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. 

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