Monday, 5 October 2015

Tommy Ball - Death of a Footballer

There have been few footballers killed or that have killed but one player was said to have had the abilities to have become a star player of the period.  He was Tommy Ball aged 23, and a lad from County Durham who was on the books of Aston Villa.  He was coming into his own as a player when he took over the defensive role of Frank Barson, whom Villa had sold to Manchester United.  Villa were one of THE top clubs, with six championships and six FA cups to their name by 1923.  But the troubles began for Ball and his wife Beatrice, when they rented a cottage from a former soldier and Policeman, George Stagg.  The Balls lived next door to Stagg in Brick Kiln Lane, perry Barr, just on the edge of Birmingham.  Ball had two problems with Stagg.  Stagg hated his dog and that he kept chickens.  They had a nasty habit of wandering onto his property, but it seemed that it never occurred that it needed a fence to keep them on one side.  The problems seemed that as a landlord, Stagg was a difficult man to please and Ball, as a tenant, seemed a little thoughtless.

    It was August 1923 that the Balls were given a notice to quit by Stagg, but this was not enforced.  The Balls were still there three months later, and still paying Stagg rent. November 11th saw tensions ease. Stagg was to claim later in court that they were on good terms but this was firmly denied by Mrs Ball.  Mr & Mrs Ball had a couple of drinks in the Church Tavern, then went home.  But when they reached their home, Mrs Ball went in to make some supper and Tommy Ball went out with the dog.  An argument outside ensued with Stagg, then a shot rang out.  Tommy Ball had died from shock and haemorrhage.  He was buried on November 19th 1923 in St Johns Churchyard.  George Stagg went on trial at Staffordshire Assizes on february 19th 1924.  Stagg claimed that Ball was drunk and had threatened him with violence, and that he had also threatened his wife.  The claim of drunkenness was disputed by Mrs Ball, the landlord of the Church Tavern and a bus conductor.  Stagg also claimed that Ball inflicted domestic violence on his own wife.  He said that Mrs Ball had told him that Ball kicked her about.  She said that Stagg`s story about her saying that the shooting was an accident, was untrue.  Stagg claimed to have fired a shot to frighten Ball away, reloaded the gun, a single shot sporting gun, then a struggle began with Ball, then the gun accidentally went off.  Mrs Ball said that this was untrue.  He shot her husband with the first shot, reloaded the gun, then took a shot at her, missing her.

    The Jury convicted Stagg of murder, rejecting manslaughter.  They gave a strong recommendation of mercy.  This is passed on to the Home Secretary when reviewing the case as to a reprieve.  Stagg was reprieved and sentenced to life.  Three years later, he was transferred to Broadmoor, having been declared insane.  Stagg died in 1966 in a mental hospital in the Midlands.  Cynics would say that the only reason Stagg was reprieved was that he used to be a Policeman.  The Home Secretary at the time, Arthur Henderson, was thought to be a hanging abolitionist.  He had reprieved two double killers, then Stagg, but he refused reprieves for the next half dozen killers.  He had a change of heart about abolition.