In 1875 a German national who stabbed a fellow immigrant from the same country was sentenced to life imprisonment after the judge decided that the killing was too disproportionate to be considered an act of self defence.
Jacob Schneider, who was a 47 year old labourer who lived in Sparling Street (left) in the St James area of the city, while his victim Peter Patchence, also a labourer lived in nearby Shaw's Alley.
Schneider spent the early evening of 22nd July 1875 drinking and got involved in an altercation with another man before making his way home around 830pm. On passing Patchence's house in Shaw's Alley he called his wife, who was sat on the step knitting, a 'bitch' and was told to go away by Mr Huber, one of the Patchence's lodgers. He then moved on and shouted 'bitch' at another woman, who threw a bowl of water over him.
Patchence had been in bed when Schneider walked past but on hearing the verbal exchange he got up and followed him to the corner of Sparling Street and Shaw's Alley. Patchence then threw Schneider to the ground and as he was standing over him about to throw a punch, Schneider took a knife out of his pocket and stabbed Patchence in the abdomen two or three times. Mrs Patchence called her husband away as he didn't need to have his hands dirtied any more and as he got up he shouted that he had been stabbed.
A police officer arrived on the scene and found Schneider with his hands covered in blood complaining that a woman had thrown water over him. A passer by told the officer that he had stabbed a man and warned him to be careful. After being handcuffed, the knife was seized and Schneider was then taken into a chemist were Patchence was receiving treatment and confirmed what had happened.
Schneider was taken to the Main Bridewell charged with stabbing, while Patchence managed to make his own way to the Southern Hospital where he was treated for protruding bowels. He died three days later and on 30th July the Coroner's Court returned a verdict of wilful murder.
At the Liverpool Assizes several German sailors who lodged in the vicinity gave evidence, saying they had seen the quarrel and that Schneider had stabbed Patchence three or four times, including as the victim was moving away. Schneider's defence counsel tried to have him cleared of all charges, but Justice Archibald summed up by saying that the jury had to take into account whether the level of provocation justified thrusting the knife so many times. The jury found him guilty of manslaughter, passing a note to the judge stating that they had been close to a murder verdict.
Telling Schneider that his offence was 'one of the highest class of manslaughter' Justice Archibald sentenced him to penal servitude for life.