A woman who killed her teenage son with a poker after a quarrel was convicted of manslaughter but given a lenient sentence by the judge who acknowledged that her actions had occurred after provocation.
On 15th October 1867 Anne Ellis, a 48 year old widow who made a living making shoes, returned to her home in a court off Fleet Street in a state of intoxication. One of her two sons left the house but sixteen year old William remained and the two exchanged words, resulting in Anne taking a red hot poker from the fire and striking her son between the legs with it.
A woman called Mrs Moss who lived in the same house came to see what was going on and saw William bleeding heavily from a wound on his thigh. Anne said she hit him in self defence after he threatened to put her head under the grate, but William told her not to believe that.
Attempts to stop the bleeding with a handkerchief and sticking plaster failed and William attended the royal infirmary,where Dr Puzey attended to him. He died on 26th October from pyaemia due to the wound becoming infected. Medical experts were of the opinion that the wound was consistent with being caused by a hot poker.
The inquest was held on 29th October, with the Daily Post describing the case as having a 'deplorable set of circumstances.' Taking into account the evidence of Anne and Mrs Moss, the coroner Clarke Aspinall said that there were only three verdicts possible - murder, manslaughter and accidental death. Stating that he did not recommend the latter, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and a warrant was made out for Anne's committal for trial.
Anne appeared at the assizes on 12th December and pleaded guilty to manslaughter. In sentencing Baron Martin said there was no doubt 'that the crime was committed in a moment of passion'and that the case 'was not one for severe sentence.' He then ordered that Anne go to prison for three months.