Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Blundellsands Tragedy

A Crosby woman who killed two of her children and then attempted suicide herself was detained at His Majesty's Pleasure

Shortly before 9am on the morning of Sunday 31st May 1903 Joseph Cannell, a journeyman plasterer living at Brighton Vale in Blundellsands, went out for a walk with his three elder children leaving his wife Eleanor in charge of the youngest two. Joseph did not speak to Eleanor before going out which wasn't unusual, but there was nothing normal about the scene which greeted him when they returned at 2pm. 

Eleanor was in an excited state and told her husband that she had drowned their two youngest children. When Joseph saw that they weren't in their cots, he ran into the kitchen where he found eighteen month old Alfred and six month old Eleanor lying face down in a tub that was usually used to wash clothes. They were both dead and when Joseph went back to his wife's bedroom, she was trying to strangle herself with a rope that she had tied to a bedpost.

Joseph managed to cut the rope from his wife's neck but she ran off with the knife threatening to cut her throat. When Joseph managed to get the knife from her, Eleanor pleaded to be allowed to go to the beach to drown herself then tried to drink boiling water, causing her to vomit profusely. 

A doctor arrived and managed to sedate 38 year old Eleanor who was then taken to hospital. A letter was found in her clothing which read addressed to her father which read 'I cannot live in such trouble, forgive me and don't blame me too much.'

At the inquest on 12th June Joseph told the Coroner Mr Samuel Brighouse how his wife had been acting oddly in recent weeks and he had turned down work on occasions to stay at home and look after her. The day before the killing, he had been in a pub when she threw a glass of beer over him. Eleanor stated that she did what she did as she was upset and a neighbour said she had been erratic recently when the weather was hot. During the proceedings she often wept and cried out for her daughter Jane, who was in the horrible situation of giving evidence against her mother.

A verdict of wilful murder was returned by the coroner's jury and Eleanor then appeared at the County sessions House in William Brown Street, where she was committed to the assizes for trial. On 8th September Dr Price from Walton gaol said that she was unfit to plead and was suffering from melancholia at the time of the tragedy. This was not challenged by the Crown, leading to Justice Bigham ordering that she be detained at His Majesty's Pleasure.

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