Liverpool Mercury March 20th, 1894
TRAGEDY AT ST. HELENS.
Attempted murder and suicide
A tragedy was enacted at St. Helens, late the other night. Joseph Pickavance, aged 17, and Elizabeth Johnson, aged 16, after a courtship of 18 months, were walking Out in the residential portion of the town, when Pickavance drew a revolver and fired twice at his sweetheart, causing serious wounds to her hand and neck. He then placed the revolver to his own bead and blew out his brains. The girl gave birth to a child a month ago, and this appears to have depressed Pickavance. The girl was removed to the hospital, where Drs Reid and Wallace extracted a bullet from the scalp behind the ear. The medical theory is that the bullet passed clean through the girl's hand, and lodged in the head. Her escaped from instant death was marvellous. It is expected that she will ultimately recover. Johnson threatened Pickavance with affiliation proceedings unless he married her.
Liverpool Mercury March 23rd, 1894
TRAGEDY AT ST. HELENS.
Opening of the inquest
At St Helens Town Hall yesterday Mr S. Brighouse, county coroner opened an inquest touching the death of Joseph Pickavance of Boundary Rd, St Helens, who committed suicide by shooting himself with a revolver after firing at and severely wounding his sweetheart, Elizabeth Johnson, near St Mark’s Church, St Helens, on Tuesday night. Mr John Kitchen was foreman of the jury. The Coroner addressing the jury said, “You have been summoned here to inquire into the death of Joseph Pickavance, when the case was reported to me I felt certain you would not come to a conclusion in the matter unless you heard the evidence of the woman Elizabeth Johnson, who was present when the deceased came by his death. That person is at present in hospital and not able to come before you this morning, so that this morning I simply propose to take evidence sufficient to warrant me giving a burial order.”
Samuel Pickavance was then called. He said he lived at 33 Boundary Rd, St Helens, Joseph Pickavance was his brother, and he was 17, last September and was an apprentice glass maker. He last saw him at 7.30pm on Tuesday and saw him dead at 10am on Wednesday.
Inquest was adjourned until next Thursday morning
Liverpool Mercury March 29th, 1894
Inquest adjourned, the condition of Elizabeth Johnson is such that she cannot leave the Providence Hospital.
Liverpool Mercury April 18th, 1894
At St Helens Town Hall yesterday Mr S. Brighouse, county coroner resumed an inquest touching the death of Joseph Pickavance of Boundary Rd, St Helens, who committed suicide by shooting himself with a revolver after firing at and severely wounding his sweetheart, Elizabeth Johnson, near St Mark’s Church, St Helens.
The first witness was Elizabeth Johnson who was brought from the Providence Hospital. Her head was bandaged and she appeared extremely weak. She deposed that some weeks ago she gave birth to a child, of which Joseph Pickavance was the father. On the 30th March last she saw Pickavance at his house in Boundary Rd, and asked him what he proposed to do about the child. He said he did not know what he could do, but asked her to meet him at St Mark’s Church that night and he would see what arrangements he could make.
She met him and he asked her, “Well Lizzie, what do you want me to do?”
She replied, “Well Joe, I want you to do a little towards keeping the child” whereupon he said, “I have nothing and I don’t know what I can do.”
They walked about the district and in further conversation he said he was only getting 10s per week, and that was nothing, adding that if his brothers had a little money, he had none. She said she would be satisfied if he only gave her a little bit.
When they were near Langley’s glass works, he said, “Wait here a minute while I go and tell my mates” He went down an entry and when he came back he asked, “Have you considered what we can do?” She replied she had not.
She had her child with her, and as it commenced to cry she said she must be going home. He then remarked, “Well my best plan will be to follow my father, but I won’t go by myself” He appeared to hang behind a bit, and she heard him make a noise, which she found on turning round was due to his attempt to shoot her with a revolver.
She cried, “Police” and said, “Oh don’t Joe, but he again fired. She raised her hand to protect her head and the bullet passed through her hand and entered her head. He ran about 15 to 20yds and fired again. She did not see anything further but fell to the ground. Deceased had never used any threats before and she never expected him to attempt to taker her life or his own. He always appeared of sound mind.
Joseph H. Houghton, pawnbroker, 147 North Rd, deposed that on the night in question that he was standing near his house and saw two flashes and heard reports of a firearm. He also heard screams and on going in in the direction found the girl Johnson bleeding from the hand and head. She was assisted home. It was a very dark night and witness did not see the body of Pickavance.
Police-sergeant Strong deposed, that he was received information of the shooting affair, and in company with Sergeant Sisson visited the waste land near St Mark’s Church. They found the body of the deceased lying on the ground. He was bleeding from a wound on the right temple, and grasped in his hand a loaded revolver, two of the barrels of which had been discharged. In one of his pockets witness found a small pocket book on one of the pages of which was written in ink, “Murdered on March 20th 1894, Lizzie Johnson. [Signed] J. PICKAVANCE” On another page was written, “Joseph Pickavance, 33 Boundary Road, St Helens, murderer.”
The Coroner on inspecting the book remarked that it also contained a list of books, evidently borrowed from a library, which were rather sensational in their tone. The jury on their return the Foreman, Mr John Kitchen said, “We have agreed that he committed this rash act under stress of circumstances, which caused him to be temporarily insane.”