Thursday, 7 September 2017

Estranged Husband's Death Sentence Reprieve

A man who was jealous of his estranged wife's lifestyle killed her by cutting her throat, but was reprieved from the death sentence.

George and Martha Sutherland married in 1925 but two years later were separated, leading to them both living in lodging houses; George in Wilton Street, Martha in Soho Street.  Martha was said to be making a living by 'immoral means', much to George's anger. Things came to a head on 22nd October 1927 George came across his estranged wife in a pub in Islington with a man named Rogers.

Soho Street in the late 1960s (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
Later that night George went to Martha's lodgings to confront her, leading to her replying that she would go with who she likes and threatening to throw a plate at him. Martha went alone to a shop and George followed her, cutting her throat with a razor. He then told a passer by to fetch a policeman and was taken into custody without resistance. Martha was taken to the Royal infirmary but pronounced dead on arrival. She was 25 years old, the same aged as George who worked as a fruit porter.

At the bridewell George realised the seriousness of his situation and said that Martha had tried to cut him, he took the razor off her and waved it as a deterrent, only to cut her. On being charged with murder he responded 'What I did, I did to save myself getting cut.'

George was tried by Justice Finlay at the Manchester assizes where a key witness was Professor McFall of the University of Liverpool. He was of the opinion that a cut on George's arm had occurred after he had slashed Martha's throat. George was found guilty of murder but with a strong recommendation for mercy. In passing sentence of death, the judge said he would forward this on to which George imply replied 'thank you.' George's sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment by the Home Secretary.

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