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.