A row over whether or not a candle should be lit led to a woman having her throat cut, a policeman being killed and a man being transported for life.
On the night of Monday 15th April 1839 Daniel Cole, a 30 year old porter originally from Ireland, returned to his lodgings off College Lane at around 10pm . He found his wife was sat down talking with another lodger named Alice Murphy and a Mrs Moran, keeper of the house.
Alice lit a candle which Mrs Cole immediately put out. She lit it again and when Mrs Cole again went to put it out Daniel shouted to her 'Is this the way, what's your humour now.' Mrs Cole got up and stumbled, being worse the wear for drink, before going into the kitchen. Daniel then followed her and cut her neck from behind, but his wife managed to get away and out into the street to shout 'murder'.
A policeman immediately arrived on the scene, accompanied by a mariner named Robert Rigg who he had ordered to assist. Rigg was left holding he door shut while the officer sought further help, but Cole managed to batter it down and escape, punching Rigg in the face as he made off. He only got as far as the corner with Hanover Street, where he was stopped by Constable David Bailey, but as the two men struggled and fell down together a knife was plunged into the officers neck.
Bailey managed to get up and knock his stick on the floor three times, while a passer by called William Selsby managed to get the knife which had fell out of a dazed Cole's hand. Thomas Fletcher, a coachmaker, stood over him until other officers arrived on the scene to secure his arrest. Whilst this was happening Bailey fell down and was carried into Atherton's public house and laid out on a kitchen table. Within two minutes he was dead, witnesses having said that blood was coming out of his neck like 'water from a pipe.'
Two surgeons were sent for and they quickly established that a main artery had been severed. Cole was taken to the Hotham Street bridewell and placed in the cells, while a the bloodied knife and hat belonging to Bailey, which had been cut, were also handed in there. Mrs Cole attended a surgery, where a doctor examined her and concluded that the inch wide wound, which was a third of an inch deep, was not endangering her.
The Coroner's inquest into Bailey's death took place the following day and after the doctors gave evidence to the effect that stabbing was the cause of death a verdict of wilful murder was returned. Cole taken to Kirkdale Gaol to a await his trial at the next South Lancashire Assizes in Liverpool's Chapel Street.
Cole's trial took place on 20th August and he was describe by the Liverpool Mercury as 'a well made broad set man, dark complexioned, with large black whiskers; his eyes are fiery and indicated a degree of wildness.' His landlady Mrs Moran told the court that he had posed no problems at all and was a hard working industrious man, but his wide was prone to drunkenness. Most witnesses could only testify that they saw a struggle followed by Bailey staggering away, but Joseph Mantler said that he had seen Cole thrust his right hand, which he assumed to have carried the knife, towards the officer's neck. Dr Callan, who examined the body afterwards, was of the opinion that the blow was a severe one, the knife only being stopped when it struck the jaw, and that death was immediate due to the severing of arteries.
The situation looked bleak for Cole but evidence was presented by the defence that he had spent several weeks in an infirmary in Ireland a decade earlier after receiving a head injury whilst blasting coal. His brother Michael explained that he believed he had never been in sound mind since and often wore tight bandages around his head to keep him stable. When he had fits of anger, he would smash up furniture and two or three people were needed to restrain him, after which he would remember nothing of the episode. In cross examination Dr Callan admitted that this could cause temporary derangement during periods of excitement. His colleague Dr McIntyre also said that just a small amount of alcohol could have brought about temporary insanity.
The jury also heard evidence that Cole was a trusted employee in a warehouse and had worked there for eight years in a job that required him to carry a knife. Fellow employees also told how he was often concerned about his wife's drinking habits, which sometimes involved her selling furniture and taking his wages then disappearing for two or three days at a time.
The defence counsel put forward a passionate defence in the trial's closing stages, painting the picture of a man returning from work to find his wife hopelessly drunk, stabbing her then finding himself surrounded by a baying crowd as he officers stopped him. It was submitted that the act was carried out in self defence after the officer struck him, although this was not what the witnesses had said. When summing up, the judge pointed out that the jury had to consider if Cole knew it was an officer he was grappling with, and also the fact that he had carried the knife without its sheath for a considerable distance.
After deliberating for 45 minutes the jury found Cole guilty of 'a very aggravated case of manslaughter.' In sentencing, the judge said that aggravated manslaughter is only in the slightest degree distinguishable from murder and as such that 'It is my duty to pronounce on you that you be transported to a place beyond the seas to such place as Her Majesty, by the advice of her Privy Council may determine, for the period of your natural life.' Eleven months later Cole and 270 other convicts sailed on the Eden bound for New South Wales, where he eventually arrived on 8th July 1841.