Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Killing of a Blacksmith

When a blacksmith died after being kicked by a man who he had turned out of the shop, the attacker was jailed for just one month.

On Monday 26th July 1852 George Spratt was working at his smithy in Burlington Street when a man named William Sanderson came in. Sanderson then picked up a hammer and began striking the anvil. Spratt told him to stop and then managed to put him out onto the street when he didn't do so.

Burlington Street in 1900 (
Soon afterwards Sanderson returned and kicked Spratt in the eye whilst he was stooped down shoeing a horse. Forty six year old Spratt was taken home by his son but became insensible four days later. On 31st July he died, with a doctor being of the opinion delirium tremens had set in.

Sanderson appeared at the assizes before Lord Chief Justice Campbell on 20th August. It could not be proved that delirium tremens had been the direct result of the kick and subsequent wound. With Spratt known to be a man of intemperate habits a verdict of manslaughter was returned but with a recommendation for mercy. He was then jailed for just one month.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Scotland Road Hit and Run

A driver who knocked down and killed a man in Scotland Road fled the scene but was brought to justice when he failed to convince police of his alibi.

Scotland Road in 1965 (
On 5th October 1964 John Fitzsimmons, a sixty two year old factory worker, was knocked down as he was crossing Scotland Road on his way to his home in Newsham Street. 

The car involved stopped for a moment before driving off, but it was time enough for a passer by to note down the registration number.

The following day the owner of the car, thirty four year old lorry driver Charles Fearns, walked into Prescot police station and made a statement. Fearns, who lived in nearby Sutherland Road, claimed that his car had been stolen the previous evening and that he hadn't been at the scene.

Sutherland Road in 2016
Fearns's account was soon discredited and he eventually admitted being the driver, but claimed he did not know he had hit anybody. 

When he appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on 26th May the following year Fearns said that his windscreen had been hit by a large object and smashed, impairing his vision. Fearns then suggested that Fitzsimmons could have been hit by the vehicle in front and thrown up into the air, landing on his own vehicle.

Prescot Police station in 2016
After being found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving Judge Stable did not mince his words. He told Fearns, a former driving instructor 'If you had come here and said "I realise what I have done and I will never do it again" I may have taken a different view. But what you did was try to defeat the course of justice by putting up certainly one, and possibly two, lying stories. This is one of those rare occasions when I think a bad driver must go to prison.' 

Fearns was then sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment and banned from driving for seven years.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Dead Baby in a Pillowslip

When two boys found a dead baby whilst playing at low tide in the River Mersey, it led to an actress being convicted of murder but reprieved from the death penalty.

On 1st February 1916 two boys, William Williams and Charles Whiteley, were playing below the landing stage at the Pier Head. They noticed a bundle which had a hand protruding from it and on closer inspection found that it was a pillowslip containing the body of a mixed race baby. There was also an iron, which had appeared to have been used to weigh the pillowslip down.

Pier Head in 1907 (
A postmortem showed that the child was healthy and weighed eleven pounds. Death has been as a result of suffocation or drowning. A few days later, twenty eight year old Gertrude Hill, a dressmaker lodging at Cecil Street in Manchester, confessed her knowledge of the crime to her landlady. She said that she had accompanied fellow lodger Beryl Lingard to Liverpool and saw her throw the baby into the river. Hill remarked that she was haunted by this and she kept seeing the little brown legs of the baby, whose name was John. 

The police were called and she made a statement saying that she was present when Lingard placed the baby into a pillowslip, weighted it down with an iron, then threw it into the river. Hill said Lingard had wanted to run but she persuaded her to remain clam so as not to arouse suspicion locally. This led to the arrest on 4th February of Lingard and Hill, who were both taken to Liverpool and kept in custody.

Lingard had led an eventful life. Born in Seville in Spain, she had lost both her parents by the time she was sixteen and gone to Venezuela, where she met a Trinidadian she called Dr Punch. He was the son of a merchant and found her work in films in Australia, then persuaded her to return to Europe where she worked in London and Paris before heading to Manchester. 

In Manchester Lingard found that Punch had another woman with whom he had had a child. However she continued the relationship and after giving birth in December 1915 she and Punch lived at the Blackfriars Hotel, but were told to leave due to constant arguing, a result of Punch's womanising. Punch had then disappeared and Lingard moved to Cecil Street, where she became acquainted with Gertrude Hill.

The two women at the inquest
Hill was initially only arrested on suspicion of being an accessory before the fact but after the inquest and committal hearing on 9th February this was changed to murder. Their trial was set for 24th February when both women appeared together before Justice Bailhache at the Manchester assizes. 

Ethel Mason, the midwife who delivered the baby remembered that Gertrude had said during her labour that if the baby was black then she wanted it killed. Fellow lodgers told how Hill had confessed to knowing about the killing, while the proprietor of the Blackfriars hotel remembered how Lingard was in a pitiable position when she stayed there.

Justice BailhacheA key witness was George Jones, a train guard who recalled seeing the two women on both the outbound and return journeys on the day in question. He explained to the court that on the return journey, there was  a delay at Warrington and when he spoke to the ladies, he asked where the baby was that they had been carrying earlier. They responded that a family in New Brighton was now looking after it and recalled that they had done well to get there and back in time for the return train.

The jury acquitted Hill of all charges but found Lingard guilty of murder, but with a strong recommendation for mercy. She was sentenced to death in the usual way and then taken to Strangeways gaol to await her fate. On 7th March Lingard's solicitor Mr Geddes received communication from the Home Secretary that following his submissions the sentence had been commuted to penal servitude for life.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

A Fatal Quarrel

When two men had a fight after buying some whisky one of them died from his injuries, leading to the other being jailed for two years.

In the early hours of Sunday 5th April 1852 two men named John Dowd and Thomas Conway began arguing in Albert Street, which was situated off Smithdown Lane. This then developed into a full blown fight and lasted five or six rounds which were fairly fought in front of a number of watching witnesses. 

Eventually a woman named Mary Holland stepped in and persuaded Conway to discontinue the fight. However as he walked home he was followed and stabbed in the side by Dowd, who was immediately apprehended by a passing policeman. Conway was taken to the Southern Hospital and a deposition was taken in which he stated that the pair had bought whisky shortly beforehand, then argued over who had known Albert Street the longest. 

Southern Hospital from
Two days later Conway died due to an acute inflammation to the wound, which was six inches deep and had penetrated the bowels. An inquest heard that Conway had struck Dowd first but returned a verdict of wilful murder.

At the assizes on 20th August Dowd appeared before Lord Chief Justice Campbell. After hearing the evidence the judge asked counsel for both sides if they could agree to a verdict of manslaughter, which they did so. After directing the jury to return this verdict, the judge then sentenced Dowd to two years penal servitude.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Dead Baby in a Wash Basin

When the body of a newborn baby was found in a wash basin, the mother was charged with murder but acquitted as the prosecution could not prove that she had been the cause of death.

Abercromby Square (
On the morning of 29th March 1852 Alice Shaw, a servant to Thomas Ripley at 21 Abercromby Square, joined her colleagues for breakfast as normal. She then went upstairs to attended to her duties, with nobody suspecting that she was 'in the family way'.

When Alice was called down to dinner she didn't respond, leading to her being discovered lying on the floor in an insensible state. A doctor was called and established that she had recently given birth to a child, leading to a terrible discovery in an adjoining bedroom. There, in a wash basin, was the body of a newborn girl with a handkerchief tied around her neck and the tongue protruding.

Lord Chief Justice Campbell
A postmortem revealed that the baby had been born alive and died from congestion on the lungs. Dr Nottage said he was 'not of the slightest doubt' that this was as a result of suffocation and drowning. This led to the coroners inquest returning a verdict of wilful murder. Alice, who had been held in custody at Mr Ripley's house, was then removed to Kirkdale gaol.

At the assizes on 20th August Alice appeared before Lord Chief Justice Campbell. Alice's defence suggested that even if the child had been born alive there was no evidence to show that it was Alice that had caused the death. With this doubt in their minds the jury returned a verdict of not guilty and Alice was acquitted.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Paraffin Oil Fatality

When a woman threw paraffin oil over her husband after he hit her, it caught fire leading to him dying from his injuries. The woman was found guilty of manslaughter but given leniency by the judge.

Soon after 10pm on the night of Saturday 13th March 1869 residents of Lonsdale Street in Edge Hill were shocked to see a man who had caught fire running down their street screaming. The man was Michael Crawley, a jobbing builder who lived in the street with his wife Mary Ann. The couple had had a row in which Mary Ann poured oil over her husband, which then caught light as he was near the fire. 

When Michael stumbled and fell in Crown Street, a provision dealer named James Corless used his coat to extinguish the flames. Police Constable Wells took Michael to the Royal Infirmary in a car then returned to the street to apprehend Mary Ann, who was in her house. On arresting her for throwing oil at her husband she said that he had first struck her with his fist. A detective inspector attended the property and noticed that there were splashes of paraffin oil all over the kitchen.

Michael's face was charred and he had burns the length of both arms and most of his back. Mary Ann was charged with grievous bodily harm and remanded by magistrates, who recommended that a deposition be taken from Michael in case his condition worsened. He developed lockjaw and died on Sunday 21st March, with an inquest before the coroner returning a verdict of manslaughter.

On the 23rd March Mary Ann was brought before the Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr Raffles. She was described by the Liverpool Mercury as in delicate health and was allowed to sit on a chair for the duration of the proceedings. One of the Crawley's neighbours, Elizabeth Hughes, stated that Mary Ann had said to her 'Let him be burnt, to the devil with him.' Constable Wells said that Mary Ann had told him she was not sorry for throwing the oil but Mary Ann herself interrupted and denied this, pointing to the lump on her head which had resulted from being punched.

Prior to being committed to the assizes for trial Mary Ann was asked by Mr Raffles if she had anything to say and replied 'I am very sorry but I never threw the oil to burn him.' She appeared before Justice Lush just eight says later, where she was found guilty of manslaughter with a strong recommendation for mercy. The judge, having accepted Mary Ann's remorse and the fact the incident took place in a moment of excitement, sentenced her to just one day in prison.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Insane Father Shoots Wife and Son

A man who shot his wife and son dead in 1841 as he believed they faced financial ruin was cleared of murder on the grounds of insanity.

William Jenner was a cotton broker living in Portland Place with his wife and two teenage sons. He had always been an affectionate husband and father and although finances hadn't been as good recently as he would have liked, he was sufficiently well off to employ two servant maids.

In April 1841 the Jenner family were due to move home but early in the morning on the 27th of that month, as the maids slept at the new premises, an awful tragedy unfolded in Portland Place. At around 6am George Jenner was woken by the sound of a gunshot. He woke to see his father standing by his brother William's bed holding a pistol in his hand. George leaped out of bed and tried to take the pistol from his father but could not do so. He then ran downstairs to try and get out into the street but could not unfasten the door and then heard another gunshot.

When George went into the parlour his father was there and this time he did manage to seize two pistols from him. He then went to his parents' bedroom but his mother was not there. Soon afterwards, George heard the sound of crying from the kitchen and on going there he found his mother lying on the floor with blood coming out of her head.

George managed to get out of the back door and told his father he would throw the pistols away and look for a surgeon and policeman. Within ten minutes both Dr Ackerley and a policeman had arrived, to be told by Jenner that a Mr Roberts had ruined him. The pistols were recovered from the midden and a police inspector was sent for. A search of the house took place and receipts for the pistols were recovered, as well as laudanum and powder. Jenner said he loved his wife and had two fine boys, but they would all be better in the grave.

While in the custody of officers Jenner asked George to kiss him but he was too afraid to. Jenner said that because of Mr Roberts the family would be in poverty and that he had intended to shoot George too.

Mary Jenner was still alive and sensible. She was taken to hospital where she gave a deposition which stated that she just felt a sensation and thought she was taking a fit. The ball was removed but her condition worsened and she died on 6th May.

On 24th August Jenner appeared at the assizes, where his demeanour was much calmer than it had been in the immediate aftermath of the killings. Opening the case for the prosecution, Mr Starkie told the jury the main question they had to consider was whether Jenner was of sound mind at the time. George bravely recounted the events and stated that his father had at other times been in states of excitement and red faced, and had been known to take prussic acid.

Dr Ackerley gave evidence as to his dealings with Jenner, saying that he had complained of being deranged just days before. He said that he did believed Jenner was suffering from a monomania, which meant he reasoned very oddly over a particular circumstance. A gunsmith from South Castle Street testified to having sold two pistols to Jenner the week before the atrocities. Throughout the hearing, Jenner sat still and occasionally cried when his wife and son were mentioned. The judge also granted any requests he made for water.

On behalf of Jenner, Mr Lewin told the jury there was no motive and that it was inconceivable that he would have committed the act if in sound mind. He then explained that Jenner was originally from America and came to Britain in the early 1820s, going into partnership as a cotton broker with a Mr Roberts from Manchester. However this had failed by the end of the decade and ever since Jenner had maintained that he had unknowingly been induced into committing frauds and perjury to save Mr Roberts' financial reputation.

One of the maids, Mary Bainbridge told the court she had been in service to the family for three years and that Jenner was often in a melancholy state of mind. The death of a third child effected him greatly and he always alluded to a Mr Roberts from Manchester. However, she said she had never seen a more affectionate family and described Jenner as a good employer. She clarified that the house to which the family were moving was cheaper than the one in Portland Place.

A man named James Baines who had been employed by Jenner as a clerk in the 1830s said that he could be incoherent at times and act irrationally, but that he was always friendly with his family. A merchant from Manchester called John Hurst told the court that eight months before the killings he encountered Jenner in a street in Liverpool appearing confused and believing he was in Glasgow. Three local cotton brokers described how Jenner had acted irrationally in many of his business dealings of late and was afraid to go to the Exchange News Room. 

Jenner's physician described how for the last five years he had often attended to him and found him to be gloomy and melancholic. He had several asthma fits and also blamed Mr Roberts for his troubles. Two doctors who had examined Jenner after his arrest were both of the opinion he was of unsound mind, being wild eyed, hot flushed and agitated. 

After just fourteen minutes deliberation, Jenner was cleared on the grounds of insanity. He was then ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Killing of a Brothel Keeper

A man who stabbed a brothel keeper after being turned out of the house was found guilty of manslaughter and transported for twelve years.

On 12th June 1841 James White took a female into a brothel in Preston Street that was run by William and Bridget Crummer. Shortly after they retired to an upstairs room a cry of 'murder' was heard, leading to Bridget running up to investigate. She heard the female say she would return White's sixpence if he let her go, which he did so when he realised Bridget was there.

White then followed Bridget downstairs and tried to hit her, leading to thirty year old William telling him that it was not a manly thing to do. White said he would hit William instead and did so after being told to go about his business because nobody wanted conversation with him. William then took hold of White and threw him out of the front door.

After disappearing for a moment White came back and stabbed William in the stomach, causing his bowels to fall out. Bridget bravely ran after White and managed to grab his coattails for long enough before a passing police constable took him into custody. A surgeon named Dr Cripps was sent for and sewed the wound, but also informed William that he needed to prepare to face Almighty God. 

William was able to give a deposition to a magistrate in which he identified White as the man who stabbed him. He died at 5pm on the Sunday and when White was informed by the Bridewell keeper of William's death he replied 'Then I am an unfortunate man'. An inquest took place before the Coroner Mr P F Curry on 16th June. Bridget gave evidence, William's deposition was read out and Dr Cripp described the wound as 'of great extent' and caused by a sharp instrument. After hearing all the facts the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder.

At the assizes on 27th August Bridget and some others who had been at the house at the time gave evidence. White's defence counsel Mr Wilkins pointed to the fact that the knife was never recovered and said that the witnesses as of 'the worst description of human beings.' Two cabinet makers then gave forty one year old White excellent character references, describing him as someone of 'honesty and humanity.'

In summing up, the judge said that the jury had to decide whether White had used a knife with the malicious intent of causing death. After retiring for about ten minutes, they returned and gave a verdict of manslaughter.

White was told by the judge that he had committed a manslaughter of the most aggravated character given he had been excluded from the house then returned with a knife. He was then sentenced to be 'transported to such a place beyond the seas as Her Majesty by the advice of her Privy Council, may direct and appoint, for a period of twelve years.'

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Four Months for Wife Killing

In 1841 a man whose wife died after he kicked and beat her about the head was sentenced to a lesser term of imprisonment than someone who stole a horse.

At around 6pm on 31st May that year thirteen year old John Nickson returned to his home in a cellar in Norris Street, off Scotland Road. Neither of his parents were there but about half an hour afterwards his father Edward came back in a drunken state and told John to go and look for his mother.

As John prepared to go out his mother Margaret came down the cellar steps holding his six month old baby brother. She told John to start boiling a pan to make some mussels and sat down, but without provocation Edward got up out of bed and started slapping her. When Margaret fell to the ground and shouted for John to go for the police, Edward threatened to do the same to his son. He then kicked Margaret in the back and abdomen as she still held the baby.

Edward's brutal assault continued and he dragged Margaret up then threw her down again, causing her to hit her head on the cellar steps. She got up and complained of pains, only for Edward to pull her gown and cause her to fall again. This time she didn't get back up.

At the inquest on 2nd June John told the coroner how his parents weren't married and that his mother's  name was Margaret Robinson. He recalled the events of two days earlier with great composure and described his mother as someone who was very sober but abused by his father.

A surgeon named Richard Yates Ackersley said he had carried out a postmortem but there were no marks of violence on the back or belly. He did confirm though that the skull was fractured, that there was effusion on the brain and that death was as a result of blows to the head caused by violence. The jury returned a manslaughter verdict and when asked if he had anything to say Edward claimed that Margaret was as drunk as she was as they had been drinking together all day.

The following August Nickson appeared at the assizes before Mr Justice Wightman where he was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to four months imprisonment, to be served in solitary confinement. At the same assizes, a man convicted of stealing a horse was sentenced to two months more.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Horror at Princes Dock

There was a terrible scene at Princes Dock in 1841 when a ship's crew member was stabbed to death by a passenger who was later declared to be insane.

On 1st June that year the United States arrived at Princes Dock after a voyage from New Orleans that had lasted six weeks. As passengers prepared to disembark Patrick Cahill, who had been in steerage class, began to argue with a steward named Eli Robinson over some tobacco. Second Mate Robert Deakin observed Cahill threaten to kill Robinson and then chase him to the starboard side of the ship. Once there, Cahill struck him in the neck and then plunged a knife into the abdomen two or three times.

Deakin managed to use a rope to tie Cahill to a mast and he then turned his attentions to Robinson, who was bleeding heavily. Fifty five year old Robinson was rushed to the Northern Hospital where he was dead on arrival. Assistant house surgeon Edward Parker carried out a postmortem and found five wounds in all, one of which had pierced the heart.

At the inquest the following day Deakin described how Cahill had been a quiet and sober passenger throughout the crossing. It was only when the ship reached Holyhead that his mood changed and he began pacing the deck all night. Other witnesses  said that they had seen Cahill use the knife and Dr Parker said the wound to the heart as the cause of death. 

After a verdict of wilful murder was returned, the borough coroner made out a warrant for Cahill's trial at the next assizes and the twenty eight year old was taken to Kirkdale Gaol.

When Cahill appeared before Mr Justice Wightman on 25th August the first witness was a woman called Sarah Barrow. She had been stood on the dockside and said that she saw Cahill run after Robinson with a knife. One of the Liverpool pilots told how he boarded the United States as Cahill came out of a cabin carrying a knife and appeared sober at the time. Under cross examination, the second mate Deakin admitted that Cahill had talked of little men dancing on the bow the night before the ship reached Liverpool.

Cahill's defence counsel argued  that he had carried out the act under mental aberration and had no motive. The fact that there were so many present, it was argued, showed that Cahill was the slave of some supernatural agency as he had no hope of escape after carrying out the stabbing. Cahill's Irish father gave evidence as to his background, stating that his son had fractured his skull in 1838 at a fair and gone to America unexpectedly. He visited his son in gaol and been told that the devil was from Yorkshire, leading him to believe him of unsound mind.

The Governor of Kirkdale Gaol, Mr Amos, described Cahill as odd, singular and troublesome since he had been committed there. Without having to leave the box, the jury acquitted Cahill on the grounds of insanity and he was detained at Her Majesty's pleasure.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Husband Cleared of Wife Murder

When a woman's body was found in 1818 her estranged husband was charged with her murder but acquitted as the only evidence against him was circumstantial.

At about 10pm on the evening of 2nd December that year Mary Urmston was found with her throat cut on what is now Eaton Road. She was on her way to her home in Knotty Ash after working as a laundress in West Derby. Despite barely alive, Mary was able to say to the boy who discovered her that 'some man' had come from behind and done it before expiring. 

Larkhill Estate
Nearby a bloodied knife was found, which was identified as belonging to the Larkhill Estate, owned by banker Arthur Heywood. Mary's estranged husband James was in service there, leading to his arrest. On 5th December an inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder and he was taken to Lancaster to await his trial.

Urmston appeared at Lancaster Castle the following April, where evidence was presented that stated he believed somebody would lunge or lurch at his wife. However although there was plenty of circumstantial evidence against him, the prosecution couldn't unequivocally prove his guilt. After a short deliberation the jury found him not guilty and he was discharged. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Man Kills wife Over Lodger

A man who killed his wife as he was unhappy at her relationship with their lodger was convicted of manslaughter and transported.

In the early hours of Sunday 28th July 1844 Owen Leonard, a tailor who lived at 37 Peter Street, accused his wife Bridget of what the Liverpool Mail described as 'being in terms of more than ordinary intimacy' with one of their lodgers. The man denied the accusation but Bridget refunded his rent so that he would leave and the peace be kept, or so she thought.

Peter Street in 2017
Bridget then went upstairs to light a candle in the room of two other lodgers, Mr and Mrs Livingston. Her husband remained downstairs and locked the door but when Bridget returned downstairs she was punched to the ground. Leonard then grabbed her hair and slit her throat with a razor. He then cut her nose, arms and legs whilst their terrified fourteen year old son James looked on. Her screams woke several people in the neighbourhood who began to gather outside the door, leading to Leonard opening it and kicking his wife down the steps. A stretcher was procured and Bridget was rushed to the Northern Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Police officers arrested Leonard as he was washing his hands and recovered a blood stained razor from under the table. He was sixty years old and described as being of diminutive stature. Both he and Bridget had been born in Ireland.

An inquest took place before the borough coroner Mr P F Curry on the Monday. As it opened Leonard sat in a state of anxiety and trepidation but he grew calmer as the proceedings went on. The principle witness was their son James, who explained how a row had broken out around midnight and that Leonard was 'tipsy but sufficiently sober to know what he was about.' James then described how after the lodger had left the door was bolted, window blinds shut and then his father set about beating and slashing his mother. James said that he managed to escape to look for a policeman but when he returned his mother was on the steps unable to speak.

After giving his evidence James was then challenged by his father over his account. This led to him admitting that his mother had struck his father first, but only after some ill language was used against her. Police Constable Thomas Dunn said that when he arrested Leonard he replied that he had done what he did as his wife was an 'old bitch.'  Mr Livingston said that he saw the disagreement take place between Leonard and the other lodger, then went to bed with his wife, chatting for a few moments as Bridget lit the candle. The next he heard was the screams of James, who was outside the house begging for help as his father was killing his mother.

Michael Hambleton, who lived opposite, said that he was woken by screams and went over to see Leonard stood over his wife, whose nose was cut off. He ran for a policeman and when he returned Bridget was on the steps. Another neighbour Margaret Peacock told how she tried to stem the flow of blood with her apron and when Leonard saw her do this said to her 'I will do the same to you.'

Edward Parker, the house surgeon at the Northern Hospital, explained that on carrying out a postmortem he found that the jugular vein had been severed. Two other arteries were cut in half and some of the wounds were as long as eight inches. In his opinion, no single wound had caused death, rather a haemorrhage had occurred from all of them. After the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder, Leonard was committed to the forthcoming assizes for trial.

On 29th August Leonard appeared before Baron Pollock, looking about the court with an air of indifference. The prosecutor Mr Hulton outlined the facts of the case and then called the same witnesses who had given evidence at the coroner's inquest. Dr Chalmer, surgeon to Kirkdale gaol, then gave his opinion that Leonard was of sound mind and fully conscious of what was going on.

Mr McAubrey, defending Leonard, contested that Leonard had no prior motive and acted out of passion. He then called two of his daughters, Margaret and Ann, who both said his mood had changed in recent years and that he had become more paranoid about his wife's activities, even refusing to drink tea that she had made for him. John Goodwin, a master tailor, said he had employed Leonard at times and he could be irrational and rambling, often walking away when given instructions. 

In summing up, Baron Pollock asked the jury to consider to what extent Leonard was destitute of reason and how much control he had of his actions. A verdict if manslaughter was returned and he was sentenced to be transported for life. In September the following year, he was one of 250 convicts to arrive at Norfolk Island n board the Hyberadad.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Mother and Daughter Killed by Falling Cask

A mother and daughter were killed instantly when a cask fell from a warehouse window, leading to the owner being convicted of manslaughter.

On Friday 10th August 1832 forty six year old Margaret Kearsley, the wife of a coal merchant who resided in Beau Street, went into Liverpool with her fifteen year old daughter, also named Margaret. On their way home, they turned from Dale Street into Byrom Street only for the terrible tragedy to strike. As they passed the warehouse of Rigmaiden's wine merchants, a cask fell from a height of four storeys straight onto the head of the daughter, removing the scalp of the mother as it did so.

Both women were crushed into the earth. Miss Kearsley convulsed briefly with blood coming from her mouth then she immediately expired. Mrs Kearsley showed some signs of life and she was rushed to a surgery in Dale Street, but she was beyond recovery.

Mrs Kearsley was described by the Liverpool Mercury as a healthy elegant woman. The paper commented that 'we never remember any accident that produced a deeper feeling of sorrow and consideration in the public mind.' Calling for a change in the law so that warehouse owners would be compelled to employ someone on the ground warning passers by to cross the road, it lamented the 'culpable carelessness' of Mr Rigmaiden.

The day after the deaths an inquest was opened and then adjourned until the Monday. A baker named Mr Worthington said that he had seen Rigmaiden struggling to get the cask into the door and that he was trying to turn it another way. It was held, he said, by just a single rope. A labourer named John Mahoney told how he heard someone comment how dangerous it was to hoist the cask using just the rope and no hooks. When he was taken into custody, Rigmaiden said that the cask had got caught on a sack of flour and as he tried to adjust its position, it slipped through the rope and fell. 

The inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter and the following day Rigmaiden, described as now being in a state of deepest depression, travelled to Lancaster Castle to be tried at the ongoing assizes. His case was heard on 16th August and in his defence he said that he hoisted the cask in a manner that he always had done. He also said how he wished he had been the victim of the accident due to the anxiety and suffering he had endured. The Mercury reported that Rigmaiden was in a state of great agitation during his trial. 

Statements of good character were made by several local gentlemen, including the Treasurer of the Parish of Liverpool. After a short consultation the jury found Rigmaiden guilty but recommended mercy, leading to the judge imposing a sentence of one months imprisonment.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Killed By An Umbrella

An extraordinary death occurred in 1887 when a woman died after her niece apparently hit her on the head with an umbrella. However when the case went to court, no witnesses gave evidence against the accused and she was allowed to walk free.

On 26th September that year Catherine Chapman and her sister Elizabeth Guilford visited their aunt Ann Doyle in Hopwood Street only to get into a row with Ann's husband Thomas outside the house. During this quarrel Chapman struck Thomas with the handle of her umbrella. Ann came out having heard the screams and was herself hit with such force that she bled heavily.

Ann was taken to the Stanley Hospital where she died two days later having never regained consciousness. On being arrested a her sister's house in Birkenhead Chapman admitted hitting her forty nine year old aunt but only in self defence after being struck first.

An inquest took place before the coroner Clarke Aspinall on 1st October. Jane Hill, who lived in the same house and took Ann to hospital, said she saw Chapman hit her and that Ann had not struck any blows herself.  A fourteen year old named Rose Rooney also told the coroner she had seen Chapman hit Ann with the umbrella and that there had been no provocation.

Chapman's sister Elizabeth said that Thomas was hitting her with great force and that the scuffle was so large she had no idea who hit who and certainly could not say how Ann received any blow to the head. She said that Ann had come out of the house shouting aggressively and returned despite having been told to go back in by her husband. Thomas said that he had been hit by Chapman and didn't understand why, but he could not say that he saw her strike his wife.

Dr Shannon from the Stanley Hospital said he carried out a postmortem and that all organs were healthy. He concluded that death was the result of perforation of the brain after a compound fracture of the skull. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and Chapman was committed for trial on a coroner's warrant.

At the assizes on 14th November Chapman backtracked on what she told the police on her arrest and now denied having hit Ann at all. With those witnesses from the inquest having chosen not to attend, possibly due to intimidation from others, there was nobody to say she had struck Ann, meaning she was found not guilty and discharged.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Runaway Boy Beaten to Death

A boy who tried to run away from home was beaten so severely by his father that he died from his injuries.

On 5th October 1887 Ann Murphy, who lived in Paget Street (off Boundary Street, where Beers Timber supplies is now), heard the son of a family who lodged with her screaming 'Father don't beat me I won't stop out anymore.' 

Ann, a shoemakers wife, went next door to fetch the boy's mother. When they both returned his father Thomas Lazarus had gone out but tied the door so that his son, seven year old Edward, could not leave the room. His mother opened the door and took him to  the Northern Hospital due to his distressed state. When he was undressed, his body was covered in bruises and he also had an open wound on his shin.

Edward remained in hospital and grew weaker in the coming days. On 15th October Thomas was apprehended by police at Nelson Dock where he worked as a labourer. He was taken to the hospital to witness his son make a deposition, in which Edward stated that he had been beaten with a strap. When Thomas was taken to the bridewell and charged with assault he replied 'I have nothing to say.'

On 23rd October Edward died with his mother by his side. A postmortem determined that he had died as a result of blood poisoning, caused by an abscess from a bruise on the thigh. 

An inquest took place two days later before the Coroner, Clarke Aspinall. Ann Murphy said that she was aware Edward had been brought home by the police earlier on the day in question, the fifth time in three weeks that this had happened. Dr Fisher, one of two doctors who carried out the postmortem, gave his opinion that considerable violence had been used and described four thick parallel strokes on Edward's back that were similar to what would be expected from a strap. The jury returned a verdict of  manslaughter and Thomas was committed to trial at the assizes on a coroner's warrant. 

Thomas appeared before Mr Justice Day on 14th November. He was found guilty of manslaughter but recommended to mercy by the jury. In sentencing Justice Day renowned for his tough sentences, said he could see no grounds for the jury's recommendation. He then sentenced Thomas to eighteen months imprisonment. 

Whilst Thomas was in jail his wife gave birth to another child, Jeremiah, and on his release he took up employment as a marine fireman.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Brother Killed Over Card Game

A man who killed his brother in row during a game of cards kept his head in his hands as he was found guilty of manslaughter.

On the evening of 18th June 1887 two brothers named Martin and John Goulding, who lodged in Sterne Street (off Boaler Street), played a card game with another man named Alfred Roberts. The brothers were both drunk and began to quarrel about an hour after they started playing when Martin called John a cheat.

When John denied this, Martin got up and punched his brother. This led to John picking up a kitchen knife from the table and the landlady grabbing his neck to stop him using it. John promised he had only done what he had to frighten Martin and the three men began playing cards again, with the landlady feeling confident enough to go out and leave them to it.

Shortly afterwards they began arguing again and after John left the house, Martin leaned against the wall saying to Alfred he had been stabbed. The landlord, Mr Flanagan, then came in and on seeing the blood sent for an ambulance which took Martin to the Royal Infirmary. An anxious John stopped a labourer called George Lee in Kew Street and gave him a bottle of beer in return for going to Sterne Street and checking on Martin's welfare. He returned however with the news that he had now been taken to hospital.

Thirty two year old Martin died shortly after arrival at hospital, his lung having been punctured. This led to John being arrested in the early hours at the Mechanics Home in St Anne Street. The knife was recovered from next to the railings of the Presbyterian church in Everton Brow.

At the inquest Mrs Flanagan told of seeing the knife but that they were playing cards when she left. Alfred said he had not seen John in possession of a knife or the stabbing take place, just the aftermath. A surgeon from the infirmary confirmed the cause of death and a verdict of wilful murder was returned. leading to John being committed to the assizes for trial.

John, who was just nineteen years old and worked as a hawker, appeared before Mr Justice Day on 4th August 1887. He was allowed to sit down for the duration of the trial and he kept his head in his hands all the time. 

Prosecutor Mr McConnell outlined the facts of the case and said it was solely for the jury to decide whether John was guilty of manslaughter or murder. Landlady Mr Flanagan spoke highly of John, saying he had never been any trouble and that he would pay for his brother's keep when he was out of work. She described Martin, on the other hand, as a good fighter. Alfred Roberts said that prior to falling down, Martin, who was much bigger and stronger, had been about to punch John. Under cross examination he said that both men were drunk.

After hearing the evidence of the first two witnesses the defence counsel Mr Segar intervened and stated that  John was willing to plead guilty to manslaughter. The judge refused to interfere and said he would only accept this plea if the prosecution agreed. Mr McConnell responded by saying that he would prefer to the jury to decide on what the verdict should be. Evidence was then heard as to Martin being taken to hospital and the arrest of John.

In addressing the jury, Mr Segar said that as the prosecution had refused to accept a manslaughter plea, then they should acquit John altogether on the grounds that he was too drunk to know what he was doing.  However in summing up, Justice Day said drunkenness could not be a reason to absolve someone of responsibility. The jury consulted for a short time and found John guilty of manslaughter. 

The judge deferred sentence for a week and when John was brought back up he was told that although he was of good character, a light sentence was impossible. Telling him that the jury had shown mercy, Justice Day sentenced John to seven years penal servitude.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Walton Children's Death at Hands of Mother

There was a terrible tragedy in Walton in 1887 when a mother killed three of her young children during a bout of insanity.

On 7th June 1887 Edward Anthony left his home at 62 Wyatt Street, off Fountains Road in Walton, to go to work as a petty officer on board the Cunard steamer Samaria. He left behind his wife Mary, their three young children, as well as his seventeen year old son Edward from a former marriage. 

In the early afternoon Margaret, Mary's thirteen year old daughter from an earlier marriage who worked as a nursemaid, returned home. Edward was having his dinner in the kitchen and heard his step sister shout  'Oh mother what have you done.' On going to see what was wrong Edward saw that two of the children, seven month old Mary Ellen and two year old Annie were dead. Their throats had been cut, and laid out as if for burial while three year old Alfred was in his mother's arms and barely alive. Mary was covered in blood and replied with a vacant tone 'You can see what I have done, I will do the same to myself, your father will come back drowned.' It was believed this referred to Mary being worried about her husband having an injured eye and not wanting him to work that day.

Neighbours were called for help and Alfred was rushed to Stanley hospital. A police constable took Mary into custody and she said to him 'I did it, and if they left me a little longer I would have done it to myself as well.' She was taken to the Westminster Road bridewell and said that she had given the children laudanum to quieten them down before slitting their throats. 

The following day the death toll rose to three when Alfred died from his injuries. Mary was charged with murder and appeared before the stipendiary magistrate Mr Raffles. The Liverpool Mercury reported that Mary was forty one years old, was short in stature and of weakly appearance. Edward was her third husband and she had a total of eleven children. Neighbours described her as an affectionate mother, who lived on the best terms with her husband in a house of cleanliness and comfort.

An inquest on 9th June before coroner Clarke Aspinall returned a verdict of wilful murder after he told the jury it was the only one that could be returned. Mary was then committed for trial at the nest assizes. 

The funeral of the three victims took place on 12th June. The courtege, containing a hearse and three coaches, left at 8am and a crowd of 10,000 was estimated to have gathered in Walton Road. After a service at the chapel in Kirkdale cemetery, there were heartbreaking scenes as the three coffins were lowered into the ground. The tiniest, containing the body of baby Mary Ellen was borne by half sisters Margaret and eleven year old Jamesina.  

On 4th August Mary appeared before Mr Justice Day, where she was allowed to sit in the dock and provided tea by a wardress. Mary's stepson Edward confirmed that she had always been a good mother to him and the other children, and that she had been complaining of a sore head around the time. Daughter Margaret said her mother looked out of her mind with her hair hanging on her face and blood on her hands. 

Dr Rogers from the Rainhill Asylum said that he was of no doubt that Mary was of unsound mind at the time of the killings. It was disclosed that Mary had endured a rambling state of mind two years earlier and was taken to a doctor by her husband. The prosecution also had established that there was a history of insanity in Mary's family, her aunt having been in an asylum and although now released, continuing to act in a 'peculiar manner.'

In addressing the jury for Mary her solicitor Mr Shee said that she had been a good mother and the evidence pointed towards insanity. They only needed to consult for a short time before returning a verdict that Mary was guilty of murder but insane at the time. Justice Day ordered that she be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure and as she was taken from the dock, Mary wept bitterly.

Half Wits Death Sentence Reprive

In 1887 a man described as a half wit in the press was found guilty of murder but reprieved from the death penalty. 

John Anderson was twenty two years old and lived in a court in Roscoe Street with his widowed mother. He was from a very poor family, having been in and out of the workhouse and unemployed for some time. His widowed sister and two young children lived in a neighbouring property, and he often went without food for two days at a time to ensure they were fed. 

For reasons that were never fully established, Anderson got into a long running dispute with  George Mason. He was a twenty seven year old carter living in Gray Street, off Windsor Street, with his mother and father. The incident that led to Mason's death, described by the Liverpool Mercury as a 'diabolical outrage', took place on the afternoon of Saturday 23rd July 1887. Mason was stood at the corner of Jamaica Street and St James Street when he saw Anderson walking towards him from Park Lane. On seeing Mason, Anderson ran at him with a knife, stabbing him in the abdomen. 

Mason ran away but Anderson continued to chase him until he sought refuge in a public house. A large crowd surrounded the attacker and he was detained by a police constable who used a baton to knock the knife out of his hand.

Anderson was taken to the Argyle Street bridewell and Mason was helped into a cart to be conveyed to the Southern Hospital. On being questioned Anderson said he had been 'ill used' by Mason two days earlier but he did not have enough money to take out a summons. The knife, he said, was on his person for his own protection.

Dr Wigmore at the Southern Hospital was concerned for Mason's condition and called for depositions to be taken with immediate effect. This was made in front of a magistrate, police sergeant and Anderson. Mason stated that they had fought on the Thursday night but that the attack on the Saturday was unprovoked. When challenged by Anderson about shaking his first, Mason said all he was doing was pointing at him.  

On the Sunday morning Mason died and on being charged with murder, Anderson replied 'I done it in self defence.' Press investigations found that Anderson regularly attended congregational church services, and a minister told the press that he was considered to be 'weak minded and neither physically nor mentally a fit and proper person for the duties of this life.' 

At his trial on 4th August, previous employers of Anderson said that he was weak in the mind, but the surgeon from Walton gaol was of the opinion that he was not insane. Witnesses who had seen the attack stated that there had been no provocation from Mason and the fact Anderson had taken the knife out with him was a major factor. The jury found him guilty of murder but recommended mercy. In sentencing him to death, Justice Day said that no jury could have reached any other conclusion.

Anderson's execution was fixed for 22nd August and he wrote to his mother from the condemned cell at Kirkdale gaol, saying she had been good to him and not to feel any sorrow. However, in light of Anderson's low intellect, with five days to spare the Home Secretary commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. This move was welcomed by the Liverpool Mercury newspaper, which described him as a 'poor half witted creature' who should be in a state asylum rather than gaol. He was however placed at the mainstream Chatham prison in Kent.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Murder at Knowsley by a Madman

A former soldier who killed a maid at the Knowsley Hall estate was detained in a lunatic asylum for life.

On the night of Sunday 13th June 1847 a man attended a lodge at the Knowsley Hall estate and knocked an old servant called Mrs Highcock to the ground. A sixteen year old female named Ann Leyland, who lived with her, ran off fearing for her safety but was caught up by the man.

The man, described by grooms who witnessed the attack as 'having a demoniac grin, tore away at Ann's hair with such force that he pulled the scalp from her head. Police were sent for and an unconscious Ann was taken into the hall by the Earl of Derby and a surgeon, Mr Alty, was sent for. On the front lawn her attacker danced about holding the scalp above his head.

Ann was attended to throughout the night but she never came round and died at 8am the following morning. Police were able to restrain the man, who identified himself as James Dwerryhouse, a former soldier with the 67th Regiment of Foot. He had been discharged from the army about ten years earlier and since earned a living as a signalman with the London and North Western Railway Company. 

A police constable sat up with Dwerryhouse all night in a room at the hall. He spent most of it talking about religion and wanting to argue about passages in the bible. When morning broke he said now Ann was a demon and he had to get rid of her. Then when a groom looked into the room to confirm it was Dwerryhouse who attacked Ann, he was told to 'be gone' as he was another of the enemy.

The inquest took place that afternoon at Knowsley Hall before the county coroner John Heyes, where two stable workers confirmed that they had seen Dwerryhouse pull the scalp from Ann. Dwerryhouse's mother said that he was thirty four years old and she had last seen him at 8pm on the night before the murder. He had refused to take some tea and then disappeared, leading to her and his brother reporting this to the police as they feared for his safety. 

The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and Dweryhouse was conveyed to Kirkdale gaol to await trial at the assizes. The Liverpool Mercury reported a few days later that there was no doubt as to his state f mind and predicted that he would be confined in a lunatic asylum for life.

Concerns were raised about Dwerryhouse having worked on the railways, but his employers were quick to confirm that he had always been of good temperament until an incident at 3pm the day before the murder. Mr Huish from the company wrote a letter to the Mercury which stated 'he has always been temperate, steady and attentive' and that he was always under the surveillance of superiors. However after he was perceived to be of strange appearance by an assistant engineer on that afternoon he was immediately relieved from his duties.  Mr Huish concluded that Dwerryhouse has endured 'the most sudden attack of insanity.'

Dwerrhouse's trial was due to take place in August of that year, but postponed until the next assizes as he was not in a fit state of mind and he remained in custody at Lancaster asylum. At the following assizes in December an affidavit was read out signed by a surgeon, which stated that he was in a state of insanity and that it was likely he could never take trial. This frustrated the judge, Baron Alderson, who was not happy that the Home Secretary could authorise the detention in an asylum without the prisoner having to appear before a jury. He then reluctantly agreed to allow the prosecution to be paid for their costs and commented that 'we are too gingerly in acting about insane people.'

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Police Officer Cleared Over Mans Death

A police officer charged with murder after a man he arrested for being drunk died was later cleared of any wrongdoing in connection to the death.

In the early hours of 25th January 1864 John Houlsham was found lying on the pavement in Great Crosshall Street and taken to the Bridewell by four policemen, where he was booked in for being drunk and for his own safety. The following morning he was discharged by the magistrate and said nothing of any ill treatment by police officers.

Two days later Houlsham admitted himself to the Toxteth Park workhouse, saying that the bruising on his arms and bloodshot eye had been a result of ill treatment by the police. He also claimed that two sovereigns had been taken from his pocket at the time of his arrest. Houlsham died the following Monday, leading to an inquest taking place at the Woodcroft Inn on 4th February before the coroner Mr Driffield.

Dr Wall, visiting surgeon at the workhouse, told of the postmortem that he carried out on Houlsham's body. In addition to the bruising he also found effusion on the brain, as a result of a blow to the head. He could not say however whether the head injury was as a result of a blow or a fall, but did conclude the arms were bruised as a result of violence. 

Houlsham's brother James said that when he saw John at the workhouse, he was asked to find out which policeman had assaulted him. Mary Newport, a soapboilers wife in Great Crosshall Street, told the coroner that the police officer concerned, who she knew as 'Little John', had kneed Houlsham in the back, hit him on the arm with a weapon and then pulled him up by the neckerchief. She then claimed that there was blood where Houlsham had been lying, which was backed up by a woman named Sarah Canning.

Newport and Canning's evidence was contradicted by Bernard Sands, a cab driver who was in Great Crosshall Street at the time.  He said that Houlsham struck a police officer and no violence was used against him, a statement that was backed up by two constables. The bridewell keeper also said that Houlsham made no complaint of maltreatment when he was admitted.

Inspector Penlington from the police stated that he had told Newport to make any complaint of police violence to the Chief Constable and said how it was common in 'low neighbourhoods' for officers to be accused of wrongdoing. He did admit however that one one of the officers concerned in the arrest, Constable John Rennison, had twice been accused of hitting people in the street. 

The jury returned a verdict that Houlsham had died from his injuries, but there was no evidence to show how they occurred. Despite this, Constable John Renison was charged with murder, perhaps to offer assurance to the public that the police were not above the law. However when his case went before the Grand Jury at the Liverpool Assizes on 21st March, the bill was thrown out and he was discharged. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Norwegian Beaten to Death in Toxteth

In 1885 a Norwegian lodging house keeper was beaten to death by in an attack by three men in Toxteth.

Sever Olaf Janssen was the forty year old keeper of a lodging house in Langley Street, which he ran with his wife. In the early hours of 2nd January that year a female resident returned with a male named John Taggart but Janssen refused to let him in, leading to the two men scuffling in the street. 

Taggart left but soon returned with two other males and punched Janssen to the ground. One of his companions, Arthur Kavanagh, then began to beat Janssen about the head and body with a belt, while the other James McNamara threw a bottle. Some of Janssen's lodgers tried to help him but were injured themselves and their screams drew the attention of two policemen in Mill Street. They quickly ran to the scene, where an insensible Janssen was being carried back into the house.

Southern Hospital (
An ambulance took Janssen to the Southern Hospital but despite the best efforts of Dr Dixon he died soon after admission. The two police officers then went to Prince William Street and arrested twenty three year old Taggart, forty year old Kavanagh and twenty three year old McNamara, who was Kavanagh's stepson. Taggart claimed that he had been assaulted by Janssen, while the other two denied any knowledge of the matter whatsoever.

On 3rd January the three men appeared at the police court in Dale Street where Ruth Clarke, who had taken Taggart back to the house in the first place, said that Kavanagh and McNamara were  the main aggressors in the case. Mary Jones, another lodger of the house which was described by the Liverpool Mercury as 'one of ill repute', claimed that in the assault Kavanagh used a belt and Taggart a bottle, while McNamara did nothing. The stipendiary magistrate Mr Raffles then remanded all three prisoners for a week pending the outcome of the inquest.

The inquest took place on 6th January before Mr Aspinall at the police buildings in Dale Street. The first witness was Janssen's wife Amelia. She explained that he was previously a seaman but they had opened the lodging house together after getting married early in 1884. She acknowledged that it was of 'ill repute' and stated that they had four lodgers. In her opinion, the disagreement was as a result of an incident earlier in the day when her husband refused to loan some beer to Kavanagh, himself a lodging house keeper.

Ruth Clarke and Mary Jones told the coroner that Janssen did nothing to provoke the attack and said that he was sober. Clarke described how in the previous fortnight Janssen had only drank on Christmas Day and how he begged for mercy during the attack given he was outnumbered. Two other lodgers of the house, Margaret Brown and Elizabeth Ward, said they saw an assault on Janssen but could not identify the assailants.

Dr Knight, who carried out the postmortem, said that the cause of death was concussion of the brain. He stated that the internal organs were healthy and that there was no trace of alcohol in the body. However solicitor Mr Madden, representing the three accused, then called another medical expert, Dr Whitford. He was of the opinion that Janssen's main blood vessel from the heart was diseased due to seven or eight years of heavy drinking and that death was a result of shock rather than the assault itself. Questioned by the coroner, Dr Whitford admitted that he would not know what to put on the death certificate if he had been required to write it.

Justice DayAfter a deliberation lasting ninety minutes, the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against all three prisoners. They were committed for trial at the next assizes and Janssen was interred in a public grave at Toxteth Park cemetery three days later.

On 9th February the three men appeared before Mr Justice Day charged with murder. Medical opinion was again divided, with Dr Whitford believing none of the wounds could have resulted in death, but Dr Dixon and Dr Knight saying that the blows to the head were the direct cause. For Kavanagh, Father Goethals from St Patrick's Church said he had known him for twenty years and that he was of good character.

The jury found the prisoners guilty of manslaughter leading to Justice Day describing the attack as a 'brutal and cowardly outrage.' However, he acknowledged that the defendants could not have foreseen that death would result and as such sentenced them to twenty one months imprisonment with hard labour.