A man who killed the keeper of his lodging house with no known motive committed suicide by jumping in the River Mersey.
During the 1st World War Mary Mowatt, whose husband was away serving with the Royal Veterinary Corps, ran a lodging house in Byrom Street called Cocoa Rooms.
Mary was a good living, religious woman who took a personal interest in the wellbeing of all of her lodgers, including 40 year old labourer William Nurse, who was originally from Barbados. When he began staying there in 1918 he was in a delicate state of health and had to be given extra food by Mary, but after a spell in the workhouse hospital he began turning to drink and was often seen muttering to himself.
On 9th September that year the body of Martha was found in the lodging house kitchen. An overturned tea urn was next to the body, which had five stab wounds in the neck. A pocket knife was found lying on the floor, which was soon identified as belonging to Nurse, who was seen with it a few days earlier. Around the same time Martha's body was found, a man fitting Nurse's description was seen to climb over the rail and jump into the River Mersey from just south of the George's Landing stage. He had left his watch and wallet on the wall and pushed away a lifebuoy that was thrown out to him.
The police could not assume that Martha's killer had committed suicide and during the course of the night over fifty lodging houses were searched. The documentation left on the dock wall had been taken opportunistically by a passer by and police promised not to prosecute anybody who handed it in.This did though arrive at the police headquarters by post and was found to contain insurance documents with Nurse's name on them. On 18th September a body was found washed up, which was identified by lodging house staff as being that of Nurse, who had been the only non white man staying there.
The inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder in respect of Martha's death and suicide for William,the jury having deliberating for just a few seconds. There was no motive but the coroner suggested that perhaps William had made 'improper overtures' which were rejected, leading to him losing his temper and taking her life.