Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Unsolved Murder of a Boy in Anfield Cemetery

The killing of a teenage boy whose body was found in Anfield Cemetery has never been solved. 

Widowed mother Margaret Howell of Bidston View in Walton Road last saw her thirteen year old son Edward alive when he left home at 6.30am on Friday 11th June 1875. He was on his way to work as an apprentice stonemason for Mrs Stirling's monumental works at Anfield. 

Edward did return home for his dinner whilst his mother was out at work, but on going back out looking for bird nests he never returned. His disappearance was reported to the police and posters were distributed asking for information about his whereabouts. 

At 10.55am on Saturday 19th June a body was found in some trees at Anfield Cemetery by four dock labourers. It was removed to the deadhouse there. Margaret identified the body as that of her son, who appeared to have strangulation marks around his neck.

At the inquest on 22nd June Margaret was asked by The Coroner Mr Driffield about her son's passion for birdnesting. She explained how he had promised her he would only find one more nest then would stop. She also did not believe he would have gone looking for nests in the cemetery, but more likely met his death whilst trying to escape a beating from someone on whose land he had trespassed. She described him as 'generally a healthy boy'. His uncle John Garrity, who also worked as a mason at Mrs Stirling's yard, described him as 'well and hearty and never in strange mind.'

Portrait of Richard Assheton Cross, 1st Viscount Cross.jpg
Richard A Cross, Home Secretary
Dr Matthew Hill of Bootle, who carried out the postmortem, said that he believed death was the result of strangulation with a cord or possibly a neck tie. Crucially, he suggested that the low state of decomposition indicated that Edward had not been killed at the cemetery, but more likely elsewhere before being carried and dumped there.  The cemetery's gardener George Priestly explained that he had twice been where the body was found that morning and not seen it, while the bushes and shrubs appeared to have been placed over it deliberately for concealment. This was confirmed by a police constable. 

Two brickmakers who worked in Cherry Lane told how they had been working at 6.45pm on the day Edward disappeared and had heard two screams from the direction of the cemetery. They also had passed through the cemetery the following Tuesday about fifteen yards from where the body was found, and noticed a cap that was later identified as being Edward's. They both said that they had heard one local resident was extremely strict with anybody who went on their land.

After the jury returned a verdict of 'wilful murder against a person or persons unknown' police made exhaustive enquiries but found no real clues to the killers identity. This led to the Home Secretary authorising a reward of £100 on 17th July to anyone who could provide information leading to a conviction. Such was the lack of information that he also granted Her Majesty's Pardon to any accomplice who would give evidence against the killer. Despite this, nobody came forward and the killing of Edward Howell remains unsolved. 

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