Sunday, 26 February 2017

Sister in Law Killer Reprieved

A man who cut his sister in law's throat was reprieved from the death sentence.

At around midnight on Saturday 2nd August 1913 Police Constable Monk found a woman lying with her throat cut in Celia Street in Kirkdale. She was 26 year old Jane Wiseman and although she was in a semi conscious state, she was able to say to the officer 'It was my sisters bloke, Griff.'

An ambulance was summoned to take Jane to the Stanley Hospital, where she expired soon after arrival. A police cycle squad was deployed and about two hours later 23 year old William Griffiths was arrested and taken to the Westminster Road Bridewell. On being charged Griffiths, replied 'All I have to say is that it was an accident, I had a row with my father.' 

At a committal hearing on 19th August, Jane's father said that Griffiths had been drinking heavily since drawing some bonus money. He was unable to give any motive for the attack, saying that they had always got on.

At the assizes on 6th November, evidence was presented that showed Griffiths had been outside his home in Braemar Street two days before the attack and shouted 'I will do one of her family.' He had been on shore leave for about three weeks and drinking heavily for most of the time.


In submissions for the defence, Mr Madden said that Griffiths could remember nothing about the crime and that there was no ill feeling between him and Jane. Describing the killing as the result of a 'drunken orgy'. In summing up however, the judge said that by running away and disposing of the razor blade, Griffiths was demonstrating behaviour that indicated he was in control of his actions.

The jury deliberated for half an hour and returned a verdict of guilty but with a recommendation for mercy. Griffiths was sentenced to death, the judge saying that the recommendation would be forwarded.

On 21st November leave to appeal was refused, the judges ruling that the jury had heard all the evidence necessary. Griffiths had worked as a stoker on board the SS Megantic, the vessel which brought Dr Crippen back to England to face justice for killing his wife. However he managed to avoid the same fate as Crippen when the Home Secretary commuted the sentence to penal servitude for life just days before he was due to hang. 



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