Inherited Craziness
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Showing posts with label Murder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Murder. Show all posts

Friday, 8 April 2022

Arthur Edward Penfold - The Liverpool Cab Murder

Medlock Hotel Rumney Road
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Sue Adair -
Late 19th century public house built adjacent to Kirkdale Gaol which was built in 1818 and demolished in 1897. This land became Kirkdale Recreation Ground but hid a gruesome past.

Arthur Edward Penfold (b. 1859), son of William Penfold and Mary Ann Charlotte Gunn, brother of John Robert PenfoldFrederick William Penfold and Charles Penfold, was found guilty of the murder of an "unfortunate" (prostitute) Margaret Stewart alias Isabella Cowie [1] on 17 Dec 1890, at Liverpool Assizes on 7 Mar 1891 and sentenced to death.

In 1891, Arthur Edward Penfold (31), Grocer's porter, Single, born in Hartfield, Sussex, was listed as a Prisoner at Her Majesty's Prison Kirkdale Liverpool, a.k.a. the Kirkdale House of Correction. "Prisoners had to work, and the treadmill (Penal treadmill) used for grinding corn was the largest in the country, needing the efforts of 130 prisoners a day to keep it running." Kirkdale had one of the highest death rates in the country for a prison.

What brought him there was widely reported in the press, but to summarise: Penfold had apparently been consorting with this woman, described as being "an inmate of a disorderly house", for five or six days before the date of the murder and, on the day in question, they'd gone out together. A witness said they were sober when they left in the afternoon. At 7:30pm they got a cab together and Penfold had asked the driver for Lambert Street. Upon arrival, Penfold told the cab driver that he had stabbed the woman and told him to call a policeman. The woman was taken to the Infirmary, but died shortly from the six stab wounds that had penetrated both her heart and liver.

The Indictment reads: "At Liverpool on the 17th December 1890, feloniously, wilfully, and of malice aforethought, did kill and murder one Margaret Stewart alias Isabella Cowie." Penfold was tried before The Honourable Sir John C Day, Knight (Sir John Charles Frederick Sigismund Day of whom it was writ, "The readiness with which he resorted to the severest punishments, including lashes, earned him a fearsome reputation and the nickname 'Judgment Day'.")

A later report relates that, "On one occasion when visiting the unfortunate man at Kirkdale, I asked him, "How come you to do it? Did you not know what you were about?" He said he didn't know why he did it or when, or even where it was done, his memory entirely left him: but he knew as soon as the fateful act was committed what he had done, and he could not forgive himself."

From the Liverpool Mercury Tuesday, 23 Dec 1890

Inquiries yesterday resulted in little further information as to the identification of the murdered woman Stewart or Cowie. A considerable number of people have viewed her body, some of them have known her during the period of her life spent in Liverpool. Up till a late hour last evening she had not been identified, and her parentage and place of birth still remain a mystery. It is believed, however, that she was formerly resident in Glasgow or Edinburgh. As to her Liverpool life, it appears that until about five weeks ago the deceased woman was at a house of ill-fame in a court off Lambert Street. 
The following are the antecedents of Arthur Edward Penfold, the full and correct name of the accused, which form quite a melancholy story. He was the son of a tollgate keeper, and was born in Hartfield, a pretty rural village on the borders of the Ashdown Forest, in the north of Sussex. His parents are long since dead. He served in the 5th Lancers, and was invalided out of the service with heart disease and afterwards joined the Sussex Artillery Militia under the name of Peter Bright. He appears to have won the good opinion of everyone with whom he came in contact, but was liable to give way to drink, and when he had only a small quantity he was "like a madman." Generally a teetotaller, he appears to have periodically broken out, and then he would leave his situation, however profitable it was, and, without warning, go away, often turning up in a most deplorable state of destitution.  
Writing to his brother from Norwich Union Infirmary in 1888 [2], after speaking of his misery, the letter reads: "Sad to lead a life like this, you cannot wonder at my being laid up. What a fool I must be to do it when I might be settled down and comfortable. What a poor, weak-minded fool for yielding so easy to temptation. I feel as if there is no hope for me; it seems no use praying: there is no God to hear my prayer. I have sinned away my day of grace and must now take my chances. Oh that I had never left the proper path. It is too late for me now. I am glad you are all right, dear brother. Keep to that path and don't yield one inch to the devil, or he will surely soon be your master." 
He returned to East Grinstead after that, and his old master, hearing that he was again in the town, sent for him, and without asking any questions as to his career during his long absence at once installed him into the old place of grocer's and draper's porter. Several month ago he had another outbreak, and not returning with a horse and van to his employer's shop, information was given to the police. Penfold was discovered drugged and insensible on Tunbridge Wells Common, and the horse and van on another part of the common not under control. He then admitted that he had given way to drink and to immoral women, with whom he generally got associated after taking even a moderate amount of liquor. He was brought up at the East Grinstead Police Court, and the charge was withdrawn, and strange to say, there were two former employers whom he had in his freaks forsaken waiting to offer him a situation, even, as one of them said, "if Penfold had done a couple of months' imprisonment," He went back into the employment of the of the draper and grocer, however, and went on properly until a fortnight ago, when he was sent to Horley with the horse and van. The morning was bitterly cold, and it was snowing fast, and there is no doubt that Penfold indulged in a little intoxicant to warm him. As usual, it got over him, and when he put up the horse and cart at Horley, after collecting an amount of £18, he went off and was not heard of until his name was identified by the East Grinstead police in connection with the Liverpool tragedy. He was then "wanted" for stealing the £18 alluded to. It may be interesting to state that though such a trustworthy employee when he kept to his temperance pledge, he occasionally complained of pains in the head, and was sometimes strange in his manner. It seems also that his grandmother was subject to epilepsy, and his mother died in an epileptic fit.

In 1884, Penfold had been before the Magistrates on the charge of attempted suicide - dropped on the grounds of insanity. In fact, he had attempted to take his own life on two occasions, once he had gone onto London Bridge with the intention of jumping into the river, the other time he put poison in his coffee. 

Nor were those even Penfold's only brushes with the law, as noted on the record of the murder trial is a previous incarceration for 14 days at HM Prison, Lewes, having been found guilty at Brighton Petty Sessions, on 31 May 1886, of being drunk and assaulting a P.C., under the name of Arthur Carter

At the trial, "Dr James Morton, of Chelsea, deposed that he had known the prisoner's mother, brothers and other relatives for many years. [He said] they were all characterised by a tendency to nervous disease. The mother died at the age of 55 during a violent epileptic seizure. Witness knew two brothers of the prisoner. One showed great mental instability, and the slightest excitement, either from joy or grief, rendered him almost incomprehensible. That brother's child two years ago had attacks of epilepsy. Prisoner's elder brother had five children, and three witness had seen epileptic attacks." 

Another witness said, "... he has relatives who are idiots." "One of the prisoner's female cousins is an idiot, but not bad enough to be locked up." 

Charles Penfold, the prisoner's younger brother recounted that the prisoner had disappeared from his employment suddenly in 1879, when he joined the 5th Lancers, and that "If he took drink he very soon became irresponsible."

Frederick William Penfold, of her Majesty's navy at Portsmouth, spoke of having frequently noticed peculiarities about [the] prisoner. He stated that he had not seen the prisoner for over seven years.

The jury, without leaving the box, found Penfold guilty of murder and the sentence of the court was that he was to be hanged. 

A petition was got up with a plea of insanity against the death sentence.

Ian Waugh of Murder Research provided one of the last pieces of the puzzle through an item from The Liverpool Mercury of Friday, 27 Mar 1891: 
The Governor of Kirkdale Jail received the official document from the Home Office yesterday morning, announcing the respite of Arthur Edward Penfold, who was, at the recent assizes, found guilty of wilful murder. This decision of the Home Secretary was not only received with joy by Penfold himself, but by his brothers and others who, since the trial, have been indefatigable in their exertions to save the unfortunate man from the gallows.
Respite is not the same as commuting his sentence, it merely put it off.

Kirkdale Gaol was demolished in 1897, which is probably the reason Penfold was moved and he ended up at HM Prison Parkhurst, on the Isle of Wight. Parkhurst was subject to fierce criticism by the public, politicians and in the press for its harsh regime (including the use of leg irons initially). Obviously related to this move, was that his brother, Frederick William Penfold, relocated to the Isle of Wight in 1898. In the end his death sentence was never carried out, however, as Arthur Edward Penfold, Convict, died aged 41, at Parkhurst Prison, on 21 May 1900, from Peritonitis. There is reference on the death certificate of an inquest having been held on 23 May 1900. 

  1. One of the witnesses at the inquest had said that she'd seen a letter from the victim's mother, addressed to Margaret Cowie, so this may have been her real name. Searches reveal that death certificates have been issued in all three names: Margaret Stewart, Isabella Cowie and Margaret Cowie, all with year of birth calculated to 1867 from her supposed age of 23.
  2. Records show Arthur Penfold being admitted to, on 21 Jan 1888, and discharged from, on 11 Feb 1888, St Andrew's Workhouse, Norwich.
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