An argument between some sailors over a servant girl led to a fight in which one was killed with a knife and the another jailed for life for manslaughter.
On the evening of 17th March 1861 a Brazilian seaman named Joachim Francisco went to Florentine's boarding house in Carpenters' Row to visit some friends. In the kitchen, he tried to get a kiss off the servant Mary McNulty, only for another man to tell him he had no business doing that, which Joachim took exception to.
Joachim challenged the other man, named Francisco, to a fight and followed him out of the door. Francisco stood outside waiting, only for Joachim to walk up to him and stab him in the neck, without any other words or blows exchanged. Joachim then ran down towards the docks but Francisco didn't go down immediately even though blood was coming from his neck.
When Francisco collapsed he was taken to hospital by a policeman but found to be dead on arrival. A bread knife was then found between his legs. Joachim returned to his lodgings in Frederick Street around 9pm, by which time news of he stabbing had spread to his landlady Mrs Joseph. A servant Mrs Crue called for a policeman and the sailor was arrested following a scuffle. His room was then searched and a blood stained shirt recovered, as well as a razor blade which had been discarded into the fire.
At Joachim's trial two other sailors and Mary McNulty testified to having seen the stabbing taken place, saying that it had come without provocation although Francisco readily agreed to the fight. McNulty also told the court that the although she didn't see Francisco pick up the breadknife, it had been on the kitchen table during the quarrel. A chemical analyst confirmed that blood was found in the razor blade.
Joachim's defence counsel argued that many of the words between Francisco and Joachim had been in Spanish and McNulty couldnt possibly have known what was said. He also argued that Joachim had a sheath knife on him, which would have been a far more appropriate murder weapon and that if he knew Francisco had the breadknife, it was natural to get a pre-emptive strike in first.
In summing up, the judge said that even if two people had a prearranged fight, if one died then it was murder. However, if the fight was a sudden impulse one, then it was manslaughter unless one party had a hugely unfair advantage in terms of weapons. The jury deliberated for half an hour and returned a manslaughter verdict, given that Francisco had a carving knife on his person. Justice Hill though felt the killing was a most aggravated one and sentenced Joachim to transportation for life.