Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Abnormally Thin Skull Saves Defendant

A man who was charged with murder after killing a man with one punch avoided trial due to medical evidence finding abnormalities with the victim's skull.

Royal Infirmary in 1908 (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
At 3pm on 25th October 1938 a stonemason named Albert Shaw noticed three young males loitering around the back of an empty house in Jervis Street (which was situated off Russell Street). 

Shaw reported the suspicious behaviour to the police in nearby Warren Street and the males were moved on. Shaw returned to work ten minutes later but soon afterwards they returned and an argument broke out. One of the males, eighteen year old William Nicholls, punched 53 year old Shaw leading to him falling back and striking his head on some steps.

Nicholls tried to escape by climbing a wall into Back Gill Street, but he was followed by a police officer who apprehended him. An unconscious Shaw was taken to the Royal Infirmary where he died later that evening, his skull having been fractured. On being charged with murder Nicholls replied 'He struck me and I hit him in self defence.'

On 10th November Nicholls appeared at the Magistrates' Court for a committal hearing. Medical evidence was heard that Shaw had an abnormally thin skull. Given this the magistrate decided there was not enough evidence to justify any charges. Nicholls was released from the dock and was free to return to his home in Leander Street, off Brownlow Hill.

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