Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Killed Over a Pawned Shirt

A man who battered his wife after she pawned his shirt, leading to the death of both her and an unborn child, was sentenced to just eighteen months imprisonment.

On Friday 1st September 1837 a middle aged lady named Alice Bradford went to the cellar in School Lane where her daughter Ann Davis lived with her husband John. Ann was sat down crying and tried to reach get up to her mother, but John got hold of her petticoat and threw her to the floor, then kicked her in the stomach and head. 

School Lane (
A neighbour named Frances Ormsby heard the screams and went to investigate. On seeing Ann, who was six months pregnant, lying motionless she sent for a doctor. Ann was in an insensible state and the following night she gave birth to a baby girl, which lived for a few minutes. Twenty nine year old Ann never fully regained consciousness and died on the Tuesday.

The day after Ann's death, an inquest was held before the Coroner, Mr P F Curry. Alice described what happened when she entered the cellar and Mrs Ormsby told how she got there at the time kicks were being administered by John, who was still wearing shoes. The most heartbreaking evidence came from ten year old Jane Davis, who said her mother had pawned her father's shirt so she was able to buy breakfast. She described Ann and Alice as tipsy, but said her father had not been drinking.

Evidence regarding the post mortem was given by a surgeon named John Marshall. He said that a blood vessel on the brain had been ruptured as a result of concussion caused by violence. Unusually for an inquest John gave evidence, saying he had briefly returned home from his job as a river pilot at 10am on that morning and left money with his wife to get his clothes back from the pawnbroker. When he was back later however, he found that Ann was drunk, having spent this on liquor.

After the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter John was remanded to wait his trial at the assizes, which took place the following April. The defence indicated that had doctors ordered leeches earlier, Ann's life might have been saved but this was refuted by the medical practitioners. John was found guilty but despite the severity of his actions the judge sentenced him to eighteen months imprisonment with hard labour.

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