Saturday, 3 October 2015

Light Sentence For Killing Sister in Law

A man who killed his sister in law then went on the run was given an extremely light sentence in the circumstances. The judge commented that there had been a good deal of provocation although the killing would probably be seen in a different light today.

Tailor Patrick Ryan spent the evening of 5th May 1858 drinking at his home in Hygeia Street along with a man named Kennedy and his wife's sister Catherine Fennell. Catherine asked Ryan for some money which he refused to give her, leading to her reaching into his waistcoat pocket and taking out a small photographic portrait of a young woman. Catherine then taunted Ryan about the woman, saying to him why did he need to look elsewhere when he had a wife and children at home.

After Catherine refused to give the photograph back Ryan threatened to kick her, leading to her taking a quart jug and trying to hit him over the head, only for Kennedy to get between them. 

The following day Ryan and Kennedy returned to the house and Catherine was coming down the stairs with her face quite red, but she denied being drunk. Ryan told her he didn't want her there any more but she refused to go and an argument broke out, during which Kennedy left. At 7pm, the pair were arguing in the street leading to Mrs Ryan coming to the door and pleading with them to come in and not make a show of themselves in front of the neighbours.

As Catherine was going in to the house behind Ryan he turned around and kicked her, causing her to lose her footing and fall down some steps. He then picked up a piece of wood and struck her on the back of the head. Catherine was helped into the house by her sister then her hair was cut off and the wound washed. On the Saturday evening though she began to have convulsions and she was admitted to hospital where she died on the Monday. 

A post mortem revealed the cause of death as extravasation of blood on the brain and a fracture to the skull below the wound, which was about a quarter of an inch in length. On 11th May an inquest was held before the Coroner Mr P F Curry. When the verdict of manslaughter was returned Mrs Ryan cried out, saying that her husband had been like a father to Catherine for over six years. 

A warrant was issued for Ryan's arrest and he remained at large until early 1859. When he finally appeared at the Liverpool assizes, he pleaded guilty and in light of Catherine's provocation he was sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour by Justice Willes.

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