Friday, 2 September 2016

Horror by the Custom House.

A man who stabbed a sailor in the shadow of Liverpool's Custom House was transported for life after being found guilty of manslaughter.

At around one o' clock in the morning on Tuesday 24th November 1846 a 22 year old sailor named Charles Winslow was stood at the corner of South Castle Street and Paradise Street with two friends. Out of the blue he was stabbed by a man who had ran at him from the direction of the docks and fell to the ground.

As he lay on the floor and cried out for a doctor, a night watchman from the Custom House summonsed police who managed to detain the offender, who was later identified as James Hunter. Winslow was taken to the Northern Hospital where he was found to be in a critical condition. His bowels were protruding from the abdomen and the wound was one and a half inches deep. 

Hunter was removed to the Bridewell and appeared before a magistrate when daybreak came. After hearing the evidence of the night watchman he was remanded in custody. As Winslow's condition deteriorated a magistrate's clerk took a deposition from him that afternoon. He told how he had just returned to Liverpool aboard the Champion which had sailed from Newfoundland. Hunter, Winslow said, had made an insulting remark to one of his companions. He recounted how he did not think much of it and continued walking only for for Hunter, who appeared intoxicated, to follow and plunge the knife into him.

Despite surgical procedures being carried out complications set in and Winslow died on the Wednesday afternoon. The inquest took place on 1st December and Winslow's two companions admitted they had not seen the stabbing and were only aware when he called out to them. The night watchman said he had seen a blow struck but did not see any knife, however a police officer said a bloodied knife was seized from Hunter's person. A doctor from the Northern Hospital was of the opinion that death was a direct result of the wound, which was of the size that it could have been caused by the knife seized from Hunter.  A verdict of wilful murder was returned and 37 year old Hunter was committed to the Assizes on a coroner's warrant.

On 10th December Hunter appeared before Mr Justice Wightman, with his defence counsel Mr James arguing that as the stabbing was the result of a brief argument then manslaughter was more appropriate. The jury agreed and returned such a verdict, but the judge was in no mood for leniency and sentenced Hunter to be transported for life. 

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