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 When Mary died on 1st June, the attempted murder charge was withdrawn and replaced with one of murder.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

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