Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Insane Father Kills Son With Hatchet

On the morning of Friday 26th June 1896 a police constable who was walking his beat in Athol Street was accosted by a frantic woman who begged him to come to a house in New Hedley Street as a small child had been attacked by his father. On arrival there he found the prostrate body of two and a half year old Andrew Larkin, blood pouring out of his head.

Also in the room were Andrew's mother, three other children including a baby just a few weeks old and Mrs Rawley, the landlady of the house. She shouted out 'that is the man' as Andrew's father, also called Andrew,  went to leave through the back door. On seeing the police officer he came back and handed himself over, saying 'Oh, I was going to the police station.' 31 year old Larkin was taken in a wagon to the detective office in Dale Street where he made no reply on being charged with wilful murder.

Mrs Larkin explained that earlier in the year her husband had been admitted to the workhouse hospital suffering from acute melancholy mania. He remained there two weeks but even after he was released Mrs Larkin often heard him tell the children that they would be better off in heaven.

Larkin had been out all night prior to the murder, his whereabouts unknown. On returning at 9am he went to the room where his family slept and set about his son, of whom he was particularly attached to, with a hatchet. Mrs Larkin managed to pin him down on the bed and screamed out for help, leading to Mrs Rawley coming to her aid and allowing her to take the baby downstairs and then help the other children to safety.

Whilst awaiting his trial Larkin told doctors that some imaginary person was about to take his life hence him lashing out. He appeared before Mr Justice Cave at the Liverpool assizes on 31st July, where medical evidence proved he was not conscious of his actions at the time. He was then ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure and spent 42 years in Broadmoor, where he died of pneumonia in 1938.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Killer Who didn't Fight Fair

When two labourers fought each other in Vauxhall in 1896 one of them produced a fatal weapon leading to him being jailed for sixteen years for manslaughter.

On the afternoon of 6th June 1896 dock labourer Robert Devine collected his wages and was walking along Athol Street when he was met by 21 year old John Donnolly who attacked him. The two men sparred for a while before being separated by a policeman, who sent each of them on their way.

Later in the afternoon 24 year old Devine went to Sumner Street where Donnolly lived and shouted 'if you want to fight come and fight fair.' Donnolly did so and avoided the first punch that was thrown at him, but he then grabbed Devine by the waist, turned him around and stabbed him two or three times in the back and once in the thigh. Devine's widowed mother then arrived and saw her son prostrate on the ground with blood coming out of his back. Donnolly said to her 'I will do for you and your daughter and make a clean sweep of your family' and stood aside as his mother dragged Mrs Devine by the hair and threw her to the ground.

Devine was taken to the Northern Hospital where he died at 8am the following morning, one of the knife blows having penetrated the cavity of his chest. Prior to his death he had been able to give a deposition stating that Donnolly had burgled his house the previous weekend and that his actions meant that he 'was not able to help my poor mother.'

At 10pm on the evening of Devine's death Donnolly handed himself in to police on Great Howard Street and was charged with wilful murder at the detective office, to which he replied 'He came at me with a big stick.' At the inquest Devine's sister confirmed about the burglary and said that she had thrown boiling water over Donnolly to get him out of the house. She stated that Donnolly had been bullying her brother for nine months and on one occasion through spiked railings through their window.

When Donnolly was tried at the assizes on 31st July his defence counsel said that he had not been the first of the two men to use violence and a manslaughter verdict was more appropriate. The jury agreed with this without leaving the box but the severity of the attack led to a severe sentence being imposed, Justice Cave handing him a term of sixteen years penal servitude.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Baby Roasted on Fire

A woman whose newborn child was found in a fire avoided any prosecution as doctors could not be certain if it had been born alive.

Ann Burke was well known to the Liverpool Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Children and whilst living in Bootle in 1893 was jailed for two months for neglect. Her husband, a marine fireman was disgusted at this when he returned from sea and refused to live with her again, but did agree to pay £5 every three weeks for his three children's upkeep.

By 1895 Ann was living in Leyden Street in Kirkdale (where Lethbridge Close is now) and was in a state of advanced pregnancy by the late summer. On 16th September Ann told neighbour Ellen Tyrer that she had given birth to 'the loveliest son God ever sent into the world that was stillborn' and that Nurse Williams had taken him away in a coffin. Mrs Hopkins a shopkeeper was told a similar story, that Ann had given birth on 15th September and the dead baby was taken away by Nurse Williams.

Mrs Tyrer and Mrs Hopkins were not the only neighbours to enquire about Ann as when Bridget Rooney noticed that she was no longer pregnant she asked what had become of the baby. Ann replied that Bridget should go and see Nurse Williams in Athol Street and Dr Wade in Boundary Street if she wanted an answer.

Bridget did just what Ann suggested and when both medical professionals denied any knowledge of having attended to her the police were informed. This led to two detectives going to Ann's house on 19th September and forcing the door when she refused to answer. When they gained entry Ann was in a wild state and acting strangely. Noticing something strange burning on the fire Detective Inspector Kneale got a shovel and found that it was a baby's head.

Ann was taken into custody and her three children, all aged under eight, were removed to the Islington children's centre. Two days later an inquest took place but although a two doctors could confirm that the baby was fully developed, they were unable to say if it had been born alive. This led to the jury returning an open verdict and Ann was released without charge, her mental state meaning she did not even face court for concealment of birth.

Teenager Kicked to Death at Christmas

A thirteen year old youth who was brutally set upon by four others died from his injuries on Christmas morning, leading to his attackers being jailed for between ten and twelve years.

At around 9pm on 24th December 1883 Michael Burns was walking with his friend George Fox down Commercial Road when they saw two youths fighting. One of those watching was sixteen year old Charles Vaughan, who told another youth to go to Stanley Road and get some fellow members of his 'Pad Gang' to come over.

Three members of the Pad Gang, eighteen year old William Price and Isaac Hadfield, as well as fifteen year old John McComb, went and asked what was wrong. Vaughan then replied 'This is the one who is getting at me' and head butted a lad called John Murray. When Murray ran away Vaughan then crossed the road to where Burns was standing, grabbed his coat and butted him. When Burns fell to the ground Price, Hadfield and McComb joined in the assault and kicked him in the body.

Burns managed to get up and run off, but he was caught by the others in Reading Street and again knocked to the ground and kicked him about the head. Two men passing by intervened and the four assailants ran off, while Burns had to crawl on his hands and knees to his Reading Street home. He went to bed, where he was regularly checked by his mother who didn't think his injuries were serious enough to call a doctor, but at 7am on Christmas Day she found him dead.

The four youths involved had been named by Burns and were soon taken into custody. A post mortem was carried out by Dr Costine who found that death was caused by compression of the brain due to ruptured blood vessels which were as a result of external violence. The coroner's inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter , leading to Vaughan and his associates being committed to the assizes.

On 11th February 1884 all four were found guilty of manslaughter. Prior to passing sentence Justice Butt said that the four youths were fortunate not to have been convicted of murder as the manslaughter for which they had been indicted was of 'a very bad kind.' Vaughan, who a few months earlier had been before the courts for wounding, was sentenced to twelve years penal servitude as he was the ringleader, while the other three were given ten years.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Wife Wages Thief Killed

A man who beat his wife to death after she disappeared for a week with his wages was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment.

50 year old bottler Richard Skelland lived with his 44 year old wife Louisa in Rathbone Street, which was situated off Great George Street. The couple were both known to drink although Louisa more so and she was often known to disappear for days on end.

On 10th August 1895 Richard gave Louisa his wages and she went away, not returning until a week later when he was paid again. Richard did not take kindly to seeing his wife return and grabbed her hair then smashed her face against the paving flags of the court before kicking her in the body. As he did this, he was shouting 'You have been away for eight days and I will make you suffer for it.'

A neighbour managed to pull Louisa away from Richard but when the couple went down the steps to their cellar, he was heard to be hitting her again. Louisa was left unconscious just inside their door where she was found in the early hours of the next morning by their son Richard as he returned home. He sought assistance from his sister Susannah but neither could wake her and a doctor was called, who ordered Louisa's removal to the dispensary.

Richard was initially arrested for wounding and after never regaining consciousness Louisa died on 29th August from wounds to the scalp which had gone to the bone. A post mortem revealed inflammation of the brain membranes, which was consistent with the scalp injuries. At the inquest a manslaughter verdict was returned and Richard was committed for trial at the assizes.

On 28th November Richard appeared before Mr Justice Collins. His defence counsel said he was a hard working man who only occasionally drank, usually as a result of being drive to it by his wife. Despite this mitigation Justice Collins said that the assault was brutal and continued, then sentenced Richard to a period of fourteen years penal servitude.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Bootle Youth Reprieved

A 17 year old Bootle youth sentenced to death after stabbing a man whilst drunk was reprieved on account of his young age.

On the evening of 19th September 1885 Joseph Flynn, a 17 year old boiler scaler had too much to drink and decided to challenge anyone of his own size to a fight. The first person he saw was 25 year old carter named Edwin Pearson who had been to a dancing class in Balliol Road.

Pearson was ready for thee challenge and both men took the coats off, but they were separated by friends. Flynn walked away but without warning he took a pocket knife out and turned back, lashing out indiscriminately before plunging it into Pearson's chest.

Pearson was taken to Bootle borough hospital where he died the following morning. Flynn was in a panic and asked a friend he came across to walk with him so as to avoid detection. At the corner of Derby Road and Church Street this youth left Flynn alone and he took a chance by returning to his home at Mann Street where he was apprehended there in the early hours.

At the inquest Flynn apologised for his actions, saying 'I was mad drunk and did not know what I was doing.' He was then committed to the next assizes, standing trial before Justice Wills on 16th November. The jury found him guilty with a strong recommendation for mercy on account of his youth, but Justice Wills said that 'never before was a more ferocious onslaught committed that led to the death of just one person.'

Saying he would forward the recommendation on, the judge then passed the death sentence in the normal form. It was however commuted to life imprisonment due to Flynn's young age.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Husband Saved by Wife's Drinking Habits

A man who was suspected of having caused the death of his wife following a struggle avoided prosecution in 1868. This was due to doctors who carried out the post mortem believing that death was more likely as a result of heart disease and the fact violence had been used was purely coincidental.

On the afternoon of 20th June that year shipwright and ex police constable Robert Rimmer returned to his Houlgrave Street home about 5pm, at around the same time his 18 year old son Joseph went out to a nearby field. Soon after Robert went after his son telling him to return home as his mother wasn't well. Joseph ran back and when he got there a neighbour Emma Egan, who had also been called by Robert, was in their cellar property. She explained that Margaret was now dead and observed that there was a fresh scratch underneath her chin.

Dr Sheldon of Boundary Street attended and found marks on the body that had been caused by violence, leading to the arrest of Robert on Athol Street as he was returning. On the Monday morning he appeared at the police court charged with causing the death of his wife and remanded pending the outcome of the coroner's inquest.

The following day Dr Sheldon gave evidence to the coroner in respect of a post mortem he had conducted. He stated that the internal organs had been made flabby by excessive drinking and as such he believed he cause of death was heart disease and not violence. Mrs Egan said that she had known Margaret for three months and never saw her sober. The jury then returned a verdict in line with the medical evidence, leading to Robert's discharge from custody.

Killed Over Gravy

A man who complained to his common law wife that there was no gravy on his steak and started beating her was killed after she reacted by stabbing him.

Towards the end of 1862 Sarah Lyons, who was 21 years old, began moved in with Edward Corduroy at his lodgings in Upper Frederick Street. They lived together as man and wife and although not married Sarah often gave her name as Corduroy.

The couple frequently quarrelled with Sarah having an addiction to drink. Edward worked as a watchmaker in nearby St James Street and it was an incident on his return home for dinner on 7th April 1863 that led to his death. After remarking that there was no gravy to go with his steak, Sarah playfully tapped him on the nose with a fork, leading to them arguing after he said she had been drinking again.

When Edward struck Sarah she ran into kitchen screaming 'Mrs Randalls save me he will kill me'. Edward followed her and punched her to the floor. She got up and hit him back, then the two of the fell to the fall grappling after Edward had hit her again Mrs Randalls managed to separate them and also took a shovel which Sarah had managed to get hold of. As the two got up though Sarah grabbed a knife the table and stabbed Edward in his side.

Edward went to bed and a Dr Bruce of Great George Square, who just happened to be passing, was called into the property. He found the wound to be half an inch thick and sent for a police officer, who retrieved the blood covered knife. Sarah was taken to the Jordan Street Bridewell where she was in hysterics on being told that Edward's life was in peril.

Edward lingered for a few days but on 11th April a deposition was taken from him by a magistrate. He stated that he did not think Sarah had intended to cause harm and had given him every assistance in the aftermath.

At the assizes on 11th August Sarah sat sobbing bitterly as evidence was given by Mrs Randalls that Edward had a history of mistreating her. The defence counsel argued that she did not know what she had picked up from the table and as such she should be acquitted of manslaughter. After a short deliberation the jury found Sarah guilty of manslaughter but gave a strong recommendation for mercy due to the provocation received.

Justice Blackburn said that the evidence left no doubt about the verdict, but that it was not without provocation. He then passed a sentence of four months imprisonment, which equated to time spent in prison awaiting trial. Sarah, described by the Liverpool Mercury as 'a respectable looking young woman' was then helped from the dock by officials.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Bootle Man Hanged For Killing Wife

In 1884 Peter Cassidy killed his wife and claimed it was in retaliation for being struck, but the prosecution were able to prove that there had been a pre-meditation on his part to commit murder anyway.

Cassidy was a 54 year old tinsmith with the Cunard shipping line who lived at Howe Street in Bootle. He had been married to Mary for over twenty years and they had three children, one living in America, one in domestic service in Manchester and the other at an industrial school. The marriage was not always a happy one with both drinking regularly and there were frequent quarrels. Mary often left for brief periods and it was after she had gone to stay with their daughter in Manchester for ten days in June 1884 that the murder was committed.

While Mary was away Cassidy was visited by a man named Mr Swift, whom he was hiring furniture from. Payments had not been kept to and Swift removed then items, promising to return them when the outstanding amount was paid. Mary returned on 25th June but first went to the room of Mr & Mrs McGee, who gave her some tea. When Cassidy heard that she was there he went and angrily confronted her, saying he had even been to Manchester looking for her. He demanded she return to their room to tidy up but Mary said that she was ill, although she did agree to come up if he helped.

St Mary's Church BootleSoon afterwards they went up to their room but when Mr McGee heard two loud thuds he went to investigate, and saw Mary lying in a pool of blood with Cassidy next to her. Caught red handed, Cassidy said ‘Alright Pat I done it and will stand for it.’ Mr McGee went for a policeman and when he arrived and asked Cassidy what happened he produced a bloodied mallet. He was taken into custody and a doctor called who confirmed the death. A search of the room also found a blood covered meat cleaver hidden behind some boards. As he was being transported to the Bridewell he said ‘Well I don’t know what to say about it I’m sorry it happened.’

After the inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder on 28th June Cassidy appeared at Bootle police court two days later for committal to the assizes. On the same day Mary was interred at St Mary’s churchyard, a large crowd singing hymns at the graveside. The only relative present was their daughter who fainted as the coffin was lowered into the grave.

Cassidy appeared before Justice Day at the assizes on 31st July. Mr McGee recalled finding Cassidy standing next to his wife’s body while the police officers who were called testified to his responses. Mr Swift who had hired out the furniture told how four days before the killing Cassidy was scathing about his wife’s habits and said he would ‘do for her.’ The doctor who attended said that there was a cut and bruise above Mary’s eye which was probably caused by the mallet, but the cause of death was due to a fractured skull, which had been pierced three times by the cleaver.

A statement from Cassidy was put in to the effect that he had been chopping some wood chips when Mary hit him with the mallet, leading to him retaliating with the cleaver and not intending to kill. Several witnesses testified to Cassidy’s character and even Mr McGee acknowledged that when the couple weren’t in drink he was a kind husband. This though didn’t sway the jury who found him guilty of murder but with a recommendation of mercy. Justice Day told him that he would forward the recommendation on but he should not be buoyed by it and then passed the death sentence in the usual form. 

Cassidy, who had remained motionless throughout the trial, didn’t say a word as he was removed from the dock. After a petition forwarded to the Home Secretary by his friends asking for a reprieve was refused he was hanged at Kirkdale by James Berry.

Medical Doubts Spare Strangling Wife

A woman whose husband died when she tied a handkerchief around his neck avoided being found guilty of murder when a doctor couldn't be certain that her actions directly caused the death.

In 1896 Sarah and James Brady lived in Thurlow Street, which was situated off Richmond Row. The couple were in their forties and although not particularly happily married, had not been known to have any drunken or violent rows.

That changed on the morning of 17th June that year when Sarah was heard to be shouting violent threats to her husband, then in the evening she called out to  a neighbour Ellen Duffy for help. When Duffy went to the Brady's house, she saw James lying on his back. He had a handkerchief around his neck which Sarah's hand was stuck in and she asked for help in getting it out.

The handkerchief was so twisted that Duffy couldn't release Sarah's hand and after her husband couldn't either it had to be cut. When this was done James was found to be dead, leading to her arrest and committal to the next assizes for trial.

On 5th August Sarah appeared before Mr Justice Cave. Mr and Mrs Duffy told how the handkerchief was so tight that James's flesh was hanging over it. Another neighbour said she had heard Sarah say she would hang for her husband earlier in the day, and the police officers who attended described the scene of smashed glasses and pans lying on the floor.

Dr Leech who had got there half an hour after the discovery and carried out the post mortem then gave his evidence. He said that James had passed out as a result of having the handkerchief tied around his neck and had blue marks where that had happened. However in cross examination he admitted that there was a heart problem which may have exacerbated due to the tying of the handkerchief.

Justice Cave then asked him directly what caused death and he replied that it could have been the handkerchief. This led to an angry response from the judge who said 'I don't want "could" or "might", what was the cause of death?'  The doctor replied that although death occurred when the handkerchief was tied around he neck, he couldn't be certain that was the actual cause. With serious doubts now having been placed in the jury's minds about the tying of the handkerchief directly causing the death, a manslaughter verdict was returned. She was then sentenced to ten years penal servitude.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Canning Place Tragedy

In 1896 two men were charged with murder after a sailor died after a  stabbing in Canning Place, but one was acquitted and the other had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

On 29th June that year 25 year old Scotsman John Gibbons arrived in Liverpool from Valparaiso and took up lodgings with a Mr Hughes in Cleveland Street.

Gibbons became acquainted with John Hilton and a friend of his called Pritchford. The three men were seen by the lodging house keeper to come and go together on occasions but for some reason, Hilton and Pritchford got into a fight with each other on 11th July. This led to the friendship breaking up and Gibbons seemingly siding with Pritchford from then on.

On 19th July Hilton and Pritchford again fought, with the police having to intervene to separate them. Hilton then went into a house and came out with a poker with which he threatened Gibbons, saying he was 'just in the right neighbourhood for doing over.'

The following day Pritchford was locked up and held at the Bridewell, where Gibbons went at 9pm with some tea for him, accompanied by a lady called Mary Goodwin. As they were returning, they encountered Hilton stood on Frederick Street along with a new acquaintance of his called Richard Williams, who showed them a knife and asked Gibbons if he wanted some of it.

Mary began to walk away, leading to Hilton running after her and hitting her in the face. When Gibbons went to push him off Williams came up to him with the knife and said 'you dont interfere.' Hilton was said to have shouted 'stick it in Dick' and Williams plunged the knife into Gibbons's left breast, penetrating the heart.

Both men ran away and Gibbons was already dead when an ambulance arrived. Mary thankfully knew the names of the two offenders and they were arrested in the early hours of the morning. There were various reasons put forward by local sailors for the ill feeling, ranging from one of the men owing money to a dispute having carried over from another port.

At the assizes on 5th August there was conflicting evidence as to the words used by Hilton just prior to the stabbing, leading to his acquittal. With respect to 22 year old Williams, his defence counsel said he had no motive to kill or any previous ill feeling with Gibbons so a manslaughter verdict was more appropriate. In summing up though Justice Cave said he could see no grounds for the lesser verdict, meaning Williams was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. This was later commuted to life imprisonment by the Home Secretary.

Son Axes Father to Death

A son who killed his father with an axe after he had struck his mother was found guilty of manslaughter and leniently sentenced after the jury's plea for mercy.

On the evening of 18th April 1874 James Hanney, a 21 year old labourer, went to a public house with his father, also James Hanney and a man named Mr Gill.

After a dispute arose over paying for liquor the three men went to the Hanney's home at a court off Grosvenor Street, where Mrs Hanney refused to give her husband any more money for drink. He then started to throw ornaments at her, leading to her and her son moving into the yard for safety.

Hanney ran after his wife and son shouting and throwing more ornaments at them. This led to Hanney junior snapping and picking up whatever he could to throw back at him. His father then fell to the ground after being struck by an axe.

Neighbours called police who arrived and took Hanney junior, his mother, sister and Gill into custody. Hanney senior was taken to the Royal Infirmary where he was at first insensible. He lingered on until 24th April, being able to give a deposition that it was his son who had inflicted his injury with a sharp instrument.

After the inquest Hanney junior was committed to the assizes on a charge of wilful murder, appearing before Justice Archibald on 17th August. His defence maintained that there had been no malicious aforethought and that the deceased was a drunken man who ill used his family. The jury found him guilty of manslaughter and recommended mercy, leading to the judge imposing a sentence of five years penal servitude.

Hanged For Killing Wife's Grandmother

Charles Dutton was hanged for  killing his wife’s grandmother after the couple had had an argument earlier in the day.

Hannah Hamshaw was a 70 year old widow living at 160 Athol Street in Vauxhall with her granddaughter Charlotte and her husband Charles Dutton, a 23 year old driller who was commonly known by his middle name of Harry. The couple had been married in May 1883, with Dutton being known to be violent on the occasional times he drank to excess.

On the afternoon of 6th October that year Charlotte was at her friend Harriet Kay’s home at St Martin’s Cottages in Silvester Street. Dutton arrived, having clearly been drinking and some words were exchanged between him and Charlotte, who then left with him. Twenty minutes they returned and Dutton attempted to strike his wife but Harriet intervened, telling him to leave the property. He did so but Charlotte went with him and Harriet followed them to Athol Street, observing him making threats all the way.

Later in the evening Dutton knocked at Harriet’s home asking if Charlotte was there, saying they had had words over tea and she had ran out. Harriet replied she had not seen her and he replied that he would ‘do for one of them tonight’ and went to a public house in Athol Street. At around 11pm Harriet went to fetch Charlotte and took her to St Martin’s Cottages for her own safety. After midnight, Harriet’s husband James went to check on Hannah, but Dutton refused to open the door claiming that there was a mob there as well who were after him.

Knowing something was not right James sought the help of other neighbours and forced entry through the back, finding Hannah sitting down and bleeding heavily. A doctor was called but on his arrival Hannah was quite insensible and lived for only another ten minutes. There were wounds all over her face and upper body, which he concluded had been brought about by considerable violence. Dutton was arrested soon afterwards hiding under the stairs in  a friend's house nearby.

Dutton was tried before Mr Justice Denman on 17th November. One neighbour told how on the night of the murder they had heard Dutton shout ‘Tell me where my wife is or I’ll do your entails in’ while another told how Dutton had asked to swap jackets to avoid detection. The doctor who had attended that night said the injuries were inconsistent with a fall and that Hannah was otherwise healthy.

The defence counsel acknowledged that Dutton had carried out the killing, but said that there had been no intent to kill and that it had occurred in a fit of mental aberration, meaning manslaughter was more appropriate. The jury though disagreed, finding Dutton guilty of murder following half an hour’s deliberation. Justice Denman made it clear he had no qualms with the verdict, telling him prior to sentence ‘If the jury had not found you guilty of hat crime upon such evidence as what was given it would have been a great misfortune for the inhabitants of this country.’ Dutton then showed no emotion as the death sentence was passed in the usual form.

He retired to bed late on 2nd December, the night before the execution, but still slept awkwardly. He rose as early at 4am and the sacrament was administered, then he ate a hearty breakfast at 730am, just half an hour before the execution. It was a drizzly and foggy morning but this didn’t deter around 300 morbid people from gathering outside the gaol and waiting for the black flag to be hoisted. At 8am Dutton was hanged by Bartholomew Binns, who was officiating at Kirkdale for the first time. He used a wrong sized rope, meaning the prisoner writhed around in agony for two minutes before losing his senses and life was not extinct until six minutes after the bolt was drawn. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Kicked to Death in Garston

A labourer convicted of manslaughter after a man was kicked to death by a crowd in Garston was given a lenient sentence as the prosecution could only show that he had thrown a punch rather than use his feet.

On the evening of 2nd December 1885 John Wainwright and John Diffey got into an argument outside the Cock & Trumpet public house (which stood at corner of Church Road and Banks Road). Diffey took off his coat but a crowd had gathered and Wainwright said 'When I fight I fight with one at once not a thousand'.

Both men went inside the pub, 23 year old Diffey saying he would kill Wainwright before the night was out. Wainwright left alone but he was followed and struck on the face with a belt, then Diffey punched him and he fell to the ground. A crowd surrounded him and kicked at his body, before leaving him lying there.

Wainwright managed to get himself home and went to bed but complained of severe belly pains in the night. A doctor was called and ordered his removal to the cottage hospital, where he died on 11th December of inflammation of the bladder.

Diffey was charged with manslaughter and appeared at the Liverpool assizes before Mr Justice Day on 15th February 1886. Witnesses said that the words by Diffey to the effect that he would kill Wainwright were said jokingly and that when he struck him the hand was open not clenched. The prosecution was also unable to produce anybody who saw Diffey place any kicks, leading to a guilty verdict but a sentence of just six months imprisonment.

Sixteen Year Old's Death Sentence Commuted

A sixteen year old youth who killed a colleague after workplace bullying got out of hand was sentenced to death in 1886, but he was reprieved after a public outcry.

Towards the end of the previous year Michael Lavelle took a job as a sawyer's assistant at Barton's timber yard in Byrom Street. On the 1st of February 1886 as he was leaving work around 5pm he spoke with another youth named William Roberts and then asked 42 year old Maxwell Kirkpatrick how long he had been there.

When Lavelle started playing with a steam whistle on a boiler Kirkpatrick told him to leave it alone and some words were exchanged, although nobody heard what was said. Lavelle then went off on his own way and Kirkpatrick and Roberts headed home, going along Richmond Row and Everton Brow.

Unknown to the pair Lavelle had followed them, even though he lived in the opposite direction in Addison Street. Lavelle called out to them and when they turned round, saw him holding a roller which was used in the timber yard. He then struck Kirkpatrick on the head with it and ran off down Watmough Street.

Kirkpatrick was knocked unconscious by the blow but came round after about five minutes and continued his journey home. With blood flowing out of his ear a doctor was called and attended to him all night, during which he lost consciousness and died around 10am the following morning.

Lavelle had been apprehended at home during the course of the night due to the seriousness of Kirkpatrick's condition. He admitted at once what he had done and said that he threw the roller into a cellar in Bute Street, from where police recovered it.

During the opening speeches for Lavelle's trial on 15th February, the prosecution acknowledged that there had been some provocation from Kirkpatrick, in that he had spent part of the previous week throwing chips at him and using language designed to cause upset. It was pointed out though that Lavelle had responded at the workplace, throwing a roller at Kirkpatrick's legs.

William Roberts gave evidence to the effect that that Kirkpatrick was bullying Lavelle, who was employed as his 'puller off.' John Brown, an ex employee who left a month before the killing, said he had seen Lavelle have chips thrown at him and get called an 'Irish pig.' He had also heard the teenager threaten revenge, saying 'I'll be hung for him' and 'his time will be short.' Other workers referred to Lavelle and quiet and inoffensive, including Mr Tickle who owned the yard.

The surgeon who carried out the post mortem told the court that death had been caused by compression of the brain caused by a fracture of the skull. Under cross examination, he said the roller would not have had to be thrown with such great force to cause this injury. The police officers who arrested and charge Lavelle said he was sober at the time and admitted the deed, saying that life had been hell for him.

After Lavelle's statement regarding the bullying was read to the court his defence counsel said that he had been exasperated by his ill treatment and could not have realised that the weapon he used could have caused a fatal blow. Concluding that there was no murderous intent he called for the jury to return a verdict of manslaughter.

In summing up, Mr Justice Day said it was 'very painful to see a lad of the prisoners age placed in the position he occupied.' However he added that a manslaughter verdict due to provocation was only appropriate  if he had the weapon in his hand at the time he was offended by Kirkpatrick. In this case, there was no evidence of any provocation on the day so if the intention on throwing the roller was to cause grievous bodily harm, then Lavelle was guilty of murder no matter how painful it may be to find that verdict.

After half an hours deliberation the jury returned a verdict of guilty causing Lavelle, who had been crying bitterly throughout the trial, to shout 'I did not mean to kill that man.' Justice Day did not give much hope of mercy during the sentencing, saying 'Do not be unduly buoyed by the kind recommendation of mercy which I shall forward to the authorities. The prerogative of mercy rests with the Crown and it would be an intrusion on my part were I to express any opinion.'

There was outrage at the sentence with local papers being deluged by letters and a Liverpool Mercury editorial said that 'judge and jury are governed by a imperiously antiquated code.' A week later the sentence was commuted by the Home Secretary to life imprisonment.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Boy Sectarian Killer Never Caught

There was a tragedy in 1895 when a girl died after having her head bashed against a wall in a sectarian motivated attack by a boy, whose identity was never established.

On 17th May that year 10 year old Sarah Sigley ran crying into her home at Gay Street (situated on what is now a grassed area between Scotland Road and Comus Street) saying that a boy had been hitting her head against a wall on Blackstock Street. She said that he had done this after asking if she was a Protestant, to which she answered that she did not know.

Sarah went to bed that night feeling unwell and the following day a doctor attended to her. She died on 25th May and a post mortem revealed that she had suffered compression of the brain, consistent with a head injury.

Police appealed for witnesses to come forward but the only person who did was a girl called Harriet Roberts who saw a boy who was in the area and hit a girl's head against a wall and kicked her. However she said she didn't know either of them and wouldn't recognise the boy again. The inquest returned an open verdict and the identity of Sarah's attacker was never established.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Killer Teenagers Imprisoned for Life

Two teenagers who killed another youth because they felt he had no business being in their street were found guilty of manslaughter but sentenced to life imprisonment by the judge, who said it was as near to murder as could be.

On the night of 2nd May 1860 two shoeblacks John Heyes and Patrick Gibbons drank at the Lady of the Lake pub in Richmond Row, spending about two hours there. Their route home took them through Bispham Street where four teenage males including James Halloran (age 17) and Phillip Mack (age 18) objected to them being there and a stone was thrown.

After angry words were exchanged Halloran and Mack went to their homes and retrieved a sling shot and poker respectively. Their two companions had already started to attack Heyes and Gibbons with their firsts but Mack then arrived on the scene and jumped on Gibbons, who was now lying on the pavement. He then struck him on the head with a poker and Mack repeatedly hit him on the side with the slingshot, which was wound around his wrist.

Heyes managed to escape and was briefly chased by Mack, who decided not to pursue him. A woman named Mary Archibald shouted at the youths to leave Gibbons alone but they threatened to treat her the same. After the attackers had returned to their homes Heyes returned and with the help of policeman assisted Gibbons in returning to his mother's address.

On being arrested and charged with assault and wounding, Halloran and Mack showed a complete lack of remorse, blaming Gibbons presence in their street for the assault. Gibbons died on 8th May of concussion on the brain, brought about by the fractured skull and violent blows. An inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder, leading to a committal to the assizes.

The two assailants were tried on 13th August, with Heyes and Mrs Archibald giving evidence. The defence counsel argued that the fracture of the skull occurred when Gibbons struck the ground after being punched, not on being hit with a poker. It led to the jury dismissing the murder charge but finding Halloran and Mack guilty of manslaughter.

The judge, Baron Martin, said that the crime was 'as nearly approaching murder as can possibly be.' Telling them that they beat someone to death simply for going into a street where he had a right to be, both were sentenced to penal servitude for life.

The Crosby Tragedy of 1882

A man charged with wilfully murdering his domestic servant was found guilty of manslaughter in an event that was widely reported as the Crosby Tragedy. In light of the extenuating circumstances he was then leniently sentenced by the judge.

Arthur Golding was a 28 year old estate agents clerk who lived at 11 Queens Road, Crosby, with his wife and two young children. The family employed a domestic servant named Mary Creman who also lived with them and was aged 20.

Crosby police stationIt seemed that relations were a little more friendly than should have been between Golding and Mary, while Mrs Golding was having affairs with two brothers from the Ritson family who lived in number 9. Both husband and wife seemed to be fully aware of the others infidelities but Golding became angry when he found out that his wife was pregnant to one of the Ritsons and Mary had hidden the secret from him. Without explaining the reasons, he told other neighbours that if he ever saw one of the Ritson family on his land again he would shoot them, and believed that they intended to do harm to him.

The tragedy occurred on the afternoon of Sunday 11th June 1882 when Golding went voluntarily to Crosby police station saying he had shot his servant with a revolver. He made a statement that Mary had been cleaning his shoes and asked him what he would do if their neighbour Ritson attacked him first, leading to him taking a revolver out of his pocket and pulling then trigger, not realising that it was loaded. Mary fell down and died instantly and after telling his wife what had happened, Golding went to the police still carrying the revolver.

Golding was taken into custody and police officers went round the the house, where they found the dead body of Mary in the scullery, with a single bullet in her head. More ammunition was found in a bedroom drawer, while one of the police officers recalled Golding enquiring six months earlier about what type of licence he needed for a revolver, a time when he was on good terms with the Ritsons.

On 2nd August Golding appeared at the assizes charged with murder. There was a sensation in court when 16 year old Foster Ritson admitted having had sexual relations with Mrs Golding since February. His 28 year old brother though refused to answer any questions about himself and Mrs Golding, saying they were not relevant to the murder. Foster said that Golding seemed to have been extremely angry at his wife's infidelity with him, but he had never seen him express anger to his brother. Neighbours told how Golding had made it known he had a revolver and would use it to defend himself.

Golding's defence solicitors said that he was guilty of nothing more than carelessness and there was no motive at all to kill Mary, with William Ritson being portrayed as a 'wretched abominable character'. After half an hours deliberation the jury found Golding guilty of manslaughter, with a strong recommendation for leniency.

Two days later Golding was brought back before the court for sentencing. Justice North said he had no doubt the killing was an accident and due to culpable negligence, but also expressed relief that he had never come to meet the Ritsons. There was applause in court as he passed what he described as a light sentence, that of four months imprisonment with no hard labour required.

Killed For Not Making supper

A woman who failed to have her husbands supper ready for when returned home after a drinking session was killed by him, but he luckily escaped with a manslaughter conviction.

Francis Duffy, a 39 year old labourer, spent the bank holiday afternoon of 29th May 1882 out drinking with Henry Walton, the owner of the house in Smithfield Street where he and his wife lodged.

On returning home, Duffy expected that his wife Anne would have supper ready for him but she had not cooked anything, leading to an argument breaking out between the couple. Anne went into the yard to get out of the way but Duffy followed and stabbed her in he side.

Anne cried out and Walton went to investigate, where he found that she had blood flowing out of a wound. When he went into the kitchen to confront Duffy, he was threatened that the same would be done to him as well.Walton managed to call for police and Anne was taken to the Northern Hospital, where she was admitted with a deep incised wound. Duffy was arrested and the following day he appeared at the police court charged with stabbing, being remanded for seven days.

By the end of the week Anne's condition had deteriorated considerably and a magistrate was sent for to take a deposition, which was given in the presence of Duffy who was handcuffed to two detectives. Anne died the following day although nobody told her husband, who burst into tears on hearing the information when brought back before the police court on 7th June. After an inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder, he was committed to the assizes for trial.

On 3rd August, Duffy's defence counsel tried to suggest that there was no premeditation and that it was an accident. Justice North said in summing up though that even if that was the case, the prisoner was guilty of manslaughter as he went to strike his wife whilst holding a knife.

After half an hours deliberation the jury returned to deliver their verdict, having found Duffy guilty of manslaughter. A mistake was made though as when asked what their verdict was on the murder charge, the foreman replied 'guilty, I mean we find him not guilty.' Duffy shrieked and was still in a terrible state of shock when the error was corrected. He remained shaking uncontrollably when it was explained that he had only been found guilty of manslaughter and was led from the dock, the judge deciding to postpone sentence. Two days later there was no leniency though as he was sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Mother Unpunished Despite Baby Death

An indication of how officials in Victorian times turned a complete blind eye to mothers who either couldn't cope or were wilfully negligent to their newborn children occurred in 1878 when a woman who wished her baby dead avoided prosecution.

A woman named McCann who lived in Solway Street in Toxteth gave birth to a child on 13th May 1878. Whilst in labour a midwife who attended found that the mother had made no preparations for the birth and was told that the baby would not live long anyway.

The day after the birth the same midwife returned and told McCann that the child appeared hungry and might die, to which she replied 'A good job too.' Two days later the child died, and at the inquest a sibling said it had been fed breastmilk just once or twice since the birth, as well as gruel.

The surgeon who carried out the post mortem said that death was as a result of convulsions, which could have been caused by being fed gruel. However he also said that it was common for poorer people to feed their child gruel without knowing the possible consequences. As such the coroner commented that the death was suspicious and the jury agreed, but without any clear proof they returned an open verdict.

Killed by a Clock Weight

In 1870 a man who was involved in the killing of another who was struck with a clock weight was convicted of manslaughter. It was a case in which the trial judge also made some sweeping generalisations about the behaviour of Irish migrants.

John McDonough and Joseph McGrath were both labourers who had got into a dispute with each other which culminated on Christmas Day 1869. McDonough went to McGrath's house in Grosvenor Street and challenged him to a fight but when this was refused he smashed some of the windows.

Later in the evening McGrath was in the Dive public house in Rose Place when McDonough and a woman called Mary McHale entered. The woman assaulted McGrath who this time fought back but the landlord quelled the disturbance and all parties left.

As McGrath was walking along Grosvenor Street he was attacked from behind and hit on the top of the head with a clock weight. It was presumed that McDonough had done this as McHale then delivered several blows with a poker, while McGrath's horrified wife looked on.

The police weren't told about the incident until 2nd January 1870 when doctors from the East Dispensary became concerned at McGrath's deteriorating condition. He became delirious and died at his Grosvenor Street home on 7th January from the effects of the four wounds on his head.

At the inquest McGrath's wife Mary told how a feud between the two men started after her husband accused McDonough of stealing some money. She stated that she had seen McDonough strike the blow with a clock weight and admitted that her husband was also drunk at the time. The coroner Clarke Aspinall expressed his dissatisfaction that the police did nothing to intervene on Christmas night and even after being told that McGrath's condition had got worse, made no further enquiries or attempt to find the weapons involved. A verdict of wilful murder against McHale and McDonough, who were at large, was returned and warrants were issued for their apprehension.

On 6th March Detective Cashen of the Liverpool police headed to Ditton after receiving information that McDonough was there and residing at a lodging house in Dog Lane. He was accompanied by McGrath's brother who identified him and McDonough   fiercely resisted as he was taken to Widnes police station. The following morning he was taken by train to Liverpool and appeared at the police court for committal to the assizes.

The charge was reduced to manslaughter and at the assizes on 25th March McGrath's wife identified a clock weight that had been recovered from McDonough's father's house as the one with which her husband had been struck. Witnesses on behalf  of the accused though managed to cast doubts as to whether he had struck any blows at all, and also deposed that it was McHale who was the more aggressive of the two.

After McDonough was found guilty of manslaughter Justice Willes was scathing about Irish migrants who 'by reason of their folly and tendency to drink break out into proceedings more suited to wild Indians than to civilised people.' Describing him and McHale as 'like a pair of hounds hunting down McGrath for the purpose of fighting and beating him', Willes sentenced McDonough to twelve months imprisonment with hard labour.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Sailor Who Wouldn't Buy Drink Killed

In 1853 a woman  stabbed a sailor to death when he refused to buy her a drink after she met him in a public house.

On the night of 12th July that year seaman William Goodfen and his friend went to Lovelady's spirit vaults in Pall Mall. At around 11pm Susan Campbell, described by the Liverpool Mercury as 'A woman of dissolute habits', went in and asked William for a glass of ale, which he refused to buy her.

Campbell was intoxicated and responded with foul language, leading to William slapping her in the face. She did not seem to be perturbed by this and left, with the seaman and his friends leaving soon afterwards.

When they got outside Campbell was still there and followed them for a short while before striking him on the neck. A passer by shouted at her that it was not proper conduct but she hit William again, shouting 'take that.' On feeling his neck William noticed that it was bleeding and he soon fell to the ground.

Two police officers in Tithebarn Street heard cries for help and ran to Pall Mall, where they found William in an insensible state on the pavement. He was taken to the Northern Hospital, while others in the vicinity pointed out Campbell as the person who struck the blow. On apprehension though she said that she had no weapon and only poked him with her fingers, although she also commented that she didn't care if she was hanged or transported.

A search of the area recovered a clasp knife which was covered in blood and identified as having been seen in the hands of Campbell. After William died a few days later Campbell was committed to the assizes for trial, appearing before Justice Wightman on 18th August. Her defence counsel argued that there was an element of provocation as she had been struck and a surgeon also admitted that William's life may have been saved if he had been operated upon sooner.

The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter but the judge had little time for leniency. Stating that this crime was one of many rising from the fearful tide of intemperance, he sentenced Campbell to 20 years transportation.

Insane Mother Almost Sever's Baby's Head

A woman who killed her baby son as she feared he would starve otherwise was cleared of murder on the grounds of insanity.

Rigby Street in 2017In 1853 Mary Hodkinson was living in Rigby Street with her brewer husband and five children, the youngest of which was just six weeks old. On the night of 3rd August Mary went to bed with her husband and the baby William, but woke up and called out that she was so ill that she was dying.

Mary's husband called for help from their lodger Mrs Kenyon who came to find Mary crying that William was dead, even though he was beside her and perfectly well. She was given some brandy which seemed to calm her down and she slept soundly for the rest of the night.

The following morning her husband got up early and left for work, but soon afterwards the Mrs Kenyon was disturbed by screaming from upstairs. After running to Mary's room she was greeted with the terrifying sight of her holding a knife in her arms and shouting 'I have done it the child will be no more hungered.' William was clearly dead, the cut having been so deep that his head was almost severed.

When police arrived Mary told them that she had been told to do it by Mrs Kenyon, and somebody else sharpened the knife. After being taken into custody Mary was taken to the Northern Hospital where a surgeon determined that she was of unsound mind.

When Mary appeared at the assizes on 18th August on a murder charge Dr Thorburn, who carried out the examination in the immediate aftermath, reiterated his confidence in respect of her state of mind at the time. In summing up Justice Wightman said it was a most painful case and the only question for the jury was to whether Mary could be held accountable for her conduct. They soon acquitted her on the grounds of insanity and she was detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

Dead Baby in a Confectioners

An confectioners suspicions that his shop assistant was pregnant were confirmed when the body of a dead baby was found amongst her possessions, but she avoided a murder conviction due to doubts over the medical evidence.

In 1853 Hannah Poole worked as an assistant for Mr Roberts who owned confectionery shops in Church Street and Castle Street. When he suspected her of being in the family way she strenuously denied it. On the morning of 1st August Hannah was heard to get up in the night for some time then return to bed. In the morning she got up and left Church Street for Castle Street, but Mr Roberts found evidence in the kitchen that a birth had taken place.

Roberts reported his suspicions to the police and a search of her room found the body of a newborn baby in a box hidden amongst her clothing. Hannah was then arrested at Castle Street, whilst a surgeon examined the body and was of the opinion the baby had been born alive.

Hannah was committed to the assizes for a trial which took place on 18th August. Dr Leather, who carried out the post mortem said that although he could confirm that the child had lived and then died of congestion of the brain and lungs, he could not say to what extent this was due to a deliberate act on the mother's part. Mr Justice Wightman then intervened and stated it was impossible to find Hannah guilty on a capital charge. He directed the jury to find her guilty of concealment of birth and sentenced her to one years imprisonment with hard labour.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Mother Not Guilty of Smothering Son

A woman who accidentally smothered her son to death was charged with manslaughter and acquitted, but still given a severe rebuke by the judge.

Thomas Shaw, his wife Margaret and their 8 month old son Thomas junior lodged in a house in Worfield Street (where the John Moores University building is now by Tithebarn Street/Vauxhall Road). Thomas was a hard working coal heaver but Margaret was known for her drunkenness.

Tithbarn Street in 1915 (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
In the early hours of 3rd March 1870 Margaret, who was 25 years old, ran to her landlady Ruth Gillies screaming that her son was dead. She was quite drunk and Mrs Gillies went to her room where she found the lifeless body of Thomas, who was stone cold. She noticed that the child was still wearing day clothes, was dirty and lying on a filthy mattress.

Margaret woke her husband and they both approached a police constable on Tithebarn Street, saying they wanted to hand themselves in as Margaret had smothered her child. They were taken to the police office but allowed to return home. A post mortem revealed no marks on the body and the condition of the lungs suggested that suffocation was the cause of death, with overlaying a possible explanation.

At the inquest on 7th March the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and Margaret was taken into custody to appear at the police court the following day. There, it was revealed that another child of Margaret's had died of apparent suffocation in 1868 and she was committed for trial at the next assizes, which were just a fortnight away.

On 22nd March Margaret appeared before Mr Justice Willes but the prosecution offered no evidence, accepting that the death was an accident. Discharging her from the dock, the judge said there was no felonious design on Margaret's part but that the case 'should be a serious lesson to her and others not to indulge in intoxicating liquor.'

Patricide in Vauxhall

A teenager who killed his bullying father avoided being convicted of murder after an impassioned plea to the judge by his mother.

Hugh Lennon, a 49 year old labourer lived in Barmouth Street (off Boundary Street) in 1877 with his wife Catherine and son Thomas, aged 18. On the evening of 15th December Catherine took some drink and was put out onto the street by Hugh, who brandished a knife to make sure she left, cutting the back of her head in the process.

Shortly after midnight Thomas returned home and found his mother sat on the step of a neighbour, with his father shouting obscenities from his own house. On seeing his mother forced out of the home and hearing the words she was getting called, Thomas ran down the cellar steps and picked up the same knife from earlier off the table and plunged it into his father's chest.

Neighbours who heard the commotion called for a policeman and Constable Devlin was soon on the scene. He went down to the cellar and found Thomas asleep on the sofa, with Hugh lying dead by the fireplace with the knife next to him. On being taken from the property, Thomas said to a neighbour 'Mary will I be hung for this'. When he arrived at the Bridewell and was asked what happened, he said he didn't know as he was drunk.

Police Constable McKee, who stayed behind to gather evidence and speak to people in the locality, was told by Catherine that her husband deserved to die as she showed him the wound on the back of her head. When a post mortem was carried out by Dr Sheldon, he concluded that death was caused by bleeding due to the knife penetrating the heart and that the blow must have been struck with considerable force given three layers of clothing were cut through.

Thomas was committed to the assizes for trial and appeared before Baron Pollock on 24th January 1878. Catherine was in tears as she gave her evidence, saying that her son had worked since he was 10 years old and gave all his wages to her. She described how he rarely drank and had never struck his father before, despite his frequent knife throwing outbursts. Thomas's defence counsel put forward a sound defence, saying there was no malice pretence and also that nobody could be sure who had plunged the knife, as this act had not been witnessed. They even suggested that Catherine could have done it, or Hugh could have accidentally stabbed himself as family members struggled to get the knife from him.

In summing up Baron Pollock said that it seemed all three family members were drunk at the time but that was no excuse for murder. He left it to the jury to decide whether there was sufficient provocation to reduce the charge to manslaughter. After 25 minutes deliberation they returned a manslaughter verdict and also recommended leniency on account of Thomas's youth and provocation. The judge though told Thomas that he could not ignore the 'violent terrible character' of the crime and despite his age and provocation sentenced him to 15 years penal servitude. As he was removed from the dock his mother cried out 'Tommy Tommy' and had to be taken out of the court by police.

After serving his time, Thomas married but didn't seem to lose his violent temper, being convicted in 1897 of manslaughter after his wife died following a row in which he threw a teacup at her.