The Southport labourer jailed for life for 'war of words' murder

On October 3, 1971, a 69-year-old woman was found dead in her flat in Southport. Maura McAndrews had been strangled with the flex of her electric kettle and left alone in the Derby Road premises.

Her killer was no stranger. He lived below, with his wife and child. Brendan Joseph Leach was arrested shortly after Mrs McAndrews' body was found. Police soon built a picture of neighbours at war, with harsh words being spoken.

Leach's wife Pauline, 19, said she saw her neighbour every day and her words were often "upsetting". Joseph, 25, and Pauline, 19, moved to the flat in Derby Road as a young couple, and had a baby daughter. But Mrs McAndrews frequently questioned them about their marriage, as Joseph was a Catholic and Pauline a Protestant.

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"She was always speaking to us about our marriage and about our little girl, and saying Sharon was not a Christian and that we were not properly married", Pauline said. On October 3, Leach was arrested but denied any knowledge of Mrs McAndrews' death, however he later gave a statement saying that day his neighbour had invited him to her flat for a cup of coffee.

Again the woman commented on their marriage, but when she called their daughter a 'bastard' he lost his temper. He said his neighbour had used the term in a 'malicious and unpleasant' way.

"When she said this, I saw red", he told the jury. Leach said he picked up the cable from the floor and put it around Mrs McAndrews' neck but did not remember knotting it. It was only when he saw her on the floor that he realised what he had done and ran away, he told the court.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter by way of provocation, with his defence counsel, David McNeill QC telling the jury they must be satisfied that 'a normal man for the moment was not master of his own mind, through passion, because of acts or words spoken to him by the deceased.' The jury rejected the defence and found Leach guilty of murder. He was jailed for life.

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