A thirteen year old youth who was brutally set upon by four others died from his injuries on Christmas morning, leading to his attackers being jailed for between ten and twelve years.
At around 9pm on 24th December 1883 Michael Burns was walking with his friend George Fox down Commercial Road when they saw two youths fighting. One of those watching was sixteen year old Charles Vaughan, who told another youth to go to Stanley Road and get some fellow members of his 'Pad Gang' to come over.
Three members of the Pad Gang, eighteen year old William Price and Isaac Hadfield, as well as fifteen year old John McComb, went and asked what was wrong. Vaughan then replied 'This is the one who is getting at me' and head butted a lad called John Murray. When Murray ran away Vaughan then crossed the road to where Burns was standing, grabbed his coat and butted him. When Burns fell to the ground Price, Hadfield and McComb joined in the assault and kicked him in the body.
Burns managed to get up and run off, but he was caught by the others in Reading Street and again knocked to the ground and kicked him about the head. Two men passing by intervened and the four assailants ran off, while Burns had to crawl on his hands and knees to his Reading Street home. He went to bed, where he was regularly checked by his mother who didn't think his injuries were serious enough to call a doctor, but at 7am on Christmas Day she found him dead.
The four youths involved had been named by Burns and were soon taken into custody. A post mortem was carried out by Dr Costine who found that death was caused by compression of the brain due to ruptured blood vessels which were as a result of external violence. The coroner's inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter , leading to Vaughan and his associates being committed to the assizes.
On 11th February 1884 all four were found guilty of manslaughter. Prior to passing sentence Justice Butt said that the four youths were fortunate not to have been convicted of murder as the manslaughter for which they had been indicted was of 'a very bad kind.' Vaughan, who a few months earlier had been before the courts for wounding, was sentenced to twelve years penal servitude as he was the ringleader, while the other three were given ten years.