Sunday, 31 May 2015

Tramcar Queue Killing

A man who was thrown off  a tram for boarding it illegally was convicted of manslaughter after he punched a passenger who remonstrated with him, causing him to fall backwards and die from his injuries.

On 10th March 1945 at 1120pm Thomas McCulloch jumped onto the top deck of a tram in Church Street. The tram, which was heading to Prescot, was already full and had the chain across the platform, leading to the conductress telling him to get off at St Johns Market.

As 32 year old ex soldier McCulloch alighted he said some words to the conductress and was mildly rebuked by Arthur Hope, who was waiting in a queue. McCulloch responded by punching Hope in the face and as he fell to the ground he struck his head on the pavement. Others in the queue tried to restrain McCulloch but he ran off although he was soon apprehended by two military policemen.

Hope, who was a 35 year old insurance agent, died from a fractured skull three days later, leading to McCulloch being charged with manslaughter. A motor driver who lived in Edinburgh Road, Kensington, he appeared at the Liverpool assizes on 23rd April. Hope's father said his son was a mild mannered man who had once been in the police.

McCulloch said in evidence that he had been discharged from the army on medical grounds the previous September. He claimed that he had had four or five pints of beer that night and was heading back to his home. He then said that after leaving the tramcar Hope told him he should be in the army fighting the war and threw a punch, meaning his actions were in self defence.

The jury found McCulloch guilty and Mr Justice Lewis told him only his medical condition and army service had saved him from a long period of penal servitude. Describing Hope as 'a perfectly innocent and unoffending citizen' he then imposed a sentence of eighteen months imprisonment with hard labour.

Speeding Driver Swerves and Kills Child

In 1948 a speeding driver who careered off the road killing a ten year old girl was jailed after being found not guilty of manslaughter and instead convicted of dangerous driving.

On 14th March that year Patrick Hart, an eighteen year old timber yard worker who lived in Beaconsfield Road, Woolton, was driving his Jaguar sports car down Ullet Road at a fast speed. When a dog ran out in front of him near the corner with Alexandra Drive Hart broke sharply and skidded onto the pavement, careering into a group of children who were playing.
One of the children, ten year old Margaret Smythe was taken to hospital where she died from her injuries.

When police officers measured the skid marks they were almost sixty feet in length and Hart was arrested and charged with manslaughter, appearing in court on 21st June. One witness said he estimated Hart to have seen driving at sixty miles an hour, while another said he was overtaken by him and that he was driving 'as fast as an express train.'

Hart's defence counsel Basil Nield claimed that he was driving at a maximum of 25 miles an hour and had only acted the way he did as he wanted to save the dog. In giving his own evidence Hart said that when he braked the a rear tyre burst and he had no idea what happened after that, while another road user said he did not think the speed was unusual just before the dog ran out.

At the end of the trial which entered a second day, Hart was cleared of manslaughter but found guilty of dangerous driving. The prosecution chose not to proceed with four other charges of causing grievous bodily harm by wanton or furious driving. Justice Byrne sentenced him to three months imprisonment, telling Hart 'You were driving at a most outrageous speed.'

Friday, 29 May 2015

Liverpool Man Shot Dead in India

A Liverpool businessman was shot dead in India in a case of mistaken identity by a revolutionary who was later hanged for the killing.

On the afternoon of Saturday 12th January 1924 a Bengalee man named Gopinath Saha shot at a man in Chowringhee Road in the European quarter of Calcutta. After the man fell to the ground Saha then pumped six more bullets into his body as he lay motionless, before running off and firing indiscriminately with a pistol and revolver.

A taxi driver who joined in the chase being shot at and badly wounded, but after a quarter of a mile Saha managed to stop a private car and threatened to shoot the driver if he didn't take him away. However the brave man refused and the subsequent bullet only grazed him before a tramcar driver did manage to grab hold of Saha and hand him over to the police.

The two badly wounded men were taken to the hospital where the European died from his injuries. He was named as 36 year old unmarried businessman Ernest Day of the Indian General Steam Navigation Company. He was the son of a Liverpool sea captain of the White Star Line and had been in India ten years, returning home only once during that period. He had been expected to come home for twelve months leave later that year.

Police officers searched Saha's home in the Serampore district of the city and recovered a number of documents. They then moved on to the Indian National congress where some suspected co-conspirators were arrested. Eighteen year old Saha, who had given up his studies two months earlier to join the non co-operation movement, appeared in court on the Monday morning. He apologised for killing an innocent man but said he hoped there would be another patriot willing to carry out his intended task, that of killing Calcutta's police commissioner Sir Charles Tegart.

When Saha stood trial on 16th February his defence counsel tried to plead insanity, but the prosecution successfully argued that the fact he tried to escape was an indication he knew he had done wrong. This led to a guilty verdict and the death sentence being passed. He was hanged on 1st March.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Scythed to Death

A row between two gardeners over payment for beer led to one cutting the other with his scythe and being convicted of manslaughter.

On Saturday 9th September 1864 two jobbing gardeners, Felix O'Hara and Patrick Fleming, worked for the morning then went drinking in the afternoon. Things were fine until around 6pm when they played a card game in Rae's public house in Melville Place, Toxteth. When Fleming won the game a quart of ale was ordered, which he believed should be paid for by O'Hara and another man, Jimmy Vennard, who had joined them.

O'Hara threatened to poke both eyes out of Fleming's head if he didn't pay for the ale and without even giving him a chance to respond punched him in the nose, causing it to bleed. Fleming then went into the yard to clean himself up but was followed by O'Hara who picked up the scythe and threatened to cut him in two if he didn't pay. He then swung it at Fleming's led, severely wounding the thigh.

Fleming, who was 58 years old, walked to the Infirmary helped by another man who saw him struggling. By 7th October Fleming's condition had deteriorated considerably and a note was sent by Dr Nash to Superintendent Kehoe at the police. He dispatched Detective Cousens to speak with Fleming, who described what had happened, leading to O'Hara being arrested at 3am the following morning in a lodging house in Elm Grove off Paddington. The 30 year old denied what had happened, saying that Fleming fell against the scythe.

When O'Hara appeared at the police court charged with wounding with intent to kill his case was adjourned pending magistrates taking formal depositions from Fleming, who was now said to be in a very dangerous state with little hope of recovery. After describing the circumstances of the incident he told Mr Mills and Mr Stubbs that he had known O'Hara for a few years and they had never had a falling out. On the day in question, they were not drunk and knew what they were about, and the only reason O'Hara had for striking him was his refusal to pay for the ale. 

After Fleming died two days later an inquest before the Coroner Mr P. F. Curry heard that he had developed erysipelas about a week after entering hospital and that this had been as a direct result of the wound. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and O'Hara was committed for trial at the next Liverpool assizes.

On 16th December O'Hara appeared before Justice Mellor at St George's Hall. Other people who had been in the public house said that both men were in a state of intoxication and nobody had seen the blow get struck. A surgeon from the infirmary however said that the wound was the result of considerable force, being five inches in length and cut to the bone. The policeman who arrested O'Hara said that the first words spoken were 'is he dead'. The defence counsel said that the evidence was unreliable due to the level of drink involved and maintained that the wound could still have been caused by a fall, despite the medical evidence.

The jury deliberated for just a short time and found O'Hara guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. Justice Mellor then told O'Hara 'Happily for you they have taken a lenient view of this case and saved you from public execution' before sentencing him to ten years penal servitude.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Shockingly Cruel Daughter Acquitted

A woman who in 1864 repeatedly abused her elderly mother in front of neighbours and the police was charged with manslaughter after her death, but found not guilty by the jury.

Sarah McCarthy, a woman in her forties lived with her husband and daughter in Titchfield Street in the Vauxhall district of the town. Sarah's mother Catherine Rice, who was aged anywhere between 70 and 90 depending on which newspaper you read, also lived with them.  However by 1864 Catherine was subject to almost daily abuse by her daughter simply because she could not look after herself any more.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 10th August a neighbour Eliza Connor heard Sarah screaming at her mother, calling her a 'dirty bitch' for soiling her clothes. She then heard a thud and looked over her yard wall to see Catherine lying on her back with her head against a wall. Sarah was stood over her with a cloth which she then used to strike her mother on the face. Sarah then told her old daughter to follow her inside and 'let the old bitch stay there.' the door was then locked and Catherine was left lying there and unable to move.

The following Saturday morning a labourer named Thomas Cartello, who resided nearby in Portland Street, was walking past the McCarthy's house when some children shouted to him that a woman was inside and been killed. He forced his way into the property and was told by Sarah that her mother had been dead since midnight. Catherine's body was laid out on the sofa with the face covered by a cloth and after removing it Thomas found that there were bruises on the nose and cheek. A surgeon, Dr Prytherch, from Netherfield Road was called and he found that the collar bone was broken. A subsequent post mortem also revealed six broken ribs. 

On 16th August the inquest took place before the Borough Coroner, Mr P.F. Curry. Eliza Connor and another neighbour called Bridget Connell said they had heard Sarah shouting abuse at her mother at least two or three times a week for the last three months. One night Catherine had stayed at Bridget's house and as far as her neighbours were aware she was a sober woman who had always been in good health despite her age.

A police constable said that he regularly patrolled Titchfield Street and had frequently intervened on hearing Sarah being both verbally aggressive and physically violent to her mother, usually whilst under the influence of drink. About five weeks earlier he had witnessed Sarah kicking Catherine whilst standing over her with a stick, but the old woman declined to have her daughter arrested for assault. The officer also said there had been an occasion when Catherine had asked him to watch the house as she feared being murdered.

Dr Prytherch told the coroner that the injuries were too severe to have been caused by a fall and were the result of being kicked or hit with a weapon. The broken collar bone he believed had only occurred in the hours before death, which had come about in his opinion by means of violence. The coroner summed up by saying he had 'never had a more deplorable case' under his notice. He believed it was as close to murder as possible but although he directed the jury to deliberate amongst themselves, he told them a manslaughter verdict was probably more appropriate. After the jury went along with the coroner's recommendations Sarah was told that she was lucky a wilful murder verdict hadn't been returned and she was committed to the assizes for trial.

Sarah appeared before Justice Mellor at the Liverpool assizes at St George's Hall on 13th December, where Dr Prytherch, neighbours and the police constable gave their evidence. However, Sarah's counsel was clever in cross examination and closing statements, pointing out that although death was caused as a result of injuries, there was no evidence to state who had struck the blows which ultimately proved fatal. This led to the jury finding Sarah not guilty and although the judge told her she had treated her mother 'in a most infamous manner' she was free to go having been charged with no other offences.

Mother's Tears as Son Gaoled for Killing Father

A man who killed his father by hitting him over the head with a hammer was shown no mercy by the judge, who said the provocation he received was not sufficient to justify the actions. As he was sent to gaol for twenty years, the man's mother was removed from the court crying.

On the evening of Monday 21st October 1867 a 53 year old tailor named Thomas Ellison went out drinking with his wife, then they both returned to their home in Cropper Street, near Central Station. On arrival there Thomas accused a man named Joseph Murphy of being too familiar with his wife and shouted that he would stab him or any man who came near.

Murphy made it to the safety of his own house, accompanied by the Ellisons' son John. However a few minutes later Thomas came out with a knife. He went over and sharpened it on Murphy's doorstep shouting that he would use it on his own son if he had to. John responded to this by taking a hammer going out and hitting his father over the head with it, watched by his brother Alfred.

Thomas died immediately and the first police officer on the scene Inspector Hough arrested both Murphy and John Ellison. He also seized a hammer covered in blood and hair and called for a doctor who arrived at 2am and noted a severe scalp wound. When the post mortem took place it was concluded that death was as a result of extravasated blood on the brain, caused by the blow which had been carried out by a blunt instrument.

When morning arrived an inquest took place in which the cause of death was determined as wilful murder by Ellison, with Murphy being cleared of any participation. He was immediately discharged and Ellison committed for trial on a coroner's warrant.

When Ellison appeared at the assizes on 15th December the grand jury through out the charge of wilful murder and he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. His defence counsel Mr Torr asked then judge to consider how while under the influence of drink he was excited and unaware of the damage his actions may cause.

In passing sentence though Baron Martin said this was the most aggravated case of manslaughter. He refused to take into account that there was provocation, pointing out that Ellison was safely inside his home with the doors and windows locked as his father was acting in a threatening manner. He then said that it was only the guilty plea that had avoided a life sentence, but the prisoner was still given a lengthy term of twenty years penal servitude.

Ellison looked shocked when the sentence was read out and he was immediately taken down to the cells. His mother then stood up screaming, shouting 'My lord I have nine children without a father, take mercy on my son he has been a good son.' She was then removed from the courtroom by officials.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Wife's Death After Supper Not Ready

A man who pushed his wife when she failed to have his supper ready for him was treated very leniently by the judge when he was convicted of manslaughter.

In the early hours of 3rd September 1867 cab driver John Corris returned to his home in Napier Street, off Low Hill, which he shared with his wife Margaret. When he asked where his supper was, she told him that he could 'go to the devil' for it.

Low Hill in 2007 (John Bradley)Corris reacted angrily and pushed Margaret on her side, causing her to fall against the arm of a rocking chair. Just two hours later she died from a haemorrhage, leading to Corris's arrest and committal for trial at the assizes.

On 14th December Corris appeared before Baron Martin and pleaded guilty, but insisted he had not intended to cause any harm or injury to his wife. The judge said it was 'only a very slight case' of manslaughter and that there had been no intent to cause harm, imposing a sentence of one weeks imprisonment.

Life For Revenge Killing

A man who killed another resident of his lodging house as he believed he pushed his wife down the stairs was jailed for life after being found guilty of manslaughter.

On the evening of 30th November 1867 Robert Porter, a 25 year old labourer, burst into the kitchen of the lodging house where he was staying in Lincoln Street, now long gone but situated off Great Howard Street. He angrily said that he would fight any man who wanted to meet him in Athol Street, but when Bridget Counsel told him she had seen him knocked down there earlier, he said he had a knife for her.

Bridget went up to her room with her husband, Thomas who put a bedpost against the door to make it more secure after Porter followed them. About five minutes later Porter battered the door down and stabbed Thomas in the back with a ships scraper as he sat on the bed. Porter made off while  Thomas, who had blood spurting from the wound, was taken to Collingwood Dock police station and then the Northern Hospital.

Porter was apprehended at a druggists shop in Great Howard Street, admitting stabbing someone but saying he did not know who it was. Initially charged with causing grievous bodily harm, this was increased to murder after 34 year old Thomas died from his injuries on 7th December. Porter claimed he had done what he did because his wife had been pushed down the stairs by Thomas or Bridget, but other residents who were present said they did not see this take place. There was no doubt that Mrs Porter had tumbled down the stairs though, as she was still being treated in the Northern Hospital when Thomas died.

When Porter was tried before Mr Baron Martin on 16th December, witnesses said that both parties were sober and medical evidence heard that the stabbing had taken place with considerable force. In summing up the judge said if Porter had known that his wife was pushed down the stairs by Thomas then there was an element of provocation, but if he had only supposed this then he was guilty of murder.

The jury deliberated for a short time and gave the benefit of the doubt, finding Porter guilty of manslaughter. Baron Martin was in no mood for leniency however, telling Porter that it was as near to murder as could be. He then imposed a sentence of penal servitude for life.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Six Months For Shooting Man Dead

A Bootle man was convicted of manslaughter after shooting another man dead, but the judge acted leniently due to his disability and the provocation received.

In 1916 a long running feud was ongoing between the Allen and Fletcher families who lived in Berry Street, Bootle. On the night of 19th September that year Esau Allen broke down the door of the rival's house looking for John Fletcher, leading to a fight between the two men.

The Fletchers took out a summons against Esau for the damage to the door, but John decided to take things into his own hands.The night after he went looking for Esau but was told he had re-joined his regiment. John then said to Fletcher's 21 year old disabled brother William 'I will follow him and kick his head and only for the way you are in I would do the same to you.'

William told John to leave his family's house but he then had his head beaten against the wall and was pushed onto the floor. William then went into his kitchen and took a revolver out of a drawer, firing it at John, who fell down wounded. Another shot was fired, which missed and John was taken to hospital where he died of blood poisoning. When William was arrested he replied 'I am the man, he was looking for it and got it.'

After being charged with murder William appeared before Mr Justice Ridley at the Liverpool assizes on 8th November, where he agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter. The judge said that there was no doubt that William was in serious peril as he was threatened by a big man who wouldn't leave his house, meaning he has a right to defend himself. However, there was still concern expressed at the revolver being there in the first place and William was sentenced to six months hard labour.

Killing Follows an Orgy

An orgy in the Scotland Road area at the beginning of the 20th Century ended in one of the participants being killed and a man being sentenced to fifteen years in gaol for manslaughter.

On the evening of 22nd December 1900 Margaret Roxburgh did some shopping then attended an illicit gathering in Raymond Street, which descended into some drunken chaos and led to her threatening James Maloney with an ashpan. Both then left and the arguing continued in the street, the issue seeming to be that Maloney had not followed his brother to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. 

Maloney followed Margaret into her house where they struggled on the floor. Neighbours were alerted by Margaret's screams and entered to find Maloney with a knife in his hand and Margaret bleeding from the stomach. Maloney's father was quickly called and he managed to get the knife from his son and usher him out of the house. Margaret, whose bowels were protruding, was taken to hospital but she died on Christmas Day after peritonitis set in.

Margaret had been able to give a deposition stating that Maloney had been about to strike his father when she intervened, and that she had had no previous bad relations with him. She described him as being very drunk but said that she had only had three glasses of beer and a small brandy during a four hour period.

When Maloney appeared before Mr Justice Bigham at the Liverpool assizes on 18th February 1901, the Lancashire General Advertiser described him as 'a labourer of imperfect education'. He pleaded not guilty to murder and often burst into tears as the evidence was being given. After his defence submitted that there had been an element of provocation, he was found guilty of manslaughter and then sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Bootle Smothering Murder

Two domestic servants who smothered an elderly woman to death with a pillow were reprieved from the death penalty with just a few days to spare.

On the night of 8th October 1902 Eliza Hamilton was working as a charwoman at the Oriel Road home of 71 year old spinster Elizabeth Marsden, sleeping over as part of her duties. In the early hours of the morning though she ran to her father's home in Clifford Street saying that two women had broken in and smothered Elizabeth with some pillows. 

A woman named Miss Kershaw, who lodged with the Hamiltons and also worked for Elizabeth, sent for the police. Officers attended the old lady's's home and found that she was dead and had three pillows and a bonnet box over her face. Hamilton was then questioned further and the 19 year old was arrested herself for being in possession of some of Elizabeth's clothing.

Hamilton then confessed to having involvement in the killing and was charged with wilful murder. There were concerns about her mental health though as her mother was in an asylum and Hamilton herself was acting eccentrically. She was advised by lawyers though to make no formal plea in court until the inquest had took place and others found.  When the inquest was opened and adjourned Hamilton repeated the story about two unknown females having been in the house and that she had first found them in the kitchen.

A month later two the two other females were finally apprehended in Beaufort Street in Toxteth after they had tried to pawn a watch belonging to Elizabeth. They were Eva Eastwood and Ethel Rawlinson, aged 17 and 20 respectively and who had both worked for Elizabeth and were originally from Workington. At the resumed inquest evidence was heard that they had told friends about planning to rob or poison Elizabeth, while Hamilton was said to have confessed to killing her after being rebuked. The coroner's jury found all three guilty of wilful murder and they were committed for trial at the next assizes.

The trial, which lasted two days, began on Friday 12th December but Hamilton was immediately discharged from the dock having agreed to turn King's evidence. She told how she had heard groans from Eliza's room and when she went in there both women were sat on the bed. They gave her  a florin and parcel and all three left together. Two local women said how Rawlinson had bragged that a women had a wardrobe full of gold and should be robbed, while medical evidence confirmed death was caused by slow suffocation.

On the second day it was shown that property belonging to Elizabeth was found in the women's possession. Both tried to say that Hamilton was involved, which went against what they had told the police on arrest. When Justice Jelf heard that Hamilton was kept up all night at Bootle police station he was very critical, describing it as a cruel system and that the sooner it ended the better.

One of the crucial pieces of evidence was the apparent confessions on arrest, with Inspector Dixon telling the court that Rawlinson had said to him 'The old bitch starved me when I was with her, I said I would do it and I have done it.' The defence counsel submitted that a manslaughter verdict was more appropriate but the judge indicated this was a case of murder or nothing. The jury took half an hour to find both women guilty with a strong recommendation for mercy on account of their gender, young age and previous good character.

Prior to passing the death sentence the judge said that the verdict could not be in the slightest doubt and was 'just and right.' After hearing her fate, Rawlinson shrieked and fell backwards, having to be helped back up by a wardress. She was then carried to the cells crying 'Oh mother mother' as the tears streamed down her face. Eastwood retained more self control, sobbing into her handkerchief but giving a look of defiance as she turned to be led from the dock. Many in the public gallery were moved to tears by the scene.

Whilst awaiting her fate in the condemned cell Eastwood's mother, who was assumed to be dead, came to visit her. She blamed herself for her daughter's predicament, saying it was her alcoholism that led to her children being taken away from her. Then on Christmas Eve, just a week before the execution date, communication was received from the Home Secretary that a reprieve had been granted and both women had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Bootle Cellar Horror

The killing of a six year old boy in Bootle in 1908 remains unsolved after the main suspect was found not guilty.

At around 9pm on Saturday 24th October that year Tommy Lyons was playing with friends outside his Lyons Street home. His father Peter came out and took him to some shops on Derby Road, giving him a penny. Peter then went to a pub leaving Tommy playing a few doors away from his home with his older brother Peter and another boy Thomas O'Shaughnessy.

Tommy became separated from his brother, going to a butchers with another resident of the street, John Trench. He bought Tommy a pork pie and they were seen outside the shop together at 10pm, but he was never seen alive again. About an hour and a half later, Peter and O'Shaughnessy heard groans from an empty cellar and heavy breathing, so they went around the back entry to investigate, but had a bottle thrown at them. At that time they didn't know that Tommy was missing so they continued playing, but did see Trench in the street alone about fifteen minutes later.

The following morning Tommy's mother went to the police to report him missing. Whilst she was out, Trench ran into their home and woke his father, telling him that his son was dead in a cellar with half his head cut off. He then left, bumping into Mrs Foy on the way out, telling her that he had received this information from another neighbour called Monteith and that people should start searching cellars. 

At 730pm on the Monday night Tommy's brother Peter and O'Shaughnessy found the body of the little boy in the cellar from where they had heard groans two nights before. His face and the upper part of his body was covered in cuts and bruises, and his trousers had been removed. It seemed clear the killing had taken place there, as there was blood on the walls.

The following day the coroner Mr Brighouse adjourned the inquest for two weeks, but not before Peter told him of Trench's comments on the Sunday. This led to police acting swiftly to arrest the 21 year old scaler, who strongly protested his innocence when he was charged. 

At the resumed inquest on 10th November there were angry scenes when Trench said he could prove where he was on the night of the murder and some women present shouted that he was a liar. Both he and another neighbour said they had seen Tommy with two foreigners, but Trench couldn't explain how he knew on the Sunday morning that Tommy was dead even though the body wasn't found until the next day. However the murder weapon hadn't been recovered and nobody had seen Trench enter or leave the cellar. In his summing up the coroner said that the evidence against Trench was circumstantial and scanty but despite this direction the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against him, leading to his committal for trial at the next assizes. 

On 14th December Trench appeared before Mr Justice Channell at the assizes in St George's Hall. Mrs Monteith denied having said anything to Trench about the killing and he was unable to explain how he knew about the death before his details were circulated as missing. The evidence against Trench though was entirely circumstantial and after two hours deliberation the jury found him not guilty. 

Suspicions still abound, Trench and his family moved to Aber Street, off Irlam Road. Nobody was prosecuted for Tommy's murder and the streets notoriety due to this and other killings means it was later renamed Beresford Street.

Killers Indifference to Sentence

A man who killed a rival in a long standing inter-family feud showed a total indifference when he was sentence to fourteen years imprisonment for manslaughter.

At the beginning of the 20th century there was considerable tension between the McGuirk and Donoghue families of Bootle, leading to several members on each side appearing before the courts on assault charges. On the night of Saturday 26th September 1902 a widow named Elizabeth Watson enticed 25 year old Margaret Donoghue to go to the cellar dwelling in Lyons Street of James McGuirk, who was the same age.

A quarrel took place in which Margaret was battered about the head. Passers by heard screams and saw McGuirk run out into the street and make off, leading to the police being called. Margaret was lying unconscious on the sofa and was dead by the time she arrived at hospital.

McGuirk was picked up and appeared before the Bootle Police Court on the Monday morning, charged with murder. A fireman by trade, he appeared at the Liverpool Assizes before Mr Justice Ridley on 1st December, the prosecution was unable to prove any premeditation, leading to a verdict of manslaughter being returned.

On being sentenced to fourteen years penal servitude, McGuirk showed no emotion, saying 'A Verdict of manslaughter, all right!' He then shouted 'Keep your heart up Maria' to his sister as he was being taken down to the cells. The street where the death happened was so notorious for killings that later in the decade it was renamed Beresford Street.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Judge Jails 'Wild Beast on the Road'

A speeding driver who knocked down and killed a pedestrian on the East Lancashire Road was fortunate to have his case heard by what the judge described as an extraordinarily lenient jury during sentencing.

At around 11pm on 27th March 1937, which was Easter Saturday, 20 year old Bootle woman Margaret Traynor went on a motor coach excursion to Rainford and was dropped back off on the East Lancashire Road near Knowsley. As she was crossing the road arm in arm with another woman, she was knocked down by a car driven at speed by John Parkinson, a civil engineer from Chorley.

Margaret was killed instantly having been caught by the mudguard. Parkinson stopped his car about one hundred yards further on and surrendered to the police. The impact had been so severe that Margaret's left leg was detached from the knee down and flung over one hundred feet into a hedge, where a policeman found it the next morning.

32 year old Parkinson, son of the late construction magnate Sir Lindsay Parkinson who claimed to be the first owner of a car in Blackpool, appeared at the Liverpool assizes on 20th April. Other women in the coach party said Margaret had drank just one glass of beer that evening and that the car was like an 'express train', estimating the speed at 75 miles per hour. Parkinson said he first thought the coach was in motion and he didn't realised it was stopped until too late. He admitted driving at 55 miles per hour, still nearly double the speed limit and said that he swerved but it was too late.

Parkinson was cleared of manslaughter but instead found guilty of dangerous driving. Mr Justice Charles was not impressed with this verdict and made it be known, telling him: 'The jury have for some reason best known to themselves have found an extraordinarily lenient verdict. they would have been well entitled in my judgement to have found you guilty of manslaughter.'

East Lancashire Road by Keith Williams (shared under WikiCommons share alike)
Describing the driving as like that of 'like a wild beast on the road' the judge then sentenced Parkinson to a term of one years imprisonment and also banned him from driving for fifteen years. He appealed against the sentence but this was dismissed at the Court of Criminal Appeal the following month, the Lord Chief Justice pointing out that the maximum penalty for dangerous driving was two and a half years.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Baby Dies After Being Belted By Father

In the 1930s a six month baby died after being struck with a belt by his father, who was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

On 8th March 1938 Charles Church, a 22 year old unemployed machinist who lived at Clevedon Street in Dingle, was left alone with his six month old son Harold while his wife May went out on some errands. When she returned after being out for about an hour and a half, her husband was crying and leaning over the cot, where Harold was lying dead. Charles said nothing and instead went out to buy some cigarettes, returned home to smoke them, then left without saying where he was going. 

Justice Atkinson
Charles surrendered himself to the police and made a statement saying that his son would not stop crying even when he tried to pacify him. He said that after throwing Harold into the cot he then smacked him with his hand and belt, picked up a pillow and threw it over Harold's face, causing him to go quiet. Harold showed the officer his belt, which had a brass buckle, and admitted he had struck the baby with it. He then asked Detective Constable Joseph Ferrard if his wife had said anything. 

A post mortem revealed that Harold had died from shock brought on by the bruising, leading to Charles being charged with murder and being committed for trial at the following month's Liverpool Assizes. May however declined to give evidence meaning that on 6th April Charles's offer of pleading guilty to manslaughter was accepted by the prosecution. He was then sentenced to seven years penal servitude by Mr Justice Atkinson.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Man Returns From Football to Find Son Dead

A man returned home from a football match and found his son dead, having been gassed to death by his wife whose own suicide attempt had failed. She was then convicted of murder but was reprieved from the death sentence by the Home Secretary.

On the afternoon of 11th February 1939 John McAuley, went to watch an Everton reserve game at Goodison Park, a short walk from Ismay Street where he and his wife ran a fish and chip shop. He had gone there after a row with his wife, who was worried about the recent downturn in business. 

On returning at 5pm he found his wife's brother getting no answer at the door. After gaining entry John found the body of his three year old son Eric in the kitchen. Next to him was his wife Margaret, aged 37, who was still alive and between the two of them was a tube attached to the gas stove, which was turned on.

Margaret was taken to hospital where she remained until the following Thursday. On discharge she was arrested and charged with murder and attempted suicide. She told the police in a statement: 'It was desperation that drove me to do it, I am not insane. The baby was asleep in the kitchen so I thought it would be better to do away with myself and take him with me. I am desperately sorry for what I have done.' 

At the Manchester Assizes on 2nd March evidence was given about the unhappy state of the marriage, with Margaret regularly being knocked about by her husband. Margaret was found guilty of murder but with a strong recommendation for mercy. As Mr Justice Stable passed the death sentence he did his best to reassure her as she sat with her head buried in her hands, saying 'You need not be in the least alarmed. The recommendation will be endorsed by myself and you may take it as a matter of absolute and complete certainty you will be reprieved and your case will receive the most sympathetic attention.' 

The judge then asked the warders, whom he had ordered to make Margaret a cup of tea while the jury deliberated, to make sure she was as comfortable as possible. When it was time to leave the dock though she collapsed and had to be carried to the cells. Less than 24 hours later the Home Secretary Sir Samuel Hoare acted upon the recommendation and commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.

Soldier Sentenced in Army Uniform for Killing Daughter

A soldier who killed his daughter was found not guilty of murder due to the prosecution failing to prove any malice aforethought.

As the war clouds gathered in the summer of 1939, 23 year old Alfred Moss was recalled to the army and stationed in Birkenhead. His wife and eight month old daughter Maureen then moved out of their Doncaster home to stay with her mother in Elmdale Road, Walton.

On 4th August Moss was given some leave and went to stay with his family. Four days later his wife went out early on an errand and her sister alleged that she heard him shouting at the baby to shut up or be smacked. Later that morning Mrs Moss returned home as her husband was eating his breakfast. She went to check on Maureen and found her lying face down on the bed with bruises to her neck and face. 

The baby was taken to hospital where an x-ray revealed a fractured skull and broken arm. Moss, rather callously, returned to his army camp where he was arrested that evening. He told the police he had woke up and found the child lying on the floor and he had no idea how she got there. He then lifted her back up to the bed and insisted he had not intended to cause any harm, but may have rolled onto her when asleep. When asked about hitting Maureen, he said he 'may have done' but couldn't remember for sure.

The following day he was brought before Liverpool Magistrates' Court, where the prosecutor was Herbert Balmer, who would later gain infamy for his investigation into the Cameo Cinema murders. Moss was remanded in custody charged with assault causing grievous bodily harm, but later released on bail and stationed in Surrey. On 4th October Maureen died and a post mortem showed that death had been accelerated by the injuries. Moss was arrested at his camp and brought to Liverpool to be charged with murder.

At the Manchester Assizes on 30th October Moss wore his full army uniform. When she gave her evidence his wife acknowledged that he was a good father and had always been fond of his daughter. In giving his own evidence Moss broke down and insisted that he had not threatened to smack her.

The judge, Mr Justice Stable told then jury that the lack of malice aforethought meant it was inappropriate to find Moss guilty of murder. His counsel Mr Trotter said that this was not a case of manslaughter but the judge ruled that it was a matter for the jury. They returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter and the judge sentenced Moss to eighteen months imprisonment.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Cheers After Acquittal

A man who was charged with murder after his wife's lover died during a scuffle was cleared, leading to the judge having to suppress cheers from the public gallery.

In the early hours of Saturday 25th August 1928 Police Constable Nicholson began following a trail of blood on the pavement, which led him to the corner of Crown Street and West Derby Street. There, he found 44 year old German John Seman, a tailor's dresser, lying unconscious with a wound in his neck.

Seman had managed to stagger to within 100 yards of the Royal Infirmary after allegedly being stabbed by 45 year old Maurice McCormack, the husband of the woman he had got into an intimate liaison with. At around 10pm on the Friday night McCormack had gone into a pub and seen the two of them together, then waited and followed both of them to Seman's home in nearby Iden Street confirming his suspicions

A few hours later Semans was seen outside McCormack's home in Metley Street with a knife, taunting him that his wife had sent him there. McCormack was seen to twice hit Seman, who was taken to the Infirmary by Constable Nicholson but never regained consciousness and died half an hour after admission. When McCormack was arrested at his home in Metley Street, he replied 'No I did not cut him' when being told that Seman had died.

When McCormack appeared at the Liverpool Assizes on 8th November, no witness was able to say that they had seen him with a weapon. When he gave his evidence he admitted striking Seman but said he did so in self defence as he had a knife, and that he had walked away apparently unscathed after the scuffle.

The jury took fifteen minutes to find McCormack not guilty of both murder and manslaughter, leading to cheers from the public gallery quickly being suppressed by the judge. There was further cheering as the acquitted man left the court, where he kept his face covered by a handkerchief as an elderly woman kissed him and two other men could barely contain their relief at the verdict.

Okay to Rule Wife But Not Mistress

A man who killed his mistress was found guilty of manslaughter with the prosecution saying in its address to the court that it was inexcusable as a man was only able to rule his wife, not his mistress.

On the night of 8th October 1942 Henry Larkin, a 50 year old dock labourer, returned to the house in Upper Stanhope Street that he shared with Elizabeth Dutton. She had been at a pub with a female friend that night and met a Belgian seaman, who they invited back to the house. Larkin could hear them singing in the basement but as the guest was being shown out, he without warning grabbed Elizabeth by the neck and cut her throat with a razor.

The Belgian did not want to wait around faced with a raging Larkin and ran off, while 42 year old Elizabeth staggered into the street. A brave neighbour intervened and protected her from any further assault but it was too late to save her life.

At the Liverpool Assizes on 29th October Larkin claimed he had killed Elizabeth as she had made a fool of him, which the prosecution refused to accept. Solicitor Edward Wooll said 'In considering their relationship you must realise that while a man has some right to exercise some control over a wife, he has no right to control the behaviour of a mistress.' He then said that in law 'the sexual conduct of a mistress could not amount to provocation'.

In summing up however, Justice Oliver took a different view, telling the jury that 'A man who has lived with a woman as this man had lived with the woman for ten years was in exactly the same position as a husband so far as provocation is concerned.' This led to Larkin being found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter and being sentenced to five years penal servitude.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Woman Cleared of Boiling Water Death

A woman who threw some boiling water out which landed on a child and scalded him to death was cleared of all charges when she appeared before the Liverpool assizes.

On 3rd October 1949 Elizabeth Stapleton boiled some cabbage from her first floor flat in Bidder Street, Everton. Due to a leak meaning she couldn't pour the water down the sink as it would flood the flat below, she instead threw it ten feet into the communal entry.

Unbeknown to Elizabeth five year old Robert Westhead was playing in the entry and she was horrified to hear his screams as he ran back towards his own house, also in Bidder Street. She went straight out to explain to Robert's mother what had happened and told her to take him to the Royal Infirmary.

Robert died of his scalds the following day and Elizabeth was charged with manslaughter after she admitted not looking to see if anybody was in the entry. When she appeared at the Magistrates' Court on 5th October the 58 year old was very distressed and allowed bail after her solicitor said there had been no criminal intent.

On 10th November Elizabeth appeared at the assizes where the prosecution offered no evidence, having been guided by the Director of Public Prosecutions. This led to Justice Morris directing the jury to acquit and Elizabeth was discharged from the dock.

Self Defence Plea Accepted for Aigburth Wife

A 34 year old woman who was charged with murder after her husband was stabbed in a struggle was found not guilty after the jury heard she had only intended to frighten him when she picked up a knife.

In the early hours of 5th August 1952 Percy and Mary Standish returned to their home in St Michael's Road, Aigburth. An argument broke out between them, leading to 26 year old Percy saying he would be going to stay with his father. This was witnessed by Mary's daughter from her first marriage, who was also called Mary and 15 years old.

As her daughter was gathering some clothes for Percy he went towards her, causing Mary to be alarmed. Grabbing a carving knife she said 'If you touch her that's the last thing you'll do.' Percy went up to his wife and they grappled, ending up with him having a stab wound in his chest. he was taken to hospital but pronounced dead on arrival.

When Mary was arrested she said 'I did not do it intentionally but he went for Mary, I only did it to frighten him.' When morning came she was taken to the Magistrates' Court still in a dazed state and had to be helped up the steps by two warders. She was remanded in custody pending committal to the assizes for trial on a murder charge.

On 5th November Mary appeared before Mr Justice Oliver, where evidence was given that she picked up the knife as she feared for her daughter's safety. She said Percy had knocked her down and at no time did she actually thrust or plunge with the knife.

The judge's summing up was held over to the next day but when the jury retired, they took only fifteen minutes to consider their verdict. After they found her not guilty of both murder and the lesser charge of manslaughter Mary cried out 'Oh' and after being told she was free to go, had to be helped out by two wardresses.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Million to One Chance of Death

A man whose partner died after he struck her was spared punishment after his defence counsel successfully argued that it only occurred due to a million to one chance.

On 4th October 1953 Francis Corbett, a 30 year old miner who was originally from Cork in Ireland, got into an argument with Alice McCormack, a 35 year old widow with whom he lived in Amberley Street, Toxteth (situated near the junction of Upper Parliament and Mulgrave Streets).

At some point Corbett hit Alice in the chest and stomach but when she became motionless he ran for help. She died of died of a cerebral haemorrhage and her body was found to be quite bruised. On being charged with manslaughter Corbett replied 'Nothing matters the one I love is gone.'

When Corbett appeared at the assizes on 2nd November he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. In mitigation Mr Pigot who was representing him said that the blow he gave 'would only once in a million cause death, but that million to one chance came off.'

Justice Byrne told Corbett that the blow did not cause the death but did accelerate it due to her already suffering from cerebral haemorrhage. Referring to it as an exceptional case, he conditionally discharged Corbett and said 'I can see no reason for sending you to prison, you will have it on your conscience for the rest of your life, that is a tremendous penalty.'

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Killer of Wife and Child Reprieved

A man who killed his wife and son after a row was spared the death penalty after the intervention of the Home Secretary.

After getting wed in 1950 William Beard and his wife Gabriella lived at his mother's address in Haliburton Street, off Park Road where the Tesco store is now. Although Gabriella gave birth to a son the following year the marriage was not a happy one and there were frequent quarrels, leading to the 25 year old going to stay with her parents on Wednesday 20th October 1954.

She slept there just the one night and returned to her 31 year old husband the next evening, going to bed at about 10pm. The following morning, William went into his older brother Arthur's bedroom telling him to go and find a policeman. When a constable arrived, there was a note attached to William's door saying 'Do not enter, send for police.' Inside, William was lying on the bed in his pyjamas bleeding from his wrists but still alive.

It was thought that Paul was asleep in his cot but it was then discovered he was dead. Under the wash basin was an eiderdown and the officer found that it was covering Gabriella's body. Both had been dead for several hours, with William saying he had strangled his wife and poisoned his son. William was taken to Sefton General Hospital where he was given 22 stitches in his wrists and on being told he was suspected to have caused the deaths replied 'Yes that's right.'

On 6th December William was in the dock at Manchester Assizes for just two minutes, pleading guilty to the murder of Paul. On being asked by Justice Gorman if he realised the enormity of this plea he replied that he did and was sentenced to death. The charge in relation to Gabriella was left on file.

William was due to be hanged at Strangeways on 29th December but just two days before Christmas the Home Secretary granted a reprieve, instead ordering him to be detained at Broadmoor.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Widow Murderer Repreived

A man who murdered a widow he was in a relationship with because she finished him for another man was sentenced to death but then reprieved.

On the night of Saturday 31st July 1920 at around 11pm a gathering was taking place in Byrom Terrace off Scotland Road. Some of those present were singing 'I loved her well, she broke her vows' which led to 43 year old labourer John Fitzgerald putting his arms around the neck of Mary Meakin and saying 'That is what you did to me.'

Mary ran round the table and to kiss a friend's baby but this didn't deter John from his raging tendencies and he grabbed her and cut the 34 year old widow's throat. Mary was taken to hospital but the 34 year old was pronounced dead on arrival, while two men managed to detain Fitzgerald and hand him over to the police.

Fitzgerald, who lived in Bevington House, a working men's hotel in Bevington Hill, appeared in court on the Monday and was remanded pending the inquest which took place on 6th August. This heard how Fitzgerald and Mary had been in a relationship until recently, but she had finished with him and started seeing a dock labourer. Earlier in that fateful evening, Mary had been in nearby pub and refused Fitzgerald's offer of a drink, replying 'No, go away I am finished with you.'

A verdict of wilful murder was returned and Fitzgerald he was committed for trial at the assizes. Before Justice Greer on 29th October he admitted the act but said he had been drunk at the time. a prison doctor said he suffered from a valvular disease of the heart which could cause delirium and morbid tendencies. He was found guilty of murder but with a recommendation for mercy. After being sentenced to death Fitzgerald waved to some people in the public gallery as he was led from the dock. Two weeks later the Home secretary acted upon the verdict and commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Mother Killed by Speeding Driver

A speeding chauffeur who knocked down and killed a mother of three was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed, while his boss had to pay out compensation.

Amelia Dean, a dresser at the Shakespeare Theatre in Fraser Street, was on her way to work on 11th June 1925 when she alighted a tramcar on London Road. As she was crossing she was hit by a car driven by 22 year old chauffeur Francis Sheppard, who lived at Potters Bar in London. She clung desperately to the bonnet but on falling off she was then run over and died under the wheels.

On 3rd November Sheppard appeared at the Liverpool assizes before Mr Justice Fraser. He claimed that Amelia had slipped and he had slowed down and beeped his horn but he was found guilty of manslaughter. Learning that Sheppard had been driving at forty miles per hour,double the speed limit the judge told him that 'the public must be protected' as he imposed a sentence of eighteen months imprisonment.

Amelia, who was 49 years old and had three children, was the principal earner in their Kensington home, with her husband George only earning a modest wage as a gardener's labourer. George successfully sued Sheppard's employer Mr Lucy for damages and was awarded £500 in compensation.

Mother Severs Son's Head

A doting mother who beheaded her son during a fit of delusions was detained at His Majesty's pleasure after being found guilty but insane.

At around 3pm on Sunday 3rd December 1922 Ellen Royle went into the police station in Kingsley Road, Toxteth, in a state of great agitation. Her hands covered in blood, she said 'I have killed my baby I hit him with a hammer.'  A police sergeant then went to her home at 76 Beaconsfield Street where he entered through an unlocked back door. There on the kitchen floor was the body of twelve year old Gerard Royle, the head being bruised and completely severed.

Nearby, there was a bloodied hammer as well as a razor. Amazingly 44 year old Ellen's husband, also Gerard, remained fast asleep upstairs in bed and was not surprisingly very distressed when he was woken by the police officer and told what had happened. The oil company manager said 'I never thought she would do this.'

On being told at the police station that her son was dead Ellen replied 'Thank God he is happy now.' She was taken into custody but conveyed to the workhouse at Brownlow Hill for her condition to be assessed. On 5th December the inquest took place and Mr Royle went to where his wife was sitting handcuffed to a police officer with a wardress either side. He took her hand and kissed it, an act which reduced many of those waiting for the Coroner to enter the room to tears.

Evidence was given by Mr Royle's sister Florence Chambers, who stated that Ellen had been suffering delusions and talked of some hidden mystery which was threatening her family. Ellen had confided in her the previous July that she had considered turning on the gas taps to put them all out of their misery. Following this she was sent to stay with relatives in Harrogate to recuperate, with Mr Royle and Gerard visiting her every weekend. She got herself better and expressed regret that she had made such threats. Gerard was described as a bright curly headed boy who was popular with his playmates and his mother was known to be extremely fond of him. Florence said that she was 'the most perfect mother that ever lived.'

The Coroner advised that the jury must return their verdict based on the evidence and they were not to be concerned with Ellen's state of mind. As a verdict of wilful murder was returned, one of the jury fainted and Ellen appeared before the Stipendiary Magistrate for committal to the assizes after being formally charged with murder .

On 6th February 1923 Ellen appeared at the Liverpool assizes and pleaded not guilty to murder. The prison doctor told the court he had assessed her as soon as she went in on remand. He came to the conclusion that she was insane, having delusions that her son was visiting her every morning in the form of a bird and that she had killed him to make him safe from enemies. After the jury found her guilty but insane, Ellen was detained at the King's pleasure.

Mother In Law Thrown Over Bannister

A man who got into a row with his mother in law over maintenance payments to her was convicted of manslaughter after he threw her over the bannister to her death.

On the evening of Saturday 12th July 1924 William Brant, a marine fireman, got frustrated about his mother in law  Helena Mansfields demands for more maintenance money. He and his six children had been living with her at her Kent Street home since the death of his wife and the row seemed to have started over her refusal to buy onions. After Helena threw a bag of ashes at him Brant went into a fit of rage and picked her up and threw her over the bannister and down the stairs.  

Brant then went out saying he was going for a walk, leaving his 17 year old daughter Lilian to seek urgent medical help for Helena who was complaining of chest pains. She was taken to hospital with broken ribs and a broken arm,but eight days later she died. An inquest on 25th July returned a verdict of wilful murder against Brant, who remained at large.

After it was established that 40 year old Brant had managed to get a position on board the Inverleith a wireless message was sent out to the oil tanker and the captain placed him under arrest. On arrival at Tampico in Mexico he was then taken into custody by Mexican guards and transferred to another ship bound for England. 

After arriving back at Southampton on 27th August Brant was taken to Liverpool and appeared at the Magistrates' Court on 5th September, when he was committed for trial. His 17 year old daughter Lilian told the hearing that her father had picked her grandmother up 'and held her over his head like she had been a baby' before throwing her a total of thirteen feet. 

On 31st October Brant appeared before Mr Justice Avory at the Liverpool assizes, where he was found guilty of manslaughter.Telling Brant that 'People under the influence of drink often commit crimes that they wouldn't dream of when sober', the judge imposed a sentence of seven years penal servitude. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Christmas Eve Tram Tragedy

Ten children were left without a father after a senseless attack that took place on a tram on Christmas Eve.

Forty year old Edward Molloy was returning to his home at Glynn Street in Orrell on 24th December 1929 on the Bootle to Litherland tram. When he went to get off he felt a hand go into a pocket where he had a bottle of rum. When he gripped the hand in question he was grabbed around the throat and pushed onto the road. A man intervened but was knocked unconscious by the assailant, 30 year old labourer William Inman of Islington.

Islington in 1902 (
Two other men who were passing by went to help but were assaulted by Inman, leading to all four who had been hit lying spark out on the ground. Inman made the mistake of going to hospital for treatment where he acted irrationally leading to doctors calling the police.

Molloy went home with a wound on the head and spent Christmas there, giving evidence in the police court in the new year when Inman appeared there on charges of assault with intent to rob. However Molloy then developed blood poisoning and died in Walton hospital on 23rd January.

On 12th February at the Liverpool assizes Inman pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and wounding with intent. He was then shocked to learn that the Grand Jury had allowed a murder charge to go ahead as well. In addressing the jury, the prosecution counsel said that if they were satisfied Inman had intended to cause violence and Molloy died as a result, then he should be guilty of murder. Justice Roche did intervene though and pointed out that they should take account of what weapon was used.

Molloy's evidence to the police court was read out and when one witness tagged 'My Lord' to every answer he gave laughter broke out in the public gallery. The judge was not impressed and ordered it to be cleared, saying 'I will not have laughter during a murder trial, clear the gallery at once I will not have this court used as a place of amusement.' 

The medical evidence showed that the wound was not dangerous, but the source of the infection was Inman's fist and that it had been cleaned and treated properly. As a result of this,  Justice Roche indicated that he would be directing the jury to dismiss murder and only consider whether Inman was guilty of manslaughter.

Inman's only defence was that he was drunk and could remember nothing therefore was incapable of putting thought to any action. This was no excuse though and a guilty verdict was returned. Telling Inman that he was a violent man, Justice Roche sentenced him to seven years penal servitude.

Three Month Old Baby's Throat Cut

A mother who cut her baby's throat and attempted to take the life of herself and her eight year old daughter was detained after being found guilty but insane.

In the early hours of 1st June 1930 motor driver Charles McDonald was asleep in his Westcombe Road home only to be woken by the screams of his wife Sarah, who was 34 years old. On going into her bedroom she saw her sat upright with a razor in her hand and her throat bleeding, while their three month old baby daughter Alice was dead on the end of the bed.

Alongside was another eight year old girl Dorothy, who was alive but bleeding while three other children aged three, five and seven were unharmed having been asleep in their father's room. Charles fought to get the razor and cut his hand in the process, then ran outside wearing just a shirt. Neighbours were alerted by the screams and one ran to the police station on Anfield Road. 

As Sarah and the wounded child were being conveyed to Mill Road hospital in an ambulance under a police guard, her husband repeatedly asked why she did what she did. She replied that she intended to finish the girl off but on being formally charged said to then police sergeant 'I didn't mean to kill her, I didn't mean to harm anyone.' 

The family had been living happily until only recently when Sarah developed an ulcer which left her in severe pain. Her husband was well thought of by his employers and the children were all of respectable appearance. 

Sarah remained in hospital for two months and was not fit to attend court until 7th August, when she struggled to stand in the dock and had to be supported by two officials. She was committed for trial at the assizes, pleading not guilty to murder, attempted murder and attempted suicide. 

On 5th November a prison doctor said that he believed Sarah was suffering from a form of insanity that led her to think her husband was about to be attacked.  This led to a verdict of guilty but insane being returned. Sarah was ordered to be detained at His Majesty's Pleasure and was told by the judge 'You will be well looked after in hospital.'