Thursday, 3 December 2015

Stool Killing

A man who battered his wife to death with a stool narrowly avoided a murder convicttion and was instead found guilty of manslaughter and transported for life.

On 15th June 1846 a labourer called Charles Lear was sat on the steps of his home in Gore Street, Toxteth Park, when he saw a mug thrown onto the street from a house nearby. Kate Wignall who lived there came to the door but was pulled back in by her husband Richard who then shut it.

Five minutes later Kate opened the door again but this time she was on her knees and Richard was beating her about the head with a stool. She then fell down and Richard kicked her in the ribs before raising his cap above his head and shouting 'That is the way to do business.' He then went to his father's house nearby while other neighbours, disturbed by the commotion, rushed to the aid of Kate who was bleeding heavily from facial wounds.

A police inspector named Samuel Maddox arrived shortly afterwards, only to find that Kate had died from her injuries after being taken down into the cellar. Richard Wignall had tried to escape but was restrained by a joiner named William Ellis, who had heard the cries of 'murder' but at first taken no notice as he felt it was a generally disturbed neighbourhood. Ellis handed Wignall over to Inspector Maddox, who also seized the stool which had been used as a weapon.

Wignall was taken to the Bridewell where he said an argument broke out over him forgetting to repair some panes of glass. A post mortem was carried out on Kate's body and found that all the organs were healthy. There was bruising in various places, while the cause of death was put down to effusion on the brain.

A coroner's inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder and Wignall was remanded in Kirkdale gaol pending his committal to the assizes. All he had to say was that he was drunk at the time and his wife was not a sober woman.

Wignall appeared before Mr Justice Wightman on 28th August. Due to the fact an argument had occurred the jury found him guilty of manslaughter although added that it was 'one of the most aggravated cases on record.' In addressing Wignall before sentence the judge told him it was an awful crime that had deprived a mother of her son and a child of both parents. He then ordered that Wignall be transported for life and he landed at Tasmania early the following year.

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