A man in wartime Liverpool killed his wife in a frenzied act after she told him she would be leaving him for a sailor.
John and Maud Povall had married in 1922, aged twenty and eighteen years old respectively. They went on to have four children and set up home in Cromarty Road, Old Swan.
At the outbreak of the Second World War John volunteered for the Royal Navy and was then transferred to the Merchant Navy. He went away to sea in 1941 for a voyage that last eleven months, during which time his wife began a liaison with a Dutch seaman.
Mrs Povall didn't hide the relationship from her children and on one occasion went to London leaving the children at home in the care of her eldest daughter Hilda who was in her late teens. Hilda didn't tell her father about the repeated infidelity but he eventually found out by receiving an anonymous letter.
Although Povall was prepared to forgive Maud, she told him on Sunday 10th May 1943 that she would be leaving home and taking the youngest three children with her. An argument broke out which was calmed down by their lodger George Bollingham. At Povall's request the lodger went back upstairs to get changed so they could go out for a drink but as he was doing so Povall began beating and kicking his wife. Bollingham heard the screams and went out to find help and on returning with a policeman saw Povall bathing a wound on his wife's neck.
Maud told her husband she would try to start afresh with him and they kissed as she was helped into an ambulance. At the police station, Povall said the knife caught his wife's neck as she tried to stop him attacking her, then admitted kicking her as she lay on the floor. Maud required 44 stitches in wounds to various parts of her body but at 4.30 the following morning she died of shock and a perforated wound in the larynx. Povall made no reply as he was charged with murder.
On 16th June Povall appeared at the Liverpool assizes before Mr Justice Lawrence, with the prosecution opening the case by referring to it as a 'sad one.' The couple's eldest daughter Hilda said they had appeared to be fine on the evening before the killing and were planning to go out together. The lodger Bollingham recalled that they had been friendly that night, but that Maud's face was bruised and they had argued earlier in the week. He described how he had tried to pull Povall from his wife but couldn't do so and ran outside to find help. Asked how Povall was acting, Bollingham responded that he was 'in a frenzy, like a man possessed.' He also said that he was broken hearted at the affair as he loved her so much.
Under cross examination from Rose Heilbron, Hilda said that her parents relationship was good until he went away to sea in 1941. After that, he mother began frequenting public houses and bringing men back to the house, including the Dutch seaman. Hilda went on to say that she had often ordered the Dutchman out of the house and this association caused her to leave home to go and live with her grandmother in Moreton.
Dr W H Grace, a lecturer in forensic psychology at the University of Liverpool said that in his opinion the injuries on Maud were consistent with somebody who had lost control. In her closing speech, Miss Heilbron said the case was 'one of the saddest possible to be recounted in these courts.' She referred to Povall as a devoted family man and described how Hilda had endured the pain of being devoted to both parents and having to try and hide her mother's infatuation with another man from her father.
The jury agreed with Miss Heilbron's plea to find Povall guilty of manslaughter rather than murder and he was then sentenced to ten years penal servitude.