Thursday, 12 January 2017

Dead on Her Wedding Day

On the day she was supposed to be getting married, a woman died from injuries that had been inflicted on her by her husband.

On Saturday 26th April 1856 William Holland was at his home in Great Richmond Street when one of his lodgers Isabel Brew, returned home from the market. Isabel lodged there with her fiance James Jones, who was also her cousin. The couple were in their forties and had both been married before.

Moments later Jones himself returned and for no apparent reason struck Isabel a violent blow, causing her to fall backwards. When Holland tried to intervene, Jones threatened to do the same to him.

Holland was scared of Jones due to his size and left the house to find a policeman. He did so but the officer refused to get involved in a domestic dispute. When Holland returned home alone, he found Isabel lying on her side with a pool of blood next to her. Jones was sat on a sofa as if nothing had happened, causing Holland to go back outside.

When Holland's son and another lodger Mr Atkinson returned they helped to carry Isabel upstairs to bed. Holland stayed up all night with her, as did Jones who now seemed to realise the damage he had caused.  A neighbour, Frances Cross, came in and helped bathe Isabel. Cross told Jones he was a brute for what he had done and Jones admitted that as well as punching Isabel he had also stamped on her. 

The following morning Isabel's daughter Mrs Oliver arrived and immediately sent for a doctor. Dr Knottingley from the South Dispensary found that as well as the cuts and bruises Isabel had suffered a broken collarbone and ribs. He then told the police of his concerns and they took a statement from Isabel, before arresting Jones in a nearby beerhouse.

On the Monday morning Jones was remanded in custody for week. At 2pm that afternoon, around the time the couple were supposed to be getting married, Isabella died from her injuries. An inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder and Jones was committed for trial at the assizes.

On 20th August Mr Atkinson said that he had known Jones for twenty years and that he had always been a good tempered man when sober. However he said he was also known to have periods of excitement, especially since something had dropped on his head at the Albert Dock a few years earlier.  Frances Cross said Jones was still tipsy on the Sunday but admitted under cross examination that he had offered remorse for his actions. Dr Knottingley said that he had carried out a postmortem and found the body to be in an otherwise healthy state. He was certain that the injuries could not have been the result of a fall.

Jones's counsel's main defence was drunkenness. They pointed out how  he had spent most of his time in the dock weeping and that there had been no previous history of violence towards Isabel. Four former employers of Jones testified to his good character, saying he was a quiet good natured man. In summing up however the judge said that there was no evidence of him having a brain injury and that drunkenness was no excuse. He told the jury that if they were satisfied Isabel had died as a result of being jumped upon, then they had no alternative but to return a verdict of murder.  

The jury deliberated for an hour and then asked the judge what the verdict should be if they thought Jones had jumped on Isabel but with no intent to kill. The judge replied that this still amounted to murder, but if they thought Jones had fallen on Isabel whilst drunk then the verdict should be manslaughter. 

Half an hour later the jury returned and asked the same question, much to the judge's annoyance. He repeated his answer of earlier, leading to Dr Knottingley being called again. He was asked his opinion on the injuries and replied that he believed Jones had knelt upon Isabel whilst striking her on the head rather than jumped or stamped on her. 

After receiving the doctor's answer the jury were out for just a few more minutes then returned and gave a verdict of manslaughter. The judge told Jones that they had taken a merciful view and then sentenced him to transportation for life. 

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