Mysterious Death Jan 1899

Liverpool Mercury, Jan 21st 1899



Mr T. E. SAMPSON, Liverpool Coroner, on Monday at Dale St, opened an inquiry into the mysterious circumstances attending the death of a woman whose body, in a nude condition, was on Wednesday week found in an unoccupied house in Christian St, where it had been for some time.

The Coroner indicated that it was supposed to be that of Annie SMITH, but it would be necessary to have a further adjournment.

Agnes MAYNE, widow of John MAYNE, a general dealer and shop fittings broker, was the only witness called. She stated that she was known by the name of Agnes WATTS, her maiden name and was living at 121 Richmond Row. She had known the deceased for about 18mths, and a week before Christmas she was living at the Maid’s Home, Charter St, Manchester, and the deceased was also living there. She told the witness that she was going to leave there for, “Lampoil Jack’s” Lodging house in Deansgate, Manchester. The woman always used the name Annie SMITH and was about the same age as the witness, 31 yrs, and she was in very poor circumstances.

She got her living by singing on the streets and the last time the witness saw her was when she was singing near St Patrick’s Chapel, Liverpool. She never said she had been married and when asked about her family she used to cry, and never told anything about them.

It was on the 6th inst, witness saw the deceased in Park Rd, near St Patrick’s Chapel, she was singing so the witness did not speak to her, she had never seen her in Liverpool before and did not know how long she had been here.

Last Thursday witness heard that a woman had been found dead in Christian St and it was supposed she was a street singer. She at once communicated with the police and was taken to the Princes Dock Mortuary and identified the body as that of Annie SMITH.

She did not know why the deceased had come to Liverpool, but thought perhaps, she thought, it would be a better place to gain a living. She might have walked to Liverpool as witness did herself, they had to tramp stages. Deceased was a steady woman and she had never seen her the worst for drink. She was quiet an low-spirited. When last seen in Manchester deceased was differently clothed than when she saw her in Liverpool.

Coroner addressed the jury.

Saying that Det DUCKWORTH had been to Manchester and had made inquiries, he found that although the witness was known in Manchester at the place, the deceased wasn’t, but, that could be explained, as the witness had only one eye, which was distinctive, whilst the dead woman had no distinctive features, except, that she was very like a Jewess. Coroner had arranged that Det DUCKWORTH would again go to Manchester with the witness MAYNE, to see if any further information could be obtained.

The Jury had viewed the body and had observed certain marks, not serious marks, but, such as they were, might have accelerated death in some form. ,p. Coroner stated that he had little doubt as to whether the person was Annie SMITH and could not understand how her clothing was different in Liverpool to what she wore in Manchester. For further investigation.

Inquiry adjourned.



At the previous sitting preliminary evidence of identification was taken and proceedings adjourned for the purpose of securing confirmatory testimony as to the woman’s identity, and attempting to solve the mystery of her death.

Agnes MAYNE was recalled and said she had been again to Manchester with Det Sgt DUCKWORTH but had not found anything more about the deceased.

A Juryman - She had known the deceased for 18mths, surely she must know of someone in Manchester who knew the deceased?

Coroner - We sent her over especially to see ---------.

Juryman - Those people generally associate together.

Coroner - I think there is a very great doubt myself, about the identity, and I am bound to say so.

Sarah EVANS, wife of John EVANS, a dock labourer of Christian St, related how, on Wednesday afternoon on the 11th inst, she went to look for a house for her sister-in-law. When looking through No 18. Spring Place, she found the naked body of a woman on the floor and sent for the police.

Mary Ellen GIBSON of Spring Place and Constable G. GAVIN gave evidence as to the discovery of the remains.

Det Sgt DUCKWORTH deposed to examine the house. A little pressure on the door was suffice to open it, and the house could be easily entered in other ways. The house had been occupied by vagrants for about 4mths as a place to sleep. He had never seen the deceased in the neighbourhood and had obtained no further evidence in Manchester.

Dr CORNETT who made a post mortem on the body on the 13th inst, deposed that the body was very thin and emaciated, was also dirty and covered in vermin. The eyes were sunken, there was no trace of injury to the head or face, but the right arm and right side of the body were scarified or scraped for nearly the whole length. The left arm below the shoulder was black and discolured. There was no traces of injury to the vital organs.

The injuries could have been caused by her dragging herself across the floor, or from a fall. His opinion was that she died from starvation and exposure and due to her emaciated condition death may have been accelerated by the injuries.

The fact that she was naked might be accounted for by the deceased taking off her clothing to obtain relief from the vermin.

Horace DUNNETT of Spring Place, stated that on the 2nd he heard cries of, “Help”, “Murder” and “Police,” proceeding from an empty house there. The cries were not repeated and such cries are frequently heard in the neighbourhood and little importance is taken of them. It seemed as though someone was being beaten, but, it was a neighbourhood in which many drunken women were thrashed by their husbands.

The Coroner stated that the case had been carefully sifted and that there was no need to carry it further.

Jury’s verdict - Death of a woman unknown, supposed to be Annie SMITH, death was caused by starvation and exposure, accelerated by injury. How the injuries were received, there was no evidence to show.


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