Liverpool Mercury, June 20th. 1881
THE OUTRAGES AT THE TOWN HALL AND POLICE BARRACKS
THE PRISONERS COMMITTED FOR TRIAL
James M'GRATH and James M'KEVITT were brought before the Stipendiary Magistrate Mr RAFFLES at the first police court, Dale St, on Saturday charged with being concerned with the outrage at the Liverpool Town Hall on the 10th of this month. Mr MARKS conducted the prosecution on behalf of the Treasury and the prisoners were defended by Dr O'FEELY [instructed by Mr QUELCH]. The court was crowded throughout the entire day and at different times seats on the bench were occupied by Messers A. B. FORWOOD, E. SAMUELSON, George MELLY, Thomas MILLS, John HUGHES, J. E. REYNOLDS, and Clarke ASPINALL. The prisoners guarded by several policemen and bridewell keepers, were placed in the dock at 10.45 am and the hearing lasted nine hours. During its progress M'GRATH and M'KEVITT, frequently conversed together, and communicated with their solicitor Mr QUELCH, from time to time.
Mr MARKS in opening the case said, "I appear sir, in this case to prosecute on behalf of the Treasury, who, as you are aware, have taken the matter up. The facts of the case are no doubt, well known to you and other Magistrates, but, as a matter of convenience, I purpose shortly to narrate the circumstances of the specific offence with which the prisoners are charged, in order to more fully explain the evidence which I shall bring before you afterwards, bearing on their movements prior to the date in which the offence took place. You will remember on the remand the men were originally booked under two sections, one being the 12th section of the 24th and 25th Victoria, chapter 100, and the other the 10th section of the 24th and 25th Victoria, chapter 97, the one relating to property the other to person. No doubt if you find it your duty to commit these men, it will be advisable to indict them at the assizes in a variety of ways under both acts, but this mooring of the two sections on which I mean chiefly to rely, and on which I base my case for you to decide, are the 9th section of the 24th and 25th Victoria, chapter 97, and the 10th section of the same act".
Mr RAFFLES, "That is the property section?"
Mr MARKS, "That is the property section. I shall have something to say to you with reference to the 12th section, with regard to intent to murder. Of course that will be purely a legal aspect of the question. I shall ask whether you are disposed to commit on that, and if you are not, I shall rely on the 9th and 10th sections. Now to refer to the facts of the case.
It appears that on the morning of Friday, the 10th of the present month, a man named John ROSS, who is a car driver, was going slowly up Water St, on the look out for a fare. On arriving at the end of Exchange St West, he saw two men whom he supposed to be seamen. They had a bag with them which looked like a mariner's bag, and they were sitting on the steps of the west door of the Town Hall. He did not speak to them but waited for some time, and then, as they did not hail him, drove on. He will tell you that he afterwards saw these two men in custody, and that they are the men who are now in the dock. He proceeded slowly down Castle St, the horse walking, and when he got near Cook St, he heard a slight report, soon afterwards followed by a report of a very violent nature. He then, very naturally, drove back to the Town Hall.
PC 712 REED, who was on duty in the neighbourhood, also saw these two men, who, when the cabman had gone away, seemed to have thought it was time to commence operations. The bag, which I believe was a sailor's bag , was then lying on the top step, and one of the men, he says distinctly M'NEVITT, was stooping down with his hand towards the bag, as if doing something to it. He saw smoke coming from the bag, and having similar explosions in his mind, he made a rush towards the men. M'KEVITT at once made off towards the Exchange Flags, and the Constable went and tried to get hold of M'GRATH.
M'GRATH put his hand to his breast pocket, but then seemed to change his mind and took to his heels following the other man. PC 712 gave chase as fast as he could, blowing his whistle. He pursued them across Chapel St into Oldhall St, and there he met Constable 884 CREIGHTON, and then 712 did something which will surely merit the approbation of not only yourself but of all the public. Instead of taking 884 with him to assist him in the capture, he had the presence of mind to send him back to the Town Hall, had he not done so a terrible explosion would have taken place on the steps, what the consequences of that might have been I cannot say, it is due to 712 that very serious consequences were averted.
He continued the chase and kept blowing his whistle, and at last fortunately attracted the attention of PC 553 CASEY, who came up the street in advance of the men who were running away. Seeing this the men at once turned down another street. PC 712 made into Vauxhall Road to try and intercept them, but found they had not gone that way, and lost sight of them.
PC 553 kept up the chase, finally running them into Tinglepeg Lane. Being acquainted with the neighbourhood he knew this was a cul-de-sac, and that he could not fail to capture one of them. He saw M'KEVITT crouched under a lorry. He went to him, and M'KEVITT, who seemed to be in a state of exhaustion, put his hand in his pocket and drew a revolver. The moment he drew it CASEY seized his arm. I am bound to say that the man had an opportunity of firing the weapon if he had thought it, but I don't think that was his intention. At any rate he threw it into a coal-yard. CASEY finding that the other man was not to be seen, went back with M'KEVITT and gave him into the custody of another officer. In the meantime he had seen a workman of Mr RAWCLIFFE'S, named PYE, who was endeavouring to open the gate into which the pistol had been thrown. He told PYE to look after the revolver, and PYE got over the wall or gate, and when the officer returned, I think it was PYE who handed the revolver to him".
Mr RAFFLES, "It was loaded was it not?"
Mr MARKS, "It was loaded in nine chambers, one having been discharged at some other time. I think I shall be able to explain that chamber being empty. CASEY, by the help of a man named NELSON, who had the key, got into Mr JACKSON'S coal yard and there searched about. Here there seems to be a difference in the story of the PC and that of NELSON, as to who saw the man first, but this does not matter the men NELSON and PYE gave every assistance they possibly could.
The man M'GRATH was found lying secreted in the coal flat ALEXINA, according to his own statement, on getting over a wall, instead of dropping on to a towpath as expected, there being a very narrow ledge there, he, in his excitement and exhausted condition dropped into the canal, and, if his story was to be believed, his physical appearance bore it out, he had a narrow escape from being drowned. He had been a sailor and had managed to struggle to the flat he found.
CASEY had in his hand the revolver he had got from PYE, and he presented it at M'GRATH and asked him had he anything of the kind, M'GRATH said he had and it was in his pocket. CASEY did not take it out then, as had been reported, but walked him along until he met another constable and then took it from him. That revolver, a six-chambered one, was loaded in all barrels, and was at full cock, so much for the capture.
After PC 712 had alarmed PC 884, the latter turned to the Town Hall. Two other constables, 893 and 924, who had also been alarmed met them there, on their arrival, one of the most marvellous things in the whole proceedings took place. One of the constables went to the bag and heard a fizzing noise, which I suppose would be the fuse fizzing. He dragged it from the doorway into the street and was going to cut the string, when another more cautious officer said, "You had better mind what you are doing" and they moved away, hardly getting away from the bag when a most terrific explosion took place. How these men were not injured being only 2 or 3 yards off is a marvel. It is suggested by people who understand these things that it was owing to their having been at the ends of the bag and not at the sides. The force of the explosion will be spoken of by the witnesses who were present, and Dr Campbell BROWN who has examined the bag will tell you that the material it contained was certainly not gunpowder, but something of the character of nitro-glycerine, and must have been of great explosive power in order to scatter the pieces of iron tube of the size used.
The explosion caused considerable damage to the windows of the Town Hall, but little damage to the structure beyond the clipping of some of the stones. The Phoenix Insurance building on the opposite side of the street was also slightly damaged. Even if we had no other evidence, this would be a very strong case against these men independent of their statements, which they gave, in addition to certain evidence the police have, which make the case much stronger. M'GRATH said he had been lodging in a house in Cottenham St, kept by Mrs DONKIN, she will be called and will give very material evidence in relation to the matter, which will prove he did lodge there and on various occasions was visited by M'KEVITT. M'GRATH when he went there gave the name of BARTON, of M'GRATH, and he did not sleep there regularly, in fact only a few nights.
LYNCH will state she slept there all the night of the week prior to this Friday morning, and M'GRATH came early in the morning. She will tell you on one occasion the two men brought into the house a pipe similar to the one used for the bomb, and the pipe was carried in and out of the house in a mysterious manner, it was secreted under the bed and two days before the explosion took place a piece of wood was brought in and a considerable amount of hammering went on, M'GRATH saws off a piece of this clump of wood, about the length required to make a plug.
On the house being searched tools were found in his room and in a box belonging to him, including a gimlet, a hammer, a saw and a chisel which evidently had been used very recently on a hard surface, the inference he would ask the bench to draw being that it had been used in trimming the rough end of the pipe.
One day whilst these men were in Mrs DONKIN'S she heard a report, she went into the room and found they had a revolver, she asked, "What is this all about?" to which M'GRATH pointing to M'KEVITT, replied, "He's up to his fool's tricks" the ball had pierced through a door and struck against a wall of the house, which would account for one of the barrels of the revolver found on M'KEVITT being empty.
There is another witness, Mrs KEARNEY, up to a short time ago she lived in Ashton St and took in lodgers. M'GRATH she says, seeing a notice in the window this was the very same time he had lodgings in Cottenham St, inferring he really was lodging at Mrs KEARNEY'S as he slept there most frequently and he was using the house in Cottenham St more as a workshop. She will tell you that the day before the explosion these two men entered her house carrying a very heavy parcel, they then went into the parlour and soon afterwards went out, on endeavouring to enter the parlour she found the door was fast and she couldn't get in. She afterwards got in and found a door to a cupboard in the room was also fast. On M'GRATH coming in she asked what business he had to lock the cupboard, telling him he was only a lodger, and had only joint use of the cupboard and it was not his. He gave her an impertinent reply, saying she could have the cupboard in the morning, but, that he was going to keep it that night. She thought he then went to bed, but next morning when she got up M'GRATH was nowhere about, in fact, I believe he was then in custody, and the chain was removed from the door proving he had gone out quietly in the night.
On Mrs KEARNEY'S premises being searched there was found a piece of pipe corresponding to this other piece, as it had been a part of the same, and it would be proved these was wrapped around the bomb used at the Town Hall and a piece of an old green dress and a piece of mat which Mrs KEARNEY could identify as her property which had been removed from her property without her knowledge. It seems to me there is ample evidence of premeditation, in fact, that a more villainous and more deliberately planned plot could scarcely be imagined. A great deal has been said in the public prints with reference to Fenianism, I don't intend to give any evidence whatever with regard to Fenianism as this case stands on its own merits"
Mr RAFFLES, "You could not legally go into it."
Mr MARKS, "No I could not. The only piece of evidence which the police have obtained on that point is in relation to M'KEVITT. M'KEVITT'S statement before you last week, was that he had no connection with any such unlawful organisation as Fenianism, he had nothing whatsoever to do with it, but that he as a foolish man, being a compatriot of M'GRATH, was led into this. If you will permit me, I will call a postman who will prove that for a considerable time has been delivering to M'KEVITT papers from America, copies of the United Irishman, which it is common knowledge is the organ of the Fenian brotherhood, and is either edited or owned by O'DONOVAN ROSSA, and the M'KEVITT'S name was printed on them as if he was a regular agent."
Mr RAFFLES, "I think that will be evidence."
Mr MARKS, "I think so."
Mr RAFFLES, "I shall certainly allow you to put it in."
Mr MARKS, "With your consent, then, I will put in it. I don't intend to say more than a word or two on the 12th section, with regard to the intent to murder. I think there is some evidence that would justify me in asking for a committal on that charge. Of course, the 9th section of the other act gives the same punishment, penal servitude for life."
Mr RAFFLES, "We had better take the evidence first and discuss that point afterwards."