Monday, 5 October 2015

Who Administered the Fatal Kick

When a woman was kicked to death in Everton in 1901, the person charged with her killing was acquitted as the prosecution were unable to prove who had administered the fatal kick.

On the afternoon of 14th May 1901 Mary McConville, a 29 year old unmarried woman, drank several gills of beer at her home in  Haigh Street with her brother Arthur and friend Annie Denham. At around 7.30pm Henry Ratcliffe, a sailor that lived with Mary when he was not at sea came around with some friends but didn't join the others in drinking.

What happened next nobody can be sure, but police had to be called due to Mary ending up lying on the floor in a pool of blood. A doctor from the dispensary was also called and he pronounced that Mary was dead when he arrived at 9.30pm. Arthur told officers that Ratcliffe was responsible and he was taken into custody, denying all knowledge of the crime. 

At the inquest the following day Arthur told the Coroner that Ratcliffe had hit his sister three or four times in the face. He then said that when Mary fell to the floor Ratcliffe began kicking at her abdomen and when he tried to intervene, Ratcliffe said to him 'You are not going to boss this house.' Arthur claimed that Ratcliffe wanted to fight him in the street but he refused and he instead went to William Henry Street to find a policeman.

Mary's friend Annie Denham also gave evidence at the inquest, but all she could recall was that Ratcliffe had knocked Mary down. However a neighbour called Margaret Worrall said that when Annie had come out of the house she had said that it was Arthur who had carried out the assault. The others present said that they had seen Ratcliffe push Mary to the floor but that he had not kicked her.

The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and 28 year old Ratcliffe was committed for trial at the Liverpool assizes, where he appeared before Mr Justice Ridley on 2nd August. The doctor who carried out the post mortem confirmed that a kick had caused the death but in directing the jury, the judge said there was no corroborating  evidence of who had carried it out. The jury found Ratcliffe not guilty and he was discharged from the dock.

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