A man who killed another resident of his lodging house as he believed he pushed his wife down the stairs was jailed for life after being found guilty of manslaughter.
On the evening of 30th November 1867 Robert Porter, a 25 year old labourer, burst into the kitchen of the lodging house where he was staying in Lincoln Street, now long gone but situated off Great Howard Street. He angrily said that he would fight any man who wanted to meet him in Athol Street, but when Bridget Counsel told him she had seen him knocked down there earlier, he said he had a knife for her.
Bridget went up to her room with her husband, Thomas who put a bedpost against the door to make it more secure after Porter followed them. About five minutes later Porter battered the door down and stabbed Thomas in the back with a ships scraper as he sat on the bed. Porter made off while Thomas, who had blood spurting from the wound, was taken to Collingwood Dock police station and then the Northern Hospital.
Porter was apprehended at a druggists shop in Great Howard Street, admitting stabbing someone but saying he did not know who it was. Initially charged with causing grievous bodily harm, this was increased to murder after 34 year old Thomas died from his injuries on 7th December. Porter claimed he had done what he did because his wife had been pushed down the stairs by Thomas or Bridget, but other residents who were present said they did not see this take place. There was no doubt that Mrs Porter had tumbled down the stairs though, as she was still being treated in the Northern Hospital when Thomas died.
When Porter was tried before Mr Baron Martin on 16th December, witnesses said that both parties were sober and medical evidence heard that the stabbing had taken place with considerable force. In summing up the judge said if Porter had known that his wife was pushed down the stairs by Thomas then there was an element of provocation, but if he had only supposed this then he was guilty of murder.
The jury deliberated for a short time and gave the benefit of the doubt, finding Porter guilty of manslaughter. Baron Martin was in no mood for leniency however, telling Porter that it was as near to murder as could be. He then imposed a sentence of penal servitude for life.