A teenager who retaliated against a prostitute who had hit him by stabbing her in the neck was found guilty of manslaughter and given an extremely lenient sentence by the judge.
On the evening of Thursday 28th April 1842 Elizabeth Smith, who was said to run a 'house of ill fame' in a court off Preston Street, went out to purchase a candle. She was abused on the street by one of the local ladies of the night, 25 year old Eliza May.
Mrs Smith's thirteen year old son William was in the street making a toy boat and persuaded his mother to return inside and said that he would go for the candle. However May blocked his way and began beating him about the head. This led to him retaliating by stabbing her in the neck with a small knife that he had been using.
The incident was seen by a passing surgeon, Dr Williams and he took May to the druggists in Whitechapel. Due to the severity of the bleeding, a car was called to take her to the Infirmary but she was dead on arrival. A post mortem found that the jugular vein had been severed. Smith had initially absconded but was caught by police the following day.
On Saturday 30th April an inquest took place before the Borough Coroner Mr P F Curry and returned a verdict of manslaughter. Smith was committed to the assizes for a trial which took place on 6th August. The jury found him guilty but recommended mercy on account of his 'extreme youth' and the judge, saying that their had been provocation, imposed a sentence of just one weeks imprisonment.