Monday, 30 May 2016

Leniency For Swiss Migrant

A migrant who chased and stabbed a local man following a dispute in a pub was treated extremely leniently when he was found guilty of manslaughter.

On the 11th May 1854 a Swiss migrant named Antonio Tobacchi was drinking in Bowman's public house in Preston Street. Whilst in there the twenty-five year old got into an argument with two local men named John Kelly and Peter Mattison, causing the former to leave after Tobacchi drew a dagger from his pocket.

Tobacchi ran into the street after Kelly and plunged a dagger into his breast from behind. Kelly fell down and died almost immediately, but Tobacchi was able to retrieve the dagger and run off.  A passing policeman was stopped by a woman and bravely stopped the killer, recovering the blood stained dagger from up his shirt sleeve. 

Kelly was taken to the Northern Hospital where an examination of the wound found that the dagger had penetrated four inches. An inquest took place on the 13th where the Swiss consul Mr Zwilchenbart represented Tobacchi, who had intended to take a ship to Australia. Mary Baker, who had raised the alarm, told the Coroner that he had followed Kelly out of the pub and ran at him from behind. 

Kelly's drinking companion Mattison said that Tobacchi had been with a woman and quite boisterous, shouting in a foreign language. Kelly had asked him to quieten down but he could not be certain whether this had been understood. Mattison stayed behind after Kelly left to finish his drink and the next time he saw his companion he was dead on the ground, with Tobacchi being approached by the police officer.

A verdict of wilful murder was returned and Tobacchi was committed to the South Lancashire Assizes where he appeared before Baron Platt on 19th August. His lack of knowledge of the English language probably saved him from the hangman, as there were doubts as to whether he understood what Kelly had said in Bowman's. This possible element of provocation led to him being found guilty of manslaughter. Despite the aggravating factor in that he had chased after his victim from the safety of the public house, Tobacchi was sentenced to just six months imprisonment with hard labour.

Anger At Inquest Into Julia Lennon's Death

When the mother of Beatle John Lennon died after being knocked down on Menlove Avenue the inquest returned a verdict of death by misadventure, much to the disgust of his Aunt Mimi.

Vale Road/Menlove Avenue junction in 2016
In his mid teenage years Lennon began building bridges with his mother Julia, having been brought up largely by her sister Mimi at 251 Menlove Avenue.  On the evening of 15th July 1958 Lennon was at Julia's home in Blomfield Road while Julia visited Mimi. At around 930pm she left to catch a bus but as she was crossing Menlove Avenue near its junction with Vale Road she was hit by a car and thrown 100 feet down the road.

Mimi raced to the scene but Julia was dead on arrival at Sefton general hospital and Lennon was so distraught her was unable to look at her body. She was buried at Allerton cemetery, after Lennon had cried throughout the funeral service with his head on Mimi's lap.

The Standard Vanguard car which had hit Julia was drive by Eric Clague, an off duty police officer who did not have a full driving licence. A post mortem determined that Julia had brain injuries caused by skull fractures, but at the inquest witnesses said she had stepped into the road without looking. Clague himself insisted he was driving at less than thirty miles an hour and this led to the misadventure verdict, causing Mimi to scream 'murderer' at him. Clague lived at 43 Ramilies Road, ironically off Penny Lane which was made so famous by The Beatles in a song ten years later. 

Clague managed to avoid any publicity for forty years as he was not named in any newspaper reports in relation to the accident. It was only when a Daily Mirror journalist searched the archives at Liverpool Coroner's Court in 1998 that his identity was established. This led to him having to tell his own family of the role he played in Beatles history, but he told the reported concerned 'There was really nothing I could have done, Mrs Lennon just ran straight in front of me, I just couldn't avoid her. I was not speeding, I swear it. It was just one of those terrible things that happen.' 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Killed Over a Pawned Shirt

A man who battered his wife after she pawned his shirt, leading to the death of both her and an unborn child, was sentenced to just eighteen months imprisonment.

On Friday 1st September 1837 a middle aged lady named Alice Bradford went to the cellar in School Lane where her daughter Ann Davis lived with her husband John. Ann was sat down crying and tried to reach get up to her mother, but John got hold of her petticoat and threw her to the floor, then kicked her in the stomach and head. 

School Lane (
A neighbour named Frances Ormsby heard the screams and went to investigate. On seeing Ann, who was six months pregnant, lying motionless she sent for a doctor. Ann was in an insensible state and the following night she gave birth to a baby girl, which lived for a few minutes. Twenty nine year old Ann never fully regained consciousness and died on the Tuesday.

The day after Ann's death, an inquest was held before the Coroner, Mr P F Curry. Alice described what happened when she entered the cellar and Mrs Ormsby told how she got there at the time kicks were being administered by John, who was still wearing shoes. The most heartbreaking evidence came from ten year old Jane Davis, who said her mother had pawned her father's shirt so she was able to buy breakfast. She described Ann and Alice as tipsy, but said her father had not been drinking.

Evidence regarding the post mortem was given by a surgeon named John Marshall. He said that a blood vessel on the brain had been ruptured as a result of concussion caused by violence. Unusually for an inquest John gave evidence, saying he had briefly returned home from his job as a river pilot at 10am on that morning and left money with his wife to get his clothes back from the pawnbroker. When he was back later however, he found that Ann was drunk, having spent this on liquor.

After the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter John was remanded to wait his trial at the assizes, which took place the following April. The defence indicated that had doctors ordered leeches earlier, Ann's life might have been saved but this was refuted by the medical practitioners. John was found guilty but despite the severity of his actions the judge sentenced him to eighteen months imprisonment with hard labour.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Mother Pleads For Her Seaman Son's Killer

A seaman who killed his friend in a fight on a ferry in the Irish Sea was jailed despite the victim's mother pleading for his release as everybody had suffered enough.

In the summer of 1953 two young men who had been away at sea for some time on a voyage to Australia and South America returned to Liverpool and were paid off. One of them was Robert Humphries from Bray in County Wicklow and he invited twenty year old Robert Thomas, of Irlam Road in Bootle, to spend some time with his family. 

On the day they set sail for Dublin aboard the MV Munster, they began drinking at 1130am and continued this on board. At around midnight a fight broke out that led to Humphries going overboard as a result of a push by Thomas, according to some eye witnesses.

Crew members placed Thomas in a straitjacket and passed out. He was lifted onto a stretcher and woke up a few minutes later, repeatedly asking where his friend was. On arrival at Dublin, detectives boarded and arrested Thomas, charging him with murder on the high seas. After his first court appearance he was taken to hospital for treatment on a suspected broken nose.

On 2nd February 1954 Thomas was tried at Dublin's Central Criminal Court, where prosecutors alleged he had drank up to twenty pints of beer. A doctor who had seen him half an hour after the incident told the court he felt Thomas was incapable of forming any intent to murder and that when he came around he had no recollection of what happened.

A key witness was passenger Martin Connolly, who said a fight broke out between five or six men, including Thomas.  He then told how when Humphries tried to pacify him he was pushed away but fell over the rail into the sea. Under cross examination, Connolly described Thomas as 'drunk out of his mind.'

Thomas himself could not remember much about what happened, only that he had got into a fight with some people but insisted he did not touch his friend. He was found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder and there was then a sensational development when Humphries' mother entered the witness box. Rather than call for a tough sentence she said 'There has been trouble enough without any more. No matter what happens now it won't bring my son back so will you please let him go home.' Earlier in the trial Thomas's father had said that the two men were very close and Humphries referred to him and his wife as 'mom' and 'pop'

Mrs Humphries' pleas were ignored by Judge Murnaghan however who sentenced Thomas to six years penal servitude, telling him 'I can not overlook the fact that you allowed yourself to get so drunk that you had your friend killed.' He did grant a certificate of appeal however and the sentence was later reduced to three years.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Unsolved Murder of a Clubman

The body of an insurance clubman who disappeared in Bootle was found in Cheshire, but despite an extensive police investigation, his killer was never found.

On Friday 6th June 1958 Harry Baker travelled from his Southport home to Bootle for his regular round of calls for the Jewish credit drapers that he worked for. After calling on fifty customers he went to the number 23 bus stop in Stand Road but was never seen again.

Nobody knows if Harry got on a bus or not, the last verified sighting of him was at 1.45pm when he was talking to a thin faced man. Seventeen days later his body was found covered in sacks just off the A50 trunk road in High Legh, near Knutsford. He had been strangled and beaten, and all that was missing from his person was £25, a watch and a fountain pen.

Despite 20,000 people being interviewed the police had no significant leads and the murder of sixty one year old Harry remains unsolved.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Dead Girl in a Water Closet

When a girl was found dead in mysterious circumstances in the early 1890s it was first through she had been murdered, but lack of evidence led to the coroner's court returning a verdict of suffocation. 

Hopwood Street (
At around 11pm on Tuesday 2nd August 1892 Margaret Eaton went to the water closet at the back of her house in Hopwood Street and was horrified to find the body of a young girl there. Her head was in the water and Margaret called her husband to life the body out, but a doctor in Athol Street declared life extinct.

A post mortem concluded that the cause of death was suffocation but there were no marks of violence on the body. The girl had long blond curly hair and was well dressed and not undernourished. After the body was taken to the mortuary at Princes Dock, dock labourer James Concannon and his wife Louisa, whose three year old daughter had gone missing from Newsham Street around 330pm, were informed. The couple went to the mortuary and confirmed that the little girl was that of their three years and eight month old daughter Ann.

Mrs Concannon told police that a pair of nine carat gold earrings and new pair of boots were missing from the body and it was supposed that Ann had been killed after a robbery. An examination of the stomach contents found that she had eaten pickled onions something her parents insisted had not been provided by them. An inquest was opened on 5th August but immediately adjourned due to the police having had very leads available to them.

Enquiries at pawn shops found no trace of the missing items and when the inquest resumed on 17th August, police were unable to offer any further evidence. Two doctors who had examined the body said there were no marks of violence and it was suggested by the coroner that perhaps Ann had gone into the closet to escape a robber and fell into the position which she was found. With no evidence to suggest who may have placed Ann in the closet, the only verdict the jury could return was one of suffocation.