Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Police Officer Cleared of Death

A woman's death that occurred following the arrest of a man by local police led to an officer being charged with murder, only for him to be found not guilty due to inconsistencies in the evidence.

On 6th July 1852, following a disturbance at the Wheatsheaf pub on Scotland Road where a shot was fired several police officers went to Grosvenor Street looking for a man named Gallagher. He was arrested and taken into custody but a lady named Margaret Baines died around fifteen minutes afterwards of a fractured skull. Several residents of the court said that this had happened after Constable John Slaney hit her over the head with his stick, having earlier hit another man named Patrick Hughes.

During the inquest evidence was heard from a number of residents of Grosvenor Street, police officers and a surgeon. He said that the injuries obtained were consistent of being struck with a stick and a verdict of wilful murder was returned, leading to Slaney being committed for trial at the next assizes. As he was remanded into custody he said he was innocent of the crime and thanked his superintendent for his support, before having a painful parting from his wife.

On 19th August 25 year old Slaney appeared Lord Chief Justice Campbell for a trial in which the evidence of the residents was inconsistent with what they had told the coroner in terms of how long Slaney had been in the house and if he had hit her inside or outside. In contrast the evidence of the police was consistent, with officers swearing that their colleague never went inside Baines's house. The surgeon who carried out the post mortem acknowledged that the skull of the deceased was exceptionally thin and any blow could have caused death.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty and there was a mixture of clapping and derision in the court for several minutes before things calmed down.

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