Monday, 8 June 2015

Triple New Year Shooting Tragedy

At the end of 1918 three members of the same family were found shot dead by their servant, with an inquest later determining that a man had killed his wife and father before shooting himself.

When 36 year old farmer Anthony Knowles Bower visited Seaforth Village on the morning of 30th December that year nothing seemed untoward. He chatted with acquaintances then visited a butchers to order some meat for New Year's Day. That evening he went for a walk with his 33 year old wife Martha before returning to their farmhouse on the banks of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Ford. 

There were no obvious signs on that walk about the horrors that were soon to come. However at 530am the next morning servant Norah Stevenson got up and found the bodies of Mr and Mrs Bower in the sitting room. Upstairs Anthony's 69 year old father Unwin was found dead in a bedroom, along with his pet dog Biddy. All had gunshot wounds and Anthony had a revolver in his hand. Amazingly Norah had not heard any of the shots fired and the couple's fourteen month old son was still asleep in his cot unharmed.

A horrified Norah ran to seek help and police who attended found that four shots had been fired from the revolver, which still had two unused cartridges. Martha had been writing a letter when she was shot in the back of the head. There was no immediate motive for the killings, as their financial circumstances were sound. However some friends commented to the press that Anthony had not been as jovial as usual in recent weeks.

Sefton Parish Church (courtesy Rept01nx)
The inquest took place in the new year on 2nd January. It heard how Anthony had inherited the farm five years earlier from an uncle, who was nursed by Martha in later life. They then married and had a child but tensions arose due to the continued presence of Anthony's father, who Martha said made her feel like a lodger in her home. The farm foreman Thomas Ashcroft explained how a few years earlier Anthony was stung by some wasps and had acted strangely on occasions ever since.

Evidence was then given by a local doctor, who said that the couple had visited his house on their walk, but he was out. The doctor told the coroner that Anthony had a drink addiction and suffered delusional thoughts at least twice a year. The jury then returned a verdict of wilful murder in relation to the deaths of Martha and Unwin, and suicide for Anthony. All three family members were then buried in the same grave at Sefton Parish Church on 6th January 1919.

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