Historian Keith Johnson looks at the hunt for a murderer from yesteryear...
At the corner of Porter Street and Golbourne Street in Preston once stood the popular Golbourne Inn.
In April 1925 the licensee was former Preston North End full-back Sandy Doolan and, amongst the evening regulars on the first Wednesday of April 1925, was a stranger. The man had quietly entered the vault and ordered a pint of ale from the landlord.
Earlier that evening a telephone message had been received at the Earl Street police station that a man who matched the description of Albert Dean, 46, who was wanted for the murder of Blackpool landlady Mary White the previous day, had been seen going along St Paul’s Road. Under the
instructions of Chief Constable Ker Watson several plain clothes police officers immediately commenced a search of the town, especially the Deepdale area. Amongst them was Detective Constable McDonald who, after walking down Porter Street, entered the Golbourne Inn.
His attention was drawn to the stranger in the vault whose appearance had aroused suspicion amongst the regulars. As he discreetly asked the landlord about the man, the stranger was seen to leave the premises in a hurry with his pint of ale unfinished. The detective followed swiftly after him and, part way along Porter Street, overtook him and, grabbing him by the arm, asked if he was Albert Dean. Initially, he denied the claim, but he was arrested and taken to the police station where he admitted to his true identity.
After a short while, the Chief Constable of Blackpool and a couple of police officers arrived by motor car and within the hour they were on their way to Blackpool. After being questioned at the seaside resort he was charged with the murder of widow Mary White,46, at her lodging house in Crossland Road, Blackpool, on the last day of March.
Dean appeared in a packed court room before the Blackpool magistrates and, according to the police, the accused after being cautioned had said, “That is right, I did it, I killed her.” With the post mortem still being carried out he was remanded until the weekend when he was committed for trial.
At the Liverpool Assizes in late April, before Mr Justice Fraser, the court heard that the victim’s young nephew, Louis Cardwell, on returning home for lunch and unable to get in the house had climbed a waterspout, got in through a bedroom window and found his aunt lying dead at the bottom of the stairs with her throat cut. Questioned by the defence counsel the lad said he had gone to live with his aunt after his mother died in July 1924 and that his aunt was very quick tempered, and he had often seen her throw things at the accused.
Dean told the court that he and the victim had been in a stormy relationship and quarrelled often. Saying that after they had argued over his failure to find work, she had blocked his path and
approached him with an open razor. According to Dean a tussle followed, ending with them both falling to the floor, and the razor catching her throat.
Witnesses testified as to the alleged behaviour of Dean being out of character and that as a veteran of the war, who had been captured by the Germans, he was regarded as a steady man. The jury spent 15 minutes before delivering a verdict of guilty of manslaughter, rather than murder. Mr Justice Fraser then passed a sentence of eight years’ penal servitude.
Promotion to Detective Sergeant soon followed for McDonald who had arrived in Preston from the Forfar Constabulary. His smart capture of Dean was often recalled and in December 1930 he said farewell to Preston, having been appointed as an Inspector with the Middlesbrough police force.