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.