Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Justified Killing of a Father

A man who killed his father as he believed he was about to do harm to family members was set free after a trial found that his actions were justified. 

On the afternoon of 31st May 1909 William Haughton, a 57 year old father of five, went on one of his regular drinking sprees and returned to his home in Chesterton Street, Garston, demanding his tea. When his wife gave him some cold meat he threw it back at her then filled a basin with water and poured it over her as she sat motionless in a chair. 

Haughton went back out and returned at 10pm, by which time his wife and two teenage daughters were in bed. He stayed downstairs for a while playing a piano but at 11.30pm went upstairs and demanded some work trousers. His eldest son, also William, was woken by the commotion and remonstrated with his father, leading to the two men exchanging punches.

A few hours later Haughton died in hospital, having given a statement saying he had been hit four or five times on the head with a poker as he lay defenceless on the floor. A post mortem revealed that his skull had been fractured in two places. However when he was arrested  the son William said the two men had fallen down together and fearing for his safety, he had struck out with the poker in self defence.

William was charged with murder and appeared before Lord Chief Coleridge on 20th July. A statement that he had made on arrest was read out, in which he said 'I am sorry for what I have done, I hit him over the head five times with a poker to prevent him ill using my mother who is an invalid. I heard him beating my mother , I rushed and done my best to stop him.' William's sixteen year old sister Emily told the court that her brother was the one who put most money into the house and that her father had him pinned to the ground when he got hold of the poker.

The Reverend T P Howe gave William a character reference, saying he had been attending church twice a day for three years and that he was a 'quiet, inoffensive and respectable member of the community.' In the final submission, William's defence counsel suggested that his intervention was justified and that if he hadn't done so, his father may well have been there on trial instead. 

Without leaving their box the jury returned a verdict of not guilty of both manslaughter and murder. There was loud applause from the public gallery which was quickly suppressed. After the judge said 'Simple justice has been done, there is no occasion for applause' William was released.

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