Age: 9 months
Date: 10 Sep 1960
Place: 34 Verney Crescent, Allerton
Mary Kelly died after her cot caught on fire at her house
An open verdict was returned.
Her 35-year-old father was criticised by the Coroner at the inquest on Tuesday 25 October 1960 after he admitted that he had smoked in bed and that he had blamed himself for her death.
Her father had been a painter and had said that he had been looking after the family whilst his wife was in hospital, however, he denied that he had been too drunk on the night of the fire to look after the children.
He said that on 10 September 1960 that he had been looking after three of his children whilst his eldest son was staying with a relative. He said that at midday he left the children in the charge of his 14-year-old brother whilst he went for a drink at the Heath Hotel which he left at 12.45pm and went back home. He said that at that time that a neighbours’ 14-year-old daughter was also there looking after the children with his younger brother and that he then went back to the Heath Hotel where he stayed until 3pm after which he went home and cooked a meal for his children.
It was noted at the inquest that when he had made a statement to the police he had said that he must have had about eight pints of beer. However, when that was brought up by the Coroner at the inquest he denied it, saying that at the time that he had blamed himself and didn't care and that in fact he had only had four pints and a glass and stated that he had been quite capable of looking after the children that afternoon.
When the father continued his evidence he said that he had later gone back to the Heath Hotel at 6.30pm at which time a 26-year-old woman had been looking after the children.
He said that after some time at the Heath Hotel that he went out to visit his wife in hospital and then returned to the Heath Hotel where he stayed until 9pm after which he went home.
He said that when he got back home that the 26-year-old woman told him that she could not stay with the children any longer, but found that the neighbours 14-year-old daughter could and so he went back out to the Heath Hotel where he stayed until closing time.
The Coroner then noted that the father had told the police that he had had about eight pints in the afternoon and about eight or nine pints in the evening, but he denied it, saying, 'I did not have that much. I had about nine pints all day.
He said that when he later went home with a friend that he put Mary Kelly in her pram and made her a meal and put her cot upstairs.
The Coroner noted that when the police had arrived that he had told them that he had been so drunk that he had not remembered getting back to the house, but he replied, 'Yes. But it is not true'. The Coroner than said, 'You told a lying statement to the police then?', to which the father replied, 'The baby had just passed away and I was delirious'.
The Coroner then said, 'You told the police, 'I cannot say whether anyone came into the house with me. I cannot say whether the baby was in her cot or not. I do not remember getting into bed. The next thing I knew was at 6.30 the next day when I found myself lying on the bed fully dressed. I heard a crackling noise from the direction of the baby's cot alongside the bed. I thought I saw something black on the cot'', the father said, 'I was upset, I could not think at the time'.
The father then said that when he had gone to bed that night that he had lain on the bed thinking about his wife and children. He noted that he often smoked in bed and that the next thing that he remembered was waking up in the morning and looking at the baby's cot. He said it was smouldering but not burning. He said that he lifted Mary Kelly out and put her on the bed and ran in a panic to a neighbour for help, noting that he didn't think to call 999.
When the Coroner asked the father what he thought had caused the fire he said that it must have been from his cigarette.
When the Coroner asked the father whether he had had any intention of doing any harm to Mary Kelly, he replied, 'No sir. I love the baby'.
When the Coroner asked the father whether he had had too much to drink on the night he replied 'No sir'.
A scaffolder that lived in Verney Crescent, Allerton, said that he had accompanied the father back to his house from the public house after closing time and said that in his opinion the father had been capable of looking after his children. He said that at 7am the next day that the father came to his house and told him that Mary Kelly was dead.
The Coroner said that the case had caused him a great deal of anxiety and noted that at one point the police had been very concerned as to whether or not they might not have to institute criminal proceedings. However, the Coroner added, 'Quite rightly I think, they decided not to do that. Nevertheless the facts disclosed are a lamentable state of affairs. Making allowance for the distress of the father in having his wife ill in hospital and having to look after the children, his conduct in leaving the children in charge of young people while he spent the day drinking is really reprehensible'.
The Coroner went on to state that he didn't accept the evidence of the father or his friend regarding how much they had had to drink, stating that he thought that they had had a lot more to drink and that that was one reason why the police had decided not to prosecute.
see Liverpool Echo - Tuesday 25 October 1960