Saturday 5 August 2023

A Terrible Tragedy In Everton

In 1898 an Everton man killed two of his children, attempted to kill another child and his wife then tried to commit suicide. He was found guilty but insane.

On the morning of 10th June that year in Village Grove, 33 year old refuse destructor Francis Murphy breakfasted with his wife Gertrude, telling her that he felt very low due to a bout of bronchitis. He refused to see a doctor and as she was preparing breakfast for their two daughters who were still in bed, he tied a cord around their two month old baby Bernard's neck. 

When challenged over what he was doing, Francis replied "That is finished, now for you". He then ran at Gertrude and cut her throat. Gertrude managed to grab the baby and run out of the house to a neighbouring property, where the cord was untied. The neighbour then came into the house and found the two daughters, six-year-old Annie and three-year-old Ellen, dead in their beds. Francis was sat in the water closet with a wound to his throat. 

Francis's domestic arrangements were complicated by Victorian standards. He had married in 1884 but his wife committed bigamy while he was away in America. He then had two daughters with another woman, who subsequently died. He married Gertrude in January 1898 when she was already pregnant with Bernard. 

At his trial on 1st August, it was acknowledged that Francis had been a loving husband and father, but for three weeks before the tragedy he had been in bad health. He had said to Gertrude that if he were to die they must die with him. Consideration was given to the suddenness of the violence, the fact as an eighteen year old Francis had suffered a skull fracture in an accident and that for a few weeks, he had been complaining of dizziness. There was also a history of insanity in his family and after hearing evidence from doctors at Walton gaol and the Rainhill asylum, a verdict of guilty but insane was returned. Mr Justice Ridley then ordered that Francis be detained as a criminal lunatic. 

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