A hot water boiler that exploded at a rented Strangeways, Manchester home, killed the eldest daughter of the tenant, William Taylor, and devastated the family. Furious, Taylor and his wife Martha stormed into the offices of the landlord and house agent, Evan Meller, in Manchester city centre

“It was your fault!” Taylor raged at the landlord. “I demand compensation!”

“It was your own fault, in fact,” replied Meller. “You shouldn’t have allowed the pipes to freeze up in winter, and that’s what caused the accident.”

Taylor had arrived at the office in a very ugly mood. He took out a pistol and fired at the landlord. The bullet missed, but hit a labourer who was working on the premises, wounding him in the leg. Then Taylor produced a 12-inch cheese knife, leapt upon the landlord and stabbed him frenziedly all over his body.

By the time other people in the offices could restrain him, Meller lay dead on the floor. The police were called, and Taylor told them tearfully: “Meller has ruined my family.”

He was arrested, and then came more shocks. When police went to his home in Britannia Buildings they found the decomposing bodies of his three children, Mary, 12, Hannah, eight, and William junior, five, who had been dead for some days. Because, even after intensive investigation, it could not be established exactly how they had died, Taylor was charged only with the murder of Evan Meller.

His defence at his trial was that the death of his daughter in the boiler explosion had rendered him insane. The court heard that there was a long history of aggravation between Taylor and the landlord, and Taylor felt provoked.

He was sentenced to death, refusing to the end to say how his children had died, beyond “Meller murdered them.” He was hanged alongside John Ward (see story below) on Saturday, September 13th, 1862, outside Kirkdale Prison, before a crowd estimated at 100,000.

After his execution medical inquiries suggested that the children were poisoned by chloroform vapour, traces of which disappear from the system after only 24 hours.