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Unsolved Murders

William Howard Liptrot

Age: 30

Sex: male

Date: 31 Jul 1955

Place: Highgate, Kendal

Source: discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

William Howard Liptrot died from blows to the head following a street brawl.

Two lorry drivers, aged 23 and 24, from Glasgow were tried for his murder and manslaughter but acquitted.

A pathologist said that William Liptrot's death was due to a fracture of the skull due to blows to the head.

He had been involved in a street brawl in Highgate, Kendal between 10.30pm and 11pm on 31 July 1955 in which he was injured and was after taken to Kendal Hospital where he died.

William Liptrot was from Kendal and he and his brother were both involved in the street brawl with the two lorry drivers from Glasgow. Whilst the two lorry drivers were seen to attack William Liptrot, causing him to fall and hit his head, witnesses said that they also saw William Liptrot's brother pick William Liptrot up into a sitting position after he had become injured and to have then let him drop again resulting in him hitting his head on the pavement again, and the judge dismissed the case saying that it could not be determined which of the injuries sustained in the two incidents had been the cause of William Liptrot's death.

William Liptrot was a labourer and had lived in Wilson Street in Kendal.

The court heard that they had got into a street brawl in Highgate between 10.30pm and 11pm on the night of 31 July 1955. It was said that one of the lorry drivers had had  a beer bottle that he was holding aas though to hit William Liptrot but that William Liptrot's brother had taken it and thrown it away.

It was said then that a general fight broke out and that at one stage William Liptrot was knocked down and fell and struck his head on the pavement. The court heard that witnesses gave evidence to say that one of the lorry drivers had then delibratly banged William Liptrot's head again on the pavement whilst another said that he saw the lorry driver hit him with a beer bottle whilst another witness said that he saw the lorry driver kick William Liptrot.

It was heard then that the two lorry drivers ran away.

It was said then that William Liptrot's brother then went over to William Liptrot who was lying in the road and lifted him up into a sitting position and had then let William Liptrot drop again causing him to hit his head on the pavement once again

After hearing the evidence the judge noted that the jury might have some difficulty in deciding what injuries had been caused in the attack and which had been caused when William Liptrot's brother let him drop back to the ground and hit his head on the pavement again. He noted that if a man was knocked down on a hard pavement that they might find that part of his injury would have been caused by the first blow.

The pathologist that carried out the post mortem said that there were two separate and distinct bruises on the back and side of William Liptrot's head that could have been caused by blows or by his head striking a hard object noting that there was also a fracture to his skull.

When the pathologist was questioned by the judge he said that he thought that it was unlikely that the fractured skull could have been caused by William Liptrot's head having been dropped back to the ground from a sitting position but said that he would not like to exclude that possibility. He added that he thought that it was more likely that the fracture had been caused by the fall from the standing position.

After hearing the pathologists evidence the judge instructed the jury to find the man not guilty of manslaughter because there was a conflict of evidence, noting that William Liptrot might or might not have received his fractured skull from a blow or a fall or from being dropped by his own brother, noting that according to the medical evidence the latter could not be ruled out.

However, the two lorry drivers also faced charges of causing grievous bodily harm, the judge noting that that meant the fractured skull, which he pointed out had already been determined might have been caused by William Liptrot's brother and so they were also acquitted on those charges which left the lesser charges of common assault that they also face for which they were convicted. When the judge considered sentencing he noted that they had already spent five weeks in prison on remand and so fined them both £10. He noted that in considering the sentence he had to put out of his mind entirely the fact that William Liptrot had died in the brawl because it was not proved that they were responsible.


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


see National Archives - ASSI 52/835

see Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 06 October 1955

see Bradford Observer - Thursday 08 September 1955