Monday, 29 February 2016

Road Killer Denies Drink to Blame

A man who was charged with manslaughter after knocking down a pedestrian denied that the crash had anything to do with drink.

At around 10.15pm on 5th June 1944 Agnes Brown was returning to her Oakhill Park home after visiting her daughter. At the junction of Queens Drive and Edge Lane Drive the sixty one year old was struck by a car being driven by Edward Formby, who was driving to his home at 46 Childwall Priory Road. Agnes was thrown in the air and landed on the tramlines, from where she was picked up and taken to hospital with serious injuries.

A man named Timothy Sullivan had seen Formby's car zig-zagging in the road and confronted him, only to be told that he had swerved to avoid a dog. Other witnesses gathered around only to be told by Formby, a thirty four year old butcher, that he was only doing twenty miles per hour. 

When Formby was arrested he was so unsteady on his feet that he had to be assisted to the police station. When examined by a force doctor at midnight, he was showing signs of having been drinking but not necessarily drunk. Agnes died from shock at around 3am but initially Formby was charged with driving a motor car whilst under the influence of drink and granted bail. 

A committal hearing took place at the Magistrates' Court on 17th July, by which time the charge had increased to manslaughter. A police officer said he had seen Formby being held up by two men earlier in the evening, but didn't realise he had a car. The officer who arrested him described him as unsteady on his feet, but the defence solicitor put this down to the shock of the accident.

On 30th October Formby appeared at the assizes, where he was defended by Mr Edward Hemmerde, the prosecutor in the infamous Wallace case thirteen years earlier. The police doctor stated that although not drunk at midnight, Formby would certainly have been incapable of driving at the time of the accident. In giving his own evidence, Formby claimed that he had only drank two and a half pints of beer and that he was swerving as he was trying to fix a mat and then saw dog. Nobody else was able to say they had seen a dog, even though the incident happened in clear daylight.

Formby's friends denied helping him to his car on the night of the crash and he was given an exemplary character reference by a colonel for the Home Guard, with whom he served as a caterer for three years. After the jury returned a verdict of guilty Mr Justice Stable sentenced him to nine months imprisonment.

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