Local historian Keith Johnson looks back at a mysterious "assault" that left a woman with a broken leg...
On the last Saturday of February 1876 two young men, namely John Hornby and George Smith, appeared at the Earl Street police station in the company of a older woman called Alice Savage.
She was clearly in pain and limping and in need of medical attention. The men claimed that she had been down a lobby in the Everton Gardens area with a young man and that when they saw her she had started to run away, only to stumble on the cobbled path and injure her leg.
Her version of events differed completely as she stated that she had simply been talking to the young man when the pair had rushed upon them and knocked them down. Claiming that they had then kicked her violently, and as she tried to crawl down the lobby the brutes had manhandled her and dragged her to the police station. The woman was then taken to the
Preston Infirmary where it was discovered she had a broken leg and a dislocated ankle.
With suspicions hanging over them the two men were remanded in custody and on the following Monday morning at the Preston Police Court they were charged with murderously assaulting Alice Savage and remanded in custody pending further investigation.
It was a further five weeks before Alice Savage was fit to appear in court to give evidence before the Mayor of Preston, Joseph Bithnell Hallmark, and a bench of magistrates. Both Hornby and Smith responded to the charges against them with a plea of not guilty.
Alice Savage, who was sat in a chair, told the court she was the wife of James Savage, but was living apart from him in Water Street.
She recalled the event by saying: “I was going by the side of Everton Gardens when the two accused approached me.
“They kicked me and threw me down, and when I tried to get up my leg was broken. They afterwards dragged me to the police station, then I was taken to the infirmary. I had only one glass of whiskey during that day.”
The next witness was the young lad named as John Broad, who lived in Cheetham Street, and he recalled chatting to Alice Savage when the prisoners came up and kicked her and knocked her down. He heard her scream in agony and one of the men then struck him and told him to clear off.
Police Inspector John Brown was later called and stated he was on duty when the complaint was brought in. He considered her drunk, excited, and in great pain. She was placed on her feet, but could not stand unsupported.
Witnesses were then called for the defence and it was alleged that Mrs. Savage and the witness Broad had been up the lobby for an improper purpose, and that she had stumbled in the lobby and broken her leg whilst running away. It being claimed that no violence whatsoever had been used by the prisoners.
The Bench then retired to discuss the case and returned after lengthy deliberations. Chief magistrate Mayor Hallmark then addressed the court saying they had concluded there was no evidence against the accused, and they were accordingly discharged.