A woman who failed to have her husbands supper ready for when returned home after a drinking session was killed by him, but he luckily escaped with a manslaughter conviction.
Francis Duffy, a 39 year old labourer, spent the bank holiday afternoon of 29th May 1882 out drinking with Henry Walton, the owner of the house in Smithfield Street where he and his wife lodged.
On returning home, Duffy expected that his wife Anne would have supper ready for him but she had not cooked anything, leading to an argument breaking out between the couple. Anne went into the yard to get out of the way but Duffy followed and stabbed her in he side.
Anne cried out and Walton went to investigate, where he found that she had blood flowing out of a wound. When he went into the kitchen to confront Duffy, he was threatened that the same would be done to him as well.Walton managed to call for police and Anne was taken to the Northern Hospital, where she was admitted with a deep incised wound. Duffy was arrested and the following day he appeared at the police court charged with stabbing, being remanded for seven days.
By the end of the week Anne's condition had deteriorated considerably and a magistrate was sent for to take a deposition, which was given in the presence of Duffy who was handcuffed to two detectives. Anne died the following day although nobody told her husband, who burst into tears on hearing the information when brought back before the police court on 7th June. After an inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder, he was committed to the assizes for trial.
On 3rd August, Duffy's defence counsel tried to suggest that there was no premeditation and that it was an accident. Justice North said in summing up though that even if that was the case, the prisoner was guilty of manslaughter as he went to strike his wife whilst holding a knife.
After half an hours deliberation the jury returned to deliver their verdict, having found Duffy guilty of manslaughter. A mistake was made though as when asked what their verdict was on the murder charge, the foreman replied 'guilty, I mean we find him not guilty.' Duffy shrieked and was still in a terrible state of shock when the error was corrected. He remained shaking uncontrollably when it was explained that he had only been found guilty of manslaughter and was led from the dock, the judge deciding to postpone sentence. Two days later there was no leniency though as he was sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude.