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.