Friday, 31 July 2015

Kicked To Death After Dinner Not Ready


A wife who had gone to the market rather than have her husband's dinner was kicked to death. After being found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, he was shown no mercy by the judge. 

On the evening of Saturday 31st January 1885 Mary Calvert went to a market with her four year old daughter, returning to her home in a court off Watkinson Street at 11pm. Her 28 year old husband Jameswas immediately argumentative demanding to know where they had been. When she replied that they had been to markets he reacted angrily, kicking her in the abdomen.

Mary ran into the street crying for help but her husband ran after her and kicked her repeatedly in the lower part of the body, causing her to lose consciousness. After going inside for a short period, Calvert only realised the seriousness of what had happened and returned to the street after pleas from neighbours.  One of them shouted to him 'were your hands not enough' and he said to her 'it has got nothing to do with you stop interfering.'

25 year old Mary was taken to the Southern Hospital in a cab but she died about fifteen minutes after being admitted, never having regained consciousness. A post mortem found that she was pregnant and the cause of death was determined as uterine haemorrhage and Calvert was arrested, then remanded for a week pending the outcome of an inquest. After a verdict of wilful murder was found he was committed to the assizes which were just about to begin.

Calvert was then on trial with his life at stake as soon as 11th February, the case being heard by the formidable Mr Justice Day, known for his harsh sentences. Neighbours gave evidence as to what they had seen and a surgeon from the hospital said that Mary had been in robust health and her injuries could not have been caused by a fall. In defence, Calvert tried to say he had not kicker her and she had fallen over a stool, then said his wife had been drunk for seven weeks and he was angry that he had been out at work and no dinner was ready for him. He pointed out that he took her to hospital and also remained with her until she died.

In summing up Justice Day said the jury had to determine if Calvert really did intend to cause grievous bodily harm. Without leaving their box they returned a verdict of manslaughter but there was no leniency when it came to sentencing, with the judge ordering that he serve twenty years in prison.


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Lodger Killer Transported

In 1828 a man was transported when he was convicted of manslaughter after he had killed a fellow lodger, with the press indicating he was fortunate to be convicted only of this crime.

On Sunday 6th July that year Richard Thomas, a 44 year old wheelwright, was drinking ale at his Stanley Street lodgings with John Barber, a cart driver aged 37. Barber dozed off and Thomas playfully hit him with a towel, but he reacted angrily and struck back violently, causing a nosebleed.


Both men went into the yard where an outraged Barber continued to act aggressively and threatened to knock Thomas's head off, but their landlord William Godfrey came out and managed to calm the situation down. The two men shook hands and by way of apology Barber ordered a quart of ale for them to share.

They went back into the yard to drink it but without warning Barber said 'I will give thee a finisher' and struck Thomas in the temple, causing him to fall down and hit his head.' Medical assistance was sought but he died about half an hour later, leading to Barber being taken into custody and committed for trial at the assizes in Lancaster on a charge of manslaughter. Reporting the inquest verdict though the Liverpool Mercury said that 'it is doubtful the whether the crime was not of  a higher nature.'

The following month  Barber appeared before Mr Justice Bayely, where the evidence of his landlord helped convict him. Describing the crime as of a most aggravated character, the judge then sentenced him to be transported for fourteen years.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Brickfields Fight Death


A man who challenged a drinking companion to a fight after a disagreement ended up dead, with his opponent sentenced to ten days imprisonment for manslaughter.

On the evening of Monday 18th August 1828 a group of men were drinking heavily in a pub on Vauxhall Road when two of them John McGinnis and Joseph Hughes got into a quarrel. John's brother Patrick then challenged Hughes to a fight with the loser paying a sovereign. Hughes declined this as he had no money but accepted an invitation to fight for honour.

Both men went to the nearby brickfields, followed by a crowd of over one hundred others. They stripped to their waists, shook hands and then fought in a regular way. Hughes, who worked as a corkcutter got the upper hand and McGinnis was soon on the floor in a senseless state. He was then carried off to his lodgings in nearby Portland Street.

A surgeon attended but could do nothing to revive Patrick who died at 6am the following morning. An inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter and Hughes handed himself in two days later.

With the Lancaster assizes already under way, Hughes was taken straight there and appeared before Justice Bayley on 25th August, just seven days after the fight. He was found guilty and sentenced to ten days imprisonment.

Seaman Acquitted of Stabbing Due to Insanity


A seaman who carried out a stabbing in the Gulf of Florida was arrested and charged with murder on arrival in Liverpool, but later acquitted as he was insane at the time of the act.

On 29th March 1845 the Mountaineer set sail from New Orleans bound for Liverpool. 30 year old Michael Moore had joined a few days before as an able seaman and went about his duties satisfactorily, although there were some concerns about his mental state. He often told others that they were conspiring to throw him overboard and he expressed regret that he had ever joined the vessel.

Just over two weeks into the voyage on 14th April at about 1pm, when the ship was in the Gulf of Florida, the chief mate William Barrow was taking up the anchor watched by Moore and boatswain John Campbell. Without warning Moore stabbed Campbell in the stomach and then went for Barrow, but Campbell managed to push him out of the way. Other crew members quickly rounded on Moore and managed to secure him and retrieve the knife. Campbell had a large wound in the stomach and he died that evening.

On arrival at Liverpool Moore was handed to the police and after being charged with murder he appeared at the assizes on 23rd August before Baron Rolfe. Crew members gave evidence as to what they had witnessed and a acknowledged that Moore had no prior quarrels with Barrow or Campbell.

Dr Chalmer,a surgeon from Kirkdale gaol then gave evidence, saying that Moore had told him he suffered from yellow fever whilst in New Orleans. Believing him 'to be scarcely in possession of all his faculties' Moore then spent a week in hospital under supervision and appeared better on release. Dr Chalmer then said that inflammation of the brain arising from the fever could give rise to states of monomania, lack of reasoning powers and hallucinations. After hearing the judges summing up, the jury took no time to acquit Moore on the grounds of insanity


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Flogged to Death for Falling Asleep


A ship's captain who gave a severe flogging to a crew member who had fallen asleep on duty was found guilty of manslaughter and transported for life.

In the early hours of 2nd May 1845 cooper William Angus was at watch with three others on board the brig Challenge which was heading for Liverpool from West Africa. He heard a noise and on going to investigate, found that fellow watchman, 28 year old fisherman Ben Johnson, had came off his ladder having fell asleep.

The ship's captain George Hill then flogged Johnson with a rope and continued to kick and beat him for about ten minutes. However Johnson managed to escaped into the roundhouse but Hill ordered that he be hauled out of his refuge. The captain then threw a bucket of water over his head and hit him with a canoe paddle on the face and shoulders.

Johnson never spoke after this incident and was covered in blood, with severe cuts to the nose, lip and neck. He was left on deck and at around 10am Hill administered him some spirits but he died about an hour later. The cook and chief mate were called to examine the body, as Hill believed the neck could have been broken. Neither of the other two could be certain of this, but both were of the opinion that when the ship reached Liverpool, crew members would be reporting their captain over the death.

Hill ordered that the body be thrown overboard then he rubbed out an account that the chief mate had written onto a slate of the events. He then directed the chief mate to record that Johnson had gone asleep whilst on watch and fell off a ladder, so was given three or four lashes. The chief mate was then ordered to record that in the morning the captain asked how he was due to the injuries having been sustained during the fall, but he died soon afterwards and was given a formal burial.

When the vessel reached Liverpool on 3rd June crew members informed the police and Hill was apprehended. On 22nd August he appeared before Baron Rolfe at the South Lancashire Assizes charged with murder. The Liverpool Mercury described the 26 year old as being 'able to read and write in a superior manner.' After crew members had given their evidence, local surgeon Dr Archer was called to give his opinions. He explained that if the injuries described by Hill had been sustained in a fall, then it would have been impossible for Johnson to escape after the flogging due to paralysis. As such he concluded that if the crew members version of events was believed, then Johnson's death was as a result of the mistreatment by Hill.

Hill's defence counsel Mr Wilkins claimed that he was a victim of  'a wicked and infamous conspiracy' by the crew and that 'such falsehood was never before laid before a jury'. It was maintained that measures of severity were required on board to keep the crew in check and that if Hill had caused the death, he was hardly likely to ask the cook and chief mate to examine the body knowing that they may report him.Concluding his speech Wilkins said that 'the story had been trumped up by those wicked and designing men with the object of destroying the unfortunate man at the bar.'

The judge summed up by saying that the jury had to consider the relationship between the captain and witnesses in determining who was telling the truth, and then decide if the crime was murder or manslaughter. After an hour and a half deliberation the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, leading to Hill replying 'You are about to punish a man who is as free from crime as anyone in the court.'

In addressing Hill prior to sentence, Baron Rolfe said that his crime was 'only just short of murder' due to the character of the violence used. He then said that if this had been a conspiracy by crew members then it was 'a scene of wickedness and depravity greater than I have ever witnessed'. Saying that the jury had determined that the crew members were 'witnesses of truth' Hill, an unmarried Yorkshireman, was then sentenced to transportation for life. He arrived at Tasmania on 16th May 1846 aboard the convict ship China.


Tenant Kills Landlord Over Weeks Rent

A tenant who was angry when his landlord refused to allow him to leave his property unless he paid a week's threw him into the middle of the street. After the landlord died from complications which resulted from the injuries received, the tenant was convicted of manslaughter.

The unfortunate incident happened on Saturday 31st July 1858 when John Doyle, a middle aged man, told his landlord Francis Smith that he intended to leave his property in Zante Street, Everton. Francis demanded a week's rent and when this was refused,sat on the steps to prevent Doyle taking out his belongings.

A frustrated Doyle punched and kicked 71 year old Francis, then picked him up and threw him into the middle of the street.  Francis was removed to the Infirmary with a broken thigh, while Doyle was taken into custody charged with violent assault.

At the police court on the Monday morning Doyle was remanded for seven days as Francis was too ill to give evidence. The following day the old man died, a post mortem determining that the cause of death was congestion of the lungs, arising from the injuries he has received.

On 13th August Doyle was at the assizes before Baron Pollock charged with manslaughter. He maintained that he had been provoked and had not intended to cause any harm to Francis, but was found guilty. The judge then sentenced him to four months imprisonment.


Saturday, 25 July 2015

Drunken Wife Killed by Poker.


A husband who couldn't take any more of his wife's drunkenness battered her with a poker causing her death, but was treated leniently by the judge after being found guilty of manslaughter.

At 730am on Monday 12th April 1858 Jacob Wilhelm, a German who worked for 48 year old cooper David Jager, was working in the yard next to his boss's house in Bevington Street. He saw Caroline Jager come out in a tipsy state and suspected she was going for more drink, then two hours later he heard her berating her husband calling him several bad names.

When Jager went into the yard to see how Wilhelm was getting on with his work, he said his wife had told him she got up early to draw a knife across his throat. Wilhelm was then sent off on an errand and when he returned at midday Jager shouted to him to come into the house as he thought he had killed Caroline. He saw her lying on the floor with blood coming out of her head but she was still moving and he went to fetch a policeman.

Jager was visibly upset by what he had done and sent for a surgeon himself, after Wilhelm had tried to assure him that Caroline would be back in health drinking rum soon. Jager gave himself up when a police officer arrived and admitted that he had struck his wife with a poker. Although sober, he was in a very excitable state and said he wished he was dead himself. The poker was retrieved from the fireplace by the police officer and found to be bloodstained and with hair attached.

Caroline was taken to the Northern Hospital in a cab, remaining insensible during the ride. She remained there for a week and died a week later on 19th April. A postmortem determined the cause of death to be from a fractured skull caused by more than one blow.

At the inquest before Borough Coroner Mr P F Curry the next day Wilhelm told how he had not seen Caroline sober for six weeks, and that she had sometimes sold the food her husband had provided then bought drink. He said that Jager was so busy working that he hardly had time to get drunk, but would have a glass of beer now and again. After he finished giving his evidence he was questioned over any bias he may have had, given that Jager's father was German. Wilhelm testified though that this was coincidental and he had only known his employer for eight months.

Thirteen year old Caroline Jager, the couple's daughter, confirmed what Wilhelm had said over the food. She also told the Coroner that on the morning of the killing, her mother had sold a frock belonging to her ten year old sister  Catherine. In summing up, Mr Curry said that legally this was murder, but morally he felt there were aggravating factors that had caused it. A jury member asked if there was evidence Caroline had struck her husband first but there was not. After further re-examination of Wilhelm and the daughter a verdict of manslaughter was returned.

The following month Jager appeared before Baron Pollock at the assizes in St George's Hall, where the jury found him guilty of manslaughter. Due to the aggravating circumstances the judge imposed an extremely light sentence of just three months imprisonment. After his release Jager remarried and is listed in the 1861 census as living with his new wife Mary, younger daughter Caroline and Mary's twelve year old son.



Friday, 24 July 2015

Sailor Kills Shipmate Over Lodgings

Two sailors who had travelled from America on the same ship got into a drunken row over their lodgings, leading to one of them dead and the other convicted of manslaughter.

The incident took place in Paul Street in Vauxhall Road in the early hours of 17th July 1858. Two sailors, Patrick McMahon and James Connolly, had arrived together in Liverpool a week before, travelling from America on the same ship. They remained on friendly terms right up to the 16th when they both went out drinking in pubs in the north end of the town with a woman named Cunningham who lad lodged in the same boarding house as them in Paul Street.

After Cunningham left them at around 10pm she assumed they would both be returning to their ship Fidelia which was sailing the next morning. However after a few more drinks at around midnight they both went to the lodgings but were refused admittance, leading to McMahon breaking the door down. The two men then began arguing between themselves and stripped to their waists to fight with punches being exchanged.

A man named Schroeder came down and tried to separate them but was stabbed in the leg by McMahon, who then pierced Connolly's heart with the knife. A crowd gathered around and a drunken McMahon made no attempt to escape.  A police officer patrolling Vauxhall Road was summoned and was offered no resistance as he apprehended him, whilst stood just two yards away from the body.

At the police court in the morning evidence was given by Cunningham that Connolly had struck the first blow, but with Schroeder being too wounded to give evidence, the case was adjourned until the following day. After he gave evidence to the coroner, a verdict of manslaughter was returned but back at the police court, the Magistrate Mr Mansfield said that the grand jury should decide on the charge, as this was technical murder given McMahon had the knife in his hand for some time.

On 14th August, much to McMahon's relief, the grand jury threw out the murder bill and he was tried only for manslaughter. After being found guilty he was then sentenced to just six months by Baron Pollock, due to the fact that Connolly had started the fight.

Monday, 20 July 2015

American Sailors Six Months For Manslaughter

An American seaman who stabbed a Dutchman to death following a row over his nationality was given an extremely lenient sentence in light of the provocation he had received.

On the night of 31st March 1858 a number of foreign sailors were enjoying a singsong at a beerhouse in Blundell Street called the Royal Casino, where locals weren't allowed to enter. One of them was Michael Warey, a nineteen year old American who boasted that he was a 'true born Yankee.' This claim was ridiculed by Dutch shoemaker William Schoningen, who replied that he was more American himself.

A scuffle took place between the two men during which Warey took out a penknife and stabbed Schoningen in the chest. He then fled the scene, lashing out with the knife at anybody who tried to stop him but he was apprehended by a police officer on Park Lane and taken into custody. A bloodied knife was found nearby.

Meanwhile at the Royal Casino a doctor was frantically trying to save the life of Schoningen, but he expired there. A German called Joachim Krigan was badly wounded in the arms, leg and neck and was rushed to the Royal Southern Hospital.

The following morning Warey appeared before the magistrate Mr Mansfield and was committed for trial on a charge of wilful murder. Schoningen was described by friends as a 'very quiet and inoffensive man' and although a teetotaller, he would often frequent such places to try and find customers.

Warey had to wait until the assizes were in Liverpool in August for his trial. The barmaid told how just before he took the knife out his pocket he had received a violent blow, meaning that when Baron Pollock summed up, he said the crime was not murder. After the jury found Warey guilty of manslaughter he was sentenced to just six months imprisonment.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Expenses Row Killing

A row between two labourers over how to spend their expenses led to one of them attacking and killing the other, but receiving a very lenient sentence.

On the afternoon of 22nd July 1858 Michael Sutton drove some cattle from Clarence Dock to Blackstock Street station, where he was met by a man named John O'Neill. They both loaded the cattle onto wagons and Sutton was given 6d by the cattle's owner to cover both men's expenses. 

O'Neill immediately suggested the money should be used to buy ale but Sutton refused, saying he had had no breakfast and would just give him 3d instead. As he was walking away to get some change O'Neill struck Sutton from behind, causing him to fall against some stones and hit his head. O'Neill him up but after being taken to the Northern Hospital, he died that evening having not said another word.

The following day an inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter and a warrant was issued for O'Neill's apprehension.  At the South Lancashire assizes at St George's Hall on 16th August O'Neill claimed that he had only given Sutton a hefty push, which caused him to fall. He was found guilty of manslaughter and recommended to mercy, receiving a sentence of just three months imprisonment.

Pub Singer Kills Wife And Unborn Child


A man who made his living singing in the pubs of South Lancashire took exception to being called home by his wife and killed her with a single punch, leading to him being convicted of manslaughter.

In the early to mid 19th century Robert Reed, who hailed form the north of Ireland, was a well known comic singer in the pubs of Liverpool, Bolton and Manchester. He lived in apartments in Bridport Street with his wife Eliza, who was described by the Liverpool Mercury as 'of considerable attraction.' They were not the best tenants for the house owner Mr Clegg however, as they frequently quarrelled.

On the afternoon of  Thursday 8th August 1850 the couple went on a day out to Wirral but returned in time for Reed's evening performance at The Clock in Great Charlotte Street. Mrs Reid, who was eight months pregnant, returned home but went to the pub at midnight and they left together, apparently on amicable terms.

Back at Bridport Street however, they had a row, with William Parker who lived in the same house hearing Reed shout 'I'll serve you out my lady for coming to me tonight' as they arrived at the door. As another female lodger let them in Reed kicked Eliza, who rushed into the parlour. He followed her there and struck her a blow with his fist to just below the left ear, causing her to fall to the floor.

Other residents of the house went outside and found a police sergeant who was patrolling in London Road. When he saw Eliza unconscious with blood coming from her nose and ears, he sent for a doctor, who pronounced her dead at the scene. Reed had gone to their apartment and when a police officer arrested him, he begged to be allowed to drown, hang or poison himself.

The inquest took place in the morning and returned  a verdict of manslaughter. After being committed on a coroner's warrant, Reed appeared at the South Lancashire assizes as early as the following Tuesday, where several witnesses testified to his good character. He was found guilty with a recommendation to mercy and the judge deferred sentence for three days to consider his case.

When he was brought back three days later Justice Wightman told 38 year old Reed that his crime had shown the 'evil and fatal consequences of intemperance.' He described the violence as 'unmanly' but taking into account he could not have foreseen the consequences of his actions he spared Reed from transportation. Instead he was sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment with hard labour.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Killed Over A Handkerchief

In 1850 a row over a handkerchief that had been won in a raffle led to a man being killed by a flying brickbat and his killer absconding.

In October that year a woman in a court in St Martins Street in Vauxhall raffled a silk handkerchief so she could raise her rail fare for a journey to Manchester. Charging one penny a ticket, forty tickets were sold and it was on by a labourer named Patrick Caffray, who lived in a court in the same street.

A man named Michael Callaghan believed the raffle had been rigged and on the 29th of the month went with his father Patrick to Caffray's home, from where they were pushed back into the street. Michael Callaghan then picked up a brickbat and threw it at Caffray, who moved out the way but was caught behind the ear. Neighbours then intervened as Callaghan tried to follow this up by stabbing him with a pitchfork and although they restrained Patrick his son jumped over a wall and fled.

Caffray was taken to the Northern Hospital, where he remained in a delirious state until the 1st November when he died. Michael Callaghan remained at large, but Patrick appeared at the South Lancashire assizes on 16th December charged with 'aiding and abetting in a disturbance which caused death.' He was sentenced to four months imprisonment.


Monday, 13 July 2015

Ten Years to Establish Husbands Insanity

A man who killed his wife was held in jail for ten years before it was decided he was insane at the time of the murder.

On the morning of 30th September 1840 Mrs Philburn was in her home in Stockdale Street in Vauxhall when she heard a major commotion upstairs. When she went to investigate she was confronted by the sight of her lodger Ann Kehoe coming out of her room covered in blood and screaming.

Soon afterwards she was met by Ann's husband Owen who was holding a ship's scraper and said 'I have done a nice job, I a not sorry for it, if I had not done it now I would do it again, this is what I have done it with.' As Mrs Philburn tried to come to terms with Owen's words, Ann ran out into the court and begged for help from a labourer named Anthony Griffin, telling him 'For God's sake carry me to a doctors or I shall fall dead.

Griffin took Ann to a druggists where she begged for her children to be brought to her before she died. She said that Owen had just had his breakfast and things seemed normal but without warning he got up and took hold of the scraper, saying 'This instrument is very sharp and three blows from this would take a man's life.' He then stabbed her twice in the head and when then had her hands slashed when she put them up to stop a third blow.

Dock labourer Owen remained calm as he was taken into custody, telling officers that he had murdered her at last. Whilst in the Northern Hospital Ann was visited by Bridget Collins, her daughter in law from an earlier marriage. Ann told her that Owen had considerably more difficulty in removing the ships scraper than embedding it in her head. She described how he had been perfectly sober as he did it, laughing that he would only get twelve months for it.

Ann lingered until 7th October, when she died. A post mortem by Dr Woodward revealed two fractures to the skull, with pieces of bone having embedded into the brain. Death, he believed, was due to abscesses on the brain caused by violence.

A post mortem before the coroner Mr P F Curry returned a verdict of wilful murder, but Owen's trials were repeatedly postponed due to his mental state. On one appearance he stood at the bar whistling and biting his thumb.

Eventually, on 12th August 1850 he appeared before Mr Justice Wightman at the South Lancashire assizes at St Geroge's Hall.  Mrs Philburn gave evidence as to what she had witnessed while Dr Chalmer from Walton gaol stated that he had observed Owen for a long time in prison and felt he was insane at the time of the killing, but now better. The jury found him guilty but insane, and with him still being deemed a danger was held at Her Majesty's pleasure.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Leniency for Tailor Who Killed Wife

A man who was unhappy about the way his wife was running their business kicked her to death but was treated leniently by the judge.

In 1846 Owen Tully and his wife Catherine lived in Thomas Street (which ran parallel to Lord Street from Paradise Street to Derby Square), where they ran a small provisions shop. Owen was a travelling tailor and left his wife to take charge of the business, but he often got angry if she allowed women into the shop to drink with her.

On Monday 21st September that year, the couple were having tea at around 7pm when two women arrived, leading to Owen angrily saying 'It's no use running a shop when you have so many women coming about and drinking.' When Catherine asked her husband if she was drunk he replied that she was and punched her, an act that was witnessed by their servant Bridget Smith and the two women.

Owen went into the back yard leaving his wife lying on the floor complaining of a sore head. Bridget sent a passer by to fetch Catherine's sister Bridget Murphy, who arrived and told her that it served her right, as she did have women around drinking too often. Catherine then grabbed her sister by the hair but Owen intervened and forced her off, then kicked his wife in the abdomen as Mrs Murphy escaped.

Owen ran off out of the shop as the three remaining ladies helped Catherine onto a chair. The 32 year old was bleeding badly and she soon lost consciousness. A surgeon, Dr Moorhouse of Cleveland Square, was sent for but she was dead within about two hours. A post mortem revealed the cause of death to be loss of blood and that injuries were consistent with being kicked.

On the Wednesday an inquest heard from Bridget Murphy, Bridget Smith and one of the two other ladies who were present. Owen was committed for trial on a coroner's warrant and his description circulated and he handed himself in soon afterwards.

When Owen appeared before the assizes, the doctor who carried out the post mortem admitted under cross examination that the external bruising was minimal and it could not be certain that death was a direct result of being kicked. This led to a verdict of manslaughter being returned with a plea for leniency. Owen was then jailed for just two weeks.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Boiling Porridge Murder

An Italian musician convicted of murdering his compatriot by pouring boiling hot porridge over him was sentenced to death but reprieved and transported instead.

In the late 1830s two travelling pianists, Girolome Capello and Antonio Tuscani, arrived in Liverpool and went into partnership. They lodged at a boarding house ran by an Italian named Luigi Ginnochio in Thurlow Street, off Richmond Row in Everton. The two men performed together, but Capello was the senior partner, handling all the finances and effectively paying a salary to Tuscani.

There seemed nothing untoward on the night of Monday 12th July 1841 when Capello and Tuscani went to bed in their lodgings, where they shared a room with an Italian married couple. At around 1am the lodging house keeper went to bed, having made up a fire ready for the following morning. However by doing this, he had provided Capello with the means to put together an improbable murder weapon.

At 4am the occupants of the house were woken by Tuscani's screams. He was running naked down the stairs shouting 'I am burnt I am dead' and covered in white floury powder. Ginnochio went to see what was going on and saw that his torso was badly scalded. Capello then appeared, but he was fully clothed except for his hat and on seeing the others he ran out of the door as fast as he could. Mrs Ginnochio did what she could to treat the burns while her husband went to find a doctor. On returning within ten minutes, he found that his wife had put a shirt on Tuscani and helped him to another bed.

Ginnochio went to the room where the two men had slept and found that there was a white flour mixture on the bed, similar to what Tuscani had been covered in. A bucket that was normally kept in the kitchen was next to the bed, having clearly contained the mix, while in the kitchen the fire that Ginnochio had made up earlier had been re-lighted. A pot which he had cleaned the night before had now been used, while Capello's hat was on the kitchen table.

Tuscani was taken to the Infirmary in the morning and when Ginnochio visited him he stated that he was sure he would die. In giving his depositions, he said that there had been a falling out the day before the incident as a result of them failing to agree the terms of a £12 debt which he owed to Capello. Despite his landlord's belief that he would recover, he slipped away on 25th July from exhaustion as a result of the scalds.

Two days later an inquest took place with the coroner Mr P F Curry describing it as an extraordinary case. A verdict of wilful murder was returned leading to Capello, who had been apprehended soon after the incident and remanded on a charge of wounding, now being committed for trial on a coroner's warrant.

Capello appeared at the assizes on 26th August before the Lord Chief Justice Denman. At his barristers request the jury consisted of three Italians and an interpreter was also made available. Under cross examination, Ginnochio admitted that the two men had been on good terms right up to the night of the killing and that Capello had always been honest and good natured. The defence counsel then suggested that the mixture was not porridge at all but instead plaster, a claim that was swiftly denied and it was reiterated that it was steaming.

Luigi Gasparino, who had known Capello for nine years testified to his good character but did give evidence about the argument that had taken place between the two men on the Sunday before the killing. He explained how the two had a discussion away from others but he could see that it ended by the two of them each making a finger gesture of contempt. A fellow musician Carlo Rabbiotti told how Cappello had asked him to keep his organ for him overnight on 12th July and said that he would be collecting it the following morning. When he arrived shortly after 4am, he was wearing no hat and asked Rabbiotti for a loan of one. 

Capello's defence counsel argued that due to his previous good character and lack of premeditation he should only be convicted of manslaughter. It was suggested that he could have made the porridge with the intention of eating it, but had a quarrel and threw it over Tuscani in the heat of the moment. In summing up though the judge said there was nothing in the evidence to have the charge reduced to manslaughter or justifiable homicide and that by leaving his organ with Rabbiotti earlier in the evening it suggested Capello was planning an escape.

The jury took just a few minutes to find Capello guilty of murder, but did recommend mercy on account of his previous good character. Lord Chief Justice Denman then agonisingly deferred sentence until the following morning.

The next day Capello walked firmly into court but was looking anxiously for an interpreter. When asked if he had anything to say he seemed resigned to his fate, replying 'I can only beg a favour, that some time may be granted to me to reconcile my mind, that I may repent myself.' The judge described it as a 'carefully secured, deliberately cruel murder'. Dismissing the jury's recommendation for mercy he went on to say 'It would have given me great pleasure to comply with that recommendation if I thought it consistent with my public duty, but it is necessary that examples are made when such horrible crimes are committed.' He then pronounced sentence of death.

Despite the judge's views, the Home Secretary did act on the recommendation of the jury and commuted the sentence to transportation for life. On 25th July 1842 he landed at Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) along with 299 other convicts on the ship Susan.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Starved Child Not Murdered

A mother who was charged with the murder of her child after it died from starvation was acquitted after the trail judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to suggest she had wilfully withheld food to cause the death.

On the 12th January 1888 Sarah Boadle gave birth to a baby boy at her home in Curate Road, Anfield. She was attended to by a nurse named Mary Hickman but gave her name as Mrs Hartley, the same surname as a man she was residing with. She named the baby boy Maurice and he seemed to be in perfect health, weighing seven or eight pounds.

A few days after the birth Mary visited to see how things were going and she was heard to say to Hartley 'I dare not do it.' When challenged over this, Sarah said that he had asked her to smother the baby, promising to marry her if she could get rid of it and that she had tried everything she could to abort the pregnancy. She then reassured Mary that now the child had been born, there was no way she would endanger it.

On 23rd February Sarah went to Dr Holmes's surgery in Oakfield Road and said that the baby was dead, leading to him asking why she had not informed him of any illness beforehand. She replied that she didn't want to aggravate any medical condition by taking him outside and she had nobody to send to the doctor.

Dr Holmes refused to issue a death certificate and a post mortem was carried out by Dr Pitt of Tuebrook. He found that the weight hadn't increased since the birth and that the lungs were congested. The stomach and bowels were empty and he felt the cause of death could have been starvation, but suffocation was another possibility due to the lung congestion.
The inquest was held at the Clubmoor Hotel on 27th February. The following day's Liverpool Mercury said that Sarah was of 'very respectable appearance' and had swooned whilst listening to the proceedings and had to be helped back up. 'Hartley' was present and it came to light that his name was actually Eugene Auzon. After the coroner Mr Brighhouse had summed up and drawn attention to Hartley/Auzon's role, the jury found that Sarah had killed Maurice through neglect, while Auzon was an accessory after the fact.

On 17th March both appeared before Mr Justice Grantham at the assizes. The first witness was Mary Hickman, who agreed under cross examination that the couple had severe cash flow issues and had pawned nearly everything to buy food. Neighbours said that Sarah was very fond of her baby. With medical witnesses being unable to agree on the exact cause of death the judge summed up by saying that although it was a suspicious case the evidence did not point to food being wilfully kept from the child. On this basis the jury returned a verdict of not guilty and both prisoners were discharged.

Suspicious Death of a Shipping Merchant

The founder of one of Liverpool's most famous shipping lines was believed to have been robbed and murdered whilst he was walking home, the exact circumstances remaining a mystery today.

In 1807 John Bibby, then aged 32, founded the Bibby Line, which grew to boast a fleet of eighteen vessels thirty years later. An extremely wealthy man, Bibby lived in a mansion in Linacre Marsh, north of Bootle and it was whilst returning there on Friday 17th July 1840 that he met a horrible death.

That evening Bibby had dinner with a friend in Everton Brow then took a cab to the Rimrose Hotel, arriving around midnight. He then began the walk towards his mansion, but he never arrived. The following morning a search was begun which led to the find of his body at a pond in Stand Park, near Aintree racecourse. His watch was missing, but it was not known how much money he had been carrying.

The investigation into the death was led by the Head Constable Mr Whitty, but there were no footprints leading to the pond. It was also dragged in case the watch was there but nothing was found. On the Monday an inquest took place at the Rimrose hotel, which failed to reach a verdict as there was no evidence to show how Bibby had got there. Arguments raged in the town about the cause of death, with some suggesting he had fallen into the pond drunk, but others saying he must have been robbed and dragged there, pointing to bruises on his legs and a cut on the face.

In early August information came to light that at 4am on the day the body was found, a man named James Cullen was seen by a police officer near the duck pond and had walked away rapidly when approached. The officer had not believed anything suspicious to be going on, but had merely wanted some company. Further enquiries established that Cullen was an employee of Bibby's, having worked for him as a brickmaker.

Cullen was arrested and interrogated over the death, but any evidence against him was entirely circumstantial. He also had little motive, as he was actually due to be paid for his weeks work on the Saturday evening and the death of Mr Bibby led to all his brickmakers being laid off. After being held in custody for over a week and with nobody coming forward to implicate him in any way, Cullen was discharged on 24th August. 

Bibby's watch never materialised and with no evidence to go on the death remains unsolved, with the file remaining open with Merseyside Police.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Kicked to Death For Pawning Clothes


A man who was unable to go to sea because his wife had pawned his clothes ended up taking a long voyage anyway, after being transported to Australia for kicking her to death.

In October 1836 fifty year old mariner John Culberson and his wife Diana took lodgings with a Mrs Crozier in Bispham Street in the Marybone area of town. Mrs Crozier soon regretted taking the couple in, as they were constantly drinking and arguing, with John often striking his wife who was usually the more drunk of the two.

Diana spent the whole of Wednesday 2nd November drinking and was extremely intoxicated when she returned home, being hardly able to stand. John told her to go to bed but she refused and swore back at him, saying she would go to bed when sober and began to lie on the floor. John then kicked her, hauled her up and pushed her out of the door.

Baron Alderson
Several persons gathered round to help Diana and demanded she be let back into the house. John took her in and kicked her again, then jumped on top of her as she fell to the floor. Mrs Crozier begged him to stop but John replied that he didn't care if he was hanged for his actions. Some people in the street heard the commotion and forced their way into the house, helping Mrs Crozier carry Diana to her room where her breathing slowed and she died soon afterwards.

When John was told that his wife was dead he acted very indifferently and surrendered himself to custody.

An examination of the body by Dr Cooper found there to be four broken ribs, a perforated lung and fluid on the chest and abdomen. He was of no doubt that death was as a result of the injuries caused and said this at the inquest, which was held on the 4th November before the coroner, Philip Finch Curry.

The coroner asked John why he had acted the way he did and he replied that he was due to go to sea on the Thursday morning, but his wife had pawned his clothes to get money for drink. He said that she had treated him badly for three years and when drunk would 'abuse and blackguard him dreadfully.' A verdict of wilful murder was returned, leading to his committal for trial at the next assizes.

On 27th March 1837 John appeared before Baron Alderson,where the jury accepted his defence of having received some provocation, returning  a manslaughter rather than a murder verdict. He received no mercy from the judge though, being sentenced to transportation for life. On 8th February the following year, he arrived at New South Wales on board the Waterloo.





Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Unsolved Drowning of a Child

A child was found drowned in Everton in 1859 but with no reliable witnesses to his movements beforehand, the crime remained unsolved.

Around 930pm on the evening of 23rd July 1859 a man named James Fox fished the body of 4 year old John Thompson out of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal off Bankfield Street. He did this in the presence of Mary Gibbons, a 15 year old who was a servant to John's family and who did not recognise the body at first. She had been sent to the Rosehill Bridewell to report John's disappearance but inexplicably went towards Sandhills railway station instead.

When the inquest took place two days later Mary told how she had been looking for John in the street near his Conway Street home but couldn't find him. She couldn't explain why she went towards Sandhills instead of Rosehill. A 9 year old boy named Charles Hill told how he had been playing in Conway Street when woman named Esther Latham picked John up and took him away despite his crying. Charles said she ran towards Great Homer Street and as he was unable to find  policeman, he went and told John's mother.

A lady called Mrs Leahy who lived in Conway Street said that Latham, who was a cowkeeper residing in Back Lansdowne Place, had been looking through Mrs Thompson's window and laughing following John's disappearance. Miss Latham herself though solemnly declared her innocence and the coroner heard from detectives that they had been able to verify her accounts of her actions on that day.

A doctor confirmed that death had been due to drowning and in summing up the deputy coroner Mr Wybergh told the jury that if they believed Charles's evidence, then they should return a verdict of wilful murder against Latham. After some deliberation they returned a verdict of 'wilful murder against some person or persons unknown'. The killer of John has never been found.

Getting Away With Murder in Rodney Street

A horrific murder and attempted suicide occurred in Rodney Street in 1836, the alleged killer never standing trial after the principal witness, who was also his daughter, disappeared from the face of the earth.

In the latter part of 1835 Sarah Diffin, a 17 year old from Nottingham, left there to go into service in Manchester, working alongside 36 year old Grace Avery, who had once been a servant to her family when they lived in London. Early the following year Grace went to Liverpool where she took up a position as a cook for Mr William Jones at 5 Rodney Street, with Sarah remaining in Manchester.

Grace's departure to Liverpool had coincided with Sarah's father William arriving in Manchester where he took a position in a druggists store. Grace had told Sarah her father had 'improper intentions' towards her, but she had no intention of reciprocating them. In the April Sarah joined Grace at 5 Rodney Street, being followed by her father who begged Grace to go away with him but she refused. There was no sign though of the horrors to follow as William appeared calm at the news.

On the morning of Saturday 7th May William visited the house and was let in by Grace, who allowed him into the kitchen while she was working. Sarah came downstairs and saw him telling Grace that he would not take no for an answer and was staying there until she agreed to his demands. Grace went into the scullery to clean some candles and William went after her, remaining silent when questioned by Sarah. He paced around but was not drunk or angry, but after an hour he took out a pistol and fired it at Grace, who dropped dead instantly.

Sarah ran out and found a policeman within seconds but when they went back into the house William had managed to escape. However a search of the area beyond the back yard found the man in a near fainting condition, having taken prussic acid in an attempt to commit suicide. He was taken to the Infirmary where antidotes were administered and by 4pm he was fit to be discharged to the Bridewell.

During the inquest, which took place the following Monday morning, a communication was received that William had tried to hang himself at the Bridewell, but had been cut down before he expired. Sarah was the only witness and after hearing her deposition the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder, leading to the Coroner Philip Finch Curry committing him to trial at the assizes.

On 12th August William's case was adjourned due to Sarah not attending. The court was informed that Sarah had last been seen in Manchester on 12th July, where she told her employer that she had to return to Nottingham to sort out some financial affairs but would be back the following day. A subpoena had been issued but so far she had not been located, meaning William faced a further spell on remand at Kirkdale gaol.

With Sarah's whereabouts remaining unknown, the case was also adjourned the following April and again in August 1837, when William was granted bail at £200, to appear before the court when called upon. As enquiries continued into Sarah's disappearance, it transpired that when she left Manchester, it was with her uncle Thomas Calderaft, who was married to William's sister. He had been a frequent visitor to William at Kirkdale and the investigation then turned to Nottingham. It was established that Calderaft had told family members in July 1836 that it would not be pleasant for Sarah to give evidence against her father and he would take her away, and the pair disappeared around that time.

An indictment was made against William for 'having obstructed the course of justice by having spirited away or having removed from her place of residence a witness in a case of murder, in consequence of which the person charged could not be brought to justice or even trial.' This was heard at Liverpool assizes in April 1838, where Calderaft was found guilty in his absence. Neither him or Sarah were ever knowingly heard of again and William was never brought to justice.