Sunday, 8 March 2015

Killed by a Chamber Pot

Two men in a lodging house got into an argument when one was keeping the other awake, leading to a chamber pot being used to settle things and a conviction for manslaughter.

On 29th October 1868 James Prendergast, a 29 year old shoemaker, returned to his lodging house in Standish Street in an intoxicated state. He went to his room which was shared with five others and contained only three beds, but soon began to feel unwell.

69 year old labourer John Shelvey, who was sleeping in the same bed as Prendergast soon began complaining of being kept awake by him. Prendergast then took a chamber pot and struck Shelvey a strong blow on the head, causing it to bleed heavily. The blow had been so hard that the chamber pot had smashed and some pieces of it could be seen in the wound.

Prendergast soon sobered up on seeing the consequences of his actions and helped to stop the blood flow before accompanying Shelvey to the Vauxhall Dispensary where he was cleaned and bandaged up. Both men returned home the same night but several days later Shelvey's condition became much worse and he was admitted to the workhouse hospital. Erysipelas had set in and he died on 20th November.

After an inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter, Prendergast appeared at the Liverpool winter assizes on 18th December. He was found guilty but with a strong recommendation for leniency by the jury. Mr Justice Hayes acknowledged that Prendergast had not meant to cause death and sentenced him to six months imprisonment.

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