Sunday, 5 July 2015

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.

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