A doting mother who beheaded her son during a fit of delusions was detained at His Majesty's pleasure after being found guilty but insane.
At around 3pm on Sunday 3rd December 1922 Ellen Royle went into the police station in Kingsley Road, Toxteth, in a state of great agitation. Her hands covered in blood, she said 'I have killed my baby I hit him with a hammer.' A police sergeant then went to her home at 76 Beaconsfield Street where he entered through an unlocked back door. There on the kitchen floor was the body of twelve year old Gerard Royle, the head being bruised and completely severed.
Nearby, there was a bloodied hammer as well as a razor. Amazingly 44 year old Ellen's husband, also Gerard, remained fast asleep upstairs in bed and was not surprisingly very distressed when he was woken by the police officer and told what had happened. The oil company manager said 'I never thought she would do this.'
On being told at the police station that her son was dead Ellen replied 'Thank God he is happy now.' She was taken into custody but conveyed to the workhouse at Brownlow Hill for her condition to be assessed. On 5th December the inquest took place and Mr Royle went to where his wife was sitting handcuffed to a police officer with a wardress either side. He took her hand and kissed it, an act which reduced many of those waiting for the Coroner to enter the room to tears.
Evidence was given by Mr Royle's sister Florence Chambers, who stated that Ellen had been suffering delusions and talked of some hidden mystery which was threatening her family. Ellen had confided in her the previous July that she had considered turning on the gas taps to put them all out of their misery. Following this she was sent to stay with relatives in Harrogate to recuperate, with Mr Royle and Gerard visiting her every weekend. She got herself better and expressed regret that she had made such threats. Gerard was described as a bright curly headed boy who was popular with his playmates and his mother was known to be extremely fond of him. Florence said that she was 'the most perfect mother that ever lived.'
The Coroner advised that the jury must return their verdict based on the evidence and they were not to be concerned with Ellen's state of mind. As a verdict of wilful murder was returned, one of the jury fainted and Ellen appeared before the Stipendiary Magistrate for committal to the assizes after being formally charged with murder .
On 6th February 1923 Ellen appeared at the Liverpool assizes and pleaded not guilty to murder. The prison doctor told the court he had assessed her as soon as she went in on remand. He came to the conclusion that she was insane, having delusions that her son was visiting her every morning in the form of a bird and that she had killed him to make him safe from enemies. After the jury found her guilty but insane, Ellen was detained at the King's pleasure.