Sunday, 21 February 2016

Death of an Unknown Hawker

The identity of a man who was robbed and later found dead in a ditch with head injuries was never discovered, while a man charged in relation to his death was acquitted.

On the evening of 24th September 1864 a man carrying a bundle under his arm entered the Eagle & Child public house on the turnpike road in Huyton. A number of carters were presented and he offered combs for sale, three of which were bought. He stayed for three glasses of ale then left and took the road in the direction of Liverpool.

Nobody can be sure what happened as the man walked along the road, but at 630pm he called at the home of Catherine Ashton and asked if she had seen any boys wearing white smocks, as he had been robbed of twelve shillings. A passing girl named Jane Bulfield said she knew they were two brothers, but refused to give him their names even when offered half a guinea, a handsome sum back then.

Half an hour the man was seen being chased by a man named Thomas Roughsedge  near the Farmers Arms. When Roughsedge caught him he struck him and the man fell down, staying on the ground as his attacker made off. At 8pm police arrived and found that the man was dead, but Roughsedge, a farm labourer, was not apprehended until the Monday night at Horn Smithies off Stockbridge Lane.

At the inquest at the Knotty Ash hotel a lady named Ellen Woods said she saw Roughsedge quarreling with a man who had a bundle under his arm and both then separately made off towards Liverpool. She didn't see any blows traded, but did see the unknown man make offensive gestures. Ralph Elsby, who had seen Roughsedge strike the man near the Farmers Arms, deposed as to what he had seen. 

In summing up the coroner Mr Driffield said provocation hadn't been proven but neither could it be certain that Roughsedge intended to cause serious harm. As such, he suggested that the jury should instead consider a manslaughter verdict, which they did. Roughsedge was formally charged and appeared at the magistrates for committal, where he was granted bail.

The following March Roughsedge, described by the Liverpool Mail as 'a respectable looking aged man' appeared at the Liverpool assizes. He acknowledged that he 'slapped' the deceased, whose identity still hadn't been established, but that it was down to insulting remarks being made. 

Dr Glazebrook of West Derby, who had carried out the post mortem, described the dead man's brain as in a diseased state though intemperance and said that excitement other than the blow may have caused death. Given this evidence, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty and Roughsedge was freed.

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