Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Murder of a Customs Officer

The person or persons who robbed and killed a customs officer in 1863 were never caught. 

On 4th November that year Christopher Treeby signed off duty at the Custom House on the waterfront, received 27 shillings in wages and began his journey towards his home on Portwood Street, off Upper Parliament Street.

At around 545pm a police constable named William Callister was on duty in Wavertree Road when he received information that a man had fallen and been taken into Chester's public house. Callister went there and saw that the man's face was covered in blood and he was dead. Inside his pockets were pencil cases, handkerchiefs, a knife and papers that identified him as Treeby.

A post mortem was carried out and found wounds on the face and injuries to the shoulder, arms and ribs as a result of external violence. One of the ribs had been hit so hard it had fractured and severed an artery, which was the cause of death. The body was identified at the deadhouse by a neighbour who also worked with him.

The following day an inquest held by the Coroner Mr P. F. Curry was opened and adjourned, but from the level of injuries it was quite apparent that they were not accidental. The police were also satisfied that the assault had not taken place in the public house or been carried out by the men who took Treeby in there, all of whom were in respectable occupations. A week later those who had helped him after the fall gave evidence and in summing up Mr Curry pointed out that the loss of his Treeby's money and a chain could not have resulted from the fall. A verdict of wilful murder by persons unknown was returned.

Treeby was 35 years old and had left a wife Lydia and five young children, the youngest of whom was just five weeks old. He had worked at the customs house for thirteen years and a committee was set up to provide funds for his widow. This allowed for her to be paid what would have been his salary until all of the children had reached working age. However, Lydia died nine years later at the age of 44 and her husband's killer was never brought to justice.

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