THE KILLERS OF VICTORIAN LIVERPOOL
The Murder of David Bailey is one of Liverpool’s most infamous trials and one that shocked the city of Liverpool. In the streets of inner city Victorian Liverpool, murder was a crime that still shocked but came as no surprise. But the murder of David Bailey was different…Police Constable David Bailey had been killed during the arrest of Daniel Cole who had attempted to cut his wife’s throat at their home. Constable Bailey had given chase to Cole as he fled the scene of the crime and apprehended him on Hanover Street in the early hours. As he wrestled Cole to the ground Police Officer Bailey was stabbed in the chest and died at the scene. Daniel Cole stood trial at St George’s Hall Assize in August 1839. In a twist of fate that left many angry, Daniel Cole was to escape the hangman’s rope and was to face another punishment, emigration to penal Australia.
In 1891 the discovery of a body in a sack washed ashore in Sandon Dock would live in the memory for a long time to come. The Sack Murder, as it became known, is one of Liverpool’s most disturbing and shocking tales. Nicholas Martin, aged ten, had been missing from home a number of days when his body was discovered by a dock gateman in the early morning light on May 18th, 1891. The search for the killer led to a manhunt unprecedented in Liverpool and one that would lead police to the door of child-killer, John Conway. The trial and subsequent execution of Conway was notable due to the gruesome and barbaric error of the hangman which led to the prisoner’s head nearly being decapitated from his body.
When Ellen Brocton discovered the battered body of her landlady, Caroline Smith, lying in the street of her home in Bute Street, Everton in December, 1859, nobody expected what was to follow. Smith, who lived with her widowed daughter , Caroline Brockman, had returned home with her groceries when suddenly and without provocation was attacked by her daughter and thrown battered and bleeding in the street. She later died of her injuries but not before Brockman visited her in hospital, telling her dying mother, “May the curse of God be on you for saying I hit you.” The unrepentant Brockman was tried for murder at St George’s Hall Assize Courts in March 1860. Her tale of matricide is the tale of a cold and callous murder that stills shocks today.
In May, 1863, the Liverpool Mercury reported the death of James Harrison in Old Hall Street following an altercation with a ‘foreigner’. Harrison and two friends had been drinking in the city when on their way home became involved in a dispute with a young Spanish sailor. Jose Maria Alvarez, was alleged to have withdrew a knife and stabbed James Harrison in the stomach before fleeing the scene. Alvarez was convicted of wilful murder and sentenced to death. But many questioned the guilt of 22yr old Alvarez. Was this a case of self-defence? As a ‘foreigner’, had Alvarez’s already been convicted ? Questions still remain over the events that happened that night, but at noon on September 14th, 1863 Jose Maria Alvarez was executed at Kirkdale Gaol, alone and hundreds of miles from his Spanish home.
The Catacombs of Liverpool’s Darkest History reveals a hidden past unseen for over a hundred years. A history of violence and murder, a history of deprivation and desperation and a history unseen… until now.