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 When Mary died on 1st June, the attempted murder charge was withdrawn and replaced with one of murder.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 married to 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

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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.