An ex soldier who shot is lover dead next to the River Alt in 1920 was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.
On the night of Sunday 21st March that year 35 year old Herbert Salisbury was arrested for being drunk and disorderly after falling in the road near the Blundell Arms at closing time. He had a revolver and cartilages in his possession and when asked where his wife was, replied "My wife is lying dead on the river bank, past Tommy Rimmers, on the main road. I shot her last night". Salisbury was held in custody whilst officers searched the location and found a body at the spot he had told them about.
The woman concerned was not Salisbury's wife but Alice Pearson, who had left her husband to co-habit with him. They had met in September 1918 whilst he was in hospital in Leeds, having been wounded on active service in France as a machine gunner for the American army. Salisbury had lived in Rhode Island for twenty years working in hotels, having been born and raised in England.
38 year old Alice left her husband and began to travel the country with him from town to town after he was discharged from the army in February 1919, living off her savings. Alice was the daughter of a successful boot dealer and had not married until she was in her early thirties. The couple lived in Liverpool for some time before taking lodgings in Castle Street, Southport, in early March 1920.
On being told that a body had been located Salisbury replied "Thank God for that, we planned to end our lives together when the money was done. We had £700 and the money you found in my possession (£2) was all we had left".
Salisbury's trial took place at the Liverpool assizes on 22nd April. He pleaded guilty but the judge insisted on hearing the evidence to allow the jury to consider a verdict. The exact circumstances of the fateful day were never fully determined. It was known they had been expected back at their lodgings and were seen together outside the Royal Hotel in Formby at 6.30pm. An hour later, Salisbury was at the Blundell Arms on his own showing off the revolver. The court heard how a brave pub customer had heard Salisbury's claim that he had pumped four bullets into a woman and disarmed him when he fell and held him until the police arrived.
Salisbury's counsel asked the jury to consider his state of mind and also whether manslaughter was more appropriate. In summing up however, the judge said drunkenness was no excuse and that if he fired a gun at a woman's face, there must have been intent to kill. It took just twenty minutes to return a guilty verdict and Salisbury showed no emotion as he was sentenced to death.
Salisbury made no appeal and was hanged on 11th May in a double execution at Walton gaol. The man hanged alongside him was William Waddington, an Oldham miller who had killed a seven year old girl.