Friday, 30 January 2015

Wife Killer Caught in New York

A man who killed his wife in 1862 thought he had escaped the law when he sailed to New York but four years later he was apprehended and returned to Liverpool to face justice.

Myrtle Street in 2016
30 year old Robert Reid and his wife Ann lived an unhappy life in a cellar in Lower Myrtle Street, while their children were in the workhouse in Brownlow Hill. On the evening of 4th December 1862 Reid took his 13 year old son John from the workhouse back to the cellar, where they sat around a fire singing songs with Ann and her friend Mary Rogers. There was then a dispute over which song to sing and Ann struck her husband with a jug, which smashed. Reid then dragged Ann by the hair to the corner of the room and stabbed her in the arm, causing her to fall instantly.  He then took hold of John and ran off into the street, where he was seen to throw a knife into the gulley and disappeared down an alleyway.

Ann didn't say anything after the stabbing and was dead when a policeman went down to the cellar, having been called in by Rogers. On seeing Ann's condition he called a surgeon, who found that there were two stab wounds and a main artery to the arm had been severed and recovery would only have been possible if she could have been attended to immediately after the stabbing. Another police officer searched the area and recovered the knife but there was no sign of Reid.

It later transpired that that night Reid and his son slept at his brother's house in Richmond Row, but when John awoke in the morning he found his father had disappeared, leading to him finding accommodation with another uncle in Greenland Street.

A reward of £100 was put up for Reid's capture but no information was forthcoming, although it was believed America was his destination as he had lived there before and had relatives. A description was sent to police there but he couldn't be traced. Reid managed to eke out a living as a tinsmith but his decision to stay in New York was his undoing, as the police force regularly exchanged information with their colleagues in Liverpool. On 4th August 1866 Detective Farley from the New York police arrested a man in Brooklyn for being drunk and disorderly whose description matched that of Reid. He then communicated the information to Detective Inspector Carlisle, who arranged for Detective Marsden to sail across the Atlantic with Mary Rogers.

On 18th August Reid was taken into custody after being recognised by Rogers. He didn't deny his identity and made a statement to the effect that Ann had been spitting blood for four days and he used no weapon on her. He then said that he had spent many a night wandering the streets looking for her as he knew she would be drunk somewhere. Applications were then made to have Reid returned to England and on 13th September he appeared before Thomas Stamford Raffles at the Magistrates Court, where he was committed for trial at the next Assizes on a charge of murder.

On 19th December Reid's son John was then in the terrible position of being called to give evidence in a case against his father, but the prosecution kindly agreed to ask no questions of him. He told the court that his mother hit Reid with a jug and he then slapped her, leading to her falling over. Surgeon who saw the body though said that the wound could not have been caused in this way. His defence counsel Mr Pope told the broken jug could have caused the wound and irrespective of whether or not Reid used a weapon, there had been sufficient provocation to reduce the charge to manslaughter.

In summing up the judge told the jury that they first had to consider how Ann came to be wounded, and if it was as a result of a knife, then was there enough provocation to justify using it. The jury took twenty minutes to find Reid guilty and he showed no emotion as he was sentenced to death, walking firmly from the dock.

There was a great deal of sympathy for Reid given his wife's intemperance, the fact the murder did not appear premeditated and he had been struck first. The appeals for clemency were successful and on 1st January 1867, little over a week before his execution date, Reid's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Ticket of Leave Killer Guilty of Manslaughter

Addison Street (

A man who stabbed another during a fight avoided a second transportation sentence when he was found guilty of manslaughter. 

In 1851 James Jeffers was sentenced to seven years transportation but secured a ticket of leave halfway through his sentence and arrived back in Liverpool early in 1855, taking a job as a tailor and finding himself a wife.

On the evening of 26th November 1855 Jeffers went drinking with sailor Patrick Baines at Blezzards public house in Addison Street. After drinking two quarts of ale each they went to Baines's lodgings in Gibraltar Row for more money then returned to Blezzards, where they found Baines's cousin John Craddock.

Baines ordered a half gallon of ale which was shared between the three, then him and Jeffers began to make arrangements to go to the theatre. Craddock pulled his cousin aside and told him that he should no better than to be hanging around with Jeffers and they stayed in Blezzards instead.

When it was time to go home Craddock told Baines he would take him back to Gibraltar Row as he was now quite drunk. Jeffers said he would do so but was told by Craddock that it wasn't necessary before being punched. The two men went out in the street arguing and Baines tried to calm then down but he was too drunk to do anything and collapsed. He was carried by some others into his aunts house nearby.

Baines's aunt Bridget Gorman went to Blezzards to retrieve his coat and Jeffers asked if he could go back to see his friend. Bridget said this wasn't necessary and saw he had a knife in his hand, which she told him to put away. Jeffers then said 'By my soul Jesus I will put this into Craddock.' Craddock heard this and went up to Jeffers, punching him to the ground. When Jeffers got up Craddock said 'come on then' which led to Jeffers stabbing him in the stomach and running away.

Jeffers was chased by Baines and a police officer who had been made aware of the situation quickly caught up and apprehended him. Craddock was taken to the Dispensary where a surgeon who attended to him said the wound would probably prove fatal. Craddock then opted to go to his Addison Street home, where he was able to give a deposition to magistrates the next day before he died of inflammation of the peritoneum.

After initially being charged with stabbing, Jeffers had this upped to manslaughter after the inquest on the 30th November and he was committed to trial at the Assizes. On 14th December it took the jury just a minute or two to return a guilty verdict. Jeffers' wife screamed and fainted, then was carried out of court. Luckily for him though he was sentenced to four years penal servitude rather than another transportation term. 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Liverpool Cab Mystery

The death of a woman who was alleged to have robbed a seaman whilst riding in a cab led to his conviction for manslaughter and a plea for leniency by the jury.

In 1914 Ada Rimmer, the middle aged former wife of a Southport fisherman, lived at a lodging house in Devon Street where she had been for about six years. On the evening of 30th May that year she went out alone and returned with a bloodied nose, saying she had been punched by a man who accused her of robbing him.

Ada, who was addicted to drink and complaining of internal diseases, was taken to the workhouse hospital in Brownlow Hill (right) where she died on 3rd June. The cab driver came forward and recalled that on 30th May Ada had got in with a male at Monument Place then on Low Hill a struggle broke out leading to him stopping. A man was accusing her of stealing a sovereign and got out, then punched her as the cab drove off. He then ran away but the incident had been seen by a number of passers by.

A description of the man was circulated but nothing was forthcoming. On 17th June an inquest heard that Ada had died from pneumonia but her death had been accelerated by her injuries, which included fractures to her jaw on both sides. A verdict of 'manslaughter by an unknown man' was returned.

A further appeal for information led to Robert Barr, a 24 year old ships steward, being named as fitting the description of the killer. Barr lived in Farnworth Street, off Kensington where the cab had been told to head for. He was arrested on 26th June aboard the Calgaria as it docked at the Princes Landing Stage, having returned from a sailing to Canada.  Before the charge was even given to him, Barr said to Detective Sergeant Kinley 'Is she dead?'

Barr appeared at the Manchester Assizes on 10th July and gave evidence himself, saying that he had only left a ship that day and been paid. As well as taking the sovereign, Ada had tried to stab him with a hat pin leading to him pushing her back and leaving the cab, punching her as it drove off.

The jury found Barr guilty but with a strong recommendation for leniency. In sentencing, Justice Shearman said that Barr had been unfortunate as his actions would not have caused the death of a healthy woman, However he could not ignore the fact he had 'pummelled' a woman twice his age and sentenced him to six months imprisonment.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Robbed Sailor Kills Prostitute

In 1863 an Irish sailor was hanged after he killed a prostitute who he believed had taken money from him whilst he slept.

On Saturday 20th June at about 4am O’Brien met a prostitute named Mary Mathers in Lime Street and after having some ale with her they both went to the brothel where she stayed in Spitalfields (near Whitechapel). Whilst O’Brien slept, Mathers later admitted that she took two shillings out of his pocket to purchase ale which she drank with Elizabeth Callaghan. When O’Brien awoke, he awoke he accused Callaghan of the theft but she denied it. O’Brien told the others in the house that he had been robbed of £5, but if he could have £3 back he would forget about it.

Mathers accompanied O’Brien to the police station but he was not satisfied with their response and when they refused to arrest all the women at the brothel, he said he would sort the situation out himself. He then bought a knife for 9d from a cutlery shop in Dale Street, asking for a stone on which to sharpen it then he and Mathers took a cab driven by John Hargreaves to Spitalfields. Once there, he was greeted by Callaghan who threw her arms around him and playfully took off his neckerchief and smacked him with it. O’Brien sent for some ale and invited the cabman in to share it, a request that was declined.

The three sat drinking and there seemed no cause for alarm and Mathers motioned to O’Brien to join her upstairs. As she was going up to the bedroom O’Brien got up and stabbed Callaghan, who was sat by the fire holding a small dog, in the stomach. He then walked out and got inside the same cab that had dropped him off there. Mathers had screamed ‘murder’ from a window leading to the cabman stopping the first policeman on Manchester Street he saw to alert him to his suspicions. O’Brien was taken to the Bridewell and Hargreaves then returned to Spitalfields and took Callaghan to the Infirmary, where she died a few hours later.  

At the Bridewell, the police officer who had earlier not been willing to arrest all the women asked O’Brien why he had done what he did, to which he replied that it had been justified as he was robbed. He apologised for his actions and surrendered his blood stained knife. A post mortem revealed that Callaghan’s liver had almost been severed and when he was committed for trial O’Brien said that his actions had taken place because of how drunk he was. He said to the court ‘No man would do the likes of that if he was right in the head.’

O’Brien was tried on 20th August, with Mathers and other prostitutes who had been there on the day giving evidence. Hargreaves also testified as did the owner of the cutlery shop, while all those who saw him including police officers said he was quite sober. His defence counsel Mr Pope said that there had been no premeditation but that he had been driven by intense passion and a sense of wrongdoing. As such, he urged the jury to find him guilty instead of manslaughter, which he admitted was of an aggravated character. The judge did not give him much hope though when summing up, pointing out the evidence which suggested O’Brien had a clear intent in his mind to kill. 

The jury returned a verdict of guilty after just a few minutes and O’Brien wept as the sentence of death was passed. O'Brien was hanged at Kirkdale on 12th September in a quadruple execution before a crowd of 100,000.

Woman's Prophecy of Husbands Execution

A woman who told her husband he would be the next person to be hanged at Kirkdale gaol turned out to be right after he brutally battered her to death.

In 1863, fifty one year old shoemaker John Hughes and his wife Mary lived unhappily together in Great Homer Street where Mary ran a grocers shop, the profits of which funded her husband’s intemperate habits as he rarely put his trade to good use. 

On 23rd April that year Hughes went to Kirkdale gaol to witness the execution of two men who had killed a woman near Blackburn and was prophetically told by his wife that if he carried on the way he was going, he would be up there next. Mary was a sober industrious woman and her friends knew how badly she was being treated by her husband.

On the evening of Sunday 26th April Hughes asked Mary for money for drink, striking her when she refused and saying again that he’d be hung for her. The following night they argued again and he pushed her before going out to a pub in Scotland Road. Mary went along there at midnight with her shop servant, 12 year old Elizabeth White, who persuaded him to return home. Being too afraid to go to bed with him, Mary stayed up all night and when Hughes woke at 5am, he demanded more drink and Elizabeth got him some whisky.

A few hours later Hughes got up as Mary went to bed. When she told him she had no money he hit her with his fist, causing her to fall out of bed onto the floor. He then put on his boots and jumped on top of her several times and kicked her until she was unable to move. Hughes then left her lying on the floor and eventually Elizabeth plucked up the courage to ask for help from a neighbour, Mrs Jones. Mary told her what had happened and a doctor was called, Hughes denying to him that any assault had taken place. As a consequence of the injuries the police were called and Hughes brazenly sat on a chair and joked that she would be alright if she was just given another pint.

Hughes was arrested and initially charged with carrying out a murderous assault, being remanded for seven days. Mary remained in a paralysed state and died on the evening of 30th April. A post mortem revealed that part of her vertebrae had fractured, causing pressure on the spinal cord and paralysis and death was a direct result of her injuries. The coroners inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter but the police were happy to persist with a murder charge and Hughes was committed to the Assizes.

On 19th August Hughes appeared before Mr Justice Blackburn, with evidence being given by Elizabeth, Mrs Jones and another neighbour Mrs Halpin in respect of what happened between 26th and 28th April, as well as the marriage in general. The surgeon who had attended said that given the way in which Mary was lying, the injuries sustained could not possibly have been caused as a result of a fall. Hughes’s defence counsel had a tough job to do and the best they could come up with was that he was drinking solidly for three weeks prior so was too drunk to understand the consequences of his violence, therefore a manslaughter verdict was more appropriate.

In summing up, the judge said that drunkenness was not an excuse and the charge could only come down to manslaughter if Hughes was so drunk that he did not even know harm could be caused by his actions.  The jury deliberated for just a few minutes before asking some clarifications as to the injuries. After just a few more minutes a guilty verdict was returned and Hughes declined to comment before sentence was passed. Justice Blackburn was brutal with his words, telling him that ‘it is absolutely necessary for the ends of justice that wives should be protected from the violence of their husbands and now all I have to do is pass upon you the sentence which the law requires. 

After the death sentence was passed Hughes fainted and had to be carried from the dock to the cells by court officials. He was was one of four prisoners hanged in front of a crowd of 100,000 at Kirkdale on 12th September 1863.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Brother Shot by Mistake at New Year

In the early 1920s there was a tragic occurrence when a man shot his brother dead by accident at a New Years party.

On 1st January 1923, 25 year old Peter McDermott was at a stay behind at the Hare & Hounds pub in Commutation Row with his 18 year old brother Michael and some other friends. At around 130am Michael, who had drank a large volume of port, complained of feeling ill. Peter playfully told him to pull himself together and pointed a revolver at him, not knowing it was loaded. The gun went off and Michael, a ship steward, slumped from his chair and died instantly.

Commutation Row (www.liverpoolpicturebookcom)
Peter panicked and took a cab home, where he was arrested on suspicion of murder soon afterwards, saying to the sergeant 'Oh my God please don't tell me he is dead.' He was initially charged with wilful murder when he appeared before Mr Deacon, the Stipendiary Magistrate the following day, although prosecutors did indicate they may seek another charge when all the facts were known.

The gun in question had been given to Peter earlier in the year while he was working for the Criminal investigation Department in Dublin, as he feared he was being tailed by irregular forces. Enquiries established that although he had been given it lawfully, he was not meant to have taken it out of Ireland.

After an inquest returned a verdict of death by misadventure, Peter was back before the magistrates court on 11th January. Prosecutors withdrew the murder charge and instead he pleaded guilty to an offence under the Firearms Act, that of having a revolver and ammunition without a permit. Peter, who said his brother was also his best friend, was then sentenced to three months imprisonment.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

A Barbarous Sea Captain

A shocking case of cruelty on a vessel sailing from Barbados to Liverpool led to the captain of the ship being hanged in public at Kirkdale.

The Martha and Jane was a Sunderland registered vessel that sailed from Hartlepool to Calcutta in 1856, then on to Demerara and Barbados, where she underwent repair and a change of crew. On 29th April 1857 an able seaman named Andrew Rose joined the crew but ran away after being beaten by the second mate, Charles Seymour, who found fault with his work. Rose remained at large for a few days but was captured by police and returned to the ship and put in irons.

On 11th May the ship sailed for Liverpool and Rose was briefly freed, but he was suffering from diarrhoea and frequently beaten with a rope and whip by Seymour, Rogers and the chief mate William Miles for dirtying the decks. One Sunday morning, Rose was on deck singing a hymn and Rogers forced an iron bolt into his mouth, then Seymour and Miles secured it with a rope tied behind his head, leaving Rose like that for an hour and a half.

As the days went on the sadism increased with Rogers whipping Rose then setting a dog on him to bite the wounds, which covered his whole body as his clothes had been thrown overboard due to being soiled. Most of the time he remained in chains but on one occasion asked to go to the bows to relieve himself, a request which was refused. After doing what he had to do on deck, Rose was beaten by the two mates and then held down, while Rogers got a wooden stick and shoved the excrement up his nose and into his mouth shouting ‘isn’t it nice.’

A few days later Rose was put in a water cask by Rogers and rolled up and down the deck, then cast over the side of the ship for twelve hours. As the poor man begged for some food or drink, Rogers told him he wished he would drown or hang himself. When Rose replied that he wished Rogers would do it for him, the captain put a rope around his neck and hoisted him above deck, leaving him dangling for two minutes. As he was cut down his skin was black, his eyes were protruding and foam was protruding from the mouth. Rogers mocked that another half a minute and Rose would have been dead.

Two or three days later on the morning of 5th June, Rose crawled along the deck until he could move no more, then laid down and died. When fellow crew members found him an hour or two later his wounds were maggot infested and they were loathe to touch him. At the order of Rogers, his body was hauled by a rope along the deck and thrown overboard. On 9th June the ship arrived in Liverpool, where Rogers, Seymour and Miles were arrested, the three of them claiming that they had only been reported as the crew wanted 10 shillings a day for attending court.

The trial took place on 20th August, with witnesses telling the court that Rose had been beaten daily voyage, including twelve times on one day. They had never seen him neglect his duty or orders and he got on well with the rest of the crew. Even though his contract stipulated he would receive meat and tea, his daily meals consisted of just dry bread and water. Three doctors were called and stated that if the witnesses were truthful, then Rose’s death would have been directly caused or accelerated by his treatment. In defence, it was claimed that any sores on Rose’s body were as a result of sleeping in fields in Barbados, while the defence counsel tried to suggest that the Martha and Jane wasn’t a British ship, therefore it wasn’t subject to British laws. Rogers defence was that any punishment was to keep discipline and that it was illogical to disable an able seaman when the ship was already short on crew. Miles and Seymour’s defence was that they were simply following the captain’s orders.

The judge took two hours to sum up, pointing out that the three defendants were of enough intelligence to know that what they were doing could eventually have fatal consequences. After an hours deliberation the jury found all three guilty of murder and there were cheers from the public benches when a guilty verdict was returned, although there was a recommendation for mercy. Passing sentence, the judge described Rose’s treatment as barbarous and it was right that their lives should be ‘forfeited to the laws of this country.’ No emotion was shown by any of the men and as they were taken to the cells word reached those gathered outside what had happened, leading to more cheering.

There were hopes all three convicts may be reprieved but two days before the execution word came from the Home Office that although Seymour’s and Miles’s sentences would be commuted to life imprisonment, Rogers would still be hanged. The following day Rogers’s wife and three of his five children visited him in the condemned cell, where he visibly shook as he was bade goodbye. They were then taken in a cab to their hotel in Lord Nelson Street, while Seymour and Miles remained with Rogers at his request. He accepted his fate and was prepared for it, believing his prayers of repentance would be acknowledged by the Redeemer. He did not however, accept that his actions had been directly responsible for Rose’s death. His main concern was for his children and the stigma such a horrible fate as his would have on them. That Friday night prison philanthropist Mr Wright arrived to see another prisoner, having been under the impression all three were reprieved. On hearing he was mistaken, he agreed to stay overnight to comfort Rogers, who then slept far better than previously.

Crowds began to gather at 6am on 12th September, the morning of the execution and the Liverpool Mercury reported that a black man was seen on Walton Road asking for directions to the gaol. The paper said that the crowd was much more of ‘sober appearance’ than previous, with many passing the time before noon reading newspapers. On the periphery though, ‘shoeless and stockingless urchins’ spent their time rolling in mood and fighting each other with caps, presenting an ‘incongruous scene’. It meant the 200 police on duty were not totally unoccupied especially as noon drew near, the paper reporting that ‘a great portion of the scum of society were to be seen in large masses’ travelling up Walton and Vauxhall Roads in he direction of the gaol. There were also a number of seamen present of varying ranks, expressing little sympathy for Rogers and showing only regret that his two mates had been reprieved.

The 40,000 strong crowd was swelled by spectators arriving on trains from Rochdale and Manchester, and omnibuses from Liverpool were full to capacity. One 70 year old had come from Bolton and told a reporter it was such a terrible case that he would gladly have made the rope himself and he had seen his first hanging at Ipswich in 1804. Despite the early hour many were drunk, one man who was ‘in an advanced stage of intoxication’ staggered and fell into a gutter, while another fell asleep under a hedge and missed what he had gone there for.

Rogers refused a final breakfast, preferring to just have some milk. He remained in the prison chapel most of the morning and just after noon he was taken to the scaffold, accompanied by the prison chaplain and Mr Wright. As the rope was placed around his neck he said ‘Lord receive my spirit, Lord save me’ before the bolt was drawn. Calcraft had calculated everything perfectly and there were convulsions for just a few seconds.  Sailors in the crowd were heard to say ‘serves him right’ and as there was a surge towards the scaffold, one man had his arm broken and was taken to the Northern Hospital. After an hour Calcraft re-appeared and cut down the body, which was buried that evening in the gaol grounds. The clothes were given to Mr Allsop of the Crystal Palace waxworks in Lime Street, where  a model of Rogers was being put on display the following Tuesday.

Early Victorian Stabbing in Vauxhall Road

A man who stabbed another to death in Vauxhall Road  escaped a murder conviction due to him being outnumbered during a fight.

On the night of Saturday 14th July 1838 three friends John Colburn, Thomas Halligan and Pat Maude, who together worked in a soapery in Canning Street, were drinking at Mr Lane's public house on the corner of Naylor Street and Vauxhall Road. At midnight the landlord refused to serve any more ale and the three men went outside to decide and began speaking together about where to go next.

Whilst there they got into an altercation with a 30 year old called James Highams, at one point all three surrounding him whilst he was on the floor. Moments later he was kicked into the road but he then came back, stabbed Halligan and ran away, soon being caught by Colburn. Halligan, a  was then taken to the Dispensary by Maude but died about two minutes after arriving.

Mr Whitty, the head constable, took Maude and Colburn to the Vauxhall Road Bridewell to where Highams had been taken. Colburn confirmed it was him who stabbed Halligan and at the inquest on the Monday morning a verdict of wilful murder was returned after 20 minutes consideration by the jury. Highams responded to this by saying he still had the marks on him from being knocked down two or three times.

At the Assizes on 16th August, the prosecutor went through the evidence and said that he would not be pressing the capital charge, but instead allow the jury to determine if the evidence merited a verdict of murder.

Whilst giving his evidence, Maude was admonished by the judge for admitting kicking Highams whilst Colburn had already restrained him. Maude said that he had done so as he had struck Halligan and at that point didn't know that he had been mortally wounded. A female friend of Highams, Mary Sweeney told how he had said 'chaps thats not fair' as he was on the floor and surrounded and that Halligan had then moved forward to attack him again before being struck with the knife.

In summing up, the judge said that Highams had first been subjected to a cowardly attack as it was three on to one, and he had only used the knife after first being struck himself. This led to the jury returning a verdict of manslaughter and Highams being sentenced to two years hard labour.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Frying Pan Killing

The 1830s came to a tragic end for one married couple when the husband was killed after his wife hit him on the head with a frying pan during a row.

At around 9pm on New Years Eve 1839 William McEvoy returned to his Fontenoy Street home to find his lodger George Booth there but not his wife, 30 year old Elizabeth. George went to get Elizabeth, who was drinking ale with a neighbour and on her return William demanded to know why his dinner was not ready. She responded by taking the boiling potatoes and throwing them behind the fire.

The couple then began scuffling and fell on to the bed, but Elizabeth managed to get up and take down a frying pan that was hanging on the wall by a nail. She then struck William on the head with this and as he staggered towards the window, she picked up a brush and hit him, causing him to fall to the floor.

William vomited a few times that night and by 4th January he was in a feverish condition so a doctor was called by Elizabeth, who had been very tender in trying to bring him back to health.  When asked about the mark on his head William said a man he did not know had done it. The following day, William was shaking and suffering hallucinations so the same doctor was called again. He was deteriorating fast and died the day after, a post mortem concluding that extravasation of the muscles, caused by external violence was the cause.

Elizabeth was committed to trial at the next assizes and appeared before Judge Coleridge on 27th March 1840. He was angered when Dr McLellan from the Dispensary asked for a fee to give evidence, telling the surgeon that he should be ashamed not to say a few words without pay when a woman was on such a serious charge.'

After Elizabeth was found guilty the judge told her she had sworn to cherish and obey her husband, but she had been convicted of killing him. She was sentenced to one years imprisonment, with the last week of it to be in solitary confinement.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Workmates Ladder Prank Tragic Ending

A drunken workmate who played a prank on a colleague that caused his death was convicted of manslaughter.

The incident happened Weber's foundry in Wapping on Thursday 26th February 1847 when two friends, James Moore and John Berry, returned to work after drinking on their break. Berry, a 46 year old metal polisher was ascending a ladder through a trap door from the first to second storey where 35 year old Moore was working as a painter.

Moore decided to play a joke by pushing the ladder back and standing it upright, but Berry lost his balance and fell off, fracturing his skull. Berry was taken to his home in Grosvenor Street and died from his injuries the following Wednesday. The next day an inquest was held and the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against Moore, who lived in Bevington Bush.

At the South Lancashire Assizes on 30th March Moore was found guilty and sentenced to one months imprisonment, to be served in solitary confinement.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Boy Killed by Stone Throwing Policeman

A policeman who killed a boy when he threw a stone at his boat after he ignored an instruction to come ashore was let off by just a shillings fine after being found not guilty of manslaughter.

On 7th February 1847, fourteen year old John Ryder and three friends were sailing in a boat in Clarence Dock basin when they were called to the quay by a policeman named William Warbrick. He told them to get out and come ashore but they laughed at him, leading to him picking up a stone with the intention of using it to splash them with water. Unfortunately, his aim was completely out and it caught Ryder on the head.

Ryder first went to his home in Prince William Street in Dingle, where it was found impossible to stop the bleeding from the scalp wound, so he was taken to the Northern Hospital where his condition gradually deteriorated over the following weeks. On 17th March he died and at the inquest two days later the surgeon said it was as a result of mortification of the scalp. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and Warbrick, who lived in Bevington Street, was committed for trial on a Coroner's Warrant.

At the South Lancashire Assizes on 31st March 34 year old Warbrick was found not guilty of manslaughter, but was convicted instead of committing an unlawful act in throwing a stone. The judge gave him a few words of caution for the future and he was fined a shilling.

Killed by a Cart

A float driver whose carelessness caused the death of a little girl was shown leniency in sentencing on the recommendation of the jury.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 6th January 1847 Mary Ann Weldon got jammed between a cart and a wall in Paul Street. She received considerable injuries and died a few hours later. 35 year old Michael Bird, who could neither read nor write, was arrested in relation to the death.

Two days later the inquest took place and returned a verdict of manslaughter against Bird, who was committed to the South Lancashire Assizes on a Coroner's Warrant. He was kept in gaol on remand until he appeared there on 31st March, where he was found guilty with a recommendation him to mercy. As he had already been in custody for twelve weeks, the judge sentenced him to just a further two weeks imprisonment.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Deadly Assault on Pregnant Woman

A woman who violently assaulted a neighbour led to the baby being stillborn and the mother dying of her injuries, with the killer being transported for seven years.

On 31st August 1844 Mary Sooghan and Catherine Gillis, who both resided in Craven Street, got into an argument which also involved Catherine's daughter Mary Quiggins. 58 year old Gillis then spat in Sooghan's face before pulling her up by her hair and throwing her to the ground.

3 weeks later on 22nd September Sooghan complained of a pain in her right side and a doctor was called. She was found to be in a slow labour and losing blood. Three days later she gave birth to a stillborn male child and was admitted to the Infirmary.

Sooghan's condition gradually deteriorated and she died on 9th October. A post mortem was carried out and found that was inflammation of the womb. At the inquest the following day Dr Callon told the Coroner that this was a result of external violence and had been the cause of death. A verdict of manslaughter was returned against Gillis, but Quiggins was acquitted of aiding and abetting.

On 17th December Gillis appeared before the Lancashire Winter Assizes and although she admitted what happened, maintained that she had been struck in the face first. Her defence counsel also alluded to her previous good character describing her as a 'quiet, peaceable, industrious woman.' This cut little ice with the judge and jury though and she was found guilty. Telling her that it was one of the most aggravated cases he had ever dealt with, the judge sentenced Gillis to seven years transportation.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Alleged Infanticide at Edge Hill

A woman who was put on trial for the murder of her baby in 1844 was acquitted but still sentenced to two years imprisonment for concealment of birth.

In September of that year Mary Baxter took up lodgings in Sidney Place. She was soon asked by other females there if she was pregnant, which she denied. On the evening of 28th October Mary went to bed much earlier than the other three females who shared her room. The following morning when daylight broke she was heard by Sarah Bennett, the landlady going out to the yard and returning to bed.

Later in the morning Mary got up to go to a local house to do some laundry work, but when Mrs Bennett was making up the beds she saw blood on the sheet. She then went to the yard and found blood in a bucket of water, leading to her going to where Mary was working and demanding an explanation.

Sidney Place in 1960s (
Mary admitted that she had given birth to a child and put it in the outhouse. A search found the body of a baby boy there with a cord tied around his neck. Mary was arrested and charged with infanticide, being committed to the next South Lancashire Assizes.

21 year old Mary was described by the Lancashire General Advertiser as a 'rather good looking young woman' when she was placed at the bar on 14th December. As the surgeon who conducted the postmortem could not be sure the child was born alive, she was acquitted of murder but found guilty of concealment of birth. She was sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Death Sentenced Commuted After Botched Abortion

In the late Victorian period an army Lieutenant's mistress died after he carried out a DIY abortion on her, but his death sentence was instead commuted to just three years imprisonment after intervention by the Home Secretary.

29 year old Jane Yates, described as a 'woman of independent means' in the press, lived with her widowed mother a 62 Edge Lane, where the body of the Hanging Boy was discovered in 1946.

Jane spent the night of 20th July 1898 away from home and three days later she complained of feeling ill, remaining in bed for two days. She left home on the 25th but the following day a doctor called to her mother saying that she was critically ill and staying with a friend at 140 Salisbury Road, Wavertree. She was attended to by the family physician Dr Bligh and a specialist but died from blood poisoning in the early hours of 27th July, having still manage to enjoy a last glass of champagne and ice.

Both doctors agreed that the blood poisoning had been the result of a miscarriage that has been began by the use of an instrument. Although Jane had been able to tell Dr Bligh that she alone was responsible for what had happened, the medical men were certain that she was not being truthful.

Mrs Yates explained that Jane had suffered a miscarriage five years earlier, connecting it to Lieutenant Robert Wark, a married man who was then in Liverpool with the 2nd Volunteer Artillery. He was now stationed in Woolwich but had continued to correspond with Jane on an almost daily basis, addressing letters to Miss Setay, her surname spelt backwards, and sending them to a stationery shop in Wavertree Road.

At the Inquest, which took place over a month later, the Coroner said that the letters contained passages which were a disgrace to any man and only read what was necessary, including references to a meeting at Crewe on 20th July. They also referred to Jane's 'condition' with the Illustrated Police News reporting that Wark had wrote that 'they could not expect a doctor to run any risks but he was prepared to do so.'

46 year old Wark was present at the Inquest but said nothing on the advice of his solicitor, although a statement he had made to the police in London though was read out. This contained an admission that he and Jane had enjoyed 'undue intimacy' for the last six years, with her often visiting him in London after he was posted to Woolwich. Regarding the abortion though, he denied having any knowledge of it and claimed that he had last seen Jane three weeks before her death.  His statement said he knew nothing about any miscarriage and had tried to persuade Jane not to seek an abortion. However this was in direct contradiction to the content of his letters that were read out by the Coroner, as he had crucially not mentioned the meeting at Crewe.

The jury though found that the cause of death was poisoning due to an abortion and that Wark had aided and abetted the deceased. The Coroner stated that this was equivalent to a verdict of wilful murder and Wark was taken into custody.

The following day Wark appeared at the Police Court where he was remanded whilst further evidence was gathered. His wife was interviewed by Lloyds Weekly at their home and she appeared to be standing by her husband, possibly because Jane had left him £7,000 in her will. It was actually Mrs Wark who had introduced the two to each other via a riding school in Spekelands Road.

Wark's trial began at the Liverpool Assizes on 7th December. Staff confirmed that the couple had stayed at the London & North Western Railway Hotel in Crewe on 20th and 21st July, signing in as Captain and Mrs Yates. The surgeon who carried out the post mortem said that an abortion had been carried out, while the graphic contents of the letters were read to then jury. After two hours deliberation a guilty verdict was returned with a recommendation for mercy.

Before sentence was passed Wark addressed the court and said that he was not guilty and that the only statements which were true were those of himself and Jane. Justice Phillimore then sentenced him to death in the usual manner, leading to some hissing from the public gallery. As Wark was taken down the steps towards the condemned cell he was cheered by many.

Petitions calling for a free pardon were forwarded to the Home Secretary Matthew Ridley. However he responded that on the evidence given, this was not justified. He instead commuted the death sentence and ordered that Wark serve three years penal servitude.

Killed by a Gimlet

A fight in which a teenager killed a man by poking him in the eye with a small tool led to him being convicted of manslaughter.

The incident took place at a coopers shop in a coal yard in Marlborough Street on Saturday 18th February 1843. John Wilkinson, who was 28 years old, got into a quarrel with Moses Doyle, who was only 13 but looked two or three years older.

It was not clear what started the row but after Wilkinson threw punches at Doyle a worker named Owen Handwright got between them and tried to calm the situation down. However as he spoke to Wilkinson, Doyle picked up a rusty gimlet - a small tool that is a sort of cross between a drill and screwdriver - that was lying around and stabbed Wilkinson in the left eye.

Wilkinson was taken to the Dispensary where the wound was dressed and he then returned home, but on the Monday afternoon he was shaking quite badly and a doctor was sent for. On examining the wound,  he found a small circular hole that appeared quite deep and called in another surgeon. Despite their best efforts, Wilkinson passed away two days later.

A post mortem examination found that the wound extended to the brain which had been lacerated, causing inflammation and an absess. This was the direct cause of death, leading to Doyle, who lived in Marlborough Street with his parents and two sisters being taken into custody. He was charged with manslaughter and appeared before at the Liverpool Assizes on 10th April. He was found guilty and sentenced to 14 days in Kirkdale gaol.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Bar Thrown by Father Kills Baby

An argument between a husband and wife in Edwardian Liverpool led to their five month baby being killed  when she was struck by an object her father had thrown.

Netherfield Road (
On the evening of Saturday 2nd February 1907 28 year old labourer Michael McDonough, his wife and mother in law, who lived at 57 China Street (off Netherfield Road) visited the Cole family, who occupied the cellar of that property. After spending an hour there drinking they returned to their own rooms.

At about 1030pm Mr and Mrs McDonough began arguing and throwing crockery at each other. Michael threw an iron bar at his wife but instead it hit the back of the head of their five month old daughter Elizabeth, who was being held in the arms of Mrs McDonough. She took the baby girl to the East Dispensary but Dr Crampton there pronounced life extinct.

The following morning Michael was arrested and on the Monday he was charged with murder and appeared at the magistrates court, where he denied the charge and was remanded in custody. He was then brought before the Liverpool Assizes on 23rd February, where the charge was reduced to manslaughter. Despite acknowledging that he was drunk and had intended to hit his wife with the bar, he was sentenced to just four months imprisonment with hard labour.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Mothers Dread Leads Her to Kill Baby

A mother who was convinced her baby son had inherited a health condition killed him and herself shortly before Christmas 1937.

William Lloyd James, his wife Marjorie and five month old son David only arrived in Liverpool in November of that year, when Mr James accepted a masters position at Quarry Bank School.

On the evening of Tuesday 14th December Mr James returned to their Chalfont Road home to find 31 year old Marjorie lying on the kitchen floor, with David beside her. Both were dead and appeared to have been gassed by the oven.

The inquest took place two days later, with Mr James telling the Coroner how his wife feared that David had inherited rheumatism from her. He told how on the night before the deaths, she had told him she could not bear the thought of David suffering the same pain she had done. Despite a doctor having assured Marjorie that David's recent discomfort was no more than stomach trouble, she remained convinced that an act on her part had led to him inheriting the condition.

The jury returned a verdict of 'suicide' on Marjorie's death and one of 'murder' for David, but the Coroner recorded that the balance of Marjorie's mind was disturbed at the time.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Man Kills Niece During Epileptic Fit

A terrible tragedy occurred in 1881 when a 6 year old girl was killed by her cousin whilst he was having a fit, leading to the judge handing out a severe rebuke for the man's parents.

Henry Taylor, a 25 year old labourer, lived with his parents at Trowbridge Place (off Brownlow Hill). Also living there was his cousin Agnes Blanche Jones, who had been adopted by the Taylors, having been the illegitimate daughter of Mrs Taylor's sister. On the 29th January of that year he suffered a severe seizure that prevented him from going to work, then on the evening of 2nd February his mother saw the signs of another one coming on.

Henry's mother sat up watching him for some time, but at 1am as he got more agitated she persuaded him to go to bed. As soon as he got upstairs his mother heard gurgling and a scream, but Henry shouted down that everything was okay. When she got a lamp and went up however, she found him standing with  a knife in his hands and Agnes lying on a sofa bleeding heavily.

A doctor and policeman were sent for and Agnes was declared dead at the scene, her head almost severed from the body. Henry told the officer that he had done it and handed him the knife, before being taken into custody and making his first appearance before the police court the following morning.

Henry was tried the following week at the Liverpool Assizes, where evidence was produced to show that he had suffered epilepsy all his life. Once this had been heard the Mr Justice Stephen intervened and stopped the trial, saying a symptom of he disease was a tendency to get into a mad fury and kill people unconsciously. He ordered the jury to return a verdict of not guilty on the grounds of insanity.

After ordering Henry to be detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure, the judge was then very critical of Henry's parents, saying that it 'was lamentable they left the prisoner at large when it was clear he was not fit to be at liberty.'

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Youth Kills After Being Thrown Out of Pub

A 17 year old who stabbed one of his neighbours in a fight after he was thrown out of a pub near Wapping Dock was found guilty of manslaughter and sent to gaol for ten years.

On Saturday 13th November 1880 William Spears went on a drinking spree with his friend James Humphreys, ending up at Hammond & Mills public house on the corner of Hurst and Grayson Street, opposite Wapping Dock. At about 645pm Humphreys tried to order two pints of ale but was told by the barman that they had had enough. 

When the two males refused to leave two police officers were sent for to remove them and Stephen Burns, who was stood at the bar and had once lived in the same court as Spears, asked them not to be rough with him as Humphreys was far worse. Within minutes though the youths had entered the pub via another door and were again refused service, this time being forcibly ejected by James Patterson, a drinking companion of Burns.

Burns then joined the three males on the street and an argument broke out, leading to blows being exchanged. Spears then took a knife out of his pocket and stabbed Burns in the chest and ran off, while his victim crossed the road to the dock gate, where a policeman helped him into a cart to be taken to the Royal Southern Hospital. Humphreys was arrested at the scene for being drunk and riotous, while Burns died just ten minutes after arrival at the hospital.

Burns had been able to give all details to the officer of the man who stabbed him and Spears was soon arrested at his court dwelling in Grayson Street. He was in bed when the police arrived but he didn't deny what had happened, saying that he was drunk and did not know what had made him do it. The following Thursday Spears was committed for trial at the Assizes, with Patterson being severely rebuked by the Stipendiary Magistrate during the hearing. He said he was struggling to remember what had happened because he had been to a two night wake for Burns, with Mr Raffles responding that the Roman Catholic clergy condemned such practices.

Spears was tried on 8th February 1881 at the Liverpool Assizes. Patterson described how he had ejected Spears and Humphreys from the pub and a fight broke out, but the key witness was customs officer Arthur Hope, who had been by the dock gates. He told the court that Burns had punched and head butted Spears before the knife was taken out. This led to the judge directing to the jury that they could not possibly return a guilty verdict on the murder charge. However they did find Spears guilty of manslaughter and he was sentenced to 10 years penal servitude.