Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Woolton Child Roasting Case

In 1863 a horrific incident occurred in Woolton when a child died of severe burns, but the person suspected of causing the death was acquitted at his trial.

Messrs Bagot and Wells Drapers were based at 43 Allerton Road in Woolton, which doubled as the shop and Bagot's home. John Bagot was a 38 year old bachelor and Wells a widower. Although Wells lived in Halewood, two of his sisters lived in Woolton with Bagot.

At the beginning of January 1863 Wells took care of his niece Evelyn, who was two years and two months old, as her mother was about to have another baby. However rather than be looked after at Wells's Halewood home, Evelyn was instead left mainly at Bagot's home with Alice Ashton, a fourteen year old girl who did chores for him. 

On Thursday 8th January Evelyn suffered terrible burns after sitting on an iron stool that had been by a fire for several hours that afternoon. How she came to be sat on that school was never established for certain, but it was generally accepted that she must have been placed there by somebody. She died two days later, leading to Bagot being taken into custody on suspicion of causing her death, although he was released on bail.

The inquest took place at the Coffee house pub on Saturday 17th January, where principal witness was Alice Ashton, described by the Daily Post as a 'very intelligent girl'. She said that only her, Evelyn and Bagot were in the house on 8th January and that soon after Bagot moved an iron stool from the fire to change the coal the little girl had asked for a glass of water. She said that she placed her on the sofa then went to the pantry to get the water and heard a scream, returning to find Evelyn sat on the stool and her petticoats removed, with Bagot stood by the shop door. Her bottom and back of the thighs were burnt and at first she though perhaps she had fallen over the dog and landed on the stool, but she then saw the dog in the shop. Alice then stated that Bagot said nothing and went into the shop but when she asked what she should do he told her to go away and not bother with any more questions.

Continuing her evidence, Alice told the coroner that she went to a local druggist called Mr Blabey for help and was given some linseed oil and limewater to rub into the burns, before putting Evelyn to bed. Bagot then told her to go to bed herself or he would 'make her dead quick'. She went to bed with Evelyn who was not distressed but remained awake. She then described how Bagot was walking around the house shouting 'little devils'. Although Evelyn had not shown signs of distress overnight and was singing in the morning, Alice recounted that she had some oil applied by Matilda Millichip, who was the housekeeper and Wells's sister. For some reason she had spent the night in question with her brother in Halewood, rather than look after Evelyn. Soon after Mrs Millichip had attended to Evelyn, she fitted and a surgeon was called for.

Alice described Bagot as a man who got drunk every night except Sundays and didn't like Evelyn, referring to her as a 'round faced little devil'. She insisted that Evelyn could not possibly have climbed onto the stool herself and that it had been so hot on being moved from by the fire that towels had to be used to hold it. Under cross examination by Bagot's solicitor Mr Worship, Alice admitted that Evelyn was able to speak but she hadn't asked how she got onto the stool and that it was feasible she could have used Bagot's dog as a stepping stone.

The next witness called was the shop boy James Oliver, who was unable to say much except that he was out buying more beer for Bagot during the whole time that the events occurred. Mrs Millichip stated that she too believed Evelyn could not have climbed onto the stool unaided, but accepted she had blisters on her thumb and one of her fingers. She also said that Evelyn had fitted before when having teething troubles.

Dr Rigg's evidence did not appear to indicate that Evelyn had climbed onto the stool either unaided or by stepping onto the dog first. He said that the burns on her fingers were so slight that they could not have occurred by grabbing the stool and that there were two marks on her head which seemed to have been caused by force, as if pressed by fingers or thumbs. Death he said, was as a result of convulsions caused by the shock of the burns. 

The final witnesses appeared on behalf of Mr Bagot. One of them was Henry Jones, a tailor employed by him who said that his boss had great affection for Evelyn. An assistant at the druggists then testified that Alice told him Evelyn had fallen over the dog onto the stool.

In summing up, the Coroner told the jury they had to determine how much credibility they should give to the evidence of two children. He then pointed out that the medical evidence showed that the lack of serious burns on the hands meant she could not have got onto the stool herself. He told the jury they had to consider three things; that Alice may have manufactured a story about Bagot to deliberately get into trouble, that Evelyn was sitting or standing on the dog then fell onto the stool, or that she had been deliberately placed on the stool by somebody. If it was the last option, their verdict should be wilful murder if that act was intended to cause Evelyn harm, or manslaughter if it was an act of recklessness.

The jury were out for an hour and on their return the foreman said they had returned a verdict of wilful murder due to being placed on the hot stool but that 'by whom she was placed we consider there is not sufficient evidence to show.' The Coroner said this was the correct verdict and granted further bail to Bagot, telling him to attend the magistrates court the following Monday when he would find if any further action was to be be taken against him.

At a special sitting of the magistrates' court in Woolton police station, it was decided to hear all the evidence from the inquest again. Superintendent Fowler asked the questions for the police and Bagot was again represented by Mr Worship.

Alice Ashton added to her testimony that for four weeks she had locked her door at night as Bagot had a habit of coming in the room with a lighted candle and holding it near hers and Evelyn's face. she also said that he had once threatened to do something to Mrs Millichip that she would remember all her life.  Asked why she had not mentioned this at the inquest, she replied that she was about to but Bagot's solicitor  prevented her from doing so and moved on to another question. She insisted that she had not paced Evelyn on the stool and when she finished the magistrates commented that they had never heard someone so young give their evidence in a such a clear manner. 

James Oliver said that when he returned from buying ale for Bagot, he was stood at the kitchen door looking at Evelyn. He then took the ale and returned into the shop, leaving James to look after the toddler while Evelyn sought medical help. Dr Rigg was asked about the convulsions, and gave his opinion that they were as a direct result of the burns. Dr Cross who assisted with the postmortem gave a slightly different opinion, saying he believed the convulsions were a result of effusion of the brain, but that itself had been caused by the shock of being burned. He also said that Evelyn could not possibly have climbed onto the stool herself without getting burns on other parts of her body.

Mr Worship then made an address to the magistrates, saying there was no motive whatsoever on Bagot's part to harm Evelyn. He suggested that if he wanted to kill her, there better opportunities to do so without being caught and that if he was drunk, he would have been incapable of doing such an act in so short a space of time. A far more likely explanation, he maintained, was that Alice had carried out the act foolishly and then tried to heap the blame on Bagot.

After a short period of consultation the chair of the magistrates said that weighing up all the evidence they had to send Bagot for trial on a charge of manslaughter. They allowed him bail at £400, equivalent to £45,000 today. On 27th March Bagot appeared at the assizes before Baron Martin, where the case collapsed after Alice's cross examination by his defence counsel. Asked if she felt the dog could have knocked Evelyn onto the stool she replied yes, leading to no further evidence being offered by the prosecution and Bagot was discharged from the dock.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Woolton Pub Killing

In 1891 a horrific killing took place in Woolton when a pub landlord died after a brutal assault by two customers who he had barred from the premises.

On 2nd April 1891 two labourers named Michael Gallagher and Bernard McKeon entered the Coffee House hotel in Woolton Street and settled down in the smokeroom for some drinks. They had to be asked by the barmaid Alice Frere to tone their language down but they didn't do so. When they went to the bar for more drinks the 66 year old  landlord, William Toulmin, told them that they had had enough. They repeated their request but were again denied service and began arguing amongst themselves, leading to Toulmin telling them to go outside if they were going to fight.

Gallagher and Mckeon went into the yard for about five minutes and they were seen to be laughing together. On going back inside Toulmin again refused to serve them and said they would be better off going home for some tea. The two men said they would do this if they could have another beer each, but Toulmin said he wouldn't let them have any more even if they paid him a shilling.

As the men began to get boisterous again the barmaid ran into the yard fearing for her safety. Toulmin decided enough was enough and went to push them away from the bar, leading to a glass being picked up and smashed against his head. The cook Kathleen Kavanagh came to see what was going on and saw one of the men wielding a belt. She ran off for help and on coming back saw Toulmin sat on a chair and three bloodstained glasses on the floor next to him. The barmaid returned inside and saw Toulmin covered in blood and being treated by Kavanagh. She then ran outside screaming leading to a Mr and Mrs Hall coming in and offering assistance.

The whole incident had been witnessed by a beer salesman from Burton on Trent named Mr Doubleday. He tried to leave the pub to go to the police but was stopped by Gallagher, only to be let out in return for a payment of 6d. After Doubleday notified the police an officer arrested the two men on a charge of unlawful wounding.

Toulmin's regular physician Dr Joll arrived and stemmed the bleeding. Toulmin was conscious but dazed and helped to bed but two days later he became delirious. Although he could occasionally talk rationally he deteriorated and died on the afternoon of 8th April.

An inquest took place on 10th April at the Woolton courthouse before the county coroner, Mr W T Husband. Crowds lined the streets hoping to get a glimpse of the proceedings, where the police case was presented by Superintendent Barker from Prescot.

The victim's son Whitfield Toulmin, who sold beer from the Cobden Vaults, told the coroner that his father had ran the Coffee House for sixteen years. The barmaid and cook could say that they saw violence inflicted but not be sure who struck what blow. Mr Doubleday was the best witness and he could testify that Gallagher struck Toulmin with the buckle end of a belt. He then went on to say that after Toulmin had cleared glass from the bar, Gallagher picked some of it up and struck him again. McKeon's involvement he stated was inflicting two blows with a glass, while four other men remained in the smokeroom and did not play any part in the matter.

Dr Joll estimated that Toulmin had lost two pints of blood  and believed that if he hadn't arrived when he did then death would have occurred that afternoon. He explained that on conducting a postmortem meningitis had set in and that Toulmin had died from 'a train of symptoms arising from the wounds on the head'. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder after some guidance from the Coroner, who had to explain to them that if the men set out intending to maliciously wound Toulmin then that was the verdict, irrespective of whether there was an intent to kill.

After the inquest Gallagher and McKeon were taken to Prescot where they appeared before a magistrate the following morning. As Doubleday gave his evidence McKeon interrupted and said 'I cant stand here while my life is sworn away'. Gallagher then stood up and said 'Get out of that box, I wonder how you can stand there and tell all these lies'. A fifteen year old girl called Rose Bushell, who hadn't given evidence at the inquest, stated that she lived opposite the Coffee house and had seen both men coming out of the pub putting their belts back on. The solicitor for the two defendants opted not to make any comment and said their defence would be reserved until the assizes trial.

Toulmin's funeral took place at Anfield cemetery on the same day as the police court proceedings. It was conducted by the Reverend Isaac Holmes and the oak coffin was adorned with several wreaths.

At the assizes on 6th May the two men were tried in front of Mr Justice Grantham. The prosecutor opened by saying that Woolton was a 'quiet little place' and that Toulmin was a man of 'considerable means' who had never abused his position. Whitfield Toulmin was challenged over his father's health but said he was not delicate and although he enjoyed a glass of beer, he never got drunk. Alice Frere admitted that the defendants were not drunk but said they had been too noisy which is why they were not served. Mr Doubleday was again a good witness, making it clear that Toulmin hadn't used violence and that at no stage did the men complain about his conduct.

The prisoners' defence was that they had not struck Toulmin and any injuries were as a result of him having fallen on to broken glass. Their counsel also reminded the jury that there had been no ill feeling between them men prior to that day and that they had not tried to escape from the scene. Patrick Gallagher's brother was then called to say that Toulmin had thrown glasses at the two men and also hit one of them. Two labourers took the stand to say Toulmin had struck Gallagher and McKeon.

In summing up the judge  said that publicans were in a dangerous position and that Toulmin died doing his duty. After fifteen minutes deliberation the jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter, adding that they could give no credence to the claims of the defence witnesses whatsoever. Prior to passing sentence Justice Grantham said that the prisoners should be grateful that the jury had been merciful. He told them that he had considered sentencing them to twenty years penal servitude, but had decided to reduce this to ten on account of there having been no prior bad feeling between those concerned.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Manslaughter by a Footballer

An amateur footballer who punched a man then kicked him while on the ground was fortunate to be found guilty only of manslaughter after medical evidence indicated the actual death was caused by falling against a wall rather than any blows.

At around 5pm on 6th April 1894 Thomas Jones, a twenty four year old collier who also played for Whiston in the Liverpool & District Football League, went for drink at the Horseshoe Inn. This pub still stands at the corner of Windy Arbour Road and Dragon Lane and is a Tesco Express.

At around 6pm the pub was being lit up and as a customer called Thomas Fildes was pulling down the blinds when he was hit on the side of the face. He asked who had done it and William Travis, a fifty two year old collier who was also Fildes's neighbour, pointed at Jones. Fildes asked Jones why he had hit him and Jones came up to him aggressively, saying he would do it again and pushed Fildes to the ground. 

The landlady of the pub, Margaret Briscoe, told Jones and Fildes to leave and they did so via separate doors. Travis left at the same time and returned headed to his home in School Lane, but first called at the Fildes home to tell his mother Catherine and brother Johnson what had happened. 

A few minutes later Jones knocked at the door and demanded to see Thomas Fildes, but was told by his mother that he wasn't there. On seeing Travis in the property Jones said 'you will do' and called him to the door, then punched him on the chin. Travis hit a wall then fell down and Jones took his jacket off and continued his aggression, kicking him in the body whilst wearing clogs. Jones then turned around to where his wife was and they both walked off together.

Mrs Fildes went and found a policeman, Constable Ormerod. He arrived and immediately detained Jones, taking him into the house where Travis was lying. Jones admitted hitting him but said he had not intended to cause harm. He then denied it but his wife said it was no use doing so. An unconscious Travis was carried into his house by Johnson Fildes and a Constable Ormerod, who then escorted Jones to Prescot police station.

Dr Charles Barlow was called from Prescot and found Travis to be in a bad way. He was unconscious, his eye was blackened, nose bleeding and he seemed to be paralysed in the limbs. The following morning Dr Barlow returned and found no improvement and Travis died at 430pm that afternoon. Jones was initially charged with 'unlawfully assaulting and causing grievous bodily harm'.

A post mortem was carried out by Dr Barlow and Dr Fox Jackson of Huyton. They found that the internal organs were healthy and that the brain was congested. There were few external marks on the body but the neck was broken. In their opinion, Travis died as a result of his head hitting the wall rather than the kicks to the body.

On the Monday afternoon an inquest opened at the Carr's Hotel before the county coroner Samuel Brighouse. Due to Jones being in custody in Prescot police station, he proposed to move the inquest there once the jury had viewed Travis's body at his home in Dragon Lane.

Widow Alice Travis was so distraught she could hardly speak whilst giving her evidence, in which she insisted that her husband was perfectly sober when he went out and had drank nothing at home. Catherine Fildes said he was a quiet man while her son Johnson expressed shock at what happened, saying that Travis went to Jones expecting to have a chat rather than be assaulted. An elderly passer by testified that he thought Travis was dead after seeing what had happened. The two doctors gave their medical opinion and when Dt Fox Jackson was asked if Travis could have sustained his injuries after being hit in the pub, he replied that it would have been impossible for him to walk home.

In summing up, the Coroner said that there was nothing to suggest Travis had done anything to provoke Jones into his actions. He also pointed out how Jones had gone to School Lane with the intention of doing harm to Fildes, only to pick on Travis instead. Mr Brighouse said that in these circumstances, the jury had no alternative but to return a verdict of wilful murder unless they could be satisfied that there had provocation. He also made it clear that pointing out Jones as the person who first hit Fildes was not sufficient to justify his actions. After ten minutes the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder.

Jones was committed to the assizes on a coroner's warrant and stood trial on 4th May. The Crown opted not to press ahead with the murder charge but instead one of manslaughter. The reason for this is that there had been no previous quarrel between the two men and also that there was no medical evidence of kicks to the body, only the word of witnesses. The defence counsel Mr McConnell did not contest a manslaughter charge, given Jones had admitted striking Travis albeit with no intention to cause harm.

Mr Justice Day directed the jury to find Jones guilty of manslaughter. In mitigation, Mr McConnell said that Jones expressed his regret for what happened and simply wanted a fight. The judge though was not impressed with this and said it was easy to show regret after he realised the implications of his actions. When it came to their being no marks on the body, he suggested that if any kicks were to the stomach, then there would be no bruising.  

Prior to passing sentence, Justice Day recalled Dr Barlow and Constable Ormerod. The doctor said death was caused by the fall against the wall and definitely not by the blow from the punch, but did acknowledge there would not have been bruising on the stomach. Constable Ormerod gave a brief rundown of Jones's character, telling the judge he had been bound over for breach of the peace once and had a tendency to drink at weekends and get into arguments. The judge then told Jones he had taken away the life of a fellow creature who was quite harmless and a victim of 'brutal drunken fury'. He then sentenced Jones to three years penal servitude.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Stabber Transported For Life.

A man who stabbed another in Liverpool was fortunate to be cleared of murder but still got sentenced to life for manslaughter.

On the evening of Thursday 31st July 1834 two men got into an altercation in King Street (now covered by Chavasse Park), the reasons for which were never satisfactorily established. One of them, Patrick Brogan, took out a large knife and plunged it into the abdomen of the other, severing his intestines. 

The injured man was Patrick Sweeney, who fell down immediately and was taken home, where he lingered until the following Sunday. Brogan had been picked up soon after the stabbing in a 'house of ill fame' in adjacent Atherton Street. On 4th August an inquest took place and a verdict of wilful murder returned, leading to Brogan being committed for trial at the Lancaster assizes.

On 15th August Brogan appeared before Lord Lyndhurst where he was found guilty of manslaughter after three quarters of an hours deliberation by the jury. The judge made it quite clear that the twenty nine year old had been shown merciful consideration by the jury. He said it merited a severe sentence and told Brogan that he would be transported for life. On 28th August 1835 Brogan arrived in Tasmania on board the Norfolk, accompanied by 281 other convicts.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

The Suitcase Baby

One of the most callous acts in Victorian Liverpool took place in 1851 when a woman gave birth then put the baby in a suitcase and explained away the cries by saying it was an animal. Although the baby was rescued, he died the following day leading to the mother being transported.

In the autumn of 1850 Mary Kennedy, who was believed to be aged in her late thirties, took on a job as a cook for a solicitor named Matthew Lowndes who lived at 42 Edge Lane. She was pregnant but managed to hide her condition  and give birth to a baby boy on 19th February, which she then placed in a suitcase which was hidden in a water closet.

She then prepared an evening meal for the Mr Lowndes and his family as normal and then a lady called Jane Turner, who sewed for the Lowndes family, came round. Kennedy asked if she could make some jackets from flannel and Turner agreed, leading to Kennedy asking her to wait a moment while she went into the yard. While out there, a crying sound was heard by Turner and another maid, Miss Harper, who was in the scullery. It appeared to be coming from the water closet but when Kennedy came back inside, she refused to allow the other two to investigate and said it was a hare.

Kennedy went outside and took the suitcase from the closet and shouted 'cats' before running down the garden, attempting to throw it over a wall. She was followed by Turner and a coachman named John Boland, who managed to prise the case from her. Kennedy insisted the case contained a hare, but on entering the house, they opened it and found the newborn child, who was barely alive. Boland went to fetch a local surgeon, Dr Pritchard, an one returning to the house they came across Kennedy on Laurel Road. She had slipped away during the commotion but was brought back to the house by the two men. 

Dr Pritchard washed the baby and placed him in a warm bath, but he was concerned about his condition and suggested that a baptism be arranged as soon as possible. Kennedy showed no emotion at all and when a clergyman arrived and on being asked what the baby should be named, she replied 'Thomas'. Kennedy then began to pack some belongings but was told she could not leave the house and information was sent to the police at Old Swan. Inspector Oxton sent a constable to keep watch over her, as she was too ill to be forcibly moved.

When the surgeon returned to the property the next morning the baby was in a critical position and died soon afterwards. He carried out a post mortem and found effusion of blood on the brain and some bone fractures on the skull, saying they had been caused by an act of force. An inquest was held at Old Swan police station before the coroner Mr Heyes on 22nd February, where Turner, Harper, Boland and Pritchard recalled the events of three days earlier. A verdict of wilful murder by Mary Kennedy was returned. She remained under the guard of a constable at the Lowndes' residence, being too ill to be removed to gaol.

On 1st April Kennedy appeared at the South Lancashire assizes where her counsel could do little more than ask for mercy. In summing up the judge said if the injuries were a result of the baby being dropped during childbirth then Kennedy should be acquitted. If they were due to wilful kicks or punches then it was murder, but if negligence or careless throwing of the suitcase was the reason then manslaughter was more appropriate. As so often happened in those days, with juries wary of putting women in the position of facing the death penalty, they returned a manslaughter verdict.

The judge told Kennedy that she was very fortunate the baby had been alive when the suitcase was opened, as if he had died then she would have been found guilty of murder. He then sentenced her to  transportation for ten years, causing her to faint in the dock. In July 1852 Kennedy arrived at Tasmania along with 221 other convicts on board the Sir Robert Seppings.