Friday, 21 February 2014

Russian Sailor Hanged at Kirkdale

In 1884 an out of work Russian seaman lodging in Liverpool was hanged after stabbing a former lover who refused to have any more to do with him.

28 year old Elizabeth Hamblin rented a room in Anson Place, off London Road. She got into a relationship with a 23 year old Russian national named Ernest Ewerstaedt, who was renting a room in St James Place having not been required for further work after arriving on a sailing from Riga. However Ewerstaedt's poor financial situation led to Hamblin ending the affair, leaving him particularly annoyed as she appeared to be seeing other men at the same time.

On the 19th September Ewerstaedt went with John Prange, who he was lodging with, to see Hamblin in Anson Place. Prange went to her room and was told by Hamblin, who was sat talking to two men, that she didn't want to see Ewerstaedt. He reacted angrily to this and said that he would be buying a gun the next night.

Ewerstaedt spent the afternoon of Saturday 20th September drinking with a fellow Russian sailor named William Gillick and then bought a dagger in Park Lane, but didn't say what he wanted it for. He then headed up to Anson Place on his own after Gillick had gone to his lodgings at the Sailors Home in Canning Place. After having a drink with Hamblin and her neighbour in Gildart Street, he showed them the dagger and said he would do a bloody deed with it that night. Both women then returned to Anson Place, followed by Ewerstaedt a few minutes later. After pacing up and down for some time he knocked but there was no answer so he went to the back entry and climbed over the wall, demanding that Hamblin have more drink with him. He was shown into the parlour but before Hamblin could respond Ewerstaedt plunged the dagger into her breast and she fell down dead, with her attacker leaving the property via the back door.

What Ewerstaedt hadn't realised was that the whole incident had been witnessed by a local 10 year old called Henry Titherington who had been intrigued at seeing him walking back and forth outside Hamblin's house. This led to police apprehending Ewerstaedt in the entry, and a search of the house found the body lying face down in the parlour, with the dagger hidden in the water closet.

Thousands of people descended on Anson Place the next day to view the scene of the crime, while further details emerged of Hamblin's private life. Her landlady said that she had been married four years earlier but her husband had since left for Australia. She had no other family, her parents having died while she was a child, leaving her to be brought up by the Kirkdale Industrial Schools.

At the Police Court on 22nd September Ewerstaedt didn't ask for an interpreter, having explained that he understood English perfectly well having been living in Liverpool on and off for a year. After hearing the evidence of Henry Titherington, the Stipendiary Magistrate Mr Raffles remanded the prisoner for three days, at the end of which he was committed for trial at the next Assizes. During this committal hearing, Ewerstaedt claimed that he was drunk on the night of the murder and was fighting with two men who had daggers, but he was not responsible for the killing.

Ewerstaedt was tried on 21st November, the prosecutor describing him as a 'Russian Finn.' With the Russian consul in attendance Ewerstaedt, who was described by the Liverpool Echo as of 'inoffensive appearance' listened to the proceedings with 'not the slightest interest.' Both his fellow sailors gave evidence that helped condemn him, in that Gillick said he was present when the dagger was bought and Prange said Ewerstaedt had threatened to buy a revolver. A shopkeeper confirmed he had sold the dagger, although he couldn't identify Ewerstaedt, while neighbours in Anson Place told how they had seen Ewerstaedt produce it in the pub and another female said that she saw a man shout 'me kill my Lizzie' on the corner of Anson Place and London Road. 10 year old Titherington repeated his evidence from the first court hearing.

The Defence Counsel Mr Segar described how Ewerstaedt had woke on the Sunday morning believing the whole thing was like a dream, but he knew he had been fighting with two men. Segar stated that Titherington's evidence was unreliable due his age and anything else was purely circumstantial, laying the blame for the murder on two men who had not been caught. But there were no witnesses to testify to the presence of these two men meaning Justice Day's summing up was not favourable to Ewerstaedt. After returning a verdict of guilty, he was sentenced to death.

Ewerstaedt spent a lonely three weeks at Kirkdale gaol awaiting execution. He didn't receive a single visitor apart from the Reverend Gerald Krusmann from the Lutheran Church in Renshaw Street, to whom he continued to insist two other men were responsible . He was hanged by James Berry on 8th December in a double execution along with Arthur Shaw, a 31 year old tailor who had killed a woman in Manchester. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Husband of 25 Years Batters Wife to Death

A shocking killing in Victorian Liverpool saw a 55 year old man batter his alcoholic wife to death and only narrowly avoid being found guilty of murder.

Peter Flynn lived with his wife Margaret in a court off Saltney Street, just south of the Stanley Dock warehouse. On the evening of Saturday 16th February 1895 he returned home about 6pm and gave Margaret £1, which she said wasn't enough to buy what was needed. She then left the house and drank for a few hours, returning about 11pm.

The following morning, Flynn approached a nearby policeman and told him that he had found his wife dead in bed, and explained cuts to her head by the fact she had fallen in the street. Strangely though, blood was found on the furniture but not in the street or steps of the house and a post mortem revealed thirteen broken ribs.

At the trial which took place on 22nd March, the jury heard how Flynn was a hard working man, who was angered by his wife's drinking habits. Neighbours told how they had heard arguing coming from their property and also screams of 'murder', and that Margaret had earlier been found at the bottom of some steps and was helped inside. 

After being found guilty of manslaughter, Flynn was told by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Russell of Killowen, how he had been lucky to avoid a murder conviction, as it was apparent Margaret's injuries were the result of a 'a series of acts of brutality over a considerable period of time.' However after acknowledging that Flynn was of previous good character and there were circumstances which had provoked him, Russell passed a sentence of just six years penal servitude.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Killer Publican

1875 saw one of the most cold blooded killings seen in Liverpool when a pub licensee shot a man in London Road, paying for the crime with his life after appeals for clemency were dismissed.

35 year old William Baker managed the Rainbow in Williamson Square and was the son of a well known and respected victualler in the town. However in the early hours of Sunday 11th July he got into an altercation with 34 year old Charles Langan, a cab driver and former prize fighter at the corner of London Road and St Vincent Street outside the Swan Inn. He produced a revolver and fired one shot at Langan, who dropped to the ground.

A policeman was on the scene within seconds and on being told Baker had fired the shot and the revovler was in his pocket, quickly disarmed him and took him into custody. On arrival at the Main Bridewell he claimed that he was acting in self defence and only intended to his Langan with the revolver, but it had gone off. Langan was removed to the Royal Infirmary where he was pronounced dead on arrival, the bullet having passed through the base of his skull.

On the Monday at the Coroner's Inquest witnesses, some of whom knew both men, told how they had been walking up London road when Baker called out 'Charley I want you'. They went on to say how Langan replied that he had no business with Baker and refused his challenge to a fight.  No threats were made before the revolver was produced. The most telling evidence though came from 15 year old George English, who was returning home from working in a theatre. He didn't know either party but said he was sure he saw Baker fire the shot and there had been no provocation. A verdict of wilful murder was returned and Baker was committed for trial. The funeral of Langan took place on 13th July.

The trial took place on 17th August, with witnesses giving consistent evidence in relation to the way the shot was fired. Baker claimed that he bought the revolver to defend himself as he had been threatened by Langan previously, but couldn't show that he had been provoked immediately prior to the shooting. In summing up, Mr Justice Archibald said that there was no doubt about whether or not Baker had carried out the shooting, the only question was if he hadn't intended the gun to go off, in which case a verdict of manslaughter could be returned.

After retiring for an hour and a half, a guilty verdict was returned with a recommendation for mercy. Prior to receiving the death sentence, Baker told the court that his counsel had adopted the wrong line of defence and that the jury should have learnt more about Langan's character. As he donned the black cap, Justice Archibald said he had acted in the most wanton manner and he would have been astonished if the jury had reached any other conclusion.

Baker, who was married with a young child, had a lot of friends in Liverpool and with his father being a well known tradesman, there was plenty of sympathy on his part. A petition was presented to the Home Secretary, signed by 11 of the jury and 10 town councillors. This was met with an angry response by Langan's brothers, who objected to claims that he had threatened Baker after being refused service in the Rainbow. On 4th September, three days before the execution date, the Home Secretary confirmed there would be no reprieve, possibly having taken into account his previous arrests for beating a woman and robbery of a betting shop.

On 7th September Baker was hanged by Marwood alongside American seaman Edward Cooper. The Liverpool Mercury reported that he had to be helped up and looked bewildered, haggard and pale, unlike Cooper who went 'nobly to the scaffold.' As a mark of respect, the Rainbow remained closed all day while the blinds in his father's premises next door remained drawn.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Shooting on the High Seas

An American seaman who shot his superior on the high seas was hanged in 1875 after the jury's recommendation for mercy was not upheld.

Edward Cooper was born in New Orleans but went away to sea in his teens, usually working on ships out of Liverpool owned by Messrs Ferguson of South Castle Street. In January 1875 he set sail on he Coldeck set for Valpairaiso in Chile.

On  24th April in the early evening the Coldeck was near Cape Horn when Edward Jones, the boatswain, went to the forecastle and ordered 33 year old Cooper to help put up one of the sails. Cooper refused, saying he was drinking tea and when Jones told him again, he produced a revolver. Jones told him to put it down and fight like a man on the deck, but Cooper responded by shooting him in the chest in front of another seaman and went to his bunk.

Other sailors raced to the forecastle, where Jones was bleeding heavily and saying'Lord have mercy on my soul, I am done for.' He was carried to his cabin but soon died and Cooper was placed in chains by the captain, responding by saying the shooting was inevitable once Jones was put in charge.

The Coldeck continued its voyage to Valpairaiso where the revolver was placed in a sealed package by the British consul. Cooper was then brought back to Liverpool aboard the Iberian, which arrived in Liverpool on 23rd July. He was handed over to the river police by Captain Brown and appeared in the police court that afternoon, where he was remanded for a week. The following Friday he reappeared at the police court where he was committed to trial at the Assizes.

Cooper stood trial on 14th August, with the Liverpool Mercury describing him as 'of intelligent appearance.' The jury heard how he was of good character and had never caused any of his captains any trouble before. Fellow seamen told of the orders that were given to him and that they had not been given in an unreasonable manner. As such Cooper's claim that he acted in self defence was not upheld and he was found guilty of murder, but with a recommendation of mercy. He showed no emotion as he was sentenced to death and was then taken to Kirkdale gaol to await his fate.

Whilst in gaol, Cooper received very few visitors, being a single man with no family or friends in Liverpool. One of his visitors was a passenger who was on the Iberian that brought him back to England. Unable to read or write, he had never heard of the Lord's Prayer but turned to Catholicism whilst in the condemned cell, regularly being attended to by Father Bonte.

The Sailor's Home petitioned the Home Secretary for his reprieve, but Cooper didn't hold out much hope and his only wish was that he could be shot instead of hanged. On 4th September confirmation was received from the Home Secretary that his sentence would not be commuted and he was hanged two days later by Marwood (left) alongside William Baker.  Cooper maintained his coolness throughout the process, wishing goodbye to all as the noose was placed around his neck. The following morning Mercury reported that his dead body even had a slight smile on his face. As was normal practice, his corpse was then covered with quicklime and placed in a black coffin then buried in the precints of the prison.