On the 11th May 1854 a Swiss migrant named Antonio Tobacchi was drinking in Bowman's public house in Preston Street. Whilst in there the twenty-five year old got into an argument with two local men named John Kelly and Peter Mattison, causing the former to leave after Tobacchi drew a dagger from his pocket.
Tobacchi ran into the street after Kelly and plunged a dagger into his breast from behind. Kelly fell down and died almost immediately, but Tobacchi was able to retrieve the dagger and run off. A passing policeman was stopped by a woman and bravely stopped the killer, recovering the blood stained dagger from up his shirt sleeve.
Kelly was taken to the Northern Hospital where an examination of the wound found that the dagger had penetrated four inches. An inquest took place on the 13th where the Swiss consul Mr Zwilchenbart represented Tobacchi, who had intended to take a ship to Australia. Mary Baker, who had raised the alarm, told the Coroner that he had followed Kelly out of the pub and ran at him from behind.
Kelly's drinking companion Mattison said that Tobacchi had been with a woman and quite boisterous, shouting in a foreign language. Kelly had asked him to quieten down but he could not be certain whether this had been understood. Mattison stayed behind after Kelly left to finish his drink and the next time he saw his companion he was dead on the ground, with Tobacchi being approached by the police officer.
A verdict of wilful murder was returned and Tobacchi was committed to the South Lancashire Assizes where he appeared before Baron Platt on 19th August. His lack of knowledge of the English language probably saved him from the hangman, as there were doubts as to whether he understood what Kelly had said in Bowman's. This possible element of provocation led to him being found guilty of manslaughter. Despite the aggravating factor in that he had chased after his victim from the safety of the public house, Tobacchi was sentenced to just six months imprisonment with hard labour.