Unsolved Murders

William Joseph Jackson

Age: 37

Sex: male

Date: 20 Nov 1954

Place: Phillips Street, Hulme

William Joseph Jackson died after being run over by a car near his house on 20 November 1954. Two men were convicted for killing him but their convictions were later quashed on 24 May 1955 after it was heard that the judges directions whilst summing up were not not clear and had been unambiguous on the question of onus of proof.

One of them men, a dealer, had been convicted of murder and was sentenced to death whilst the other was convicted of manslaughter. The man that was sentenced to death was due to be executed at Strangeways Gaol on 15 April 1955.

The court heard that the men had both been in the car which had then mounted the pavement and deliberately run William Jackson over, having used the car as an offensive weapon.  William Jackson was said to have received 'the most terrible injuries' and he died a few hours later in hospital.

They had already been involved in a row and a fight earlier on in the day and later that night the other party drove to Phillips Street saying that they expected the police to be there when they arrive or shortly after. However, it was said that whilst there they had run William Jackson over, it being said that they had made three passes of his house, and on the third pass had run him over.

The men said that as they drove around the corner from Phillips Street they saw William Jackson standing on the pavement with a heavy iron metal coal grid in his hand which he threw it at them smashing the windscreen and that they ducked and the car swerved and ran him over.

At the appeal it was stated that it was the duty of the judge to highlight the three possible positions that they might consider, bearing in mind that it was not the responsibility of the two men to establish their innocence.

The appeal judge said that the judges summing up was in error, saying that the trial judge had asked the jury in a variety of terms to decide whether William Jackson was already on the pavement waiting for the car with the iron grate in a threatening way and the defendants had ducked or whether William Jackson had seen the car approaching and had picked up the iron coal grate and tried to defend himself by throwing it at the car and after that to decide whether the men had deliberately attempted to cause grievous harm or death, but pointed out that the jury were not lawyers and that the summing up was not put across to them as to laymen and that as such that the conviction was unsafe.

It was heard that when the judge had dealt with the second position that he had said, 'If you do not think it is safe to reject the explanation of this accident put forward by the defence acquit them both', which was later described as being equivocal. Whilst it was agreed that there was no doubt that the judge had meant that the second position was a possible one, that it was submitted that the expression was equivocal, it being said that as laymen, the jury might well have understood it to mean no more than, 'If you feel you can accept', and that it was not possible to say that his delivery had made the situation plain.

It was further stated that the objection to the judges summing up did not stop there, it being further claimed that the judge did not make it plain to the jury that whatever view they took of te defence's explanation, short of accepting it, that they had to consider whether upon the whole of the evidence that they were dure that the driver had intended to do grievous bodily harm or to kill him by dangerous driving.

The appeal judges then said, 'For these reasons, in our opinion the summing up, which was full and unexceptional in all other respects, was defective on this vital point. In the circumstances, in our view it is unsafe to allow the convictions to stand'.

William Jackson was a stock car racing driver and had lived in Phillips Steet in Hulme.

Three men were tried for his murder following his death, the dealer, his brother and a third man.

The court heard that whilst William Jackson and his wife and another man were outside his house on the pavement that the car, driven by one of the three men, had 'quite deliberately' driven onto the pavement at the three people with intent to kill them or to cause them grievous bodily harm.

They had earlier on had an argument in Belle Vue in Manchester after a party of seven had gone there in the dealers blue and cream car. The dealer and the other men had then later that night gone to Phillips Street in Hulme where William Jackson lived, for the third time, on which occasion William Jackson was killed.

It was heard that when the dealer arrived at Phillips Street he had first driven at the group as they stood on the pavement and that as they had done so that William Jackson had thrown the coal cellar grid at them. It was said then that the car drove off but came back round the corner at high speed, mounted the pavement about two houses down from where the group were standing and then curved across the footpath. It was said then, that as William Jackson was bending down to pick up the coal cover that the car hit him, ramming him against the wall, knocking him down and then running over him.

William Jackson's wife said that she and William Jackson and a third man had been chatting in their house earlier on and had gone to the door when the man was leaving and that whilst stood outside that a car had come along  and stopped at their door with the engine still running. She said, 'A man got out. It was the dealer. He threw a brick towards me and hit me'. She said that the dealer then got back in his car and that as it was going down the street that she picked up a brick and flung it through the back window after which the car drove off.  She said that she and William Jackson then went back inside and then went back to the front door at which point they saw the car again. She said that the car had its lights full on and that people were shouting, 'The car is here again'. she said that it was going pretty fast and that when it came round the corner it landed on the pavement and that William Jackson threw a the iron coal grid at it after which it went away again.

William Jackson's wife said that after the second pass after William Jackson had thrown the iron coal grid at the car that they stood on the pavement for about ten minutes  after which the car returned. She said, 'The car was driven very quick round the corner. It seemed to run at us. It was running right to us. I don't know what happened. I must have stepped back and fallen.

She said that the car seemed to have gone over the step outside their home and to then stop on the pavement nearby before going across the road and then making off. She said that after the car went off that she noticed William Jackson lying with his head  near the wall of the house.

At the trial William Jackson's wife was asked whether William Jackson had been on the doorstep when the car had struck him she said that he must have been, and noted that she didn't see him leave the step to pick up the iron coal grid.

William Jackson's wife agreed that she had earlier encouraged her husband to fight one of the men at the Belle Vue, saying, 'I was inciting my husband to fight the dealer because he hit him'.

The police said that following the incident that the men fled and could not be found. They said that on 21 November 1954 at about 5.10pm the dealer and the man convicted of manslaughter were seen walking along Plymouth Grove in Manchester towards the city but that when they got abreast of them in tie car the two men ran away and although a search was made for them they could not be found. Later on the police went to the dealers home and found him hiding a bed. They said that when they found him and told him to come out he said, 'Thank ---- it is you. I thought it was the mob'.

The police said that when the dealer was told that he was to be taken into custody in regards to William Jackson's death, he said, 'You can't lumber me with that. My car was stolen. I reported it. A woman at the Greenhays can say it was stolen. I suppose you know I drove my car down Phillips Street on Saturday night, but I was not in it when Jackson was killed'.

The police said that when they spoke to the dealers brother in a public house on 23 November 1954 that the dealer's brother had said, 'Why me? I was drunk in the back seat. I didn't know a thing'. William Jackson''s brother was acquitted of murder at the trial on Friday 18 May 1955.

However, the dealer and the other man were convicted of murder and manslaughter respectively, but their convictions were later quashed.

When the judge summed up after the men's convictions he said that the dealer and the other man had deliberately driven the car onto the pavement and run William Jackson over following the earlier argument which he described as having been a vigorous fight between William Jackson and the dealer in which he said that William Jackson's wife had played a very lively and active part in stirring up the trouble between them having publicly insulted the dealer in the pub.

When the judge referred to the other man, he said 'The jury, by their verdict, with which I entirely agree, has found you did not share the murderous intent of the dealer, but that you were willingly using this motor car as if it were an offensive weapon for the purpose of terrorising or frightening the Jackson’s. You are a man of bad character and you had the effrontery to take part in this kind of gang warfare within days of coming out of prison'.

The dealer was sentenced to death whilst the other man had been sentenced to seven years.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see "Murder By Motor Car." Times [London, England] 22 Mar. 1955: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

see "Court Of Criminal Appeal." Times [London, England] 8 June 1955: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

see Bradford Observer - Wednesday 08 June 1955

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Tuesday 17 May 1955

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Tuesday 22 March 1955

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Wednesday 16 March 1955

see Lancashire Evening Post - Friday 18 March 1955

see National Archives - ASSI 52/839, ASSI 86/112