Monday, 8 July 2019

Unlawful Slaying in Bootle

When a man died after a fight in Bootle in 1935, the other person involved was charged with manslaughter but acquitted. 

Hermitage Grove
At 11pm on Saturday 9th November that year a fight took place in Aughton Road between Robert Langton and Paul Taylor.  Twenty one year old Taylor went home to his lodgings at 2 Hermitage Grove. On being asked by his landlady Mrs Morgan why he had a bump on his head said that it had been from "a scrap". She made him supper and he went to bed in a room that he shared with Mrs Morgan's son. Before going to sleep Taylor said he had a headache and the following morning he was found to be dead. 

When detectives visited Langton, a dock labourer, at his home in Florida Street to arrest him he responded "Dead, I thought I got the worst of it, I don't know what to say". He was taken in for questioning and on the Monday morning appeared before magistrates, where his father aid £25 so that the twenty three year old could be released on bail.  

An inquest heard that Taylor had died from a brain haemorrhage triggered by a ruptured meninginal artery, directly as a result of violence. At a committal hearing in Bootle Police Court on 19th November, other males present stated that Langton was upset by a remark Taylor had made about a girl he was with. They had fought, but shook hands at the end of it. Langton accepted striking Taylor, but insisted he had not thrown the first punch and also stated he had received a cut lip. Langton was committed to the Manchester Assizes for trial and again granted bail. 

The trial took place just seven days later. Medical evidence showed that Taylor's skull was thinner than normal. The defence also suggested that he could have struck his head against a wall during the scuffle and that this was what caused the injury. With these doubts having been raised, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty without leaving their box and Langton was discharged.  

Monday, 1 July 2019

Six Weeks For Paraffin Lamp Killing

When a woman threw a paraffin oil lamp at her husband as he returned from work, it exploded and he died from his burns. She was charged with manslaughter, but given a lenient sentence by the judge. 

At 9pm on 2nd March 1883, forty six year old carter Henry Hibbert returned to his home at Maynard Street (off Upper Parliament Street, where commerce Way is now situated). He was very soon back in the street again screaming for water as his clothes were on fire. 

Henry's wife Sarah ran out after him and along with a neighbour named Ellen Campbell, wrapped clothing around him to put the flames out. Within fifteen minutes a police constable arrived and found Henry sat in a chair inside his property with burns to face and body. He told the officer that Sarah was responsible, as she had thrown a paraffin oil lamp at him. 

Both husband and wife were taken to the Infirmary, as Sarah had burns to her hands. After they were dressed she was taken to the Bridewell and charged with assault, while Henry remained in hospital. The following day he was visited by his boss, a fruit trader who lived in Windsor Street. Henry told him that as soon as he opened the door the  lamp was thrown at him and the ball of it burst when it struck his head. 

Henry died ten days later and after an inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter, Sarah was committed to the assizes for trial an appeared before Mr Justice Day at St Georges Hall the following month. She pleaded guilty and despite Day's reputation for tough sentencing, she was imprisoned for just six weeks. At the same assizes, a woman who stole a mans trousers was sent to gaol for eighteen months. 

Shot by a Scorned Woman

In 1896 a woman shot dead a Liverpool merchant who she believed had broken a promise to marry her. She was sentenced to death but was reprieved due to her mental state and spent 55 years in Broadmoor. 


In the early 1890s, whenever Edgar Holland went to London on business, he enjoyed liaisons with Catherine Kempshall, a Sussex born theatre chorus girl. When Holland decided to end the affair, she was furious and sued him for breach of promise in 1895, claiming that he had reneged on a marriage proposal. 

Water Street in 1895 (Liverpool Picturebook)
The dispute was settled out of court by counsel, but Kempshall was unhappy with this as in return for a financial settlement Holland wanted all letters returning. She successfully applied to the High Court for this agreement to be set aside. In July that year Kempshall represented herself but the judge ruled against her, saying that there had been no promise of marriage.

Kempshall then undertook a year long campaign of harassment against Holland. Taking up lodgings at 40 Irvine Street in Edge Hill she bombarded him with letters. She would often turn up unannounced at his office in Water Street and and home in Penkett Stret, Wallasey, where she told his housekeeper that she would shoot him. 

In an attempt to keep Kempshall at bay, Holland occasionally gave her sums of money and wrote saying he was willing to offer a settlement but only if she instructed a solicitor. However she responded by saying that there was no need for her to do so as law was a "thieving profession".

Eventually a meeting was set up between the two at Holland's office at Drury Buildings in Water Street, facilitated by his solicitor Mr Alsop. Holland again told her that although he had no moral or legal obligation, he was prepared to provide for Kempshall but only via a solicitor. She again refused, saying that they were all liars and rogues. Then she took a revolver from under her coat and fired it four times at Holland, the bullets hitting him in the chest, thigh and hand. Alsop bravely ran around the table and pinioned her, causing the firearm to fall from her hand. A policeman was sent for and Kempshall was found to also have a dagger in her possession.

Holland was taken to the Northern Hospital, where surgeons removed a bullet that had penetrated his lung. He was so weak that he was unable to make a deposition and his condition remained critical. Kempshall was taken to the Bridewell where she was charged with attempted murder. A search of her lodgings found further ammunition in a small box. 

Two weeks later, Holland from a collapsed lung. This cause of death was attributed solely to the bullet wound and he was generally considered to be in good health otherwise. This led to Kempshall being committed to the assizes on the charge of murder. 

There was a huge crowd outside St Georges Hall on 19th March the following year as crowds sought admission to Kempshall's trial. She appeared in the dock dressed in all black and wearing a hat and veil. Although appearing weak and distressed, she replied in a firm voice "I am not guilty" when asked to enter her plea. She then undertook an extraordinary tirade in which she insisted the gun had gone off accidentally and called Alsop a liar, before saying she hoped none of the jury were Holland's friends. She had to be told firmly to "shut up" by her counsel.

In opening the case for the prosecution, Mr Pickford said that there was no doubt that Kempshall has shot Holland, with the only thing under question being her state of mind at the time. Alsop was the first witness and he recounted the day of the shooting as well as confirming that a bundle of letters produced, all signed by Kempshall, had all been sent to his office. An employee of Holland said that Kempshall had gone to Drury Buildings on fifteen occasions when he was away on business in Switzerland.

Two doctors testified that Holland's death was solely as a result of the shooting. When challenged on why they didn't operate on the collapsed lung, they replied that he was in too weak a condition and would have died from shock or exhaustion. Maud Park, who had rented a room out to Kempshall at Irvine Street, said that it had been taken under the name of Lock and that she said a solicitor owed her money. Holland's housekeeper was unable to testify due to ill health, and evidence was then heard that Kempshall had spent fourteen days in gaol for slapping the solicitor who represented him in the civil proceedings.

For the defence, the first witness was solicitor William Quilliam who had seen Kempshall in her cell soon after her arrest. He described how she didn't appreciate why she was there, was unable to give coherent sentences and would constantly throw herself back in her seat. Dr Wigglesworth, of the Rainhill Asylum, stated that although Kempshall as sane on other topics when it came to that of Holland, she was suffering delusions that all solicitors and judges were conspiring against her. This, he said, had influenced her conduct as it made her of unstable and excitable temperament. 

Dr Beamish, the Medical Officer of Walton Gaol said that Kempshall had been very weak on arrival and immediately taken to the hospital wing. He was of the opinion that she was suffering from mania persecution as she could discuss other topics calmly but would become excitable at the mention of Holland's name. Another surgeon, Dr Davies, told the court he believed that Kempshall was insane "where Mr Holland was concerned". 

In the closing speech, Kempshall's counsel Mr Madden said that her demeanour in court and words used in the letters showed that her mind was in a disordered state, something that medical professionals had confirmed. She then interrupted however, saying "I am not a maniac, I am quite sane, it is the truth what I say". Drawing his speech to  a close he urged the jury to spare her life as "she knew not what she did".

In his summing up, which lasted half an hour, the judge said that suffering from delusions did not make somebody criminally irresponsible. He told the jury to consider the nature of the delusion and crucially, did it make Kempshall believe that she had to shoot Holland because he was armed himself and about to kill her. At 7pm the jury retired to consider their verdict and after ninety minutes returned to court having found her guilty of murder, but with a strong recommendation of mercy.

Asked if she had anything to say before sentence was passed, Kempshall gave a long speech in a calm and composed manner. She said she had been misled by her solicitors, that Alsop was a liar and that the gun went off accidentally as Holland rushed and tried to dislodge it from her when he saw she had it. There were gasps in court as she said she did not want a reprieve. When sentence of death was passed Kempshall said "He will" in respect of the Lord having mercy on her soul. She was taken to the condemned cell at Walton Gaol where she developed a resigned acceptance to her fate.

A petition was raised by Mr Quilliam at his offices in Manchester Street. Support came from surprising quarters, with Alsop and also Holland's brother Walter both calling for the death sentence to be commuted. A total of 17,796 signatures were gathered and on 31st March a reprieve was granted. This was on the basis of a review of Kempshall's mental state, which concluded that she be removed to the Broadmoor Asylum. Reports stated that Kempshall showed no emotion as she was told of the decision.

Catherine was taken to Broadmoor by train from Woodside on 1st April. She was never released from the institution, dying there in 1952 at the age of 88. 


Saturday, 29 June 2019

Returning Fireman Stabbed to death

A man who went for a drink with family and friends after returning from sea was stabbed to death, with his assailant being convicted of manslaughter.

On Sunday 19th November 1865 the Helvetia arrived at arrived at Bramley Moore Dock from New York. Later that evening one the crew members, 22 year old fireman William McManus, went to the Bells public house, situated close to the railway bridge in Boundary Street, Kirkdale. He was accompanied by his sisters Mary and Catherine, as well as some other friends. 

At about 9pm a man named Daniel McKenna, who was known to McManus, entered and asked if he had seen a man named Daniel Close. He was sat with McManus, who pointed him out as being sat on the end of their table. Some words were exchanged between McKenna and Close leading to one of William's friends, William Nicholson intervening and telling McKenna to keep away. McKenna then struck Close but then left the pub after being hit himself by Nicholson.

Ten minutes after McKenna had left, McManus and his party got up and went outside themselves. Unbeknown to them, McKenna was waiting and punched McManus, who returned the blow. Very soon afterwards, McKenna ran up behind McManus, stabbing both him and another man, John Grady, in the abdomen. Nicholson gave chase but slipped, allowing McKenna to get away. McManus was carried to a nearby druggists in Athol Street but he was dead within ten minutes. Grady was luckier and managed to get himself to hospital for treatment.

At 6am the following morning, McKenna, a foundry worker, was apprehended by detectives in the cellar of his mother's house in Barmouth Street. He was wearing fresh clothes but ordered to change into what he was wearing the night before. Before being told what his charge was, he immediately confessed that he had been in a "frightful row" and did not know what he had done. McKenna was taken to the Police Court and remanded into custody by the Stipendiary magistrate Thomas Stamford Raffles. 

On 22nd November, an inquest took place before the Coroner, Mr P. F. Curry. The two McManus sisters described the events in the the pub, but admitted they did not see if McKenna had a knife. Nicholson told how there had been no provocation at all from McManus. Both he and another friend recalled that as soon as McManus fell, he shouted out "I am stabbed". On questioned about whether they saw a knife, they both said it was too dark.  John Grady, who had recovered sufficiently enough to give evidence, said that he had tried to prevent McKenna rushing at McManus, only to be stabbed himself. 

Detectives told the coroner they had recovered a cleaned up knife from McKenna's clothing. Dr Costine, who had been unable to save McManus at the druggists, described the wound that caused death as being three inches deep caused by a sharp cutting instrument. A verdict of wilful murder was returned and McKenna committed for trial at the next assizes. 

On 19th December, McKenna was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. This was on the basis that he and McManus had generally been on good terms and that the period for any malice aforethought was short. Telling him that he had taken a life by rash use of a dangerous weapon in the dark, the judge imposed a sentence of seven years penal servitude. 

Pawned Clothes Triggers Killing

When a man returned home from work to find his wife had spent all their money on drink and pawned his clothes, he killed his wife in a fit of rage. However after being found guilty of manslaughter he was treated leniently by the judge. 

On 16th December 1865 Henry Greenwood returned to his Leeds Street home from his job as a foundry worker to find his wife Mary leaving carrying an empty jug which she tended to get filled with ale. He dragged her back into their room and on finding she had spent his 24 shillings wages as well as pawning some of his clothes, told her he would "do for her this time".

Other occupants of the floor heard screams and then Mary ran onto the stairs, her dress torn. Henry followed her and knocked her down before kicking her about the head and body. Leaving her for dead, he then went into Gore's public house in nearby Vauxhall Road. 

A neighbour named Mrs Croft went to Gore's and told Henry he had killed Mary, leading to some men restraining him. When a police officer arrived though he managed to escape and was eventually caught in Westmorland Place. On being charged with the death of his wife he replied "All right I am very sorry" and was described by the constable as being "perfectly sober".

A postmortem revealed the cause of death to be extravasation due to blood on the brain, as a result of external violence. An inquest before the Coroner Mr P. F. Curry returned a verdict of manslaughter and Henry was committed for trial.

On 27th March Henry appeared before Mr Justice Mellor, where representation were made that he had become exasperated by his wife's intemperate habits. It was also stated that the couple's daughter had been sent into service to avoid her mother's influence and even had her own clothes pawned. 

After some deliberation the jury found Henry guilty of manslaughter with a recommendation for mercy. He was then gaoled for sixteen months by the judge. 

Thursday, 27 June 2019

The Crosby Abortionist

During the 1940s a widow in her seventies was twice convicted of manslaughter after the deaths of women on whom she performed illegal abortions.

On 17th July 1944 Doris Chipchase, the widow of a merchant seaman who lived in Oriel Road, Bootle, died at Walton Hospital. Investigations established she had recently had an abortion carried out by another widow, Isobel Parker, a former nurse and midwife who lived at 3 Fairholme Road in Crosby. 

Fairholme Road
Parker was charged with manslaughter and granted bail. When she appeared at the assizes the following October, she was defended by Rose Heilbron who told the court the abortion had been carried out as a 'good turn'. as Ida had threatened suicide. 

Despite Heilbron's submissions, Parker was found guilty. Mr Justice Stable had no room for sympathy when it came to passing sentence. Jailing her for nine months, he told her "People who undertake to perform these operations should know that when death results there is no reason so far as that I am aware why they should not be indicted for murder".

Eighteen months after Parker's release, thirty year old Edna Stephens died after visiting her home. Unmarried, she was a sergeant with the Womens Auxiliary Air Force and had onlly recently returned from two years service in Egypt. She was stationed at Padgate, Warrington but her parents lived nearby at 5 Sandheys Avenue. At 530pm on Saturday 14th December 1946 she knocked at the door and was introduced to Parker by her daughter in law Olivia, who then went to the cinema with her husband. 

Within an hour Edna was dead. She had been found collapsed in the kitchen by a lodger Josephine Smith, who was alerted by the sound of groaning. Edna's regular doctor, Dr Brenner was called to the property and accused by Parker of sending Isobel to her. Furiously denying this, he passed the information about the death to the police. On being arrested later that evening, Parker claimed she had only examined Edna and prior to her collapse and repeated that Dr Brenner had sent her. 

A postmortem established that an abortion had been carried out using a sharp instrument, and that Edna had been three or four months pregnant. When she appeared at an occasional court in Seaforth two days later, Parker complained of being hard of hearing and said she had recently suffered a stroke. Despite her poor health, a request for her to be granted bail was refused and she was remanded into custody.

Initially prosecutors wanted to charge Parker with murder but at a committal hearing the following January this was reduced to manslaughter, along with 'using an instrument to procure miscarriage'. Parker had limped into court with the aid of a stick and needed to be helped to her seat by a warder. 

On 12th February 1947 Parker was back in the familiar surroundings of St Georges Hall for another trial. Her defence barrister, Basil Nield, said the evidence was purely circumstantial and suggested that Miss Stephens could have been "interfered with" by somebody else before visiting Parker. This failed to convince the jury who took just fifteen minutes to find her guilty.

In sentencing Parker to three years imprisonment, Mr Justice Singleton said "If anyone should know the danger of the practice you carried on this young girl, you with your experience ought to have known it".

Parker's second victim Edna Stephens is buried in St Luke's Church in Crosby, where her grave is marked by a CWGC headstone.

Death of a Teamowner

When a Liverpool teamowner was killed by one of his employees after a row, the jury took a leient view and found him guilty only of manslaughter. 

On 25th March 1889 George Godfrey, was in the fruit rooms at Victoria Street with one of his employees, a porter named  Samuel Vaughan. After some words were exchanged between the two over an outstanding delivery to a Blackburn trader, Godfrey punched Vaughan, causing him to fall to the ground.

An hour later, Vaughan confronted Godfrey in his office which was upstairs in the same building, demanding a shilling. The request was refused and as Godfrey was leaving via some stairs, Vaughan hit him from behind with an adze (a cutting tool). Godfrey was taken to the Northern Hospital.

Vaughan was apprehended later that evening at a public house in Conway Street. As he was being conveyed to the Bridewell he said to the police officer "I struck him with the flat end, not the sharp end". Four days later Godfrey died from inflammation of the brain having never fully regain consciousness. He was just twenty five years old.

The funeral of Godfrey took place on 2nd April and was attended by a number of master carters and fruit merchants. There were nine mourning coaches and 3,000 lining the streets around his home in Rose Vale, Everton. Around 400 mourners were at Anfield Cemetery, where he was buried in the Roman Catholic section.

The day after the funeral Vaughan, who had initially been charged with wounding, was brought before the Police Court and committed to the assizes to stand trial for murder. A crucial factor behind this decision was that he had an hour to calm down after being struck by Godfrey and that he had told another porter he would "knock his brains out" and intended to "do for him".

On 23rd May Vaughan stood trial and unusually for the time, gave his own statement. He claimed that  Godfrey had again hit him in the office and that he found the adze used was on a table there. Prosecutors acknowledged that an adze was not usually carried by porters. In the closing statement, Vaughan's defence counsel described him as "an uneducated passionate man who was smarting under the blow which he had received". It was also pointed out that although nobody had seen or heard Godfrey strike Vaughan at the top of the stairs, it was the same case in relation to the blow with the adze.

After deliberating for ten minutes the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter. However Mr Justice Stephens was in no mood for leniency. He told Vaughan that due to his use of an implement and having gone to the office intending to cause harm, a murder verdict would have been justifiable. Saying it was for the protection of the public, he then imposed a sentence of fifteen years penal servitude.



Tuesday, 4 June 2019

An Edge Hill Double Tragedy

A former soldier who had never overcome the trauma of the trenches killed his wife and daughter in 1929. He was found guilty of murder but insane at the time and detained at His Majesty's pleasure. 

On 30th April that year, at 4.25am, John Edward Jones called at the bridewell in Lawrence Road and stated that he had "done in" his wife and baby. Police officers attended his home at 21 Casterton Street, off Spekeland Road, and found the body of ten month old Eileen on a bed. She was lying alongside her 35 year old mother Mary, who was still alive but bleeding heavily from a head wound. Three step children were cowering in a corner. 

Three hours later 42 year old John was charged with the murder of Eileen and made an extraordinary statement. He told the detective inspector that he had married Mary, a widow in 1927, but for the last year she had told him he was no more than a lodger as she had enough to do looking after the children. John stated that a row started over his arrest two nights previously for being drunk in the street. After being called a "Welsh rabbit" and "worm" he waited for her to go asleep then hit her three times with a hammer and did the same to little Eileen. After wondering for a few minutes what to do, he decided to hand himself in at the bridewell. A note was found  was found on his possession which said "My God, murder. No wonder. Give me a dog's life after what I went through".

A dishevelled John appeared at the magistrates court where he was remanded, charged with the murder of Eileen and attempted murder of Mary. When Mary died on 1st June, the attempted murder charge was withdrawn and replaced with one of murder. 

John appeared at the Assizes on 17 June. Evidence was heard that during the First World War he had suffered a shrapnel wound to the forehead and been kept prisoner for two years. A medical expert called by the defence said that he repeatedly had dreams of being in battle and that he carried out the act during an epileptic dream state. However, Dr Ahearn from Walton gaol suggested John's lack of horror at what he had done on coming round meant he knew what he was doing. 

After twenty five minutes of deliberation the jury came back and asked to see the legal definition of insanity, as read in the judge's summing up. After reviewing this it took just twelve minutes to return a verdict of guilty but insane at the time of the act. John was then ordered to be detained at His Majesty's pleasure by Mr Justice Charles.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

A Walton Double Tragedy

A mother who cut the throats of her two young children was found guilty but insane.

On 15th April 1933 the landlady of 34 Dumbarton Street, off County Road, heard moans coming from an upstairs room. On going in, he found 33 year old Lilian Wright lying on the bed with a throat wound. Next to her were the dead bodies of her children Audrey (4) and Lawrence (2).

The bodies of the children were removed from the property on stretchers, while Lilian had her wound bandaged and was taken to the Stanley Hospital in a semi conscious state. Lilian's husband William,  a haulage contractor, returned home to be greeted with the terrible news and collapsed into the arms of neighbours. The family had only moved to Dumbarton Street four days earlier, as Lilian had felt isolated at their previous home in Mossley Hill and wanted to be nearer friends she had known since childhood.

Later that evening William was taken to see his wife in hospital. She wrote him a note saying "Are Audrey and Lawrie dead? Please bury them in Church Road, near Dad. I would not leave them, I love them, bury me with them."

Lilian was transferred to Smithdown Road hospital and remained in a serious condition for five weeks. When she was finally discharged on 24th May, she as taken straight to the police court where she was charged with two murders and attempted suicide. 

At the Assizes on 14th June, it was heard that William had been a kind and loving husband, but Lilian was convinced her eldest child would not survive and that she was being slowly poisoned. She was found guilty of murder but insane and ordered to be detained at His Majesty's Pleasure. 



Friday, 19 April 2019

Sister in Law Killed in Drunken Brawl

When two sisters in law spent the day drinking it ended up in an argument over missing money, leading to one of them dying after being stabbed.

Comus Street (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)Mary Costello, who lodged in a court off Comus Street in Everton, spent 24th August 1892 drinking with her sister in law Elizabeth Costello. Elizabeth was the sister of Mary's husband, who was away at sea. Late in the afternoon the pair were in their lodgings drinking with a number of other women. An argument then broke out over a missing sixpence, which a blind occupant of the house had obtained that day through begging. This resulted in Elizabeth stabbing Mary in the neck with a rusty kitchen knife. 

Rather than send for a doctor, those present tried to revive 38 year old Mary by pouring brandy down her throat. It was only when other residents of the court heard what had happened that a policeman and doctor arrived. Life was pronounced extinct and the body was taken to the Northern Hospital. By this time Elizabeth had absconded and she was not arrested until 7am the following morning at a house in Chisenhale Street.

The Liverpool Echo described the premises where the stabbing took place as 'worse than a piggery'. It reported that the bedclothes consisted of shoddy remnants and there were no linen, pillows or sheets. 

Elizabeth, who was aged 23, admitted to fighting with Mary, but claimed she had got her wound when falling against the spout of a kettle. She appeared at the Magistrates Court on the same morning as her arrest and was remanded for eight days. The inquest took place on 26th August, where one of the other women present said that Elizabeth had thrown the knife at Mary. However a doctor who carried out the post mortem said that the wound had been caused by a strong blow. In summing up, the Coroner said that drink was no excuse and after a minute's deliberation the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter.

At the committal hearing on 22nd September, there was so much arguing among the witnesses that the prosecutions opening comments had to be delayed. Eventually, despite him asking for a charge of murder, Elizabeth was committed to the assizes on the lesser charge of manslaughter. On 10th September Elizabeth pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment.




Friday, 8 March 2019

The Hunter Street Tragedy




A soldier who was arrested following the death of his wife whilst on leave was charged with her murder, but discharged at the assizes.

On the evening of Monday 7th June 1915 Mary Mullarkey was found lying on flags and groaning in the rear yard of a house in Hunter Street. Assumed to be drunk, she was helped to her room by two other occupants and left alone.

The following morning 34 year old Mary was found to be dead and police were called. There were signs of a struggle with broken crockery scattered around the floor and the rear window, from where there was a 22 foot drop, was open.

That afternoon Mary's husband Martin Mullarkey, also 34, was arrested at his barracks in Freshfield where he was serving with the 4th Battalion Kings Liverpool Regiment. 

At the inquest, it was heard how the couple lived unhappily together and that drunken rows were frequent. Mary's own mother, also Mary, admitted that Martin had told her his wife had gone through the window, but she did not go and see her, instead buying her son in law some cigarettes. Detective Inspector Matthews said that it was impossible to say from the condition of the room whether Mary had fallen or been pushed. this led to an Open verdict being returned. 

Despite the inquest verdict, magistrates still committed Martin for trial at the next Manchester assizes. This was on the basis of his statement to his mother in law, which didn't specify if she had jumped or he had pushed her. The soldier, who was still recuperating after being wounded in France, maintained he had never laid a finger on his wife that evening. 

On 19th July, Martin appeared before Mr Justice Low. After the prosecution had made their opening comments, the judge intervened and said he did not think there is enough to justify a murder charge. The prosecuting counsel, Mr Swift, replied that he had pleasure with agreeing such a course. After directing the jury to return a not guilty verdict, Justice Low remarked that the coroner's jury had come to a sensible decision and ordered Martin's discharge. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Canada Dock Tragedy




A man who went to the aid of a crew member on board a ship berthed in Canada Dock died from stab wounds, leading to the assailant being convicted of manslaughter. 

At about 10pm on 6th November 1906 Wallace Tate, from Loxdale Street in Dingle, went to see off a relative on board the steamer Manchester City. The Manchester Line vessel was due to sail at 2am for Buenos Aries. Whilst there he witnessed an altercation between able seaman John Wells and the boatswain, after Wells had refused orders to go on deck.  

When Wells assaulted another crew member called Driscoll that had stood up for the boatswain, Tate went to break things up. There was a brief struggle and Wells ran off throwing a knife away as he did so. Driscoll had a stab wound in the hand but Tate appeared unhurt and went to sit on a bunk. However a few minutes later he doubled up and fell unconscious on the floor. He was rushed to Stanley Hospital where it was confirmed he had died from a severed artery near a wound on the groin.

Twenty nine year old Wells, who lived in Greenside off Brunswick Road, was arrested on the quayside and appeared before the Police Court the following morning. He said he could recall nothing of the incident, having been drunk. He was then committed to the assizes charged with wilful murder.

Wells appeared before Justice Sutton on 3rd December, where the prosecuting counsel pursued the capital charge on the basis Wells was not acting in self defence. However due to his having been drinking, there being no previous animosity with Tate and the very short premeditation period, he was found guilty only of the lesser charge of manslaughter. Wells was then sentenced to five years penal servitude. 

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Christmas Eve Tragedy in Rainhill



When a man died from injuries sustained on Christmas Eve, the alleged killer was acquitted as it couldn't be proved he had struck a fatal blow.

On Christmas Eve 1915 Henry Wharton, a 45 year old railway signalman, attended to his duties as secretary of the club at the Black Horse Hotel in Rainhill. When his duties had been completed he enjoyed a few drinks before calling to see a friend. 

Shortly after midnight Henry was found lying unconscious in a path off Parkers Row. He was removed by a police constable to his home in Railway Cottages, Stoney Lane, Rainhill.  After police made enquiries 24 year old Thomas Foster, of Houghton Street in Prescot, was arrested and charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm and allowed bail which was set at £100.

On 29th December Henry died,  having never regained consciousness.  The following day Foster was back before the courts, where Superintendent Garvey from the police successfully applied for a remand. 

Foster appeared at Liverpool Magistrates Court on 28th January 1916. His counsel Lindon Riley was rebuked by the judge for referring to his being a territorial, a foreman in a munitions factory and having a brother being the army The judge also criticised Foster for placing his overcoat over the dock rail to ensure a khaki armlet was visible to the jury. 

Evidence in the case was conflicting. It was agreed that Henry had a fracture to the back of his skull, but only one witness could say that they had seen Foster strike him. Foster said that Henry had come uninvited to his friends house and continued to fall down drunk, which is what happened as he tried to take him home. 

After a short deliberation, a verdict of not guilty was returned and Foster was discharged. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Murder and Suicide in Berwick Street


Image result for berwick street liverpool

When a Kensington man was struggling due to being out of work, he shot his wife dead and turned the gun on himself. 

On the evening of 16th August 1900 Hugh Murphy, a 24 year old shipwright, shot dead his wife and then turned the gun on himself at their home in Berwick Street. The two bodies were found a few hours later by Hugh's aunt, who lived in nearby Every Street. A policeman was summoned and the bodies were taken to Princes Dock mortuary. 

At the inquest Hugh's widowed mother Ann told the Coroner that the couple lived with her. She described how they had a habit of getting worse for drinking and quarrelling, but that generally they were happy together. However she also said that in the preceding days Hugh had told her he was tired of life, due to criticism from Florence because he had been out of work for two months. 

In summing up the Coroner told his jury that this had been a terrible occurrence and that Hugh had evidently been suffering from mental depression. A verdict was returned that Hugh had murdered his wife then committed suicide whilst in a temporary insane condition. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Manslaughter Woman's 33 Previous Convictions

A woman who was convicted of manslaughter after a drunken row led to a stabbing had already been before the courts 33 times. 

On 2nd July 1921 Mary Ann Peden, aged 52, got into an argument with Jane Henshaw at her home in Boreland Street, Bootle. Mary accused Jane of telling others that her daughter was not good enough for Jane's son. Jane told Mary to shut up, then picked up a kitchen knife and lashed out at her, causing cuts above the eye. Mary managed to seize the knife from Jane and then stabbed her in the neck, narrowly missing the jugular vein. 

Twelve days later 42 year old Jane died of bronchial pneumonia which was related to the wound. Mary was charged with manslaughter and appeared at the assizes on 9th November. Her solicitor said that she was acting in self defence and this was a case of excusable homicide, but this was rejected and the jury found her guilty.

After hearing that Mary had 33 previous convictions, mainly for drunkenness, the judge sentenced he to twelve months imprisonment with hard labour.