Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Liverpool Cab Mystery

The death of a woman who was alleged to have robbed a seaman whilst riding in a cab led to his conviction for manslaughter and a plea for leniency by the jury.

In 1914 Ada Rimmer, the middle aged former wife of a Southport fisherman, lived at a lodging house in Devon Street where she had been for about six years. On the evening of 30th May that year she went out alone and returned with a bloodied nose, saying she had been punched by a man who accused her of robbing him.

Ada, who was addicted to drink and complaining of internal diseases, was taken to the workhouse hospital in Brownlow Hill (right) where she died on 3rd June. The cab driver came forward and recalled that on 30th May Ada had got in with a male at Monument Place then on Low Hill a struggle broke out leading to him stopping. A man was accusing her of stealing a sovereign and got out, then punched her as the cab drove off. He then ran away but the incident had been seen by a number of passers by.

A description of the man was circulated but nothing was forthcoming. On 17th June an inquest heard that Ada had died from pneumonia but her death had been accelerated by her injuries, which included fractures to her jaw on both sides. A verdict of 'manslaughter by an unknown man' was returned.

A further appeal for information led to Robert Barr, a 24 year old ships steward, being named as fitting the description of the killer. Barr lived in Farnworth Street, off Kensington where the cab had been told to head for. He was arrested on 26th June aboard the Calgaria as it docked at the Princes Landing Stage, having returned from a sailing to Canada.  Before the charge was even given to him, Barr said to Detective Sergeant Kinley 'Is she dead?'

Barr appeared at the Manchester Assizes on 10th July and gave evidence himself, saying that he had only left a ship that day and been paid. As well as taking the sovereign, Ada had tried to stab him with a hat pin leading to him pushing her back and leaving the cab, punching her as it drove off.

The jury found Barr guilty but with a strong recommendation for leniency. In sentencing, Justice Shearman said that Barr had been unfortunate as his actions would not have caused the death of a healthy woman, However he could not ignore the fact he had 'pummelled' a woman twice his age and sentenced him to six months imprisonment.

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