Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Farm Labourers Fatal Fight

A Saturday drinking session by colleagues ended in tragedy when one died following a fight between two of them, with the killer being sentenced to just six months in gaol.

On the evening of Saturday 11th October 1873 a group of Irish farm labourers were drinking at the Hightown Hotel (photo by Adam Bruderer) when a dispute arose and two of them started fighting. The two men, 24 year old Michael Cruse and 35 year old Martin Brennan were ordered out by landlady Emma Thomas but agreed to continue their fight at a nearby farmyard.

One of the group tried to stop the fight but was unable to do so and ran for help, but on hearing a scream he turned back and saw his Martin on the floor and bleeding from the head. Martin was taken a considerable distance to Rose Vale in Everton where his brother James resided.  He was suffering from pains in the chest and head, saying that Cruse had kicked him whilst he lay on the ground.

Dr Cormack from the East Dispensary attended and was of the opinion that Martin's condition was critical and it was too dangerous to move him. The following day he entered an insensible state and remained that way until the Thursday when he died. Cruse was picked up that day in Woolton and told the arresting officer 'I was standing in my own defence. It was a bad job, we were fighting and I knocked him down and kicked him.

A post mortem revealed that Martin had a dislocated eyeball, broken nose and skull fractures. The cause of death was inflammation of the brain and the injuries were too severe to have been caused by a fall. At the inquest Dr Cormack described his chances as 'hopeless from the first.' A verdict of manslaughter was returned and Cruse, who had once lived next door to Martin in Ireland, was committed to the assizes for trial.

At the Liverpool Assizes on 12th December Mrs Thomas gave evidence but was unable to say who had struck the first blow. Cruise was found guilty, but was sentenced to just six months imprisonment with hard labour by Justice Quain.

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