Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Suicide Pact in a Hotel

When two lovers made a suicide pact at a Liverpool hotel, one survived leading to him being sentenced to death.

On Sunday 11th September 1904 a maid at the Waverley Hotel in Lord Nelson Street grew concerned about not being able to enter a room despite making several attempts during the day. At around 7pm the proprietor decided to force entry into the room, which had been booked in the name of Mr and Mrs Muir. On going in they found the female dead and the male alive but unconscious.

When the police arrived the male, 29 year old Allan Muir from Bootle came to but was in a delirious state. He was taken to the Royal Infirmary and then the Workhouse Hospital, where opium poisoning was diagnosed. A search of the hotel room found letters that appeared to indicate a suicide pact between the couple, who were not man and wife but instead two lovers. The female was Isabella Mackenzie, a mother of two from Glasgow who was separated from her husband.

On discharge from hospital Muir was arrested and charged with murder, as the law of the time decreed that if two people attempted suicide and one survived, the other was to be charged with murder. Muir replied to the detective on being told of this charge;  'I did not kill her, we both agreed to die together. She went out and bought the stuff and we both took equal amounts.'

Investigations into the couple's background established that they had met and began a relationship when they were crew members on board the Pretorian, which sailed between Glasgow and Canada. Three days before they were found in the room, they had gone to Muir's home in Bootle where there was a disturbance that led to the police attending. Their last day together had been spent having breakfast in the hotel before buying drugs from chemists in the Lime Street area.

At St George's Hall on 5th December a letter was read out from Muir to his wife, which said 'You have ruined my life with your tongue, you have driven me to this, may god forgive me. I sincerely hope the dear little children will not take after you.' Muir's defence suggested that his lover was a regular taker of opium and that it would have killed her one day, whether or not he was in the vicinity.

The judge's summing up was not favourable to Muir, as he pointed out that Mackenzie had wrote a letter to her husband begging forgiveness, indicating that she was planning to die. The jury returned a guilty verdict but with a recommendation for mercy. The judge passed the death sentence was was the norm but a week later the Home Secretary commuted this to penal servitude for life.

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