A man who murdered his wife under the noses of the police managed to escape and stow away on a ship bound for Holland, but was taken into custody on arrival in Rotterdam after confessing to his true identity.
In 1867 dock labourer Thomas Quigley, who was 34 years old, lived in a court in Vernon Street with his wife Dinah and two daughters. On 18th December that year Quigley returned home from work and asked his 9 year old daughter Mary where her mother was. She went to the house of a man named Andrew Matthews in the court and could see her through the keyhole, but she lied to her father as she was frightened he would harm her as he had been drinking.
Quigley then went over himself and on looking inside saw Dinah running down to the coal cellar. He went inside and dragged her by the hair over to his own house where he beat her with a poker as she lay on the floor. He also picked a table up and dropped it on her and kicked her in the throat. Mary's younger sister was picked up and thrown onto her mother and then into the yard, before he began to beat her with a stick so hard that it broke.
When Mary tried to intervene by pulling at Quigley he slapped her and said he would run a knife through anyone who came near him. When he noticed that a neighbour called Bridget Geoghan was looking in he went out and pulled down the shutters before resuming the assault. Another neighbour named Jane Lackey broke the shutters and shouted for the police, but the two officers who arrived and spoke with Quigley did not arrest him as both he and Dinah were drunk. Quigley told any neighbours who interfered that his wife was no better than a prostitute for drinking with Matthews and also a man called Peter Lawler the previous day.
Mary ran off to her grandmothers and Lackey called for more police, who this time did go in the property and lift Dinah into an armchair, at which point Quigley escaped. When she couldn't sit up she was taken to the Northern Hospital on a stretcher. Doctors there believed she would not recover from her wounds and the following day a magistrate came to take a deposition from her. She lingered on and died on 23rd December, a post mortem establishing that she had several broken bones and the brain was congested.
An inquest took place on 26th December at which Mary and a number of neighbours gave evidence. The doctors who carried out the post mortem were of no doubt that Dinah died of the shock caused by the extent of her wounds. They explained that the internal organs were healthy with the liver showing no signs of alcoholism.A verdict of wilful murder was returned and a reward of £50 offered to anybody who could provide information that would lead to Quigley's apprehension.
Quigley had managed to be smuggled by some crew members aboard the steamer Ouse, which was at Nelson Dock and sailed for Brielle, near Rotterdam on the 27th. After a day or two at sea he was found by one of the ship mates and taken to Captain Perry, saying that his name was Jones. With no money to pay any fare, 'Jones' was put to work in the engine room as a stoker.
Captain Perry had taken a number of newspapers on board and on reading about the murder and inquest he wondered if his stowaway was really a killer escaping justice. On arrival at Brielle he instructed the pilot to go ahead and send a message to the British consul agent at Hellevoetslius, 7 miles away, of his suspicions. When the consul agent and burgomaster went on board, Quigley admitted his real identity under interrogation.
There was no extradition treaty between Britain and Holland so there was no power to take him into custody in relation to the murder. However as he had stowed away and had only two shillings on him, nowhere near enough to pay for a passage, he was arrested for fraud. At this moment a man named John Barnon, who was Dutch and married to a relative of Quigley's intervened, offering to pay his fare. The burgomaster, assuming that Barnon was somehow involved in aiding the escape, then arrested him as well but he was soon freed as there were no grounds to hold him.
The British Ambassador in The Hague was informed and Quigley remained under permanent guard whilst a telegram was dispatched to the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, arriving on 2nd January 1868. This was then passed to the head constable Major Greig, who dispatched Inspector Cozens to Holland. On arrival in London he was told that Rotterdam harbour was frozen up so he took a boat to Calais and a train to Moredyk, completing his journey to Hellevoetslius on a sleigh. Once there he was met by the British Consul and burgomaster of the town and taken to Quigley. On being shown the coroner's warrant Quigley broke down and said he had beat his wife due to her spending a lot of time drinking with other males and having no food in the house.
Inspector Cozens and Quigley began their journey back to Liverpool on 7th January, again having to travel the long way around via Calais, He was so quiet and withdrawn during the three day journey that Cozens didn't even handcuff him. He appeared before the assizes on 26th March, entering a plea of not guilty and listening intently to the proceedings. In opening the case the prosecutor announced that the more senior of the two policemen who refused to intervene believing it was a 'drunken row' had since been dismissed from the force.
When Matthews gave his evidence, Justice Mellor admonished him for essentially telling Quigley that if he was going to beat his wife then to do it in their own home. Mellor said that 'if he was a man' he would not have allowed Quigley to remove Dinah, and he hoped there were few men who had acted in the same way. Mary Quigley sobbed bitterly on entering the court and was allowed to sit next to the judge who questioned her discretely without the whole room having to listen.
Quigley's defence counsel argued that he was a man of good character who had been 'moulded into a beast' by the unhappy home which his wife had been responsible for, meaning a manslaughter verdict was more appropriate. In summing up the judge told the jury they had to decide whether there had been sufficient provocation for such a verdict, otherwise they were bound to find Quigley guilty of murder. It took just a few minutes for the jury to return a verdict of guilty of murder, but with a recommendation for mercy. After being sentenced to death Quigley was unable to walk and had to be assisted from the dock by a gaoler.
The judge forwarded the jury's recommendation to the Home Secretary and it was accepted. On 2nd April, communication was received at Kirkdale gaol that his punishment had been commuted to penal servitude for life.