Sunday, 10 April 2016

Sentenced to Death Over an Apple

A market trader who believed that a teenager had stolen an apple from her stall stabbed him, leading to her being found guilty and sentenced to death.

On the evening of Saturday 30th November 1872 a seventeen year old named Thomas Jones and a friend attended a play at the Royal Amphitheatre, stood on the site of the present Royal Court. At 730pm they came out during the refreshment break and as they walked down Great Charlotte Street, a fruit dealer named Catherine Hanlon rushed after the pair and accused Thomas of stealing an apple. He denied this but as she held his collar with one hand she then struck him with the other, then stabbed him in the abdomen.

Fifty year old Hanlon was apprehended immediately and Thomas was rushed to the Royal Infirmary with his bowels protruding. The following day, his condition being described as critical, he gave a deposition stating that he had not stolen any apple. At the police court on the Monday morning Hanlon was remanded in custody charged with attempted murder and told by the magistrate that Thomas was unlikely to survive. He died from his injuries later that day. 

An inquest took place on 4th December where Thomas's friend Thomas Beamer gave evidence. He said he did not see whether or not Hanlon had a knife, but when he saw his friend's bowels hanging out after he unbuttoned his trousers he ran away fearing he would be stabbed next. A stonemason said that when Hanlon and Thomas were arguing, the youth was pointing to an apple lying in the roadway.

The police constable who took Hanlon into custody said that she had first said Thomas was messing about with cauliflowers and that it was another lady who had stabbed him. A verdict of wilful murder was returning, leading to Hanlon being brought before the police court again to be committed for trial.

At the Liverpool assizes on 17th December Hanlon's solicitor claimed that the charge should be reduced to manslaughter as the stealing of an apple was provocation. In summing up though Mr Justice Mellor said he could not see how the charge cold be reduced and that if the jury were satisfied Hanlon had carried out the stabbing she was guilty of murder.

Hanlon was found guilty and sentenced to death. She was taken to Kirkdale gaol to await her fate along with a fishmonger named Richard Spencer who had killed his lover. The execution date was fixed for 6th January, but she was informed on New Years Eve that the sentence had been commuted to life imprisonment. 

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