Gas fitter smashed up Preston home of ex-partner before brutal assault

The crime scene in Buckingham Street
The crime scene in Buckingham Street
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Local historian Keith Johnson takes a look at the court history of a Preston troublemaker...

In early August 1903 at the Preston borough police court Kate Lowrey summoned Elijah Kay, a gas fitter, living in Newton Street for assaulting her.

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The complaint stated that she had been housekeeping for the defendant and that on the previous Thursday night he had returned home drunk. They had some words about the provision of tea for the children, and he told her to shut her mouth or he would shut it for her.

She claimed he then pushed her to the ground, kicked her on the legs, put her in the street and locked the door. Kay admitted the offence saying that he was drunk at the time. The magistrates imposing a fine of 20 shillings and warning him of his future conduct.

Five years later in December 1908 Kay appeared once more in the dock of the Preston court charged upon a warrant with having assaulted Kate Lowrey, with whom he had cohabited. Once again a fine of 20 shillings was imposed.

In late April 1909 Elijah Kay, by then aged 45, and a fitter with the Preston Gas Company again appeared before the magistrates charged on a warrant with having assaulted Kate Lowrey a few weeks earlier on the third Wednesday of February.

The court was informed that the day before Kay had entered the house they had previously shared in Buckingham Street, off Marsh Lane, and smashed some ornaments. Fearful of the behaviour of her former partner, who she no longer wished to live with, she had gone to the police station the next day. Whilst there the accused had entered her home again and carried out a wrecking spree. This time nothing was spared, either upstairs or downstairs, with crockery, furniture, windows, mirrors and even bedding all being damaged.

The court heard that as Kate Lowrey returned home from the police station the accused confronted her in the street. It was alleged that he then struck and kicked her in a brutal fashion, even banging her head against a brick wall.

Although Kay denied touching her, pleading not guilty to assault, the female searcher Emma Bent told the magistrates that she had examined Miss Lowrey on this occasion and previously and found bruises all over her legs and arms. After a brief consultation the magistrates found Kay guilty and taking in to account previous convictions for assault and reckless behaviour sent him to prison for four months.

Such was the extent of damage caused by Kay’s wrecking that a police sketcher visited the crime scene and his illustrations appeared in the ‘Illustrated Police News’.

In the years that followed Elijah Kay made a number of appearances before the magistrates following fighting and drunken behaviour. Eventually, in May 1916 he would once more face time in prison. He was charged with stealing 28lb of scrap brass from his employers the Preston Gas Company. When arrested the accused had said: “I was drunk when I did it. I did not know what I was doing.”

The magistrates heard that he had been employed on and off by the company for 20 years, and earned on average 34 shillings per week. In view of his past record the magistrates had no hesitation in sentencing him to three months in prison with hard labour.