Unsolved Murders

John Thomas Ainsworth

Age: 69

Sex: male

Date: 17 Apr 1954

Place: Stanley Hospital, Ulverston, Lancashire

John Thomas Ainsworth died at Stanley Hospital on 17 April 1954.

A 41-year-old male nurse was tried for his manslaughter but acquitted. The nurse said that he was being made a scapegoat for other members of the hospital staff.

It was alleged that he had thumped John Ainsworth behind a screen in the hospital ward and caused the injuries from which led to his death from pneumonia.

John Ainsworth's post mortem examination disclosed that at least twelve of his ribs and his breastbone had been broken. The doctor that carried out the post mortem said that in his opinion the injuries had been caused most likely by direct violence rather than in a fall. He added that John Ainsworth's facial injuries were consistent with John Ainsworth having had a constriction around his neck. He said that his cause of death was bronchial pneumonia and that his fractured ribs could have led to that condition.

John Ainsworth had lived in Broughton Road, Dalton-in-Furness, and had been admitted to the hospital nine days before his death. It was heard that before his admission and up until 8am the day after he was admitted that John Ainsworth had been free from any external injury.

A hospital sister said that she saw John Ainsworth with two black eyes and scratches on his chest after the male nurse had been in charge of him. She said that the male nurse had taken over from her at 8am on 9 April 1954. She said that up until then John Ainsworth had had no marks on his body. However, she said that when she returned at 10pm that night John Ainsworth had small bruises on his chest, two black eyes and scratches on his face and that his ears were bleeding. She said that later that night John Ainsworth complained of pains in his chest and of 'stiffness all over'. She noted that John Ainsworth had not been violent under her care and always did what he was told.

A ward orderly said that on 9 April 1954 that she had heard a 'thumping' sound from behind the screen where John Ainsworth was in bed. She said that she saw the male nurse behind the screen and holding a towel around his neck and said that the male nurse told her that it was the only way he could keep John Ainsworth in bed. The ward orderly said that she later saw John Ainsworth with two black eyes and said that his lips were bleeding.

However, another orderly at Stanley Hospital agreed with the claim that John Ainsworth had been 'very violent and troublesome'. She said that John Ainsworth was pretty strong for his age and had once been a 'handful' for three people that had been trying to restrain him.

The nurse said that John Ainsworth had repeatedly tried to get out of bed and that he was told to prevent him from doing so. He said that John Ainsworth had punched him and on one occasion had butted him in the mouth. The nurse said that on another occasion he had become exhausted in trying to keep John Ainsworth in his bed and that his coat and shirt were torn. However, he denied losing his temper and 'thumping' John Ainsworth.

The nurses defence said that the nurse had been made a scapegoat 'for what in any view of this case was improper treatment or lack of treatment at the hospital. This case would never have arisen if the patient had been given proper treatment, kept in bed and given a further dose of sedative when it was seen that the first dose was ineffective'.

However, the prosecution said that there was no foundation for, nor medical evidence to support, the criticism that the matron had been guilty of neglect and incompetence. He said that nothing could have been done by the matron and nursing staff which could have had any better result.

The prosecution noted that according to hospital staff, John Ainsworth had been unmarked when he was admitted on 8 April 1954 and the night staff had had little trouble with him. However, he noted that as soon as the male nurse came on duty at 8am that a screen appeared round John Ainsworth's bed and that the male nurse then 'proceeded to strike him blow after blow on the chest, ribs and stomach'.

A 75-year-old patient that had also been at the hospital said that he had seen the nurse twisting John Ainsworth's arm on 9 April 1954. He said, 'There was a screen round Ainsworth's bed and from behind I could hear the sound of something'.

Another patient said that he heard the sound of thumping and John Ainsworth crying 'Stop it'. He said that it sounded like a patient 'getting hit' and that it went on for about 20 minutes after which it became quiet and he saw the nurse appear from behind the screen.

After heard the evidence the jury retired to consider their verdict which took three and a half hours to reach. After the nurse was found not guilty he embraced his wife outside the court and told reporters, 'It is wonderful to be free'.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Lancashire Evening Post - Tuesday 27 July 1954

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Tuesday 27 July 1954

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 26 May 1954

see Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 26 May 1954

see Dundee Courier - Friday 23 July 1954