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Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

There were many ways to get into trouble in the past, but not everyone who did, suffered the penalty that others thought they should. A system was in place, and although it's true that it was not always perfect, it did protect some innocent folks from an undeserved prison term; or worse. Many Public house arguments ended in fisticuffs, people got hurt, and in some cases, died from their injuries. The first hurdle then for the accused, was the formal inquest.


The Coroner had a great deal of power in the 19/20th centuries, finally curtailed in the 1970s. One of these was to announce a verdict of Wilful Murder, or Manslaughter, and the accused of course was held in custody. The next stage, was the Magistrates Court, where the evidence was subjected to cross examination, and a bit more scrutiny, which could, and did, either confirm, reduce, or throw out the charge altogether. If confirmed, the accused would be sent for trial, where there was another level of checking if there was a likelihood of a proper conviction; The Grand Jury. This jury consisted of men of education and standing in the community, and before the Assize Court sat, they went through all the evidence again. This could again result in the charge being reduced, our in the event of a weak case, they could announce " No Bill ", and the accused walked free. Back to our Coroner now, and if he issued a Warrant, naming the accused as being responsible for Manslaughter, the case would go directly to the next Assizies. Grand Juries were wary of this practise, and paid particular attention to such case's. as in this next little tale from 1892. I am grateful to member Alan Price, for the approval to include it.


John MacDonough, aged 32, a Labourer, charged by Coroners Warrant, with the Manslaughter of Henry Hill, the Landlord of the Star and Anchor, Church Lane, Stourbridge. The case was heard on Wednesday 14th February, 1893, at Worcester Assizies.


For the prosecution, Mr R.J.Smith described what had occured, in the Star and Anchor, on the evening of 27th November 1892. John MacDonough, together with his friend, named as just Corrigan, entered the premises. much the worse for already being drunk. Having partaken of few beers, MacDonough became rowdy, and began to upset Henry Hills customers. Both he and his wife decided to eject the pair, and as they objected, a brief scuffle broke out. Hill, possibly finding this hard work, picked up a beer jug, and smashed it down on MacDonough's head. Now it doesn't say in the court documents, if this was a Glass or Earthen ware Jug, but in breaking, it would have had sharp edges. The man fell to the floor, bleeding heavily from some severe head wounds, and the police were called. MacDonough was taken to hospital, leaving Superintendant Payne to sort out the situation. Mr and Mrs Hill complained, that the injured man had used some sharp implement, to inflict a cut on one of the fingers of Mr Hills right hand. After speaking to several witness's though, Payne arrested Henry Hill for assault, took him in charge, and later released him on bail. Meanwhile, medical assistance had been called, and Doctor Kirkpatrick attended to Hills cut finger, also noting that there was a bruise on the back of his head, and one on his rib-cage. Henry Hill became unwell some days later, and was again attended by the same Doctor, but died on the 4th December, 1892, from the infected wound. The cause of death was Gangrene. So John MacDonough found himself taken from his sickbed, and transported to the County Gaol at Worcester, on the Coroners Warrant.


Mr Meade, the defence attorney instructed to take the case by the Judge, was in no doubt that his client was innocent of this charge and set out the case. He denied that the accused man had struck any blow with a sharp implement, which Mrs Hill could of course not describe, mainly because he was laid out senseless, on the Star and Anchors floor, from the blow given by the deceased. The cut on Hills finger, was more likely to have been caused by sharp fragments from the beer jug, which had been wielded in the deceased's right hand. The Judge, not impressed by the Coroners deductive powers, was not pleased, and after hearing that Hill had admitted the assault to Superintendant Payne, instructed the jury as to their duty regarding doubtful evidence. In truth, they could not have convicted MacDonough on what had been laid before them, so they found him Not Guilty. So, with a warning in his ears from the Judge, about his appalling behaviour when in drink, and a reminder to watch his step in future, John MacDonough walked free from the Court. As I said, sometimes, things are not as they seem, and every death, though regretable, is not always the fault of the one accused.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 4, 2013 at 3:30 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now here's a case that should, at this time of year, at least draw a little pity from anyone. Not for the main player in this saga of drunkeness, but for the poor little mites that had to endure it all.


Isaac Thompson, born in the little hamlet of "The Straits", which lies between Sedgley and Gornal Wood, in 1829. It was poor area, and Isaac took what work he could, as a simple Labourers job was all he was equipped to do. On the 16th of April, 1849, he married Sarah Southall, a local girl, whose father, Cornelious Southall, was possibly glad to get rid of. Over the years she gave birth to at least 4 children, but according to many, wasn't a very devoted mother, for she seemed to spend most of her time drinking in the Bricklayers Arms. Mind you, she wasn't the only one, for Isaac, also seems to have a drink or three. Matters appear to have come to a head some time in1862, when he was charged with wounding, while no doubt drunk, one of his children, Rachel, the eldest, who would have been about 13 years old at the time. He had hit her in the mouth, and in a fit of violent rage, also threw a metal spike at her, which lodged about an inch in her back. To excuse these actions, he told the court that his wife was a drunkard who neglected the family, and an unreliable mother. There were of course, no Social Services then, to challange his account, that he had left the children in the care of the eldest, who had failed to stop them from crying. So for telling the Court he had a " bad wife ", ( and no one asked where he was prior to the attack, nor did anyone mention the lack of food in the house ) he was fined just 5 shillings. In October 1862, he was apparently so drunk, that having taken his young daughter Martha downstairs to feed her, he then went back upstairs and went to sleep it off. He had however left the toddler in front of the fire, where she was found the next morning, burnt to death. He made the same claim about his errant wife when questioned at the inquest, but this time, the Jury were composed of more common sense folks, and he was charged with Manslaughter. Now you would have thought, that such a serious offence would result in both of these rather wayward parents, changing their ways, but oh no, Isaac Thompson was soon at it again. They shouldn't have given him bail really, for if they had held him in prison, Hannah Thompson would not have died. Once again, coming home from a Pub, he found his wife missing, ( it was after all Christmas ) and in another violent rage, threw a Poker at the 8 year old. Unlike Rachel, she died from the injury, and now he found himself facing a Murder charge as well. His Trial, if you could call it that, began in March,1863, and for the umpteenth time he blamed it all on his " throughly bad wife ". He claimed that he had been a good father, always being a good provider, and that all that had occured was just a tragic accident. After pleading to the jury, that he could never have meant to hurt any of his children, and again blaming his bad wife, they un-surprisingly found him guilty. They did of course have some sympathy for the poor soul, having to put with a such an appalling woman, and actually recommended mercy. The prosecutor, seeing which way the wind was blowing, and, after reminding them that there was still the matter of the other death to sort out, threw in the towel and offered no evidence on the death of poor little Martha. The Judge ordered the Jury to dismiss the second charge of Manslaughter, and no doubt feeling in a good mood, sentenced Isaac Thompson to just two weeks imprisonment with hard labour, backdating it a week, which meant that he served just the 7 days. Now I'm not suggesting that every wife in Sedgley was as bad as this one was, but everyone in Court seems to have had at least some experience of a " Bad Wife ". Perhaps it was more widespread than anyone knew.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 10, 2013 at 4:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Continuing the theme of " Bad Wives ", but this time, over twenty years earlier, and some distance away in Spring Vale, Wolverhampton. Everyone would have agreed, that John Wright, a 32 year old Iron worker was a decent and hard working man. He was married, ( it appeared happily ) and had a young son, just turned 5 years of age. That was of course until September,1820, when he returned  from work to find his ever loving wife had skipped off with another man. His son, who the mother had left behind, was naturally upset, so as he had a good idea who the bloke was,  he set off for the town of Darlaston, and some hours later, returned, errant wife in tow. The child was delighted to see his mother, ceased crying, and they all went to bed in a good mood. Next morning, his breakfastk ready when he rose, off to work he went, in a happy state of mind. Did he but know it, but it wasn't to last long, for when he returned, she was gone again, and the child was now even more upset. That night, as he and his son fitfully got what sleep they could, a plan formed in John Wrights head, and it wasn't a pleasent one either. Setting off for work the next morning, with the lad in tow, ( still upset and crying ) his route took him alongside the Birmingham Canal, and,ensuring he was unobserved, he throw the child in. After walking a few paces, second thoughts began to bother John Wright, so he retraced his steps, and jumping in, he pulled the lad out. They were both soaking wet, so going to a nearby cottage, he asked if they could dry out, explaining that the lad had fallen in while playing. He was instead scolded by the woman of the house, and urged to take the little one home, and put him to bed before he should catch a chill. Leaving the cottage, as Wright explained later, he had intended to do just that, but instead, he went back to almost the same spot, and threw the lad in again. This time, he continued on his way, for there was to be no second chance for the youngster. On arriving home, and in the company of two family members, he confessed to what he had done, and the hope that the child had survived, they rushed off to the canal. The pathetic little bundle had indeed been pulled out by a passing boatman, but sadly, all life was long gone, and the child was laid out in the boats tiny cabin. John Wright fell to his knees, wept buckets of tears for his son, and was then arrested, charged with wilful murder, and banged up in Stafford Gaol.


He appeared at the April Assizes, when the court had to listen to the heartwrenching last words of the little lad. " Father, what did you throw me in the water for. "  Then the line that bought tears to the eyes of all those in the Courtroom, including the Judge, " Do not throw me in again father, and I will not cry anymore. " Words of course that hadn't bothered John Wright, but which would in effect, save him from the gallows. He just had to be insane, only a madman, said his lawyer, would do such a thing to his own son. Backed up by a local Doctor, and directed by a very upset Judge, the Jury found John Wright not Guilty of Murder. It may have been kinder to have hanged him though, for he was condemned to spend the greater part of his life in a Lunatic Asylum. I would be very surprised, given the appalling conditions in such places, if he survived more than 10 years. Which of course, is five more than he allowed his defenceless son.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 18, 2014 at 3:51 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Good Deed goes bad.


No matter how many years seperate some crimes, there is always the feeling that you may have heard the same type of tale before. And of course, you would be correct, for the story that comes next, has all the hallmarks of something very modern, and with the sort of injustice many of us have come to expect.


Thomas Price, described in some newspapers as a butcher, was in fact a Wolverhampton Tailor. He had been born in 1816, in Kirby Maton, Leicestershire, He had moved to the arae in the 1830s, married, had a short stay in Sheffield where one child was born, and then arrived back in Wolverhampton, when, over the years, three more arrived. He was a hardworking and industrious man was Thomas, but on the night of the19th June, 1853, all this counted for nothing. Making his way home after a long day, he observed three men, assaulting a woman and her child in the street. Others who witnessed the scene, quickly hurried away, or averted their gaze, Thomas, being a man of conciderable virtue, went to her aid. Disturbed from their " sport ", the three young men, then turned on Thomas Price, and beat him so badly he was forced to beg for his life. They finally let him go, and he dragged himself, very badly injured back to home and safety. Alas, there was to be non, for the three men followed him, and on his very doorstep, assaulted him again. When he was found, he was in a terrible state, his right eye and socket were destroyed, his jaw broken, his head split open, and he was covered in cuts and bruises. It's also likely, as he had been repeatedly kicked, that he had several broken ribs as well. The woman, Jane Rowden, had escaped futher injury, making good her escape while the assault on Thomas Price was in progress. Medical practice at the time, was short of the modern methods we have today, but even so, Thomas Price clung on to life untill the 8th August, having also had the strength to give the Police a good discription of his attackers, who had all fled the area when it became known how serious Price's injuries were. The main suspects were one Thomas Quarlter, a young burly Irishman, and John Walters, a well known local thug. On the 11th August, he was arrested and charged with the assault on the woman, the Police, for the time being, taking no action on the verdict from the Coroners Court, that Thomas Price was a victim of Manslaughter.


Now this may seem strange to us today, but there was no Forensic Science back then, and they also faced another difficulty; The lack of more than a few witnesses, and no positive identification from those that had come forward. Nevertheless, the Magistrates, appalled at the level of violence involved, had Thomas Quarlter sent for trial at the next Stafford Assizes, on a charge of Wilful Murder. The trial, which took place on 15th March,1854, was beset with problems from the off. Two witnesses, would only swear to seeing some sort of argument between Quarlter and another man, close to the area where the main attack took place. The deathbed statements by Thomas Price, were then ruled by the Judge, Mr Justice Wightman, to be inadmissable as evidence, and without any further witnesses, the case collapsed, and Thomas Quarlter, was aquitted of the charge. He was also aquitted of the charge of assaulting the woman as well, all in all then, a good day for him, but not for the wife and four children of the poor victim. Early the next year, the Police arrested John Walters, ( the third man was never found ), but as the same evidence would have had to used as in the previous case, the Magistrates decided not to proceed with any charges. Now if all this sounds familiar to you, I will not be surprised, for as many have said before, including me, as far as crime goes, there's nothing new under the Sun.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 12, 2014 at 3:52 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

A charge of Murder, back in the days of hanging, didn't always result in the law extracting the full penalty. Mitigating circumstances began to appear on a regular basis, and what better defence could you have than being stark staring mad, or words to that effect. This case from Dudley, in 1926, involves such a plea, and to ram home the message, it came from non other than one of the greatest defence Barristers of the age, Sir Edward Marshall Hall.


On the face of it, Joseph Edward Flavell had experienced a few ups and downs in his 24 years of life. His father had died suddenly in 1908, and his mother quickly remarried in 1910, to a Widower, Thomas Bayliss. The two lots of children seemed to get on well, and his mother, Ada, carried on being the Licence holder of The Malt Shovel, 42, Tower Street, Dudley. The problem that surfaced, came in the form of a child, born to the couple in 1912, James Thomas Bayliss. Joseph developed a streak of the jealous nature, so much so, that a few years later, he tried to burn down the Pub. Thinking that it would all pass over, the pair failed to get any help or tell the Police. This, Thomas Bayliss would later come to regret.


Always a quiet young man, Joseph Flavell kept his feelings to himself, and by the time 1926 rolled around, he had a steady job as an Electric Crane Driver. Then, in March of that year, he left the Pub early one morning, leaving behind a terrible mess. One of the cleaners, as it happens, a sister-in-law of his mother, stumbled upon the mess Joseph had made. Lying in his bed, with the left side of his head, smashed in with an axe, was the dead body of 14 year old James Thomas Bayliss. Later that afternoon, youg Joseph approached a Policeman in Union Passage, Birmingham, and gave himself up, at the same time as admitting he was the culprit. There was only one charge, that under the circumstances, could be bought against him, Wilful Murder.


It became clear at the trial, that there had been no quarrel between the two, nor had any threats been made, which led Sir Edward Marshall Hall to persue the line of madness as the defence. He was greatly helped by several witness'es, the first being Mrs Tranter the cleaner who hinted, that in the family, there was a streak of Lunacy. For those with an enquiring mind, Joseph's mothers maidan name was Ada Tranter, born in Tipton about 1875. His step-father thought that Joseph was not right in the head, and other instances of the " curse of the Tranters " came to light during cross-examination. Enough, it seems, to prevent Joseph swinging on the end of a rope, for the brutal slaying of his entirely innocent step-brother. The Judge certainly extended more mercy towards the killer, than the killer had given his victim, who had murdered him while he slept. I can't find any contemporary Newspaper accounts at the moment, so if anyone can supply me, with more details of where Joseph Edward Flavell spent the next few years, I would be very grateful.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 2, 2014 at 3:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

It was a very depressing place was Islington, Halesowen. Two long rows of dingy little cottages, broken here and there with a couple of Beer Houses, a Nail Wharehouse, and a shop. Poverty was everywhere, for this was a centre of the Nail Making trade in the town of Halesowen. right up untill the early part of the 20th century. In one of these houses cum workshop, in 1907, lived 53 year old Charles Hackett, and his second wife, Elizabeth. ( nee Coley )  His first wife had died in 1874, and he re-married in 1886. By trade, he was a Bolt maker, and had previous lived in New Street, Hasbury, but, as the two trades were interchangable, he switched to making Nails. Both of them struggled to make a living, from what was becoming a fast dying business, and quarrels were frequent. The one on the 16th July, 1907, was probably no different to all the others, except on this occassion, Elizabeth died. She was found on the floor of the mean dwelling, with a wound to her head, caused it was established, by a blow from an Iron Rod. Charles, dispite his protests, was arrested and put up before the Magistrates, on a charge of Wilful Murder, and committed to stand trial at the next  Worcester Assizes. The evidence was far from as clear cut as it sounds, and his story, that in a fit of temper, he had poked the bar of iron through a hole in the wall, unfortunately, and unintentionly, striking his wife. The wound certainly matched the end of the bar, and the Jury, unwilling to have a man hanged without an explanation of intent, bought in a verdict of Manslaughter. So Charles Hackett, ( now twice widowed ) was sentenced to just 9 months Hard Labour, and when released, went back to live with his son in New Street, Hasbury. A lesson to all, that a bit of temper can get us into a great deal of trouble, if it gets a bit out of hand.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 16, 2016 at 8:19 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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