Cholera and Infanticide 1849

 Liverpool Albion, Aug 6th 1849

On Friday afternoon a sad scene was presented to the party who burst in to a house at No1 Court, Oriel Street, Vauxhall Road. Two children aged one and nine years, were found dead in bed with their throats cut from ear to ear, and there lay stretched upon the same paliasse two other corpses, and a man with his windpipe partially severed, the suspected murderer of his two children.

The house in question was occupied by a man named Patrick Joseph COLKIN, who comes, we believe from Carlow. He was a schoolmaster in humble style, his school being situated in one of the dense streets near the Custom-house. His family consisted of himself, his wife and three children. Mary Ann COLKIN was under thirty, their eldest son James was nine, Sarah their daughter was seven and there was an infant little more than 11 months old. COLKIN himself who is said to be a man of superior attainments, and to have seen better days, was sober and peaceable, and the family bore a high character in the neighbourhood.

Cholera, however the pestilence which is now scourging some of the lower districts of Liverpool visited the domicile and on Wednesday the daughter Sarah fell victim to the disease. The evil did not end there for Mrs COLKIN was attacked, and expired from the same malady on Thursday morning. The heads of the family had been noted in the neighbourhood for their evident attachment, and, after the death of his wife COLKIN sunk into despondency, which soon assumed a frantic character.

A woman named Jane KANE who resides in Paul Street who was familiar of the family, had volunteered her services as nurse to the two deceased. The corpses were laid out and she was struck on Thursday with the melancholy attitude the man COLKIN has assumed. He bewailed the loss of his wife, and declared he would never eat again. We ought, to here state that on the morning of his wife’s death COLKIN called at the house of a friend in Whitechapel, shaking hand with the inmates and declaring they would never see him more.

The woman KANE left the house at 10am on Friday. About 2.30pm she called again, but found the door was fast. The fact created suspicion and she alarmed the neighbourhood. Entrance was effected through the window and the terrible scene presented itself.

The corpses of COLKIN’S two children were found lying at the foot of the bed, quite dead with their throats cut from ear to ear. On the same mattress lay stretched the two cholera corpses, and, by the side of his wife, COLKINS himself was found with his throat cut, but still alive, with both arms he embraced his dead partner. The bed clothes were deluged with blood, and further details would only disgust. A razor, the instrument of the mischief was lying on the floor.

The alarm was given and it so happened that Mr KILNER of the Dispensary surgeons was passing up the street at the time. He was called in, and gave orders for the immediate removal of COLKIN to the Northern Hospital. That was done with the superintendence of the police.

As they lay in a dark corner of the bed the two murdered children were not at first discovered, they were cold and lifeless when found, and it was of the opinion of the surgeon they must have been dead several hours. We have heard that although the outer shutters had not been closed, the window had been nailed down inside.

COLKIN was removed on a stretcher to the hospital were the usual remedies were applied. He appeared collected and sensible and when reference was made to the tragic occurrence, said, simply, grief for the death of his wife, who was always especially dear to him had driven him mad. Although a frightful gash had been inflicted, he was not, on reception, considered in a dangerous state, and showed considerable symptoms of recovery on Saturday afternoon.

Liverpool Albion, Aug 12th 1849

Coroner’s inquest

On Monday before Mr P. F. CURRY, Esq, the borough coroner, inquests were held on the unfortunate children conjointly, James CULKIN, and Catherine CULKIN the unfortunate children alluded to above.

Jane KANE, sworn, said, I am a widow and live in Paul St. The deceased lived in Oriel St, the father’s name was Patrick Joseph CULKIN, I knew him well. The house is in a court. He had three children, James 8, Sarah, 7, and Catherine about 11 months. No one but themselves lived in the house. One of the children, Sarah, died of the cholera on Wednesday evening last. Next morning a 7am, his wife died. I was there when she died, I saw the husband then he seemed in a melancholy way. About twenty minutes before ten I went out and left the father and the two deceased children in the house, I gave young Catherine into his arms. About 2.30pm I went back, I found the door fast. I lifted the latch, but could not get in. I then went and lifted the window and got in through it. I looked into the bed where the corpse of his wife lay, and behind the corpse saw CULKIN lying. He had one arm round the neck of the corpse and the other on her breast. I then observed his throat was cut. I did not know then whether he was alive or dead. I unlocked the door, the key was inside and called for assistance Dr KILNER was passing at the time and I called him in. Several neighbours also came in. We then found the two children, James and Catherine, with their throats cut, and quite dead, they were on the same bed with the corpse. James was at the foot of the bed and Catherine by his side. CULKIN the father was taken to the Northern Hospital.

Previous to Wednesday last I never observed anything in his conduct or manner that led me to suppose him to be at all deranged in his intellect. He was very much attached to his wife and children, I never saw a man more affectionate.

After the death of his wife he did talk in a foolish was, I did think he was not himself. He had been in such low circumstances that he was latterly advised to ask for parish relief.

[The blade of the razor wrapped at the handle end with a piece of cord was produced] The razor-blade produced was all that he had to shave himself with for the past twelve months. I know it and have seen him frequently use it. It was tied at the handle end as it now appears. I found it myself lying on the hearthstone. I gave it to the doctor Mr KILNER, I did not observe if there were marks of blood on it.

Mr John Dixon KILNER , said, I am a surgeon. On Friday afternoon last I was passing the end of a passage in Oriel Street, a woman came out and almost pulled me into a house in the court above. She was too excited to tell me what happened. In the room on the ground floor I saw a bed, in which I saw two corpses which had been apparently laid out for burial, and behind the two next to the wall I saw CULKIN lying in a state of insensibility, and blood about his neck, I found his throat had been cut. There was a great crowd of persons collected. I sent out for the police, and then had CULKIN removed to the Northern Hospital. He was then partly conscious. I afterwards found the two bodies described by Mrs KANE. They were both quite dead and had been for some hours. Their throats were both cut from one side to the other, which had evidently caused their death.

This razor blade [produced] was handed to me by the last witness, there were several blood spots upon it. There was a great quantity of blood on the bed, I observed none on the floor. I am satisfied that the eldest child could not have inflicted the wound I saw on his throat,

Ellen BENT sworn, I am the wife of Nicholas BENT and reside a 2 court, Oriel Street. I knew CULKIN and his family by sight. Mrs CULKIN died on Thursday morning I saw her husband the same day. He told me that his wife was dead and that he would not live after it. He also said if we heard of anything in the paper we need not be alarmed. I saw him again on Friday morning. He appeared then in a very curious way. I asked him, “Why did you not bring your wife and child yesterday?” [Thursday] He said he had sent to Douglas to her sister and expected money to bury her but did not get it, that was about 10am. He also said he had been to Mr JONES, who keeps the Harp Tavern, Vauxhall Road who had been giving him brandy and wine for himself and his family for charity. God bless him! He waved his hand in a kind of way, and I saw no more of him until the afternoon, when I heard of what happened. I then saw him in the bed, and the two deceased children with their throats cut in the way described.

Mary GUY, said, I am a widow and live at 48 Jordon Street. I knew Patrick Joseph CULKIN. Three weeks ago he hired a cellar under the house I live in for a school. On Friday week he left and said he would be back the following Monday. He came on that day and said his little girl was very ill with cholera. I saw nothing more of him till Thursday last, shortly after dinner, when he came and said that his wife and child were dead, and that he would sooner die than live after the loss of his wife. He also said his little boy was sick and he doubted whether he would not be dead before he arrived home. I saw no more of him after that.

Mr Thomas LEA, said, I am relieving officer for the parish of Liverpool. I visited the house of Patrick CULKIN on Friday last for the first time. I understood the family had been relieved the day previously. I found the door fast and got in through the window. I found a child about 6 or 7 years old lying dead on a table. I saw a woman lying dead on the bed. I saw CULKIN and two other children all lying on the bed with the deceased woman. I advised him to get up as it was dangerous to lie with the deceased, I said I would return in the afternoon and arrange for the interment. I returned in the evening and gave some relief. He was then much exited when I saw him a second time. I then saw the two children I had seen before in the bed. The eldest was running about the house and the youngest in the arms of the woman. I did not observe anything in the manner of CULKIN, to lead me to think he was out of his mind.

The coroner here stated that this was all the evidence he had to lay before the jury.

Ann KELLETT, who lives in Hanover Street, said she knew Mrs CULKIN, and entered into some particulars tending to show she called upon her and her husband on Thursday night, and that from his manner and language at the door, she thought he was not quite sound in mind.

The coroner said he did not deem it necessary to take this testimony upon oath, inasmuch as, acting upon the advice of legal friends, it deemed it better to leave the case to be dealt with by the judges who would be in the town on Saturday next. The judge had a discretion upon medical certificates of the man’s insanity to commit him [if guilty of the murders] to the lunatic asylum, where he would be taken care of, or if it appeared at the time he was suffering from temporary insanity, to discharge him should he recover.

The coroner concluded in saying that the case would be dealt with in a higher court.

The jury immediately returned a verdict of “Wilful murder against Patrick Joseph CULKIN” in both cases.

The accused is still in hospital and very ill, but hopes are entertained of his recovery. He had formerly been in good circumstances.


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