Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Husband Saved by Wife's Drinking Habits

A man who was suspected of having caused the death of his wife following a struggle avoided prosecution in 1868. This was due to doctors who carried out the post mortem believing that death was more likely as a result of heart disease and the fact violence had been used was purely coincidental.

On the afternoon of 20th June that year shipwright and ex police constable Robert Rimmer returned to his Houlgrave Street home about 5pm, at around the same time his 18 year old son Joseph went out to a nearby field. Soon after Robert went after his son telling him to return home as his mother wasn't well. Joseph ran back and when he got there a neighbour Emma Egan, who had also been called by Robert, was in their cellar property. She explained that Margaret was now dead and observed that there was a fresh scratch underneath her chin.

Dr Sheldon of Boundary Street attended and found marks on the body that had been caused by violence, leading to the arrest of Robert on Athol Street as he was returning. On the Monday morning he appeared at the police court charged with causing the death of his wife and remanded pending the outcome of the coroner's inquest.

The following day Dr Sheldon gave evidence to the coroner in respect of a post mortem he had conducted. He stated that the internal organs had been made flabby by excessive drinking and as such he believed he cause of death was heart disease and not violence. Mrs Egan said that she had known Margaret for three months and never saw her sober. The jury then returned a verdict in line with the medical evidence, leading to Robert's discharge from custody.

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