Sunday, 19 January 2020

Wife Killed by a Chisel

A man whose wife died after he stabbed her with a chisel was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter but still given the maximum possible sentence.

In 1863 blacksmith George Gibson and his wife Margaret lived unhappily in a house in Circus Street, which is long gone and was situated north of Islington.

On 20th June that year, following another drunken quarrel, the couple's landlady Mrs Quirk gave them notice to leave the house where they had been residing for just three months. Gibson then picked up an ash pan and threatened his wife with it, who responded by slapping him in the face. 

Later that night at around 11.45pm, Gibson returned home in a drunken state and complained to Margaret of noise in an adjoining room. Picking up a chisel, he said he would go and see what was going on but when Margaret asked if he was going mad, Gibson stabbed her in the side.

Margaret ran out into the street for assistance and was taken to the  Dispensary. The wound was dressed and she returned home to bed. By then Gibson had been taken into custody and charged with attempted murder. A police officer found him wiping blood off the chisel and stating it had been a "family row".  

Six days later, with doctors giving Margaret little hope of recovery, depositions were taken by the magistrates clerk. She made her statement with some reluctance, saying he was a good man when sober and she hoped he could be shown leniency so he could look after their children. 

Margaret passed away 24 hours later. An inquest heard evidence from Mrs Quirk that Gibson had once showed her a sharp pointed article saying that it was to murder Margaret with. A verdict of wilful murder was returned and Gibson was committed for trial on a coroners warrant. 

At the assizes court on 20th August prosecuting counsel described Gibson as "scarcely ever sober, quarrelsome and of violent disposition". The Daily Post reported that he was a "powerfully built man", despite having been on a prison diet for two months.

Other residents of the house testified that they had heard Gibson say to her that he would have her life and swing at Kirkdale for it. His wife's own deposition was read out and this probably saved him from being found guilty of murder and the jury instead went for the lesser charge of manslaughter. 

Prior to sentencing, Gibson said "I am heartily sorry for what I have done, I remember nothing of it. Please have mercy on me". Mr Justice Blackburn was in no mood for leniency however, saying that wives needed protecting from violence and brutality of their husbands. Gibson was then sentenced to transportation for life.

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