Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Booted to Death

Three gang members from Dingle were given stiff sentences after an attack on a trio of naval seamen that led to one being kicked to death.

At around 11.30pm on 13th July 1945, little more than two months after war in Europe had ended, a group of males were sat on top of an air raid shelter in Hill Street when three naval comrades walked past. Some words were exchanged leading to 21 year old Leonard Dixon jumping down and punching one of them, after which a brief fight broke out.

Hill St in the 1930s (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
When one of the naval men saw his cap being picked up he said 'You've had your fight now give me back my cap' but his request was ignored. They continued their way towards the depot but the gang members then followed, a fight breaking out again. Two of the naval men got away but 29 year old signaller James March, who hailed from Essex, was repeatedly kicked and left in the gutter. A resident of Hill Street who heard the commotion went out to help but he was already dead. He told the police that as many as five males had been involved in the kicking.

Police soon established that members of the Park Lane Gang were responsible and quickly made three arrests; 19 year old Moses Birch from Caryl Street, 21 year old Henry Johnson of Tillotson Street and main aggressor Dixon, who was from Stanhope Street. All three admitted being in a fight and were committed for trial at the Liverpool assizes.

On 5th November the males pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the prosecution did not proceed with the murder charge. Police told the court that Birch and Dixon were part of the eleven strong Park Lane Gang, who terrorised shops in the south of the city and would not hesitate to use violence. It was acknowledged however that Johnson had a good sea going record and never been convicted of violence. 

The judge, Mr Justice Croom-Johnson, had little room for leniency when it came to Johnson. Despite the please of his counsel Rose Heilbron, he said that Johnson had known that the other two were members of the gang and made no attempt to walk away that night. He then imposed a sentence of four years penal servitude on Johnson, and six years each for Dixon and Birch, commenting that 'it was high time terrorist gangs in Liverpool were made to understand that the law was strong enough to stretch out and reach them and punish them severely.'

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