Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Garston Wife Killing

In 1888 a man subjected his wife to a brutal battering in Garston that was treated very laxly by the authorities, but despite causing her death he escaped with his life when the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter.

James and Ellen Neill were in their forties and had lived in Vulcan Street for twenty years. James was a labourer at the nearby docks and both drank heavily, with Ellen appearing in court thirteen times for drunkenness.

On Wednesday 29th August the Neill's neighbour Mrs Doyle heard them arguing over money and when she went to see if everything was ok, she found Ellen cowering in the lobby, with James screaming that he would 'swing for her' if she didn't find some money. What happened after that isn't clear, but at 9.30am James was brought back in a drunken state from a local pub by one of his five children and went to bed to sleep it off.

At around 4.30 that afternoon Mrs Doyle heard arguing again and went around, where she saw James banging Ellen's head against the tiled floor. Mrs Doyle sent one of the children to find a policeman and was then powerless to prevent the sustained attack, that then consisted of James standing on a bacon box over his wife's stomach and kicking her at least twenty times. He then told her that he would roast her and started kicking hot cinders from the fire over her now nearly naked body, her clothes having been largely torn off.

Unbelievably, when PC Palmer arrived he was invited by James to 'come in and see the drunken bitch' and after seeing Ellen lying on the floor with vomit over her and concluded that she was drunk and went away. The following afternoon another policeman called for a medical examination and a doctor found bruises on her eyelids and neck, as well as burns on the chest, but again no action was taken.

Ellen remained in bed for three more days, with James spending most of Saturday 1st September, the day she died, at her side. He made no comment when being taken into custody except to say he hadn't intended to kill her. Two days later the Coroner's court returned a verdict of wilful murder.

James was tried at the Liverpool Assizes on 22nd December, and it was fortunate for him that Mrs Doyle was ill and unable to give evidence. James's defence counsel suggested that Mrs Doyle had a grudge against him,and also managed to cast doubt on the injuries to the brain that caused Ellen's death as the doctor who carried out the post mortem said they could have been obtained by falling.

The jury in the case returned a verdict of manslaughter. In passing sentence, Mr Justice Wills told James that he had engaged in 'desperate violence with an utter recklessness of consequence' and ordered that he serve sixteen years in gaol.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Death of a Prizefighter

In 1875 a prizefight that the police were powerless to prevent took place at Aintree racecourse, resulting in the death of one of the men involved.

Simon Looney and John Mahoney were both Irish dock labourers who lived in the Vauxhall area of the city. Mahoney, who was known as a good fighter but didn't go looking for trouble reluctantly agreed to fight Looney who wouldn't stop challenging him to one.

The fight, for which both men were paid £5, was set for the early morning of Sunday 1st August but police were tipped off and dispersed a crowd of a few hundred men from the canal locks at Love Lane. Later that morning, what the Liverpool Mercury described as 'crowds of low characters' were seen by police heading towards Kirkdale and on towards Walton. The men eventually got to Aintree, where many started playing games and running races to try and convince the police nothing untoward was happening.

A ring was formed and guarded by men with sticks and belts, and the heavily outnumbered police were unable to stop the fight from starting. Mahoney and Looney shook hands, with Mahoney telling his opponent that it was bad that two Irishmen should have to fight like this. Mahoney gradually gained the upper hand after the first four or five rounds were even, then after 40 minutes he was ready to pronounce himself the winner. However many of the crowd, which numbered about 400, rushed towards the ring and insisted they fight on. After Looney was knocked to the ground with a blow to the cheek, he said he would not fight any more and was taken to Bootle Hospital by his friend, while Mahoney and his friends began the long trek back to Vauxhall.

The police managed to arrest five men who were taking charge of the ring and attempts to take a statement from Looney were unsuccessful. He died the following morning and when Mahoney heard this news he handed himself in to Great Howard Street police station.

On 16th August Mahoney and five others were found guilty of manslaughter, with the jury recommending mercy. In sentencing Mahoney to four months imprisonment, Mr Higgin Q.C. told him he had every opportunity to pull out of the fight, but took into account his previous good character and surrendering to the police on hearing of Looney's death. The other five were sentenced to six weeks imprisonment.

In a twist to this story, Mahoney was assaulted the following March  by a Patrick Moran in Tenterden Street. Moran told him that he had killed a good man and that he would swing for him. Moran then punched Mahoney up to fourteen times in the face. He was subsequently convicted of common assault and sentenced to two months imprisonment.