Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Husband's Sunday Morning Frenzy

A man in wartime Liverpool killed his wife in a frenzied act after she told him she would be leaving him for a sailor.

John and Maud Povall had married in 1922, aged twenty and eighteen years old respectively. They went on to have four children and set up home in Cromarty Road, Old Swan.

At the outbreak of the Second World War John volunteered for the Royal Navy and was then transferred to the Merchant Navy. He went away to sea in 1941 for a voyage that last eleven months, during which time his wife began a liaison with a Dutch seaman.

Mrs Povall didn't hide the relationship from her children and on one occasion went to London leaving the children at home in the care of her eldest daughter Hilda who was in her late teens. Hilda didn't tell her father about the repeated infidelity but he eventually found out by receiving an anonymous letter.

Although Povall was prepared to forgive Maud, she told him on Sunday 10th May 1943 that she would be leaving home and taking the youngest three children with her. An argument broke out which was calmed down by their lodger George Bollingham. At Povall's request the lodger went back upstairs to get changed so they could go out for a drink but as he was doing so Povall began beating and kicking his wife. Bollingham heard the screams and went out to find help and on returning with a policeman saw Povall bathing a wound on his wife's neck.

Maud told her husband she would try to start afresh with him and they kissed as she was helped into an ambulance. At the police station, Povall said the knife caught his wife's neck as she tried to stop him attacking her, then admitted kicking her as she lay on the floor. Maud required 44 stitches in wounds to various parts of her body but at 4.30 the following morning she died of shock and a perforated wound in the larynx. Povall made no reply as he was charged with murder.

On 16th June Povall appeared at the Liverpool assizes before Mr Justice Lawrence, with the prosecution opening the case by referring to it as a 'sad one.' The couple's eldest daughter Hilda said they had appeared to be fine on the evening before the killing and were planning to go out together. The lodger Bollingham recalled that they had been friendly that night, but that Maud's face was bruised and they had argued earlier in the week. He described how he had tried to pull Povall from his wife but couldn't do so and ran outside to find help. Asked how Povall was acting, Bollingham responded that he was 'in a frenzy, like a man possessed.' He also said that he was broken hearted at the affair as he loved her so much.

Under cross examination from Rose Heilbron, Hilda said that her parents relationship was good until he went away to sea in 1941. After that, he mother began frequenting public houses and bringing men back to the house, including the Dutch seaman. Hilda went on to say that she had often ordered the Dutchman out of the house and this association caused her to leave home to go and live with her grandmother in Moreton. 

Dr W H Grace, a lecturer in forensic psychology at the University of Liverpool said that in his opinion the injuries on Maud were consistent with somebody who had lost control. In her closing speech, Miss Heilbron said the case was 'one of the saddest possible to be recounted in these courts.' She referred to Povall as a devoted family man and described how Hilda had endured the pain of being devoted to both parents and having to try and hide her mother's infatuation with another man from her father. 

The jury agreed with Miss Heilbron's plea to find Povall guilty of manslaughter rather than murder and he was then sentenced to ten years penal servitude.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Murder and Rape in Allerton

The 1960s murder of a fifty year old woman who was strangled and raped in her home remains unsolved after her nephew was found not guilty of the killing.

At 9pm on 20th October 1964 fifty year old nurse Mary Adamson returned to her home at 3 Rosedale Road in Allerton and was brutally strangled then raped by an intruder who escaped via the back door. An hour later her body was found by her seventeen year old nephew Daniel Browne, who let himself in with his own key. He had lived in the house with his parents until two weeks earlier but they were now in lodgings in nearby Oakdale Road prior to emigrating to Australia.

Browne phoned the emergency services and when questioned at Allerton police station said that he had been cycling around Sefton Park with a twelve year old friend and last been in Rosedale Road at 7.45pm, visiting Roderick Watson in number 29. However with police concluding that the attacker must have let themselves in with a key, switched the electricity off and lain in wait for Mary, Browne was charged with her murder a few days afterwards. He was committed for trial at Liverpool Crown Court the following January where he was defended by leading QC Rose Heilbron.

The key prosecution witness was Roderick Watson. He confirmed that Browne had been to his home but said it was nearer 8.45pm, putting him in the vicinity of Maureen's house shortly before the killing. Asked how he could be sure of the time, he said it was after he watched Here's Harry on television then played four gramophone records. With the prosecution proving that the programme had finished at 8.24pm, they suggested that Browne had deliberately misled police about the time he visited there. To explain the lack of motive, it was suggested that the killing was a prank that went horribly wrong. However under cross examination from Ms Heilbron, he admitted that he had 'used logic with the help of the police' to work out the time Browne had called'.

Browne was defended by leading QC Rose Heilbron. His father told how there had been problems with youths hanging around a phone box outside the house and also parking disputes due to the proximity to Allerton Road. An off duty police constable told how he had seen Browne in the ambulance and that he had seemed composed. It was acknowledged by the prosecution that Browne's mother had been back at the house that day packing belongings and there was every reason for him to have a key and be there.

In her closing speech Ms Heilbron said that Browne was no young thug but from a nice family. She said he was on good terms with his aunt and it was inconceivable that he could have the unnatural urge to rape and kill her. Ms Heilbron then put forward the theory that any man could have waited in the street, pushed past Mary as she entered her home and then carried out the act. Turning to Mr Watson's evidence, Heilbron dismissed it as unreliable and pointed to his hesitancy in answering questions. She told the jury that it was dangerous to convict based on what television programme Watson thought was being shown shortly before Browne visited his home. 

The jury took less than three hours to return a verdict of not guilty, much to the relief of Browne who had recited the rosary repeatedly whilst waiting for them to return. His parents, who had no doubt of his innocence, said it was the longest two hours forty minutes of their lives. Browne then spoke to journalists and expressed his thanks to Ms Heilbron and also the warders at Walton gaol, who he said had treated him kindly while he was on remand. Mary's grave is in Yew Tree Cemetery, where she lies alongside her parents. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Co-operation Leads to Lenient Sentence

A man who killed another during a clubland fracas was treated leniently by the judge after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

At 10.25pm on Monday 2nd June 1952 police were called to some disorder near the corner of Seel Street and Back Berry Street. Two black men were taken to the Royal Infirmary and one of them, a railway porter named Joseph Williams, died at 5.30am the following morning after never regaining consciousness.

Four white men, three of whom were brothers, had been arrested at the scene and were then charged with the murder of Williams as well as maliciously wounding his friend Thomas Freeman. They all pleaded not guilty and were remanded in custody to await trial. 

On 9th July all four appeared at the Manchester assizes and one of the brothers, 39 year old George Kielty of Laxton Road in Hunts Cross, pleaded guilty to manslaughter. His brother Matthew, who was 29 and lived in Balkan Street, Dingle, took responsibility for the wounding of Freeman. The other two men, 33 year old Hugh Kielty and 43 year old Peter Murphy, were discharged after the prosecution offered no evidence.

The court heard that George Kielty had kicked Williams in the head while he was down. However the head of Liverpool's CID, Chief Superintendent Herbert Balmer, said he had done everything possible to help police with their enquiries after his arrest. In mitigation, his defence counsel Mr Cunningham said that he had seen his brother fighting and went to help. He had no recollection of kicking his victim but accepted that he had done so.

Prior to passing sentence, Mr Justice Byrne said he was of the opinion Freeman's injuries were as a result of cutting himself on broken glass when he fell into the gutter. He then fined Matthew Kielty £20. In respect of George Kielty's actions the judge said they were far more serious but in light of his guilty plea and previous good character he was sentenced to only nine months imprisonment.

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Flat Iron Murder

When a man battered the caretaker of a block of flats to death with an iron he continued to sleep next to her body every day for eighteen days.

On 18th March 1950 police officers forced their way into a locked basement flat at 6 Victoria Road in Waterloo due to the caretaker, Catherine Cassidy, not having been seen for a few weeks. They found the decomposing body of Miss Cassidy slumped in a chair and a copy of the Liverpool Echo newspaper, dated 28th February of that year.

The next day officers detained a 68 year old man named Charles Kimmance at Alexandra Dock. As he was approached he said 'I know what its for, its for Miss Cassidy, I can stop worrying now'. At the station Kimmance, who had been lodging with Cassidy for about two years, made a full confession to killing her with a flat iron and admitted having slept there every night for a fortnight afterwards knowing she was dead.

When Kimmance appeared at a committal hearing on 13th April  he saluted the examining magistrate. A pathologist confirmed that the injuries were consistent with being hit with an iron and that the blows had been very severe. A detective said that Kimmance hardly stopped talking as he was being taken to the police station after his arrest. 

On 14th June Kimmance appeared at St George's Hall where Dr Francis Brisby from Walton Gaol that he was prone to impaired mental capacity due to a seizure that was suffered five years earlier. A consultant psychiatrist from Walton Hospital said his brain was capable of violent reactions and at the time of the killing, he would not have known that what he was doing was wrong.

A statement was read out from Kimmance that he had made on his arrest. It said that he had been concerned about Cassidy's drinking and when he tried to seize a ten shilling note from her she hit him with a piece of wood. It went on to say 'The blood went to my head, I got a flat iron and smashed her on the head with it. She said something and I clouted her again. Every night up to two nights ago I went back to her but she was just the same'.

Kimmance was found guilty but insane and ordered to be detained during the King's pleasure.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Horror by the Custom House.

A man who stabbed a sailor in the shadow of Liverpool's Custom House was transported for life after being found guilty of manslaughter.

Customs House (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
At around one o' clock in the morning on Tuesday 24th November 1846 a 22 year old sailor named Charles Winslow was stood at the corner of South Castle Street and Paradise Street with two friends. Out of the blue he was stabbed by a man who had ran at him from the direction of the docks and fell to the ground.

As he lay on the floor and cried out for a doctor, a night watchman from the Custom House summonsed police who managed to detain the offender, who was later identified as James Hunter. Winslow was taken to the Northern Hospital where he was found to be in a critical condition. His bowels were protruding from the abdomen and the wound was one and a half inches deep. 

Hunter was removed to the Bridewell and appeared before a magistrate when daybreak came. After hearing the evidence of the night watchman he was remanded in custody. As Winslow's condition deteriorated a magistrate's clerk took a deposition from him that afternoon. He told how he had just returned to Liverpool aboard the Champion which had sailed from Newfoundland. Hunter, Winslow said, had made an insulting remark to one of his companions. He recounted how he did not think much of it and continued walking only for for Hunter, who appeared intoxicated, to follow and plunge the knife into him.

Despite surgical procedures being carried out complications set in and Winslow died on the Wednesday afternoon. The inquest took place on 1st December and Winslow's two companions admitted they had not seen the stabbing and were only aware when he called out to them. The night watchman said he had seen a blow struck but did not see any knife, however a police officer said a bloodied knife was seized from Hunter's person. A doctor from the Northern Hospital was of the opinion that death was a direct result of the wound, which was of the size that it could have been caused by the knife seized from Hunter.  A verdict of wilful murder was returned and 37 year old Hunter was committed to the Assizes on a coroner's warrant.

On 10th December Hunter appeared before Mr Justice Wightman, with his defence counsel Mr James arguing that as the stabbing was the result of a brief argument then manslaughter was more appropriate. The jury agreed and returned such a verdict, but the judge was in no mood for leniency and sentenced Hunter to be transported for life.