Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Wife Killed For Not Making Supper

A 17 year old who stabbed one of his neighbours in a fight after he was thrown out of a pub near Wapping Dock was found guilty of manslaughter and sent to gaol for ten years.

On Saturday 13th November 1880 William Spears went on a drinking spree with his friend James Humphreys, ending up at Hammond & Mills public house on the corner of Hurst and Grayson Street, opposite Wapping Dock. At about 645pm Humphreys tried to order two pints of ale but was told by the barman that they had had enough. 

When the two males refused to leave two police officers were sent for to remove them and Stephen Burns, who was stood at the bar and had once lived in the same court as Spears, asked them not to be rough with him as Humphreys was far worse. Within minutes though the youths had entered the pub via another door and were again refused service, this time being forcibly ejected by James Patterson, a drinking companion of Burns.

Burns then joined the three males on the street and an argument broke out, leading to blows being exchanged. Spears then took a knife out of his pocket and stabbed Burns in the chest and ran off, while his victim crossed the road to the dock gate, where a policeman helped him into a cart to be taken to the Royal Southern Hospital. Humphreys was arrested at the scene for being drunk and riotous, while Burns died just ten minutes after arrival at the hospital.

Burns had been able to give all details to the officer of the man who stabbed him and Spears was soon arrested at his court dwelling in Grayson Street. He was in bed when the police arrived but he didn't deny what had happened, saying that he was drunk and did not know what had made him do it. The following Thursday Spears was committed for trial at the Assizes, with Patterson being severely rebuked by the Stipendiary Magistrate during the hearing. He said he was struggling to remember what had happened because he had been to a two night wake for Burns, with Mr Raffles responding that the Roman Catholic clergy condemned such practices.

Spears was tried on 8th February 1881 at the Liverpool Assizes. Patterson described how he had ejected Spears and Humphreys from the pub and a fight broke out, but the key witness was customs officer Arthur Hope, who had been by the dock gates. He told the court that Burns had punched and head butted Spears before the knife was taken out. This led to the judge directing to the jury that they could not possibly return a guilty verdict on the murder charge. However they did find Spears guilty of manslaughter and he was sentenced to 10 years penal servitude.





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