Monday, 31 October 2016

The Walton Poison Tragedy

A Walton man who poisoned a woman and baby and then tried to commit suicide was convicted of murder and saw his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. 

In early 1914 Charles Farrow, a bookkeeper and dispenser to two doctors, began living with an old childhood flame Jane Bruce at 86 Chirkdale Street in Walton. In January 1915, thirty nine year old Jane gave birth to a baby girl who they named Mary.

After falling ill and being prescribed stout, Jane took a liking to the drink and began to take it alongside spirits, sometimes drinking a bottle of whisky a day. This led to several quarrels between the couple and in March 1916 Farrow hit out at Jane, kicking her.

Farrow responded to Jane's drinking by gambling heavily and he lost £30 (equivalent to over £2,000 today) on the Epsom Derby. When Farrow failed to turn up for work at Dr Unsworth's surgery in St Anne Street on 5th June 1916 the alarm was raised and police broke into his home. They found him semi-conscious in bed with Jane, who was already dead. Mary was in a bad way too and they were both taken to Stanley hospital. 

After being transferred to Mill Road hospital for further treatment, Farrow was discharged on 15th June and arrested by Detective Sergeant Range. He was charged with murder, attempted murder and attempted suicide and taken to appear before the Stipendiary Magistrate. He responded to the charges by saying that Jane was a drunken woman who gave him provocation and that he then 'felt it better to finish the lot of us.' He admitted giving Jane three ounces of morphia, Mary one ounce then taking four ounces himself. Mary had made a full recovery and been handed over to the care of Jane's sister Mary Kelly.

Farrow was then remanded pending the outcome of the inquest that was scheduled for  Mrs Freeman from number 89 told the coroner that she had witnessed Farrow kick Jane and that her habits had deserved it. Jane's sister said she had visited from her home in Durham the previous Christmas and that the couple seemed comfortable together and fond of their baby girl. Dr Mildred Powell said the postmortem showed that Jane's liver was damaged by alcohol but that death was a result of poisoning. This led to the jury returning a verdict of wilful murder.

On 4th July forty one year old Farrow was committed for trial at the next Manchester assizes, which were about to start. His trial for the murder of Jane took place on 12th July and he offered no defence. Instead Farrow counsel suggested that he had fought a steady fight against Jane's drinking habits for two years and that his mind was disordered due to two years of brainstorm. 

In summing up, the judge Mr Justice Low was not favourable at all to Farrow, pointing out that death by poison was premeditation and that the killing had not been as a result of a sudden impulse. The jury found Farrow guilty, but recommended him to mercy. Farrow was sentenced to death by the judge, but two weeks later this was commuted to life imprisonment by the Home Secretary after representations by his solicitor Dr Geddes.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Knotty Ash Husband Cleared

When a Knotty Ash woman was found dead in her home with a head injury, her husband was charged with killing her but cleared as it couldn't be proved that he had struck a blow on her.

In the early hours of 2nd August 1858 police were called to 110 Thomas Lane in Knotty Ash after 55 year old Mary Charnock, the wife of a tailor named Thomas, appeared to have died in her sleep. However due to some bruising, police had suspicions and kept Thomas in custody while further inquiries were made.

On 4th August an inquest took place before the Coroner Mr C E Driffield. An 82 year old lady called Elizabeth Lyons told how she had been passing the Charnock's home with her son around midnight and heard screams. She continued that her son went in there and witnessed Mary continue to scream, despite being told by her husband not to do so. 

Mrs Lyons went on to say that the husband and wife were screaming at each other and Thomas went to strike his wife, but he didn't see him do so. They then left, at which time Mary was in a cold sweat and not in a good way. Mrs Lyons' son James then repeated his mothers testimony, but admitted he had been worse for liquor at the time so couldn't recall every detail.

A neighbour named Mary Ashcroft said she did not believe Thomas had been violent towards his wife. However Thomas's daughter, also Mary, gave evidence that was somewhat contradictory. She said that she brought her father home from a club and he was drunk, but his mother was sober even though she had been drinking wine. Eleven year old William Charnock, son of Thomas and Mary, recalled returning home at 2am to find his mother quite cold, having been dead for some time. 

A local surgeon Dr Fitzpatrick said he had known Mary for nine years and that she suffered chronic asthma. However, he stated that he had found a mark at the angle of the jaw consistent with being struck with a blunt instrument. He also found effusion of the brain which he believed could not have been caused naturally but instead by concussion caused by a fall or violence. He did accept though that the condition of Mary's heart meant that death from an injury was more likely than if she were a healthy person.

The last witness was the police officer that had taken Thomas into custody, who said he maintained that he had never touched his wife. In summing up Mr Driffield said that the case was definitely not one of murder because if they were satisfied that a blow was struck, it had been in the heat of passion. The jury returned a verdict that death was a result of injuries inflicted, but did not determine on how they came about.

The Coroner was not happy with the verdict, but said he was bound to record it. He told the jury that they were not determining on Thomas's guilt, merely on whether there was sufficient evidence to warrant sending the case to the assizes for further investigation. The foreman of the jury responded by saying the only evidence they considered was that of Elizabeth Lyons, who had seen no blow struck. Mr Driffield then said there was circumstantial evidence to show a blow was struck and ordered that Thomas be detained by police and placed before the magistrates.

On 20th August 56 year old Thomas appeared before the assizes, where daughter Mary gave evidence in his defence. She said that her mother had fallen asleep and they did not realise she was dying. With doubts raised over Mary's health due to her heart problem and nobody able to say they had seen Thomas strike any blow, he was found not guilty and discharged.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Fatal Assault on a Gamekeeper

A Friday afternoon trip to a pub in Aintree for some of the Earl of Sefton's workers ended in tragedy when one of them was beaten with a belt and later died.

Photo by Rept0n1x
On 28th March 1884 three gamekeepers employed by the Earl of Sefton at Croxteth Park went drinking at the Blue Anchor inn in Aintree. They heard a disturbance in the taproom and on investigating saw the landlord struggling to deal with a labourer called Patrick Kearney.

When the gamekeepers tried to get Kearney to leave he lashed out at them with a leather belt, striking one of them, William Sutton, with the buckle. Sutton fell down but was helped back up by one of his friends and as Kearney was being put out of the inn, he again tried to hit Sutton with the belt.

Sutton was not concerned with what had happened and the three gamekeepers remained drinking until 10pm with nobody informing the police. However the next day he began to feel unwell and sought treatment at the Royal Infirmary, leading to Kearney being taken into custody on 5th April charged with cutting and wounding. Sutton remained at the infirmary there until 19th April when he passed away due to his injuries. 

The inquest took place on 21st April before Mr Driffield and evidence was given by Sutton's two friends, Robert Hill and George Clay. They said that Kearney had the belt wrapped around his hand and was using the buckle as the weapon. This evidence was backed up by a blacksmiths apprentice named Joseph Brownbill.

The landlord of the Blue Anchor, William Pye, stated that he had been putting a number of men out after he saw four or five on top of Kearney. He went on to say that he did not see Kearney commit any assault, but that when he left the pub, he did have a belt in his hand.

The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and Kearney was committed for trial at the Liverpool assizes. On 20th May he was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Cholera, Murder and Attempted Suicide

A grief  stricken man whose wife and daughter died of cholera killed his two other children before attempting suicide himself.

Patrick Culkin was a schoolmaster from Carlow in Ireland who like many others, fled the famine in the 1840s and settled in Liverpool with his wife and three children. Unable to find work, thirty four year old Patrick fell upon hard times and was forced to seek parish relief to feed his family.

Oriel Street in 2016
On the morning of Wednesday 1st August 1849 seven year old Sarah Culkin died of cholera at the family's home in a court off Oriel Street, Vauxhall. The following day Mrs Culkin died of the same disease. A neighbour named Jane Kane did what she could to help, but Patrick said he could not live without his wife and refused to even accept a cup of tea.

On the Friday afternoon Jane went to see how Patrick was and found the door locked. With the help of neighbours, she got in through a window and found Patrick lying on the bed with his arm around the body of his wife. He was barely alive and on another bed were the dead bodies eight year old James and eleven month old Catherine, their throats cut.    

Patrick was taken to the Northern Hospital in a state of semi consciousness, calling out on the way to God so that he could be taken to his wife and children. The four bodies were examined by a local surgeon, Dr Kilner. Sarah and her mother had been laid out as if for burial, while the two other children had been dead for some hours, their throats cut from one end to the other.

The inquest took place on 6th August before the borough coroner Mr P F Curry. Mrs Cain told how Patrick had been a loving husband and father but his mood changed immediately with the death of his wife and he said he would never again eat meat in this world.  Dr Kilner said that the throat wounds could not have been self inflicted. 

Another neighbour Ellen Bent recalled how on the day of his wife's death Patrick had said he could not live any longer and that she should not be alarmed if she read anything bad about him on the papers. On the morning of the killings, Patrick told her how he had been to the Harp pub on Vauxhall Road and been given wine and brandy by the landlord as charity.

Mr Lea from the parish recalled that on the Thursday he had gone to the house and saw Sarah's body lying on the table and Patrick and his two remaining children on the bed next to the corpse of his wife. Mr Lea told him to get up as it was dangerous to lie next to a dead body and that he would arrange for the interment. When he returned that evening with some food, Patrick said that he was awaiting some money from his sister in the Isle of Man and would arrange the burials himself. Mr Lea told the Coroner that he did not fear for Patrick's welfare and apart from the ordinary dejection resulting from his loss, there was nothing unusual in his manner.

As Mr Curry was about to sum up, a female stepped forward to say that Patrick was a friend of her husband and had visited their house in Hanover Street on the Thursday night. She was ordered to give her evidence on oath and testified that Patrick had told them he had lost two of his closest friends and if he said more it would lead to astonishment. The female said she was of the opinion Patrick was of unsound mind at the time.

The Coroner told the jury that they were unable to determine on Patrick's state of mind, that was for the assizes to decide. Referring to it as a 'most frightful case' he said that the only verdict they could return was one of wilful murder against Patrick, who was described by the Liverpool Mail as of 'superior attainment' and well respected in his neighbourhood.

The assizes were due to start just two days later but with Patrick still in hospital under police supervision his case could not be heard. It was another month before he was discharged to Kirkdale gaol to await his trial which took place on 14th December. On being asked to enter a plea, he replied 'I am not conscious of having done it, surrounded with death as I was, my poor wife and daughter - my favourites.' A plea of not guilty was recorded and as was customary at the time, Patrick was tried only for the murder of one of the victims, his daughter Catherine.

For the prosecution, Mr James described the case as 'the most heartrending and painful'. He told the jury that he would simply relay the facts and let them decide as to Patrick's state of mind. Patrick was described as someone of 'kindness and affection' who had fallen into 'extreme destitution'. Mr James went on to say that the cholera had taken many in Liverpool and the Kingdom that autumn and this led to Patrick telling others he could not survive his loss. He told the jury that the only decision they had to make was as to the state of mind of Patrick at the time of the killings.

Jane Cain and Mrs Bent were both called to give evidence about the events in the immediate aftermaths of the deaths of Patrick's wife and eldest daughter. Jane said that Patrick had been talking to the corpses as if they were still alive and even opened Sarah's eyes. Mrs Bent described him as deranged and a doctor from the Northern Hospital felt he was not of sound mind from the time of admission.

Mr Justice Wightman summed up by saying that this was one of the most lamentable and painful that had ever come before a court. He asked the jury to set aside feeling and instead decide if Patrick could distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the killings. If they believed that the distress of mind, coupled with lack of sleep and food, had made the mind so unsettled then a verdict of insanity could be returned. On the other hand, if they felt that Patrick was sane then they would have to find him guilty of murder, no matter how painful that could be.

It took just a few minutes deliberation for the jury to acquit Patrick on the grounds of insanity. He was then detained until Her Majesty's pleasure be known.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Improper Liaison Leads to Killing

A woman who received a sexually transmitted disease after her husband committed adultery was convicted of manslaughter after seeking revenge.

On 18th February 1840 Elizabeth Brown got into a row with Margaret Farrell, who kept a cooperage in Queen Street, off Old Hall Street roughly where the Liverpool Echo offices now are. When Mrs Farrell pushed Brown away, she was struck on the neck by Brown's husband and went inside to get a poker. 

After being struck several times by the poker, Brown fought back leaving Farrell on the ground. This led to Farrell's daughter Mary going back into the house and fetching a customer William Dunn to assist. Dunn saw a man named James Lynch about to strike Farrell with a piece of wood and shouted at him to stop, raising his arm to take the blow himself.

Farrell returned home and Dunn went to his lodgings opposite, but when he came back outside Brown threw a half brick at him, which bounced off his forehead. Lynch then punched Dunn in his wound and kicked him as he fell on the floor. Dunn was taken to a surgeon and had his wound dressed, while Brown and Lynch were charged with assault and fined twenty and forty shillings respectively.

On 2nd March Dunn developed lockjaw and died in the Northern Hospital. A postmortem by Dr Arnott concluded that this had developed specifically as a result of the head wound. Brown and Lynch were then charged with manslaughter and appeared  at the assizes on 27th March. Under cross examination, Farrell admitted having had an 'improper liaison' with Brown's husband, which led to 'a certain disease' being transmitted between all three of them. Lynch claimed that he had taken a knife from Dunn's hand but another man named Fitzgerald said that this was not the case.

Dr Arnott was challenged by the defence counsel over the lockjaw, with it being suggested that Dunn had not looked attended to his wound properly. The jury took half an hour to find both prisoners guilty of manslaughter, leading to Brown receiving one years imprisonment with hard labour and Lynch two years. The judge ordered that both also had to serve a weeks solitary confinement at the beginning and end of their sentences.   

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Violent Husband Not Guilty of Wife's Death

A man whose wife died within an hour of him beating her was found not guilty of manslaughter due to her having an underlying heart problem.

On the morning of Sunday 13th October 1839 a lady called Susan Bibby sought the help of Elizabeth Aspinall who lived in a court of Summers Gardens in Kirkdale. This was situated near the corner of Westminster road and Sellar Street. Susan told Elizabeth that her husband William, who worked as a labourer, had been beating her and asked to lie down. As Elizabeth was examining Susan's head the injured woman began vomiting and a doctor was sent for, but within half an hour she was dead.

A crowd had now began to gather around the Bibby household, where William was standing with his back to the wall holding a hammer. When two passing police inspectors went to see what was going on, he threw the hammer down and made no attempt to resist being apprehended.  

An inquest took place on 14th October before the coroner Mr P F Curry. A neighbour named Elizabeth Powell told how she had seen William beating Susan through a window, and that she had heard them quarrelling several times in previous weeks. Mrs Aspinall said that Susan was about 41 years of age and a sober woman who had told her prior to slipping into unconsciousness that William hit her with his fists and that she felt like she was dying. This put paid to rumours in the neighbourhood that William had used the hammer to hit his wife.

A young girl named Sarah Rustage said she had heard screams from the Bibby's house and they both came out. She described Susan as staggering and did not see William in possession of any weapon. Another man named Edward Barrow deposed that he had see William hitting Susan but he didn't intervene as the last time he tried to stop a man beating his wife they both turned on him. John Knowles was another man to scared to intervene, saying he had heard that William threw stones at anybody who tired to interfere with his domestic affairs.

The surgeon who had been sent for, Dr Bradbridge, said he carried out a postmortem and found effusions on the chest and brain, but no injuries apart from marks on the neck. Susan had spirits in her stomach and he felt that death was accelerated by the quarrelling and that a fall may have been the cause. The doctor also said that Susan had been known to him for some months due to a heart problem. To summarise, he said, death may have been hastened by violence but not caused by it. 

Justice Coleridge
William, who was deaf, was given the depositions of witnesses to read but chose not to put any questions to witnesses. He instead made a statement saying that they had argued as she had broken open a box containing the rent money but denied any knowledge of doing so when he confronted her. 

In summing up, Mr Curry said it was one of the most extraordinary cases he had ever dealt with. There was no doubt that violence had been used but it was not necessarily the direct cause of death, however he said that a verdict of manslaughter or murder could still be returned if it hastened it. For murder though, the coroner said there had to be malice aforethought, which didn't appear to be the case. As such he told the jury they needed to decide if the cause of death was manslaughter or a disease of some standing. After some deliberation the jury returned a majority 12-3 verdict of manslaughter.

At the assizes the following April, William appeared before Mr Justice Coleridge. Elizabeth Powell repeated how she had seen him beating his wife, but under cross examination Dr Bradbridge admitted that he could not be sure the death had anything to do with the beating and injuries. He could only say that death might have been hastened by them, but he would not seven wear to that.

Given the evidence of Dr Bradbridge, the jury returned  a verdict of not guilty under the direction of the judge and William was freed. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Woman Kills Sister in Law in Fight

When a two sisters in law had a fight in Gascoyne Street one died after hitting her head on the pavement, leading to the other being convicted of manslaughter.

Around midnight on Monday 14th August 1865 Jane Goodier returned to her home at Bevington Street, which she shared  with her husband who worked as a labourer. When asked how there was a large amount of her hair missing she said that she had been drinking at her brother's home in Gascoyne Street and that his wife, Alice Vallally, had 'licked her.'

Two days later Jane had two fits and was confined to bed. Her condition gradually grew worse and she died on the Saturday. The previous day, police had apprehended Alice and charged her with dangerous assault. 

At the inquest, held before Mr P F Curry, evidence was given by Elizabeth Lloyd, Jane's step daughter. She had been to Bevington Street on the evening in question and saw Alice hit Jane with a shovel after Jane had helped herself to some broth. She then described how Alice then jumped on top of Jane and pulled some hair from her head, egged on by her husband, Jane's brother. Elizabeth said she helped Jane get up and they left the property to go home, only to be chased by Alice.

A man named John Mitchell said he had seen Alice attack Jane in the street and helped the victim to Eldon Place. The last of three blows, he said, led to Jane hitting her head on some paving stones and becoming dazed. A neighbour of Alice's named Jane Robertson told the coroner that she had seen the two women fighting in the house, but that Jane had threatened Alice with a knife and thrown a jug at her before leaving, leading to Alice chasing after her.

Dr Samuel, who conducted the postmortem, was of the opinion that Jane had died from head injuries as a result of hitting her head on the paving stone after the fall. This led to the jury returning a verdict of manslaughter and Alice was committed to the assizes on a coroner's warrant. 

At the assizes on 14th December Alice was found guilty of manslaughter but recommended to mercy by the jury. The judge, Mr Baron Pigott, told her there had been a great deal of provocation and as she had already served four months on remand, imposed a sentence of just one month in prison.

Baby Buried in Aintree

A servant suspected of suffocating her newborn baby and burying him in the garden was charged with murder, but instead convicted only of concealment of birth. 

On the morning of Thursday 7th September 1865 Mary Banks, the 45 year old wife of a farmer in Old Roan Lane (now Aintree Lane), noticed that her servant Eliza Molyneux no longer appeared to be pregnant. When Mrs Banks saw the state of seventeen year old Eliza's room she challenged her but she denied having given birth.

Mrs Banks sent for Dr Irvine to examine Eliza, but she then admitted having given birth to a stillborn male child which was now buried in the garden. The doctor searched the garden and found the body, while a police officer was called to apprehend Eliza.

A postmortem by Dr Irvine established that the baby had been alive when born and death was as a result of suffocation. This was believed to have been caused by a pebble that was found in the throat that could not have got their accidentally. The mouth was closed and the body had been lying face down, two feet underground. 

Blue Anchor photo Rept0n1x
The inquest took place on 9th September at the Blue Anchor Inn and returned a verdict of wilful murder. The coroner, Dr Driffield, then committed Eliza to the assizes for trial.

On 14th December Eliza was indicted only for concealment of birth, the Grand jury having thrown out the bill for murder as they believed the evidence did not conclusively show that Eliza had killed the baby, or that it had ever been alive. After pleading guilty she was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

The Fazakerley Mystery

The shooting dead of a man who was looking for work in Fazakerley in 1892 was never solved after the two boys suspected of the offence couldn't be traced.

On the afternoon of Friday 2nd September that year Emily Mellor was in her home on Strawberry Lane when she saw a man turn the corner from Stopgate Lane and beckon her. Emily and her sister went out to see the man and he told them he had been shot by two boys, who had ran off towards the stiles. 

Emily gave the man some water and beer and although in a state of exhaustion he did not appear to be in any great danger. A farmer named Mr Walker, who was working in a field opposite, said he had seen two boys, one aged about fourteen who was wearing a cape and the other younger, running across an orchard. As the man was having a drink of water he told Emily that he had been looking for Harrison's farm as there may be work available, and he had been shot in the back by a boy wearing a cape who was playing with some others.

The man got up and went into a rear yard and was found dead in a closet shortly afterwards. The police were sent for and the the body was removed to the Railway Hotel where it was photographed. There was a bullet hole in the back of the coat and the only personal effects was a small pocket knife. A description was circulated, describing the man as being 30-35 years old, five feet six inches tall, having brown hair an a moustache, and wearing a green coat and brown trousers.

A postmortem was performed by Dr Anderson, who found that the bullet had passed the spine and severed the mesenteric artery before resting in the stomach. There was no way in his opinion that the wound could have been self inflicted. However the police continued to investigate the suicide theory but accepted this couldn't be the case when no gun was found in the vicinity.

The inquest was opened at the Railway Hotel on the following Monday before the coroner Samuel Brighouse. Evidence was heard from Emily, Dr Anderson and police officers, then the hearing was adjourned for a week to allow further enquiries to be made. That evening a lady named Anna Purchase called into the police office at Dale Street and asked for a description of the man who had been shot in Fazakerley. She was then taken to Fazakerley where she identified the body as that of her James Kellet, who she was co-habiting with in Kempston Street off London Road.

When the inquest resumed a boy named Charles Quillam who lived in Walton said that on they in question he had spoken to two boys by the entrance to Everton Cemetery. He said that one of the boys showed him a revolver and said they had walked one hundred miles as they were looking for a man who had stolen a cloak from their shop. A girl called Elizabeth Kinghorn recalled giving two boys some water in Stopgate Lane and that they then ran away as fast as they could. On the direction of the coroner, the jury returned a verdict of 'fatally shot by two boys unknown' and the mystery was never solved. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Stabbed Spaniard's Killer Unknown

When a Spanish sailor died after being stabbed in 1861 nobody was convicted due to doubts over who had struck the fatal blow.

At 11pm on 27th December that year a local lady called Mary Jones was accompanied to the Francis dancing saloon in Hood Street by 26 year old Antonio Lopez. Soon afterwards Louis Edmon, a fellow Spaniard whose ship Victoria was berthed in King's Dock, entered the bar along with a man named Garibaldi and began rowing with Jones. 

After striking Jones with a cane, Edmon was then challenged by his fellow countryman and both went outside to fight. Lopez was stabbed and taken to the Royal Infirmary where he died three hours later. Before Lopez slipped into unconsciousness police paraded a number of men, including Edmon and Garibaldi who had been apprehended, before him. After Edmon was picked out the person who carried out the stabbing, he was taken to the central police station where Jones identified him as having been involved in the fight.

The inquest took place on 31st December where the coroner Mr Cobbs addressed the jury to the tune that the facts of the case meant it was manslaughter not murder. After that verdict was returned, nineteen year old Edmon was before the police court on 1st January where he was committed to the assizes for trial. Garibaldi was charged with being an accessory before the fact, it being said he had encouraged Edmon to use  knife in the fight.

On 24th March Edmon appeared at the assizes where the landlady of the dancing hall gave evidence. In cross examination she said that another man named Lloyd had also had a knife and was threatening Lopez in a row over a scarf. Although she had told the police about this, the man had not been traced as they seemed happy with Lopez's identification of Edmon.

In his closing speech for the defence Charles Russell said that the evidence suggested it was unsafe to convict Edmon and even if it was determined he struck the fatal blow, it had been in self defence. After the jury considered the case for half an hour, they returned a verdict of not guilty and Edmon was discharged. This meant the total collapse of any case against Garibaldi, who cold not be guilty to being an accessory now that Edmon was not guilty of the killing itself.

Monday, 3 October 2016

The Baltic Triangle's Quack Doctor

A quack doctor who gave medicine to a patient who later died was spared further punishment after being found guilty of manslaughter.

On 30th October 1828 William Birkett, a twenty one year old seaman was discharged from the Liverpool Infirmary and took up lodgings in Jordan Street. Three days later he was found by his landlady vomiting severely and called a local surgeon, Dr Wynn.

Jordan Street in 2016
Birkett told the doctor he had bought what he believed to be a mixture of water and white vitriol from a woman named Nancy Simpson who lived in a court off the adjacent Brick Street. He said a nurse from the infirmary had told him to see her so she could give him something to 'take the Mercury from his bones.' 

Forty Eight hours later Birkettt died and a postmortem was carried out on the instruction of the Coroner. Parts of his stomach were found to be inflamed and dissolved, while the rest of the organs were healthy. One of the two surgeons who examined the stomach believed that rather than vitriol, Birkett had instead been given a corrosive sublimate. 

On hearing of Birkett's death Simpson had disappeared but she was apprehended the following day by two constables in Toxteth Park. Without even being told what they were taking her in for, Simpson said that she had bought the stuff from a woman who came off an Irish boat.

When fifty six year old Simpson's cellar was searched a number of powders, herbs and oils were found, as well as a book called 'Practice of Physic.' Enquiries with local druggists also established she had regularly tried to buy corrosive sublimates but was refused as she had no prescription. An inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter and Simpson was committed to Lancaster Castle on a coroner's warrant to await trial. 

On 14th March he following year Simpson, whose husband was away at sea, appeared at the Lancaster assizes charged with 'killing and slaying'. A surgeon gave evidence that there was not the slightest evidence that corrosive sublimate could remove mercury from the bones, with the judge interjecting that the public must be fully made aware of this.

Simpson was found guilty but Mr Justice Bayley imposed no further sentence, acknowledging that she thought she was acting in Birkett's best interests.  He warned Simpson though that if she were to be caught selling medicine again, the sentence would be severe.