Alleged murder, of a Kirkdale grocer, 1845

Liverpool Advertiser, November 1845

Alleged murder

Yesterday Mr RUSHTON and Mr James LAWRENCE, were for a considerable length of time engaged at the police courts investigating a charge of murder which had been preferred against a tall elderly man, of descent exterior, named Thomas DAVIS, who had been apprehended at Ledbury in Herefordshire, under a warrant from the Secretary of State, and brought over to Liverpool in custody of one of the Ledbury constabulary. The person whom he was accused of murdering was a widow named Elizabeth JOHNSON, who kept a grocer's shop in Kirkdale Rd, Liverpool, and with whom he cohabited. She had one daughter by her husband, and two sons by the prisoner, those children, the eldest of whom was 14 yrs of age were principal witnesses in the case. It appeared from the opening statement of Mr DOWLING, that after the death of their mother, as far back as May last, the children became chargeable to the parish, the parish of Ledbury, and by certain statements made by them there, the prisoner was apprehended on a warrant, examined before the Ledbury magistrates and then, by order of Sir James GRAHAM, sent to Liverpool the scene of the alleged murder, for final examination.

Margaret JOHNSON, a young, handsome, intelligent girl of about 13 or 14 yrs of age, was the first witness. She deposed that the deceased was her mother and she had been dead about 6 mths. She kept a grocer's shop in Kirkdale Rd, and the prisoner lived with her. Some few days before she died the prisoner came home one night tipsy, and between him and her mother there was a quarrel. Witness was upstairs in bed at the time, and the two little boys, sons of the prisoner, and her mother , were in the same bed. The quarrel was a loud one. In the course of a little time her mother came upstairs and into the room where the children were lying awake. The prisoner also came upstairs, and then the quarrel recommenced. Her mother wanted to leave the house, but the prisoner refused to let her go. They called each other names, and her mother said she would sooner kill herself than step into the house. She then took a drawer out of the table and threw it on the floor. He struck her on the breast and temple, and kicked her somewhere on the leg. Her mother was sitting on a chair at this time. Witness threw a candle stick on the floor, the children screamed, and a policeman, hearing the uproar, knocked at the street door and was admitted by the prisoner. Her mother still wanted to quit the house, but the policeman prevailed upon her to remain for the night, and then the quarrel ceased. During the following three or four days her mother was almost entirely confined to bed. She was seized with a retching, was attended by a medical man, Mr J. JOHNSON, surgeon of Kirkdale, and, at the expiration of the time mentioned, died, and was buried in St Mary's cemetery. Witness saw her temple, breast and leg, and those parts had black marks on them. Before the beating she was troubled with headache, but with that exception was in good health.

Thomas DAVIS, aged 11 yrs, and Richard DAVIS, aged 7 yrs, sons of the prisoner, were next examined. They related the same tale, and fully corroborated the evidence of the former witness in every particular. Thomas, stated in addition, that the prisoner told him two days after the quarrel and assault that his mother had, had a fit.

Mr James JOHNSON surgeon, said, that when called to attend the deceased a day or two before her death, he found her labouring under congestion and depression of spirits. He inquired whether she had any mental distress, to which she made no reply, but the prisoner gave him a very distressing statement of their circumstances. He prescribed for her and saw her again the following morning, when she was still worse, and the same symptoms aggravated. He saw her again the same evening when it was evident she was dying fast. The prisoner, called him out of bed to her that night [Saturday] and in the witnesses presence she died. Witnesses attention was never directed to any wounds or bruises she had received, he was never informed of them. His impression was that she was dying from congestive fever, caused by mental agony. The injuries spoken of by the witnesses would produce the symptoms he had seen. Leeches were not applied. It was now too late for a post mortem examination to throw light upon the present inquiry.

Alice DARLINGTON and Elizabeth WIBBEY, the women who had washed and laid out the body, deposed that they had found black marks on the temple and down the side, those down the side apparently causes by kicks. The prisoner accounted for the mark on the temple by saying that the deceased, in getting out of bed for drink, had fallen. The death occurred on the 17th May last.

DAVIS was remanded until Friday when Mrs Anne TEDMAN, sister of the deceased, to whom DAVIS had written some time after Mrs JOHNSON'S death, and who had been expressly sent for from Birmingham to give evidence, and was examined concerning the account DAVIS had given her of her sister's death. DAVIS represented to her in the letter alluded to that Mrs JOHNSON had died from a flow of blood to the head, brought on from vexation at the loss of a trial, which she had, had, with one Miss ROBERTS, and Dr JOHNSON had warned her it would be her end if she gave way to grief. Dr JOHNSON was called and denied that any such conversation had taken place between himself and the deceased and that he did not know her until a day or two previous to her death.

The prisoner, who was undefended, declined wither to cross-examine the witnesses or to say anything in his defence. Mr RUSHTON, said his impression was to commit him for trial at the winter assizes, but he would order him to be remanded for the present. He was accordingly remanded.


Liverpool Mercury Dec 12th 1845

Lancashire Winter Assizes

Monday, Crown Court, Mr Baron PARKE

Charge of Manslaughter

Thomas DAVIES, aged 62, [could read and write well] was charged with having feloniously killed and slain Elizabeth JOHNSON at Liverpool.

Witnesses and evidence given as above

The prisoner, when called on for his defence, declared his innocence of the crime imputed to him, but said he was not prepared with any evidence, his friends residing at a considerable distance.

The Learned Judge summed up the evidence with considerable minuteness, and the jury, after a short consultation, returned a verdict of acquittal.


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