Monday, 27 July 2015

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

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