Sunday, 21 June 2015

Children's Throat Cut By Mother At Dinnertime


Two boys who came home from school for their dinner never returned as they had their throats but by their mother, who was detained at His Majesty's pleasure following a guilty but insane verdict.

On the morning of 13th March 1929 Annie Stewart, a 31 year old mother of two who lived in Hesketh Street off Lark Lane, went to a nearby barbers and asked to borrow a razor as her husband's was broken. She explained that he needed to finish a shave before going to work as a warehouse packer, but she had other ideas in her mind when she got given it.

At noon that day her two children, seven year old Norman and five year old Gordon, returned home from school for their dinner she cut their throats with it. Annie then ran into the street screaming that she had killed her children. A local shopkeeper called the police and when they attended they found the bodies of the two boys in the front room with a razor nearby, blood splattered everywhere. 

Annie was arrested and the following day she had to be carried into the dock at the magistrates court, where she was remanded in custody for a week. She fainted and had to be revived before being helped from the dock, a scene that reduced some of those present to tears. On 25th March magistrates paid tributes to the police who had dealt with the harrowing case as Annie was committed for trial at the assizes. She was also granted permission to see her husband.

On 3rd April there was a sensational development when Paul Senar, a 34 year old ship's steward from Upper Mann Street in Dingle, was arrested and charged with both murder and 'counselling, procuring and commanding to murder'. As he appeared at the magistrates court for his committal hearing, it was claimed that he had been acquainted to Annie for eight months without her husband's knowledge and she had written to him whilst he was at sea. 

When the charge was put to him in court Senar, a married father of four, described it as 'ridiculous' and pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors alleged that Senar had been at Annie's home fifteen minutes before the killing and the motive was for both of them to rid themselves of their previous lives and start again somewhere else.

Both appeared at the assizes on 15th April, where interest was huge and queues began to form at 8am for seats in the public gallery. It was estimated that one thousand tried to gain admittance and police had to be called to disperse crowds who fought to get to the front of the queue.

Neighbours told how they had seen Annie with Senar near the house and in Sefton Park, while her husband said she had been a good mother and on the whole the marriage had been a happy one. However, she had been suffering depression since the death of her mother but just two days before the killing, they had gone to the cinema together and everything seemed normal. 

When the prosecution had finished presenting their evidence Justice Shearman intervened and ordered the jury to acquit Senar, against whom any evidence was circumstantial at best. He didn't deny knowing Annie, but insisted he had never been in her house and any inconsistencies in statements given to the police were to try and hide the matter from his wife. He was discharged from the dock and left the court immediately, having been told by the judge he had to accept some responsibility in that his actions had put Annie's mind in the state it was.

Basil Nield, defending Annie, then called medical evidence which showed Annie has attempted suicide as a teenager and been suffering acute melancholia of late. This led to the jury deliberating for just ten minutes before finding Annie guilty but insane. Justice Shearman ordered her to be detained at His Majesty's pleasure and Annie then had to be helped from the dock by two wardresses 


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