A man who stabbed his brother in law to death after having too much drink at a wedding received a light sentence due the provocation received.
On the afternoon of 21st November 1892 eighteen year old Thomas King attended a wedding along with his brother-in-law, Thomas McDermott. Afterwards they spent the afternoon drinking at the house of the bridegroom, who had been loaned a suit to get married in by McDermott.
King and McDermott then went to a pub in Boundary Street. When 29 year old McDermott commented that he was the better man an argument broke out and they were both asked to leave by the landlord.
Both men returned to the house in Luton Street where they lived with Catherine, who was McDermott's wife and King' sister, as well as Catherine and King's father and grandmother. King entered the house first but was quickly followed by McDermott who was aggressive and took off his belt and coat. He said he would beat King and his brother Peter in retaliation for Peter hitting Catherine while McDermott, a ships donkeyman, had been away at sea.
McDermott managed to restrain her husband and told him to stay locked in the parlour while she made him some tea. King then left the house, but was followed by McDermott who escaped through a window. Catherine caught up with McDermott in Boundary Street but he refused to return home with her.
About 7.30pm a boy knocked at Catherine's door and told her that her husband was on the floor in Boundary Street. She ran there and a crowd had gathered around. One woman was trying to stop the bleeding from a wound with an apron and although still alive, he was not responding to any questions. Catherine was told he had been stabbed but her brother was nowhere to be seen. A police constable and horse ambulance arrived and McDermott was taken unconscious to the Northern Hospital, but Catherine was not allowed to go with him.
As the constable was leaving the Northern Hospital an hour later he was approached by King, who admitted being responsible for the death. He stated that he had been cutting some tobacco with a knife and McDermott ran at him as if to carry out a headbutt, only to hit the knife. King was taken into the hospital where he was allowed to hold McDermott's hand and apologise. He was then taken to the bridewell.
McDermott later that evening, having suffered two puncture wounds to the abdomen. Catherine was only advised of her husbands death when she attended the hospital to enquire about his condition. King was remanded in custody and an inquest was opened on the Thursday morning where Catherine tearfully described what had happened in the house.
It emerged from six other witnesses present that King had gone back to the same public house, followed by McDermott who began to threaten him again before both men went outside into the street. Nobody seemed able to say who threw the first punches, but one female with two black eyes said she had been punched twice by King as he made his escape. However Catherine Furling, a servant at the pub, said she was not working that night but had seen what happened outside from her bedroom window. She describe how McDermott had twice punched King and once headbutted him, and corroborated King's claim that McDermott ran at him as he held a knife in his hand.
In summing up, the Coroner stated that all six witnesses from the pub were friends of McDermott but that Miss Furlong was not interested in either party. He said the jury should return a verdict of manslaughter at most, and it was certainly not wilful murder. They did so and King was committed for asssize trial.
King, a ships trimmer, appeared before Mr Justice Grantham on 14th December. He was found guilty of manslaughter but with a recommendation for mercy on the grounds of the great provocation that occurred. In sentencing King to four months imprisonment with hard labour, the judge condemned the 'use of the knife and free indulgence in drink'