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.

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.


Thursday, 12 January 2017

Dead on Her Wedding Day

On the day she was supposed to be getting married, a woman died from injuries that had been inflicted on her by her husband.

On Saturday 26th April 1856 William Holland was at his home in Great Richmond Street when one of his lodgers Isabel Brew, returned home from the market. Isabel lodged there with her fiance James Jones, who was also her cousin. The couple were in their forties and had both been married before.

Moments later Jones himself returned and for no apparent reason struck Isabel a violent blow, causing her to fall backwards. When Holland tried to intervene, Jones threatened to do the same to him.

Holland was scared of Jones due to his size and left the house to find a policeman. He did so but the officer refused to get involved in a domestic dispute. When Holland returned home alone, he found Isabel lying on her side with a pool of blood next to her. Jones was sat on a sofa as if nothing had happened, causing Holland to go back outside.

When Holland's son and another lodger Mr Atkinson returned they helped to carry Isabel upstairs to bed. Holland stayed up all night with her, as did Jones who now seemed to realise the damage he had caused.  A neighbour, Frances Cross, came in and helped bathe Isabel. Cross told Jones he was a brute for what he had done and Jones admitted that as well as punching Isabel he had also stamped on her. 

The following morning Isabel's daughter Mrs Oliver arrived and immediately sent for a doctor. Dr Knottingley from the South Dispensary found that as well as the cuts and bruises Isabel had suffered a broken collarbone and ribs. He then told the police of his concerns and they took a statement from Isabel, before arresting Jones in a nearby beerhouse.

On the Monday morning Jones was remanded in custody for week. At 2pm that afternoon, around the time the couple were supposed to be getting married, Isabella died from her injuries. An inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder and Jones was committed for trial at the assizes.

On 20th August Mr Atkinson said that he had known Jones for twenty years and that he had always been a good tempered man when sober. However he said he was also known to have periods of excitement, especially since something had dropped on his head at the Albert Dock a few years earlier.  Frances Cross said Jones was still tipsy on the Sunday but admitted under cross examination that he had offered remorse for his actions. Dr Knottingley said that he had carried out a postmortem and found the body to be in an otherwise healthy state. He was certain that the injuries could not have been the result of a fall.

Jones's counsel's main defence was drunkenness. They pointed out how  he had spent most of his time in the dock weeping and that there had been no previous history of violence towards Isabel. Four former employers of Jones testified to his good character, saying he was a quiet good natured man. In summing up however the judge said that there was no evidence of him having a brain injury and that drunkenness was no excuse. He told the jury that if they were satisfied Isabel had died as a result of being jumped upon, then they had no alternative but to return a verdict of murder.  

The jury deliberated for an hour and then asked the judge what the verdict should be if they thought Jones had jumped on Isabel but with no intent to kill. The judge replied that this still amounted to murder, but if they thought Jones had fallen on Isabel whilst drunk then the verdict should be manslaughter. 

Half an hour later the jury returned and asked the same question, much to the judge's annoyance. He repeated his answer of earlier, leading to Dr Knottingley being called again. He was asked his opinion on the injuries and replied that he believed Jones had knelt upon Isabel whilst striking her on the head rather than jumped or stamped on her. 

After receiving the doctor's answer the jury were out for just a few more minutes then returned and gave a verdict of manslaughter. The judge told Jones that they had taken a merciful view and then sentenced him to transportation for life. 




Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Killing at the Corn Exchange

A corn porter whose anger at not being given any wages led to him killing a foreman was transported for life.

On Saturday 12th July 1856 at about 2pm a master porter named Francis Welch was stood at the corner of Fenwick and Brunswick Streets. This was a popular place where corn porters would seek work. He was approached by a man named Miles Melia, who aggressively asked him for half a days pay.

Brunswick Street in early 1900s www.liverpoolpicturebook.com
When Welch refused the payment, saying he didn't know who Melia was he was struck three times and fell down. After being helped up Melia hit him again, causing him to fall down. More passers by helped Welch but Melia pushed them aside and struck another violent blow, causing him to fall and hit his head on a flag and grid. 

Blood was pouring out of the back of Welch's head and nostrils. He was taken to the Northern Dispensary where the wound was dressed and he was sent to his home in Cunliffe Street. Melia as apprehended by police in the Brunswick Building and as he was being taken to the bridewell said that no man would stand in the way of him claiming his wages.  

That evening Welch passed away and a postmortem revealed he had died from effusion on the brain as a result of the blows. An inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder against Melia, who claimed that he was drunk and could remember very little.

Melia was committed to the assizes on a coroner's warrant and appeared before Justice Willies on 20th August. He claimed that Welch struck him first but witnesses said that his victim was not aggressive. They continued that Melia acted violently after being refused any wages by a man who said he had not worked for.

The convict ship Nile
The defence counsel stated that Melia had no motive for murder and no weapon was used. In summing up the judge said that drink was no excuse and that if it the actions could reasonably have led him to believe grievous bodily harm would be caused, then it was murder.

After the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, the judge said it was a brutal savage attack and manslaughter of the most aggravated character.  He then sentenced Melia to transportation for life. On 1st January 1858 he landed in Western Australia after a three and a half month voyage on board the Nile.



Friday, 6 January 2017

Handkerchief Killers Reprieved

In 1856 two men were found guilty of killing a man who was found dead in an entry with a handkerchief tied around his neck. However after being sentenced to death they had their sentences commuted on appeal. 

Nile Convict ShipAt 430am on the morning of Wednesday 20th February that year a carter named James Ryan was on his way to tend to his horses in Chisenhale Street. He saw what he thought was a drunk man lying in an entry but he and the stable owner were too afraid to wake him and instead went about their work.

About an hour and a half later Robert Hughes, an apprentice tinsmith, was in the entry and saw the man. He felt the pulse and realised that he was dead, and by chance saw a police inspector and six constables in Chisenhale Street about to come off duty. 

Inspector Duggan examined the body and found that a handkerchief had been tied very tight around the neck. There were also some items of clothing missing, namely boots, coat and braces. The inspector immediately sent for a surgeon while a constable remained by the deceased man's side.

When Dr Sayers from the North Dispensary examined the body, he was of the opinion that as the handkerchief  was double knotted it could not have been an act of suicide. The body was removed to the deadhouse at Princes Dock while detectives immediately began making enquiries in the neighbourhood. This led to the arrest that afternoon of two men, Philip Wall and James Carr, who had been seen by many witnesses with the dead man shortly after midnight. When he was apprehended, Wall was wearing boots that were believed to belong to the deceased, who was identified as a 44 year old local seaman named James House.

The following day an inquest took place before the Coroner Mr P F Curry. After first hearing evidence as to the discovery of the body, a lady called Sarah Brennan was called. She stated that she did not know the victim House, but had seen him a midnight when he was drunk and made a saucy remark to her. Another man then helped him up and then Carr, who she did know, appeared with Wall and the two of them took House down the entry. She swore that House, whose body she had been taken to see in the deadhouse, was the man taken by the two prisoners down the entry.

A woman named Mary Fannin explained that the handkerchief found round House's neck was hers and that she had loaned it to Carr a few weeks previously. Ann Hainsworth, who ran a boarding house in Chisenhale Street, said that Wall had been lodging there about a week and asked her to mind a pawn ticket soon after news of the murder broke. A pawnbrokers assistant then confirmed that Wall had pawned a coat on the Wednesday morning. 

Some damning evidence then came from Michael Hannon, who had a clothes shop in Great Howard Street. He said that he sold some boots to House a week or two earlier and that he was wearing them when he called to the shop just hours before he was found dead. On that visit, he commented on the quality of the boots, bought some more articles and said that he now had enough supplies to go away to sea again. 

John Bold, whom House boarded with when he was not away at sea, confirmed that on the Tuesday night he had been wearing the coat which had been pawned by Wall. Detectives confirmed that on being arrested, Wall claimed to have been given the boots by a seafaring man three weeks earlier. On being told they had been identified as belonging to House, he said they had been given to him by Carr. When Carr was asked about this, he denied all knowledge whatsoever of the boots.

After all the evidence had been heard Mr Curry asked if the prisoners had anything to say. Carr said that he was drunk and couldn't remember anything while Wall said 'one half of the evidence against me is false.' It took just five minutes for the jury to find that House had died as a result of being wilfully murdered by Carr and Wall, who were committed to the assizes for trial on a coroner's warrant.

On 1st April the two men, who were in their twenties and described themselves as seamen, stood trial for their life before Baron Martin. In opening the case for the prosecution, Mr Apsinall said that the evidence was circumstantial, but when it was all pieced together nobody could be left in any doubt as to how James House met his death. 

The first witness called was Mr Bold the lodging house keeper. He restated his evidence of the inquest regarding House's clothing and also that he was sober and had three halfcrowns and two shillings on him at 11pm. The next witness was John Thorn, a victualler from Great Howard Street. He recalled that House had three glasses of wine and some brandy in his premises and was quite tipsy on leaving after midnight. He was accompanied by a woman and said he was joining a ship at Hartlepool the next day, hence his last spree.

The woman who House was with was Jane Hurst, who lived in Chisenhale Street. She described him as 'less than half drunk' and said he walked her home then told her he would be returning to his lodgings. This was at about half past twelve. A police officer called Thomas Newsham then testified that he had seen House, Carr and Wall together on the Chisenhale Street bridge. House was drunk but the other two men said they would look after him and as such Newsham said he had no reason to follow them. Under cross examination Newsham maintained that the drunk man was the same person he had seen at the deadhouse the next day and the two others were the prisoners. 

Sarah Brennan repeated her evidence from the inquest about seeing Carr and Wall take House towards an entry, saying he was their shipmate. This evidence was backed up by Christopher Walker, who had seen House fall against some steps after saying something to a woman, who he said may or not have been Sarah. What he could say though was that Carr and Wall helped him up and took him towards the entry.

Another police officer, James Beattie, recalled seeing the three men in Chisenhale Street and on asking what they were doing, Carr replied that their were going to their lodging house. He waited and saw them knock on a door then went away when a woman leaned her head out of the window. Mary Brophy, the keeper of this lodging house said that the three men had come in and enquired about any available women but left after being told that there weren't any.

The carter Ryan and tinsmith Hughes then recalled seeing House on the pavement, not realising he was dead. Inspector Duggan then testified as to confirming that House was dead and sending for Dr Sayers, who stood and repeated his opinion that death was by strangulation and that it could not have been self inflicted. Mary Fannin confirmed that the handkerchief found around Houses neck was hers and that she had loaned it to Carr. Evidence was then given by Mary Laverty, who owned the house where the two prisoners had gone at about 5am. She told how they got up at about 10am and decided to pawn some clothes to get more drink.

Ann Hainsworth repeated her inquest evidence that she had been given a pawn ticket by Wall, with Thomas O'Brien from the pawnbrokers confirming he had given it out along with six shillings for a coat. Three detectives told how the two prisoners were arrested in Waterloo Road after Sarah Brennan had confirmed the body in the deadhouse was that of the man they had been with. Wall was wearing boots that were later identified as House's, while Carr had in his possession some braces and a comb that belonged to the deceased. The last prosecution witness was clothes seller Michael Hannon, who identified the boots Wall had as the ones he had sold to House, in addition to the coat that was pawned.

The counsel for the prisoners contended that the evidence was circumstantial and neither had any motive to kill House. It was suggested that he had been robbed  of his money by Jane Hurst and later fell down drunk and died. The witnesses were described as infamous and abandoned, and the opinion of Dr Sayers was simply dismissed out of hand. Even if death was a result of violence, the counsel said there was no evidence to suggest the prisoners did it and that it was unsafe to convict them of murder.

Despite the defence pleas, the jury took forty minutes to find both men guilty of murder, but did make a recommendation for mercy. Prior to donning the black cap the judge said 'I do not see how the jury could have come to any other conclusion but that the unfortunate man House came to his death by your hands.' He then passed the death sentence in the usual form and said he would pass the recommendation on, but not make any comment on it. As he was being led away from the dock, Carr said 'I hope it will be the last the bugger will ever sentence.'

Two weeks later, thanks to their defence barrister Mr McDonnell, the sentences for both men were commuted to transportation for life. On 1st January 1858 both men landed in Western Australia after a three and a half month voyage aboard the Nile.






Sunday, 1 January 2017

Was Boy Murdered or Did He Fall?

In 1854 a Dublin man claimed to have dreamt of his son being murdered at the time he actually died. However there was insufficient evidence to convict anybody in relation to the boy's death, which the judge suggested could have been an accident.

On Tuesday 14th March that year the steamer Trafalgar, owned by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, was lying in the Sandon graving dock. At around 11.30pm two policemen on duty heard a loud noise similar to a door slamming and boarded the 190 foot long vessel to investigate. Lying between the wheels of a gun carriage they found the body of fourteen year old William Hare, an assistant ship steward.

Hare's body was still warm and there was a large amount of blood near the head. Just a few yards away a cabin door was open and inside the police found two crew members still asleep and the ship's acting steward John Jordan in a half awake state. Jordan was told of what had happened and taken to the murder scene, where he said 'Poor Bill, poor bill' and then returned to his cabin.

Northern Hospital (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
The body was taken to the Northern Hospital and Jordan kept in custody due to his suspicious actions. A search of his bag recovered a wet shirt, which would be used as evidence against him at the inquest. 

An inquest took place on 16th March, attended by Hare's father, who had travelled from Dublin after receiving a telegraphic message. He was the regular steward on the ship and he stunned those present by stating that on the Tuesday night the whole of the circumstances attending to the death were visible to him in a dream. It was established that the last confirmed sighting of Hare was at 930pm when he had been ashore with the ship's fireman, having earlier cooked bacon on board.

The first evidence regarding Jordan came from the two sleeping crew members who said they had last seen him at 730pm. A plumber named Thomas Ford stated that he had seen Jordan wearing the same shirt on the Tuesday that was later found in his bag. This led the police to suppose that he had washed stains from it. When questioned by the coroner about this, Jordan replied that he had been 'relaxed in his bowels' on the Monday and hadn't wanted his washerwoman to clean the shirt. This contradicted with Ford's evidence though about him having been seen wearing it on the Tuesday.

The surgeon who carried out the postmortem said that death had been the result of a fractured skull and lacerations to the brain. The injuries could have been caused by blows to the head with a blunt instrument or a series of falls. Although the evidence presented showed that Hare had met a violent death and that Jordan had been drinking excessively, nobody could state that they had seen him and Hare together. There was also no hint of any malice towards Hare from Jordan, who maintained that he 'never lifted one finger to the deceased.'

After 45 minutes deliberation the coroner's jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and Jordan was committed to the assizes for trial. He was then taken to Kirkdale gaol to await his trial, which took place just two weeks later on 31st March before Mr Justice Cresswell.

After the prosecution had presented their evidence, which was the same as had been heard before the coroner, the judge interrupted the trial. He said that for the prisoner to be convicted of wilful murder there should be 'direct evidence or a chain of circumstances as could not be reconciled by any other conclusion than the guilt of the party against whom the charge was made.' 

Justice Cresswell then went on to sum up the facts; that there was no weapon, nobody had seen Jordan near his supposed victim, there was no blood anywhere else apart from near the body and that no screams were heard. The judge also suggested that Hare could have died as a result of falling from climbing the rigging, although accepted that it was inexplicable as to why he would have done that. Finally, he stated that it was unsafe to convict when a life was at stake, he ordered the jury to acquit Jordan.