Double Murder In Lurgan – Coroner’s Inquest.
The Belfast News-Letter,
Tuesday, May 23,
The inhabitants of Lurgan – a usually quiet and exemplary neighbourhood – were, on the night of Saturday last, thrown into a state of extreme excitement in consequence of the fatal termination of an affray, in which two brothers, named Michael and John Henderson, lost their lives by the hand of one individual, the former of whom died immediately, and the latter on the following evening. The facts of this lamentable case will be gathered from the evidence elicited on the inquest, which was commenced on Sunday evening, before George Henry, Esq., Coroner, on the body of Michael Henderson.
A respectable Jury having been sworn, the following witnesses were examined : –
Patrick Mageown – I live in Lurgan. I am a publican. On the evening the deceased, Michael Henderson, and his brother John, with five other persons, viz., Patrick Gallery, Ward McGribben, William McGribben, James McHernon, and Felix McAreavy, were drinking in my house. They drank among them a pint of whiskey, a quart of beer, and two glasses of cordial. All were sober when they left the house, at about three minutes past eleven, except the deceased, Michael Henderson, who was something the worse of drink. I did not see them again for about ten minutes, when John Henderson was carried back to the house. Michael Henderson being, as I have since understood, dead at that time. The Rev. Mr. Cunningham had accompanied him. I heard that both had been stabbed by “Lying Phil,” alias Philip Fitzpatrick. John Henderson is still lying at my house, attended by Drs. Hannay and Rodgers.
Felix McAreavy, sworn –¬†I live in Killoughy. I was in Mageown’s house, in company with the persons already named, on the night mentioned by the last witness. When we left, all were sober except the deceased. When we were about five or six yards from Mageown’s, I heard the prisoner, Fitzpatrick, swear something about “licking Papists.” I saw Pat Gallery standing between the prisoner and deceased to prevent them from fighting. I heard the prisoner say he could “lick any Papist who went that road.” I heard Gallery say he would not allow the prisoner to be touched; he said this to try and get him home. I saw prisoner strike John Henderson, and heard John Henderson shout that the prisoner had struck him; before this, I had seen both the Hendersons strike at prisoner. I next saw the prisoner stop at the door of a person named McCreight, and heard him crying to him to open the door. I warned McCreight not to admit him as he had struck a man. The prisoner, upon this, swore “H– to his soul, but he would stick me too.” I saw no weapon in his hand. I heard some person say that Michael Henderson had also been struck; on hearing this I ran towards town, pursued by the prisoner, who I believe intended to injure me. I saw the police at the head of the lane, to whom I gave information of what had occurred. The police then took the prisoner into custody, and while they were doing so, I saw him drop a knife, which was lifted by Constable Carson. I think from the prisoner’s talk that he had taken some drink.¬†I do not know of any previous quarrel between him and deceased.
Patrick Gallery deposed to having been present at the transaction, but stated that he could not say by which party a blow was first struck, or whether the deceased had said that he was struck by the prisoner.
James McIllernon gave similar testimony as to the commencement of the fight. Saw deceased fall into the channel near Mageown’s house. Saw no weapon with prisoner, but saw him strike at the deceased. After this, saw John Henderson and the prisoner fighting, but could not say who struck first; after a few moments, John Henderson left Phil (the prisoner) and came towards witness, saying “I’m struck – Lying Phil has struck me!” Witness pursued the prisoner, and when he returned, found deceased lying dead. Went again in pursuit of the prisoner with the police, who took him into custody, and when he was taken saw him stoop his hand by his side, and drop a knife; heard the rattle of the knife on the stones; it was lifted by the police.
At this stage of the proceedings, the inquest was adjourned until Monday morning at nine o’clock.
At nine o’clock this (Monday) morning, the examination of witnesses was resumed.
Ward McGribben deposed that he was present, on the Saturday night, when the party left Mageown’s house. Michael Henderson had taken sick, and lay down at the door; the prisoner passed on, and deceased rose up and went towards him. Saw them strike at each other, after which deceased retreated, followed by prisoner, who made a plunge at him, striking him about the breast, when deceased immediately fell. Witness lifted and spoke to him, but got no answer.
William McGribben corroborated the preceding statement, adding that he heard John Henderson cry out “He has stabbed me, I’m killed,” meaning that the prisoner had stabbed him.
Edward Hall deposed to having heard John Henderson cry out “Oh, Lying Phil has murdered my brother, and stabbed me,” when he dropped on the pavement.
Bella Cartwright deposed that she was leaning over her door, on the night in question, when she saw two men coming down the lane, and a third following them who said, “Here comes Lying Phil.” This was Phil himself. Heard one of the first two make some reply, when Phil went to them, saying, “If they gave a word of their jaw, he’d put the contents of that into them.” He then knocked one of them down. Witness went in and fastened her door, and looking out of the window, saw Phil strike John Henderson, saying with all oath “He would put the contents of that into him too.” This blow was given in the side. The wounded man put his hand to the wound, and witness heard him say “I’m done!” Witness then went out and saw him walk three of four yards, when he fell. Witness lifted his head and asked him was he hurt, when he replied, “Oh, Lying Phil has done it now.”¬†
Sinton Mercer sworn –¬†Knows prisoner, he came to witness on Saturday night about nine o’clock, for the loan of a knife, to skin a horse; the knife now shown is the same which he lent to prisoner.
Charles Burns, a publican, heard John Henderson say that Lying Phil had stabbed him; saw Phil going to Bridewell in custody, and called him a murderer, to which he replied “he was sorry he did not put it into six or seven more.”
Mary Morgan – Was in bed on Saturday night, when she heard a man outside groaning heavily and crying “I’m stabbed, I’m killed.” Heard Lying Phil shout “I’m the boy would stick you!” Came out and saw a man lying in a pool of blood, suported by a woman.
George Burns – Was in Mercer’s house on Saturday night; saw a knife in prisoner’s hand, and said “That is a curious knife.” prisoner replied “That is none of your business;” at this time he was sharpening the knife on his hand, and he added “He would leave some man’s wife a widow before he went home,” significantly striking the knife against his side.
Susan McMullen deposed to having seen, through her window, the prisoner holding a man by the breast, who cried “Let me go, you have done enough, you have killed my brother,” to which prisoner replied, with a horrid oath “he would kill him to,” and stabbed him in the belly; he then ran away swearing “he was the boy would kill them all.”
Ann Lavery, in whose house prisoner lodged, deposed that he came in on Saturday night, at half-past eleven, saying “What will I do, for I have killed two men.”
Sub-Constable Carson and Plunket gave evidence as to the capture of the prisoner, the finding of the knife, &c. At the time, he said he would stab seventeen more in his own defence.
Doctor Hannay deposed to having been called to visit deceased on the night in question. He was then dead. Examined the body. There was one wound on the left side of the chest, produced by a sharp, cutting instrument, passing right through the heart, and up through the aorta. Death must have been instantaneous.
The coroner addressed a few words to the Jury, who retired, and in a few moments returned a verdict of wilful murder against Philip Fitzgerald.
Immediately after returning the above verdict, the same Jury was sworn to inquire into the cause of the death of John Henderson, brother of Michael, who died from his wounds on Sunday evening.
Bella Cartwright and Dr. Hannay were the only witnesses examined. The Jury returned a verdict as in the previous case.
It may be well to observe that too much praise cannot be given to the constabulary for their coolness and intrepidity in securing the murderer, and in removing him after the inquest, when he was in danger of being literally torn to pieces by the infuriated populace. Such was the excited state of public feeling that the police had to escort the prisoner to bridewell with fixed bayonets, and the clergy of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in the neighbourhood found it expedient to accompany them. An immense crowd had collected who pelted several stones at the prisoner, by which two of the police were cut. The fellow appeared quite cool and collected throughout. He is, we are happy to say, not a native of Lurgan, nor any part of the province, being from the Queen’s county.
This Newspaper Article has been reproduced by the kind permission of the British Newspaper Archive Limited, (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).