Saturday, 1 August 2015

Wronged Cook's Death Sentence Commuted

A man who killed his wife and her lover after he found out that they were living together was sentenced to death but had the sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Frank Smart came to Liverpool from the West Indies in 1947 and married his wife Cassie in 1951. They took lodgings in Berkeley Street in Toxteth in April 1956 but two months later somebody else at the house told Smart that every time he worked late as a cook, another West Indian named Fitzy Rattan would be in their room.

Berkley Street in the 1960s (
When Smart confronted his wife and Rattan about this they replied that all they were doing was listening to records. But on 1st July without warning Rattan told Smart that if he ever laid a finger on his wife he would kill him then the following day she went missing. When this was reported to the police, all her clothes were found in a suitcase in Rattan's room. They were traced to a lodging house in Bootle and Cassie agreed to return to her husband.

After Cassie admitted sleeping with Rattan Smart, was so demoralised that he bought rat poison and iodine, mixed it together then drank it in an attempt to take his own life. This suicide attempt failed but after being discharged from hospital he returned to Berkeley Street to find his wife had again left. 

On the 8th of October Smart headed to Preston, where he took a bus to St George's Road and found Cassie and Rattan in a bedsit along with a friend called Mr Beddoe, who had lunched with them. Taking a knife out of a suitcase, Smart told Cassie to get up and that wherever she went in England he would track her down. Rattan left the room and Cassie got dressed, but he then came back in and said that Smart had no right to talk to her like that. Smart then stabbed Rattan in the chest and when Cassie told him to put the knife down, he waved it up and down, slashing her five times in the chest and neck. 

Cassie ran out and over the road to a grocery shop and an ambulance was called, but she died soon after arriving at hospital from a haemorrhage. Rattan had died instantly and when police arrived at the bedsit, Smart handed himself in saying 'I am the man you want, I shall not give you any trouble.'

When Smart appeared in court the following February wearing a dark suit and white shirt, cutting an imposing figure at six feet tall. As was custom at the time, he was charged only with the murder of his wife. Beatrice Carson, with whom Cassie had lodged in Bootle, said that Smart had grabbed her by the throat and held up a knife saying he would kill her if she didn't return. Mr Nahum, the landlord of the property in Preston, said that Rattan had left the room to get a knife but changed his mind and put it back away. Mr Beddoe told how he had sat there for the whole incident.

When he gave his evidence on the second day Smart said that Rattan had a 'bulldog attitude' and sensing danger, he took the knife out of his suitcase. Rattan then ran into the knife and his wife screamed and believing she was about to hit him with a bottle he held the knife out to stop her. He claimed his mind went blind and he was in a tremor, that all he was trying to do was ward off the blow. When asked why he took the knife from Liverpool to Preston, he said it was because he feared what Rattan may do to him. In cross examination from the prosecution he denied that he had gone to Preston with murder in mind and also that his wife had left him as she was scared of his temper.

On the third day Dr Brisby, the senior medical officer at Walton gaol, gave his opinion that Smart was not undergoing a 'hysterical blackout' as the defence claimed. At the end of the trial the prosecution said that all the evidence pointed to Smart being guilty of murder and that he had confessed to the emergency services that he had done it, something he would not have done if his mind was blank. For the defence, Mr Crichton suggested that Smart would not have intended to kill anybody with a witness present and then made no attempt to cover up the crime. He told the jury that the proper verdict in this case should be manslaughter rather than murder.

In summing up Mr Justice Streatfield said this was a love triangle and somebody had been wronged, but that should not interfere with their judgement as to whether Smart was guilty of murder. After the jury found him guilty of murder, he was sentenced to death. However this was later commuted to life imprisonment.

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