Thursday, 2 July 2020

Killed by Boiling Coffee

A woman who threw boiling coffee over her lodger, causing his death, avoided transportation due to her not realising the action could prove fatal.

At about 8pm on Saturday 8th November 1845 a 33 year old miller named Robert Fitten returned to his lodgings in Eldon Street in a drunken state and went to bed. When his landlady Mary Phythian returned with some bread, she was told by another lodger Margaret Wilson about Robert and she went to check on him, only to be called a "drunken faggot".

Phythian threatened Robert with a poker but he called her a faggot again. She then responded by taking a pan of coffee from the hob and throwing it at him. Margaret wiped the scalds to his head, chest and hands then went to a druggist for some dressing which she applied. Phythian went and visited a neighbour, telling her that she had given Robert a 'faggots mark.'

The following morning Robert was taken to the Northern Hospital with scalds to his head, face, chest and hands. He lingered until the following Friday when he passed away.

An inquest heard evidence from Margaret who said that she had never known Robert and Phythian to argue. A house surgeon from the hospital confirmed that death was as a direct result of the scalds. When a manslaughter verdict was returned, Phythian burst into tears and begged to be able to see the body. This request was granted and she was taken to the hospital on the way to Kirkdale gaol.

On 11th December, Phythian appeared before Mr Justice Williams and she pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He accepted that she may not have realised her actions could have caused death and this was a factor in sentence. The judge told her that as a result of this, she has avoided transportation and was instead sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour. 


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