Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Crosby Tragedy of 1882

A man charged with wilfully murdering his domestic servant was found guilty of manslaughter in an event that was widely reported as the Crosby Tragedy. In light of the extenuating circumstances he was then leniently sentenced by the judge.

Arthur Golding was a 28 year old estate agents clerk who lived at 11 Queens Road, Crosby, with his wife and two young children. The family employed a domestic servant named Mary Creman who also lived with them and was aged 20.

Crosby police stationIt seemed that relations were a little more friendly than should have been between Golding and Mary, while Mrs Golding was having affairs with two brothers from the Ritson family who lived in number 9. Both husband and wife seemed to be fully aware of the others infidelities but Golding became angry when he found out that his wife was pregnant to one of the Ritsons and Mary had hidden the secret from him. Without explaining the reasons, he told other neighbours that if he ever saw one of the Ritson family on his land again he would shoot them, and believed that they intended to do harm to him.

The tragedy occurred on the afternoon of Sunday 11th June 1882 when Golding went voluntarily to Crosby police station saying he had shot his servant with a revolver. He made a statement that Mary had been cleaning his shoes and asked him what he would do if their neighbour Ritson attacked him first, leading to him taking a revolver out of his pocket and pulling then trigger, not realising that it was loaded. Mary fell down and died instantly and after telling his wife what had happened, Golding went to the police still carrying the revolver.

Golding was taken into custody and police officers went round the the house, where they found the dead body of Mary in the scullery, with a single bullet in her head. More ammunition was found in a bedroom drawer, while one of the police officers recalled Golding enquiring six months earlier about what type of licence he needed for a revolver, a time when he was on good terms with the Ritsons.

On 2nd August Golding appeared at the assizes charged with murder. There was a sensation in court when 16 year old Foster Ritson admitted having had sexual relations with Mrs Golding since February. His 28 year old brother though refused to answer any questions about himself and Mrs Golding, saying they were not relevant to the murder. Foster said that Golding seemed to have been extremely angry at his wife's infidelity with him, but he had never seen him express anger to his brother. Neighbours told how Golding had made it known he had a revolver and would use it to defend himself.

Golding's defence solicitors said that he was guilty of nothing more than carelessness and there was no motive at all to kill Mary, with William Ritson being portrayed as a 'wretched abominable character'. After half an hours deliberation the jury found Golding guilty of manslaughter, with a strong recommendation for leniency.

Two days later Golding was brought back before the court for sentencing. Justice North said he had no doubt the killing was an accident and due to culpable negligence, but also expressed relief that he had never come to meet the Ritsons. There was applause in court as he passed what he described as a light sentence, that of four months imprisonment with no hard labour required.

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