Homicidal Naval Man



Petty officer William Joseph Bird, of Birmingham, was found guilty of culpable homicide at Glasgow High Court today and was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment.

The jury’s verdict was unanimous.

Lord Jamieson, passing sentence, said: ‘I am disposed to take a somewhat lenient view for two reasons, I am satisfied you did not intend taking the life of this woman, and what you did would not have had that effect but for the fact she had a bad heart.

‘I am also taking into consideration the fact that you lay under a charge of murder for some time.’

Bird was charged with having on September 16 on this year on the Rhu Garelochead Road, near to Letrualt Farm, assaulted Annie Johnstone, Hut No 56, Camis Eskin Camp, Helensburgh.

The indictment alleges that he seized her, struck her on the face with his fist, knocked her down and ‘did kill her’.


A shipmate, Richard Charles Wright, engine room artificer, said that he had known Bird about eight months, and in his opinion he was not a man of violent temper.

Wright said that on the afternoon of September 16 he went ashore with Bird from HMS Jupiter. They went to the fleet canteen and sat drinking from 1.10 to 2.30pm.

They then went to Shandon Hydro, where they stayed from 3 till 4pm.

Shandon Hydro

In the Hydro they had a few more drinks. Bird had £6 10/- in his possession. Bird, according to witness, had had enough to drink.


Witness said that Bird had four pints of beer, one or two gins, one double whisky at least, and two other drinks in the three hours between 1 and 4pm.

Another shipmate of accused, Petty Officer Robert William Collvrey (31), agreed that Bird was a mild-tempered man. ‘I have never seen him in a violent temper even in drink’.

The petty officer said that when Bird left the Hydro he was ‘three-quarters drunk’. He had money in his pocket, but the majority of it was in £1 notes.


Bird’s commanding officer, Lieut-Commander John William Herbert Miller (30), said that he had known Bird for five months.

He added ‘He is a man of very good character, a good example to junior ratings, and above average efficiency in his job.’

Bird, he said, had been in the navy for thirteen years.

The defence closed without calling Bird to the witness box.

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