Thursday, 4 June 2015

Kicked to Death at Wavertree

Two Liverpool men who went drinking in Wavertree got into a row with some locals leading to the death of one of them and their attackers being convicted of manslaughter.

On the evening of 25th February 1865 William Scott and his brother in law William Shaw, who lived in Everton, went out to Wavertree to visit some public houses. As they were walking back towards Liverpool they briefly got separated and when Scott caught up with Shaw, he was walking alongside two men. Then almost immediately at Wellington Road three more jumped from behind a wall and all five then began beating them.

Shaw managed to break free and ran in the direction of Liverpool shouting 'police' and came across some other men who offered to help. When they returned though, Shaw was insensible on the ground with a small crowd and a policeman gathered around. A shandry was obtained and he was removed to Scott's house, where he was washed down and laid on the sofa.

In the morning Shaw regained consciousness and complained of soreness in his head, which was extremely swollen. However he refused to allow for a doctor to be sent for and instead was put to bed. That afternoon his condition worsened and Dr Rowland, a surgeon from Roscommon Street attended.

Five young men were taken into custody by police initially charged with assault. They were labourers Henry Peers, George Stanley and George Heeney, plumber John Doran and John Littler the assistant gardener at Childwall Abbey.  Doran and Littler admitted throwing punches but not kicking, while the other three denied having any involvement.

On Sunday 12th March Shaw's condition suddenly deteriorated and he slipped into a coma. An operation was carried out on the skull and there was a slight improvement when he regained consciousness and spoke. However after just fifteen minutes he became insensible again and never recovered, the journeyman baker dying the following Wednesday. A post mortem revealed bruises on the arm and shoulder which were consistent with being kicked and softening of brain lobes due to the skull fractures. 

When the inquest took place several witnesses told how Shaw had at first been so drunk that he fell down at the corner of the High Street and Sandown Lane. When one of those apprehended, Peers, tried to help him up Shaw knocked him to the ground. This led to Littler pushing Shaw off him and the subsequent group assault, which Doran and Heeney continued in brutal fashion by kicking him about the head and body as he lay on the ground. 

Nobody had dared intervene in the assault for fear of being attacked themselves. These included cattle driver William Brewer, who was returning from delivering a herd to Old Swan with his brother. when they shouted that they would kill Shaw, Heeney came at them and launched a kick before running off. Deputy Coroner Wybergh summed up by going through the evidence and making it clear two distinct assaults had taken place. The jury were out for a quarter of an hour before returning verdicts of manslaughter against Doran, Heeney and Littler, but acquitting Peers and Stanley. However, at the police court on 22nd March magistrates opted to still send Peers for trial.

Just a week after appearing at the police court the four men were at the assizes at St George's Hall, where they were found guilty of manslaughter. Peers and Littler were recommended for mercy by the jury and Justice Mellor told them that there was a marked distinction between their case and that of the other two. He then sentenced them to six months imprisonment with hard labour and imposed a term of twelve months for Doran and Heeney.

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