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.