Thursday, 8 December 2016

Four Months for Wife Killing

In 1841 a man whose wife died after he kicked and beat her about the head was sentenced to a lesser term of imprisonment than someone who stole a horse.

At around 6pm on 31st May that year thirteen year old John Nickson returned to his home in a cellar in Norris Street, off Scotland Road. Neither of his parents were there but about half an hour afterwards his father Edward came back in a drunken state and told John to go and look for his mother.

As John prepared to go out his mother Margaret came down the cellar steps holding his six month old baby brother. She told John to start boiling a pan to make some mussels and sat down, but without provocation Edward got up out of bed and started slapping her. When Margaret fell to the ground and shouted for John to go for the police, Edward threatened to do the same to his son. He then kicked Margaret in the back and abdomen as she still held the baby.

Edward's brutal assault continued and he dragged Margaret up then threw her down again, causing her to hit her head on the cellar steps. She got up and complained of pains, only for Edward to pull her gown and cause her to fall again. This time she didn't get back up.

At the inquest on 2nd June John told the coroner how his parents weren't married and that his mother's  name was Margaret Robinson. He recalled the events of two days earlier with great composure and described his mother as someone who was very sober but abused by his father.

A surgeon named Richard Yates Ackersley said he had carried out a postmortem but there were no marks of violence on the back or belly. He did confirm though that the skull was fractured, that there was effusion on the brain and that death was as a result of blows to the head caused by violence. The jury returned a manslaughter verdict and when asked if he had anything to say Edward claimed that Margaret was as drunk as she was as they had been drinking together all day.

The following August Nickson appeared at the assizes before Mr Justice Wightman where he was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to four months imprisonment, to be served in solitary confinement. At the same assizes, a man convicted of stealing a horse was sentenced to two months more.

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