Saturday, 25 July 2015

Drunken Wife Killed by Poker.

A husband who couldn't take any more of his wife's drunkenness battered her with a poker causing her death, but was treated leniently by the judge after being found guilty of manslaughter.

At 730am on Monday 12th April 1858 Jacob Wilhelm, a German who worked for 48 year old cooper David Jager, was working in the yard next to his boss's house in Bevington Street. He saw Caroline Jager come out in a tipsy state and suspected she was going for more drink, then two hours later he heard her berating her husband calling him several bad names.

When Jager went into the yard to see how Wilhelm was getting on with his work, he said his wife had told him she got up early to draw a knife across his throat. Wilhelm was then sent off on an errand and when he returned at midday Jager shouted to him to come into the house as he thought he had killed Caroline. He saw her lying on the floor with blood coming out of her head but she was still moving and he went to fetch a policeman.

Jager was visibly upset by what he had done and sent for a surgeon himself, after Wilhelm had tried to assure him that Caroline would be back in health drinking rum soon. Jager gave himself up when a police officer arrived and admitted that he had struck his wife with a poker. Although sober, he was in a very excitable state and said he wished he was dead himself. The poker was retrieved from the fireplace by the police officer and found to be bloodstained and with hair attached.

Caroline was taken to the Northern Hospital in a cab, remaining insensible during the ride. She remained there for a week and died a week later on 19th April. A postmortem determined the cause of death to be from a fractured skull caused by more than one blow.

At the inquest before Borough Coroner Mr P F Curry the next day Wilhelm told how he had not seen Caroline sober for six weeks, and that she had sometimes sold the food her husband had provided then bought drink. He said that Jager was so busy working that he hardly had time to get drunk, but would have a glass of beer now and again. After he finished giving his evidence he was questioned over any bias he may have had, given that Jager's father was German. Wilhelm testified though that this was coincidental and he had only known his employer for eight months.

Thirteen year old Caroline Jager, the couple's daughter, confirmed what Wilhelm had said over the food. She also told the Coroner that on the morning of the killing, her mother had sold a frock belonging to her ten year old sister  Catherine. In summing up, Mr Curry said that legally this was murder, but morally he felt there were aggravating factors that had caused it. A jury member asked if there was evidence Caroline had struck her husband first but there was not. After further re-examination of Wilhelm and the daughter a verdict of manslaughter was returned.

The following month Jager appeared before Baron Pollock at the assizes in St George's Hall, where the jury found him guilty of manslaughter. Due to the aggravating circumstances the judge imposed an extremely light sentence of just three months imprisonment. After his release Jager remarried and is listed in the 1861 census as living with his new wife Mary, younger daughter Catherine and Mary's twelve year old son.

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