Friday, 16 October 2020

Harrington Dock Killing

In 1955 a fight between two dock labourers ended in one of them dead, but the jury accepted the plea that the accused acted in self defence and acquitted him of manslaughter.

At 4.10pm on Wednesday 20th July an unconscious man was found amongst stacks of timber that had been unloaded from a freighter at East Harrington Dock. The man was 41 year old William Clegg Dean, a dock night watchman who lived in a lodging house at 6 Great George Square. 

Dean was a 41 year old labourer who lived in Great George Square. He was taken to the Royal Southern Hospital where he died the following day from a fractured skull, having never regained consciousness. A murder investigation begun when police received a phone call that evening saying "If you think you are smart, investigate the murder of William Clegg Dean". At that time, few people could have been aware of the cause of death.

Hundreds of dockers were interviewed as police pieced together Dean's movements in the 24 hours previous to him being found. It was established that he had not spent the night at his lodgings, but did call in at 9.30am to collect his army pension book. Police believed he may have been attacked somewhere on Sefton Street or the Dock Road and then walked to where he was found, or been dumped there by his attacker. 

There was a breakthrough on the morning of 22nd July when Gerard Digney, a 24 year old labourer, handed himself in at Essex Street police station. He told officers he had only pushed Dean and meant no serious harm. However he was charged with murder due to the gravity of the injuries, with Digney responding "I do not understand it".  The following morning he appeared before magistrates who remanded into custody at Walton gaol. In the public benches at the court was his girlfriend, who he was due to marry the following Saturday.

On 29th July, the day before he should have been getting married, Digney was remanded in custody again. Prosecutors told he court that the fractured skull could not have been caused by the impact of Dean falling to the ground and that Digney's statement could not have been correct. 

Digney was back at the Magistrates' Court on 4th August for a committal hearing. It was heard that Dean, Digney and a third man, Thomas McDonnell, had all been working at Harrington Dock unloading timber, drinking whilst they did so. McDonnell said that Digney had made some derogatory remarks about Dean's decision to drink cheap wine, described by prosecutors as "plonk". A scuffle broke out during which Digney pushed Dean away and punched him on the jaw, causing him to fall. Digney then went to the canteen while McDonnell kept an eye on Dean, who appeared to simply be too drunk to get back up. After an hour he was moved to where he was eventually found and an ambulance called. 

After hearing all the evidence, the examining magistrate Mr Gordon ruled that there was insufficient evidence to charge with murder and reduced it to manslaughter. Digney indicated that he would plead not guilty to manslaughter but was allowed bail on two sureties of £25 each. On 3rd November Digney appeared before the Liverpool Assizes. McDonnell again testified, stating that Digney was under threat and had nowhere to turn, so throwing a punch was his only way out. This was accepted by the jury who found him not guilty. 

Monday, 12 October 2020

Daughter Killer Insane

In the mid 1800s a woman who murdered her daughter then tried to commit suicide was declared insane. 

At 8pm on 17th July 1851 a woman was seen hurrying down Queen Street with a half naked young girl. She was urged to cover her up and she did so, before throwing the poor girl down some steps and running away. A police officer was called and the girl taken to the North Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Two minutes later the same female was seen walking excitedly back and forth along the landing stage before plunging into the River Mersey. She was picked up by a boat and taken to the receiving house, where remedies were given to bring her round. She then started talking incoherently asking why she hadn't been allowed to drown and to be given some arsenic instead. 

The woman was repeatedly questioned and eventually said her name was Mary Powell, that she had murdered her daughter Mary Ann Powell by tying a pinafore around her neck. An examination of her clothing found a pawn ticket bearing the same name and she was kept under close observation until the following morning. 

Mary was resident at the workhouse and had been discharged from the asylum there two months earlier. She was the wife of a clerk who was said to have abused her. 

At the inquest a nurse from the workhouse, Catherine Powell, described Mary as being violent in manner for the first week of her admission, but that this behaviour related to family affairs. After six more weeks she was well and spent some time in the infant nursery due to her youngest child being ill. She was considered sane at the time of her discharge, having previously refused to go when her husband tried to take her out as she said he illtreated her. At this stage her husband interrupted the proceedings and was removed from the room.

The Deputy Coroner told the jury they were not there to try Mary's state of mind and they returned a verdict of wilful murder. It was also added that there should be no charges against anybody in the workhouse, who had acted in accordance with the laws laid down by the Poor Law commissioners. 

On 3rd September Mary appeared before Mr Baron Platt at the South Lancashire Assizes. The jury found not guilty on the grounds of insanity and she was ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure. 

Thursday, 1 October 2020

A Fatal Brick Throwing

In 1888 a man was caught up in a neighbour dispute died from his injuries after he was struck by a brick. 

On 22nd July that year George Proctor, a forty year old labourer, spent the afternoon drinking with his wife at the home of a Mrs Douglas in a court off Bevington Street, Vauxhall. Whilst there Douglas had a quarrel with Mary Winston, a 23 year old fish hawker who lived on the opposite side of the court. 

At 10.30pm George and his wife were leaving when he was struck by a brick, thrown from Winston's window. George fell down while Winston, who was married with three young children, danced and sang "I have not missed my aim".

George was carried back into the house and remained unconscious until the next morning. He went to the Northern Hospital where his wound was dressed and remained there three days before returning home to Gordon Street. 

At the beginning of August, George was still complaining of pains of his head and was admitted to Mill Road hospital. As his condition deteriorated he gave a deposition stating he had seen Winston throw the brick. He died on Sunday 5th August and was buried in Everton Cemetery. At an inquest, the doctor who had treated him prior to death said it was as a direct result of the injury. A verdict of manslaughter was returned and Wilson was committed for trial.

At the assizes court on 20th December the defence argued that Winston's windows had been broken earlier in the day by Douglas. It was also suggested that he may have been hit by a brick being thrown by one of his own friends aimed at Winston. This failed to convince the jury however and she was found guilty of manslaughter. 

In light of Whinston having already served two months in gaol on remand, she was sentenced to a further two months imprisonment with hard labour. On her release, she returned to Bevington Street where she and her husband, a dock labourer, remained together and had eight more children.

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Family Killing After a Wedding

A man who stabbed his brother in law to death after having too much drink at a wedding received  a light sentence due the provocation received. 

On the afternoon of 21st November 1892 eighteen year old Thomas King attended a wedding along with his brother-in-law, Thomas McDermott. Afterwards they spent the afternoon drinking at the house of the bridegroom, who had been loaned a suit to get married in by McDermott. 

King and McDermott then went to a pub in Boundary Street. When 29 year old McDermott commented that he was the better man  an argument broke out and they were both asked to leave by the landlord.

Both men returned to the house in Luton Street where they lived with Catherine, who was McDermott's wife and King' sister, as well as Catherine and King's father and grandmother. King entered the house first but was quickly followed by McDermott who was aggressive and took off his belt and coat. He said he would beat King and his brother Peter in retaliation for Peter hitting Catherine while McDermott, a ships donkeyman, had been away at sea. 

McDermott managed to restrain her husband and told him to stay locked in the parlour while she made him some tea. King then left the house, but was followed by McDermott who escaped through a window. Catherine caught up with McDermott in Boundary Street but he refused to return home with her.

About 7.30pm a boy knocked at Catherine's door and told her that her husband was on the floor in Boundary Street. She ran there and a crowd had gathered around. One woman was trying to stop the bleeding from a wound with an apron and although still alive, he was not responding to any questions. Catherine was told he had been stabbed but her brother was nowhere to be seen. A police constable and horse ambulance arrived and McDermott was taken unconscious to the Northern Hospital, but Catherine was not allowed to go with him.

As the constable was leaving the Northern Hospital an hour later he was approached by King, who admitted being responsible for the death. He stated that he had been cutting some tobacco with a knife and McDermott ran at him as if to carry out a headbutt, only to hit the knife. King was taken into the hospital where he was allowed to hold McDermott's hand and apologise. He was then taken to the bridewell.  

McDermott later that evening, having suffered two puncture wounds to the abdomen. Catherine was only advised of her husbands death when she attended the hospital to enquire about his condition. King was remanded in custody and an inquest was opened on the Thursday morning where Catherine tearfully described what had happened in the house. 

It emerged from six other witnesses present that King had gone back to the same public house, followed by McDermott who began to threaten him again before both men went outside into the street. Nobody seemed able to say who threw the first punches, but one female with two black eyes said she had been punched twice by King as he made his escape. However Catherine Furling, a servant at the pub, said she was not working that night but had seen what happened outside from her bedroom window. She describe how McDermott had twice punched King and once headbutted him, and corroborated King's claim that McDermott ran at him as he held a knife in his hand.

In summing up, the Coroner stated that all six witnesses from the pub were friends of McDermott but that Miss Furlong was not interested in either party. He said the jury should return a verdict of manslaughter at most, and it was certainly not wilful murder. They did so and King was committed for asssize trial.

King, a ships trimmer, appeared before Mr Justice Grantham on 14th December. He was found guilty of manslaughter but with a recommendation for mercy on the grounds of the great provocation that occurred. In sentencing King to four months imprisonment with hard labour, the judge condemned the 'use of the knife and free indulgence in drink'

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Husband's Attempted Suicide After Death of Wife

When a man was arrested after the death of his wife following an argument, he tried to hang himself while in custody. He was charged with manslaughter, but acquitted at the Assizes.

On 22nd July 1851 a Eileen Anderton, living in Soho Street, heard arguing coming from the room of her lodgers, Thomas Hogarth and his wife. Initially she didn't intervene as it was a regular occurrence but when she heard her say '"Oh Tom that's enough for me" followed by silence, she called to her husband and they both went to investigate.

Mrs Hogarth was on the bed unconscious. Thomas said that she had been throwing potatoes at him and she would be fine if Mrs Anderton could fetch her some water. Their fourteen year old son then returned home after going out to watch fireworks and soon afterwards his mother passed away. 

Police were called and Thomas taken to the Rose Hill bridewell. During the night he attempted suicide by suspending himself with his tying a handkerchief from one of the window bars. He was cut down in a distressed state but needed no hospital treatment and remanded pending an inquest. 

Mrs Anderton gave evidence at the inquest that Thomas was of drunken habits and been out of work, having once been a stableman. Mrs Hogarth supported the family by doing laundry. On the night of her death, Thomas had been complaining about the quality of his supper, having not had meat for a week. Their son said that his parents often quarrelled and that his mother was very headstrong. 

The surgeon who carried out the post mortem said that her stomach was full, mainly of potatoes and that there were no mark of violence on the body. He did say that it was possible she could have been hit in the stomach and there would be now marks. Unusually, Thomas made a statement himself, in which he claimed that his wife had fallen over whilst running at him after throwing the potatoes. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, believing that she had fallen as a result of a blow. 

At the Assizes the following month, the prosecutors offered no evidence against Thomas, leading to his acquittal and discharge.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Killed by Boiling Coffee

A woman who threw boiling coffee over her lodger, causing his death, avoided transportation due to her not realising the action could prove fatal.

At about 8pm on Saturday 8th November 1845 a 33 year old miller named Robert Fitten returned to his lodgings in Eldon Street in a drunken state and went to bed. When his landlady Mary Phythian returned with some bread, she was told by another lodger Margaret Wilson about Robert and she went to check on him, only to be called a "drunken faggot".

Phythian threatened Robert with a poker but he called her a faggot again. She then responded by taking a pan of coffee from the hob and throwing it at him. Margaret wiped the scalds to his head, chest and hands then went to a druggist for some dressing which she applied. Phythian went and visited a neighbour, telling her that she had given Robert a 'faggots mark.'

The following morning Robert was taken to the Northern Hospital with scalds to his head, face, chest and hands. He lingered until the following Friday when he passed away.

An inquest heard evidence from Margaret who said that she had never known Robert and Phythian to argue. A house surgeon from the hospital confirmed that death was as a direct result of the scalds. When a manslaughter verdict was returned, Phythian burst into tears and begged to be able to see the body. This request was granted and she was taken to the hospital on the way to Kirkdale gaol.

On 11th December, Phythian appeared before Mr Justice Williams and she pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He accepted that she may not have realised her actions could have caused death and this was a factor in sentence. The judge told her that as a result of this, she has avoided transportation and was instead sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour. 

Monday, 29 June 2020

Death of a Grocer

When a widow died days after being beaten by a man she cohabited with, there was no conviction as a postmortem had not taken place.

One May evening in May 1845, fourteen year old Margaret Johnson was in bed in a room above the grocers shop that was run by her mother Elizabeth, a widow. Her two younger half brothers, aged eleven and seven, were asleep beside her. Their father was Thomas Davis, with whom Elizabeth now cohabited.

The children's sleep was interrupted by the sound of Elizabeth and Thomas arguing. Elizabeth ran upstairs and tried to seek solace with her children, but Thomas came after her and the quarrel recommenced. When Elizabeth tried to leave, Thomas stopped her and when she threw a drawer on the floor, he struck her upper body and kicked her leg.

A passing policeman was alerted by the screaming of the younger children and Thomas invited him in. Elizabeth pleaded to be allowed to leave but the policeman persuaded her to remain, in return for a promise from Thomas to cease any arguing and violence.

For the next three days Elizabeth remained in bed and spent most of the time retching. A surgeon attended but she expired. She was buried in St Mary's Cemetery.

The family had only been in Liverpool for a month or two and they returned to Ledbury in Herefordshire, where Elizabeth had Thomas and the three children had resided until the previous year. Elizabeth's sister Hannah Meadows, wife of a carpenter, agreed to take Margaret in as her own. The two boys were placed in lodgings by Thomas who then left the town, leading to them being taken into the care of the workhouse when rent became due.

All three children had told those looking after them that their mother had come to her death by foul means and rumours began to spread around the town. Of particular interest was that Thomas had refused to write to inform any of Elizabeth's relatives of her death until after her burial.  Thomas was a former excise inspector and on 3rd November the Hereford Times published a paragraph urging him to return to Ledbury and clear his name. He did so on 10th November, handing a letter to Superintendent Shead, before absconding.

The following day magistrates sent for the two young brothers from the workhouse. They and Margaret were examined separately, leading to a warrant being issued against Thomas for 'felonously, wilfully and with malice aforethought, killed Elizabeth Johnson at Liverpool in the county of Lancaster by striking and beating her on the head, back and other parts of her body, of which several mortal bruises and wounds the said Elizabeth Johnson did die.'

On 13th November Thomas was apprehended by Superintendent Shead at Ross-on-Wye and appeared before magistrates the following morning where arrangements were made for him to be taken back to Liverpool. Reporting on his appearance at the Police Court in Dale Street, the Liverpool Mail described Thomas as 'tall, elderly and of decent exterior.' 

Margaret recalled the violence that ad been carried out by Thomas to her mother. This was corroborated by the two boys. All three said that there were black marks on the breasts and legs, where Elizabeth had been struck. However the surgeon who attended said that he was of the opinion that Elizabeth was dying of congested fever brought on by a low mood. He said that he had not been told of any injuries although they could produce the symptoms he had seen. Two neighbours who had laid out and washed down the body deposed that they had seen the bruising, and Thomas was remanded in custody.

At the South Lancashire Assizes on 9th December, the charge was reduced to manslaughter. However with no postmortem having taken place, and no medical professionals having observed any injuries, a not guilty verdict was returned and Thomas was freed.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Alleged Murderer Granted Bail

British legal history was made in 1957 when a man charged with murder was granted bail. When he returned to court for his trial, he was found not guilty.

On the morning of  Tuesday 16th April 1957 Thomas Harding visited Dr Gibson's surgery at 170 Upper Parliament Street and reported that his wife was ill. 36 year old Harding was actually divorced but had been living with Veronica Chen, a barmaid aged 31, for three years. Most of these were at 128 Falkner Street but for the past few weeks they had been at 239 Smithdown Lane.

At 1pm Dr Gibson called at their home and found 31 year old Veronica unconscious. He arranged for her to be taken to Sefton General Hospital but she never came around and died shortly before midnight. The matter was referred to the Coroner and detectives arrested Harding the following morning. He was taken to Prescot Street police station, where he made a statement that the previous Friday evening, Veronica had returned home drunk and with bruises on her face. 

Further enquiries were made and when Harding was told by detectives were not satisfied with his explanation, he admitted striking Veronica with the back of his hand, causing her to stagger and hit her head against the wall. An hour after making this admission, the postmortem results were returned, which showed Veronica had died of a cerebral haemorrhage following a skull fracture, and had received several blows to the head.  

Confronted with this new information, Harding replied that he wanted to make a full statement as to what had happened. He said that Veronica had returned home 'rotten drunk' and refused to say where she had been, leading to him hitting her several times and throwing her on the bed. On being told that he would be charged with murder, Harding stated "I admit hitting her harder than I ever hit her before because I lost my temper, but I did not think she would die."

Harding was remanded in custody for seven days when he appeared at the Magistrates' Court on the morning of 18th April. When he was committed for trial at the Crown Court on 31st May, his defence counsel suggested that there had been no intent to cause serious harm and as such it was a case of manslaughter. The magistrate however said that the murder charge must stand and it was up to the prosecution to decide at the Assizes if they would accept a lesser plea. 

On 11th July British legal history was made when Harding was granted bail, the first time ever for a defendant charged with murder. Judge Laski, after hearing representations and reading documents, said that this was not a capital murder charge (meaning that Harding would not face the death penalty) and as such was willing to grant bail providing adequate sureties were arranged.  Harding was then released pending his trial in November. 

At the Crown Court on 5th November, Harding pleaded not guilty to murder and was defended by leading Q.C. Rose Heilbron. Medical evidence showed that the skull fracture could not have been caused by a fist, but more likely by falling against a wall. This, coupled with Heilbron's submissions that there had been no intent to cause serious harm, led to the jury finding Harding not guilty. With the Crown having gone solely for the murder charge, Harding was freed. He died just two years later and was buried in a public grave in Allerton cemetery. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Fatal Consequences of Drunkenness

A husband who rowed with his wife after he came home drunk ended up causing her death when he kicked out, but at his trial he was cleared of manlaughter. 

At 8 o'clock in the morning of 25th May 1833 John Kearns, a labouring porter, returned in an intoxicated state to his home in Dickenson Street. His wife Annie told him to take his breakfast and go to work, but instead he called her by what the Liverpool Mercury described as an 'infamous name' before tipping the table over. 

When Annie called him names in reutrn, he threw a stone, poker and fender at her, all of them missing. They then fought for ten minutes before, a neighbour intervened and kept them apart. Kearns had a wound to his head which was dressed, but he refused to go to bed and Annie declined to go and seek solace at her sisters. 

Fifty year old Kearns left and went into the street, with Annie shouting abuse after him, causing him to return whilst in an even more furtious state than earlier. Despite the best efforts of a neighbour to hold him back, Kearns kicked Annie in the neck whilst she was picking something up, rupturing the windpipe.

Annie died two hours later and Kearns was taken into custody. At an inquest two day later Annie was described by neighbours as a mild and inoffensive woman. Any quarrels they said, was down to her husband's habitual drunkenness. After a verdict of manslaughter was returned the Coroner, James Aspinall, issued a warrant committing Kearns for trial at Lancaster Castle Regret was expressed that five children had now been deprived of their natural guardians and protectors. 

On 14th August, Kearns was tried and evidence was given that the item Annie was about to pick up was a brick to throw at him. The jury concluded the death was accidental and he was acquitted. 

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Unsolved Sectarian Killing

When Liverpool was struck by a wave of Sectarian violence in 1909, nobody was ever brought to account for the death of a carter who died after being struck on the back of the head.

On the evening of 21st June 1909 a carter named Andrew Cathcart and two workmates were heading up Hopwood Street when they were approached from behind. The other two got away but twenty six year old Andrew was hit on the back of the head by a wooden implement, possibly a rolling pin. Although he fell down, he did manage to get back to his feet quite quickly but after a few more steps, he went down again, losing consciousness.

The attack was Sectarian in nature as on the previous day over fifty Protestants had been arrested for attacks on Catholics in and around Prince Edwin Street. Andrew would normally have walked down Latimer Street but avoided there knowing a large crowd of Catholics had gathered. As carters were more often than not Protestants, they were particularly vulnerable to revenge attacks. Although Andrew was a Protestant, family members said he was not affiliated to any lodge or order. 

On hearing what had happened his sister Annie went to the Northern Hospital and saw him lying barely conscious with a bandaged head. He mumbled "mean fellows" to her. 

Andrew spent a week in hospital before returning to his home in Pugin Street. He continued to feel better but on Saturday 3rd July, whilst having supper, he felt a pain in the back of is head and slumped forward. Annie sent for a local doctor, who pronounced life extinct. 

A fifteen year old boy called Lawrence Duffy gave a statement to the police that Daniel Munroe, who lived at 111 Hopwood Street, had carried out the attack. Based on this, Munroe was arrested and taken to the Athol Street bridewell and charged with murder. 

Munroe was remanded in custody pending a coroners inquest. By the time this took place on 21st July another suspect, Edwin Costello, had also been arrested and charged. 

There was  a lot of conflicting evidence. Although it was agreed by eye witnesses that Andrew had been struck on the back of the head with the implement, only one could say Costello struck the blow, while one woman said it definitely wasn't them. When asked to look at the two prisoners and state if one of them had done it, Lawrence Duffy now said he couldn't be sure. 

In summing up the Coroner said that witness evidence was unreliable and it would be unsafe to return a verdict of wilful murder against either Costello or Munroe. The jury came back with an open verdict leading to the discharge both prisoners. 

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Boy Killed By Car As He Played

The driver of a car that killed a seven year old boy was jailed for a year after being cleared of manslaughter but convicted of dangerous driving. 

On 4th June 1945, three young boys were playing at the corner of Dingle Lane and Dingle Mount when a car came careering out of control towards them. Rather than turn the corner into Dingle Lane, it carried on straight and collided with a pillar box, trapping seven year old Leslie Stockton. 

The driver of the car was 31 year old Sidney Davies, an insurance agent who lived at 18 Corinthian Avenue, Stoneycroft. On getting out of the car he immediately fell to the pavement and said to a police officer who attended "I am sorry old man, I have had a good night." Leslie, who lived in Dingle Mount with his parents, was taken to hospital but died from his injuries. Sidney was charged with manslaughter and dangerous driving and committed for trial. 

 The following month at Manchester Assizes the prosecuting counsel was Rose Heilbron, who went on to have a number of legal firsts for a woman. She told the court that he drove the car recklessly and under the influence of drink, but acknowledged his staggering may have been made worse by having a wooden leg. Sidney's defence was that his wooden leg had slipped from the brake onto the accelerator and that if he appeared drunk, it was due to the shock of the accident. 

The jury found Sidney guilty of dangerous driving but cleared him on the manslaughter charge. He was then jailed for one year and banned from driving for ten years. 

Triple Tragedy in Litherland

A husband whose mental health suffered as a result of a house move committed murdered his wife and son before committing suicide. 

On the evening of 6th April 1960 a neighbour of the Gibbon family who lived at 23 Hawkshead Drive, Litherland, became concerned when she smelt gas from the property next door and realised she had not seen or heard any of the occupants that day. When it was seen that milk bottles were still on the doorstep, police were called. 

On forcing entry to the property, the found a terrible scene.  In the bedrooms, still in their nightclothes, were the bloodied bodies of Amy Gibbon and her sixteen year old son William. Both had been battered about the head. In a cupboard under the stairs, was the hunched body of 46 year old Charles Gibbon, next to a severed gas pipe.

An inquest heard from neighbours and family members. They had been a loving family who moved to Litherland from Speke just two months earlier to be nearer Charles's brother. However Amy had expressed concern to neighbours that he may have a nervous breakdown.  He had been finding many faults with the house and regretted buying it, spending many an hour of an evening out walking rather than be there. He was also worried about mortgage payments, despite having a good position as an assistant cashier with a biochemists.  

The inquest returned a verdict that Charles had murdered Amy and William, before committing suicide whilst the balance of mind was disturbed. 

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Widowed Woman Strangles Daughter

A Tuebrook woman devastated by the death of her husband strangled her young daughter. When she stood trial for murder, she was found to be guilty but insane.

On the morning of 25th January 1937 Ethel Brown, a 25 year old widow living in 35 Witton Road, Tuebrook, had an argument with her mother, who then left the house. Around 10am Ethel ran to the home of Mrs Yeates in Adshead Road, hoping to find her mother but she wasn't there. Ethel sobbed "Help me, I have killed Maudie" and then collapsed. 

After Ethel came round, Mrs Yeates accompanied her to Witton Road, where Maud's body was lying on a bed in a back bedroom. She had been strangled with a tablecloth and Dr Cohen from Marlborough Road was called to confirm the death. Ethel was in a hysterical state by the time two detectives arrived to arrest her and arrange the removal of the body to a mortuary. 

When she calmed down, Ethel made a full confession, telling the detectives "I did it, I did not mean to do it, I do not know what came over me." That afternoon she appeared at the police court and remanded into custody. Maud was buried at Anfield Cemetery. Her death had come just four months after that of her father, who died in September 1936.

Ethel was first due to be tried on 11th March, but she was ill with pneumonia and the judge allowed the case to be referred to the Manchester assizes the following month. 

On 30th April 1937, Dr Shannon from Strangeways gaol gave evidence that she was insane at the time she committed the crime.  Ethel's mother said she was an affectionate woman who was passionately fond of her daughter, but this changed after she became widowed and she was often distressed. Ethel was then detained at His Majesty's pleasure. 

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Shot Dead Next to the River Alt

An ex soldier who shot is lover dead next to the River Alt in 1920 was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. 

On the night of Sunday 21st March that year 35 year old Herbert Salisbury was arrested for being drunk and disorderly after falling in the road near the Blundell Arms at closing time. He had a revolver and cartilages in his possession and when asked where his wife was, replied "My wife is lying dead on the river bank, past Tommy Rimmers, on the main road. I shot her last night". Salisbury was held in custody whilst officers searched the location and found a body at the spot he had told them about.

The woman concerned was not Salisbury's wife but Alice Pearson, who had left her husband to co-habit with him. They had met in September 1918 whilst he was in hospital in Leeds, having been wounded on active service in France as a machine gunner for the American army. Salisbury had lived in Rhode Island for twenty years working in hotels, having been born and raised in England.     

38 year old Alice left her husband and began to travel the country with him from town to town after he was discharged from the army in February 1919, living off her savings. Alice was the daughter of a successful boot dealer and had not married until she was in her early thirties. The couple lived in Liverpool for some time before taking lodgings in Castle Street, Southport, in early March 1920.

On being told that a body had been located Salisbury replied "Thank God for that, we planned to end our lives together when the money was done. We had £700 and the money you found in my possession (£2) was all we had left".

Salisbury's trial took place at the Liverpool assizes on 22nd April. He pleaded guilty but the judge insisted on hearing the evidence to allow the jury to consider a verdict. The exact circumstances of the fateful day were never fully determined. It was known they had been expected back at their lodgings and were seen together outside the Royal Hotel in Formby at 6.30pm. An hour later, Salisbury was at the Blundell Arms on his own showing off the revolver. The court heard how a brave pub customer had heard Salisbury's claim that he had pumped four bullets into a woman and disarmed him when he fell and held him until the police arrived. 

Salisbury's counsel asked the jury to consider his state of mind and also whether manslaughter was more appropriate. In summing up however, the judge said drunkenness was no excuse and that if he fired a gun at a woman's face, there must have been intent to kill. It took just twenty minutes to return a guilty verdict and Salisbury showed no emotion as he was sentenced to death.

Salisbury made no appeal and was hanged on 11th May in a double execution at Walton gaol. The man hanged alongside him was William Waddington, an Oldham miller who had killed a seven year old girl.  

Friday, 10 April 2020

Shocking Double Murder and Suicide

In 1951 a man shot his wife and mother in law dead before going on the run. He turn the gun on himself the following day as the police net closed in on him.

The double shooting took place on 16th April that year at 32 Underley Street, off Smithdown Road, where Archbishop Blanch school now stands. Lilian Parr lived there with her 25 year old daughter Lilian (known as Beryl) and 29 year old son in law Walter Beech. The young couple were in disagreement over Walter's decision to rent two rooms locally, as Beryl didn't want to leave her 55 year old widowed mother living alone.

At around 6.50pm their neighbour in number 30, Mrs Barber, heard a scream. After getting no answer when she knocked on the front door, she and her husband went round to the backyard and saw the bodies of Lilian and Beryl lying on the kitchen floor. Both had been shot in the chest. Another neighbour,Thomas Gladwinfield from number 34, ran to a phone box and dialled 999.

A huge manhunt was launched, with fifty officers searching local parks, gardens, cemeteries and wasteground for the murder weapon. A warning was issued to the pubic regarding approaching Walter, with the Liverpool echo stating "He may still be armed and is likely to be dangerous". He was described as five feet eleven and three quarter inches tall, slim build, fresh complexion, dark brown hair, clean shaven with blue eyes. He was last seen to be wearing a navy blue raincoat, brown gloves,a collar and tie.

Lilian was a cleaner at Olive Mount hospital and described as very nice and exceedingly popular. Beryl, a nurse at nearby Sefton General hospital, had been married to Walter,a gas welder, for five years and was expecting their first child. For three years of the marriage, Walter had been in prison after being found guilty of housebreaking with firearms in Blundellsands. Friends of Lilian described her as "one of the most pleasant of girls" but that Walter did not like her having friends and was jealous of the mother-daughter relationship.

Around 24 hours after the killings, police received a tip off that Walter was in the Princes Park Hotel, on Upper Stanhope Street. Two detective sergeants went there and saw him at the bar with a lady, then asked him to step into another room of the pub. He have his name as Ray Lewis and said he was a seafarer from a Dutch ship, who had taken rooms across the road. On being told by the detectives that they knew who he was, Walter then took the gun from under his armpit and shouted "Stand back or you will get it, you are not taking me".

In an incredible act of bravery, DS John Beaverstock edged forward and said "Don't be a fool, put that gun away". Walter then pointed the gun towards the stomachs of Beaverstock and his colleague DS Joseph Gillbanks, shouting "Stop, it is loaded and you will get it". He then turned the gun around and shot himself in the head, toppling over. A search of Walter found he was carrying  copy of a newspaper containing reports of the killing she had committed.

The lady Walter was with identified herself as Elizabeth Pierce, a 25 year old waitress from Ireland. She said she had first met him on the Monday evening and had a drink then arranged to meet him the following afternoon, but denied spending the night with him. Elizabeth described Walter as "a nice quiet young man".

Lilian and Beryl were buried together at Allerton Cemetery, while Walter was laid in an unmarked public grave at Anfield Cemetery. Neither grave has any maker indicating who is buried there.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Toxteth Mother Unfit to Plead

A mother who drowned her son in 1960 was detained at Her Majesty's pleasure after a medical expert declared her unfit to plead.

On the afternoon of 18th December 1959 Jessie Parkinson, a 34 year old divorcee who lived with her father in Alt Street, Toxteth, drowned her 21 month old son Henry by holding his head under water in the bath. 

The poor child's body was then dressed in nightclothes and placed in a bed. The tragic scene was then discovered by Jessie's father when he returned home from work. He called an ambulance and when it arrived Jessie tried running away, but was caught by the driver. Henry was pronounced dead on arrival at the Royal Liverpool Hospital.

On being arrested, Jessie first told the police that a man had killed Henry and escaped down a grid. When she was told the grid cover had not been disturbed she then said "I held it under the water for a long time, I don't want it to suffer anymore. He is in his proper place, the cemetery".

At her committal hearing in January, a pathologist said that Henry had been well nourished. Jessie's sister and father said she was mentally balanced and had loved her son. Se was further remanded in custody pending a Crown Court trial.

On 9th February 1960 Jessie appeared at Liverpool Crown court where evidence as given by Dr Calder, Chief Medical Officer at Manchester's Strangeways gaol. He said that Jessie was unfit to plead and the judge ordered that she be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

An Unsolved Christmas Day Killing

When a woman was found dead beneath a Liverpool office block one Christmas Day there was insufficient evidence to charge the only suspect in the case.

At around 830am on 25th December 1919 two messenger boys from the Union Telegraph Cable Company were running down Covent Garden when they came across a horrific find. The badly bruised and bloodied naked body of a female was huddled up in a recess overlooking the basement of the Oriel Chambers office block.

The boys found a policeman who on searching the immediate area located a pile of rain soaked clothing on the opposite side of the road. On examination it was found to be badly torn and was believed to belong to the woman. A purse with some coins was also discovered in the roadway.

Police enquiries established that the woman went by the names of both Elizabeth McDermott and Isabella Wilson. She was described as an 'Unfortunate' who was aged in her fifties and lived in a lodging house in Richmond Row. The keeper there had not seen her for 24 hours before she was found, but had not raised any alarm as she was often being taken into custody by the police.

On Saturday 27th December John Brien, a 23 year old seaman, was arrested on a steamer in the docks on suspicion of being implicated in the death. Magistrates granted a remand until the Monday so further enquiries could be conducted. Brien admitted leaving his ship on Christmas Eve and spending four hours with a friend and another female on Scotland Road. The female had then shown him to the Pier Head around midnight, and the next he knew he was being woken and arrested by the police. 

An inquest was opened on 29th December. The lodging house keeper, Mary Maguire, said she knew the victim as Elizabeth Wilson and that she had recently spent time in the workhouse hospital with injuries to her arm after being run over by a tramcar.  A police officer said that the woman was originally from Greenock, had been in court many times and usually gave the name Elizabeth McDermott. It was not known if she had ever married but McDermott was her father's name and her mother was Wilson. The coroner adjourned the inquest pending further enquiries while over at the police court, a prosecution request for a further remand of eight days for Brien was agreed. 

On 6th January 1920 Brien was again remanded for a week, appearing unmoved by the ongoing delay. His relaxed attitude was arguably vindicated the following week, when he was freed. At another hearing, the prosecutor said to the stipendiary magistrate "Although the circumstances under which the arrest was effected were distinctly suspicious there was not sufficient evidence to ask the bench to send the prisoner for trial at the assizes. I am now satisfied there is no evidence to place before the court". 

On being told he could go free, Brien bowed his head to the bench and left the court. Nobody was ever convicted in relation to the death of whoever the female was that was found dead at Covent Garden on Christmas Day 1919.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

A Badly Burnt and Mutilated Childs Body

An open verdict as returned at an inquest in 1904 after the discovery of a newborn baby's body in Toxteth.

On Tuesday 6th September 1904 the charred remains of a baby girl were found in an entry behind Fernhill Street. The body was wrapped in a copy of the Liverpool Echo newspaper, dated 29th August.

Detective Inspector Holmes made extensive enquiries but could find no information about the identity of the mother or child. Dr Nathan Raw said that the body was black from extensive burning making the features unrecognisable. The left arm was detached from the shoulder and left leg almost severed.

Dr Raw also stated that the head had been severely battered, however he was unable to say whether the violence had taken place before or after death. 

With there being no evidence as to the identity of the baby girl or whether she had been alive when the horrific injuries were sustained, the inquest jury had no option but to return an open verdict and the case was never solved. 

Monday, 20 January 2020

Bootle Paraffin Lamp Tragedy

A Bootle woman was charged with manslaughter after it was alleged that her daughter died as a a result of her throwing a paraffin lamp that exploded. However due to conflicting evidence she was cleared when the case came to court.

Sixty year old Alice Leonard sent the afternoon and evening of Saturday 19th November 1910 drinking with her landlady at her lodgings in Aber Street, Bootle, which was situated off Irlam Road. At around 11pm she went up to the room that she rented where her 21 year old son William was sleeping. 

The pair started quarrelling and when Alice slapped him, causing his nose to bleed, they were broken up by Alice's married daughter Annie Walsh. William attempted to hit his mother with a mug and it resulted in a paraffin oil lamp coming off the mantelpiece. William moved out the way and it hit the floor and exploded, setting fire to Annie's clothing. 

Annie rolled around in agony and although a neighbour extinguished the flames, she died in Bootle Hospital soon afterwards but not before she was able to make a disposition. She stated that her husband was a patient at Rainhill Hospital and her mother did not touch the lamp.

File:Bootle hospital 1.jpg
Bootle Hospital (Sunwukong 88 shared under
Creative Commons sharealike license)
An inquest before the coroner Samuel Brighouse at Bootle Police Court heard conflicting evidence. William said that his mother had accidentally swept the lamp in his direction whilst rushing at him as he threw a pint mug at her. The landlady Mrs Books said she saw and heard nothing, while a female warder from Pacific Road police station said Alice had admitted throwing the lamp. A verdict of manslaughter was returned.

When Alice appeared at the assizes the following February, the Daily Post headlined the case A DISGRACEFUL STORY OF A DRUNKEN WOMANHOOD. Alice's landlady Mrs Brooks said she had been drinking with Alice on the night in question and admitted being locked up for drunkenness many times. After telling the judge she had one child, he responded "you ought to be ashamed of yourself, go away". 

Just as he did at the inquest, William Leonard told the court that his mother had not picked up the lamp, but knocked it accidentally. Annie's dying deposition was read out, in which she had stated that she herself he picked up the lamp and dropped it.

After hearing the evidence the judge directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty, as the only two witnesses to the incident had both said Alice did not  pick up the lamp  and it was an accident.

Prior to discharging Alice, the judge told her that it was a discreditable and disgraceful case and that it was sufficient punishment knowing her daughter's death was a result of her drunken habits. Describing her and Mrs Brooks as a "disgrace to the city" he remarked that he hoped she would abstain from drink for the remainder of her life.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

An Irritating Victim

When two workmen clashed leading to one hitting the other with a pitch fork causing death, the irritating conduct of the victim led to leniency in court.

On 28th April 1863 a group of night soil men were emptying middens in the Islington area. One of them, Thomas Wignall, had been drinking and was obstructing the others as they went about their duties. 

When William Bibby told Wignall to go and sit down if he wasn't willing to work. Wignall responded by telling Bibby to put his pitchfork down and have a fight. Bibby instead simply struck Wignall on the head with the fork, which he had been using to load manure into a cart. 

Wignall died from a fractured skull on 2nd May. The coroners inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter and Bibby was committed for trial at the next assizes the following August.

Appearing before Mr Justice Blackburn evidence was heard that Wignall was "in liquor, irritating and obstructive to his fellow workmen" and had struck them with both his fist and fork. Bibby's defence was that he had been "provoked beyond endurance".

The jury found Bibby guilty but with a recommendation for mercy. He was then sentenced to just one month in prison.

Wife Killed by a Chisel

A man whose wife died after he stabbed her with a chisel was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter but still given the maximum possible sentence.

In 1863 blacksmith George Gibson and his wife Margaret lived unhappily in a house in Circus Street, which is long gone and was situated north of Islington.

On 20th June that year, following another drunken quarrel, the couple's landlady Mrs Quirk gave them notice to leave the house where they had been residing for just three months. Gibson then picked up an ash pan and threatened his wife with it, who responded by slapping him in the face. 

Later that night at around 11.45pm, Gibson returned home in a drunken state and complained to Margaret of noise in an adjoining room. Picking up a chisel, he said he would go and see what was going on but when Margaret asked if he was going mad, Gibson stabbed her in the side.

Margaret ran out into the street for assistance and was taken to the  Dispensary. The wound was dressed and she returned home to bed. By then Gibson had been taken into custody and charged with attempted murder. A police officer found him wiping blood off the chisel and stating it had been a "family row".  

Six days later, with doctors giving Margaret little hope of recovery, depositions were taken by the magistrates clerk. She made her statement with some reluctance, saying he was a good man when sober and she hoped he could be shown leniency so he could look after their children. 

Margaret passed away 24 hours later. An inquest heard evidence from Mrs Quirk that Gibson had once showed her a sharp pointed article saying that it was to murder Margaret with. A verdict of wilful murder was returned and Gibson was committed for trial on a coroners warrant. 

At the assizes court on 20th August prosecuting counsel described Gibson as "scarcely ever sober, quarrelsome and of violent disposition". The Daily Post reported that he was a "powerfully built man", despite having been on a prison diet for two months.

Other residents of the house testified that they had heard Gibson say to her that he would have her life and swing at Kirkdale for it. His wife's own deposition was read out and this probably saved him from being found guilty of murder and the jury instead went for the lesser charge of manslaughter. 

Prior to sentencing, Gibson said "I am heartily sorry for what I have done, I remember nothing of it. Please have mercy on me". Mr Justice Blackburn was in no mood for leniency however, saying that wives needed protecting from violence and brutality of their husbands. Gibson was then sentenced to transportation for life.

Monday, 13 January 2020

An Argentine Tragedy in Cleveland Square

A fight between two Argentine sailors in 1889 ended in tragedy when one of them produced a knife and stabbed the other in the abdomen.

AlmBrownAcorazado.jpgOn 19th July that year some crew members of the Almirante Brown, an Argentine naval vessel undergoing repairs in Birkenhead,  went on a drinking session near the Sailors Home in Liverpool's Canning Place. 

When a dispute arose over what pub to visit two of the men, Louis Ramirez and Ramon Gonzalez began fighting in Cleveland Square. Gonzalez had the upper hand, twice knocking Ramirez down. This led to Ramirez drawing a knife from his sheath and plunging it into Gonzalez's abdomen.

Gonzalez was rushed to the Southern Hospital in Caryl Street where he died a few hours later. Ramirez had initially managed to escape and discard the knife but he was soon caught on his room at the Sailors Home.

Twenty year old Ramirez was up before the assizes court just ten days later where he was found guilty of manslaughter. The vessels captain addressed the judge and described Ramirez as peaceable and good tempered as a rule. 

Addressing Ramirez through a translator the judge said to him "I do not think by any means that yours is one of the worst cases, but it is a serious case. You have killed this man as a result of your violent temper after receiving considerable insult. I take into account the fact that you are not an Englishman and it may be that in your country less is thought of using the knife than we think of it here". He then imposed a sentence of six months imprisonment with hard labour.

Pub Kettle Killing

A pub customer unhappy at being asked to leave threw a kettle at the landlord, causing scalding which led to his death. 

On the evening of Sunday 14th October 1860 George Simpson, his wife, brother and sister in law were in Roberts' Spirit Vaults, Copperas Hill. When they were refused service for being drunk, the manager William Evans told them to leave. 

George rushed behind the bar and picked up a kettle from a stove, throwing it at William. The kettle hit him on the head and as William fell down, his face was heavily splashed with boiling water. 

William died five days later from delirium tremens, the onset of which had been brought about by shock due to scalding. An inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter against George Simpson and a warrant was made out for his arrest by the coroner. 

At the assizes on 14th December, George did not dispute the facts of the case. His employer, a furniture dealer in Church Street, was a witness to his good character, referring to him as "strictly honest, peaceable and well conducted". Mr Justice Blackburn then sentenced him to nine months imprisonment with hard labour.