26th February 1872
Reference Numbert18720226-267
VerdictNot Guilty > unknown

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267. AMELIA PORTBURY (29), was indicted for the wilful murder of Julia Aria; she was also charged, on the Coroner's Inquisition, with manslaughter.

MR. F. H. LEWIS conducted the Prosecution; and DR. KENEALEY, Q. C., with MR. FINLAY, the defence.

EDWARD BRYANT . I live at 56, Royston Street, and am a gardener—on Thursday, February 1st, between 9 and 10 in the morning, I was present at an altercation between the prisoner and her mother, about the removal of the prisoner's furniture from Park House, Approach Road, Victoria Park—the prisoner was very Violent, and held up a decanter to attempt to strike her mother several times; that was in the drawing-room—I went down stairs and came up again, and the deceased said, in the prisoner's presence, "She has beat me, she has struck me"—the prisoner took no notice—the quarrel had commenced in the bedroom, and they came down and continued it in the drawing-room, where the attempts strike her were—I don't remember where the words were used—I did not pay that correct attention—I think it was down stairs, in the kitchen.

Cross-examined. I had been in Mrs. Aria's service over three years—I remember the prisoner's marriage with her present husband—after that marriage Mrs. Aria became very angry and excited against her, she used to fly into constant fits of passion about it—I remember the prosecution which Mrs. Aria instituted against Portbury's mother, and I remember perfectly well that it was at the prisoner's suggestion—Mrs. Aria was very excited about that prosecution—there was then a prosecution against Portbury himself, which the old lady interfered in—for a month or six weeks before this affair she was more than usually excited, and she bad very great ground for it, in as much as the prisoner was her perpetual annoyance; she did all she could to vex and annoy her, instead of removing quietly—on the Wednesday night the old lady was quarrelling with the prisoner, and was in a very violent temper—I interfered—she was not calling her very particularly dreadful names, I believe she called her nasty names now and then; they were not particular on either side as regards that—I don't know that Mrs. Portbury did not go to bed all night—I know that she wished to let in her husband at 10 o'clock—I slept on the sofa—I don't remember her coming down in the morning and saying "For God's sake let me out, she is quiet now,"—it is quite likely—both the street doors were fastened—I was the most likely person to unfasten them, but I don't remember doing it—she went out—when she came back she wanted me to help her, and I refused—Mrs. Aria said "You shan't help her; I pay you, so you are my servant"—the prisoner did not claim the protection of the police—a policeman was there—I sent for him, and he advised her to go—that was about half-past 10 o'clock on the Thursday morning—the prisoner had then been there some time claiming her furniture—she did not claim the assistance of the policeman in moving it—it was the deceased that claimed his assistance—the police were very insulting—the deceased said "She is mad, take her away," and the policeman said "I think you are all mad," and went away—he knew the law better than I did, and would not interfere—I don't remember him saying "You may summons her to the Magistrate, and she will have to pay treble the value"—something of the sort was said—I

might have said to Mrs. Aria "Why don't you give Mrs. Portbury her things, what is the good of all this row?"—I did say so—nothing was said about a Magistrate, if so I should recollect it—what Mrs. Aria said about having been beaten, was about half-past 10 o'clock, in the kitchen—I can't remember whether it was before or after the police came—I know very well that my evidence won't be taken unless there are marks of blows—I don't think anyone else was present but the prisoner's son, and other witnesses will prove that his evidence is not fit to be taken; he contradicted the first evidence he gave—it was a common thing for the deceased to complain of having been beaten by her daughter in various ways, up to the time of her death; sometimes it was a decanter, sometimes it was a poker—I won't swear that anybody was present but myself when the words were used—the prisoner was not in the kitchen at the time, she was between the kitchen and the passage, moving her things, I don't think she did hear it; perhaps she did not want to hear it—I noticed in the course of the day that the old lady was very unsteady on her legs.

Re-examined. I noticed that as soon as she got up—that was after the prisoner had left—the prisoner married Portbury about four or five months ago—the prosecution against his mother was shortly after the marriage—the prosecution against Portbury was commenced about three months back.

By the Jury. The prisoner attempted to strike her mother with the decanter several times—she held it near her forehead, in that way, in the right way to do an injury—I prevented it—that was in the drawing-room on the Thursday morning—the deceased was standing up in the kitchen when she said she had been beaten—she did not appear to be in pain or suffering when she said it—if she had had blows it did not injure her—she did not appear to be Buffering from any recent blow.

ANN FRASER . I live at 19, Ann Street—on the 1st of February, about 9 o'clock, I was in the kitchen of Park House during a quarrel between Mrs. Aria and the prisoner, about the removal of furniture—I was servant to Mrs. Portbury—I have been thirteen years in the family—I was with her in her first husband's time—during the quarrel I saw the prisoner hold a decanter up to her mother's face, but it never touched her—she held it by the neck, and she spit in her face—I saw no blow struck on either side—I was there when Mrs. Portbury left, about 12 o'clock—that was the first time I knew of her leaving the house that day—I was about the house all the day—Mrs. Aria went about the house well enough all the day—about 9 o'clock at night I went into her bedroom, and found her lying all in a heap, behind the door, in the corner at the foot of the bed—she had been vomitting—I spoke to her, but she did not seem to move—I called Bryant and he and I together lifted her on to the bed—about 10 o'clock she went down stairs with my assistance, and went into the kitchen—there are three flights of stairs from the bedroom and the kitchen—she remained in the kitchen about half an hour, and Bryant and I then assisted her upstairs again—I did not sleep in the house, Bryant did, in the kitchen—I went home and returned next morning about 9 o'clock—she was then lying on the bed, with her clothes on—Bryant and I led her down, she was drawn all on one side, she could not walk straight—she was straight enough the day before—on Saturday, 3rd, Mr. Brotheron was sent for, and on the Sunday, Mrs. Bray the nurse came.

Cross-examined. Mrs. Aria was 70 years of age; I think she was of a very violent temper when put out—her husband was obliged to separate

from her in consequence of her violent temper—the Wednesday was the day that Mr. Portbury was to have been tried here—I came to the Court that day—Mrs. Aria, was very angry with me for shaking bands with him—she worked herself into a violent rage and said "That old b—(meaning me) shook hands with that stable-boy"—I said "He has never done me any harm, and I don't see why I should not shake hands with him;" she continued in a very excited state all that Wednesday—we got home from the Court about 2 o'clock, or between 2 and 3 o'clock—I can't say that I ever saw her drunk—I know she kept rum in her bedroom—when she was excited she used to throw her arms about very much—I was there on Thursday morning—Mrs. Aria was very angry about the removal of the things, and worked herself into a great rage, and when the prisoner left she, ran out of the house after her—there was some very valuable old-fashioned china belonging to the late Dr. Meldola, which the prisoner asked me to count; I did count it, there were twelve pieces; she said she was afraid they might be pawned, as other things had been pawned—I know there were a good many things pledged—that observation greatly excited the old lady—I was there the whole time that Mrs. Portbury was removing her things—I was no blow struck—I don't believe she meant to strike the old lady when she took up the decanter—she went away about 11 o'clock, and did not come back—I remained in the house all the day, till I went home at night, between 9 and 10 o'clock—I did not see a bit of difference in Mrs. Aria the whole of that day, from what I had seen on other days—it was on the Thursday night that I found her lying behind the door; she was not in a fit then; I think she had a fit during the-night, because next morning when I went up to her she was trying to get off the bed, and she could not—I think the alteration in her appearance arose from something that happened in the night—I don't remember saying before the Coroner that a little run would affect her.

COURT. Q. Who were in the kitchen when you saw the prisoner with the decanter in her hand? A. Nobody but me, Mrs. Aria and the prisoner—Bryant was not there—I was standing alongside Mrs. Aria—the family consisted of three small children, Mrs. Aria and me, Mrs. Portbury and Bryant—the property that Mrs. Portbury was taking away was her own.

LEWIS MELDOLA . I am now stopping at 2, Heneage Lane—I am nearly twelve years old—the prisoner is, my mother—on Thursday, the; 1st, of February, I was in the kitchen at Park House, when there was a quarrel between my mother and grandmother—I only saw my mother spit in my grandmother's face—it was about 10 or 11 o'clock in the morning—I did not see my mother do anything else—I saw her lift up a poker, it did not touch anybody—she took it from the fire-place—this is it (produced)—she took it up like this—it did touch my grandmother, but it could not hurt a fly—mamma just touched her on the back, grandma then took up a broom and pursued my mamma with it upstairs into the drawing-room—I went up shortly after and found them still quarrelling—there was nobody in the room at that time but my mother and grandmother—mamma just took a decanter up from a shelf, and held it like this by the neck, and put it down again directly—grandmamma was following close behind her—the poker was left down in the kitchen—we afterwards all went into the parlour—there was some quarrelling there—my mamma afterwards left the house with some furniture in a van—I saw my grandmother fall after that, about an hour or two after my mamma left—she stumbled like into the parlour,

and she went to the cheffonier and got some rum—she got off the sofa and staggered and knocked her head against the door—she got the rum from the cheffonier in the parlour and poured out about a quartern—I know it was rum because she never drank anything else—the parlour in on the same floor as the kitchen.

Cross-examined. My grandmother took up a decanter to my mamma and I said to her "Grandmamma put it down"—she took it up and held it up for a few minutes—that was in the drawing-room—she did put it down, but not the first time—I told her two or three times—that was not the same decanter my mother took up, a different one—after that they went into the parlour—my grandmother was very violent there, she was using bad language—I remember mamma taking down two little pictures of her own in the parlour—grandmamma was very violent upon that, and smashed a tumbler, and said, "Take that, you b—h," when she chased my mother with the broom she did not hit her, she touched her the same as mamma touched her with the poker, slightly—mamma ran out of the room after that, and grandmamma chased her upstairs, and there it was she took up the decanter—my grandmamma took up the decanter first—Bryant was not in the room when the decanters were taken up—that was in the drawing-room, about 10 o'clock—mamma left about half-past 10 o'clock—grandmamma ran out into the street after her and used bad language, and tried to bring a crowd—it was about 11 o'clock, or a little after that I saw her drink some rum—she had some cooper at dinner-time, about 1 o'clock—it was about half an hour after having the rum that she staggered and fell against the door—she struck her head against the kitchen door, against the middle part, the edge, it was open—she did not fall to the ground, because Bryant came and helped her—he pushed her up and she lay on the sofa again—she had some more rum in the evening—she took it from a round bottle—I noticed that it was emptied and filled that day, sometimes it was tilled two or three times a day; it held a quartern—I saw her take half-a-quartern in the morning, she finished it, and in the evening she sent Bryant for a quartern—before this row began, she used to have it in by the bottle full—she had some cooper for her supper in the evening, about 8 o'clock—she was in the habit of keeping rum in her bedroom—I noticed that day that she frequently went between the kitchen and her bedroom—I don't think she was sober that evening—I have sometimes seen her under the influence of drink in the morning, and I have said to her "Grandmamma, you should not get drunk so often"—after she fell against the door, she complained of having hurt her head.

WILLIAM CHAPMAN (Policeman). I was in Company with Inspector Honey when the prisoner was taken into custody on 17th February—he told her she was charged with causing the death of her mother—she said she was innocent—I fetched a cab, and took her to the Station—she said several times in the cab that she was innocent.

Cross-examined. I don't know where the policeman is who was called in when the altercation took place—I don't know who he is—he was not examined before the Magistrate or the Coroner.

WILLIAM HENRY BROTHERTON . I am a surgeon, of 289, Cambridge Road, Bethnal Green—I knew the deceased, Mrs. Aria, for the last few months—I had been her medical attendant—I saw her the day previous to 1st February, and I had also seen her on the Monday—on the Wednesday morning I saw her at my surgery, she then appeared healthy and robust—

on Saturday morning, 3rd February, about 11 o'clock, I was called to see her—she was then in an excited state, and prostrate—she remained in that conditition until the 11th—on that day I found her in a state of insensibility, or coma—she continued in that condition until her death, which took place on the 15th, at 12 o'clock at night—I made post-mortem examination the evening following—there was a slight adhesion of the right pleura, and the liver was spongy—that was the result of age—there was nothing in the heart or liver to account for death—I opened the skull and examined the brain, it was congested throughout; there was no external appearance on the scalp—the membranes of the brain were in a highly congested condition, and between the membranes and the right hemisphere there was a small clot of blood, about the size of a crown piece—it was very thin and flat, I dare say it was not more than a drachm in weight—on removing the brain, beneath the right hemisphere, there was about two ounces of extravasated blood—that was blood that had oozed out of some ruptured vessel—that oozing had been going on from Sunday, the 11th—I should not think it could have commenced on the 1st, or the Symptoms of compression would have ensued earlier—when I was first called in to attend her, I did not observe anything that would indicate pressure on the brain, she was suffering more from a nervous shock and excitability, which she appeared to rally from—the coma did not come on till the Sunday—the cause of death was extravasation of blood on the base of the brain, that which I saw above and that which I saw below, might, and probably did, arise from the same cause.

Cross-examined. The coats of the vessels of the brain were flabby—the liver was in such a condition that I could break it in pieces without any trouble, that is not a Symptom which I should expect to find in a person who has indulged in drink; I should expect a hardened liver, a nutmegy appearance, not spongy—the liver was not healthy, the state of it would not be produced by any blow recently given; it indicated a diseased constitution; the vessels of persons of that habit and age become brittle and liable to rupture on a fit of excitement—there was nothing in the condition of the brain inconsistent with her having ruptured a blood vessel through excitement—there was nothing to enable me to say with certainty that it was due to violence—if a heavy blow was struck with this decanter I should expect it would leave a mark, but not necessarily—I never saw any signs of stimulants about her; if she had been in the habit of taking stimulants that would increase the brittleness of the vessels, and coupled with age would make it likely for injury to occur sooner—I think that blood first began to effuse from the broken vessels on the 11th—had effusion commenced before, there would have been other Symptoms—there were two escapes, the thin one and the 1 1/2 oz or 2oz.—if a blow sufficient to cause that had been given by this decanter I should almost think it would have been broken to pieces—if such a blow had been given on the 1st I should consider that insensibility would have commenced at once, from concussion—I have never known a case where after a blow of such a description a person has pursued their ordinary avocations for ten days without exhibiting signs of insensibility—if the blow was violent enough to produce such an injury as I saw at the base of the skull, in my judgment it would be followed by Symptoms of the brain having been injured—such a knock on the back as the boy has described would not produce anything at all like the Symptoms I saw—habits of drinking would increase the probability that excitement would cause the rupture of a vessel, apart from violence.

Re-examined. When I saw-her on the 3rd she was suffering from a shock—I did not associate any brain Symptoms with that shock—I did not find brain Symptoms till the 11th—these might have arisen from excitement—she had some law proceedings pending at that time, and was very excited about them.

ANN BRAY . I was called in to nurse Mrs. Aria on Sunday, 11th February, as she died on the Thursday; Dr. Brotherton sent me—she was then lying on a couch in the kitchen—I moved her into the parlour—next morning she made some Statements to me—I nursed her until she died.

THOMAS HONEY (Police Inspector). I was in Company with Chapman when the prisoner was taken into custody—I said she must consider herself in custody for causing the death of her mother—she said "I am innocent; this is done out of spite, because I married a Christian"—she repeated many times over that she was innocent.


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