Thursday, 28 September 2017

Parental Neglect at Woolton

A distressing case in 1895 saw a woman jailed for two months after being prosecuted when her baby daughter died in the workhouse.

On 13th September 1895 Inspector Cole of the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)  attended 25 Rodick Street in Woolton, the home of a middle aged widow named Mary Rawlinson. It was a distressing sight, with Mary sat behind a box in which her six month old daughter was lying. The poor infant was emaciated, wearing wet clothes and covered in vermin. Two other girls, nine year old Mary and seven year old Ann were naked and also had vermin swarming all over them. 

Rodick St in 1930s (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)Inspector Cole pleaded with Mary to take her children into the workhouse in Whiston but she refused, saying she would rather die on the streets than go there. She did however agree to go the following day and baby Alice was immediately taken from her and examined by a doctor. She was found to be almost skin and bone, weighing only seven and a half pounds, as opposed to the expected twelve pounds and four ounces for a baby of her age. Her skin was also covered in bites and sores and she died ten days later.

Dr Hall from the workhouse refused to issue a burial certificate and referred the matter to the coroner. On 30th September an inquest was held at Whiston workhouse and three women all said they had nursed Alice while her mother worked as a laundress in Cressington. They denied neglecting her in any way and felt she was healthy. 

The doctor revealed that the postmortem had shown death was as a result of congestion on the brain and asked if this was down to neglect, he replied that it was his suspicion that it was. Mary denied any neglect, saying that she often went hungry herself to ensure her children were fed. She told how she used to receive three shillings a week relief from the guardians but this was withdrawn as Alice was illegitimate. 

The Coroner Samuel Brighouse expressed concern at the withdrawal of relief and asked Reverend Sylvester from the guardians to explain this. He insisted that it was only 'outdoor relief' that wasn't paid, and that Mary could be accommodated in the workhouse. Asked why this was, he said that paying money in the community would encourage women to have more illegitimate children. This received a rebuke from Brighouse, saying that the other children shouldn't be made to suffer as a reslt of this.

Samuel Brighouse The jury returned a verdict of death by natural causes, saying they didn't believe Mary's actions had contributed to the death. However the NSPCC continued with the prosecution. On 4th October at the Woolton Sessions it was heard how Mary's husband had died a few years earlier and although she worked hard, she was also of drunken and dissolute habits. The prosecutor said that they were not seeking a manslaughter conviction, rather one for neglect of all three children, with that being a factor in Alice's death.

Evidence was heard from Dr Hall and a portress as to Alice's condition on being taken to the workhouse. They were of the opinion that she was improperly fed and that the bedding had been greatly neglected. After being found guilty the chair of the bench said it was some of the most harrowing evidence he ever heard. Saying he was sure neglect had accelerated death, he sentenced Mary to two months imprisonment with hard labour.  

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Dale Street Skeleton

In 1862 some workmen in Dale Street uncovered a skeleton, believed to be that of somebody who met a violent end some years earlier. 

On 17th September that year workmen were digging up newly vacant land, making it ready for the construction of  Municipal Building. They came across a skeleton and quickly summoned the police who placed the grisly find in a sack and took it to the detective office to await an order from the coroner.  

The land had previously been occupied by a number of what the Daily Post described as 'disreputable houses' and speculation was rife that the person had met their end by 'foul means'.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Estranged Husband's Death Sentence Reprieve

A man who was jealous of his estranged wife's lifestyle killed her by cutting her throat, but was reprieved from the death sentence.

George and Martha Sutherland married in 1925 but two years later were separated, leading to them both living in lodging houses; George in Wilton Street, Martha in Soho Street.  Martha was said to be making a living by 'immoral means', much to George's anger. Things came to a head on 22nd October 1927 George came across his estranged wife in a pub in Islington with a man named Rogers.

Soho Street in the late 1960s (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
Later that night George went to Martha's lodgings to confront her, leading to her replying that she would go with who she likes and threatening to throw a plate at him. Martha went alone to a shop and George followed her, cutting her throat with a razor. He then told a passer by to fetch a policeman and was taken into custody without resistance. Martha was taken to the Royal Infirmary but pronounced dead on arrival. She was 25 years old, the same aged as George who worked as a fruit porter.

At the bridewell George realised the seriousness of his situation and said that Martha had tried to cut him, he took the razor off her and waved it as a deterrent, only to cut her. On being charged with murder he responded 'What I did, I did to save myself getting cut.'

George was tried by Justice Finlay at the Manchester assizes where a key witness was Professor McFall of the University of Liverpool. He was of the opinion that a cut on George's arm had occurred after he had slashed Martha's throat. George was found guilty of murder but with a strong recommendation for mercy. In passing sentence of death, the judge said he would forward this on to which George imply replied 'thank you.' George's sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment by the Home Secretary.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Prison Killer Reprieved

A prisoner who killed a fellow inmate with an iron bar at Walton gaol in 1948 was sentenced to death but reprieved by the Home Secretary.

On Saturday 17th April 1948, John Bretherton, a thirty nine year old prisoner in Walton gaol died of a fractured skull. He had been hit over the head that day with an iron bar by another prisoner Frank Bond, who was twenty years old and a lorry driver from Blackpool. 


Bond was charged with the murder of Bretherton and for the committal hearing on 5th May, a special court was set up inside the prison with the press refused admittance. They were however allowed admittance to the assizes trial on 18th June.  Wearing a sports jacket and flannel trousers, Bond pleaded not guilty in a loud clear voice. 

The prosecutor Mr Gorman stood up and told the jury to disregard the fact that Bond was in prison. He outlined the background to the killing, stating that on 16th April Bond believed 1 shilling and 6d, his payment for prison work had been stolen from his coat pocket by Bretherton. After Bretherton denied it, a prison officer intervened and split the pair for the rest of the day.

Mr Gorman then said that the following day Bretherton was working in an engineers workshop when Bond approached him from behind and hit him with an iron bar, which he was holding with both hands. On being charged with murder, Bond was said to have replied 'He had it coming to him.' Mr Gorman submitted that it had been a cold premediated act with the intention of killing or grievously injuring Bretherton, who lived in Briardale Road in the Liverpool suburb of Mossley Hill.

Prison officer Robert Beattie described Bond as quiet and inoffensive, and acknowledged that although Bretherton had never caused any problems, he did have something of an attitude. He also said that he had seen Bretherton give Bond cigarettes.

Giving evidence himself, Bond admitted hitting Bretherton, who he described as a bully and thief, with an iron bar but insisted he did not intend to kill him. However the admission of intentionally hitting his victim on the head with a weapon that weighed five pounds was enough for him to be found guilty of murder by the jury. 

Bond was then sentenced to death by Mr Justice Byrne. His execution was just days away when the the Home Secretary James Chuter Ede intervened on 12th July and gave him a reprieve, the sentence being commuted to life imprisonment. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Shocking Tragedy in Wavertree

In 1850 a terrible event occurred in Wavertree when a domestic servant suspected of killing her infant child committed suicide by drinking poison.

Catherine Carnall was employed by Francis Hollins, a cotton broker who lived in Cow Lane (now Prince Alfred Road). She was the daughter of a Leicestershire farmer and described as of amiable disposition.

Prince Alfred Road (formerly Cow Lane) in 2017
In October that year Carnall gave Hollins notice that she would be leaving his service. However on the 17th of the month he received a badly handwritten letter indicating that she had given birth to a child three weeks earlier. When Hollins challenged her she mad a full confession, saying she had wrapped the child up in her apron and let it in the privy.

Hollins ordered a search of the privy and the body of an infant was recovered. This led to Carnall running out and trying to jump into a pond to drown herself. Hollins managed to stop her and took her back to the house and confined her in the parlour. When she asked for permission to go the the water closet, she was allowed to do so but only under the supervision of three other servants. On getting there, she tried to open an adjoining closet instead and was stopped, but then given permission to get an apple.

When Carnall got the apple she immediately threw it on the floor and grabbed a bottle of vitriol, swallowing some of the contents. The bottle was knocked away from her mouth but she collapsed immediately. On being told what had happened Hollins sent for Dr Kenyon of the High Street, but the remedies he had available were not able to save her.

An inquest was held on the body of the baby two days later at Mr Hollins' house. Dr Kenyon gave his opinion that the child had breathed once or twice, but the coroner's jury did not believe that was sufficient evidence to conclude that it had been born alive. In respect of Carnall, they returned a verdict of suicide through temporary insanity. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Woman's Murder Solved 39 Years Later

The murder of a young mother in 1970 remained unsolved until 2009. It was only when a written confession detailing the killing was found amongst the belongings of a man who died that the police could finally close the case.

The alleyway where Lorraines body was found in 2017
At 8am on Wednesday 2nd September that year binmen found the body of nineteen year old Lorraine Jacobs in an alley off Rodney Street. Lorraine's knickers had been removed and by her side were three rain sodden bags of chips. As her back was dry, police concluded she had died prior to the rain starting at 3am. A pathologist later put the time of death as around midnight.

Lorraine had been on her way to her home in Russell Street where she lived with her mum, fourteen month old daughter and baby son. Enquiries established she had last been seen alive in Pilgrim Street at 11pm and bought the chips in Great George Street. Earlier in the evening she had been drinking in Yates' Wine Lodge in Great Charlotte Street.

Detectives interviewed 900 people who lived, worked or had been in the area on the night of the killing and handed out 3,500 questionnaires. However the trail went cold and the murder remained unsolved until a dramatic discovery by decorators in 2008. Whilst cleaning out the house of 78 year old Harvey Richardson, who had recently died of bowel cancer, they found an envelope marked 'private and confidential'. Inside was a nine page confession to the murder, written on yellowing paper, as well as a pair of blue knickers.

The discovery led to Merseyside Police being called in and tests dated the paper to around the time of the murder. The confession contained information never previously in the public domain, detailing how Richardson, who had never been a suspect, had rowed with Lorraine over a camera she had taken from his Huskisson Street flat a couple of months earlier. This had happened as she was unhappy about him taking photographs of her children with it, although there was no reason to believe there was anything sinister about that. The letter said Richardson had been drinking all day after finding out he had failed his exams to become a librarian, then gone to Upper Duke Street looking for prostitutes. After coming across Lorraine, he strangled her then headed to Greenheys Gardens, where he had recently moved after being evicted from Huskisson Street.

Despite the length of time since the murder, detectives were able to corroborate 90% of the letters contents and there were DNA matches to both Lorraine and Richardson on the knickers. The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that if Richardson were still alive, then he would be charged with the killing. This led to the police closing the case and Detective Superintendent Ian Kemble stating 'It means a lot to me to close this case for the Jacob family, I can not appreciate the suffering they have been through all these years and hope this outcome will bring them some comfort.'







Friday, 10 March 2017

Scandinavian Shooting

A Norwegian sailor who shot his friend dead was sentenced to just a year's imprisonment. 

For three weeks over the Christmas period at the end of 1911 two Norwegian sailors, Alfred Martinsen and Alfred Karlsen, slept in a dormitory at the Scandinavian Hotel in Great George Street. The pair got on well but things took a turn for the worse at on Saturday 6th January 1912 when drink got the better of them.

Scandinavian Hotel in 2013
 At around 11pm they returned to their lodgings with Karlsen being in a merry mood. He put on cap then pretended to be an officer, walking up and down the aisles giving orders to men who were asleep. Without warning, Martinsen appeared and produced a revolver, firing it straight at Karlsen. A bullet entered Karlsen's eye and he collapsed and died instantly. 

Martinsen, realising what he had done, desperately tried to revive his friend but could not do so and after surrendering the gun went to his bed where he laid down to await his inevitable arrest. He offered no resistance when taken into custody by Constable Jennings, saying he could not bear the thought of what he had done. On being told he would be charged with murder he said simply 'Go ahead.' He appeared before magistrates on the Monday morning and was remanded in custody.

On 25th January Martinsen was brought before the police court, where the prosecutor Mr Duder asked for the case to be sent to the assizes before the inquest had taken place. This was an unusual step, but Mr Duder stated that they were imminent and the cost of bringing witnesses from Norway later in the year would be expensive. Mr Duder admitted he could find no motive for the attack and suggested that Martinsen was in a state of semi drunkenness and mistakenly thought he had quarrelled with his friend. 

Alfred Martinsen
Another Norwegian seaman named Segrid Wille said that shortly before the incident he had been in a public house with the two men and Martinsen had shown them the gun. The licensee asked them to leave and they did so, being best of friends at that time. A lady called Mathilde Odegaard recalled seeing Martinsen and Karlsen together on the night of the tragedy and they had been on good terms. One of the men who had been asleep in the dormitory, Hilding Olsson, recalled that Karlsen was parading up and down shouting to people 'Get up and work'. Olsson went on to say that on hearing a gunshot, he got up and saw Martinsen leaning over the body of his friend, who had blood coming from his eye. 

The shooting had been witnessed by Sedberg Hermansson, who described both men as being sober but having had some drink. He said that they were only ten feet apart when the shot was fired and Martinsen immediately went forward and said 'What is the matter Karlsen are you dead.'  Martinsen, who was rubbing Karlsen's head, immediately handed the revolver to a Danish seaman when asked to do so.

Dr Naughton Dunn from the Southern Hospital revealed the results of the postmortem which took place after Karlsen had been pronounced dead at 11.45pm. The bullet had passed through the eye and passed right through the brain and bounded off the skull, causing instant death. After Constable Jennings gave evidence as to the arrest, Martinsen was committed for trial at the forthcoming assizes which were just two weeks away.

When Martinsen appeared at the assizes on 12th February, it was accepted by the jury that he had not had any malice aforethought and not intended to kill. He was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment. 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Abnormally Thin Skull Saves Defendant

A man who was charged with murder after killing a man with one punch avoided trial due to medical evidence finding abnormalities with the victim's skull.

Royal Infirmary in 1908 (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
At 3pm on 25th October 1938 a stonemason named Albert Shaw noticed three young males loitering around the back of an empty house in Jervis Street (which was situated off Russell Street). 

Shaw reported the suspicious behaviour to the police in nearby Warren Street and the males were moved on. Shaw returned to work ten minutes later but soon afterwards they returned and an argument broke out. One of the males, eighteen year old William Nicholls, punched 53 year old Shaw leading to him falling back and striking his head on some steps.

Nicholls tried to escape by climbing a wall into Back Gill Street, but he was followed by a police officer who apprehended him. An unconscious Shaw was taken to the Royal Infirmary where he died later that evening, his skull having been fractured. On being charged with murder Nicholls replied 'He struck me and I hit him in self defence.'

On 10th November Nicholls appeared at the Magistrates' Court for a committal hearing. Medical evidence was heard that Shaw had an abnormally thin skull. Given this the magistrate decided there was not enough evidence to justify any charges. Nicholls was released from the dock and was free to return to his home in Leander Street, off Brownlow Hill.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Painter Killed by Foreman's Punch

A labourer who was told there was no work available for him died after the foreman punched him for refusing to to leave.

On the morning of 18th September 1887 a labourer named Joseph Peach turned up for work at the Black Bull Bridge in Walton which crossed the Cheshire Lines railway. However he was told by the foreman Thomas Cook that he was late and there was no room for him on the scaffold.

The scene of the killing in 1933 (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
When 54 year old Peach refused to go he was punched by Cook and fell four feet between some railings. When a workman shouted that a doctor was needed Cook said 'Let the bast*rd die.' A doctor arrived on the scene and Peach was taken into the Black Bull Inn, with strict instructions being given that he should into be moved. 

Despite the doctor's order, Peach was then taken back to his Townsend Lane lodgings in an unconscious state by two painters who were staying nearby in Vicar Road. He died the following day at 6.10pm and Cook was taken into custody.

On 28th September a committal hearing took place at the magistrates court. James Clarke and James Head, who had taken Peach back to his lodgings, admitted that they had not seen any punch thrown but just saw him lying on the floor. However they could both state that Cook did not want to send for a doctor. Another painter, William Drury from Warrington, did say though that he had seen Cook strike Peach with a clenched fist. Dr Fleetwood, who had carried out a postmortem, said that death was down to effusion of blood on the brain and this could have been as the result of falling on a hard substance. 

Cook was committed to the Assizes for trial and appeared before Mr Justice Day on 16th November. In his defence, Cook said he had just pushed Peach away as there was no room and he fell backwards. This led to him being found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six months imprisonment. 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Sister in Law Killer Reprieved

A man who cut his sister in law's throat was reprieved from the death sentence.

At around midnight on Saturday 2nd August 1913 Police Constable Monk found a woman lying with her throat cut in Celia Street in Kirkdale. She was 26 year old Jane Wiseman and although she was in a semi conscious state, she was able to say to the officer 'It was my sisters bloke, Griff.'

An ambulance was summoned to take Jane to the Stanley Hospital, where she expired soon after arrival. A police cycle squad was deployed and about two hours later 23 year old William Griffiths was arrested and taken to the Westminster Road Bridewell. On being charged Griffiths, replied 'All I have to say is that it was an accident, I had a row with my father.' 

At a committal hearing on 19th August, Jane's father said that Griffiths had been drinking heavily since drawing some bonus money. He was unable to give any motive for the attack, saying that they had always got on.

At the assizes on 6th November, evidence was presented that showed Griffiths had been outside his home in Braemar Street two days before the attack and shouted 'I will do one of her family.' He had been on shore leave for about three weeks and drinking heavily for most of the time.


In submissions for the defence, Mr Madden said that Griffiths could remember nothing about the crime and that there was no ill feeling between him and Jane. Describing the killing as the result of a 'drunken orgy'. In summing up however, the judge said that by running away and disposing of the razor blade, Griffiths was demonstrating behaviour that indicated he was in control of his actions.


The jury deliberated for half an hour and returned a verdict of guilty but with a recommendation for mercy. Griffiths was sentenced to death, the judge saying that the recommendation would be forwarded.

On 21st November leave to appeal was refused, the judges ruling that the jury had heard all the evidence necessary. Griffiths had worked as a stoker on board the SS Megantic, but his sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life just days before he was due to hang. 



Saturday, 25 February 2017

Judge Calls Killing 'A Thousand Pities'

A judge lamented the lack of care given to a man whose mental health problems led to him killing his young son.

In 1936 Henry Haver, a thirty year old unemployed seaman lived in The Willows off Breck Road, the site of which is now occupied by a grassed area and much of Sandalwood Close. Since the previous September, when he returned from two voyages, his attitude towards his wife had changed and he accused her of having affairs.

By May of that year the situation had got so bad that Haver's wife left both him and their twenty month old son Kenneth. Concerned for their welfare, relatives called the police on 12th May and an officer went to check on things. He was greeted by Haver who said that he had killed his son by choking him. A search of the house took place and Kenneth's body was found under the mattress. When taken into custody and charged Haver replied 'I understand, they have drove me to do it.'

On 17th June Haver appeared at the Liverpool Assizes before Mr Justice Atkinson. For the defence, Dr Stephen Barton gave evidence and said that he had examined Haver back in February. In the doctor's opinion, the man was suffering from delusional insanity and was certifiable. Asked by the judge why nothing was done at that time, Dr Barton replied 'It is difficult to do anything in a case of this kind, frequently owing to the fact that a patient appears to be reasonable in many ways and no support would be offered to any action being taken.'

After the jury found Haver guilty but insane, the judge ordered that he be detained as a criminal lunatic at the King's pleasure. He then said 'It is a thousand pities that something was not done in February when this man's state of mind was ascertained. It was also extraordinary ill luck that the relatives moved too late. If they had moved 24 hours earlier this terrible thing may never have happened.'

Man 'Does Wife In'

When a man strangled his wife he went looking for the police himself to confess to his crime.

At 550am on the morning of 30th October 1935 a police car was flagged down on the corner of Berry Street and Knight Street by 42 year old Robert Williams.  He then said to the officer, Constable Cass ' 'I have been looking for a policeman for an hour, I think I have done the wife in.'

Knight Street in 2017
Constable Cass accompanied Williams to his home where he found his wife dead in bed with scratches on her throat. Williams turned to the officer and said 'I have been sleeping on the sofa for a short time, we have been leading a cat and dogs life for about two years.'

Williams was taken before the police court later that day and as the prosecutor Mr J R Bishop read out the details of the case he shouted 'I never made that statement its wrong, all wrong.' Mr Bishop added that Professor MacFall had made an examination of the body and found death to be from strangulation.

When Williams appeared at the Manchester Assizes on 25th November 1935 he was found to be guilty of murder but insane. This led to him him being detained at the King's pleasure.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Murderer Throws Himself in Front of Train

The killer of a fifteen year old girl in Waterloo in 1920 committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train once he realised police suspected him of the crime.

On the morning of 3rd February that year a workman found the body of a well dressed girl on an allotment off Brook Road. She had been gagged with a handkerchief, her throat had been cut and her head battered. Her eyes were wide open and her face had a look of terror.

Mary Drury
The body was soon identified as that of 15 year old Mary Drury, who had left her home at 2 Gordon Avenue at 7pm the previous evening to visit her friend in Park View. Mary's father Arthur, a clerk in a meat company, had been desperately searching for her all night when she failed to return home by 9pm.

There were very few clues for the police to go on at first, but the coldness of the body indicated that the monstrous deed had been committed the night before. Apart from one young boy saying he had seen a girl chased by a man in the vicinity there were no potential witnesses and no sign of any murder weapon. So many people had been at the scene after the body was found that any footprints of the killer had been obliterated. Mary's father could think of no motive for the murder, saying she had nothing valuable on her and that she was of 'contented disposition.' 

Mary's friend, Isabel Connell, who she was meant to visit, could also think of no reason why anybody would do such a terrible thing to her. However she did say that Mary had a boyfriend, but she didn't know who it was. Miss Milroy, the headmistress of the Wesleyan Girls School said that Mary was one of the most advanced scholars and set a good example to her schoolfellows. 


Gordon Avenue in 2017
A postmortem found that Mary had not been sexually violated during the attack but also that she was not a virgin. It also established that the blows to the head had been caused by a blunt instrument and the throat had been cut with a pocket knife. Death, it was found, was as a result of shock due to the injuries. The inquest opened on 5th February but the deputy coroner adjourned it until further facts were known. 

The following day, four miles away at Sandhills Station, signalman Edward Leahy told a colleague he was going out for a little while. The 31 year old married father of two stepped onto the track and was run over and killed by an electric train. When his body was recovered, it was so mutilated that it could only be identified by the presence of trade union cards. Police then revealed that they believed Leahy would probably have been able to assist them with the investigation into Mary's death. On the same day, Mary was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Luke's Church.

The resumed inquest took place at Waterloo Town Hall on 20th February and heard evidence from Superintendent Gregson. He said that Leahy, who lived in Brighton Road, had a plot at the allotment and been questioned on 4th February. He had admitted having been on the allotments between 7 and 8pm on the evening of the killing and when challenged about blood on his shirt sleeves, he said that it was rust from the lever in the signal box. On being asked why he needed a pocket knife he had responded 'Surely you don't suspect me.' 

Waterloo Town Hall
Extracts from a diary found in Mary's pocket were then read out, detailing relations with Leahy which were described as of an 'indelicate nature.' A doctor then stated that two strands of Mary's hair had been found on the coat which Leahy had been wearing when he was run over by the train. Isabel Connell then said that Mary had told her she lent two shillings to Leahy, although she hadn't thought them to be courting in any way. After hearing all the evidence the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Leahy. 

Four days later on 24th February Leahy's inquest took place. Evidence was heard that he had left the signalbox after a phone call was made to there enquiring as to his presence. No evidence was heard as to his state of mind and a verdict of suicide was returned.






Friday, 10 February 2017

Son Kills Mother With Hammer

A man who killed his mother by battering her with a hammer was declared insane and detained at His Majesty's pleasure.

Shortly before 9am on the morning of Saturday 15th January 1916 a man walked into the police office in Dale Street and said that he had hit mother with a hammer at their home in 10 Thames Street, off Lodge Lane. Communication was made with Lark Lane police station and officers from there went round to the property, where they found 64 year old Mary Ann Christian in her bed, her her head covered in blood. Elsewhere in the bedroom there was a blood stained hammer.

Thames Street in 1917
Mary was rushed to the Royal infirmary but pronounced dead on arrival. Back at Dale Street her son, 31 year old Herbert Christian, was told at 1050am that he was being charged with the murder of his mother. His reply was 'Thank God she is away from all this persecution. God have mercy upon us.' Herbert was taken to the police court where the Stipendiary Magistrate Stuart Deacon, remanded him for eight days. 

Four days after she was killed, Mary was buried at Toxteth Park Cemetery, while the inquest took place on 26th January before the Deputy Coroner Mr A.G Inglis. The first witness was William Christian, Mary's husband. He said he had gone to work at 530am on the morning of the murder and his son was sound asleep. After explaining how he had been told to return home from his work after his wife had died, he said that Mary's mother had spent 22 years in the Rainhill asylum and that he had been married to his wife for 35 years. Asked how Herbert felt about his mother, William responded that he was fond of her and was worried about her welfare should he be called up for army service.

Herbert's wife Maud said that Herbert and his mother had no problems when they lived together but that he had been peculiar of mind in recent times. He had worked as a tram conductor and then a cleaner for Liverpool Corporation Tramways. His foreman from the Dingle tramsheds, Mr Young, confirmed that he had been hard working and diligent, but resigned before Christmas as he believed colleagues did not like him.

Mary Ann Christian's grave in Toxteth Cemetery
The deputy coroner told his jury that they only had to determine how Mary met her death, not Herbert's state of mind. This led to them returning a verdict that she had died as a result of injuries inflicted by Herbert.

Herbert was back at the police court on 3rd February when he was committed to the Manchester Assizes for trial. His wife gave evidence, saying he and his mother were devoted to each other but that he had been of strange mind lately. She said that on one occasion he had accused her of tampering with his food and that he was convinced that work colleagues were conspiring against him.

On 21st February Herbert appeared at the Manchester Assizes where it was said he was suffering delusions and incapable of instructing counsel. He was declared unfit to plead by the jury and ordered by the judge to be detained during His Majesty's pleasure.


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

American Seaman Guilty of Stabbing Death

An American seaman who got into a fight with another man in Scotland Road was found guilty of manslaughter.

In the early hours of Sunday 24th January 1915 Charles Ziegler, a muleteer aboard the American steamer Kalvinia, was in Scotland Road when he began larking about with a small group of girls. Unbeknown to him one of their boyfriends, a carter named Edward Chandler, was walking just behind.

A fight ensued and during which Chandler suffered a stab wound to his abdomen and collapsed instantly. Ziegler was arrested and the injured man taken in a cab to the Northern Hospital. He was in a serious state and a deposition was taken prior to his death on the Sunday evening.

22 year old American Ziegler appeared at the police court on 26th January where he was remanded in custody pending the outcome of the inquest. This found that Chandler's death was as a result of wilful murder by Ziegler, leading to his committal to the Manchester Assizes. 

Ziegler's trial took place on 19th February. Under cross examination Dr House admitted Ziegler had injuries which could have been caused in a street fight. The defence counsel said the prosecution case was riddled with inconsistencies and called for a manslaughter verdict. The jury accepted this argument and Ziegler was jailed for eighteen months with hard labour.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Portuguese Wife Killer Repreived

A Portuguese man who shot his wife dead on board a British steamer was sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment

On 5th February 1914 newly married couple Alberto Coelho and Josephine Quelhas set sail from Lisbon bound for Rio on board the Royal Mail steamer Deseado. The voyage to South America had began in Liverpool. Coelho was a confectioner and also man of substance who owned a substantial amount of property in Brazil. However Josephine had only agreed to go there with him if they were married. 

Justice Bray
Travelling in first class accommodation, they appeared happy but soon it became apparent that all was not well. At around 1230pm on 7th February, when the vessel was 170 miles west of Madeira, Josephine Coelho was sat alone in the social hall. Her husband came in and shouted 'You have made me miserable' before shooting her twice from point blank range. A cellist named Francis Chamberlain pulled Josephine from under the table where she had fallen and found there was a bullet wound in each breast. The ship's surgeon, Dr Segar was called but he confirmed that Josephine was dead and there was no hope of recovery.

Two brave passengers managed to restrain Coelho, who was a well built man, on deck. He showed no resistance as he was put in irons and placed in a guard room. That evening Josephine was buried at sea in a service attended by most of the crew and passengers.

On arrival in Rio two weeks later, Coelho was handed to the British consul who wanted nothing to do with him. He was then taken to a local jail and held there until the Deseado began her return voyage to Liverpool. When the vessel arrived there on 31st March Coelho was arrested and responded through an interpreter 'I intended to kill myself but in Rio they say that I am mad.' Respectably dressed and sporting his thick dark moustache, 32 year old Coelho was initially remanded for a week by magistrates.

The Daily Post reported that Coelho had a dejected appearance as he stood in the dock at the police court a week later. The court first heard that Dr Segar was offered expenses of £3 per day but refused to come from London to give evidence unless he was subpoenaed. The magistrate then gave orders for a summons to be issued. Francis Chamberlain then gave evidence as to Coelho shooting his wife from a range of abut one yard. This was corroborated by a bandmaster named Harry Akers. 

Bernardino Machado
On 14th April the police court proceedings resumed with Dr Segar in attendance. He claimed not to have received a message about attending court then went on to say that death was as a result of a bullet to the heart. Coelho was committed to the assizes for trial and chose to reserve his defence.

Coelho appeared before Justice Bray on 24th April. His defence counsel Mr Rigby Swift did not dispute the facts of the case. Instead, it was suggested simply that no sane man who was happy with his wife could have shot her in broad daylight in front of three or four witnesses. The prisoner's brother Carlos was called to give evidence that he had suffered delusions. He stated that Coelho had neglected his business and often walked aimlessly around Rio saying he was being followed by a large dog. Carlos said that the family were not happy with the marriage to Josephine, who he described as a woman of 'loose character.'

Dr Griffiths from Walton Gaol said that he had not found Coelho to be showing any signs of insanity. Instead he was described as perfectly rational although he had claimed to have no recollection of the killing until he woke up in irons. After an impassioned plea by Mr Rigby Swift that Coelho was not responsible for his actions the jury retired, but after an hour found him guilty of murder. 

On being told of the verdict Coelho replied that Josephine had wanted to put him in an asylum on arrival in Rio. After Justice Bray had passed the death sentence he put his head in his hands and made a remark in Portuguese, before being quickly taken down below.

News of the sentence created shockwaves in Coelho's native Portugal, where nobody had been executed since 1846. On 28th April a demonstration organised by the League of Defence for the Rights of Man in Lisbon was attended by 40,000 people who called upon Prime Minister Bernardino Machado to intervene. He issued a statement however saying that he could not interfere with English law.

On 11th May at the Court of Criminal Appeal Mr Rigby Swift argued that the verdict was unreasonable in line with the evidence. He argued that doctors who had attended to Coelho whilst under guard and in Rio had not been called, but the appeal was dismissed by the Lord Chief Justice who said 'You have no evidence here that the condition of his mind was such that he could not control his actions.'  However he did go on to offer some hope, saying that the Home Secretary had the power to exercise a prerogative and that this was a case he thought fit to do so.

The comments of the Lord Chief Justice were enough to have the execution, set for 14th May, deferred. On that day Joseph Spooner was hanged at Walton Gaol for the murder of his daughter in Edge Hill, but communication was received that Coelho's sentence had been commuted to life imprisonment. 


Monday, 30 January 2017

Extraordinary Brutality at House of Ill Fame

A Christmas Day killing at a brothel led to the convicted woman being transported for life.

On 25th December 1859 a christening celebration took place at what was described in the Liverpool Mercury as a 'house of ill fame' in Comus Street.

Shortly before midnight a lady called, Margaret Cross appeared outside and shouted for Mary Sullivan to come out and fight Margaret Welsh. Sulliavan went out and persuaded Cross to come in the house. Once inside Cross was so drunk that she fell over but was helped up by Sullivan, who then pushed her into a room.

When Cross threw a candlestick at Sullivan it missed, leading to a furious reaction from the latter. Sullivan grabbed Cross by the hair, banged her head against a door and then threw her to the floor. She then continued the assault, kicking Cross in the chest and head as she lay defenceless. Pleading for her Cross cried that one more kick could finish her. Sullivan replied If thats what you want there it is' and kicked Cross in the head, causing her to lose consciousness.

Cross died before a surgeon from the Rosehill Dispensary made it to the house. After an inquest found that the cause of death was wilful murder by Sullivan, she was committed for trial on a coroner's warrant. Due to the killing having occurred as a result of a sudden quarrel, the judge Sir Hugh Hill ordered the jury to return a verdict of manslaughter.

Sullivan's lawyer pleased for leniency, saying that she had been devoid of parental control for most of her life. However when it came to sentencing there was no room for sympathy. The twenty year old had already been to prison eight times, five of them for violent offences. The judge told Sullivan that her crime was of the most grossly aggravated character using brutal violence and that she had shown little remorse. Dismissing her lack of moral upbringing as an excuse, he sentenced her to be transported for life.

As Sullivan was led from the dock she shouted to another female 'Be a good girl and God bless you'.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Child Dispute Leads to Parent's Death

When a man was angry due to his daughter being injured by a neighbour while out playing, he responded by killing the father of the other child.

On Saturday 6th October 1855 in a court off Oriel Street a man named John O'Neill went to seek out neighbour Thomas Cahill. He then accused Cahill's son of injuring his daughter the previous day. After some words were exchanged, O'Neill stabbed Cahill in the chest and being taken into custody charged with assault.

Oriel Street in 2016
On the Monday morning O'Neill, described by the Liverpool Mercury as a 'reckless looking fellow' was remanded in custody for a week. The court had heard that the injured man's life was in jeopardy and that depositions had been taken. It was reported that both men were Irish and worked as labourers.

A surgeon from the North Dispensary attended to Cahill for five days but he remained in an insensible state and died on the 11th October. The inquest the next day returned a verdict of wilful murder. On hearing that the deceased had left a pregnant widow and five children, the jury held a collection and raised £3 and 15 shillings, equivalent to two to three weeks wages .

On 12th December O'Neill, stood trial before Justice Wightman. In opening the case, prosecutor Mr Simon told the jury that to find twenty-five year old O'Neill guilty of murder they would have to be satisfied that he had 'malice aforethought. 

Thomas's widow Hannah recalled how O'Neill had told her on the Friday night that he wanted blood for blood and stated he would be back when her husband was home. She went on to say that on the Saturday evening Thomas came home sober at 8pm, had supper and went to bed. Hearing O'Neill making a great noise in his own house and fearing for her safety and wary of his threats, Hannah then fastened her own door with a poker.

Hannah described how O'Neill came out and hammered at her door threatening to break it down and demanding that either of the Cahills come out, referring to Thomas and his brother who lodged with them. She then recalled how Thomas went down to reason with O'Neill, only to be punched twice. Thomas pleaded that they did not argue over the children, only to be struck again before being stabbed.  

Under cross examination, Hannah denied having laughed on the Friday night when shown the injuries on O'Neill's daughter. She also insisted that she did not say 'You may get what satisfaction you please.' Hannah's daughter Mary bravely gave evidence, saying that on the Friday O'Neill had chased her five year old brother with a knife and that she had also seen him with a knife on the night of the killing.

Thomas's deposition was then read out. It stated that he had not wanted a quarrel and opened the door to try and pacify O'Neill. He had not struck O'Neill and fell after being stabbed in the breast. The doctor who carried out the postmortem confirmed that wound had pierced the heart and the blow was so violent it had cut an artery and a rib. The police officer who apprehended O'Neill stated that he was drunk and resisted violently while being taken into custody.

The defence had no evidence to offer, but could only mitigate in the hope of having the jury return a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder. O'Neill's counsel Mr McDonald pointed to his drunkenness, the fact such violent threats were commonplace amongst people of his class, and that there had been mental aggravation.

In summing up Justice Wightman thanked Mr McDonald for his defence, but was not favourable towards the prisoner. He acknowledged that there had been some provocation on the Friday  but he could not see any from the Saturday, when O'Neill created a disturbance in his own house then knocked at the door of the Cahill's.

After the jury found O'Neill guilty of the lesser charge, the judge told him they had taken a favourable view of his case. Describing the killing as one of the worst cases that he could recollect, the judge said O'Neill was of ungovernable temper and must be transported for the term of his natural life. As he was led from the dock, there were shrieks of horror from the public gallery.


Rent Dispute Leads to Killing

A Good Samaritan who intervened in a dispute over rent arrears died after being hit on the head by the landlord's wife. 

In September 1855 John Woods evicted tenants from his cellar in Wellington Street, off Scotland Road due to them owing rent arrears of ten shillings and sixpence. On the tenth of that month, the tenants' son Thomas Nolan went to query the eviction with Mr Woods only to be punched to the ground and kicked.

Scotland Road 1908 www.liverpoolpicturebook.com
A neighbour, William Appleton, intervened to help Nolan, much to the anger of Woods' wife Margaret. She took a poker from her apron and hit Appleton over the head with it, then kicked him as he lay on the ground.

A crowd had gathered and some of them helped Appleton to his home. A doctor was summonsed from St Annes Dispensary, but the twenty year old died within an hour. Mr and Mrs Woods were taken into custody by the police.

At the inquest on 12th September, Nolan was described as 'a wooden legged cripple'. It heard that Appleton had intervened to ensure 'fair play.' Nolan gave evidence and said that he had been punched and kicked to the ground, but did not see what Appleton had been struck with. He also admitted that Appleton had thrown the first punch. The police officer who apprehended Mr and Mrs Woods said that Mrs Woods had said on being arrested 'I warmed the bastard once with a poker and will do so again if he comes here.'

The doctor who carried out the postmortem said that death was a result of extravasation of blood on the brain caused by external violence. Mrs Woods denied striking Appleton and said that he had been the aggressor. After the coroner summed up the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and both man and wife were committed to the assizes for trial.

On 10th December at the South Lancashire Assizes Mr Woods was described as a shoemaker and Mrs Woods as a boot binder. Thirty-nine year old Mr Woods was acquitted but his wife, aged twenty-seven, was found guilty with a recommendation to mercy. She was sentenced by Justice Wightman to three months imprisonment. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Sailor's Brawl Ends in Stabbing

An Italian seaman who interfered in a fight between two others and stabbed one of them to death was transported for life.

Shortly before midnight on Wednesday 3rd January 1855 two seamen were fighting outside the Black Bess pub in Charles Street, which was situated off Roe Street. One of the men, a Scot named William Steele, clearly had the upper hand over his opponent, Antonio Harmur who came from France.

Without warning a man came out of the Blue Anchor inn and stabbed Steele in the breast before running back inside. After a cry of murder police immediately arrived at the scene and one of the officers apprehended someone fitting the knifeman's description in the yard of the Blue Anchor. He was Marchetti Giovanni, an Italian. During this confusion Harmur had run off but was caught by another officer. A search of the area where the fight took place led to a pocket knife being recovered.

Steele was taken in a cab to the North Dispensary but he died before getting there. He was a mate on board the Aberdeen registered ship Dreadnought and didn't speak a word after falling.

The following morning Giovanni and Harmur were brought up before magistrates and remanded pending the outcome of an inquest which took place on 5th January. It was presided over by the Deputy Coroner, Mr Statham. Thirteen witnesses to the incident were called and a verdict of wilful murder against both men was returned. They were then committed to the assizes on a coroner's warrant.

On 30th March the two sailors appeared before Baron Parke, the trial lasting several hours due to both needing interpreters. The Liverpool Mercury reported that Charles Street was 'almost entirely inhabited by females of the most abandoned character.' The reason so many sailors were in the street that night, the paper said, was because an 'exhibition' was being given by women in the Blue Anchor.

Baron ParkeThe court heard how the fight started when Steele had pushed a lady called Sarah Jones, who had promised her services to Harmur. Initially the Frenchman had not wanted to get involved in an altercation, but eventually agreed to do so and took off his coat for Jones to mind. Several witnesses then stated that they had seen a fight go on, during which Giovanni came out of the Blue Anchor and stabbed Steele before running away. Dr Arnot from the dispensary said that death was instantaneous, the knife having passed through the chest into the heart.

Harmur's counsel said his client had no case to answer and Baron Parke agreed with this discharging the Frenchman. Giovanni's lawyer though had a much harder job and the best he could come up with was that 'all the witnesses were from the lowest grade of society.'

In summing up the judge said the jury had to determine if the crime was manslaughter or murder, given it had happened somewhat in the heat of the moment. After a short consultation they returned a manslaughter verdict and Giovanni was sentenced to be transported for the term of his natural life.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Dead Baby in an Ashpit

A teenager who gave birth to a child that was later found dead in an ashpit was found guilty of manslaughter and transported for life.

On the morning of Saturday 3rd March 1855 the body of a newborn baby was discovered in an ashpit off Norris Street, Bevington Hill. The woman who found the body, Jane Carter, immediately alerted the police who arranged its removal to the Northern Dispensary.

A surgeon was of the opinion the baby had been murdered due to a large gash on the forehead. Police enquries in the Bevington Hill area established that a sixteen year old named Jane Clayton had been heavily pregnant. They then called at Jane's lodgings and were told by her landlady Mrs Forsyth that she was still pregnant but officers suspected this wasn't the case. Jane was taken into custody and an examination showed that she had recently given birth.

Baron Parke
Jane admitted that she had delivered a baby the previous evening and that fifty year old Mrs Forsyth was aware of this. Her landlady denied this statement however, saying she had taken Jane her supper and breakfast and not been told anything about the birth. However a neighbour implicated Mrs Forsyth further by stating that on the Saturday morning she had given her keys to the yard where the ashpit was. When Jane made a full confession to the killing, both she and Mrs Forsyth were committed for trial on a murder charge.

On 30th March both women appeared before Baron Clarke. Jane's confession was read out and stated that Forsyth had struck the child's head with an iron. Mr Arnott from the dispensary said that the child had breathed and the wound on the head had been caused while it was alive. 

In summing up the judge said that there was insufficient evidence against Forsyth and ordered the jury to acquit her. They then found Jane guilty of manslaughter and recommended mercy. Baron Parke was in no mood to be forgiving however and sentenced her to be transported for life. 


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Murdered Son Dumped in Hedgerow

A father broke down when he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his baby son, saying he had not intended to cause harm.

Upper Warwick Street in 1969 (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)On 8th March 1965 John Riding, went to his parents home in Ganworth Road, Speke. He shocked them by saying that his seventeen month old son Anthony was missing from home at 131 Upper Warwick Street. They reported the matter to Speke police station, and then went to Toxteth to assist the police and neighbours in searching empty homes in the area.

At Essex Street police station, Riding's partner was questioned by police and said that he had hit Anthony the previous evening. This led to detectives confronting Riding and he told officers to take him to Naylor's Road in Netherley. There, Anthony's body was found wrapped in coalbags in a hedgerow.

A pathologist was called and postmortem conducted, which revealed that Anthony had died from a haemorrhage. There were also bruises all over the body. Riding, a twenty two year old butcher, was charged with murder and remanded in custody by the stipendiary magistrate the next morning. 

Naylors road in 2017
When Riding appeared at Liverpool Crown Court at the end of May he was defended by Rose Heilbron. He admitted that he had hit his son as he had lost his temper, but insisted he did not intend to cause harm. He told the court 'I smacked him on the leg, I kept hitting him, I could not help myself. However Derek Hodgson, representing The Crown, said that postmortem results revealed forty one bruises on Anthony's body, in addition to those on the head.

In summing up, the judge told the jury 'You will have to consider the number of blows to the child's head. If you come to he conclusion that this man inflicted those injuries and that he knew what he was doing and that the inevitable result  that violence would be to a child of that age then it is murder.'

It took just fifteen minutes deliberation for the jury to find Riding guilty of murder and he sobbed in the dock as he heard the verdict. He was then sentenced to life imprisonment.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Father Drops Baby to Death

A teenage father who dropped his baby son on his head was imprisoned for three years after being found guilty of manslaughter.

Christopher Rodaway was just eighteen when he got married to his pregnant girlfriend at Gretna Green in May 1964. His new wife gave birth to a baby boy named Simon in November and the family settled in Holland Place in Edge Hill.

On 2nd March 1965 Mrs Rodaway got  up at about 1pm and found son Simon dead in the living room with her husband nowhere to be seen. A doctor was called but could see no visible sign of injuries and the body was taken to Alder Hey Hospital so a postmortem could be carried out. 

Rodaway was arrested and taken to the bridewell at Prescot Street, where he was initially charged with causing grievous bodily harm after making a full confession. However when this charge was increased to murder after a postmortem revealed a fractured skull, he retracted that statement. 

Rodaway appeared before Mr Justice Stable at the end of May, defended by Rose Heilbron. He pleaded not guilty to murder but agreed that he was responsible for his son's death, telling the jury 'I carried him across the room by the ankles because he was crying. I was going to roll him onto the settee to frighten him and stop him crying but he fell head first onto the floor. I did not mean him to fall. He then said that he had blamed his wife to save his own skin but that she had nothing to do with it.

After the evidence was concluded Rodaway's counsel stated that he would be willing to plead guilty to manslaughter. The judge then directed the jury to acquit him of murder and find him guilty of the lesser charge. Rodaway was then sentenced to three years imprisonment.


A Fatal Quarrel in Old Swan

When a man was charged with murder after a fight with a neighbour in Old Swan, he was discharged after the inquest accepted his explanation that he only acted to protect his wife.

On Saturday 3rd May 1924 John Wildes and his wife had a row at their home at 45 Oceanic Road, Old Swan. This led to Mrs Wildes and the couple's baby going to stay with her aunt who lived at 3 Runic Street, which adjoined Oceanic Road. 

Runic Street in 2017
On the Sunday Wildes went round to Runic Street at regular intervals but was told that his wife was not there. At around 10pm he knocked again and when he heard the baby crying, refused to believe that his wife was out. He demanded entry and the couple then began arguing, leading to a 37 year old labourer named Walter Hill, who lived next door in number 5, to come out of his home and see what was going on.

Hill and his wife stood near the doorstep as the argument continued, which Wildes resented. He came out of the house and confronted Hill, leading to both men trading blows. 

The disturbance was heard by another neighbour, 37 year old meat porter Walter Hill. He appealed for a halt, which was resented by Wildes and a fight broke out between the two men. Hill struck Wildes on the head, causing him to fall down injured. An ambulance was called but he died on the way to hospital around midnight.

Derby Lane police stationHill was arrested and taken to the police station on Derby Lane, where he was charged with murder at 4am. Later that morning he appeared before the stipendiary magistrate in Dale Street, appearing dazed as he listened to the evidence. Described by the Liverpool Echo as 'of respectable appearance' he was remanded in custody pending an inquest.

In addition to the new baby, 32 year old meat porter Wildes and his wife had a three year old son. He had served with the Kings Liverpool Regiment during the war and was held captive in Germany for two years. Prior to his altercation with Hill, he had called on the knocker-upper to get him up at 4am. This appointment was kept, the knocker-upper being unaware of the tragic events of a few hours earlier.

On 7th May an inquest took place before the coroner. Wildes' widow Catherine said that her husband had been drunk when he returned home on the Saturday night and hit her. This had led her going to her aunts, where she remained on the Sunday. Her aunt, Sarah Wildes, then said that on the Sunday evening Mrs Hill had told her husband not to interfere in a family quarrel. This led to Wildes coming out and hitting her and then Hill who struck back, causing him to fall to the floor.

Hill gave evidence himself and said that Sarah Wildes had asked his assistance in getting Wildes out of her house. When Wildes came out and struck his wife, he stepped in and was struck himself before delivering what turned out to be a fatal blow in retaliation. Asked by the coroner how many times he had struck Wildes, Hill replied that it was just once and only to defend his wife.

The coroner told the jury that there were only two possible verdicts, manslaughter or misadventure. After returning a verdict of the latter, Hill was then taken to appear before the stipendiary magistrate. Acting on behalf of the police, Mr Howard Roberts withdrew the murder charge and offered no evidence on any other crime. A very relieved Hill was then discharged and told he was free to go.