Unsolved Murders

William Henry Harden

Age: 48

Sex: male

Date: 20 Apr 1963

Place: Moston Hospital, Chester

William Henry Harden died at Moston Hospital in Chester after having been struck by another inmate on 20 April 1963.

He died later the same day.

A 21-year-old unemployed painter that had lived in Brunel Avenue, Litherland, was remanded at Chester Castle Court charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent. He had been an informal patient at the hospital.

However, his inquest heard that it could not be determined whether he had died because of the blows struck or from natural causes and an open verdict was returned.

The blows had been struck by the unemployed painter in a kitchen adjoining a hospital ward.

At a previous hearing the prosecution stated that when the man was arrested, he had said:

I plead guilty. I did hit him, but I just can't get over him being dead.

It was heard that incident arose out of a 'storm in a tea cup'.

They had both been patients at the hospital and had been drinking together in the Frog Hotel in Upton where the unemployed painter had a minor disagreement with another man.

When they returned to the hospital, a male nurse heard about the incident and told the unemployed painter not to get involved with the other man as he could be very disagreeable. It was heard that when the unemployed painter asked who had told him the male nurse refused to give him the source of his information and he then turned and blamed William Harden. He was then told that it had not been William Harden that had told the nurse about the incident at the pub and the unemployed painter said:

It must have been you because I have been with you all night.

It was noted that it was apparent that both men had been drinking., although they had been capable of walking and talking. They then went back to their separate wards.

Sometime later William Harden was having tea in the kitchen of his ward and the unemployed painter was seen to leave his own ward, whilst rolling up his sleeves, and make for William Harden where he again tackled him about spilling the beans. William Harden denied saying anything and they were both said to have appeared calm, when the unemployed painter struck William Harden a violent blow in the face.

William Harden was knocked over the sink and although he had been in a limp condition, he then struck him several more times.

Upon hearing the commotion, several nurses ran into the kitchen and dragged the unemployed painter off William Harden. The unemployed painter then ran away.

William Harden then fell to the ground unconscious and was given treatment, but he died about an hour later.

Another patient that had been being treated at the hospital for a speech impediment said that he had made tea in the kitchen and then called the other patients to join him.  He said that the unemployed painter then came in and he heard him say to William Harden:

Who told him Harry?

To which he said William Harden replied:

I do not know mate.

He said that the unemployed painter then called William Harden a liar and stated hitting him about the face. He said that William Harden then spun around and sank onto the sink and that the unemployed painter then hit him several more times before he was dragged away by the male nurse. He said that William Harden then fell and hit the table with his shoulder as he reeled underneath it.

A male nurse said that he had been present when the unemployed painter had had the conversation with the other male nurse in the corridor about the incident at the pub. He said that he heard the unemployed painter say to William Harden:

If I thought it was you I would strike you down. I will get to the bottom of this.

However, he added that the unemployed painter then became very angry and said:

I do not care if you have 50 nurses to hold me down.

He said that he later heard a noise coming from the kitchen and that when he went to see he saw the unemployed painter striking William Harden about the face and that when the unemployed painter was pulled away that William Harden fell to the floor.

His post mortem examination found that he had a fractured jaw and had a large haemorrhage at the base of the brain and that his cause of death was subarachnoid haemorrhage.

However, he said that he could not say with certainty which of several possible causes had in fact caused his death. He said:

This was not an unusual cause of sudden death and was due to a weakness (probably congenital) of the arteries at the base of the brain. It frequently occurred entirely spontaneously, but the presence of high blood pressure, emotion (with subsequent rapid changes in blood pressure), stress or injury, might accelerate the final rupture of the brain arteries.

He went on to say that one or more of those factors might have played a part in William Harden's death, but that in view of the frequently spontaneous occurrence of that cause of death, he was unable to say with certainty what part each of the factors had played in William Harden's death.

A detective inspector said that on 21 April 1963 that he interviewed the unemployed painter and that when he asked him about the argument he said:

That is right. I did hit him but I do not remember much. I have a sore hand.

When he was told that William Harden was dead, the unemployed painter said:

Died! I cannot believe it! I will tell you how I am when I have had a drink. I do not remember much.

In a statement he said that he had been drinking on the night of the argument and slightly remembered hitting William Harden after which he got on a bus and asked for Huntington and woke up the following morning in a barn.  He added:

I seem to go off my rocker when I am drinking. I cannot get over him being dead.

When the Coroner summed up, he said:

Normally where there has been a violent and unprovoked attack there would be a verdict of manslaughter, but this case is not so clear, for death could have been caused entirely spontaneously.

He then noted that the medical evidence showed that it was impossible to say whether the blows had brought about William Harden's death. He then said:

It would be presumptuous of me to say when the pathologist himself is not sure, that either the death was brought about by the blows or it was not.

An open verdict was then returned.

William Harden had been a painter and had lived in New Ferry Road, New Ferry.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Liverpool Echo - Friday 10 May 1963

see Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 01 May 1963

see Cheshire Observer - Friday 17 May 1963