Sunday, 10 July 2016

Tenant's Confession Not Borne Out

When a man was found dead at his Dovecot home in 1955 his lodger confessed to having poisoned him. However after being held on remand charged with murder he was acquitted when the medical evidence pointed to death being by natural causes.

At 10.25pm on Monday 14th March 1955 a 999 call was made to the police by 33 year old George Jardine, who told the operator 'Take me in, I have killed my landlord'. The call was traced to a phone box at the corner of Pilch Lane and Adcote Road and police car was dispatched. Jardine approached the car and was taken to the CID office in Old Swan.

Jardine was interviewed by detectives and told them that the previous night he had crushed 25 tablets and added them to water and peppermint cordial then gave the solution to his landlord, who was found dead that morning. He went on to say 'I know you will find the stuff inside him when he is opened up. I thought if I saw him off the house would be mine but it has been worrying me ever since and I had to tell you tonight.'

The landlord in question was 59 year old widower Patrick Reid, who had been found dead in bed by Jardine's wife at his home in 29 Shortwood Road, Dovecot, that morning. Reid was a council tenant at the property, subletting to Jardine and, his wife and son. When Reid was found dead in bed that morning his doctor was called, but as he had not seen him since the previous November he refused to issue a death certificate and informed the Coroner.

Reid's body was taken to a mortuary where a postmortem was carried out and organs sent to a forensic laboratory in Preston for analysis. In light of Jardine's apparent confession, he was charged with administering poison with intent to murder and appeared before the Deputy Stipendiary Magistrate the following morning. Bail was refused and he was remanded in custody for two weeks, while the Coroner Mr Blackwood opened and adjourned the inquest.

Two weeks later Jardine was back at the magistrates' court, where his solicitor pleaded for bail as no money had gone into his household for two weeks to him not working as a civilian army clerk. This was refused, the Stipendiary Magistrate Mr McFarland commenting that the charge was too serious for this to be granted.

On 7th April all charges against Jardine were sensationally dropped. The postmortem report had stated that the cause of Reid's death was coronary arterial disease and conjunctive heart failure, while tests on organs had found no traces of any tablets. The Examining Magistrate, Alderman Gordon said the only evidence for attempt to murder was Jardine's statement to police, which was not borne out by the evidence. He then concluded 'On the evidence of the prosecution no jury cold find the accused guilty and I have to dismiss the charge.'

An inquest was then held at which Reid's daughter gave evidence. She said that Jardine had taken a job as a part time barman at her husband's pub in Edge Hill before Christmas and she suggested to her father that he took Jardine and his family in as lodgers. She believed that Jardine had treated her father very well and was a very good worker at the pub. She did say though that he had left work earlier than usual on 13th March and on informing her of her father's death, Jardine suggested that he be cremated.

Mrs Jardine described how she had found the body at ten past eight in the morning, having been concerned that Reid, usually an early riser was not up. The doctor who pronounced him dead believed that he had been so for about two hours. Jardine himself was then called, and was asked about the statement he made to police concerning the sleeping tablets. He replied that the statement was not correct and he could not explain why he did it. Under the instruction of the coroner, the jury then returned an open verdict, saying they were satisfied that it was not murder.  

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