Sunday, 13 March 2016

Lodgings Refusal Leads to Killing

A sailor who refused to allow a man to carry his chest to some lodgings was the subject of a revenge attack which led to him being kicked to death.

On 2nd May 1871 the Eglantine berthed in Queens Dock having sailed from America. One of the crew, William Robinson headed for his usual lodgings in Jordan Street and declined the services of three men who asked to carry his chest to another lodging house which they recommended. 

Two nights later Robinson was by an omnibus stop in Chaloner Street with a ships steward named James Hall when the three men who wanted to carry his chest recognised him. Some words were exchanged and Robinson was manhandled, leading to Hall drawing a knife which made the others back off from him and he escaped.

Robinson was now on his own and one of the men, twenty five year old John Connolly, threw a punch at Robinson who fell down, then kicked him in the neck. One of Connolly's companions threw a boulder at Robinson as he tried to get up, leading to him falling back and hitting his head on the pavement. The sailor was then kicked in the head three of four times by Connolly and the assailants escaped, a crowd of around twenty bystanders doing nothing to try and stop them.

The police were called but Robinson was already dead on arrival at the Southern Hospital. A post mortem revealed the internal organs to be healthy and concluded that death was as a result of external violence, which had caused several injuries. Connolly was well known locally and had the nickname 'Slate Off.' He was apprehended that night in Henderson Street in Toxteth. Descriptions of the other two men were circulated but Connolly refused to say who they were and they were never traced. 

In another twist it turned out that William Robinson was not who he had said he was. He was actually Michael Grier from Whitby, who had sailed under a different name as he had absconded from an apprenticeship. On arrival in Liverpool he had written to his brother John saying he was safe and well, but on hearing that a sailor called Robinson had been killed John feared the worst. He came to Liverpool on 6th May and identified the body of the sailor as that of his brother.

An inquest on 9th May heard from many of the bystanders, all of whom said that the deceased did nothing himself to provoke his attackers. One witness said that one of Connolly's associates had said 'go on finish him off' as he kicked the man lying on the ground. After a verdict of wilful murder was returned the coroner Clarke Aspinall committed Connolly for trial at the Liverpool summer assizes.

At his trial on 10th August Connolly denied kicking Robinson in the head and claimed that the injuries came as a result of a fall, but failed the convince the jury. Summing up, his defence counsel mitigated that Connolly believed Robinson/Green had a knife too and this was enough to have a verdict of manslaughter returned.

Sentencing Connolly to ten years penal servitude, Baron Martin told him that there was not much to be said about people fighting with fists, but if a man was down and then beaten and kicked it was not to be tolerated.

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