Unsolved Murders

Walter Gibbon

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 28 May 1905

Place: Withington Workhouse, Manchester

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Walter Gibbon was killed in the Male Lunatic Ward at Withington Workhouse.

A 29-year-old attendant at the workhouse was tried for his manslaughter but at the first trial the jury disagreed and at the second trial no evidence was offered and the man was acquitted.

Walter Gibbon had been an estate agent in Moss Side. It was heard that he had only just been removed from the house of a relative on the Saturday and it was said that he had become very violent on the Sunday night at the workhouse and it was claimed that it was whilst endeavouring to hold him down that the injury that caused his death was alleged to have been inflicted.

He had ten broken ribs.

His daughter and brother gave evidence at his inquest stating that Walter Gibbon was addicted to drink and had suffered in November 1904 from delirium tremens and had been out of his mind several times before Christmas. They said that two days before he was taken to the workhouse, on 25 May 1905, he had gone to his office and pulled out a revolver and put it on the table after which there was a struggle in the corridor during the course of which he fell.

The superintendent of the Male Lunatic Ward said that Walter Gibbon had been very restless on the day of his admission and had also been restless the following day. He said that during the night he left Walter Gibbon in a room with two pauper inmates as assistants and that when he returned he was told that Walter Gibbon had become restless at 8.50pm and had continued so until he collapsed. He noted that nothing was said about there having been a struggle.

The doctor that examined Walter Gibbon when he entered the workhouse said that he appeared to be in good bodily health.

The doctor that carried out his post-mortem said that he had ten fractured ribs, two of them being broken in more than one place and that there was evidence of violence having been inflicted over a large area. He said that his injuries must have been caused in a struggle and that more than one man had been involved.

When the doctor was asked whether it was possible that Walter Gibbon could have received his injuries by falling out of his bed, the doctor said that he thought that that was hardly likely.

A night wardsman at the workhouse said that he was in the ward when Walter Gibbon got out of bed and said that he asked him to return, but that he refused and that after sitting on the side of his cot for a little while Walter Gibbon said that he would have his clothes. The wardsman said that he then told him that it was Sunday and so he could not have them and said that Walter Gibbon thereupon remarked that if they fetched six policemen that he would go out and put up his fists and made for the door, saying as he did so that if anyone stopped him it would be the death of that man.

However, the attendant that was later charged with his manslaughter stopped him. He closed with Walter Gibbon and caught him between the arm and waist, and they fell on the bed and then subsequently on to the floor with the attendant on top of Walter Gibbon. It was said then that another man went to the attendant’s assistance and that the attendant then put his knee on Walter Gibbon's chest. When the coroner asked the wardsman whether that had been lightly, he said that he didn't know.

It was said then that two other men went to the assistance of the attendant and the other man to help them and that the four of them then struggled with Walter Gibbon on the floor as he continued to struggle and that during that time the attendant 'digged him several times in the chest with his knee'. When the coroner asked how many times the attendant digged Walter Gibbon in the chest, he was told about seven or eight times.

The coroner then asked a witness what the attendant did when all four of them had hold of Walter Gibbon and was told that the attendant had pressed his knee into Walter Gibbon's chest and stomach several times. The witness went on to say that he thought that the attendant had done that to exhaust Walter Gibbon and said that after that that they put him to bed at which time he was very quiet. The witness added that the struggle took about ten minutes.

The man added that whilst they were restraining Walter Gibbon that he said, 'Spare me, I have four children'.

The wardsman said that the attendant did not fall from the bed on to Walter Gibbon's chest.

Another night wardsman gave evidence and said that he saw the attendant pummel Walter Gibbon with his knee. He added, in answer to the coroner’s question, that the attendant continued to pummel Walter Gibbon after he was under control, saying that the attendant continued to pummel Walter Gibbon in the ribs and stomach. He added that in his opinion that the struggle lasted for about ten minutes and said that he heard Walter Gibbon say, 'Have mercy on me, spare me, I have four children, get a revolver and shoot me'.

Another man that had been there said that during the time that Walter Gibbon and the attendant had been arguing, he heard the attendant say to Walter Gibbon, 'If you don't get into bed it will only be the worse for you'. When he was asked whether he saw Walter Gibbon put up his fists he said, 'No'. He added that he was inclined to believe that the attendant had used his knee to exhaust Walter Gibbon, and said that when Walter Gibbon had cried out, he had said, 'For God's sake spare me or kill me outright’. He added that Walter Gibbon was a much more powerful man than the attendant and said that they were all afraid of him. He added that he didn't see the attendant put his knee on Walter Gibbon's chest when he was under control.

Another attendant said that he had called the first attendant over after he first had trouble with Walter Gibbon for his advice in the matter and said that the attendant told him to humour Walter Gibbon, but said that Walter Gibbon would not be pacified, remarking that Walter Gibbon had said that he would not be humbugged any longer. He said that the attendant then went to fetch a doctor but returned without one. He said that in the end Walter Gibbon folded his arms and threatened that he would do for them, saying that it would be the death of the man who tried to stop him from going out. He said that Walter Gibbon then put his hands up in  a fighting attitude, but that the attendant then gripped his legs, noting that Walter Gibbon was the attacking party, and saying that they struggled to such an extent that they rolled to the floor. He said that in order to overpower Walter Gibbon that the attendant put his knee on his chest and that whilst they were on the floor Walter Gibbon twice called out, 'Murder'.

The other attendant said that the first attendant was always kind to inmates and had frequently advised him to be careful with them.

The doctor that carried out the post-mortem said that Walter Gibbon was a powerful and well-built man. He said that he had bruises on his ankle, shin, knee, arm and chest and found that his fourth to ninth ribs on his right side were fractured and that four ribs on his left side were also fractured. He added that Walter Gibbon's bowels were also much bruised and that there was some blood in his abdominal cavity.

He concluded that the cause of Walter Gibbon's death was due to internal haemorrhage and shock, accelerated by fractured ribs. He said that the haemorrhage was due to external violence and that the violence must have been excessive.

When the attendant gave evidence, he said that he did not bring his foot or knee down violently and said that it was true that he had pressed on Walter Gibbon in order to exhaust him. He also said that during the struggle that Walter Gibbon fell off his bed and that he was of the opinion that he fell on top of Walter Gibbon with his knee.

When he was asked by the coroner why he had continued to go on struggling with Walter Gibbon when there were four men about, he said that Walter Gibbon might have broken away.

When he was asked whether he had asked the other attendant not to mention the struggle, he said that he did, but only because he thought that Walter Gibbon had died from heart failure. To that the coroner asked the attendant whether he seriously meant to tell the jury that he did not know that there was something wrong, the attendant replied, 'Yes'.

Following that, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against the attendant.

When the attendant was tried for manslaughter at the Manchester Assizes on Wednesday 19 July 1905 the jury disagreed, stating that they could not agree on a verdict and the attendant was put forward to be tried at the following Assizes.

When the attendant was asked why he did not report the struggle he said that he didn't do so as he thought that Walter Gibbon had died from heart failure but said that if he thought that he had done something that exceeded his duty that he would have reported it.

The attendant said that when they closed, he and Walter Gibbon fell on their sides and that Walter Gibbon clutched him by his throat, but said that he managed to get free and that they then wrestled up and down three or four times before finally falling from the bed onto the floor.

When he was asked whether he had been able to hold Walter Gibbon down, he said, 'No, he was very violent, and I expected him to get away any minute. I raised my knee an inch or two three or four times and tried to exhaust him by 'winding' him'.

When the judge summed up at the first trial, he said that he disapproved of the practice by attendants in reducing patients to a state of bodily impotence by 'winding' them.

At the following Manchester Assizes on Tuesday 14 November 1905 the prosecution said that they were not  proposing to offer any evidence against the attendant noting that at the previous trial, all the witnesses for the prosecution had admitted that the attendant had always been most humane and kind in his treatment of patients at the workhouse and that there was also conflicting evidence regarding whether the attendant was or was not justified in using considerable force to restrain Walter Gibbon who was a very powerful and violent man. The prosecution also noted that the attendant had also lost his position and had already undergone the infliction of a very long charge.

The attendant was then discharged.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Derby Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 14 November 1905

see Manchester Evening News - Friday 14 July 1905

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 03 June 1905

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 10 June 1905

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Thursday 08 June 1905

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Wednesday 19 July 1905

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Tuesday 14 November 1905