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.