The Constable Killer
The popular passageways around Hanover Street have received some serious financial and cultural investment in recent years, no less so than the enormous construction of the nearby Liverpool One shopping development that now dominates the block. It is surprising to think that back in 1839 this area was one of pitiful poverty with crowded courts and squalid slums housing the general inner city populace of an abject and unruly Liverpool.
On the night of April 15, a little before ten o’clock, Police Constable David Bailey, No. 388 was on patrol of Section Two and had the thirteenth beat. Section Two comprised of the Hanover Street district including College Lane, the side Street in which Constable Bailey found himself patrolling that fateful night. Robert Rigg was a master mariner and in his nautical garb he made a common sight to the numerous people that passed as he too walked along College Lane.
“Lovely night” remarked Mr. Rigg cheerfully as he passed Officer Bailey on the sidewalk. The two men chatted over the unusually tranquil weather as they walked leisurely together towards Peter Lane.
Meanwhile, over in Green’s Court, the scene was distinctly less serene. It was there that thirty-year-old Daniel Cole was returning home to his lodgings. He was a heavy set, powerful-looking man standing at about five foot ten with thick broad shoulders and a deep black moustache. He gave off an impression of a somewhat fearsome temperament to all who laid their eyes upon him. Despite his thuggish appearance Daniel was usually a quiet individual, hardworking and industrious. The house in which he lodged was owned by Mrs. Mary Moran, a widow who lived with her daughter Frances and several other lodgers, including Daniel’s troublesome and trying wife. Mrs Cole was known to the police as an occasional street walker and a woman to be of decidedly drunken habits, but Daniel was no angel; he had previously been known to the courts on account of a previous stabbing incident.
That evening saw Mrs Cole indulge in more than enough to drink and her condition became one of utter intoxication. In the room was Mrs Moran and Alice Murphy, a fellow lodger who was on good terms with the Cole couple and Mrs Moran. “You had better go to bed my good woman, for if your husband comes in I am afraid you will catch it,” said Mary, as she made up a bed by the fireplace. She had her back to the door laying down sheets on a mattress when Daniel entered the room. His gaze was captured by Mrs Murphy who at the fireplace. It had become quite dark in the small living quarters so Alice had knelt down to light a candle at the fire. The distinctive smell of smoke wafted about the small living room as the drunken Mrs Cole extinguished the flame with her forefinger and thumb, and giggled. Mrs Murphy relit the wax column but the drunken woman persisted in her wit and jokingly put it out again. Daniel became furious. On several occasions he had returned from work to such alcohol-scented scenarios and he was sick of it. “What’s your humour for quenching the candle? He realised that she had once again been drinking. “Is that the way again lassie?” Dan despaired.
“Dan, I’m not drunk; I’m not drunk!” she argued drunkenly.
“Stand up then, directly.”
Like an uneasy acrobat Mrs Cole carefully prepared to stand aloft from her seat but could do nothing but lose her balance and tumble backwards into the corner of the room looking very dishevelled with eyes all a blur. Mrs Murphy helped the tenant to her feet and moved some of the now upturned chairs out of the way. Mrs Cole staggered to the kitchen where her husband was now standing in a growing state of intolerance. As an inner red mist clouded his vision he made an impatient strike at his wife in the neck, stepping back a few paces soon afterwards. Mrs Cole at once realised that she had been stabbed and blood trickled steadily down her throat. This sobering act sent Mrs Cole out of the room running and down the court with her apron pressed against her neck.
“You villain! You have cut her neck!” raged Mrs Moran. She had only known the Coles for three weeks and was shocked at the nature of Daniel’s unexpected burst of untameable aggression.
“Murder! Police! A man has cut his wife’s throat!” It was these terrifying words that reached the ears of Constable Bailey and Robert Rigg as they neared the corner of Peter Lane. Adrenaline began to pump and P.C Bailey wasted no time. He requested assistance from mariner Rigg who with subtle bravado was happy to oblige and the pair ran off to the source of the cries.
Local shoemaker Manlove Moulson had been at his home at the bottom of the court when a lodger from Mrs Moran’s came knocking urgently for help. Mr Moulson answered and on hearing news of the incident Moulson, his daughter Ann, and her friend Frances Moran (the elderly landlady’s daughter), ran out the back door and out onto Green’s Court. It was there that Mrs Cole walked unsteadily along the street calling for a doctor as she clasped a red dripping hand tightly around her throat.
Ann and Frances went up to the door of the Moran residence and could see that Daniel Cole was still in the house. Mrs Moran was in no uncertain terms admonishing him as a murderous villain and scoundrel as a quantity of Mrs Cole’s blood lay in a glutinous puddle at their feet.
The cobbles of College Lane were soon pounded by the boots of Officer Bailey mariner Rigg and Mr Moulson as they entered the squalor of the urban court. At once Constable Bailey looked through the door. Daniel Cole was within, but he was a huge man; certainly no match for a single officer. The three entered the backyard of the property where Bailey charged his two amateur assistants with keeping Mr Cole in the house while he raced off to find some fellow officers for help in the arrest. It was now up to Rigg and Moulson to stand at the door to prevent the wicked man’s escape. Immediately Robert scolded the rogue for his recent actions, a remark which caused Daniel to come out into the yard and try to take flight. The mariner shoved him back with a hard push to the chest before rapidly closing the door in his face. He and Moulson fought hard to keep the door shut but Mr Cole was proving too powerful. For about five minutes the two men valiantly held the fort but in the end their foe proved too strong. Mr Moulson ran off to find the constable before it was too late. There was no way they would be able to restrain their prisoner if he escaped. He was soon proved right. The door gave way and before he knew it the lone seaman was on the ground nursing a blow to the right cheek. Soon enough he was down again with a second as Daniel Cole ran off out of the court to make his escape. Sporting a reddening and bloody bruise across the face Rigg dusted himself off and gave chase. Several members of the public shouted over to the pursuer and informed in of the direction his assailant had ran. Others called out to P.C Bailey who was now in Hanover Street. “Policeman, this is the way he has gone!” By the time Robert had got to the corner of College Lane Daniel had reached the opposite side of Hanover Street near to the Excise Office. P.C Bailey was following close behind with his trusty nightstick in hand. He was halfway across Hanover Street with his left hand up at shoulder height, about to make a grab at Cole, when Ann Moulson let out the out a gut-wrenching warning, “Oh dear, he’s got a knife! Mind him, take care, he’ll kill someone! P.C Bailey misjudged his distance and sped several paces ahead of his target. He turned abruptly and attempted to take a hold, but Cole was quick to strike with truly tragic consequences. Bailey raised his truncheon but he soon felt the ice cold metal of a knife pressed into his neck. As the wound seeped its crimson content he put a trembling hand up to his left side in horror and began to stagger backwards. The crazed offender raised his weapon a second time to hit the officer once more. He was only prevented from by Robert Rigg who wrestled the reprobate to the ground with seemingly no fear for his own safety. The desperate scuffle that commenced sent both men to the cobbles with Bailey all the while staggering backwards into the road. He was striking his staff loudly and hard against the increasingly bloodstained flagstones in desperate panic. His thunderous repetitive thud for help echoed through the night as the left side of the constable’s neck bled like a waterfall. Witnesses could actually hear the patter of the blood as it hit the pavement.
Ann Moulson with the help of Seel Street resident Jane Greason, and local man Charles Dogherty ran across the street to give the constable some much needed support. He was able to walk for approximately four or five yards before his legs gave way and collapsed beneath him. With great haste they carried the P.C to Jason Atherton’s public house over in the now notorious College Lane and called for the vital medical expertise of a doctor. The victim’s attacker Daniel Cole was arrested by several police officers who had eventually reached the hectic scene of the crime. They found him pinned to the ground by a number of people, one being Thomas Fletcher, a watchmaker from Richmond Row who had been in the vicinity when the evening’s commotion had broken out. He had successfully secured Cole’s legs with the help of passer-by James McCluskie, whilst Mr. William Selsby removed the tarnished weapon from their thrashing prisoner’s right hand.
Three constables, Gregory, Jones and Ferguson took hold of the attacker and walked him up to the security of the Hotham Street Bridewell. They were assisted by Hugh McCree who noticed that Daniel was very calm on the journey, and even heard him say that if the men would take him honourably he would stay quiet. “Yes, you deserve to be treated honourably after sticking a knife to a man!” retorted Hugh sarcastically.
“Yes and I’d do the same to you” Cole answered, and his behaviour became so rebellious and coarse that the officers were forced to offer him several smacks with their batons to shut him up. At the bridewell a silent Cole was handed over into the custody of keeper John Thursby along with a number of pieces of evidence, including a muddy and bloodstained clasp knife and Constable Bailey’s helmet. Daniel would now have to await his destiny behind the bars of the Hotham Street gaol before his trial.
Over in College Lane Constable Bailey was dead. He had left a wife and two children. Doctor John Callan, a Duke Street Surgeon and his assistant Doctor Peter McIntyre had arrived at Jason Atherton’s pub a little after ten o’clock that evening and found to their dismay that David Bailey had already perished. It was their estimation that death would have occurred within five minutes of the stab wound being inflicted. Two days later the pair and their colleague Doctor Cooper examined the wound in greater detail and found that the knife had penetrated the skin under the left ear, dividing all the main arteries and even the jugular vein. So severe had been the force of the assault the blade had actually pierced through the tongue and struck against the officer’s inner right jaw bone. The experts agreed that this wound was quite sufficient to cause the fatality of which PC Bailey had suffered. This was now appeared to be a case of murder.
On the morning of Tuesday, August 20, Daniel Cole’s crime finally came under the scrutiny of Her Majesty’s Crown Court. His Judge was to be Justice Coltman who arrived at 9am to a greatly crowded court room. In a white moleskin suit Mr Cole was called to stand and give his plea. In a firm voice, “Not Guilty” he answered. The details of the murderous matter were dissected before the twelve admirable gentlemen of the jury with evidence heard from members of the Moran household, their neighbours, the deceased’s fellow officers, and those who were unlucky enough to be walking in the Hanover Street area that atrocious April evening.
Also to give evidence was Michael Cole, the prisoner’s brother. He attested to the facts that Daniel had lived in Liverpool for about twelve years and before that he had lived in Ireland. It was one detail in particular though that the people of the court played close attention to:
“Sometime previous to coming to Liverpool,” said Michael, “he worked with me at a quarry. He was in the habit of blasting coals. I recollect, upon one occasion, when he was blasting being wounded on the head and was confined for several weeks. After this he got injured again on his head whilst blasting; one of his eyes was damaged and he has nearly lost the sight of it. He was confined to the infirmary for a great number of weeks. He always wore tight bandages around his head and from that time I have never considered him in right mind.”
If the prisoner was indeed suffering from a mental illness then there may have been just cause for the charge of murder to be reduced. Of Mrs Cole, who had since recovered from her wound after stumbling into Mr. Taylor’s surgery in Cleveland Square that night, Michel Cole held a very dim view. He described her as a very drunken woman who frequently went off on three or four day benders spending Daniel’s hard-earned wages. “I have known her to sell the provisions out of the house for the purpose of procuring liquor. I have even known her when he has been in my house to throw stones through the window” said the second Mr Cole. When Mrs Cole behaved in this manner Michael said that his brother would become deranged and be obliged to have his head bound tight in bandages. He would take a fit and struggle so much that it required two or three men to hold him still. “After the fits are over he cannot recollect anything which he has done under the influence. I had frequently told him of things he had done and he would not believe me. When he has been so excited he has frequently assaulted me and I have seen him break all the furniture in the house with an axe. He made a kick at me and struck his wife…and I wish he had killed her that day.”
That was the end of Michel Cole’s disposition. Mr Armstrong, prosecuting, took his chance to question the witness and asked the Irishman to further explain the violent fits that his brother seemed to suffer from. Michael admitted that on the occasions he had just mentioned Daniel was so excited he had taken to drink, but even when his wife was sober and he was drunk, Daniel would always behave peacefully. If he ever saw his wife drunk however then he would often break into a rage. “He has asked me when sober, on being told of his violence why I did not tie his head tight. This always had the tendency of quietening him. When his head was not tied he remained violent as long as any person crossed him.”
Jeremiah Levi gave a character reference of Daniel Cole and stated that he had worked with him for about eight years at a warehouse in which the men were employed as porters. Mr Levi had always considered Daniel to be a steady, sober man, and a faithful servant to his employer. Differing testimony came from James McDonald with whom the accused had worked with occasionally for about five years. He believed Daniel to be a decent and trustworthy man but noticed that when he took to drink it deranged him. “From his conduct after taking liquor I always considered him out of his mind” said James.
There appeared to be no doubt in Judge Coltman’s mind that the deceased had died as a result of the consequences of the stabbing. Considering all the evidence that had been put before them, the jury had to decide as to the exact nature of the offence that had been committed. The judge was keen to remind them that it might have been possible for the accused to have been in a deranged state of mind at the time of the killing and therefore not accountable for the act. Conversely, if they believed Mr Cole was in control of his brutal actions, then was his crime one of murder or merely manslaughter? Did the prisoner intend to kill Officer Bailey?
After some further thoughtful remarks by his Lordship into the nature of the law, the gentlemen of the jury retired to deliberate a verdict. They remained away from court for forty-five minutes and upon returning to their seats the foreman was addressed by Judge Coltman.
“How do you find the prisoner?”
We find the prisoner guilty of a very aggravated case of manslaughter, your Lordship.”
“Prisoner at the bar, you have been found guilty of a most aggravated manslaughter; one so nearly allied to murder, that it is only in the slightest degree distinguishable. Fortunately for you that slight distinction has been drawn. If the jury had been of the opinion that capital charge had been established it would have been my painful duty to have left you for execution.”
Daniel Cole breathed a huge sigh of relief. His life had been spared.
“It is a case in which the life of one of the police offices of the town has been sacrificed by that most base mode of death, stabbing, which I am sorry to find, is of late much on the increase.”
Daniel’s heart was still pounding and he knew that he would still face a strict punishment for his actions.
“The penalty to which you are liable,” announced Judge Coltman, “and which it is my duty to pronounce upon you is that you be transported beyond the seas to such a place as her Majesty, by the advice of her Privy Council, may determine, for the term of your natural life.”
Daniel Cole was then led away from the court and prepared himself for a future far different to anything he had ever encountered.
Daniel K. Longman