e-book Greater Manchester Murders (Sutton True Crime History)

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Murder, Mystery and My Family

Preview — Staffordshire Murders by Alan Hayhurst. Brings together murderous tales that shocked not only the Staffordshire county but made headline news throughout the nation, including the poisonous Dr Palmer, murder on the canal, a tale of infanticide, the body in the gasometer, the chauffeur's revenge, murder on Cannock Chase and more. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages.

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With their help set a trap for the fugitives. What was claimed to be a verbatim account by Farady of the capture of the McKeans was published in the Stockport Advertiser some ten days prior to the executions and, interestingly, a week before they even stood trial. The day was a warm one, the roads dusty, and the two men both exhausted. Alexander, we are told, was walking ahead of his brother and as he passed the pub Faraday called to him. He offered him a drink, saying that it was a hot day and that he looked tired. Alexander, suspecting nothing, gratefully accepted and as he entered the house he was immediately seized and told by the obviously enthusiastic Faraday that he was his prisoner.

Knowing that Michael was not far behind, Faraday left Alexander in the charge of the two workmen then went back outside. However, Alexander managed to get free of his captors and tried to make a run for it. Faraday knocked him down but Michael realised what was happening and attacked Faraday with a stick. It was all to no avail. Faraday had both men bound.

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When he searched them he was horrified to discover a pistol, powder and bullets and a penknife which seemed to be stained with blood. The brothers were taken south to Lancaster, vilified en route by the small crowds who lined the route as it wound through Sedbergh and Kirkby Lonsdale. The last part of the journey was to be on foot, up the hill to the castle.

It looked for a time as though the pair would not live long enough to see the gaol as the mood of the crowd had grown darker on seeing the two accused. The crowd pressed so close that the gentlemen escorting the brothers had to physically shield them. Are not the men here in safe custody and will not justice have its course with them? Would you commit a deed for which these unhappy men must very likely pay the forfeit of their lives?


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According to the prison authorities the men appeared haggard and shocked. F Jones defending. It was, according to the reports published at the time, the cause of intense interest in the town, and the courtroom was packed. The first witness was Mrs Bleares. She gave a graphic account of the attack upon her, and identified Michael as her assailant, recalling that she distinctly remembered the sound the handle of the knife had made as it fell to the floor, leaving its blade embedded in her face.

Looking at the drawings made at the trial, the scars left by the attack were still clearly visible on the left side of her face. Her evidence complete, her husband now took the stand. He had little to add except by way of identification, but cross-examined by Mr Jones, Bleares was asked where he kept the strongboxes containing the money from the two clubs that met at the Jolly Carter. He replied that he held them in his room, not upstairs. He was asked if this was known to either of the two defendants, and he replied that it was not. It was then William Higgins turn, and as he was the only eye-witness to the crime this must have been a tense moment for all concerned.

He seems to have given a cogent and simple account of what must have been a terrifying ordeal. He had no problem at all in identifying Alexander as the man who had murdered Betty.


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The Judge now asked Alexander if he wished to speak. He said very little except to state that it had been Joseph Bleares who attacked him that night, a claim the brothers had first made in a letter Michael had written the day after the murder. He made no effort to deny the charge. When Michael spoke it was to reiterate what Alexander had said. He added that they had been talking in a friendly manner with the landlord, and that it was at this point that Joseph Bleares began to bemoan the cost of turning the pub into a going concern.

He told them of his future plans and invited them both to stay the night. They had refused, telling him that they preferred to walk home when it was cool rather than in the heat of the day. Michael described how, a little later, Bleares had drunkenly attacked some other customers when they refused to pay for their ale, shouting that he could take on three such men and still beat then all. Michael claimed that Bleares struck Alexander at the same time for no reason.

Before the Jury retired to consider the verdict Mr Justice Park summed up. His was a considered and even-hand appraisal, which luckily still exists. It spells out very clearly that there could be little real doubt that a murder was committed, or that Alexander McKean had committed it. It also addressed other matters that must still appear relevant to anyone who reads this case today.

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Firstly, how culpable was Michael in the crime, and secondly, what was the true motive behind the slaying of Elizabeth Bate? The mere fact that he had agreed to the act, and that he had taken up a position at the foot of the stairs in order that his brother should not be disturbed in the commission of it, was sufficient to make him as guilty as Alexander.

If the intention had been robbery then why go to the extreme of killing Betty Bate at all?