Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Killed Over Uncooked Fish

A man who was convicted of manslaughter in 1909 after stabbing his wife when they rowed over his uncooked supper was sentenced to just seven years imprisonment. 

Denis Smith was a  an auctioneers porter who lived in Oakes Street with his wife Sarah, twelve year old son Joseph and eight year old nephew Owen. On Tuesday 9th February that year he returned home at around 330pm having already had a lot to drink. He then sent his wife out for more beer which they drank together with a neighbour. 

At suppertime told Sarah to go and get some fish but she was out for some time, leading to him berating her on her return. Sarah refused to cook the fish and was soon running out of the house screaming murder, with Smith chasing her. When he returned to the house and went asleep though, Sarah then decided to cook the fish and wake him, only for him to refuse to eat it as he believed it hadn't been done enough.

After more arguing Smith got out of bed and picked up a knife, swiping it at Sarah's face, catching her just under her left ear. After he was unable to stop the bleeding, Smith and his son took Sarah the short distance to the Royal Infirmary, both telling doctors that the wound was self inflicted. With suspicion not yet aroused, Smith left saying he was going to change his bloodstained shirt. However he didn't return and when Sarah died soon after admission, the police soon caught up with him at his sister's house in Islington.

On 11th March Smith appeared at the Liverpool Assizes before Lord Alverstone. Joseph repeatedly broke down crying as he gave evidence that his father had picked up the knife and brandished it at her. Smith too wept in the dock, as the defence counsel's submission that Sarah had fallen on the knife was rejected.

In summing up the judge said it would be unsafe to convict on the murder charge as there was no prior motive and Smith had shown obvious remorse. This led to him being found guilty of manslaughter and after evidence was called as to his previous good character and of his wife's drunken habits, Lord Alverstone imposed a sentence of just seven years imprisonment.

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