In 1901 a man who killed his son in law during a drunken fight was told by the judge that his crime was 'as near as to murder as could be' after being convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Patrick Finnegan, a 47 year old labourer, lived with his wife in Back Portland Street, off Scotland Road. His daughter was married to a marine fireman named William Carr and they lived in Portland Street, the two houses being separated from each other only by a yard.
On the evening of Saturday 23rd March that year Carr returned home drunk and then went into the yard towards his parents in law's house looking for his wife. A quarrel broke out between the two men leading to Finnegan having cuts to his face and he went off in search of a policeman.
An officer was located in Limekiln Lane and brought back to Back Portland Street, where Carr was talking to Finnegan's wife. The policeman persuaded Carr to return to his own home then took Finnegan to a dispensary for some treatment to his face wound. After this he went to the police and demanded that Carr be arrested, but was sent on his way.
At around quarter to one in the morning, Finnegan and his wife knocked on Carr's door and were let in by a lodger called Mary Uriel. Finnegan went upstairs to see Carr leaving his wife downstairs talking to the lodger, then soon afterwards the couple left. They were soon joined by their daughter Mrs Carr, who had been too afraid to return home to her husband and had gone to sleep on a step in Portland Street before being woken by a passing policeman.
At around 5am Mary heard moaning noises coming from Carr's bedroom which was directly above hers. She went to the Finnegans for help and Mrs Carr returned with her, finding her husband on the landing with a wound on his neck. The bedclothes were bloodsoaked and there was a trail of blood leading to where he had fallen. He was rushed to the Northern Hospital but pronounced dead on arrival, an artery having been cut.
On being questioned Finnegan claimed he had only gone to Carr's bedroom to look for his daughter, but he was unable to explain the blood on his own clothes or the bloodstained knife found in his own house.
After being charged with murder Finnegan appeared at the assizes on 10th May. His defence counsel Mr Madden said that if Carr had been arrested for drunkenness earlier on then the tragedy had not occurred. Saying that 'all parties were deprived of their reason' Mr Madden maintained that Finnegan had initially only gone to Carr's room to look for his daughter.
It took the jury ten minutes to find Finnegan guilty of manslaughter. In passing a sentence of twenty years penal servitude, Justice Wills said that the case was as near to murder as manslaughter could be.