Spicer - Before the Magistrates.
Felix Spicer, aged 60, described as a seaman, was yesterday brought before the magistrates at the Courthouse, Liscard, charged with the wilful murder of his son, William (aged 13 year old and two months) and Henry (aged 3 years and eight months), by cutting their throats at New Brighton on Sunday morning. He was further charged with having attempted to murder Mary his wife. The magistrates were Captain A.M Molyneux, Mr James Smith, and Mr W. Heap, and Colonel Hamersley, chief constable of Cheshire, occupied a seat on the bench. It being generally known that Spicer was to be brought up, there was a large attendance of the general public. After some ordinary trivial cases had been disposed of, Spicer was placed in the dock. He is a short, thick-set man, with scanty white hair, and full moustache beard and whiskers turning from sandy to grey. Throughout the proceedings, a policeman being by his side, he stood in the dock with his left hand on the rail, the fingers nervously and incessantly beating a tattoo, whilst his right hand hung lifelessly by his side. His aspect was that of a pre-occupied man, and only occasionally he betray a keen sense of interest in what was going on. The magistrates' clerk read over the formal indictments, and when he came to the end of the first one, charging the prisoner with having "feloniously, and of malice aforethought, killed and murdered-one William Spice", the prisoner interrupted him, saying with emphasis, "I deny it, sir". The clerk went on with the reading without further interruption.
Superintendent Hindley stated the case. The prisoner, he said, had been in New Brighton something like 18 years, during which time he had known him as keeping refreshment rooms. Some short time ago he lived in Windsor Street but he was sold up, and then went to live at 18 Richmond Street. Since he had been in Richmond Street, his wife had had a refreshment room, a lock up place, near New Brighton Ferry, and there appeared to have been some dispute between them in consequences of her refusal to allow his name to be put over the door. After the dispute the wife slept at the refreshment room, the prisoner stopping at 18 Richmond Street. On Saturday night last he went to the refreshment room after it had closed, knocked at the door, and asked to be admitted. She refused him admittance and went to bed, but about three o'clock in the morning she was aroused by the smashing of the windows. She jumped up, and, seeing the prisoner, she slipped her skirts on and made a rush to get out through the broken window. The prisoner attempted to prevent her, slashing at her with a knife, and inflicting several severe wounds. She ultimately succeeded in getting into the street, and finding shelter in a neighbouring house. Her nose was cut nearly through, her throat was cut across, and her hands were badly wounded in trying to ward off the blows. She was now in the hospital, doing as well as could be expected. The police went to the house in Richmond Street, where they apprehended the prisoner, and they afterwards found that two of the children who slept there had been murdered in bed. A doctor was called, and he would state that, to the best of his knowledge, the children had been dead about three hours. It was only proposed to offer such evidence as would justify the bench in granting a remand for eight days. A woman named Fraser, who lived at 18 Richmond Street, would be called and would prove that the prisoner was in the house on Saturday night. It would also be proved that the prisoner's bed, was not occupied that night, and Mrs Fraser would tell the court that she heard the children screaming and the prisoner going about in the house. He thought this would satisfy their worships that his request for remand was a reasonable one.
Annie Fraser, wife of Archibald Fraser, 17 Greetham Street, Liverpool, was then called. She said she did not live with her husband, but had for some time been living with Mrs. Spicer as waitress, at 18 Richmond Street, New Brighton. Mrs. Spicer also kept a Refreshment Room at 3 Bickley Parade. Witness had been at the refreshment room on Saturday last, and left shortly after eleven o'clock at night to go to Richmond Street, where she slept. She arrived at the house about quarter to twelve, and saw the prisoner and the nurse girl, Mary, in the kitchen. The prisoner asked her where she had been, she replied that she had just come from the refreshment room. She saw he was in a very bad temper, so took no further notice of him, but said simply "Good night" and went upstairs to bed. She slept in a little room at the top of the stairs on the first landing, just opposite the front door. The nurse girl, who slept in the same room, went upstairs five minutes before her, and was undressing when she went up. Witness had commenced to undress when the prisoner called "Annie, I want you. Will you come and rub my shoulders?" She replied "Yes, certainly", and went downstairs and rubbed his shoulders. After which she bade him goodnight and went to bed. He bade her good night, and said he was going to sit up for the lodger, referring to a stranger who had engaged a bed at the refreshment room that day. Witness was suffering from indigestion, and passed a restless night, but was not disturbed by any noise. About break of day she got up and partly dressed herself and sat down on the side of the bed, and immediately after she sat down she heard the voice of the youngest deceased, Harry, cry out as though troubled in his sleep, and then a shuffling noise, as though his father, who had been in the habit of looking after the children since their mother had stayed away, was going to him. She could not say which room the person whose footsteps she heard went into. She afterwards lay down on the bed in her clothes and fell asleep, but had not slept long when she was awakened by the opening of the scullery back door, and heard some one, apparently with slippers on, run swiftly upstairs and down again, as though he had run up to fetch something. The person, whoever it was, was not upstairs as much as a minute. About three minutes or so after that she heard a loud knocking at the front door, and then some one outside her bedroom door said "we want you". She opened the door and saw Mr.Storey and Dr.Ross, Dr.Bride's assistant, coming upstairs, and one or two policemen in the lobby. She never saw the prisoner from the time she went to bed. Mrs.Spicer had not been in the house for a month or five weeks. Witness left her that night at the refreshment room. Mr.Spicer usually slept in the front bedroom. Witness went into that room on the Sunday morning and saw that the bed had not been used. Mr.Spicer was expecting a lodger, and the lodger had not turned up, and she did not think that Mr.Spicer had been to bed at all. He had told her that he was going to sleep on the sofa.
Supt Hindley --: Can you give the bench any ideas, from your own knowledge, why Mrs.Spicer did not go to 18 Richmond Street to sleep? Yes; when Spicer came home from sea he wanted to take possession, and Mrs.Spicer naturally objected. --: When did he come back from sea? In September I think, and Mrs. Spicer has kept him ever since. --: Was there any unpleasantness about this? Not then. He was right enough until last Easter. He and his wife were quite friendly until two or three days after Easter, when they had words about the refreshment room being put in Mr.Spicer's name, but they did not have a real quarrel until the following Monday. On that day Mrs.Spicer went to town, and whilst she was in town he took the money. When she returned she saw the money on the shelf where he had placed it, and she took it up and put it in her pocket. Mr.Spicer said, "leave that there" and she said "no, it doesn't require two to take money here." Then they had some words, and Mrs.Spicer asked witness quietly, without Mr.Spicer hearing, if she would go up to the house and send her bed down, saying she did not wish to go home with him. She sent a girl down with the bed, and Mrs.Spicer had slept at the refreshment room ever since. The bed was kept in the daytime in the kitchen under the dresser, and made up at night in the refreshment room. The slippers produced were Mrs.Spicer's
The prisoner, on being asked, if he wished to put any questions to the witness, replied quietly, "no, sir".
Alfred Short, a clerk, was the next witness. He said he occupied a front room on the ground floor at 18 Richmond Street, as a sitting and bed room. On Saturday evening he went to bed at a quarter-past eleven o'clock, leaving the prisoner in the kitchen sitting on the sofa, and William, the elder of the two deceased children, sitting on a chair beside the sofa. Witness bade him good night and went to bed, leaving with him at his request, as he generally did, his watch, so that he might know the time in the morning. Witness soon went to sleep, but he was awakened shortly afterwards by a little alteration between Mr.Spicer and Mrs.Fraser. He heard Spicer speak very loudly to her about being late, but he did not hear her reply. He went to sleep again, and heard nothing more until he was awakened by two policemen coming into his bedroom in the morning. He got up and dressed himself, and heard Mr.Storey say - "he has murdered his two children". He went upstairs with Police-constable Potts (204), and, going into the back bedroom where the children slept, saw them lying, one at the foot and the other at the head of the bed, with their throats cut. They were both dead, and there was a great quantity of blood about - in fact, the place was like a slaughter house.
F.Potts (P.C 204) stated that he was on duty in Rowson Street, New Brighton, about five minutes to four o'clock on Sunday morning in company with Police-constable A.Jones (301), when a young man came up to them, and, in consequence of information he gave them, they went to the refreshment room, Bickley-parade. Finding no one there they went to 18 Richmond Street, accompanied by Mr.Storey, whom they saw coming from the doctor's. Mr.Storey and he stayed at the front of the house whilst Constable Jones went to the back. Having obtained an entrance, Jones opened the front door and let them in. Jones arrested the prisoner, and Storey and witness went upstairs and found the two deceased boys in the back bedroom on the second landing. They were both dead. Witness remained there until the arrival of Dr.Rose and Police-sergeant Cooper. Mrs.Fraser gave him two letters (produced) in the lobby of the house about six o'clock that morning. One was in an envelope, unopened.
Sergeant Samuel George Cooper said he called at the police station, New Brighton, at 25 minutes past four o'clock on Sunday morning, and saw the prisoner there in custody of Police-constable 301, and from what the Constable said to him he went to 18 Richmond Street. On his return, about six o'clock, he examined the prisoner, and found blood stains on both his shirt wristbands and partly up the sleeves. There were also blood stains on the knee of his trousers and down each trouser leg - mostly on the right knee and leg - on the breast of his coat, and on the back and front of a pair of sand shoes which he was wearing.
The articles were produced, and caused a sickening sensation.
On the usual question -- "Have you anything to ask this witness"? being put to the prisoner, he replied -- "They are not bloodstains, sir, it is red paint on the shoes".
The Clerk to the Magistrates -- You will, of course, have an opportunity of speaking for yourself later.
The Prisoner -- Yes sir; very good.
The Chairman -- Your case will be remanded until the 2nd June at ten o'clock in the morning.
The Prisoner -- I would like to have a little assistance to defend me. I have no means at present.
The Clerk -- You get assistance on the trial.
The Prisoner -- I would like to have it now if I could get it. I could explain lots of things to you. There are some letters there which would explain the whole of it.
The Clerk -- You had better not say much now. Have you no money?
The Prisoner -- No
After a consultation with the clerk, the magistrates, through the chairman, said -- We have no power to meet you in any way at this stage.
The prisoner was then removed.
An inquest on the victims of the New Brighton murder was opened yesterday. Mr. Caurton, coroner, commented on the conduct of Colonel Hamersley, Chief Constable, in removing the prisoner to Walton Gaol, and not allowing him to appear at the inquest. The Coroner said he will write to the Home Secretary. The Inquest was adjourned till to-morrow. It was stated that at the time the prisoner married Mrs. Spicer he had another living wife.
Funeral of The Victims.
The funeral of the two victims of the murder at New Brighton on Sunday last, William and Henry Spicer, took place yesterday at Wallasey Cemetery, Rake Lane, Liscard. The interest naturally taken by the inhabitants of the district in the shocking event was the cause of a large assemblage of spectators at the house in Richmond Street and at the cemetery. Steps had been taken by a number of gentlemen, including Mr. Henry Spencer (the foreman of the coroner's jury). Mr. James Boughhey, Mr. John Bailey, and Mr. Berriman, to raise by public subscription to buy a grave in the cemetery, defray the expense of the burial, and temporarily maintain the remaining children. The funeral procession, consisting of a hearse and three mourning coaches. left the house about half- past three. The coffins were covered with wreaths and crosses sent by sympathising neighbours and friends, and each bore an inscription recording the names, date of death, and ages of the boys. The chief mourners were the sisters and brother of the deceased - namely Gertrude, Annie, Ethel, and Thomas Spicer. Mrs. Fraser, the waitress at Mrs. Spicer's refreshment room, occupied the one of the carriages with two of the children, and the attendance included most of the members of the coroner's jury and several New Brighton tradesmen. The burial service was conducted by the Rev. John H. Gwyther, pastor of the Congregational Church, Rice Lane, Liscard.
Additional information was taken by the Cheshire Coroner yesterday in the case of the murder of two children by Felix Spicer, their father. Mrs. Spicer, who was terribly injured on the morning of the murder, said they were not married. He took her at sixteen under promise, and when the first child was born she pressed him to marry her, but he laughed at her in her shame and misery. A few days before the tragedy he told her landlord they were not married, and from that day she determined no longer to live with him, a declaration which brought about last Sunday's tragedy.
The Inquest was again adjourned.
A Sad Story
Yesterday at the adjourned inquest on the two children murdered by their father, Felix Spicer, at New Brighton, Cheshire, the mother, who was terribly injured, in her encounter with the accused, gave evidence. She said prisoner took her from home under the promise of marriage when she was 16. Though she pressed him to do so, he never married her. She had seven children by him. She kept him by means of the refreshment rooms. He was of ungovernable temper, and had recently told her landlord that they were not married, which caused her to determine no longer to live with him. He then begged her forgiveness, whereupon she wrote the following to him "You told Mr. Wright I was not your wife, you mean, contemptible scoundrel. Did you think of my tears (her first child) I begged you to marry me out of my shame, and you laughed at me? But I have waited, and the day has come. I can tell everyone my tale, for I hated you since the day you laughed at me. I don't regard my name now. Why should I? Now everybody knows; but there is one thing I want you to know - the gallows before another night under the same roof as you. I will neither see you or be annoyed by you. You can remain in the house as long as you keep away from me. I will see the rent paid, but remember that I shall never change as long as I live". The woman was much affected whilst giving her evidence. The case was adjourned till next Wednesday.
A shocking tragedy was enacted early on Sunday morning at New Brighton. Mary Spicer carries on the business of a refreshment house keeper in Victoria Road, where she resides, and her husband resides in Richmond Street, the wife, it is said, having refused to live with him. On Saturday night Spicer assisted in putting his five children to bed, and between two and three o'clock on Sunday morning he cut the throats of two of them whilst they were in bed. Spicer then went to the Victoria Road house, where he attempted to murder his wife. She, though terribly cut about the arms and face, effected her escape by jumping through the bedroom window, her husband making a similar leap. The crash of glass brought the police to the spot, and they pursued the murderer and captured him in his house in Richmond Street. The police, on entering the house, found the sons, William and Henry. lying dead, with their throats cut from ear to ear. Jealousy is suppose to have been the cause of the tragedy. The house in Richmond Street is let to lodgers, all of whom were sound asleep when the police entered on Sunday morning and apprised them of the murder of the two children.
Felix Spicer was brought before the Wallasey (Cheshire) magistrates on Monday and was remanded till Monday next.
At New Brighton Police Station on Tuesday morning, before Mr. C.W Tibbits. deputy-coroner, there was opened an inquiry into the cause of the death of William and Henry Spicer. The first witness called was Annie Fraser, who lived at the house where Spicer resided. She spoke of hearing Spicer walking about the house on the morning of the murder. Mrs. Spicer had lived with her husband at Richmond Street till the week after Easter Monday, when she went to 3, Bickley Parade, where she carried on business as a refreshment house keeper. There were six children, all of whom were living at Richmond Street, except the eldest, who was at Cardiff. Spicer himself had formerly been a ship's cook. Mr. and Mrs. Spicer were on comfortable terms till the week after Easter. At that, however, a quarrel took place, Mrs. Spicer saying her husband had no right to touch the money at the refreshment place, as she was mistress there. The next day Spicer said he would show her who is master, but he did not offer to assault her in any way. He was a very passionate man. She saw Spicer on Saturday evening when she went up to Richmond Street for something. He then told her to ask Mrs. Spicer if he might go down to the rooms that week, and she sent word back that she did not want him for that week, nor did she ever want to set eyes on him again. On Saturday night witness got into the house at a quarter to twelve, when she found Spicer sitting in the kitchen. He was perfectly sober, but was in a bad temper. About daylight, feeling restless, she got up and sat by the window. The two deceased children slept in the room adjoining witness's, and Spicer slept in a room by himself. While witness was awake she heard someone go into the children's room, but did not pay much attention to the circumstances, as Mr. Spicer had been in the habit lately of looking after the children. Afterwards there was a loud knocking at the front door. Some persons were let into the house, and she was told the children were murdered. Police constable 204 (Potts) deposed that he received information of the murder of the children. At the time prisoner was arrested it was not known that the children were murdered. He was taken into custody on suspicion of having wounded his wife. He was very cool, was sober, and did not offer any resistance. He said to Jones, "I have done nothing". -- Mr. Churton, the coroner, who had entered the court in the course of the inquiry, asked : "Is the prisoner here"? -- Sergeant Cooper : "No". -- Mr Churton : "Why not"? -- Sergeant Cooper : "He has been sent to Walton". -- Mr Churton : "For the last forty years I have never held an inquest without having the prisoner present, and for the simple reason that he is afforded an opportunity before the coroner of making a statement which he cannot do before the magistrates. His mouth is closed there. It is a strange thing that he should be sent away. I shall take certain steps myself this evening in regard to this matter". -- Dr. F.W.F Ross stated that he was called about 4.15 on Sunday morning, and went down to 18 Richmond Street, where he found the children William and Henry lying on a bed. They were dead, and the wounds which had caused their deaths must have inflicted by a very sharp instrument. -- In reply to the Coroner, a policeman stated that no instrument had been found. -- The inquest was afterwards adjourned.
With regard to Mrs. Spicer, it may be stated that though terribly injured by the knife with which her husband attacked her, the injuries are not likely to lead to fatal results, and it is expected by next Monday she will be able to give evidence.
Interview With The Prisoner
On Saturday. Alfred Short, who lodged in the house of Felix Spicer, the man charged with murdering his children at New Brighton, had an interview with Spicer in Walton Gaol. When asked about the crime, prisoner said, "I know nothing about it, so help me God. I washed little Harry, and kissed him and put him to bed, and bade him good night, bless his little heart". Here the prisoner wept bitterly. "Willie", he continued amid his sobs, "went to bed about about half-past eleven. I wished him good night, and know no more of either of them. I am as innocent as you are". Again his sobs interrupted his statement and when he became calm he continued -- "I am remained in the kitchen until three o'clock in the morning, when I went down to the refreshment rooms of my wife. The knife I used to the woman was my clasp knife, which was taken possession of by the police. In further conversation, the prisoner said he would not tell a lie to hurt any soul breathing. He referred to his love for the children, and said the woman had brought it all upon herself by refusing to forgive him. At parting he he told his visitor to tell his wife that he forgave her. He sent his love to her, although she had been very cruel to him.
On Saturday morning the police renewed the search for the knife used by Spicer in the murder of his two children and the attack on his wife last Saturday. After pulling up the flooring of the various rooms, search was made in about a cooking stove, when the knife was found in one of the flues. It bore ample evidence of the crime. The police have also ascertained the whereabouts of the missing lodger., who will be called at the adjourned inquest next Wednesday.
Accused Before The Magistrates
The Bench & Newspaper Comment
At the Liscard Courthouse, yesterday, Felix Spicer, a ship's rigger, aged 60 years old, was charged on remand with the murder of his sons William and Henry Spicer, aged 14 and 4 years respectively, and also with having attempted to murder Mary Palin, at New Brighton, on May 25. The magistrates present were Captain Molyneux (presiding), Messrs James Smith, W.Heap, and W.B Marshall. Mr. R.B Moore defended the accused. Colonel Hamersley, chief constable of Cheshire, was also present, and Superintendent Hindley, assisted by Sergeant Cooper, had charge of the case on behalf of the police.
The trial was fixed to commence at ten o'clock, and although the courthouse is situated away from a busy thoroughfare, there was a large crowd outside. The public were admitted to the back part of the court, and a fierce struggle ensued on the part of the crowd which endeavored to squeeze itself into a "gallery" capable of accommodating only one hundred persons. Spicer, who had been in weak health in the last few days, was brought from Walton Jail and driven in a cab to the court. He looked careworn, but seemed to follow the proceedings with an intelligent interest, keeping his eyes fixed on the witnesses, and occasionally be consulted with his solicitor. Owing to some remarks in an interview published in a Liverpool paper, the chairman made a statement hoping that such statements would not again be published. Mrs. Spicer, who was accompanied into court by her sister, a resident of Cardiff, gave a clear account of the terrible struggle she had had with the accused, and two witnesses who had watched the affair from their windows supplemented her testimony. The lady, who wore a dark ulster and veil, was deeply affected, and when the question was put to her, "have you been to 18 Richmond Street since", she replied "no", and then burst into tears. Her wrists were still covered with bandages, and as she leaned on the solicitors table, at which she was seated while giving her evidence, a plain gold band was observable on the third finger of her left hand. Her depositions having been read over to her, she signed her name "Mary Palin". The bench then remanded the accused until Monday next, and refused a request made by Mr. Moore that for convenience in consulting for the defence the prisoner might remain in Liscard, and not be removed to Walton. A number of persons remained outside the court house until after five o'clock, when the court adjourned, and witnessed the departure the cab which conveyed Spicer back to Walton Jail.
Maria Fearon, aged 15 years, stated that she was the nurse-girl employed by Mrs. Spicer. She repeated her evidence as to putting the children to bed on the night of May 24. After going down to the refreshment rooms witness returned to Richmond Street and gave the prisoner his supper, but he said he could not eat any. Witness went to bed about twelve o'clock, and soon after Mrs. Fraser, who had had some words with Fearon, also went to bed. By Superintendent Hindley : She heard no arrangement made as to which beds the children were to occupy. While Spicer was in the kitchen a man came in, and Spicer said, "I'm very sorry, old pal, I have no room for you to-night;" at the time returning the man's umbrella. The man went out with Spicer, and she did not see him again. She had not seen him before. Spicer had told her that four lodgers coming that night.
Mr. Moore, at the close of the witness's examination-in-chief, said that as he understood the examination of the various witnesses would not finish that day he proposed to adjourn his cross-examination. It was most desirable that after hearing the evidence he should have an interview with the accused, and go through the evidence line by line. He had had an interview with the prisoner that morning, and received an outline from him, and it was a very long business.
James Thomas Lea, architect and surveyor, produced plans of the house 18 Richmond Street, New Brighton, and refreshment room, 3, Bickley Parade, and the surrounding streets. The distance between the two places was 325 yards.
Dr. Frederick William Forbes Ross, in partnership with Dr. Bride, and practising at Victoria Road, New Brighton, gave evidence similar to that given at the coroner's inquiry with reference to the position and conditions of the bodies of the children found at 18 Richmond Street after the murder. He said the knife shown to him by Sergeant Cooper, on Saturday, might probably have caused the wounds on the bodies. They were caused by a cutting instrument. The knife shown to him was a short one, with a brown wooden handle, and a blade nearly four inches long, and there were blood stains and soot on it. When he arrived at the house the children had been dead for about an hour. By Superintendent Hindley : Subsequently, he saw the prisoners clothing. The shirt had blood stains on the cuffs, and there were a few spots scattered across the breast and body. He saw the shirt on Spicer within half an hour after he had examined the scene of the murder, and it was decided that it should be taken off him. He did not examine the shirt sufficiently to say whether the blood spots were on the front of the shirt. He went to the prisoner, and asked to look at hands. He told Spicer he had washed them, and the reply was, "Indeed sir, I have not washed them this morning." Witness then said, "you lie, Spicer" and asked the officer to turn up his cuffs. The policeman did so, and witness found that both wrists and a portion of the arm were smeared with blood, and there was a waterline showing where the washing process had stopped.
Superintendent Hindley -- Did you notice any cuts on his hands?
Witness -- There were no new cuts which could have caused this blood.
The Superintendent -- Could this blood have got on the shirt if he had had his coat on?
Witness -- Possibly, but I do not think it could have got on the body of the shirt.
The Superintendent -- Did you notice blood anywhere else?
Witness -- Yes, on the latch of the back gate of 18 Richmond Street, on the kitchen floor, and also on the inside of the handle of the scullery door. I looked for blood outside, but did not find any. The bloodstains found on the handle need not have been visible to the eye; they might have been left there by a clumsily-washed hand. He tested for the stains chemically. He applied the same tests to the prisoner's clothes, which were handed to him by Sergeant Cooper, and found fresh bloodstains on all the garments. Some of the stains on the shirt were quite fresh. At the same time the sergeant showed him a piece of wood which had been sawn to leave a sort of handle, and on this was blood, half dried. A bloody hand had grasped the handle so that the blood had gone into the wood. This piece of wood was lying on the pavement in front of the window the prisoner was said to have smashed. He found this wood about 20 minutes after he had left the children. He had seen the wife just before this, and found her in a state of shock, pale and exhausted, at Mr. Bailey's. She was slashed across the bridge of the nose, but the hemorrhage was ceasing. There was a wound on her right-hand palm, and one on the left forearm.
The Superintendent -- Would the amount of blood the wife lost be sufficient to account for the amount of blood on the prisoner's clothes?
Witness -- I don't think so. I do not think it would account for the blood on the right knee of the prisoner's trousers. I had found stains on the head of the bed, showing that there had been blood smeared by a knee in three places. On examining the prisoner's trousers at the police station I found there was a stain on them just below the right knee. It was quite moist, and had soaked through, and had soaked through the cloth, marking the prisoner's knee.
John Bailey, grocer, 4 Victoria Road, New Brighton, stated that about 20 minutes to four o'clock on the morning of the May 25 he was awakened by his wife, who told him she heard someone screaming. He got out of bed, and went to the window, which overlooked Victoria Road. He saw Mr. and Mrs. Spicer, whom he knew by sight, on the parapet in front of Bickley Parade. They were struggling together. He was kneeling with both knees on the lower part of her body. With the left hand he seemed to grasp the hair of her head, and with the right hand he was working away across her throat. He saw the prisoner's closed hand go up and down each time, and it seem to have been arrested by Mrs. Spicer each time he seemed to strike. He could not say whether the prisoner had a knife or anything in his hand. Witness raised an alarm by shouting "murder", "police", and blew a whistle. This had no effect, so he called to Spicer by name, saying "Spicer, this is too abusive". He received no answer, and Spicer did not look up, but continued in the same position. Witness left the window, and put on some clothing, and went out into the road. Spicer and his wife were on their legs, the latter standing at the back the cabmen's shelter, and having her back towards the river. The prisoner was on the north-east angle of the shelter, nearer to No. 3 Bickley Parade. Seeing the prisoner make an attempt to run after her the witness called to him "Spicer don't do that; you must not do any more". Witness called to Mrs. Spicer to run into the house as the door was open. She hesitated for a moment, and then started. She went into the house, and witness followed and closed the door. He did not see the prisoner again. She was bleeding dreadfully from various parts of the face and arm - in fact, she was a ghastly sight. He did not see a knife of any sort in the prisoner's hand.
Francis Storey was the next witness called, but before he commenced the magistrates left the bench for a few minutes, and on returning to the court :
The Chairman said : The attention of the bench has been called to some remarks in one of the Liverpool newspapers of this date. They wish to say that they think in the interests of justice some of the remarks should not have been made, and they hope that nothing of this kind will be said again. At the same time, they wish the witness to know that they have nothing to be afraid of if they tell the truth; and if any threats are made to them they should communicate at once with the police, who will see that they are protected.
Mr. Moore -- I am unaware of any threats having being used, directly or indirectly, either by my client or myself or my friends.
The hearing of the evidence was then resumed.
Mr. Storey said he was a general dealer, at 3 Victoria Road. On May 25 about quarter to four o'clock in the morning, he was awakened by hearing screams and a cry of "murder", "police". He got up and went to the bedroom window, and saw a man and a woman struggling on the parade. While putting on some clothes, with the intention of going down, he heard more shouting from next door, and on going to the window again he saw the woman running up the road with the man after her. As he passed under the window witness saw a short knife blade in his hand. Witness had the impression that the knife was rounded off at the top. The man caught up to the woman outside Bailey's window and grasped her about the shoulders. He had the knife in his hand raised. Witness saw no more as he hurried from the window to get dressed as he considered the matter had become very serious. Mrs. Storey soon after told him the woman had got into Bailey's and was safe, so he did not hurry downstairs, but on again looking through the window he saw the prisoner, whom he then recognised, go to Mrs. Spicer's house and smash the window with a plank of wood. Having committed the damage he put the piece of wood down by the side of the parapet and then entered the refreshment rooms through one of the broken windows. Witness came downstairs and went into Mr. Bailey's house, where he saw Mrs. Spicer, and on coming out he informed the police as to the direction in which Spicer had gone. He afterwards accompanied the police to 18 Richmond Street, and while they were in the parlour the prisoner walked from the kitchen, and was arrested by Police constable Jones. When they got outside the house witness told Constable Potts he had better go and see if the children were all right, and he did so. Sergeant Cooper afterwards showed witness blood stains on the frame on the window at Bickley Parade, through which the prisoner had entered. There was a pool of blood where the struggle had taken place.
Gertrude Annie Spicer, aged eight years, living at 18 Richmond Street, repeated the evidence she had given before the coroner, the principal point being that during the night on which the murder was committed she heard her brother cry. She called out "what's the matter, Harry"? and someone whom she thought was her father, replied "Go to sleep".
Mrs. Spicer was then called, and it was with great difficulty that she could compose herself to give her evidence. She said her name was Mary Palin. She had known the prisoner for 17 years. She was 32 years of age, and lived with him at 18 Richmond Street. The had had seven children. The prisoner came back in September after a nine month's voyage. He had not been to sea for 15 years prior to that. She slept at 18 Richmond Street until the week following Easter, when she commenced to stay at the refreshment rooms. She did this because of something the prisoner had told Mr. Wright. The witness repeated the evidence given before as to the dispute Spicer and she had on Monday after Easter with regard to the money received at the refreshment rooms. She told him he had nothing to do with business, and this seemed to annoy him very much. He said he would let her see whether he had nothing to do with it. He pulled off his coat and knocked about the things in the place, and she called in Police sergeant Whitchurst, to whom she showed her tenant's agreement. The sergeant told him she had the power to put him out, and after that he became very quiet. She then had a bed brought down to the refreshment rooms. She did so not because she was afraid, but because she thought it might save a quarrel. She had not intended to stay more than the night, but she decided to stay longer because of the prisoner going to the landlord. After this, Spicer sent messages and notes asking her to come back and begging her pardon.
Letters written by the prisoner to the witness were then put in. In the first one read the prisoner addressed her "my dear Polly", and asked that "by the great God forgive me, and do not always cast me out with a broken heart. Do forgive me. Have mercy on me, and I will make every amend in my power. Have mercy on me, have mercy on me. As a good girl give me some proof of your friendship. Yours for ever, F. SPICER". On the back of this sheet in the handwriting of Mrs. Spicer was the reply - "You are too late, and you need not to try to see me. The door is locked, and once for all I will not be annoyed by you. I shall not see you". A letter written by Spicer on May 19 last, and the reply from the witness (which have been published), were next read, as also a letter written by the prisoner to Mr. A. Wright saying that it was a great trial to him, as, being the founder of the business, that more favourable consideration had not been shown to him. He added that he was afraid Mr. Wright had been misinformed about his affairs, and he asked for Mr. Wright to reconsider his decision so that he can work in the rooms in amicable way, which he gave his honest word should be peace and love. He closed by saying "I am, now broken-heartened." The next letter put in was addressed to the witness and was as follows :- "I will call down tonight about nine o'clock. I hope you will consider my feelings and forgive me, and make it up and shake hands. I am a broken man. For God's sake and have pity on me. - Yours for ever - F.SPICER".
The witness, continuing, said she believed he came down on the night after the letter was written. They had a conversation, and she refused to make the quarrel up. On the night May 24 the prisoner came to the refreshment rooms about half-past ten o'clock just as she was locking up. He knocked at the door, and she asked who was there. He called out to her to open the door, but she replied that she could not as she was undressing. He bade her good night, and she returned the wish. He then repeated "Good night girl" and walked away. In the afternoon of that day she made an arrangement with a gentleman who wanted lodgings, and referred him to 18 Richmond Street. Before she went to bed the girl Fearon came down to the refreshment room and returned to Richmond Street. This would be about half past eleven o'clock. The witness described the attack on her as follows : Early the next morning, when it was quite daylight, I was awoke by the crash of glass. I jumped out of bed and saw Spicer through the window. He had his arm through the side window feeling for the key of the door inside. I put on some clothes and my slippers. When Spicer found there was no key he broke another window. I jumped up on to the partition and tried to get through the window, and in doing so overbalanced him on the other side. He leaped on to me and held me down. He had a white handkerchief or piece of linen in his hand, and it spelled of brandy or some kind of spirits. He was trying to get it on my face. I got it out of his hand. He had nothing else in his hands. I saw him try to get something out of his right breast pocket, and I thought it was a revolver. I saw it was something brown. I had screamed murder when I first jumped out of the window, and he kept saying "you scream murder, you scream murder, but you won't scream murder, you - wretch, in a minute, when I have done with you". By this time I saw it was a knife he had got out of his pocket. It was not a clasp knife. I had seen the knife before, and it has been shown to me by Sergeant Cooper. Spicer struggled for some time, and I held on to his coat sleeve and kept guarding off the knife. He aimed all the time at my throat, and I drew my skirt around my neck with the left hand, using the right hand to ward off the knife. I was obliged to hold on to the blade for some time, and I kept asking him to spare me for God's sake and for the sake of the children. My right hand was cut through holding on to the knife. My left hand was injured with the glass. I could not tell when my face was cut; I found afterwards that I was cut and bleeding.
Mr Solly -- How did you get away from him?
Witness -- I can hardly say. I knocked the knife out of his hand, and that gave me the opportunity for escaping. I looked around and saw the neighbours in the window. I ran up past Mr. Bailey's, and then came back and got on one side of the cabmen's hut, and Spicer was on the other side. I was dodging him round the hut. Mr. Bailey came to his door and called me to his house, where I entered. Spicer had walked away towards Bickley Parade. The cut on my nose was done by Spicer, I think, when I was escaping. After I knocked the knife out of hand he stooped to pick it up, and then it was I managed to escape.
By Superintendent Hindley -- I had heard nothing about four lodgers coming to Richmond Street before prisoner called at the refreshment rooms. I cannot say how the prisoner was dressed. He certainly had on a coat of some description, and was not in his short sleeves. He wore a cap, and the coat was a long one, I think. I had heard Mr. Bailey call to the prisoner, who turned round and, using foul language, told him to go in. I remember the prisoner on coming home, after his discharge from the Claremont, producing the knife, and saying it only cost 4d., but that it was worth half a-crown, and it would cut all the throats of New Brighton. I am not certain he said "cut the throats", it might have been "would settle all in New Brighton". This occurred before Christmas. He kept the knife in a box used for odds and ends.
Mr. Bailey, recalled, said that when he saw the prisoner on the Sunday morning he wore a kind of short overcoat. He had a peaked cap on his head, and slippers on his feet.
Mr. Storey, recalled, said the prisoner wore a blue coat and a 'cheese-cutter' cap.
The Bench decided to remand the accused until Monday next.
Mr. Moore said the date would suit him. There was a good deal to be done in the way of seeing the prisoner, and he asked the bench not to send the prisoner to Walton, but to retain him on the court premises.
The Chairman -- We have decided to remand the prisoner to Walton. They have every accommodation there for you to have consultations.
Thursday, 5th June, 1890
The fund which was started for the benefit of Mrs. Spicer and her children some few days ago is still open and Mr. John Bailey, Victoria Road, is the honorary treasurer. Part of the money which has been received has been used to defray the expenses connected with the funeral of the children. Mrs. Spicer has expressed her gratitude for the kindly interest that has been taken in her.
Tuesday, 10 June, 1890
Committal of The Accused
Yesterday, at the Wallasey Police Court, Felix Spicer was brought up on remand charged with having murdered his two sons, William and Henry Spicer, and also with having attempted to murder Mary Anne Palin, at New Brighton, on the morning of Whit Sunday, the 25th of May.
Mr A.T Wright, a member of the firm of Messrs. Wright, Becket & Co., solicitors, Liverpool, under whom the tenancy of the premises Bickley Parade was held. He said that on the 2nd May the prisoner called at his office and asked that he might have the tenancy of the premises, 3 Bickley Parade, which were at one time let to Mrs. Spicer. The prisoner had been a tenant of the shop until about Christmas 1888, and at that time had asked to have the premises taken off his hands, and as he could not pay all the rent he authorised witness to take the fixtures for the amount due. Spicer, at his last interview with witness, about Easter, urged that he should be allowed to resume the tenancy. He mentioned that Mrs. Spicer was not his wife, but displayed no ill-feeling against her. Witness told him that he was quite satisfied with Mrs. Spicer's tenancy, but if it was more satisfactory to him he would tell Mrs. Spicer to call at the office. Witness wrote to Mrs. Spicer, who called on the following Monday, and the result of the interview, together with other inquiries, was that witness wrote to the prisoner stating that he had heard Mrs. Spicer's story, and did not propose to make any change to the tenancy. He advised Spicer to seek employment elsewhere, and not to interfere in the business in any way.
Walter Edward Banning, a lamplighter [said] on Whit Sunday morning, about 2.15, he had heard the crying of the baby at the house in Richmond Street. On going to the front door he heard a light shuffle, as of feet, in the lobby, and that he heard a voice, but did not hear what was said. He again heard the child's voice, but, thinking it was a baby crying, went away.
Mrs. Fraser, the witness at the refreshment room, was recalled, and repeated a portion of her evidence, already published. In cross examination by Superintendent Hindley, witness said that about a week or a fortnight before the murder the prisoner asked her how she got into the refreshment rooms in the mornings - if she had a key. She replied that Mrs. Spicer let her in, and that she had no key.
Joel Fitton, iron turner, 82, Wild Street, Derby, said that on the night of the murder he was staying at 5 Victoria Road, New Brighton, which is nearly opposite 3 Bickley Parade. About half past three in the morning he was awakened by his boys knocking at his door. In consequence of what they said he ran downstairs to the sitting room window. From there he saw the prisoner and Mrs. Spicer struggling. Witness noticed a knife on the floor, which Spicer was trying to reach. Mrs. Spicer got away and went across the road to Mr. Bailey's and Spicer went towards the rooms. The knife witness saw on the floor looked something like a shoemaker's knife, and would be four or five inches long. He could not swear that the knife produced was the one he saw, but the knife had a dark handle. After the struggle Spicer went inside the refreshment room through the front window and witness heard the sound of running water, which gave him the impression that the prisoner was washing his hands. He then came out and went towards the shore, and turned along the lower parade.
Mary Ann Palin, known as Mrs. Spicer was recalled [and] was shown the knife produced by the analyst, which she recognised as the one with which the prisoner had attacked her on the night of the murder.
Charlotte Myers, wife of John Myers, 6 Richmond Street, New Brighton, said she kept a lodging house. On the night of the murder she saw the prisoner in Richmond Street about 20 minutes to eleven. After some conversation, the prisoner told her that his house was full of lodgers, and asked her to accommodate anyone who might turn up. She went home, and about eleven 'o clock Spicer, accompanied by a gentleman, called, and Spicer told her that he had brought a gentleman for the night. The lodger stayed in the house all night, and got up about seven o'clock. He paid for his bed, and left without having breakfast. She had not seen him since, and did not know his name. -- By Superintendent Hindley : She would of known if any one had left the house during the night because she had put second lock on the door, and it could not have be shut from the outside.
Thomas Frederick Cooke, a plumber, 3 Belmont Road, New Brighton, stated that on the 31st May, he was assisting to search the premises of 3 Bickley Parade. In the cooking range, between the upper plate and the oven flue, he found the knife produced, and handed it to Constable Jones. The knife must of been put there through the manhole.
[In relation to Alfred Short interview with Mr F. Spicer at Walton Jail, see Monday 2nd June: Sheffield & Rotherham News article]
Mr Moore to Mr. Short : This interview occurred on the 31st May at Walton Jail?
Witness : It did sir
Mr Moore : Was there any warders present?
Witness : There was one warder present, head warder, present.
Mr Moore : Had you an order from the Prison Commissioners to see the prisoner?
Witness : No sir.
Mr. Moore : Had you on the 26th May, been examined and given evidence along with other witnesses?
Witness : I had sir
By the Bench : My interview took place in consequence of a letter received from the prisoner. I had not previously written to him.
This concluded the evidence., and the formula of charging the prisoner was then gone through. In reply to the magisterial caution on the first charge, that of the murder of William Spicer, the prisoner, acting on the advice of his solicitor, replied that he was not guilty, and that he did not want to call any witnesses. He made the same reply to the second charge, that of the murder of Henry Spicer, adding that he would reserve his defence. In reply to attempting to murder Mary Ann Palin, he said he was guilty of the assault on her. He was then committed to the assizes at Chester on three charges.
Saturday, 14th June, 1890
The inquest on the victims of the New Brighton murder was resumed at Seacombe on Wednesday. The Coroner, in his address to the jury, again complained strongly of the action of the Home Secretary in refusing the prisoner to be brought into the Coroner's Court. The jury, after a short deliberation, returned a verdict to the effect that had been wilfully murdered by their father. Felix Spicer, now in custody in Knutsford Gaol.