The murder of Phillis Heyes at St Helens, 1868

Liverpool Mercury, May 4th, 1868


On Saturday last Mr Driffield, district coroner held an inquest at the Nelson Arms, College St, St Helens on the body of Phillis Heyes, the woman who died the previous Thursday from injuries received in a quarrel with Anthony Fillingham. The prisoner Fillingham was in attendance.

Ann Luter deposed to the deceased being her sister, the deceased was 40, her husband had died more than 12 months ago, she formerly lived at Bickerstaffe, and had since been living with the prisoner Fillingham, who was a collier. On Thursday week Ann Green told the witness that Fillingham had been assaulting her sister and when the witness arrived at Lord St the deceased was insensible.

Ann Waterworth stated that the deceased and Fillingham had been drinking on the morning of the quarrel, about 10am deceased sent witness for a quart of ale and when witness came back the deceased was lying at the bottom of the stairs, bleeding profusely from a cut at the back of her head. She told the witness the prisoner had kicked her down the stairs. She said, “He has killed me” Witness then asked what he had done it with and she replied, “The poker” Deceased then drank about a gill of beer, and afterwards picked up two or three stones and threw them into the room where the prisoner was sitting, saying she would either kill or be killed.

Subsequently they made friends about 2pm deceased got up to leave the house to attend a fair at St Helens and bid Fillingham and witness, “Good day” When she went downstairs Fillingham got the poker and broke the grate to pieces, and also what crockery was in the house. Deceased returned upstairs and told Fillingham he was breaking what he had never worked for. Upon this Fillingham turned round and threw the poker at the deceased, and it “let into” the corner of her eye. Deceased uttered a dreadful scream, and witness who was frightened, rushed into the next room. Fillingham then sat himself down by the fire for ten minutes, and said if she did not go down stairs he would throw her down, and he gave her two kicks and shoved her down stairs. Deceased could not then get up, Fillingham kicked her twice in the sight of the witness, he then called for the witness to come and said to her if she did not take the deceased away he would kick her out. Witness then went down stairs and found the poker sticking into the eye of the deceased. She called Fillingham and he came down and pulled it out. Deceased bled very much, a stream of blood flowed from the wound. Witness picked the deceased up and after holding her for about two hours, laid her on a bundle of shavings used as a bed. She lay there for two days without receiving any medical advice, for Fillingham would not allow her to inform anyone of the horrid crime he had committed.

Ann Green who lived in the same hovel as Fillingham corroborated the last witnesses statement.

Dr McNicoll said he was called to see the deceased on the 22nd ult, and found her in a state of insensibility, evidently suffering from injuries of the brain. He attended her to the time of her death, and subsequently made a post mortem. He attributed her death to the injury to her brain from effusion of blood caused by the puncture wound. That injury might have been caused by the instrument produced [a heavy rod of iron about 15 inches long] being driven through the eye with considerable force. The doctor produced a piece of the orbital bone which had been broken off and driven into the brain by the force of the blow.

Police constable Sewell deposed to arresting the prisoner.

The jury after a few moments returned a verdict of wilful murder against the prisoner.

St. Helen's murder.

The scene of the crime was one of a number of houses which have fallen into a dilapidated condition in Lord St and Back Albert St, Gerard Bridge. For a considerable time these houses were untenanted, but latterly they have been occupied by tramps and other disreputable people, who have stripped the rooms, doors, and window-frames of the woodwork, and used it as fuel. Not a vestige of furniture is anywhere perceptible, and it only became known that the houses were occupied when fearful shrieks of "Murder!" were heard. The neighbourhood is thickly populated, but so common have these cries become that they have attracted but little attention. The victim of the out- rage now to be described was a woman named Phillis Heyes, who cohabited with a man named Anthony Filiingham, who for many years has followed no regular occupation. It appears that very recently a child of the deceased, a boy about four years of age, was sent by the county magistrates to a reformatory for five years for begging, the proceeds of which went towards the support of Fillingham. Since the boy was committed Fillingham and his paramour have led a worse life than before. On the day of St. Helen's Fair, Monday (the 20th of April), when both were under the influence of drink, a fight arose between them, and Fillingham committed a most brutal assault upon the deceased. During the struggle, he laid hold of a short piece of iron and thrust it into one of her eyes to the extent of about two inches he also broke her breast bone, fractured her skull, and ended his brutal attack by throwing her downstairs and tearing the hair off her head. The woman lay in this dreadful state, upon a bundle of straw, without receiving any medical attention, until the following Thursday. On that day Dr M'Nicol, one of the medical officers of the Prescott Union, was informed of the woman's condition by another occupant of the house, also a vagrant. When Fillingham learnt that the doctor had been informed, he absconded, but was subsequently apprehended. The woman has since died from her injuries. An inquest has been held, and a verdict of Wilful murder returned against the prisoner. The prisoner on Tuesday was taken before Mr R. Pilkington, J.P., and remanded until Friday morning. Crowds of people have since visited, the scene of this dreadful outrage. The staircase and walls of the house are besmeared with the blood of the unfortunate woman

Liverpool Mercury, May 5th, 1868

Committal of the prisoner

Yesterday before Messers R. Pilkington, and L. W. Evans at the St Helen’s Petty Sessions, Anthony Fillingham was brought up on remand charged with feloniously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought did kill and murder Phillis Heyes. The prisoner bore a haggard appearance, and seemed to suffer acutely. The prisoner was committed to take his trial at the next Liverpool assizes. Throughout the hearing the court was crowded with large numbers of people congregated outside.

Liverpool Mercury, Aug 21st, 1868

Anthony Fillingham, a collier, aged 34 was charge with having at Windle on the 20th of April feloniously and wilfully killed and murdered Phillis Heyes. Mr Torr prosecuted and Mr Cottingham defended the prisoner. Residing in the same house were two women named Green who witnessed the dispute and endeavoured to separate the parties and Waterworth who Green had brought in to assist her, both women were witnesses at the trial His lordship said the offence did not amount to murder, but was manslaughter of a most aggravated character. The jury found Fillingham guilty of manslaughter, and he was sentenced to penal servitude for life.


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