The murder and outrage of Sarah FLAHERTY at St Helens, 1898

December 12th 1898, Monday

The inhabitants of Parr, St Helens were on Sunday morning thrown into a state of wild excitement by the discovery that a horrible crime had been perpetrated in their midst. About a quarter to nine on Sunday morning, Thomas GREENALL, a middle aged collier, of 6 Lathom St, while out for a walk He strolled down the lane which leads from Lathom St, under a bridge which carries the New St, St Helens Railway down to the canal, a lane much frequented by the people who live at Gladehill, Parrmill and Irelands Brow, groups of houses are situated at different points by the side of the St Helens and Sankey Canal. GREENALL went a short distance along the lane and saw the face of a child, which was lying in the corner of Park Rd, Association Club, football ground and the read joining the Star Inn Recreation Ground, which is surrounded by a chemical waste heap wall, broken down and dilapidated in many places, open to anyone and everyone.

GREENALL, on going nearer was horrified to see that the child lay apparently dead, with one arm outstretched and her clothes all disarranged. The child was lying on her back with her head to one side, there being a good deal of discolouration down the side of her face and neck, and thus suffocated.

The people from Park Rd, quickly gathered around, a little boy among the bystanders said it was a girl called FLAHERTY out of Black Horse St. The FLAHERTY family, who had missed their little girl all night, were quickly alarmed, and the father, a collier, named Martin FLAHERTY, at once ran out of the house, and called to his wife and neighbours. Mrs GREENALL, accompanied by her grown up daughter and Mrs PENNINGTON a neighbour, at once ran to the spot and on raising the head of the child found she was quite dead and rigid. Martin FLAHERTY became quite overcome. On recovering his composure somewhat, the poor man, took up the body and carried it home. The police and a doctor were sent for, Constable JACKSON, who resides in Pocket Nook St, was quickly in attendance, he was afterwards joined by Constables LEWIS and WHALLEY. Dr GILLERAN examined the body and told the police that in his opinion the child had clearly been outraged. The father of the unfortunate girl states that she was last seen at a quarter past nine on Saturday night, when she left the house of her uncle Mr Peter BARKER of 133 Park Rd, about 150 yards away on the advice of her brother Tom, aged 17, she started to walk home down Bank Rd one of the main thoroughfares leading into the town from Haydock and Parr, on Saturday night much frequented and in no sense a quiet or lonely street. She was very much in the habit of going to the houses of her Grandmother and other relatives in Park Rd and was not missed until late on Saturday night, when a short, but, unsuccessful search was made for her. The child whose name is Sarah FLAHERTY was six and a half years old, she would have been seven next April, she was a scholar at St Josephs Roman Catholic School.

The police are making diligent inquiries in the hope of being able to trace the movements of the child from her leaving the home of her cousin soon after nine on Saturday night. During Sunday evening the police arrested a tramp on suspicion of having committed the outrage, but after inquiries had been made on his whereabouts on Saturday night he was allowed to go.

Opening of the inquest

The St Helens police are still without a clue to the murderer of Sarah FLAHERTY whose outraged body was found on Sunday morning. County Coroner BRIGHOUSE held an inquest at St Helens Town Hall, on Tuesday and in addressing the jury, said he was informed that the police were not able to bring anyone before them at present they could charge with having caused the death, and after evidence to the facts of the post mortem by the police surgeons Drs REID and MASSON would adjourn for the police to complete the investigations.

Evidence was given by the parents of the girl that they searched for their daughter on Saturday night but could not trace her whereabouts. They did not suspect any person at present.

Thomas GREENALL, collier, deposed to finding the body at 9am on Sunday in a field behind his house. She was lying on her back quite cold.

Dr James REID who made the post mortem examination, said there were bruises externally, indicating that the arms of the child had been grasped and that she had struggled. She had been forcibly outraged and death was due to suffocation. In reply to the Coroner he said there were marks on the neck clearly indicating that violence had been applied there, but from internal examination he thought suffocation had been brought about by something placed over the mouth.The inquest was adjourned for a fortnight.

December 15th 1898

St Helens murder

The evidence of the doctor given at the inquest on Tuesday has intensified the horror and indignation entertained by all sections of the community, the crime being one of the most terrible ever committed in the district. The body of Sarah FLAHERTY was removed on Tuesday night as quietly as possible from the mortuary to the residence of her parents, 6 Blackhorse St, and the arrival of the little coffin with its pitiable contents was naturally the cause of a renewal of the grief of the whole family and the numerous relatives living in the vicinity. The funeral will take place this afternoon at St Helens Cemetery, and will, and will be conducted by some of the priests connected with Holly Cross Catholic Church. The coffin, placed on a table, which is almost the only furniture in the front room of the house, bearing the breastplate with the inscription, Sarah FLAHERTY, Died December 10. 1898, aged six years "His lambs shall not perish"

In the immediate neighbourhood, a general opinion is expressed that the police need not go very far a field in the search for the murderer, in fact, it is expected that before the Coroner holds the inquest, the affair may take a turn of the most sensational and startling description, which will add to the horror

December 24th 1898

St Helens Murder mystery

Hopes are still entertained at St Helens that the murderer of Sarah FLAHERTY will yet be discovered. Among the many theories put forward is the idea that the child was murdered in some house, and the body afterwards carried to the place it was found. A woman living near the place where the child was last seen alive, states that on the night of the murder her attention was arrested while she was in the back yard by the voice of a child evidently in distress shouting, "Mamma mamma!" The cries gradually grew fainter and at last ceased. The back yard of this persons house adjoins the field where the body was found. At the time the woman thought little of the incident.

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The Evening News August 1st 1905

Murder Confessed

A Portsmouth sensation

Police Incredulity

A sensational case of confession of murder has occurred at Portsmouth, but has been treated by the police as nothing more than a drunken freak.

At midnight on Sunday Frederick BOARDMAN, aged 21, a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery, stationed at Clarence Barracks, Portsmouth, walked in to the Town Hall Police Office and asked for the Inspector. Inspector TAYLOR happened to be on duty and to him BOARDMAN made an extraordinary statement. He said he wished to give himself up for murdering a little girl in a field at St Helens. The Inspector asked BOARDMAN if he really meant what he was saying, BOARDMAN replied that he did and after being duly cautioned he continued his statement.

It was to the effect that he murdered a little girl about twelve years of age by strangling her in a field off Mertonbank Rd, St Helens, it was about eight years ago. He was thirteen or fourteen years of age at the time and was living at 2 Brynn St. Inspector TAYLOR detained the prisoner and at 5.30am the next morning saw him again. The officer asked him if he remembered the statement he had made. BOARDMAN said, "Yes it is quite correct, but I cannot think what was the name of the girl or why I did it." The prisoner was charged by the Inspector with the offence, to which he replied, "I shall plead not guilty."

At the Portsmouth Police Court, this morning, the prisoner, a smart looking young soldier, was brought before Messers C. E. MATTHEWS and T. H. F. LAPTHORN.

Inspector TAYLOR detailed the evidence as above, adding that on the first occasion the prisoner was recovering from the effects of drink, although he knew what he was saying. On the second occasion the man had recovered and was quite sober.

Detective Inspector William STRONG of the St Helens Borough Police Force, was next called. He said that on December 11th, 1898, a girl named Sarah FLAHERTY was found outraged and murdered in a field off Mertonbank Rd, St Helens, and nobody was arrested for the crime. He had interrogated the prisoner, and was quite satisfied that he had nothing to do with it. The prisoner declared to him that he was in drink at the time of the confession, and was in trouble at the barracks and did not want to go abroad, and that was why he made the statement. He did not know the age of the girl, saying she was twelve, whereas she was only six. Witness had known the prisoner from early boyhood, having lived in Brynn St. Witness himself had charge of the inquires at the time, and he assured the Bench that he was quite satisfied that the prisoner had no connection with the murder.

Prisoner was therefore discharged.

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