Sunday, 26 May 2013

Husband Kicks Wife To Death In Front Of Children

In 1824 a brutal husband subjected his wife to a three hour battering which resulted in her death and his transportation to the colonies.

39 year old Joseph Wilkin, a bailiff's assistant who was originally from Scotland, lived with his wife Alison and six children in a cellar in Blake Street, which was eventually cleared to make way for the Copperas Hill postal sorting depot. Joseph's wage was not a good one and Alison earned additional income to maintain their family by sewing, but was also prone to drink heavily.

lancaster castle 1778 public domain.jpgOn the night of 25th November 1824 Joseph returned home at 10pm when the rest of his family were in bed. After one of his daughters opened the door to him he pulled Alison from the bed and repeatedly beat her whilst she was on the floor and when she managed to get up and sit on a chair, he knocked her off it and set about her again. This ferocious behaviour was still going on when the night watchman called out that it was midnight and when a jug of water was knocked onto the floor and smashed, Joseph pushed Alison's face into it so that it cut open.

The vicious beating finally ended at 3am when Joseph picked Alison up and laid her in bed before getting in himself. At 4.30am, he woke and found that Alison was dead and sent one of his children for a neighbour Mrs Reed, who called for medical assistance. The surgeons who examined the body found that there were cuts to the head, neck and limbs, ten broken ribs and a punctured lung. Joseph was by then crying and gave himself up to the watchman who took him to the Bridewell at 530am.

Joseph was charged with murder and tried at the Lancaster Assizes the following March. He had previously lived there and was well known in the town, leading to an overcrowded courtroom for his trial. The most solemn part was the evidence of his 11 year old daughter Margaret, who wept as she told of the beating and how her mother had once tried to hang herself after her father left home for a period. The owner of the property, Mr Stephenson, said that he had often heard Joseph beating Alison but on the night in question he was on the top storey of the house and didn't hear anything.

In summing up, Justice Bailey told the jury that the charge could be reduced to manslaughter if they were satisfied that Joseph had not intended to cause death and pointed to the fact that no weapons were used and he had sent for assistance and not tried to escape. This was the verdict that was returned and Joseph was sentenced to 'transportation for the term of his natural life'. He left Britain on the convict ship Medway in July and arrived in Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania) the following March.

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