A man killed his sister in Kensington after she refused him permission to pawn a shirt.
On the afternoon of Monday 27th February 1899 Jane Canning went on an errand and returned to her home in Houlton Street, Kensington. She found her seventeen year old daughter Ada lying on the landing, having been battered about the head. She was barely alive, her injuries being so bad that part of her brain protruded.
Jane's 25 year old son James, who just half and hour earlier had been quietly sat by the fire, was nowhere to be seen and the backdoor and gate were open.
James was located a few hours later in a nearby pub by his brother and admitted hitting Ada several times. The following morning Ada succumbed to her injuries, which included a fractured skull and James was arrested.
On being taken into custody James told officers 'I struck her on the head with a poker, you see what drink does for me. Thank God I did not use a knife, I did not mean to kill her. James had recently been discharged from the army for striking an officer and spent most of his time drinking, in between occasional labouring jobs.
James appeared at the police court on the afternoon of his arrest and was remanded in custody. At the coroner's inquest, a verdict of wilful murder was returned after the brother's evidence was heard.
On 1st May James appeared before the assizes where the jury heard how he had tried to pawn a shirt on the fateful day, but Ada tried to stop him. His mother Jane broke down several times while testifying, saying that he normally adored Ada. The police officer who made the arrest said that James had told him he loved his sister.
In the closing speech, James' defence counsel pleaded that due to his drunkenness his state of mind was not as it should have been. In summing up though, the judge said that his drunken state was his own doing. However, he also pointed out that there had been no previous quarrel and he did not appear to have intended to kill.
James was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter without the jury leaving their box. However the judge, Mr Justice Ridley, showed no leniency, referring to the circumstances of his army discharge as an indication of his character. He then imposed a sentence of fourteen years penal servitude.