A soldier who killed his daughter was found not guilty of murder due to the prosecution failing to prove any malice aforethought.
As the war clouds gathered in the summer of 1939, 23 year old Alfred Moss was recalled to the army and stationed in Birkenhead. His wife and eight month old daughter Maureen then moved out of their Doncaster home to stay with her mother in Elmdale Road, Walton.
On 4th August Moss was given some leave and went to stay with his family. Four days later his wife went out early on an errand and her sister alleged that she heard him shouting at the baby to shut up or be smacked. Later that morning Mrs Moss returned home as her husband was eating his breakfast. She went to check on Maureen and found her lying face down on the bed with bruises to her neck and face.
The baby was taken to hospital where an x-ray revealed a fractured skull and broken arm. Moss, rather callously, returned to his army camp where he was arrested that evening. He told the police he had woke up and found the child lying on the floor and he had no idea how she got there. He then lifted her back up to the bed and insisted he had not intended to cause any harm, but may have rolled onto her when asleep. When asked about hitting Maureen, he said he 'may have done' but couldn't remember for sure.
The following day he was brought before Liverpool Magistrates' Court, where the prosecutor was Herbert Balmer, who would later gain infamy for his investigation into the Cameo Cinema murders. Moss was remanded in custody charged with assault causing grievous bodily harm, but later released on bail and stationed in Surrey. On 4th October Maureen died and a post mortem showed that death had been accelerated by the injuries. Moss was arrested at his camp and brought to Liverpool to be charged with murder.
At the Manchester Assizes on 30th October Moss wore his full army uniform. When she gave her evidence his wife acknowledged that he was a good father and had always been fond of his daughter. In giving his own evidence Moss broke down and insisted that he had not threatened to smack her.
The judge, Mr Justice Stable told then jury that the lack of malice aforethought meant it was inappropriate to find Moss guilty of murder. His counsel Mr Trotter said that this was not a case of manslaughter but the judge ruled that it was a matter for the jury. They returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter and the judge sentenced Moss to eighteen months imprisonment.