Gruesome murders that forced the downtown street to change its name
The brutal murder of a pregnant mother, her two young sons and her maid led to a renaming of a street in Liverpool city center.
Grenville Street South, outside of downtown, has been around for over 150 years.
Before that, it was called Leveson Street until it became known as the place where Maurice Gleeson, 26, slaughtered five people from the same household, forcing change.
READ MORE: Unsolved ‘closed room’ murder that has puzzled detectives for 88 years
Number 20 Leveson Street was the residence of Ann Hinrichson and her husband John, who was traveling as the captain of the ship Duncan.
Responsible for running the household and looking after her two boys, Henry George, five, and John Alfred, three, pregnant Mrs Hinrichson decided to rent a spare room to generate some extra money.
Maurice Gleeson, a youngster from Limerick, responded to the announcement. Dressed in a thin hat and cloak, he inspected the rooms before paying a week’s rent in advance – telling the couple he was a ship’s carpenter.
The next day, March 28, 1849, a delivery man came to the house with two pitchers that Mrs. Hinrichson had purchased.
There was no answer at the door despite ringing the bell and knocking several times.
Strangely, moans could be heard inside the house. He peeked through the keyhole and saw a pair of legs and feet stretched out in the hallway.
The boy ran for help, and by the time he returned with a policeman the neighbors had already broken down the door.
An account recorded in the Liverpool Mercury at the time described the gruesome scene that greeted them.
He said: “The dreadful spectacle which presented itself to the men who entered was enough to overcome with horror the most valiant heart.
“Three human beings lay on the ground, literally bathing in a pool of their own blood, their skulls and faces broken and mutilated in the most frightening way.”
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Ms Hinrichson, one of her two sons and a maid, Mary Parr, had been beaten with a poker and was barely alive when they were taken to Toxteth and Southern Hospital.
Lying on the floor in the cellar was little John’s body – the helpless boy had his throat slit from ear to ear.
Recording the terrible crime, a reporter for the Liverpool Mercury wrote on Friday March 30, 1849: “The records of crime in this town have been tainted by one of the most vile and bloody acts that have ever been our painful duty.” to record.
“At noon, near one of our crowded arteries, surrounded on all sides by houses, a lady very advanced in her pregnancy, her two children and her servant were cruelly massacred by a monster in human form, who, hope, for the sake of our common humanity, may turn out to be a fool at large.
“Both children are dead, no hope is left for the mother’s recovery, and the daughter can hardly survive her injuries.”
After the massacre, the tenant, Gleeson, tried to cover his tracks.
He washed his clothes in Toxteth Park before attempting to sell a gold watch to a pawnshop in London Road.
He bought new boots and pants and went to his other accommodation at 44 Porter Street where his landlady handed him a clean shirt.
Gleeson then visited a nearby barber for a shave and inquired about a wig, insisting his hair was falling out. He also asked about the security of the passage to America for £ 3.
The next day he tried to sell the gold watch to a Great Howard Street grocer – which was to be his downfall.
Not trusting Wilson, the drug dealer asked his son to take him to another man in another part of town. As Gleeson and the man walked past the bridewell on Dale Street, the son grabbed him and dragged him past authorities.
Ms Hinrichson, her daughter and son had died in hospital – but Mary Parr was clinging to life.
Chained, Gleeson was taken to Mary Parr’s room at the hospital to see if she could identify her attacker.
It is reported that the servant said in a clear and distinct voice: “This is the man with the hat.”
While she identified him with certainty and described her ordeal to the police, Gleeson is said to have “sweated a lot”.
A few weeks later, on Thursday April 6 at Toxteth and Southern Hospital, Mary Parr died of her injuries.
This resulted in five deaths in the same household – Mary Parr, Mrs Hinrichson and her two sons plus her unborn child.
During his trial, Gleeson reportedly showed no remorse. But in the days leading up to the hearing, people near the police cells recalled stories of him screaming incessantly and sinking into fits of uncontrollable rage.
Convicted of murder, he was hanged in Kirkdale prison in front of a crowd of 50,000 people – some of whom had paid a shilling to come on special trains from Lancashire.
The Metropolitan executioner had been gravely ill and a replacement executioner, George Howard, was therefore called in.
The Liverpool Mercury said George Howard was “a weak old man, nearly 70 years old, and not at all an expert in his office”.
The substitute executioner botched the execution by not calculating the fall correctly or placing the cap correctly.
He twisted for 15 minutes before taking his last breath.
After the execution, the police chief is said to have kept the rope with which Gleeson was hung, as well as his murder weapons – a poker, iron tongs and a shovel – in an attempt to create a “cabinet of horrors”.
A plaster cast was made of Gleeson’s head, and a man from London reportedly purchased his clothes to place them on a wax figure of the murderer to display in Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors.
The victims of the murder were buried in St James’s Cemetery – while notoriety of the Leveson Street massacre led to the street’s renaming.