Thursday, 28 September 2017

Parental Neglect at Woolton

A distressing case in 1895 saw a woman jailed for two months after being prosecuted when her baby daughter died in the workhouse.

On 13th September 1895 Inspector Cole of the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)  attended 25 Rodick Street in Woolton, the home of a middle aged widow named Mary Rawlinson. It was a distressing sight, with Mary sat behind a box in which her six month old daughter was lying. The poor infant was emaciated, wearing wet clothes and covered in vermin. Two other girls, nine year old Mary and seven year old Ann were naked and also had vermin swarming all over them. 

Rodick St in 1930s (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)Inspector Cole pleaded with Mary to take her children into the workhouse in Whiston but she refused, saying she would rather die on the streets than go there. She did however agree to go the following day and baby Alice was immediately taken from her and examined by a doctor. She was found to be almost skin and bone, weighing only seven and a half pounds, as opposed to the expected twelve pounds and four ounces for a baby of her age. Her skin was also covered in bites and sores and she died ten days later.

Dr Hall from the workhouse refused to issue a burial certificate and referred the matter to the coroner. On 30th September an inquest was held at Whiston workhouse and three women all said they had nursed Alice while her mother worked as a laundress in Cressington. They denied neglecting her in any way and felt she was healthy. 

The doctor revealed that the postmortem had shown death was as a result of congestion on the brain and asked if this was down to neglect, he replied that it was his suspicion that it was. Mary denied any neglect, saying that she often went hungry herself to ensure her children were fed. She told how she used to receive three shillings a week relief from the guardians but this was withdrawn as Alice was illegitimate. 

The Coroner Samuel Brighouse expressed concern at the withdrawal of relief and asked Reverend Sylvester from the guardians to explain this. He insisted that it was only 'outdoor relief' that wasn't paid, and that Mary could be accommodated in the workhouse. Asked why this was, he said that paying money in the community would encourage women to have more illegitimate children. This received a rebuke from Brighouse, saying that the other children shouldn't be made to suffer as a reslt of this.

Samuel Brighouse The jury returned a verdict of death by natural causes, saying they didn't believe Mary's actions had contributed to the death. However the NSPCC continued with the prosecution. On 4th October at the Woolton Sessions it was heard how Mary's husband had died a few years earlier and although she worked hard, she was also of drunken and dissolute habits. The prosecutor said that they were not seeking a manslaughter conviction, rather one for neglect of all three children, with that being a factor in Alice's death.

Evidence was heard from Dr Hall and a portress as to Alice's condition on being taken to the workhouse. They were of the opinion that she was improperly fed and that the bedding had been greatly neglected. After being found guilty the chair of the bench said it was some of the most harrowing evidence he ever heard. Saying he was sure neglect had accelerated death, he sentenced Mary to two months imprisonment with hard labour.  

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Dale Street Skeleton

In 1862 some workmen in Dale Street uncovered a skeleton, believed to be that of somebody who met a violent end some years earlier. 

On 17th September that year workmen were digging up newly vacant land, making it ready for the construction of  Municipal Building. They came across a skeleton and quickly summoned the police who placed the grisly find in a sack and took it to the detective office to await an order from the coroner.  

The land had previously been occupied by a number of what the Daily Post described as 'disreputable houses' and speculation was rife that the person had met their end by 'foul means'.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Estranged Husband's Death Sentence Reprieve

A man who was jealous of his estranged wife's lifestyle killed her by cutting her throat, but was reprieved from the death sentence.

George and Martha Sutherland married in 1925 but two years later were separated, leading to them both living in lodging houses; George in Wilton Street, Martha in Soho Street.  Martha was said to be making a living by 'immoral means', much to George's anger. Things came to a head on 22nd October 1927 George came across his estranged wife in a pub in Islington with a man named Rogers.

Soho Street in the late 1960s (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
Later that night George went to Martha's lodgings to confront her, leading to her replying that she would go with who she likes and threatening to throw a plate at him. Martha went alone to a shop and George followed her, cutting her throat with a razor. He then told a passer by to fetch a policeman and was taken into custody without resistance. Martha was taken to the Royal Infirmary but pronounced dead on arrival. She was 25 years old, the same aged as George who worked as a fruit porter.

At the bridewell George realised the seriousness of his situation and said that Martha had tried to cut him, he took the razor off her and waved it as a deterrent, only to cut her. On being charged with murder he responded 'What I did, I did to save myself getting cut.'

George was tried by Justice Finlay at the Manchester assizes where a key witness was Professor McFall of the University of Liverpool. He was of the opinion that a cut on George's arm had occurred after he had slashed Martha's throat. George was found guilty of murder but with a strong recommendation for mercy. In passing sentence of death, the judge said he would forward this on to which George imply replied 'thank you.' George's sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment by the Home Secretary.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Prison Killer Reprieved

A prisoner who killed a fellow inmate with an iron bar at Walton gaol in 1948 was sentenced to death but reprieved by the Home Secretary.

On Saturday 17th April 1948, John Bretherton, a thirty nine year old prisoner in Walton gaol died of a fractured skull. He had been hit over the head that day with an iron bar by another prisoner Frank Bond, who was twenty years old and a lorry driver from Blackpool. 


Bond was charged with the murder of Bretherton and for the committal hearing on 5th May, a special court was set up inside the prison with the press refused admittance. They were however allowed admittance to the assizes trial on 18th June.  Wearing a sports jacket and flannel trousers, Bond pleaded not guilty in a loud clear voice. 

The prosecutor Mr Gorman stood up and told the jury to disregard the fact that Bond was in prison. He outlined the background to the killing, stating that on 16th April Bond believed 1 shilling and 6d, his payment for prison work had been stolen from his coat pocket by Bretherton. After Bretherton denied it, a prison officer intervened and split the pair for the rest of the day.

Mr Gorman then said that the following day Bretherton was working in an engineers workshop when Bond approached him from behind and hit him with an iron bar, which he was holding with both hands. On being charged with murder, Bond was said to have replied 'He had it coming to him.' Mr Gorman submitted that it had been a cold premediated act with the intention of killing or grievously injuring Bretherton, who lived in Briardale Road in the Liverpool suburb of Mossley Hill.

Prison officer Robert Beattie described Bond as quiet and inoffensive, and acknowledged that although Bretherton had never caused any problems, he did have something of an attitude. He also said that he had seen Bretherton give Bond cigarettes.

Giving evidence himself, Bond admitted hitting Bretherton, who he described as a bully and thief, with an iron bar but insisted he did not intend to kill him. However the admission of intentionally hitting his victim on the head with a weapon that weighed five pounds was enough for him to be found guilty of murder by the jury. 

Bond was then sentenced to death by Mr Justice Byrne. His execution was just days away when the the Home Secretary James Chuter Ede intervened on 12th July and gave him a reprieve, the sentence being commuted to life imprisonment. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Shocking Tragedy in Wavertree

In 1850 a terrible event occurred in Wavertree when a domestic servant suspected of killing her infant child committed suicide by drinking poison.

Catherine Carnall was employed by Francis Hollins, a cotton broker who lived in Cow Lane (now Prince Alfred Road). She was the daughter of a Leicestershire farmer and described as of amiable disposition.

Prince Alfred Road (formerly Cow Lane) in 2017
In October that year Carnall gave Hollins notice that she would be leaving his service. However on the 17th of the month he received a badly handwritten letter indicating that she had given birth to a child three weeks earlier. When Hollins challenged her she mad a full confession, saying she had wrapped the child up in her apron and let it in the privy.

Hollins ordered a search of the privy and the body of an infant was recovered. This led to Carnall running out and trying to jump into a pond to drown herself. Hollins managed to stop her and took her back to the house and confined her in the parlour. When she asked for permission to go the the water closet, she was allowed to do so but only under the supervision of three other servants. On getting there, she tried to open an adjoining closet instead and was stopped, but then given permission to get an apple.

When Carnall got the apple she immediately threw it on the floor and grabbed a bottle of vitriol, swallowing some of the contents. The bottle was knocked away from her mouth but she collapsed immediately. On being told what had happened Hollins sent for Dr Kenyon of the High Street, but the remedies he had available were not able to save her.

An inquest was held on the body of the baby two days later at Mr Hollins' house. Dr Kenyon gave his opinion that the child had breathed once or twice, but the coroner's jury did not believe that was sufficient evidence to conclude that it had been born alive. In respect of Carnall, they returned a verdict of suicide through temporary insanity. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Woman's Murder Solved 39 Years Later

The murder of a young mother in 1970 remained unsolved until 2009. It was only when a written confession detailing the killing was found amongst the belongings of a man who died that the police could finally close the case.

The alleyway where Lorraines body was found in 2017
At 8am on Wednesday 2nd September that year binmen found the body of nineteen year old Lorraine Jacobs in an alley off Rodney Street. Lorraine's knickers had been removed and by her side were three rain sodden bags of chips. As her back was dry, police concluded she had died prior to the rain starting at 3am. A pathologist later put the time of death as around midnight.

Lorraine had been on her way to her home in Russell Street where she lived with her mum, fourteen month old daughter and baby son. Enquiries established she had last been seen alive in Pilgrim Street at 11pm and bought the chips in Great George Street. Earlier in the evening she had been drinking in Yates' Wine Lodge in Great Charlotte Street.

Detectives interviewed 900 people who lived, worked or had been in the area on the night of the killing and handed out 3,500 questionnaires. However the trail went cold and the murder remained unsolved until a dramatic discovery by decorators in 2008. Whilst cleaning out the house of 78 year old Harvey Richardson, who had recently died of bowel cancer, they found an envelope marked 'private and confidential'. Inside was a nine page confession to the murder, written on yellowing paper, as well as a pair of blue knickers.

The discovery led to Merseyside Police being called in and tests dated the paper to around the time of the murder. The confession contained information never previously in the public domain, detailing how Richardson, who had never been a suspect, had rowed with Lorraine over a camera she had taken from his Huskisson Street flat a couple of months earlier. This had happened as she was unhappy about him taking photographs of her children with it, although there was no reason to believe there was anything sinister about that. The letter said Richardson had been drinking all day after finding out he had failed his exams to become a librarian, then gone to Upper Duke Street looking for prostitutes. After coming across Lorraine, he strangled her then headed to Greenheys Gardens, where he had recently moved after being evicted from Huskisson Street.

Despite the length of time since the murder, detectives were able to corroborate 90% of the letters contents and there were DNA matches to both Lorraine and Richardson on the knickers. The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that if Richardson were still alive, then he would be charged with the killing. This led to the police closing the case and Detective Superintendent Ian Kemble stating 'It means a lot to me to close this case for the Jacob family, I can not appreciate the suffering they have been through all these years and hope this outcome will bring them some comfort.'







Friday, 10 March 2017

Scandinavian Shooting

A Norwegian sailor who shot his friend dead was sentenced to just a year's imprisonment. 

For three weeks over the Christmas period at the end of 1911 two Norwegian sailors, Alfred Martinsen and Alfred Karlsen, slept in a dormitory at the Scandinavian Hotel in Great George Street. The pair got on well but things took a turn for the worse at on Saturday 6th January 1912 when drink got the better of them.

Scandinavian Hotel in 2013
 At around 11pm they returned to their lodgings with Karlsen being in a merry mood. He put on cap then pretended to be an officer, walking up and down the aisles giving orders to men who were asleep. Without warning, Martinsen appeared and produced a revolver, firing it straight at Karlsen. A bullet entered Karlsen's eye and he collapsed and died instantly. 

Martinsen, realising what he had done, desperately tried to revive his friend but could not do so and after surrendering the gun went to his bed where he laid down to await his inevitable arrest. He offered no resistance when taken into custody by Constable Jennings, saying he could not bear the thought of what he had done. On being told he would be charged with murder he said simply 'Go ahead.' He appeared before magistrates on the Monday morning and was remanded in custody.

On 25th January Martinsen was brought before the police court, where the prosecutor Mr Duder asked for the case to be sent to the assizes before the inquest had taken place. This was an unusual step, but Mr Duder stated that they were imminent and the cost of bringing witnesses from Norway later in the year would be expensive. Mr Duder admitted he could find no motive for the attack and suggested that Martinsen was in a state of semi drunkenness and mistakenly thought he had quarrelled with his friend. 

Alfred Martinsen
Another Norwegian seaman named Segrid Wille said that shortly before the incident he had been in a public house with the two men and Martinsen had shown them the gun. The licensee asked them to leave and they did so, being best of friends at that time. A lady called Mathilde Odegaard recalled seeing Martinsen and Karlsen together on the night of the tragedy and they had been on good terms. One of the men who had been asleep in the dormitory, Hilding Olsson, recalled that Karlsen was parading up and down shouting to people 'Get up and work'. Olsson went on to say that on hearing a gunshot, he got up and saw Martinsen leaning over the body of his friend, who had blood coming from his eye. 

The shooting had been witnessed by Sedberg Hermansson, who described both men as being sober but having had some drink. He said that they were only ten feet apart when the shot was fired and Martinsen immediately went forward and said 'What is the matter Karlsen are you dead.'  Martinsen, who was rubbing Karlsen's head, immediately handed the revolver to a Danish seaman when asked to do so.

Dr Naughton Dunn from the Southern Hospital revealed the results of the postmortem which took place after Karlsen had been pronounced dead at 11.45pm. The bullet had passed through the eye and passed right through the brain and bounded off the skull, causing instant death. After Constable Jennings gave evidence as to the arrest, Martinsen was committed for trial at the forthcoming assizes which were just two weeks away.

When Martinsen appeared at the assizes on 12th February, it was accepted by the jury that he had not had any malice aforethought and not intended to kill. He was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment.