Sunday, 28 June 2015

Seaman Transported For Brothel Stabbing

A seaman who was due to sail to Australia missed the voyage when he was arrested for killing a prostitute, but he got sent there anyway by the judge after being found guilty of manslaughter.

On Christmas Eve 1833 John Taylor, a mate on the Bardaster which was to sail for New South Wales the following day, went to what was described by the London Standard as a 'bad house' in Atherton Street (now Torr Street), Everton. He was looking for some of his shipmates, but was told that there were no sailors there.

Accounts of exactly what happened next differed, but at some point Taylor was put out of the door, leading to him producing a knife that was hidden up his sleeve and plunging it the left breast of Mary Benson, who died almost instantly. Taylor ran off but was quickly apprehended by a policeman and taken to the Bridewell.

Lancaster Castle
At the inquest on 27th December, Taylor was allowed to question the two female witnesses present, Mary Tierney and Ann Coleman. He put it to them that he had been struck with a poker and attacked by all three, but this was denied. After the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder Taylor, who was described as a 'coal black negro of ferocious aspect' was committed to the assizes for trial.

On 18th March 1834 Taylor was tried at Lancaster Castle. Tierney and Coleman struggled under cross examination and gave conflicting accounts. Tierney said that Taylor had walked out of the door quietly, but Coleman claimed that there was a struggle and it had taken ten minutes to get him outside. A surgeon stated that death was instant, while Taylor reiterated in his defence that he had used the knife after being attacked with a poker.

In summing up, the judge said there had been some provocation and the two women had given contradictory evidence. As such, he urged the jury to return a verdict of manslaughter which they did without hesitation. However Taylor was still given a heavy sentence, being told he would be transported for life. Ironically the Bardaster, on which he had intended to sail a free man, was used to transport convicts later in the decade.

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