Monday, 28 October 2013

Servant Girl Kills Her Newborn Child

A servant girl in Everton killed her baby in 1876 but despite the evidence against her was spared a conviction for murder by a sympathetic jury.

22 year old Elizabeth Plant was working for draper Robert Skinner in Pembroke Place, and allowed to keep her position despite her pregnancy. On 6th January 1876 she gave birth to a baby girl then cut its throat with scissors before placing the body in a box.

Plant then went to Salisbury Street to the home of Mrs McMillan,a tailor's wife, saying she had been sent there by Mrs Skinner to stay for a few days prior to confinement at the workhouse. There she asked another lodger to wash a blood stained sheet and scissors and two days later when confronted about the whereabouts of her baby calmly said that she had killed it and left it in the box at Pembroke Place.

Mr Skinner opened the box and found the body under some dresses and a doctor who was called confirmed that the baby had been born alive and had the throat cut. Plant was removed by police to the workhouse hospital and after an inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder against her on 11th January she was committed to trial at the next assizes.

On 29th March Plant stood trial with the prosecution case being straight forward given her admissions and findings of the post mortem. Her defence barrister explained that it was possible the baby had died during childbirth or she had panicked and killed it during some temporary mental derangement. The jury accepted this and, seeing a pitiful young woman of previous good character in the dock, found her guilty of manslaughter.

Judge Brett told Plant that he 'feared much that is was more than mere manslaughter' but she could not be looked upon 'without pity'. He sentenced her to ten years imprisonment and Plant, who had acted eccentrically during the trial shouting and crying bitterly, fainted before being carried out of the dock.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Unsolved Murder of a Baby

In 1883 a young baby was found murdered in the lake at Stanley Park and his identity was never established.

On Friday 20th April 1883 at midday a gardener called Charles Moss noticed the body of baby floating in a secluded part of the lake. He pulled it out and called for a policeman, who arranged for the baby, a boy, to be removed to the mortuary at the Walton workhouse.

An examination by doctors at the workhouse established the baby was about three months old and that a shirt had been tied tightly around the neck. The following Monday an inquest was held at the workhouse, where Mr Moss told the Coroner that the area of the lake where he found the body was secluded by trees and nobody on the footpath could have seen it floating there.

Dr Anderson, who had conducted the post mortem concluded that the baby had been well nourished and looked after, but had undoubtedly been murdered, most likely by strangling and suffocation. He also suggested the baby could still have been alive when placed in the water and ultimately died of drowning.

The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder by persons unknown. Despite a reward being offered for information leading to a conviction, the identity of the child was never established.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Killed by a Brick.

An escalating quarrel fuelled by drink between neighbours in Everton led to the death of a newly wedded young man in 1895.

The tragedy occurred in a court off Mansfield Street in Everton, where events started to unravel on the night of Saturday 17th August. Corporation refuse collector Stephen Dougherty and his wife, who had only got married at St Anthony's Church in Scotland Road on 31st May, were drinking with 30 year old labourer William O'Neill and some of his friends. Dougherty's sister started shouting at O'Neill, leading to him throwing her out of the house and a serious argument breaking out between the two men, which led to police being called and separating everybody to their own homes.

The following morning O'Neill seemed  determined to renew the row, his brother John telling Dougherty that he would meet the same fate as William Davies, who had been killed in Walton the previous week. At about 3pm Catherine Price, who lived with him, threw a ginger beer bottle at Dougherty's window, smashing it. O'Neill then climbed on to the roof of his house and took some loose bricks from the chimney stack, throwing them into the court. Mrs Dougherty ran to find a policeman and while she was out of the court a brick struck her husband, who was leaning out of his window, on the side of the head. He then fell 30 feet to his death, which was instantaneous. When a police constable arrived, O'Neill handed himself over without putting up a struggle. With his wife unconscious after fainting, Dougherty was taken to the Infirmary where he was pronounced dead and she formally identified him in the Prince's Dock mortuary in the evening.

At the Liverpool Assizes on 25th November, O'Neill's counsel tried to say Dougherty had fallen accidentally to his death and it was just a coincidence if any bricks thrown by O'Neill had hit him on the head.  However none of the witnesses called could confirm this and although Dougherty had acted aggressively the previous evening, there was no evidence that he had engaged in any provocation on the day he died. It took the jury half an hour to find him guilty and the death sentence was passed by Justice Collins, who said he would not waste any time commenting on the circumstances of the crime.

After an appeal by relatives, O'Neill had his sentence commuted to penal servitude for life by the Home Secretary and on 19th December he was taken by train to Knutsford Jail to serve his sentence.

Son Butchered By Father

Just a few days after William Davies was battered to death in Walton, there was a tragic incident in Toxteth when 2 year old Robert Edward Jones died after having his throat cut by his father.

The Jones family consisted of 31 year old Robert, his wife Mag and 4 children aged between 1 and 6. They lived at 18 Hemans Street, which was situated between Upper Hill and Upper Warwick Streets, where the Carter-Thackeray estate now stands. Mr Jones was a grocer in nearby Upper Pitt Street and had been known to be depressed for sometime and drinking heavily, although he had not been drinking on the night in question before the murder.

At around 5am on the morning of Saturday 17th August 1895 Mr Jones got up and made a cup of tea for his wife, who was in their bedroom with the youngest child while the three older children were in the back room. Shortly afterwards his wife got up to settle 2 year old Robert back down after he had awoke, then went back asleep. At around 7.30am though she was woken by her husband who was crying and told her that he had 'killed Bobby'. Mrs Jones then found her son sat up on the bed with his throat cut and blood pouring from the wound, but although a doctor was quickly sent for after 6 year old Ethel knocked at a neighbours for help, he was certified dead.

Jones, who had spent time in a lunatic asylum in Tuebrook earlier in the year, was arrested and appeared before the Stipendiary Magistrate that morning. He was pale and drawn in the dock, where he was remanded in custody for seven days on the charge of wilful murder. At the inquest in the Coroner's Court on the Monday, little Ethel told how she had woke up to find her father standing over her little brother who was bleeding heavily, while a carving knife was on the floor. She then said that he had calmly picked the boy up and sat him at the edge of the bed, before leaving the room. The jury accepted Ethel's evidence and returned a verdict of wilful murder against Robert Jones.

Mr Jones appeared at the next Liverpool Assizes on 29th November, where he was found 'guilty but insane.' The evidence of medical practitioners who had dealt with Mr Jones, in addition to the total lack of motive - he had been a doting father to his children - meant there was no doubt about what the verdict should be in this tragic case. He was sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Acquitted of Murder - But Still Hanged

In 1830 a Liverpool merchant died after being shot during a robbery in West Derby Road. Yet although the two men charged with the murder were acquitted, they were hanged anyway after being convicted of other robberies.

On the evening of 9th October Charles Burns, a wine merchant whose businesses premises were in Exchange Street East, was walking along West Derby Road towards his home in Tuebrook. About half a mile after passing the Necropolis (now Grant Gardens), a man jumped out from behind a hedge and held a pistol at him. Burns turned to run away in the direction of Liverpool but was shot in the back, but he did manage to get up and knock at the home of a Mr Turton, who sent for a surgeon.

The surgeon who arrived managed to remove the bullet from Burns's abdomen and he was taken home. However he had lost a remarkable amount of blood and died 24 hours later, having been able to give a description of the robber as being about five feet nine inches tall and wearing dark clothing. Having failed to seize anything from Burns, the culprit remained in the same place for an hour and a half before robbing John Arrowsmith, this time with two accomplices. Arrowsmith was a cousin of Burns who was on his way to Mr Turton's to assist in bringing him home.

The following Thursday a man tried to pawn a pencil case in Tithebarn Street. Noticing that it was engraved Arrowsmith a constable was called and the man, who had come to Liverpool earlier in the year from Dublin and was a 50 year old named Thomas Mulvay, was taken into custody. The following day his two brothers, John (34) and Michael (30) were arrested at their home in Naylor Street, where they lived with Michael's wife.

Lancaster CastleThe brothers were charged with a number of robberies that had taken place in the area and committed for trial at the next assizes, then transferred to Lancaster Castle to await trial. Then in a remarkable development on 8th March 1831 Michael Mulvay expressed to the gaol chaplain that his brothers had been responsible for the shooting of Burns and he wished to turn King's Evidence against them.

The trial took place just three days later on 11th March, with Michael claiming that all three had gone out with the intention of committing a robbery but it was John who told Thomas to shoot. When cross examined over his motives for giving evidence against his brothers, Michael said he did so because he loved justice, and he had not done it expecting to have robbery charges against him dropped. John and Thomas both denied the murder, saying they had been drinking in Hoey's in Tithebarn Street that night, but the owner of the pub, Matthew Hoey, said they had only been in their Sunday to Wednesday.

After 15 minutes deliberation, the jury found the defendants not guilty of murder, but the ordeal in the courtroom wasn't over yet for all three brothers. Michael was kept in custody while enquiries were made as to whether he should be sent to York in relation to other offences, but he was released the following Thursday when it was deemed he was not being charged with anything. 

On the same day, John and Thomas stood trial in relation to two robberies in the vicinity that had taken place in July 1830. The jury heard how the victims' belongings had been found at their home and they were found guilty and sentenced to death. As they sank to their knees begging for mercy Justice Littledale told them that they were 'responsible for several depredations in the neighbourhood' and he 'should not be doing his duty to the public were he to recommend them to His Majesty's mercy.'

The execution was set for 2nd April and both brothers admitted to the Rev. G. Brown, the Roman Catholic Priest of Lancaster, that they had been responsible for 7 robberies in total and John confessed to having shot Charles Burns, who left a widow and one child. At noon both brothers mounted the scaffold and went to their deaths holding hands. John died instantly but Thomas, having turned after the rope was placed around his neck, struggled violently for five minutes and his death had to be hastened by the executioner pulling at his feet. After hanging for an hour they were buried in St Mary's churchyard.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Murder of a Customs Officer

In 1834 the Liverpool Inspector of His Majesty's Customs was shot dead by a disgruntled employee, who was later hanged in public for the murder.

William Southgate took up his Inspector's post at Liverpool in 1832, while his killer Norman Welch had worked as a locker since around 1818. However after Welch was demoted to the lower paid position of weigher he vowed revenge on those responsible, telling colleagues that 'I am a wronged man and I will make an example of somebody.' He particularly seemed to want to target Mr Southgate, who had given him warnings previously for drunkenness and eating his dinner whilst on duty.

On Thursday 16th October 1834 Welch, who was aged 56, got his wages and spent some of them on a pistol, before going on a drinking spree. The following morning he left for work telling his wife, with whom he had six children, that she would never see him again. At 10am he calmly walked up to Southgate in the yard of the Custom House and shot him from close range, the ball piercing the abdomen. Southgate let out a scream and fell forwards while Welch, in front of several shocked onlookers, tried to put some laudanum, a form of opium, in his mouth but was stopped by others and wrestled to the ground.

Southgate fought for his life after a surgeon who was sent for managed to remove the ball from his abdomen, but he died 48 hours later. Welch showed a total indifference and said nothing when he was brought before the Mayor, Alderman Peter Bourne a few hours after the shooting. However by the time of he Coroner's inquest on 22nd October he was showing a great deal of remorse and readily agreed to have a clergyman spend time with him.

Welch stood trial at the Lancaster Spring Assizes on Friday 20th March 1835 and claimed insanity but this defence was not upheld and it took the jury just a few minutes to find him guilty. He was sentenced to death and the hanging was set for just six days later, Thursday 26th March. Welch maintained an air of resigned acceptance prior to the execution, telling the gaolers that it would be the happiest day of his life.

In front of a crowd of about 2,000 at Lancaster Castle. Welch struggled violently for several minutes after the bolt was drawn. After his body had hung for an hour, it was put in a coffin and buried within the grounds of the castle.