Thursday, 31 March 2016

Doctor's Uncertainty Clears Suspect

When a woman died of head injuries following an altercation with a neighbour over the ownership of a beer jar, nobody was charged due to doubts over how her injuries had occurred.

On Thursday 30th May 1895 Mary Digman, the twenty seven year old estranged wife of a butcher, was found in Kempston Street with serious head injuries. She was taken to the workhouse hospital where her condition deteriorated to such an extent that the following day a magistrate and detective took dying depositions from her.

Digman told how on the previous Sunday she had been drinking in the house of a woman named Jessie Burgess when a row broke out over the ownership of a jar, which was worth 6d if returned to a public house. She stated that Burgess struck her on the head with a ginger beer bottle, causing injuries which eventually led to her collapsing in the court five days later.

Burgess was arrested in custody and initially remanded for seven days on a charge of assault. Digman lingered until the 14th June, with the inquest taking place a fortnight later before the coroner Mr Sampson. Contrary to Digman's deposition, neighbours said that a fight had taken place between the two women in she street, leading to both falling on the ground. Digman was then said to have thrown a bottle at Burgess, who threw one back hitting her on the head.

The doctor who carried out the post mortem said he could not be sure how the injury behind Digmans ear which eventially caused her death had occured. He said it could have been caused by broken glass from a bottle, but also from a fall. With this doubt now in the jury's minds, an open verdict was returned and Burgess was released.

Twelve Months For Breadknife Killing

A man who killed a baby with a knife that was intended for a woman was jailed for just twelve months, the judge accepting that no harm was meant.

On 10th April 1893 fifteen month old Richard Scott was lying in bed with his grandmother, a  Mrs Colburn, in a house where she lodged in Richmond Row. Another resident of the house named James Lavender, a twenty one year old labourer, returned home drunk and was scolded by Mrs Colburn for his intemperate habits.

About half an hour after the initial exchange of words, Lavender came back downstairs for a drink of water and was again reprimanded by Colburn and her daughter, Catherine Scott. Lavender then picked up a bread knife and lunged towards Colburn, who covered herself with the bedclothes. The blow he struck missed her completely and instead the knife plunged into the body of Richard, who let out a cry then went silent.

Lavender picked the toddler up and ran with him to the dispensary, but he was declared dead on arrival. On 15th May Lavender appeared at the assizes before Mr Justice Wills, where the jury were instructed to return a verdict of manslaughter. Despite the act of running at someone with a breadknife, the judge said that he acknowledged no serious harm was intended and imposed a sentence of just twelve months imprisonment.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

A New Years Stabbing

A young couple's New Year ended up in tragedy when the woman stabbed her boyfriend after he had pushed her to the ground.

In the early hours of 1st January 1893 Margaret Ward and James Skevington, who co-habited together in Rose Place, had a row over James's friendship with another girl. They went off their separate ways but when they met up again outside their house, eighteen year old Margaret took out  a knife which she had concealed under her shawl and stabbed James three times in the chest. 

Rose Place (
A policeman immediately arrested Margaret for wounding and recovered the knife which she had thrown away. James was taken to the Northern Hospital where he died about an hour after admission, meaning that the following morning Margaret was charged with murder at the police court, where she sobbed throughout the brief hearing. She eked out a living as a hawker and was described as being of 'the lowest class' by the Lancashire General Advertiser.

On 24th March Margaret appeared at the Liverpool assizes where the Grand Jury reduced the charge to manslaughter. Witnesses said that during the first quarrel James had knocked Margaret to the ground and that he had been very drunk. A guilty verdict was returned with the jury recommending mercy. However, the judge said he would be setting a pernicious example if he did this and sentenced her to seven years penal servitude.

Dead Baby in a Tramcar

A tram conductor had a nasty shock when he found a dead baby in a box but despite apparent strangulation the mother was found guilty only of concealment of birth.

On 3rd March 1915 a conductor on a tramcar travelling along Park Road towards Aigburth noticed a child's legs protruding from a box that had been placed under the stairs. When the car stopped at the junction with Mill Street the police were summoned and the box was found to contain the body of a newborn male child. 

A woman named Margaret Nelson admitted that the box was hers and said she was taking it to her sister's house in Shelley Street. Asked if she had a burial order she replied 'no' and was arrested while further enquiries were carried out. A post mortem found that the baby had been born about two days earlier and been strangled with a nappy, but the inquest was put on hold when Margaret was admitted to Mill Road hospital.

On 14th April twenty four year old Margaret was discharged from hospital and immediately arrested, fainting when she was told she would be charged with murder. She had to be carried into the dock at the police court where she was remanded for seven days.

The inquest took place on 21st April and heard that Margaret had been working as a domestic servant at 24 Albany Road, Kensington. Her employer said that on 28th February she had complained of a headache but did not declare that he was pregnant. When she was given some time off on 3rd March to visit her sister, Margaret said that the box contained clothing. The father was named as Joseph O'Keefe, who was in custody over another matter. He and Margaret disagreed over whether or not she had told him about her pregnancy.

The doctor who carried out the post mortem testified as to the cause of death and confirmed that the child had been born alive, and not died as a result of any neglect. The coroner's jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and Margaret was committed for trial at the Manchester assizes.

On 6th May the prosecution decided not to press with the murder charge after hearing the judges opening comments, with Mr Justice Sankey pointing out that nobody could testify to having seen the child alive. Margaret agreed to plead guilty to concealment of birth and was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment.   

Monday, 28 March 2016

Throat Cut For Not Going Home

An Everton man who cut his partner's throat and then his own was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

On 24th May 1915 Arthur Atkins had a row with Mary Dolan, a woman with whom he cohabited with in Soho Street, leading her to going out to a pub. He went and found her but she refused to return home and he then saw her talking to two other men in Springfield. Atkins went up to them and told Mary to return to their home in Soho Street, but she again refused to do so and walked off. 

Soho St in 1930s (
Atkins caught up with thirty year old Mary and cut her throat with a razor and then its own. Hearing the screams, a woman named Mrs Dunn came out of her home and saw that Mary was already dead, but Atkins was alive with blood pouring from a wound.

A police officer was called and he accompanied Atkins to the Royal Infirmary. When he came around he asked if Mary was dead and on being told that she was replied 'Oh my God that is terrible I will tell you everything.' He admitted that after the couple quarrelled he cut their throats on sudden impulse with a razor that he always carried in his pocket. 

Atkins remained in hospital for a month and on his discharge an inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder on 25th June. The thirty seven year old was then committed to the Manchester Assizes, where he appeared on 20th July. Due Atkins acting on impulse and under some provocation, the jury found him guilty of manslaughter and he was sentenced to penal servitude for twelve years.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Killer of Newborn Baby Bound Over

A mother who threw her new born baby through a window causing death was not sent to jail due to her state of mind at the time.

On the afternoon of Friday 3rd September 1915 a police officer was called to a pubic house in Tempest Hey as there was a baby lying on a flat roof. When he got there he saw the child  lying naked but alive and covered in blood and soot. Looking through the kitchen window, he saw a  young woman sat on a chair.

The woman initially said nothing when asked what the baby was doing there, but she eventually admitted that her name was Alice Emms and she worked as a charwoman at the premises. She said that she lived at Harlow Street in Dingle and had given birth to the child that morning, then thrown it through the kitchen window.

An ambulance was called and took Alice and the baby to the workhouse hospital in Brownlow Hill. The following day the baby died and when an inquest was opened it was adjourned by the deputy coroner due to Alice having to stay in hospital for treatment. The resumed inquest the end of the month inquest saw a verdict of wilful murder being returned and Alice was committed for trial at the autumn assizes.

On 28th October Alice appeared before Mr Justice Ridley and pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The prosecution accepted that at the time of the incident the unmarried twenty three year old suffered from transient mania and was not in control of her actions. After the Salvation Army said that they would take her into their care, the judge then bound her over. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

An Everton Baby Mystery

The killing of a newborn baby in Everton was never solved, detectives failing to trace the writer of a letter that was found at the scene.

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On the morning of 16th April 1915 two binmen named Alfred Kelly and John Roberts found an unaddressed parcel on the steps of 2 Tynemouth Street in Everton, which was taken back to the dustcart. On cutting the leather strap that tied the brown paper together they were horrified to find the body of a newborn male baby whose throat had been cut.

Also inside was a letter written on bloodstained paper which read....

I am seventeen years old and am in service. I got into trouble through a soldier, I don't know what regiment he is in. I hope you will forgive this act of mine - from a broken hearted girl.

The gruesome find was taken to Breck Road police station, with officers there immediately calling in the CID. The note was treated with some caution, officers believing that it could easily have been written by a killer deliberately seeking to baffle them.

At the inquest on 22nd April the letter was read out by the Deputy Coroner and detectives told how exhaustive enquiries had failed to produce any results. A doctor said that the wound was two inches in length and so deep it went as far as the spine. The jury returned a verdict of 'wilful murder by person's unknown' and the mystery remains unsolved.  

Monday, 21 March 2016

Stabbing of a Drinking Partner

A woman who stabbed a man that she had been drinking with earlier was sentenced to ten years in prison after being found guilty of manslaughter.

On the evening of 24th April 1871 Patrick Hogan, a twenty one year old member of the Lancashire Rifles, was in bed at his home in Grosvenor Street when he heard his name shouted. On looking out of the window he saw a woman named Maria McHale talking to his brother Martin, shouting at Patrick to come down as well.

Patrick got dressed and went downstairs to the door and had his collar immediately seized by McHale, who told him that she would not let him go until she had given him what she gave to the last man. Patrick knocked McHale to the ground and kicked her, leading to her quickly running into her own property. Within seconds though she was back in the street with a knife, with which she stabbed Patrick in the heart.

The injured man was taken to the East Dispensary and then transferred to the Northern Hospital. On being arrested for wounding, McHale denied using a knife, but a bloodstained one was found in her house. Enquiries established that earlier in the evening McHale and Patrick had been sat on her step happily drinking together.

Patrick died from his injuries on 31st May and McHale appeared before Baron Martin at the assizes on 10th August, charged with murder. The defence counsel suggested that because of the provocation received a verdict of manslaughter was more appropriate and the jury agreed with this. The judge said that this could not be passed over lightly and sentenced McHale to ten years penal servitude.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Shoemaker's Dispute Ends in Death

A sectarian dispute between two shoemakers ended up with them fighting outside a pub and one dying from his injuries.

On 31st May 1871 Charles English, a thirty eight year old shoemaker went with his wife Rose and ten year old son George to buy provisions in Marybone. Their shopping complete, they stopped for a glass of beer in the Mountain Dew pub and then left. Charles went out first followed by George, who was confronted by the sight of his father lying on the ground with blood pouring from his face. A man he knew as James Sweeney was kicking him then ran off and although Rose tried to stop him, he got away.

Baron Martin
English was taken to the East Dispensary where his wounds were dressed and he then returned home to Ben Johnson Street. On 3rd June a doctor visited English and removed the stitches, but told him to go to the workhouse hospital as the eye wound was infected. Ten days later, on the 13th, English died with his wife at his side. Sweeney, who was also a shoemaker and had once worked in the same establishment as his victim, was picked up by police that day and immediately placed before the court and remanded. 

The inquest opened on 14th June, with Mrs English stating that there had been bad feeling between the two men for some time, with Sweeney having broke their door down a few months previously. Ellen Bligh, who shared a house with the English family, said that Sweeney would often turn up drunk on Saturday nights asking for a fight. English was described as a sober and healthy man, with a hairdresser who saw what happened saying that he was knocked down without provocation. Some witnesses said that Sweeney had referred to English as an 'Orange Dog.'

Several witnesses were called by an advocate of Sweeney's to state that English had fell down after verbal intimidation but no violence was used. When the manager of the Mountain Dew said that a drayman from Threlfalls brewery had witnessed everything the Coroner adjourned the proceedings until the following day in the hope this employee could be traced. The man in question was John Lee, who said he had been unloading barrels and heard a row, on turning around he saw two men grappling then Sweeney knocked English to the ground and he fell heavily. Lee stated that no weapon was used and that prior to falling English wasn't cut. After the coroner's summing up, a verdict of manslaughter was returned and all witnesses bound over to appear at the assizes.

Despite the verdict of the coroner's court, the Crown decided to press ahead with a murder charge with the case being heard before Baron Martin on 10th August. However after part of the evidence was heard, the defence counsel asked if a verdict of manslaughter could be agreed and this was consented to. Sentencing Sweeney to ten years penal servitude, the judge said to him that he was determined to put a stop to people losing their lives in England as a result of the strong feelings from Northern Ireland.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Lodgings Refusal Leads to Killing

A sailor who refused to allow a man to carry his chest to some lodgings was the subject of a revenge attack which led to him being kicked to death.

On 2nd May 1871 the Eglantine berthed in Queens Dock having sailed from America. One of the crew, William Robinson headed for his usual lodgings in Jordan Street and declined the services of three men who asked to carry his chest to another lodging house which they recommended. 

Two nights later Robinson was by an omnibus stop in Chaloner Street with a ships steward named James Hall when the three men who wanted to carry his chest recognised him. Some words were exchanged and Robinson was manhandled, leading to Hall drawing a knife which made the others back off from him and he escaped.

Robinson was now on his own and one of the men, twenty five year old John Connolly, threw a punch at Robinson who fell down, then kicked him in the neck. One of Connolly's companions threw a boulder at Robinson as he tried to get up, leading to him falling back and hitting his head on the pavement. The sailor was then kicked in the head three of four times by Connolly and the assailants escaped, a crowd of around twenty bystanders doing nothing to try and stop them.

The police were called but Robinson was already dead on arrival at the Southern Hospital. A post mortem revealed the internal organs to be healthy and concluded that death was as a result of external violence, which had caused several injuries. Connolly was well known locally and had the nickname 'Slate Off.' He was apprehended that night in Henderson Street in Toxteth. Descriptions of the other two men were circulated but Connolly refused to say who they were and they were never traced. 

In another twist it turned out that William Robinson was not who he had said he was. He was actually Michael Grier from Whitby, who had sailed under a different name as he had absconded from an apprenticeship. On arrival in Liverpool he had written to his brother John saying he was safe and well, but on hearing that a sailor called Robinson had been killed John feared the worst. He came to Liverpool on 6th May and identified the body of the sailor as that of his brother.

An inquest on 9th May heard from many of the bystanders, all of whom said that the deceased did nothing himself to provoke his attackers. One witness said that one of Connolly's associates had said 'go on finish him off' as he kicked the man lying on the ground. After a verdict of wilful murder was returned the coroner Clarke Aspinall committed Connolly for trial at the Liverpool summer assizes.

At his trial on 10th August Connolly denied kicking Robinson in the head and claimed that the injuries came as a result of a fall, but failed the convince the jury. Summing up, his defence counsel mitigated that Connolly believed Robinson/Green had a knife too and this was enough to have a verdict of manslaughter returned.

Sentencing Connolly to ten years penal servitude, Baron Martin told him that there was not much to be said about people fighting with fists, but if a man was down and then beaten and kicked it was not to be tolerated.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Cap Theft Leads to Death

A man who took his friend's cap as a joke paid for it with his life, dying as a result of a single punch.

On Thursday 18th June 1846 a group of men were drinking at Paine's public house in Vauxhall Road. One of them, John Davies, took the cap of John Frost as a joke and began passing it around the others present. Frost didn't see the funny side and struck Davies just below the ear, causing him to fall down and die shortly afterwards.

Frost escaped but was apprehended soon afterwards at his home in Gascoyne Street. An inquest heard that Davies had died from effusion of blood on the brain and returned a verdict of manslaughter, leading to Frost being committed to the assizes for trial on a coroner's warrant.

At the assizes two months later Frost pleaded guilty but in light of the circumstances was immediately discharged at the instruction of the Grand Jury.

Farmer's Hay Selling Trip Ends in Death

A farmer died of head injuries after a trip to Liverpool to sell hay, but nobody was convicted of killing him as he got himself into more than one altercation on the day.

At midnight on Saturday 21st March 1846  William Rimmer returned to his home in Ditton after a trip to Liverpool to sell hay. His horse and cart was missing and he had a large cut on his head, but couldn't recall how he had sustained it.

Rimmer died on 1st April and after enquiries found that he had fought in Brownlow Hill with the man named Smith who bought his hay, the buyer was arrested. However witnesses testified before the Coroner that the fight was with fists only and no weapons were used, leading to Smith being released.

This led to further tracing of Rimmer's route home and it was found that he had stopped at The Lamb in Wavertree and left his horse in the charge of the hostler Thomas Ivey before drinking several glasses of ale. Ivey was then arrested after admitting hitting Rimmer with a poker after being woken abruptly by him. The inquest was resumed on 6th April with Ivey in attendance and after a verdict of manslaughter he was committed for trial.

On 17th August Ivey appeared at the Liverpool assizes before Mr Justice Wightman. He admitted hitting a drunken Rimmer with the poker, but pleaded that he had been woken suddenly by being shaken. After what the Liverpool Mail described as an eloquent and able speech by the defence, Ivey was acquitted and discharged from the dock.

Killed Over the Price of Ham

A widow punched and kicked her elderly mother after an argument over the price of some ham, causing her to die from her injuries. Despite the coroner thinking it was a case of murder, she ended up being jailed for just eighteen months.

On 9th December 1859 Caroline Smith bought some ham for her widowed daughter Caroline Brocklebank and returned with it to their home in Boundary Terrace, off Bute Street in Everton.

When Brocklebank was told how much the ham had cost she reacted furiously, striking her mother and causing her to fall and cut her head on the fender. She then kicked her about various parts of the body and turned her out into the street.

A lady named Ellen Becton, who also lived in the house, found Caroline outside and took her to the workhouse hospital, where she was found to have a fractured skull. When told by Ellen where her mother was Brocklebank replied that she hoped she died. After a deposition was taken from Caroline, twenty seven year old Brocklebank was apprehended and charged with assault. However when Caroline sent word to the court that she would not give evidence against her daughter, the case was dropped. 

Caroline's condition worsened but her daughter had no sympathy. When Brocklebank visited her on Christmas Eve she was heard to say 'May the curse of God fall on you for saying I hit you.' When she died from her injuries on 28th December Brocklebank was arrested and and inquest took place before the Coroner, Mr P F Curry. The deposition was read out and although its contents were quite horrific, it did say that it was the first time Brocklebank had attacked her mother in the two years they had been back living together. 

In his summing up Mr Curry said he felt this was a case of murder, but the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, the foreman of the jury saying it was because there had been no previous assaults. Brocklebank was committed to the Liverpool assizes for trial, where she was found guilty on 22nd March 1860. The judge, Sir Hugh Hill, sentenced her to eighteen months imprisonment with hard labour.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Speeding Solicitor Guilty of Manslaughter

A solicitor who knocked down a pedestrian and failed to stop was sentenced to six months imprisonment after being found guilty of manslaughter.

At 5.40pm on 17th December 1940 sixty four year old Margaret Kearns was crossing Princes Avenue during the blackout when she was knocked down by a car which failed to stop. In the driver's rush to get away from the scene, he collided with two parked cars but managed to escape in the direction of Princes Park, knocking a man off his bike in Croxteth Road. Kearns, who lived in Eversley Street, died from her injuries and the hunt was on for the car and its driver.

A headlamp was found in the road which was believed to have come from a dark coloured Rover saloon car, while a hubcap was found in the road next to one of the cars that had been hit. Extensive police enquiries eventually led them to a garage in Allerton Road, which had been asked in mid January to repair the headlamp, hubcap and bonnet on a dark saloon car. When the driver returned to collect it, he identified himself as sixty year old solicitor William Jones, a partner in the firm Giles and Jones based at Union Court. 

Jones made a statement to the police admitting failing to stop, but saying he only knew he had 'hit an object'. After being charged with manslaughter, dangerous driving and failing to stop after an accident Jones was granted bail by the police court and committed for trial at the next Manchester assizes. On 13th March Jones appeared before Mr Justice Hallett and was found guilty. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment, banned from driving for five years and ordered to pay all prosecution costs. However an appeal was lodged and he was granted bail and allowed to return to his home at 23 Harthill Avenue in Allerton.

The appeal was heard by the Lord Chief Justice and two other judges on 20th May. Jones claimed to have been ill through overwork at the time of the accident and gave that as the reason why he didn't stop. Jones also claimed that the trial judge had misdirected the jury but the appeal was dismissed and he was returned to prison to serve out his sentence.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Beer Errand Uncovers Murder

A woman who was suspicious of her servant's behaviour discovered the body of a newborn baby after sending her out for beer.

On 24th January 1867 a twenty nine year old named Letitia Dordy took up a position as a servant at 22 Everton Valley, the home of a widow named Eliza Forrest. Soon noticing that her new employee appeared to be in the 'family way' Eliza asked her if this was the case but Dordy replied that it was due to her clothing being out of shape and asked to borrow a needle. A few days later she complained of pains in her side but was better within 24 hours. 

On the morning of 22nd February Eliza went to the kitchen and saw blood on the floor, with Dordy struggling to clean it up. At midday Eliza sent Dordy to get some beer and while she was out of the house searched her bedroom, where she found the body of a newborn girl under the bedclothes. When asked about the find, Dordy admitted giving birth to a stillborn baby the previous night in the coal cellar but was unable to explain the red marks around the neck.

A police constable took the body to Dr Costine in Boundary Street, then to the deadhouse at Princes Dock, while Dordy was allowed to remain at Everton Valley under the supervision of Eliza. The following morning she was arrested on suspicion of murder and taken to observe the inquest.  

Eliza's eleven year old son John and a neighbour deposed to having heard screams at around 8pm on the evening of the 21st February. John stated that he had gone to the coal cellar and asked what was the matter and Dordy told him that she had kicked the cat because it had stolen some cake. Dr Costine told of the post mortem he had carried out, which established that the tongue was swollen, there were marks of external violence and the lungs had expanded. He put the cause of death down to suffocation as a result of violence, leading  to the Coroner's jury returning a verdict of wilful murder.

When Dordy appeared at  the Liverpool assizes on 28th March, the Liverpool Mail reported that she looked sixty years old.  Dr Costine was quite clear in his evidence that he believed the baby had breathed, because respiration had been established in every part of the lungs. This led to Mr Justice Mellor saying in his summing up that Dordy must have known that the baby was alive after the birth. 

The jury found her guilty of murder and she was sentenced to death. Dordy was sobbing violently and almost fainted as she was led from the dock. However a week later the Home Secretary respited the sentence and she was sent to prison in Woking. By 1891 she had been released and was listed in that years census as being back in service, residing in Lambeth.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Mother Gasses Son

A woman who walked into a police station after gassing her son to death was found to be insane.

On 8th June 1940 at 8.25am  a lady walked into Walton bridewell and told the constable on the front desk that she had just gassed her baby. An officer then went round to the house in Hanford Avenue and found the body of sixteen month old Edward Evans in the back kitchen and a strong smell of gas. Edward was wearing a gas mask which was connected by a pipe to the cooker.

After being charged with wilful murder the boy's mother, thirty three year old Anne Evans, said that Edward only ever reacted by shaking his head when spoken to and she feared he would grow up as mad.That morning, she had took him downstairs and laid him on the floor, then connected the gas hose to the cooker ring and waited until he was dead.

Evans was remanded in custody and at a committal hearing on 21st June her husband Peter said his wife had been ill for some time, worrying about Edward's health. She was committed for trial at the Manchester assizes, where she appeared before Mr Justice Oliver on 12th July. Evidence was heard that she was cheerful before Edward was born but subsequently suffered delusions. This led to the jury returning a verdict of guilty but insane and Evans was detained 'until the King's pleasure be known.'

Rebuke For Cleared Killer

A man who killed another with a single punch was cleared as his plea of self defence was accepted, but he was still given a serious rebuke by the magistrate.

At around 10.30pm on the evening of Saturday 2nd August 1945 Thomas Mee and four others were stood at the corner of Moor Place and London Road when a man named Lawrence Palmeria walked past on his way to his Gill Street home. After some words were exchanged Mee followed the twenty nine year old labourer and ended up punching him to the ground.

Palmeria died the following day in hospital without ever regaining consciousness. Mee was arrested and claimed to have acted in self defence, but he was charged with murder and remanded in custody by magistrates. On  29th August Mee, an unemployed labourer, was allowed bail set at £20 and returned to his home at Alexandra Pope Street to await his committal hearing.

On 14th September Mee appeared at the Magistrates' Court in Dale Street, where he admitted striking Palmeira but only in self defence as he had already had to dodge a punch himself. His solicitor argued that these actions did not warrant a manslaughter charge and common assault was more appropriate. the pathologist who carried out the post mortem confirmed that death was as a result of an injury to the back of the head after falling against a hard surface.

The magistrate, Mr J. D. Towers accepted Mee's defence and said there was no case for trial. However before discharging him from the dock he told the twenty one year old 'It is a serious thing that men like you and others should be standing at street corners looking for trouble deliberately and bringing trouble for others through no fault of their own. Let this be a warning to you, go away from this court and make yourself a useful citizen'.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Killing of an Army Pensioner

When a Victorian army pensioner died from his injuries after being kicked at his home the man responsible was sentenced to only six months imprisonment. 

In the late summer of 1892 Thomas Manning, who lived in a court off Bevington Street and worked as a dock labourer, received a pension payout from the army. Rather than save it, the sixty year old instead set about on numerous drinking sprees.

On the evening of 2nd October that year a twenty two year old labourer named Thomas Heeney knocked at Manning's door and was let in by his daughter, who knew they had previously been on good terms. Without any apparent provocation Heeney punched Manning in both eyes and after he fell down, kicked him in the knees and groin before making off. 

Two days later Manning was admitted to the workhouse hospital at Brownlow Hill, from where he was transferred to the Royal Infirmary. On 31st October he died due to complications arising from an inflamed knee joint, but not before admitting how the injuries had occurred. Hospital authorities informed the police but Heeney had gone underground 

After being apprehended Heeney appeared at the Liverpool assizes on 9th December Heeney claimed that Manning had hit him with a poker and he pushed him over in self defence. After being found guilty of manslaughter, Mr Justice Grantham sentenced him to a jail term of six months.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Canal Killers Bound Over

Three men who were guilty of manslaughter when a man drowned who they had stripped naked and thrown into a canal were given a huge let off by the judge.

On the afternoon of Sunday 28th August 1892 a carter named William Culshaw was stood on the banks of the Leeds & Liverpool canal near the lock at Lightbody Street. Looking across to the other bank he saw a man being stripped naked by four others. The victim was John Swindells, a nineteen year old youth who lived in Gildart's Gardens, who today would acknowledged as having learning difficulties.

Seconds later Swindells was in the canal and being unable to swim, sank immediately. Two of those who had been seen to strip him jumped in but despite their best efforts could not find him. It was several hours before the body was recovered. 

Four men were arrested; Walter Peloe and John Leicester, who were both twenty four year old labourer, as well as eighteen year old carter Joseph Wilson and twenty one year old labourer Thomas Davies. 

At the inquest Culshaw said he saw the four men throw Swindells into the canal and a verdict of manslaughter was returned. The following day at a committal hearing, the deputy stipendiary magistrate Mr Kinghorn decided that they should instead be considered for  murder charge. By now however Culshaw had changed his mind about what he saw, saying there was a crowd around Swindells and he couldn't be sure if he had been thrown, pushed or fell into the canal. 

Concluding that there had been no intent to kill and that death was as a result of rough horseplay, the men were committed on the lesser charge. Leicester was remanded in custody as he had ran away at the time, but the other three were granted bail in light of having stayed at the scene to try and rescue their victim.

The men appeared at the Liverpool assizes on 9th December. With the exception of Davies, they all pleaded guilty. Satisfied that Davies had not actually pushed or thrown Swindells in, the Crown decided not to proceed against him. In summarising what had happened, the prosecutor Mr McConnell described Swindells as a 'soft lad' who had not resisted the prank that had gone horribly wrong. The victim had even been laughing at what was going on, probably having no idea of the perilous position that he was in.

After the defence counsel stated that the three guilty men were all hard workers of good character, Mr Justice Grantham then showed exceptional leniency. Saying that it was clear there was no intention to cause harm, he bound each of them over 'to come up for judgement when called upon' which is the equivalent of a conditional discharge today.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Servant Girl Acquitted of Strangulation

A servant girl charged with murder after a dead baby girl was found in her room was given the benefit of the doubt and found guilty only of concealment of birth.

In the autumn of 1847 a seventy one year old widow living in Shannon Street (off Brownlow Hill) took on a servant named Jane Pearson. The twenty two year old was described by her employer Mrs Roberts as rotund in stature and there were no suspicions about any pregnancy, instead it being believed that she suffered from dropsy.

On Thursday 11th May 1848 Mrs Roberts went out leaving Jane to do some chores and on her return the servant girl was sick in bed. The following morning Jane was lucid and Mrs Roberts decided to check her room, where she found the body of a newborn child in a box. The body was wrapped in rags and Jane got on her hands and knees begging her employer to keep the find a secret.

A surgeon named Dr Burrows was called in and examined the body, forming the opinion that the baby girl had been born alive. A tape was wrapped around the neck and an apron was stuffed into the mouth. An inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder and Jane was taken to Kirkdale gaol to await her trial at the next assizes.

On 21st August Jane appeared before Mr Justice Cresswell. As so often happened in this era, the jury was reluctant to convict if there was even the slightest element of doubt. Even though Jane had admitted giving birth to the child the Crown could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that she had carried out the strangulation. This led to the jury acquitting her of murder but finding her guilty of concealment of birth. She was then sentenced to twelve months imprisonment with hard labour.