Sunday, 27 November 2016

Mother and Daughter Killed by Falling Cask

A mother and daughter were killed instantly when a cask fell from a warehouse window, leading to the owner being convicted of manslaughter.

On Friday 10th August 1832 forty six year old Margaret Kearsley, the wife of a coal merchant who resided in Beau Street, went into Liverpool with her fifteen year old daughter, also named Margaret. On their way home, they turned from Dale Street into Byrom Street only for the terrible tragedy to strike. As they passed the warehouse of Rigmaiden's wine merchants, a cask fell from a height of four storeys straight onto the head of the daughter, removing the scalp of the mother as it did so.

Both women were crushed into the earth. Miss Kearsley convulsed briefly with blood coming from her mouth then she immediately expired. Mrs Kearsley showed some signs of life and she was rushed to a surgery in Dale Street, but she was beyond recovery.

Mrs Kearsley was described by the Liverpool Mercury as a healthy elegant woman. The paper commented that 'we never remember any accident that produced a deeper feeling of sorrow and consideration in the public mind.' Calling for a change in the law so that warehouse owners would be compelled to employ someone on the ground warning passers by to cross the road, it lamented the 'culpable carelessness' of Mr Rigmaiden.

The day after the deaths an inquest was opened and then adjourned until the Monday. A baker named Mr Worthington said that he had seen Rigmaiden struggling to get the cask into the door and that he was trying to turn it another way. It was held, he said, by just a single rope. A labourer named John Mahoney told how he heard someone comment how dangerous it was to hoist the cask using just the rope and no hooks. When he was taken into custody, Rigmaiden said that the cask had got caught on a sack of flour and as he tried to adjust its position, it slipped through the rope and fell. 

The inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter and the following day Rigmaiden, described as now being in a state of deepest depression, travelled to Lancaster Castle to be tried at the ongoing assizes. His case was heard on 16th August and in his defence he said that he hoisted the cask in a manner that he always had done. He also said how he wished he had been the victim of the accident due to the anxiety and suffering he had endured. The Mercury reported that Rigmaiden was in a state of great agitation during his trial. 

Statements of good character were made by several local gentlemen, including the Treasurer of the Parish of Liverpool. After a short consultation the jury found Rigmaiden guilty but recommended mercy, leading to the judge imposing a sentence of one months imprisonment.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Killed By An Umbrella

An extraordinary death occurred in 1887 when a woman died after her niece apparently hit her on the head with an umbrella. However when the case went to court, no witnesses gave evidence against the accused and she was allowed to walk free.

On 26th September that year Catherine Chapman and her sister Elizabeth Guilford visited their aunt Ann Doyle in Hopwood Street only to get into a row with Ann's husband Thomas outside the house. During this quarrel Chapman struck Thomas with the handle of her umbrella. Ann came out having heard the screams and was herself hit with such force that she bled heavily.

Ann was taken to the Stanley Hospital where she died two days later having never regained consciousness. On being arrested a her sister's house in Birkenhead Chapman admitted hitting her forty nine year old aunt but only in self defence after being struck first.

An inquest took place before the coroner Clarke Aspinall on 1st October. Jane Hill, who lived in the same house and took Ann to hospital, said she saw Chapman hit her and that Ann had not struck any blows herself.  A fourteen year old named Rose Rooney also told the coroner she had seen Chapman hit Ann with the umbrella and that there had been no provocation.

Chapman's sister Elizabeth said that Thomas was hitting her with great force and that the scuffle was so large she had no idea who hit who and certainly could not say how Ann received any blow to the head. She said that Ann had come out of the house shouting aggressively and returned despite having been told to go back in by her husband. Thomas said that he had been hit by Chapman and didn't understand why, but he could not say that he saw her strike his wife.

Dr Shannon from the Stanley Hospital said he carried out a postmortem and that all organs were healthy. He concluded that death was the result of perforation of the brain after a compound fracture of the skull. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and Chapman was committed for trial on a coroner's warrant.

At the assizes on 14th November Chapman backtracked on what she told the police on her arrest and now denied having hit Ann at all. With those witnesses from the inquest having chosen not to attend, possibly due to intimidation from others, there was nobody to say she had struck Ann, meaning she was found not guilty and discharged.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Runaway Boy Beaten to Death

A boy who tried to run away from home was beaten so severely by his father that he died from his injuries.

On 5th October 1887 Ann Murphy, who lived in Paget Street (off Boundary Street, where Beers Timber supplies is now), heard the son of a family who lodged with her screaming 'Father don't beat me I won't stop out anymore.' 

Ann, a shoemakers wife, went next door to fetch the boy's mother. When they both returned his father Thomas Lazarus had gone out but tied the door so that his son, seven year old Edward, could not leave the room. His mother opened the door and took him to  the Northern Hospital due to his distressed state. When he was undressed, his body was covered in bruises and he also had an open wound on his shin.

Edward remained in hospital and grew weaker in the coming days. On 15th October Thomas was apprehended by police at Nelson Dock where he worked as a labourer. He was taken to the hospital to witness his son make a deposition, in which Edward stated that he had been beaten with a strap. When Thomas was taken to the bridewell and charged with assault he replied 'I have nothing to say.'


On 23rd October Edward died with his mother by his side. A postmortem determined that he had died as a result of blood poisoning, caused by an abscess from a bruise on the thigh. 

An inquest took place two days later before the Coroner, Clarke Aspinall. Ann Murphy said that she was aware Edward had been brought home by the police earlier on the day in question, the fifth time in three weeks that this had happened. Dr Fisher, one of two doctors who carried out the postmortem, gave his opinion that considerable violence had been used and described four thick parallel strokes on Edward's back that were similar to what would be expected from a strap. The jury returned a verdict of  manslaughter and Thomas was committed to trial at the assizes on a coroner's warrant. 

Thomas appeared before Mr Justice Day on 14th November. He was found guilty of manslaughter but recommended to mercy by the jury. In sentencing Justice Day renowned for his tough sentences, said he could see no grounds for the jury's recommendation. He then sentenced Thomas to eighteen months imprisonment. 

Whilst Thomas was in jail his wife gave birth to another child, Jeremiah, and on his release he took up employment as a marine fireman.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Brother Killed Over Card Game

A man who killed his brother in row during a game of cards kept his head in his hands as he was found guilty of manslaughter.

On the evening of 18th June 1887 two brothers named Martin and John Goulding, who lodged in Sterne Street (off Boaler Street), played a card game with another man named Alfred Roberts. The brothers were both drunk and began to quarrel about an hour after they started playing when Martin called John a cheat.

When John denied this, Martin got up and punched his brother. This led to John picking up a kitchen knife from the table and the landlady grabbing his neck to stop him using it. John promised he had only done what he had to frighten Martin and the three men began playing cards again, with the landlady feeling confident enough to go out and leave them to it.

Shortly afterwards they began arguing again and after John left the house, Martin leaned against the wall saying to Alfred he had been stabbed. The landlord, Mr Flanagan, then came in and on seeing the blood sent for an ambulance which took Martin to the Royal Infirmary. An anxious John stopped a labourer called George Lee in Kew Street and gave him a bottle of beer in return for going to Sterne Street and checking on Martin's welfare. He returned however with the news that he had now been taken to hospital.

Thirty two year old Martin died shortly after arrival at hospital, his lung having been punctured. This led to John being arrested in the early hours at the Mechanics Home in St Anne Street. The knife was recovered from next to the railings of the Presbyterian church in Everton Brow.

At the inquest Mrs Flanagan told of seeing the knife but that they were playing cards when she left. Alfred said he had not seen John in possession of a knife or the stabbing take place, just the aftermath. A surgeon from the infirmary confirmed the cause of death and a verdict of wilful murder was returned. leading to John being committed to the assizes for trial.

John, who was just nineteen years old and worked as a hawker, appeared before Mr Justice Day on 4th August 1887. He was allowed to sit down for the duration of the trial and he kept his head in his hands all the time. 

Prosecutor Mr McConnell outlined the facts of the case and said it was solely for the jury to decide whether John was guilty of manslaughter or murder. Landlady Mr Flanagan spoke highly of John, saying he had never been any trouble and that he would pay for his brother's keep when he was out of work. She described Martin, on the other hand, as a good fighter. Alfred Roberts said that prior to falling down, Martin, who was much bigger and stronger, had been about to punch John. Under cross examination he said that both men were drunk.

After hearing the evidence of the first two witnesses the defence counsel Mr Segar intervened and stated that  John was willing to plead guilty to manslaughter. The judge refused to interfere and said he would only accept this plea if the prosecution agreed. Mr McConnell responded by saying that he would prefer to the jury to decide on what the verdict should be. Evidence was then heard as to Martin being taken to hospital and the arrest of John.

In addressing the jury, Mr Segar said that as the prosecution had refused to accept a manslaughter plea, then they should acquit John altogether on the grounds that he was too drunk to know what he was doing.  However in summing up, Justice Day said drunkenness could not be a reason to absolve someone of responsibility. The jury consulted for a short time and found John guilty of manslaughter. 

The judge deferred sentence for a week and when John was brought back up he was told that although he was of good character, a light sentence was impossible. Telling him that the jury had shown mercy, Justice Day sentenced John to seven years penal servitude.





Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Walton Children's Death at Hands of Mother

There was a terrible tragedy in Walton in 1887 when a mother killed three of her young children during a bout of insanity.

On 7th June 1887 Edward Anthony left his home at 62 Wyatt Street, off Fountains Road in Walton, to go to work as a petty officer on board the Cunard steamer Samaria. He left behind his wife Mary, their three young children, as well as his seventeen year old son Edward from a former marriage. 

In the early afternoon Margaret, Mary's thirteen year old daughter from an earlier marriage who worked as a nursemaid, returned home. Edward was having his dinner in the kitchen and heard his step sister shout  'Oh mother what have you done.' On going to see what was wrong Edward saw that two of the children, seven month old Mary Ellen and two year old Annie were dead. Their throats had been cut, and laid out as if for burial while three year old Alfred was in his mother's arms and barely alive. Mary was covered in blood and replied with a vacant tone 'You can see what I have done, I will do the same to myself, your father will come back drowned.' It was believed this referred to Mary being worried about her husband having an injured eye and not wanting him to work that day.

Neighbours were called for help and Alfred was rushed to Stanley hospital. A police constable took Mary into custody and she said to him 'I did it, and if they left me a little longer I would have done it to myself as well.' She was taken to the Westminster Road bridewell and said that she had given the children laudanum to quieten them down before slitting their throats. 

The following day the death toll rose to three when Alfred died from his injuries. Mary was charged with murder and appeared before the stipendiary magistrate Mr Raffles. The Liverpool Mercury reported that Mary was forty one years old, was short in stature and of weakly appearance. Edward was her third husband and she had a total of eleven children. Neighbours described her as an affectionate mother, who lived on the best terms with her husband in a house of cleanliness and comfort.

An inquest on 9th June before coroner Clarke Aspinall returned a verdict of wilful murder after he told the jury it was the only one that could be returned. Mary was then committed for trial at the nest assizes. 

The funeral of the three victims took place on 12th June. The courtege, containing a hearse and three coaches, left at 8am and a crowd of 10,000 was estimated to have gathered in Walton Road. After a service at the chapel in Kirkdale cemetery, there were heartbreaking scenes as the three coffins were lowered into the ground. The tiniest, containing the body of baby Mary Ellen was borne by half sisters Margaret and eleven year old Jamesina.  

On 4th August Mary appeared before Mr Justice Day, where she was allowed to sit in the dock and provided tea by a wardress. Mary's stepson Edward confirmed that she had always been a good mother to him and the other children, and that she had been complaining of a sore head around the time. Daughter Margaret said her mother looked out of her mind with her hair hanging on her face and blood on her hands. 

Dr Rogers from the Rainhill Asylum said that he was of no doubt that Mary was of unsound mind at the time of the killings. It was disclosed that Mary had endured a rambling state of mind two years earlier and was taken to a doctor by her husband. The prosecution also had established that there was a history of insanity in Mary's family, her aunt having been in an asylum and although now released, continuing to act in a 'peculiar manner.'

In addressing the jury for Mary her solicitor Mr Shee said that she had been a good mother and the evidence pointed towards insanity. They only needed to consult for a short time before returning a verdict that Mary was guilty of murder but insane at the time. Justice Day ordered that she be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure and as she was taken from the dock, Mary wept bitterly.




Half Wits Death Sentence Reprive

In 1887 a man described as a half wit in the press was found guilty of murder but reprieved from the death penalty. 

John Anderson was twenty two years old and lived in a court in Roscoe Street with his widowed mother. He was from a very poor family, having been in and out of the workhouse and unemployed for some time. His widowed sister and two young children lived in a neighbouring property, and he often went without food for two days at a time to ensure they were fed. 

For reasons that were never fully established, Anderson got into a long running dispute with  George Mason. He was a twenty seven year old carter living in Gray Street, off Windsor Street, with his mother and father. The incident that led to Mason's death, described by the Liverpool Mercury as a 'diabolical outrage', took place on the afternoon of Saturday 23rd July 1887. Mason was stood at the corner of Jamaica Street and St James Street when he saw Anderson walking towards him from Park Lane. On seeing Mason, Anderson ran at him with a knife, stabbing him in the abdomen. 

Mason ran away but Anderson continued to chase him until he sought refuge in a public house. A large crowd surrounded the attacker and he was detained by a police constable who used a baton to knock the knife out of his hand.

Anderson was taken to the Argyle Street bridewell and Mason was helped into a cart to be conveyed to the Southern Hospital. On being questioned Anderson said he had been 'ill used' by Mason two days earlier but he did not have enough money to take out a summons. The knife, he said, was on his person for his own protection.

Dr Wigmore at the Southern Hospital was concerned for Mason's condition and called for depositions to be taken with immediate effect. This was made in front of a magistrate, police sergeant and Anderson. Mason stated that they had fought on the Thursday night but that the attack on the Saturday was unprovoked. When challenged by Anderson about shaking his first, Mason said all he was doing was pointing at him.  

On the Sunday morning Mason died and on being charged with murder, Anderson replied 'I done it in self defence.' Press investigations found that Anderson regularly attended congregational church services, and a minister told the press that he was considered to be 'weak minded and neither physically nor mentally a fit and proper person for the duties of this life.' 

At his trial on 4th August, previous employers of Anderson said that he was weak in the mind, but the surgeon from Walton gaol was of the opinion that he was not insane. Witnesses who had seen the attack stated that there had been no provocation from Mason and the fact Anderson had taken the knife out with him was a major factor. The jury found him guilty of murder but recommended mercy. In sentencing him to death, Justice Day said that no jury could have reached any other conclusion.

Anderson's execution was fixed for 22nd August and he wrote to his mother from the condemned cell at Kirkdale gaol, saying she had been good to him and not to feel any sorrow. However, in light of Anderson's low intellect, with five days to spare the Home Secretary commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. This move was welcomed by the Liverpool Mercury newspaper, which described him as a 'poor half witted creature' who should be in a state asylum rather than gaol. He was however placed at the mainstream Chatham prison in Kent.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Murder at Knowsley by a Madman

A former soldier who killed a maid at the Knowsley Hall estate was detained in a lunatic asylum for life.

On the night of Sunday 13th June 1847 a man attended a lodge at the Knowsley Hall estate and knocked an old servant called Mrs Highcock to the ground. A sixteen year old female named Ann Leyland, who lived with her, ran off fearing for her safety but was caught up by the man.

The man, described by grooms who witnessed the attack as 'having a demoniac grin, tore away at Ann's hair with such force that he pulled the scalp from her head. Police were sent for and an unconscious Ann was taken into the hall by the Earl of Derby and a surgeon, Mr Alty, was sent for. On the front lawn her attacker danced about holding the scalp above his head.

Ann was attended to throughout the night but she never came round and died at 8am the following morning. Police were able to restrain the man, who identified himself as James Dwerryhouse, a former soldier with the 67th Regiment of Foot. He had been discharged from the army about ten years earlier and since earned a living as a signalman with the London and North Western Railway Company. 

A police constable sat up with Dwerryhouse all night in a room at the hall. He spent most of it talking about religion and wanting to argue about passages in the bible. When morning broke he said now Ann was a demon and he had to get rid of her. Then when a groom looked into the room to confirm it was Dwerryhouse who attacked Ann, he was told to 'be gone' as he was another of the enemy.

The inquest took place that afternoon at Knowsley Hall before the county coroner John Heyes, where two stable workers confirmed that they had seen Dwerryhouse pull the scalp from Ann. Dwerryhouse's mother said that he was thirty four years old and she had last seen him at 8pm on the night before the murder. He had refused to take some tea and then disappeared, leading to her and his brother reporting this to the police as they feared for his safety. 

The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and Dweryhouse was conveyed to Kirkdale gaol to await trial at the assizes. The Liverpool Mercury reported a few days later that there was no doubt as to his state f mind and predicted that he would be confined in a lunatic asylum for life.

Concerns were raised about Dwerryhouse having worked on the railways, but his employers were quick to confirm that he had always been of good temperament until an incident at 3pm the day before the murder. Mr Huish from the company wrote a letter to the Mercury which stated 'he has always been temperate, steady and attentive' and that he was always under the surveillance of superiors. However after he was perceived to be of strange appearance by an assistant engineer on that afternoon he was immediately relieved from his duties.  Mr Huish concluded that Dwerryhouse has endured 'the most sudden attack of insanity.'

Dwerrhouse's trial was due to take place in August of that year, but postponed until the next assizes as he was not in a fit state of mind and he remained in custody at Lancaster asylum. At the following assizes in December an affidavit was read out signed by a surgeon, which stated that he was in a state of insanity and that it was likely he could never take trial. This frustrated the judge, Baron Alderson, who was not happy that the Home Secretary could authorise the detention in an asylum without the prisoner having to appear before a jury. He then reluctantly agreed to allow the prosecution to be paid for their costs and commented that 'we are too gingerly in acting about insane people.'

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Police Officer Cleared Over Mans Death

A police officer charged with murder after a man he arrested for being drunk died was later cleared of any wrongdoing in connection to the death.

In the early hours of 25th January 1864 John Houlsham was found lying on the pavement in Great Crosshall Street and taken to the Bridewell by four policemen, where he was booked in for being drunk and for his own safety. The following morning he was discharged by the magistrate and said nothing of any ill treatment by police officers.

Two days later Houlsham admitted himself to the Toxteth Park workhouse, saying that the bruising on his arms and bloodshot eye had been a result of ill treatment by the police. He also claimed that two sovereigns had been taken from his pocket at the time of his arrest. Houlsham died the following Monday, leading to an inquest taking place at the Woodcroft Inn on 4th February before the coroner Mr Driffield.

Dr Wall, visiting surgeon at the workhouse, told of the postmortem that he carried out on Houlsham's body. In addition to the bruising he also found effusion on the brain, as a result of a blow to the head. He could not say however whether the head injury was as a result of a blow or a fall, but did conclude the arms were bruised as a result of violence. 

Houlsham's brother James said that when he saw John at the workhouse, he was asked to find out which policeman had assaulted him. Mary Newport, a soapboilers wife in Great Crosshall Street, told the coroner that the police officer concerned, who she knew as 'Little John', had kneed Houlsham in the back, hit him on the arm with a weapon and then pulled him up by the neckerchief. She then claimed that there was blood where Houlsham had been lying, which was backed up by a woman named Sarah Canning.

Newport and Canning's evidence was contradicted by Bernard Sands, a cab driver who was in Great Crosshall Street at the time.  He said that Houlsham struck a police officer and no violence was used against him, a statement that was backed up by two constables. The bridewell keeper also said that Houlsham made no complaint of maltreatment when he was admitted.

Inspector Penlington from the police stated that he had told Newport to make any complaint of police violence to the Chief Constable and said how it was common in 'low neighbourhoods' for officers to be accused of wrongdoing. He did admit however that one one of the officers concerned in the arrest, Constable John Rennison, had twice been accused of hitting people in the street. 

The jury returned a verdict that Houlsham had died from his injuries, but there was no evidence to show how they occurred. Despite this, Constable John Renison was charged with murder, perhaps to offer assurance to the public that the police were not above the law. However when his case went before the Grand Jury at the Liverpool Assizes on 21st March, the bill was thrown out and he was discharged. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Norwegian Beaten to Death in Toxteth

In 1885 a Norwegian lodging house keeper was beaten to death by in an attack by three men in Toxteth.

Sever Olaf Janssen was the forty year old keeper of a lodging house in Langley Street, which he ran with his wife. In the early hours of 2nd January that year a female resident returned with a male named John Taggart but Janssen refused to let him in, leading to the two men scuffling in the street. 

Taggart left but soon returned with two other males and punched Janssen to the ground. One of his companions, Arthur Kavanagh, then began to beat Janssen about the head and body with a belt, while the other James McNamara threw a bottle. Some of Janssen's lodgers tried to help him but were injured themselves and their screams drew the attention of two policemen in Mill Street. They quickly ran to the scene, where an insensible Janssen was being carried back into the house.

Southern Hospital (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
An ambulance took Janssen to the Southern Hospital but despite the best efforts of Dr Dixon he died soon after admission. The two police officers then went to Prince William Street and arrested twenty three year old Taggart, forty year old Kavanagh and twenty three year old McNamara, who was Kavanagh's stepson. Taggart claimed that he had been assaulted by Janssen, while the other two denied any knowledge of the matter whatsoever.

On 3rd January the three men appeared at the police court in Dale Street where Ruth Clarke, who had taken Taggart back to the house in the first place, said that Kavanagh and McNamara were  the main aggressors in the case. Mary Jones, another lodger of the house which was described by the Liverpool Mercury as 'one of ill repute', claimed that in the assault Kavanagh used a belt and Taggart a bottle, while McNamara did nothing. The stipendiary magistrate Mr Raffles then remanded all three prisoners for a week pending the outcome of the inquest.

The inquest took place on 6th January before Mr Aspinall at the police buildings in Dale Street. The first witness was Janssen's wife Amelia. She explained that he was previously a seaman but they had opened the lodging house together after getting married early in 1884. She acknowledged that it was of 'ill repute' and stated that they had four lodgers. In her opinion, the disagreement was as a result of an incident earlier in the day when her husband refused to loan some beer to Kavanagh, himself a lodging house keeper.

Ruth Clarke and Mary Jones told the coroner that Janssen did nothing to provoke the attack and said that he was sober. Clarke described how in the previous fortnight Janssen had only drank on Christmas Day and how he begged for mercy during the attack given he was outnumbered. Two other lodgers of the house, Margaret Brown and Elizabeth Ward, said they saw an assault on Janssen but could not identify the assailants.

Dr Knight, who carried out the postmortem, said that the cause of death was concussion of the brain. He stated that the internal organs were healthy and that there was no trace of alcohol in the body. However solicitor Mr Madden, representing the three accused, then called another medical expert, Dr Whitford. He was of the opinion that Janssen's main blood vessel from the heart was diseased due to seven or eight years of heavy drinking and that death was a result of shock rather than the assault itself. Questioned by the coroner, Dr Whitford admitted that he would not know what to put on the death certificate if he had been required to write it.

Justice DayAfter a deliberation lasting ninety minutes, the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against all three prisoners. They were committed for trial at the next assizes and Janssen was interred in a public grave at Toxteth Park cemetery three days later.

On 9th February the three men appeared before Mr Justice Day charged with murder. Medical opinion was again divided, with Dr Whitford believing none of the wounds could have resulted in death, but Dr Dixon and Dr Knight saying that the blows to the head were the direct cause. For Kavanagh, Father Goethals from St Patrick's Church said he had known him for twenty years and that he was of good character.

The jury found the prisoners guilty of manslaughter leading to Justice Day describing the attack as a 'brutal and cowardly outrage.' However, he acknowledged that the defendants could not have foreseen that death would result and as such sentenced them to twenty one months imprisonment with hard labour.