Thursday, 21 November 2013

Tenant Kills Landlord

An attempt by a couple who tried to evict their lodgers in 1891 ended in tragedy when the husband was killed during a fight with the main tenant.

Robert Hinchcliffe, a labourer at Coburg Dock, lived with his wife Alice in a court in Upper Mann Street in Dingle. They were in their twenties and rented the top room of their house to 21 year old labourer William Griffin, who lived there with his 12 year old sister Mary.

For reasons that were never made clear, Mr & Mrs Hinchcliffe wanted Joseph and his sister out of their house but despite serving notice to quit  they still didn't leave.  On Friday 11th September 1891 the Hinchcliffes went to a funeral then drank with other mourners, before returning home around midnight.

Alice went to the top floor and asked Griffin when he would be leaving, leading to a scuffle taking place in which a lamp was knocked out of Alice's hand. Robert then challenged Griffin to a fight and both men went into the courtyard and began swapping punches, with Joseph falling to the ground at one point. Seeing her brother in trouble, Mary got a kitchen knife and gave it to Griffin.

Within seconds of Griffin being given the knife Robert cried out 'Oh Alice I am stabbed' and fell to the ground. He was dead by the time police arrived and officers then found Griffin and his sister in the cellar. Griffin made no attempt to escape and told them that he was wholly responsible and they would find the knife in the top floor room. After questioning Mary, she was taken to the workhouse and Griffin to the Main Bridewell in Cheapside.

Griffin was charged with manslaughter and at his trial Mary had to give evidence confirming she had passed him the knife. However another witness, Catherine Jones, who lived in the court alone, said that she saw both men fighting and that Griffin had been in trouble. He admitted having the knife in his hand, but didn't deliberately use it and maintained that Robert had rushed at him, leading to the knife piercing the heart.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty but with a strong recommendation for mercy. In light of this and Griffin's previous good character, Mr Justice Lawrence sentenced him to twelve months imprisonment with hard labour. Two months later there was further tragedy for the Hinchcliffe family when Robert's sister Mary was battered to death by her husband, who was convicted of manslaughter at the same Assizes.

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