Sunday, 17 July 2016

Ten Year Old Boy Shot Accidentally

No charges were brought against  man who accidentally shot a ten year old boy in the 1840s while he was hunting small birds.

On Monday 30th November 1846 a man walking on the footway from Aigburth to Garston came across the body of a boy around ten years of age. He sent for a local surgeon Dr Bevan, who established that death was as a result of a gunshot wound to the neck. 

The boy was identified as John Colclough, who lived with his widowed mother and two sisters in Garston. Suspicion immediately fell on a local publican called Mr Gerard, who had been seen shooting larks in the area that afternoon. 

A police constable named Benjamin Mytton called upon Gerard the following morning but he denied all knowledge of the incident. However that evening he presented himself to Mytton along with a young man named Leefe who had been shooting with him. Gerard admitted that Leefe was holding the gun as Gerard loaded it and it went off, with the boy falling dead instantly. Both men foolishly decided to take flight but now felt it was best to tell the full facts of the matter.

Mytton took Leefe to the Chairman of the Watch Committee, Mr Tinne, who ordered that he be kept in custody until the following morning but to be treated kindly. At the inquest which was held at the Red Lion hotel in Garston, a verdict of 'Chance Medley' was returned and the coroner John Heyes condemned the practice of shooting small birds near to populous neighbourhoods.

Leefe was free to go but there was a dispute over the cost of keeping him in custody. Gerard complained to the superintendent, Mr Allen that Mytton wanted 21 shillings for keeping Leefe at his home instead of putting him in the village lock up. Allen said another constable was happy to put him up free of charge, but Mytton claimed he was drunk when he took Leefe there. Allen dismissed such a suggestion and ordered that Gerard only needed to pay five shillings to Mytton.

Gerard and Leefe then visited John's mother and offered her seventeen shillings to pay for burial expenses. She refused this as she did not want others to think she was accepting compensation for the loss of her son. She asked the Liverpool Mercury newspaper to clarify this, saying her husband was a gardener who had died about a year earlier and since then she had worked as a labourer in the fields and as a charwoman to make ends meet. The paper described her of respectable appearance and said that she was 'worthy of employment'.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Tenant's Confession Not Borne Out

When a man was found dead at his Dovecot home in 1955 his lodger confessed to having poisoned him. However after being held on remand charged with murder he was acquitted when the medical evidence pointed to death being by natural causes.

At 10.25pm on Monday 14th March 1955 a 999 call was made to the police by 33 year old George Jardine, who told the operator 'Take me in, I have killed my landlord'. The call was traced to a phone box at the corner of Pilch Lane and Adcote Road and police car was dispatched. Jardine approached the car and was taken to the CID office in Old Swan.

Jardine was interviewed by detectives and told them that the previous night he had crushed 25 tablets and added them to water and peppermint cordial then gave the solution to his landlord, who was found dead that morning. He went on to say 'I know you will find the stuff inside him when he is opened up. I thought if I saw him off the house would be mine but it has been worrying me ever since and I had to tell you tonight.'

The landlord in question was 59 year old widower Patrick Reid, who had been found dead in bed by Jardine's wife at his home in 29 Shortwood Road, Dovecot, that morning. Reid was a council tenant at the property, subletting to Jardine and, his wife and son. When Reid was found dead in bed that morning his doctor was called, but as he had not seen him since the previous November he refused to issue a death certificate and informed the Coroner.

Reid's body was taken to a mortuary where a postmortem was carried out and organs sent to a forensic laboratory in Preston for analysis. In light of Jardine's apparent confession, he was charged with administering poison with intent to murder and appeared before the Deputy Stipendiary Magistrate the following morning. Bail was refused and he was remanded in custody for two weeks, while the Coroner Mr Blackwood opened and adjourned the inquest.

Two weeks later Jardine was back at the magistrates' court, where his solicitor pleaded for bail as no money had gone into his household for two weeks to him not working as a civilian army clerk. This was refused, the Stipendiary Magistrate Mr McFarland commenting that the charge was too serious for this to be granted.

On 7th April all charges against Jardine were sensationally dropped. The postmortem report had stated that the cause of Reid's death was coronary arterial disease and conjunctive heart failure, while tests on organs had found no traces of any tablets. The Examining Magistrate, Alderman Gordon said the only evidence for attempt to murder was Jardine's statement to police, which was not borne out by the evidence. He then concluded 'On the evidence of the prosecution no jury cold find the accused guilty and I have to dismiss the charge.'

An inquest was then held at which Reid's daughter gave evidence. She said that Jardine had taken a job as a part time barman at her husband's pub in Edge Hill before Christmas and she suggested to her father that he took Jardine and his family in as lodgers. She believed that Jardine had treated her father very well and was a very good worker at the pub. She did say though that he had left work earlier than usual on 13th March and on informing her of her father's death, Jardine suggested that he be cremated.

Mrs Jardine described how she had found the body at ten past eight in the morning, having been concerned that Reid, usually an early riser was not up. The doctor who pronounced him dead believed that he had been so for about two hours. Jardine himself was then called, and was asked about the statement he made to police concerning the sleeping tablets. He replied that the statement was not correct and he could not explain why he did it. Under the instruction of the coroner, the jury then returned an open verdict, saying they were satisfied that it was not murder.  

Monday, 4 July 2016

The Twelve Year Old Cart Killer

The dangers of employing child labour were demonstrated in 1848 when a twelve year old boy caused the death of a girl when he ran over her whilst driving a horse and cart.

On Monday 7th August that year a four year old girl named Sarah McClusky was crossing Edmund Street when she was run over by a horse and cart. After being knocked down by the horse the wheel passed over her body and despite a passing police officer rushing her to hospital she died three hours later from ruptured blood vessels.

Edmund Street in 2017
The driver of the cart was twelve year old Cornelius Jones, who carried on driving until a local bookkeeper managed to stop him and keep him detained until a police officer took him into custody.

An inquest took place before the Borough Coroner the following day, with the Liverpool Mercury describing Sarah's parents as 'poor but industrious'. Witnesses said that the horse was in a sharp trot and going at about ten miles an hour, with Jones not pulling up for another twenty yards after the cartwheel had tun over Sarah's body. 

When questioned, Jones said that the cart was owned by an Irishman named Michael McKenna, who was paying him 1 shilling and 4 pence to drive it, less than half the daily rate for adults. The Coroner commented that this was a disgraceful practice merely to save money. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, but commented that McKenna was more culpable than Jones, who they referred to as 'the poor prisoner'.

There was nothing the coroner could do about the verdict and he was obliged to commit Jones to Kirkdale gaol for him to await trial at the assizes the following month. Jones was found guilty but treated sympathetically by Justice Cresswell, who sentenced him to fourteen days imprisonment. This was equivalent to time served on remand and Jones was released, with the judge saying that 'those who entrusted him to drive the cart were the more culpable parties'.

Friday, 1 July 2016

A Butchers Revenge

A butcher who reacted to a baying Sectarian crowd outside his shop by stabbing a man was convicted of manslaughter.

On 25th May 1848 a crowd gathered outside a butchers in Simpson Street owned by Parker Unsworth.  This was supposedly because his wife had given evidence at the police court that morning against two boys who had been arrested for fighting.

It seems that abuse was shouted at Unsworth who then lashed out with a knife, stabbing John Clarke, a thirty year old stevedore. Clarke staggered a few paces towards Bridgewater Street then fell down and was pronounced dead on his arrival at the Southern Hospital. When Unsworth was told that Clarke was dead he fainted and had to be carried into a car that was procured by police o take him to the Bridewell 

The inquest took place the following day and the first witness was Michael Vallaly, who said he was the father of one of the two boys who had been seen fighting by Mrs Unsworth. He stated that he had expressed surprise to Unsworth that his wife had given evidence, but understood that he had no control over what she did. He then claimed that Clarke appeared outside the shop and Unsworth said 'There's another Irish scoundrel' and stabbed him with a kitchen knife, causing the bowels to protrude. 

After describing how Clarke fell down and shouted out that he was dying, Vallaly then claimed that he saw Unsworth wipe the blood from the knife with his fingers and then cut some meat with it. In cross examination he denied saying anything abusive to Unsworth and again admitted that one of the boys who Mrs Unsworth had given evidence against was his own son.

The next witness was a man named John Jones who said that Vallaly was waving his fist at Unsworth's shop shouting 'You Orange B*st*rd' when Clarke tried to move him away, only to be stabbed himself. Vallaly, according to Jones, was intoxicated and two other men had also been trying to persuade him to move on. A lady called Ellen Millchrest said there were up to forty people outside Unsworth's shop and that when he struck the blow with the knife he had not crossed its threshold.

A dejected Unsworth then made a statement of his own, saying that Vallaly had come into the shop and threatened to kill him, then a crowd gathered and someone shouted 'pull him out and 'mash his brains'. Unsworth said he was cutting meat at the time and when someone rushed into the shop he lashed out with the knife.

The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and added that Vallaly's evidence was 'unworthy of belief'. Unsworth was committed to the South Lancashire Assizes for trial and found guilty but with a strong recommendation for mercy. He was then sentenced to three months imprisonment by Mr Justice Cresswell.