Shakespeare fan who killed his wife; Local historian STEVEN HORTON looks back at some of the city's most notorious murder cases...
Byline: STEVEN HORTON
MURDER CASEBOOK AMAN who used to quote Shakespeare to himself was found guilty but insane after he stabbed and smothered his wife at their Vauxhall home.
At the beginning of the last century Thomas Nolan and his wife lived a drab existence in a cellar in Portland Street, off Vauxhall Road. Thomas was a dock labourer who rarely bothered finding work, living off his wife's meagre earnings as a charwoman.
Sunday, March 24, 1907, was just like any other for the couple, who spent much of the day drinking and were last seen together at 10pm. The following morning at 5.30am a 'knocker upper' banged on their door as usual and Thomas responded that they were up.
But at 11.15pm Thomas went to the Main Bridewell and told the desk sergeant that he had murdered his wife with a hammer. He explained that he had been persecuted by a group of men from Gerard Street and did not want to be killed and leave his wife to face life alone. A constable was dispatched to Portland Street and the body of Mrs Nolan was found with her throat cut and smothered by a pillow. There were no signs of a struggle and she seemed to have been killed in her sleep. A bloodstained knife was found along with a hammer and handwritten notes in which Thomas suggested he had been shadowed by certain men and his home was being watched night and day.
Enquiries with neighbours established that Thomas would often run up and down the stairs quoting Shakespeare, with descriptions of him including 'crack pot' and 'madman'. A prison doctor examined him and concluded that he was suffering from hallucinations brought on by chronic alcoholism.
Another agreed that the attack had taken place during a bout of temporary insanity and, at St George's Hall on May 6, Thomas was found 'guilty but insane' and detained 'until His Majesty's pleasure be known'. The judge commented that the jury had taken 'a merciful view of the case.' | Read more from Steven Horton's casebook at liverpoolmurders.blogspot.co.uk. His e-books, including Liverpool Murders - The Victorian Women Who Killed, are available from Amazon.