Liverpool Mercury 22 July 1867
HORRIBLE MURDER NEAR ST. HELENS
Shortly after twelve o'clock, on Saturday night last, a murder was committed near St. Helens. The murdered man is Adam Mather, about 55 to 60 years of age, and lives with his wife and son in a cottage in a lonely spot at Greenleach, about half a mile from Carr Mill, on the St. Helens Road, near the residence of Mr David Bromilow, J.P. On Saturday night the son had not returned home at the usual hour for retiring so the father and mother went to bed leaving the back door unsecured in order that the son might get in.
He was a man in easy circumstances, possessing a good income from household property, but, to fill up his time, worked at the Garswood Colliery, as fireman. It appears that the deceased and his wife, having been to St. Helens on Saturday night, retired to bed shortly after twelve o'clock. They had been in bed some four or five minutes when the attention of Mrs. Mather was occupied by hearing a drawer being opened in an adjoining room. She told her husband, and at the same time said it was not "Dan," referring to their son, who had not then got home. Mather, having got out of bed, went to see who the intruder was, and seeing a man whom he did not know ransacking some drawers said, What are thou doing here? thou had better be going." The man then made a rush at Mather, and with a razor which he had taken from a drawer cut a severe gash across the deceased's throat and chin severing the windpipe and jugular vein, so dreadful was the wound that Mather died within a few minutes. The wife hearing a scuffle went to see what it was, and seeing her husband on the floor coverer with blood, she rushed out of the house screaming "murder" and went towards a neighbour's named Mort. Before she got many yards the murderer came up with her and stabbed her in two places, and struck her in the face, which caused her to fall to the ground. He then made off.
The man Mort, having been aroused, came out of the house, and Mrs. Mather told him the direction the murderer had taken. Mort followed, but was not able to come up with him. He immediately afterwards proceeded to St. Helens and informed Dr. Jamieson, who at once proceeded to the house of Mather, and information having been given to the police, Superintendent Ludlam mustered his force and sent scouts through the county. The murderer was traced across several fields, but upon approaching the railway all clue was lost. He left his clogs at Mather's door, and his cap was found near to the deceased. He is said by Mrs. Mather to be about 40 years of age, light hair, under middle height, and had the appearance of a tramping collier. The clogs have duck-bill irons, two brass eyelet holes on each side, and two on each tongue, with brass toe tips. A piece is cut out of each hind quarter to give room for the ankle bone. His cap is of brown cloth, ribbed in three inch squares, old and greasy. He was dressed in cord trousers, and had on a light coat, and speaks with a Lancashire dialect.
About 11am yesterday Sergeant Brown of the County Constabulary apprehended a man near the Kings Arms, Prescot. He said that he had come from Salford and had been drinking in the market place at St Helens. He was dressed in light clothes, without a coat, and the sleeves of his shirt appeared to have been washed recently. He wore a pair of old shoes which did not match. The man was taken to St Helens to see if he could be identified. At St Helens police station he gave his name as John Smith, he was unknown to the police and appears about 40 yrs of age, 5ft 3inches tall, dark complexion with a tuft of whiskers on his chin. His stockings were wet and dirty, a pocket knife, 4d and a tobacco box were all that was found on him. Both of the clogs left by the murderer have pieces cut out as if to ease sores, the prisoner had sores on his feet corresponding with the cuts in the clogs.
Liverpool Mercury July 24th, 1867
The inquest on the body of Adam Mather, who was murdered at Greenleach, was opened yesterday, at the Town Hall, St. Helen's, before Mr. Driffield, the deputy coroner. The court was densely crowded. Those of the jury who had not yet seen the body proceeded to the cottage at Greenleach to view the body of the deceased, soon afterwards the whole of the jury assembled at the Town Hall. The front of the building was besieged by a large crowd, eager to catch a glimpse of the prisoner. Soon afterwards Smith was conducted by the police into the room assigned for the inquiry, he was apparently calm and self-possessed and took little notice of the crowd of spectators. In his general appearance he resembled a tramp, and was scantily clad, his clothes being hard worn and dirty.
Mrs Mather, the wife of the deceased was then called. She appeared with her eye shaded, owing to the blow she received and gave her evidence in a low tone of voice.
She said, “The deceased was my husband we reside at Greenleach, he was 60yrs of age and a collier. On Saturday night we came home about 11.15, and having got our supper we sat a bit by the fire. We retired to bed about 12.30 in our usual health. About 12.45 I heard the bar of the door drop, my husband being asleep. I could not hear my son coming in and I kept awake, he was not in the habit of coming in so late, but had been out that evening. The bar can be opened from the outside, not hearing my son’s feet I got afraid that someone was in the house, and woke my husband telling him someone was in the house. He got up and went into the kitchen, I heard him ask some one, “What are thou doing there?” Thou hast no right there, thou must go out” I called my husband to see who it was and he said he did not know. I then got out of bed and went towards the kitchen, when I got to the kitchen I could not see anything, I could only hear sounds of plunder, I opened the door and rushed out screaming for our neighbour John Mort. As soon as I began screaming some man came out of the house and overtook me, I turned my head and saw him, and running up to me he knocked me down, he cut me on the neck with something like a razor. My eye is black in consequence of the blow, not because of the cut. I lost a good deal of blood from the wound on my neck. I did not know the man before, I think I could tell him again if I saw him”
The prisoner here asked to be allowed to put his clothes in the same state as when he was taken into custody, and he then took off his coat.
The Coroner, You believe the man now present is the man who knocked you down? Witness, Yes Sir, hew favours him, I was rather dazed at the time, when I came to he had got away. Upon Mrs Mort coming to the house and giving the alarm I went into her house, and some time after found I was cut. I had previously asked Mrs Mort to go in and see what they had done to him. I could not see a scuffle at the time I passed through the kitchen. She went in and screamed out and then I went in, I found him lying on his side on the floor, he was living but bleeding from the throat. A light had been got before I returned.. The deceased could not speak then, I was not in when he died but was told he lived three quarters of an hour. Some neighbours came in to assist in putting him on the bed where he now lies. There was not much property in the house, my husband was tolerably well off, sufficiently to attract any person. I do not know if the drawer where the razors were kept was open. [A razor case was here produced] That was a case in which one of the razors were kept, I saw my husband use a razor on Saturday night and strop it, he always kept his razor in the drawer referred to, that razor is missing, the case produced is the one he kept it in and was found on the floor. My son came home that night, I do not know what time, it was all over before he came. The house has been broken open before. I found shortly after the occurrence my neck had been cut in two places, one on my neck the other on my shoulder, my bed gown was cut.”
Coroner [to prisoner] Have you given your name?
Prisoner, Yes, John Smith
Coroner, Well now John Smith, you have heard what has been said by this witness. You are at liberty to ask her any questions
Prisoner, I should wish to ask her if she ever had seen me in her life before last Sunday at the police station?
Witness, It is the same face I saw running after me.
Coroner, Was there anyone in the house when the man was shaving.
Witness, No only he and I.
Prisoner, Was there anybody besides yourselves who knew how to open the door?
Witness, No, nobody ever opened it besides ourselves, but it is easily opened.
Prisoner, Did the clogs that were found belong to your son?
Prisoner, Did you ever see the clogs before?
Prisoner asked how the man was dressed whom she saw running, Witness replied, In his shirt sleeves, without coat or shoes, I do not know whether he had stockings on.
John Mort examined, said he lived at Greenleach and was a brakesman at Laffak Colliery. His house was next to the deceased on the same side of the road. He e was in bed and was awakened by his wife, and then heard Mrs Mather shouting, “His thee Mort” he jumped out of bed and went towards Mrs Mather. She said, “Some man has been and done both Adam and me” He replied, “Where is he?” she replied, “He is running down the lane”. Witness then run down the lane for about half a mile, but saw nobody, on returning he found the deceased on his hands and knees, deceased did not say anything. He immediately went for a surgeon, when they returned Mather was dead. He did not see the clogs picked up, or the man who had committed the outrage.
Juror, He could not see far before him on the road, if the man had been 20yrds before him he could not see that distance.
The Coroner, It was only light enough for him to see across the road.
Prisoner, I would like to ask him if he ever saw me before he saw me enter the police station ?
Witness, No I have never seen you in my life before, I did not see you at the police station.
Mary Mort was then called, she said she was the wife of the last witness. When in bed on the night in question she heard Mrs Mather screaming for her husband, she woke him, he took a stick and ran out. Mrs Mather came into her house and informed her that a man had been in the house, and had followed her and knocked her down. Witness dressed and went to the house of the Mathers, where she discovered the deceased on his hands and knees, she could hear the blood rushing from his throat. She lifted him up and her hands slipped into the gash. She exclaimed, “Oh Adam you are murdered” He turned and looked at her but did not speak. Upon the floor she saw a cap which she thought was the one produced, which was lying under the deceased. She inquired of two men who had come in from the next house whether it belonged to the son of the deceased, but was informed that it did not. It was soaked with blood when she found it. Witness was present when the deceased died.
The inquest was then adjourned.
The police are continuing their inquiries with respect to the prisoner, who affords no information, but preserves the same sullen demeanour, he says nothing beyond protesting his innocence of the crime.
When apprehended at Prescot it was found that the prisoner had cut up his waistcoat and had converted it into a cap which he was wearing. Before anything was said to him he pointed to his shirt and said the mark on it was not blood, that as he had worked in the collieries his clothing was often marked with red ochre.
Superintendent Ludlam communicated the fact of the murder to Superintendent Fowler of Prescot. Subsequently Superintendent Fowler received information from an omnibus driver that a man answering the description of the murderer was on the road to Prescot, this led to the apprehension of the prisoner. The murderer after leaving the house of Mather had evidently quitted the main road, proceeded across a field, crossed a brook and made his escape from the scene of the crime. The police were able to trace the marks of bare feet along the road for some distance, and also observed two footmarks near the hedge over which the murderer had climbed, on reaching the brook all trace of him was lost.
It has been stated that a man answering the description of the prisoner applied for permission to sleep in a barn of a farmhouse in the neighbourhood a short time previous to the murder, the farmer had since seen the prisoner and says he is not the man who asked for lodgings.
The wound inflicted on the murdered man is of a ghastly character, the assassin having used his weapon with so much force that the head was nearly severed from the body, and it is surprising that death was not instantaneous.
Liverpool Mercury, July 31st 1867
THE ST. HELEN'S MURDER.
The inquest on the body of Adam Mather, who was murdered at Greenleach, was resumed on Tuesday, at the Town Hall, St. Helen's, before Mr. Driffield, the deputy coroner. The court was densely crowded.
Sergeant Thomas Whiteside, who was the first witness examined, said that about one o'clock on Sunday morning the 21st he went to the house of Mather. On his arrival, he found Mather lying on a bed in a room adjoining the kitchen, dead, and with his throat cut, deceased was then warm, he was covered in blood. On the floor he found a razor case and cap saturated with blood and on an examination of. the garden he discovered foot prints of a person who had passed along without shoes on, and these prints were traced across several fields, to the road leading to Foals Lane about 100yds from the railway bridge, until they were gradually lost in the main road.
Dr Arthur Jamison, surgeon, residing in St Helens, said he was called to see the deceased about 130 a.m., on the 21st, and found him dead lying on a bed. He found a wound extending from the back of the left ear, following the line of the lower jaw to within two inches of the right ear. The wound was very deep on the left side, extending as far as the spine, and dividing in its course all the chief blood vessels of that side of the neck. Any instrument exceedingly sharp would have inflicted such a wound. The deceased could not have survived more than twenty minutes. He had no doubt that the wound was the cause of death. There was another wound on the chin extending to the jaw bone. He had examined a shirt which was stained with blood on the outside. There were stains of blood on it. He had examined a cap and pair of trousers belonging to the prisoner, and had found blood stains in them. The pair of clogs found in the garden exactly fitted the prisoner. The stockings of the prisoner were covered with mud. The texture of the stockings exactly corresponded to pieces found in the clogs. There were sores on the elbow which must have been recently inflicted.
James. Ludlam, superintendent of the St. Helens police, said that about five o'clock on the morning of the murder, accompanied by Sergeant Whiteside he searched the neighbourhood of Mather's cottage. The prisoner was brought from Prescott. Witness charged him on suspicion with having murdered Mather in his own cottage at Greenleach, and he re- plied, "God forbid that I should ever be guilty of such a thing." When witness took prisoner's clothes from him the prisoner said, "There is no blood on those trousers for the doctor has examined them."
Sergeant. George Brown of the Prescot Constabulary who took the prisoner into custody, stated that he placed himself in a position to watch the St. Helens and the Rainhill Roads. He had not been on the watch long before the prisoner came down the road leading from St. Helens. When the prisoner saw the witness he hesitated to come forward, but perceiving that he was noticed he advanced. Prisoner then crossed the street, went up against a blank wall, put a pipe in his mouth and struck a match. Witness turned round and appeared not to be taking any notice, and the prisoner then commenced to walk forward again in the direction of Liverpool, and crossed the road. Witness followed him, and the prisoner turned to look over his shoulder. Prisoner took a sharp turn up Tea-street, Prescot, and was about to enter a lodging-house when he was apprehended. Witness asked him where he came from, and he said St. Helens. When asked where his coat was, prisoner said, What's that to you." Witness said that he would have to answer the question, he said his coat was in pawn., the prisoner was removed to the police station. The shirt, stockings, and cap produced were taken from the prisoner.
Superintendent James Fowler of Prescot stated that after being informed of the murder he stationed officers throughout Prescot, among them Brown who was stationed at Fazakerley St, who brought the prisoner to the station. When questioned by the witness the prisoner stated his name was John Smith, and he lodged with Mrs Riley in Greenbank, St Helens, that he had worked for Mr Daglish for the last 18mths up until Monday last and had been on the spree ever since, he was on his way to Liverpool where he could earn 18s per week.
Prisoner then told a constable who had said to him he was going to St Helens for a witness for him that, “It is coming out at last”, I will tell you the truth now for all I told before is lies. I left St Helens about 15mths ago and went to Manchester where I have been ever since, until yesterday morning when I tramped it to St Helens. When I got there I went to a beerhouse at Greenbank and had five pints of ale, the last thing I recollect was being at the spirit vault in the market place. I got drunk, I do not know what became of me after that, until I found myself in a cart at Greenbank at 3am.”
Witness said that the prisoner was without a coat when he attempted to take off Smith's shirt the prisoner trembled so violently and turned so pale and unwell, that he would have fallen to the ground had not the officers supported him. The prisoner asked for a drink of water, which was given to him. Witness asked him what was the matter, and why he trembled, and the prisoner replied, "You would shake if you had as much drink in you as I have had.”
The prisoner was conveyed to St Helens, and at the police station was assembled with a number of persons in the office of the superintendent. Mrs Mather was then introduced, and having been asked if she knew any of the men assembled, picked the prisoner out, stating she believed he was the man who knocked her down and assaulted her. Witness then handed the prisoner to Superintendent Ludlam. The Coroner asked the prisoner if he had any questions to ask the witness. Prisoner, “ There is no use asking a man like that any questions, he has not spoken three words of truth.”
James Birchall, living in Fraser Court, St Helens, who said he was a lear minder, employed at Bishops glass works, deposed to having met the prisoner on the 20th inst in Vuestall's public-house at eight o'clock, and purchased a shirt from him. Witness was there again at one o'clock, and heard him barter with an old man for his clogs, but the old man would not have them because he said they were cut away at the ankles.
Richard Lee, glassblower, of Smithy Brow St Helens proved that he had exchanged the cap found in Mather's house for a billycock hat which the prisoner had.
George Ashton said he saw the prisoner about five minutes to twelve o'clock on Saturday night, at the top of Coal Pit Lane, and he was going in the direction of the deceased's house. The Jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Smith
The trial of John Smith for the murder of Adam Mather at Windle, took place at Liverpool Assizes before Lord Chief Justice Bovill on Friday August 23rd, and was the first case.
John Smith described as a labourer, aged 33, entered in the calendar as of imperfect education, was placed in the dock, charged with having at Windle on the 21st July, 1867, feloniously and of malice and aforethought killed and murdered on Adam Mather. He appeared to be very anxious, and his forehead was deeply marked with lines of care. On Mr Shuttle worth [clerk of the Crown] asking him if he pleaded guilty or not guilty he replied in a distinct voice, “God forbid that I would be.”
Mr Torr and Mr Watson were the counsel on behalf of the prosecution, but no one had been instructed to appear on behalf of the prisoner. His Lordship requested Mr Herschell to undertake his defence, and on informing the prisoner that he had done so, the latter replied, “Thank you, my Lord.” The jury were then sworn and Mr Torr proceeded to open the case on behalf of the prosecution and laid the facts of the case before the jury. At the conclusion of the statement of the learned counsel, the following witnesses were called :-
George Horatio Devonport an architect, who submitted plans of the cottage of the deceased.
Ann Mather, wife of the deceased, who since the murder of her husband had sustained another loss in the violent death of her son at a colliery explosion.
John Mort, neighbour of the Mathers, who came to their assistance, and Mary Mort his wife.
Police sergeant Thomas Whiteside and Superintendent James Ludlam of St Helens, police, who attended the house after the murder.
Mr Arthur Andrew Jennison, surgeon of St Helens, who was called to the cottage of the deceased, and examined the body.
James Birchall, Thomas Cook, and Richard Lee, of Parr, who met the prisoner in Tunstall’s beerhouse in Smithy Brow on Saturday night 20th July
James Doras, who saw prisoner at Tunstall’s beerhouse in Smithy Brow on Saturday morning.
George Ashton, collier of Coalpit Lane, Parr, who saw the prisoner in the York Hotel on Saturday night 20th July, John Pennington collier of Greenleach, corroborated his evidence.
John Hill a shoemaker, of Westfield St, St Helens, saw the prisoner on the morning of the 21st July, in Eccleston St, and he then ran down Boundary Lane towards Sprays Bridge. Richard Dixon, watchmaker of Barton Street, St Helens then saw the prisoner at Sprays Bridge coming from the direction of Cowley Hill, when he saw him he went in the direction of Dentons Bridge.
Police Sergeant Brown was then called.
The trial to be resumed.
August 24th, 1867
The resumed trial of John Smith for the murder of Adam Mather at Windle, took place at Liverpool Assizes before Lord Chief Justice Bovill on Saturday August 24th, 1867. The court was again crowded to excess. The prisoner on being brought into the dock looked even more anxious and care worn than on the previous day. The jury who had been accommodated over night at the Griffin Hotel, having answered to their names, the examination of witnesses for the prosecution were proceeded with.
The first witness called was Mr Devenport, surveyor, who produced a plan he had made of the door of the back kitchen, showing how the bar referred to in the evidence could be removed, from the outside, by a person putting his hand through a hole in the door and lifting the bar out of the staple. In reply to the judge he said it would be easy enough for a person who knew how to do it, anyone not acquainted with the contrivance would have difficulty.
Police sergeant George Brown stationed at Prescot was then called and described how he, at Prescot, watched the roads leading from St Helens and Rainhill towards Liverpool on the 21st July and eventually arrested the prisoner in Tea Lane.
Superintendent Fowler was then called, who examined and questioned the prisoner on his arrest at Prescot police station.
Daniel Mather was then called, the son of the deceased, who resided with his parents at Greenleach. On cross-examination by Mr Herschell, he described how he entered the back door, by putting his finger through the hole and lifting the bar. He said he had been in St Helens that night with William Gore, they had been in Halsalls wine and beer vaults in Church St, leaving at midnight, they called for a pair of clogs at Books in Parr, near Coalpit Lane, on getting his clogs he carried them home. He saw his brother in law about 12.30, he saw two men fighting on Coalpit Lane about a mile from his house, he stopped talking to William Gore and then went home. About half a mile from his house he met the son of James Mort with a poker in his hand, when he got home he was told his father was dead.
Mr Torr said, that was the case for the prosecution.
His Lordship directed Superintendent Ludlam to be recalled, and he produced the various articles of clothing taken from the prisoner which underwent another close examination at the hands of the judge and jury.
Mt Torr then proceeded to sum up the case on the part of the prosecution., it was his duty to address them upon the facts laid firmly before them, it was impossible to urge this was a case of manslaughter, it was a cruel and barbarous murder, committed with all the signs of pre-meditation, a murder that was all but followed by a second murder. Referring to the assertion of Mrs Mather, that the prisoner was the man she had seen leave the house on the night of the murder, a steadfast look such as that woman would give a the face of the murderer of her husband, would fix his features indelibly upon her mind. She positively said the prisoner was the man, the man ran away without coat, cap or shoes, and two hours afterwards at a little distance from the cottage, whom two independent witnesses identified as the prisoner was seen without hat, coat or shoes. If the prisoner was not the man who left the cottage of Mather, it was a miraculous coincidence that out in the rain that night there would be two men in the same condition. Could it be doubted that the prisoner was the man seen at the Nags Head and Spray Bridge, one witness might be mistaken, but two barely could be so. Commenting upon the evidence regarding the exchange of the billycock for the cap, and finding the latter under the body of the murdered man, the learned counsel pointed out the strength of the evidence against the prisoner. Alluding to the alleged blood stains Mr Torr remarked that it might have been expected that the murderer would be deluged with blood, if inflicted from the front, but if the murderer grappled his victim from behind, he might escape being heavily stained with blood. In conclusion he observed that if he could not explain away the facts relative to the cap and clogs, and the evidence regarding the identity of the prisoner, then it must be their painful duty to convict him of the wilful murder of Adam Mather.
The court adjourned for refreshment, his lordship warning the jury they must not discuss the case as they had only heard one side.
Mr Herschell proceeded to address the jury on behalf of the prisoner. He observed that there were times and occasions in the life of a man when the sense of duty to be performed was well nigh overwhelming, and the present occasion was one in his own case. As he listened to the long array of witnesses that the prosecution had called to testify against the prisoner and reflected that he represented a man so poor and friendless that even when put on trial for his life he could not engage counsel for his defence, he felt he had a difficult and terrible task to perform. He complained of the tone in which the learned counsel for the prosecution had addressed the jury, and urged there was not a tittle of evidence to show that either robbery or murder was premeditated by the person who entered the cottage of Mather on the night of the murder. He suggested it was possible that some drunken man wandering about in search of shelter had entered the cottage for a nights rest, that Mather coming from his bedroom a struggle took place in the darkness, that the deceased first got the razor, it was wrenched from him by his antagonist, in the heat of the encounter the fatal wound was inflicted, if correct the crime is one of manslaughter. Had the conviction been forced upon their minds by the evidence that the prisoner was guilty of the crime, there was grounds for suspicion, there were many presumptions in favour of the prisoners guilt, where the facts such as to show no doubt that the prisoner had committed the murder. Could Mrs Mather be relied upon that he was the man, he asked them to remember how easy it was to be mistaken in the identity of a person seen under more favourable circumstances than were those under which Mrs Mather had seen the man who ran from her cottage. With regard to the to the subsequent identification by Mrs Mather at the police station, he believed a policeman would force the selection of a particular man, it was unsafe to suppose Mrs Mather had chosen the man at random, she had only been shown two men without a coat, and went in the office looking for one thing, a man without a coat. The other man was stout and elderly, she could only pick out the prisoner, the police meant her to pick him out.
As to the footmarks, why did the police not take a model of them, so that conclusive evidence might be brought before them. He contended that the evidence of the witnesses who alleged that they had seen the prisoner at the Nags Head and Spray Bridge immediately after the murder was not to be relied upon as completely satisfactory. It was not only the police who were prejudiced against the prisoner, but every witness they had heard that the murderer from St Helens had been apprehended, and they gave their evidence under that impression.
Referring to the evidence as to the clogs, why had the old man who tried the clogs not been called, was it probable he had not been called because he had doubts of the clogs and the man, their was nothing in the clogs to distinguish them from others, and with regards to the cap, there were thousands like it.
With reference to the evidence of the surgeon on the stains, none of the marks on the front of his clothes were spoken to be positively as arising from blood, the blood must have spurted out with great force from the throat of the deceased and one would expect the clothes of the prisoner to be covered in blood. The learned counsel called upon the jury to weigh conscientiously and carefully all the circumstances of the case, reminding them that the life of the man at the bar depended upon the verdict at which they arrived.
The learned Judge in summing up, said there was no doubt the jury were at liberty to find a prisoner charged with murder guilty of manslaughter, but in the present case it appeared to him it would be difficult to come to the conclusion that the crime which had been committed was less than murder. He was happy to say that by statute, recently passed the presiding judge was allowed to appoint counsel for the defence of a prisoner charged with a serious offence who is without money and friends. This case showed its necessity and he thanked the learned counsel for the ability with which he conducted the defence on behalf of the prisoner. He thought possibly the jury had read the accounts that had appeared in the newspapers, they might have come to the conclusion that there was proof, against the man apprehended, but he must entreat them most earnestly to dismiss from their minds all preconceived notions with reference to the to the quilt or innocence of the prisoner. It was a matter of deep regret that there was one circumstance in the case which the police had the opportunity of fully investigating, and which, if they had done so would have proved almost conclusively the quilt or innocence of the prisoner, namely the comparison of the footmarks with those made by the feet of the prisoner, nothing would have been easier than taking the prisoner to the spot, to have compared the footprints side by side, and to have a mould for production in court. It was one of the most strangest oversights, almost impossible to account for.
Another circumstance which had struck him in the case, according to the evidence, the man after committing the murder ran for a considerable distance in his stockings along a muddy lane on a wet night, yet only one of the stockings the prisoner was wearing when apprehended had mud on it and only on the under part of the foot, while the other had none apart from the toe according to the surgeon.
At the outset of the case it occurred to him as a point of inquiry whether the person who entered the house of Mather was a person who knew the habits of the family, or a stranger as the prisoner appeared to be. The neighbourhood would know that the man was in the habit of receiving his wages on a Saturday and that he would be at St Helens drinking on the Saturday and that his son, a stalwart young man, would be absent for home until a late hour. It appeared from the footmarks in the garden whoever went to the house had gone direct to the back door and removed the bar. If it had been a stranger contemplating burglary the fall of the heavy bar upon the stone floor would have alarmed and that he would have made off, but a person acquainted with the habits of the family might have supposed no notice would have been taken of the noise as the son was expected home.
His lordship then directed attention to the condition of the prisoner on the Saturday, being in drink and offering to exchange different articles for other of inferior value, the prosecution had suggested that this was evidence of the burglary being premeditated, but in relation to this another point of view occurred to him. The strongest facts against the prisoner was the finding of the cap and clogs which the prisoner had on, on Saturday, at the cottage, or had the perpetrator left them there to divert suspicion from himself.
His lordship then commented on the stains on the prisoner’s clothing, strongly leaned to the idea that they were stains which a man working in an iron foundry might easily have acquired, and with regard to the clearly proved blood stain on the tail of the shirt, was of the opinion that its position was consistent with the account of the prisoner how it came to be there. It was impossible to suppose the prisoner could have inflicted the frightful wound and yet escaped without any marks of blood. The fact appeared to him strong evidence in the favour of the prisoner. Having read the evidence through his lordship made further remarks, while again commenting upon the absence of blood stains. In conclusion his lordship observed that before they reached a verdict of guilty the jury must be satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the prisoners was the man who was in the cottage on the night Mather was murdered, if they did not entertain a reasonable doubt then he was entitled to an acquittal.
The jury returned to court after an absence of 23 minutes, the prisoner took the stand, looking anxiously towards the jury box.
Mr Shuttleworth asked, “Have you agreed upon your verdict?”
Foreman, “We have”
Mr Shuttleworth, “Do you find the prisoner guilty of murder?”
The Foreman “NOT GUILTY”
There was slight applause when the verdict was delivered. Mr Shuttleworth then asked whether the jury found the prisoner guilty of manslaughter, and was answered in the negative.
The prisoner on leaving the dock was addressed by his lordship on the perils of drunkenness, the prisoner assured his lordship he would never drink again.
A feeling of dissatisfaction with the verdict was expressed by an immense number of persons, who hissed and hooted at the jury, notwithstanding the protests from the ushers, whose repeated calls for silence were to no avail.