Monday, 3 May 2021

Lovers Found Dead

A man shot his lover who was less than half his age before turning the gun on himself, after he found out she had started seeing someone else. 

On the morning of 29th July 1948 a farm labourer saw what he thought was a couple sleeping in a field off Stockbridge Lane, Huyton. He informed the police but when a constable went to investigate, he uncovered a tragic event. The man and young woman were both dead with gunshot wounds, and a revolver was still in the man's hand. 

The two people were identified as sixteen year old Margaret Whiteside, who lived with her family in nearby Winstone Road (pictured), and Stephen Coady, a thirty five year old man from Netley Street, Kirkdale. 

An inquest took place the following day overseen by Mr Bolton, the Coroner for South West Lancashire. Evidence was heard that Margaret and Stephen had been seeing each other for about a year. They had met at the home of Stephen's sister in Peasefield Road, a short distance from Margaret's home. 

In early June, Margaret had started seeing Bob Bamford, who was closer to her age. She decided to end the relationship with Stephen, who responded that he had nothing left to live for. On 28th July, she arranged to meet Stephen in Stockbridge Lane to hand some letters back to him, then failed to return to Bob at 10.30pm.

Letters which had been found in Stephen's pockets were read out by the Coroner. They were addressed to Margaret's parents, who had no idea about the relationship and said "I am sorry to this day that I was ever born to meet your daughter. I love her far too much to face life without her, you may curse me for the rest of your days but I only hope I roast in Hell for the injustice I have done to you."

The jury returned a verdict that Stephen had murdered Margaret and then committed suicide while the balance of mind was disturbed. 

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Death at Brothers First Meeting In Three Years

When two brothers went out drinking for the first time in three years, the night ended in tragedy when a fight broke out, leaving one of them dead. 

In  April 1943 William Clare, a twenty year old naval seaman, returned to his family home in Grovehurst Avenue, Dovecot. On the 17th (a Saturday) he went to a pub with his 33 year old brother Patrick, a labourer who lived in a flat in Stockbridge Lane, and another friend. 

The brothers left the pub at 10pm on good terms, walking ahead of their friend. However when he caught up, he found a crowd gathered around Patrick, who was lying on the pavement, his face bruised and battered. He was carried into a house to await the arrival of an ambulance, but he was declared dead on arrival at hospital.

The following morning William refused to believe it when told that Patrick had died. He attended a police station and said "I am the brother of the chap who was found dead. I don't know how it happened, we had a row and started fighting." William was charged with manslaughter but granted bail when he appeared in court on the Monday.

On 4th May William appeared at a committal hearing, where he was defended by Rose Heilbron. His statement was read out, in which he had said the brothers started fighting after disagreeing over whether William had leant Patrick £1 or 10 shillings in the pub. When William had left his brother, he was leaning against a tree and shouted that he wold see him the following day.

Dr Grace, who had carried out the postmortem, said that Patrick had bruising above his eye,  cut on the nose and three teeth were knocked out. He believed that death was a result of shock due to a contused wound on the jaw. After prosecutors acknowledged that William had cuts to his face, Miss Heilbron submitted that it was a most distressing case but that it was an accident and there was no case to answer.

Dismissing the charge, the presiding magistrate Mr Worrall said "This is one of the most unhappy cases that has come before my court."

Monday, 26 April 2021

Not Guilty Due to a Plaster

A man whose friend died after they had a fight was cleared of the killing when it became apparent his wound had not been treated properly. 

On Saturday 6th November 1909 two friends, James McCabe and Charles Leeson, began arguing whilst drunk at the Pacific Hotel in Linacre Road, Bootle. When pushed by McCabe, Leeson responded by hitting him on the head with a pint glass that he was holding.  

McCabe suffered a cut above his left eye but was still able to seek medical attention from a doctor who dressed it. The following morning he got up to go to work as normal at the local gas works, taking off the bandage and having his wife stick a plaster over the cut.

After less than an hour at work, McCabe left as he felt unwell. He went to bed and remained there for 24 hours, passing away on the Monday after erysipelas had set in. On being arrested Leeson admitted holding a glass but insisted it was the back of his hand that struck his friend. 

At the trial on 30th November Dr Mayor, who had dressed the wound on the night of it occurring, gave evidence. He stated that the bandage should never have been removed and replacing it with a plaster meant that discharge was prevented from escaping.

Leeson himself took the stand, saying they had been friends for over 25 years and never had a falling out until that night, on which McCabe struck the first blow. Leeson was fond not guilty and discharged, 

Sunday, 18 April 2021

The Unsolved Dingle Hill Murder

In 1870 a Dingle school headmaster was beaten to death. Nobody was ever convicted of the killing  after the police's only suspect was acquitted at his trial. 

Christian Fluek, a qualified surgeon and professor of languages and originally from Switzerland, ran a private boarding school at his villa in Dingle Hill, off the southern end of Park Road. At 5.30pm on Friday 25th November that year he went to his sitting room as he usually did at that time. Shortly afterwards servants in the kitchen below heard a thud but thought nothing of it, assuming it to be children fooling around. 

At around 6.30pm Mrs Fluek returned from an errand and found her husband insensible on the floor, with blood gushing from his head. She assumed he had had a fall and asked for help from the usher Richard Howchin then sent for Dr Barrett, who lived nearby. On cleaning the blood, it was soon apparent that there were four wounds with brain protruding from one of them. It was obvious that something far more sinister had happened and 41 year old Christian was lifted onto the bed, recovery seen as impossible.  

Police were called an a bloodstained iron bar was found in the room. Christian had been struck from behind in a coolly planned assassination by somebody who did not seem concerned that their presence would be noticed by the school's usher, five pupils, three servants and a lodger. There was no sign that anything had been stolen so robbery was ruled out as a motive. Suspicion soon fell on the attacker being a member of the household and the usher Richard Howchin was arrested when it was established that he had been given notice that his services would no longer be required after Christmas.

Christian succumbed to his injuries 48 hours later, having never regained consciousness. He was buried at in the graveyard of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth and Howchin appeared before the Stipendiary Magistrate and was remanded in custody. Howchin was 21 years old and from Norfolk and also taught classics and maths at the school. During the inquest correspondence was read out indicating that he had applied for another teaching position but was not given a favourable reference, mainly in respect of his character rather than teaching ability. A verdict of wilful murder was returned and Howchin was committed for trial at the next Assizes.

Exactly three weeks after the murder was committed, Howchin's trial began on Friday 16th December. There was huge interest generated and the corridors of St George's Hall were besieged with people trying to enter the courtroom. Shortly after the trial began the judge had to order the area outside to be cleared due to the noise the crowds of people were making. 

Howchin confidently said 'Not Guilty' when the charge was put to him. Evidence was heard that there was so much movement around the house near the entrance that nobody could have come in unnoticed. Howchin was said to have been away from the schoolroom for about fifteen minutes, during which time the attack was believed to have occurred. Under cross examination, the boys accepted that he had been spinning pennies with them on his return and his manner was normal. 

On the second day of the trial, a park keeper from Sefton Park, which was being developed, said that the iron bar that was used to carry out the killing matched exactly ones which were being used as stanchions there, and that some had been found to be missing from wagons. He also said he recognised Howchin as having visited the park. 

Howchin's defence counsel Mr Torr was able to explain that blood found on his clothing could easily have been as a result of him assisting Mrs Fluek when she found her husband has been attacked. Torr described the prosecution of having made a chain out of weak links, and it was dangerous to condemn a young man to death solely on circumstantial evidence. He added that both two lodgers had the opportunity to carry out the killing and asked if Howchin could really have carried out such a diabolical crime then be laughing with boys just fifteen minutes later. 

In summing up the judge told the jury that they had to be careful with circumstantial evidence, but also ask themselves if the prosecution had been able to show that nobody else could possibly have committed the murder. After retiring for an hour an a quarter, they returned a verdict of not guilty and there as spontaneous cheering in the court room, which soon stopped when the judge said anybody continuing it would be taken into custody. On being discharged, Howchin had a gleaming smile on his pale face and he ran down the stairs to freedom. 


Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Baby's Body in a Suitcase

In the 1920s a woman carried the body of her stillborn child in a suitcase for seven years before her secret was discovered. When the case came to court she was not given any sentence, with the judge saying she had suffered enough.

In December 1930 Nora Pulson and her husband William returned to Liverpool for the birth of what friends and family others assumed was their first child. The couple had left in the summer of 1926 to be married in Kent and then settled in Coventry.  

After giving birth in a nursing home, 33 year old Nora stayed with a lifelong friend Constance Hockenhull in Manston Road, Kensington for a number of weeks. 

On 29th January 1931 Constance began tidying up the room where Nora stayed and opened a suitcase to put some clothes. Wrapped in some cloth was what she initially thought was a turnip but was instead a baby's skull. A horrified Constance ran out of her house in shock and by the time she was ready to return, found the case had gone. A note had been left by Nora saying she would be in touch in a few days.  

When Constance did not hear anything for ten days she contacted her father, who immediately bought in the police. Detectives visited Nora at her lodgings at 70 Needham Road and she told them that the suitcase was under the bed upstairs. Initially Nora said she had given birth to a stillborn child in 1926 whilst living in Coventry with William, who confirmed this. 

Further enquiries in Coventry established that Nora gave birth to a child in October 1926, who lived for twelve days. The death was registered and a burial took place.  Confronted with his information, Nora admitted having given birth to the stillborn child in 1924 whilst living with her sister and father in Garmoyle Road Wavertree, then put it in a trunk and took it with her when she left home two years later. At that time, she explained, she was engaged but they could not afford to marry as William was unemployed. 

When asked what he knew about the birth out of wedlock, William confirmed that the child was his and that he had been told by Nora she had a stillbirth. He said he had never seen the body and maintained he had no idea that she had been carrying it in a suitcase for so long and that 'no intelligent man would connive at such madness.' Asked why he lied over the birth in Coventry, he said it was to protect his wife's good name. 

At an inquest, Nora's father said that that he had never met her husband until his daughter returned to Liverpool a few months earlier. He had not known about the baby who died in Coventry and she had managed to hide her pregnancy in 1924. A pathologist said that it was impossible to say whether the baby had been born alive. Nora and her husband both swore on oath that the second statements they had made to the police were true and apologised for the upset caused to friends and family. 

An open verdict was returned, but the Coroner advised Nora she still could face action in the criminal courts. Nora was charged with concealment of birth and committed to the assizes for trial. On 13th April she pleaded guilty. In mitigation, her defence counsel Basil Nield told the court that Nora's father had been in an eminently respectable position, was of strict principles and that she had been terrified he would find out about the pregnancy.

In ordering that Nora be bound over for twelve months, Mr Justice Wright told her "Your case is a very unusual one. There is no reason to think that the child had a separate existence and although you acted very foolishly and wrongly I think the fact you have been brought before the court is sufficient imprisonment.". Nora died in North Wales in 1953.

Monday, 8 March 2021

A Child's Very Suspicious Death

The body of a child was exhumed in 1839 due to her mother's suspicions she had been poisoned. However despite evidence of foul play, there was no arsenic found in the corpse.

On 16th September that year three year old Jane Nixon of White Mill Street, off Copperas Hill, died after spending the last 48 hours vomiting. The family's physician, Dr Garthside, had diagnosed cholera and Jane was buried in St John's churchyard.

A few weeks later Jane's mother Margaret made an astonishing discovery in the cupboard of a former lodger - a half full bottle of white fluid. This was something which she remembered seeing on the table on the morning of 14th September when the lodger (who was not named in news reports) had given Jane her breakfast.

Margaret had a horrible feeling that her lodger may have poisoned Jane, as she had been given notice to quit for having male visitors stay over night which was against house rules. Margaret took the bottle to a chemist, who confirmed that it was arsenic. The Coroner Philip F Curry ordered that Jane's body be exhumed from her grave. Dr Garthside and another surgeon examined the contents of the stomach but could find no trace of arsenic at all.

An inquest took place in November. In summing up, Mr Curry said it was the most suspicious case he had ever dealt with and that all the evidence regarding the lodger and bottle of arsenic pointed to murder. However the facts were that no arsenic was found in the body. He concluded by saying that the case was beset by suspicions, but the jury had to give their verdict based on the testimony heard. After then minutes deliberation, the jury returned a verdict that Jane died a natural death.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Drunk Taxi Driver Guilty of Manslaughter

A taxi driver that knocked down a pedestrian whilst under the influence of alcohol was convicted of manslaughter when the victim died of her injuries.

On Christmas Eve 1952 Martha Bretherton, did some last minute shopping but was knocked down as she crossed West Derby Road heading for her home in Schomberg Street. The vehicle that struck her was a taxi cab with two passengers inside and was being driven by 61 year old William Herbert Watts, who immediately pulled over. 

The police were sent for and Watts was taken into custody, where a doctor deemed him as unfit to have proper control over a vehicle. By the time he was fit to be interviewed, he had little recollection of what had happened. The passengers, one of whom had arrived at Lime Street on a train from London, said that earlier in the journey he had mounted a pavement and nearly collided with oncoming traffic whilst overtaking a tramcar.

Martha, who was 71, remained in hospital for five weeks with fractures to her leg, arm, jaw and a haemorrhage. She passed away as a result of her injuries on 30th January 1953. Watts, who had already been remanded on bail charged with drink driving and dangerous driving was rearrested and placed before the magistrates court charged with manslaughter. He was remanded on bail again, but this time with a surety of £20.

At the Liverpool Assizes on 2nd April, Watts pleaded not guilty to the charge. Rose Heilbron Q.C. prosecuting told the court that on getting out of the taxi Watts was unsteady on his feet and smelt of drink. In his own evidence, Watts claimed that Martha had dashed from the pavement in front of his taxi and he could do nothing to avoid her. However he was fond guilty of manslaughter, with the charges of drink driving and dangerous driving remaining on file. 

As he was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment and disqualified from driving for fifteen years, Watts was told by Mr Justice Cassells "You drove your taxicab when You were not fit to drive, and unfit to keep up with the ordinary happenings on the road. It is a pity that you, with your long experience of driving, should have indulged as you must have done in order to get into that state. By your conduct an elderly woman has had her life brought to an end. The court cannot, pass lightly over such conduct."