Sunday, 21 June 2015

Butcher Who Helped Neighbour Killed

A man in Vauxhall who offered help to a female neighbour who had been thrown out of the house was killed by her husband, who was hanged for his crime. 

On the evening of 18th July 1877 a butcher named John Campbell was having supper at his Latimer Street home with several family members. A lady called Mrs McGovern attended, saying she had been thrown out by her forty year old husband Patrick and she joined the supper party for a couple of hours.

Shortly after midnight Mrs McGovern went back to her husband who was a marine store dealer. A few minutes later John went to the McGovern household to check everything was okay and told Patrick that he had been wrong to do what he did. Without any further provocation, Patrick picked a kitchen knife up off the table and plunged it into John's abdomen.

John ran back into his own house screaming, the knife still embedded in his body. His sister in law Ann Kearns pulled it out and sent for a policeman. When an officer arrived McGovern was taken into custody and John was removed to the Stanley Hospital. With John in a critical condition a magistrate's clerk took a deposition from him the following day in the presence of McGovern. 

John lingered on until 24th July when he died, leading to McGovern being committed to the assizes for trial. At the magistrates court hearing Detective Inspector Carlisle explained that McGovern was also under investigation for stabbing his wife's brother, who lay in a dangerous state at the Northern Hospital. He was a man known to have a history of drunken violence, once being sentenced to two months imprisonment for assaulting his wife.

When McGovern appeared before Mr Justice Hawkins on 3rd August, his defence counsel tried to suggest that the killing was no more than a struggle and it was John who had gone around with the knife. They added that by harbouring Mrs McGovern after she had been thrown out of the house, it was an act of sufficient provocation to reduce the crime to manslaughter. 

In summing up though, the judge said that given all the facts, he was at a loss to see how there could be any mitigation to reduce the crime from murder to manslaughter. This led to the jury taking just a few minutes to return a guilty verdict and McGovern responding by saying 'I am innocent of it I know nothing at all about it.' As he passed the death sentence Justice Hawkins showed no pity, telling McGovern that 'anybody that has heard the case can not hesitate to come to the conclusion that yours was the hand that inflicted the deadly wound.'

After being sentenced McGovern fainted and had to be helped up by two warders. His wife screamed and howled, and had to be escorted out of the courtroom. McGovern was hanged at Kirkdale gaol on 21st August, alongside John Golding who had killed his neighbour in Edge Hill. He showed a complete indifference to his fate whilst at Kirkdale, but as he was brought out into the prison yard he was trembling and had to be held up by warders to stop him fainting as the noose was being put around his neck. When the bolt was drawn by William Marwood, he dropped to an instant death and was buried within the precints of the prison.

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