Thursday, 10 September 2015

Manslaughter of a Man Unknown

A man was convicted of manslaughter in the 1880s but the identity of his victim, who had insulted the killer's wife, was never established. 

About 10pm on New Year's Eve 1887 a man went into a shop at 126 Westminster road, Kirkdale that was run by John Keeley and his wife. He was drunk and abusive to Mrs Keeley, who had him removed by a policeman who was passing by.

Westminster Road in 2016The man returned three times and on the third occasion John Keeley pushed him out of the shop and followed him into St Hilda Street. Keeley demanded an apology from the man for his earlier actions but he refused and the shopkeeper punched him twice, causing him to fall to the ground.

Keeley remained at the scene whilst an ambulance was sent for and assisted in getting him into it and to the Stanley Hospital.  Three days later the man died of a fractured skull and Keely, who had already been charged with assault, was now committed to the assizes on a charge of manslaughter but granted bail. Despite over one hundred people viewing the body, the police drew a blank in their enquiries to establish the dead man's identity. 

At the trial on 1st March the prosecution admitted that there was a scar and bruising on the unknown man's face before he had gone into the shop. The defence argued that Keeley had been subject to great provocation and the jury agreed, finding him guilty but recommending mercy.

Justice Grantham said that although there was no doubt that Keeley had been provoked, he was not justified in following the man and striking him. However he then imposed a nominal sentence of just eight days, equivalent to the time Keeley had served in custody since surrendering himself to the assizes and he was immediately released.

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