Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Nurse Murdered In Hospital

In 1884 a terrible event happened at the Mill Road workhouse hospital when a nurse was murdered by a former inmate who was only released from prison earlier that day.

On the morning of Saturday 23rd February that year Adam Rutherford was released from Walton gaol after serving a four month sentence for robbery. A former soldier aged 38 who had served in India and South Africa, he had been in poor health for some time due to a bullet wound to his groin that caused frequent ulcers, causing him to be in and out of the workhouse hospital.

Rutherford called in at his uncle's house on Breckfield Road North and then went to a police station to ask for some discharge money, telling the officer he was likely to be sleeping in the workhouse that night. Rutherford then went drinking and rather than seek a formal admission, he instead climbed over the railings at about 2am and gained entry to the building via a window which had a broken catch.

Rutherford waited in a passageway until Jane Groom, who was the only  nurse on duty at night, went for a break from her ward rounds in the sitting room. As she arrived Rutherford cut her throat twice with a razor, with one of the slashes cutting through to her spine. Those on a nearby ward were awoken by her screams and got up to find Groom with blood pouring from her throat, pointing to the sitting room. Rutherford was found in there with his own throat cut and was restrained while the police and a doctor was sent for.

Doctor's arrived but there was nothing that could be done to save Ms Groom and she died about half an hour after the slashing. They then turned their attentions to Rutherford, whose wounds were not so serious and he was placed in a hospital bed under the watch of a policeman. When questioned by a clergyman, Rutherford said he had no idea he had murdered Ms Groom and could only remember inflicting his own wounds.

At the Coroner's Court in Dale Street the following Wednesday witnesses told how Rutherford had previously rowed with Ms Groom when she had removed a boy from the ward who was engaging in bad language. Attention was drawn to the faulty window catch, but the Board of the West Derby Union insisted that anyone who was determined enough would have gained entry. A verdict of wilful murder was returned against Rutherford, who was progressing well and had started to take in liquids. The following day Ms Groom, a 52 year old spinster who had worked there for ten years, was buried at Toxteth Park cemetery in Smithdown Road.

Despite his early progress, Rutherford's condition deteriorated again and he died on the morning of 27th March of a bladder infection. An inquest into his death concluded that his state of mind couldn't be determined due to it not having been ascertained to what extent alcohol effected his mind when coupled with infections to his wound.

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