinking at his home in Hygeia Street along with a man named Kennedy and his wife's sister Catherine Fennell. Catherine asked Ryan for some money which he refused to give her, leading to her reaching into his waistcoat pocket and taking out a small photographic portrait of a young woman. Catherine then taunted Ryan about the woman, saying to him why did he need to look elsewhere when he had a wife and children at home.

After Catherine refused to give the photograph back Ryan threatened to kick her, leading to her taking a quart jug and trying to hit him over the head, only for Kennedy to get between them. 

The following day Ryan and Kennedy returned to the house and Catherine was coming down the stairs with her face quite red, but she denied being drunk. Ryan told her he didn't want her there any more but she refused to go and an argument broke out, during which Kennedy left. At 7pm, the pair were arguing in the street leading to Mrs Ryan coming to the door and pleading with them to come in and not make a show of themselves in front of the neighbours.

As Catherine was going in to the house behind Ryan he turned around and kicked her, causing her to lose her footing and fall down some steps. He then picked up a piece of wood and struck her on the back of the head. Catherine was helped into the house by her sister then her hair was cut off and the wound washed. On the Saturday evening though she began to have convulsions and she was admitted to hospital where she died on the Monday. 

A post mortem revealed the cause of death as extravasation of blood on the brain and a fracture to the skull below the wound, which was about a quarter of an inch in length. On 11th May an inquest was held before the Coroner Mr P F Curry. When the verdict of manslaughter was returned Mrs Ryan cried out, saying that her husband had been like a father to Catherine for over six years. 

A warrant was issued for Ryan's arrest and he remained at large until early 1859. When he finally appeared at the Liverpool assizes, he pleaded guilty and in light of Catherine's provocation he was sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour by Justice Willes.