23rd April 1888
Reference Numbert18880423-481
VerdictGuilty > with recommendation

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481. JAMES WHITE (65) was indicted for, and charged on the Coroner's Inquisition with, the wilful murder of Margaret White.


THOMAS BERTHOLI (Police Inspector B). I have made this plan of 1, Eden Place, Chelsea—it is drawn to scale, and is correct—it accurately shows the position of the furniture in the room occupied by the prisoner, and the position of the house.

CATHERINE WHITE . I am the wife of David White, living at 36, Ives Street, Chelsea—the prisoner is my father-in-law—he is about 65 years old—his wife, Margaret White, was about 67 years old—they lived together at 1, Eden Place, Chelsea—the prisoner worked there as a shoemaker, and occupied the front parlour on the ground floor—on Saturday, 3rd March, I went with the prisoner's wife with some boots to Balham, to leave them with some customers—on leaving them 12s. was paid for them by the customers—we got back to Eden Place about half-past 12 in the middle of the day—just before we got back to Eden Place, we went into the Star and Garter public-house—the wife had half-a-quartern of gin and some bread and cheese there—that was the first drink she had had that morning so far as I know—then we got back to Eden Place—the prisoner was sitting on his bench—he was not working at that moment—after we had been in the room a minute or two he said he should like a pint of beer—the wife said "James, I think you have had enough already, where did you get it?"—he said "I have taken a little job home, and I spent the money"—his wife began to cry, and gave him 2d.to get a pint of beer—he went to fetch it—I saw him come back with the beer—his wife was then sorting the boots out of a sack, about 18 pairs—she showed him the boots, there were some to mend and some to cut up—the prisoner said' "Never mind those, I will see to those afterwards"—he gave the wife a glass of beer first, and he drank the remainder—none was given to me then—shortly after, the prisoner said he felt very bad, he did not know what was the matter, he said he felt so bad he must go and lie down—I said "Do, Dad, and I will cover you up"—I took his arm and led him to the bed, he lay down, and I covered him up with a great coat—at that time the wife was still occupied with the boots: she was crying very much—she gave, as a reason, that the work in the house would not go home to-night; that was the first week they had had any work for several weeks—I said "Don't fret, Mother, let him sleep a little while, and when he wakes up he will go to work, don't disturb him"—when the prisoner went to lay down on the bed, he seemed ill or strange—his eyes were very large, and his face very pale, his eyes were bloodshot—I thought he had been having something to drink, a good drop—shortly after he lay down I left the house to pay Mrs. Mayhew a shilling—I only had to cross the road—I went back to Mother

and said good-bye—she was sitting in the same chair—I was only two or three minutes out—she was quite sober then; that was about a quarter past 1—after saying good-bye I left* saying I would come back directly my husband had had his tea—about 5 o'clock that afternoon Mrs. Spinks came and said something to me, and from what she said, I and she went back to the house—when I got into the room, I saw the wife was lying on the bed on her left side—I tried to speak to her, to rouse her—she had a dreadful blow round the eye on the right side of her head—I touched her face and found it very cold—the prisoner was sitting on his seat where he works—he had some work in his hand, a boot—after trying to rouse the wife, I said "Father, what has happened between you and mother?"—he said "She aggravated me, and I paid her"—he seemed very wild at the time, dreadfully wild—he was raving and stamping about, and roaring very much—stamping his foot and roaring out very loud; he did not roar anything particular, only making a noise, no words—I said "I think Mother has had a fit, we had better have a doctor"—he said "No, she is only shamming, she can speak if she likes"—after that he said "Aren't you going to give me a pint of beer now you are come?"—I said "Yes, Father"—I took the can to get the beer, but instead of getting the beer, I wont for Dr. Lehaine—he came and attended to the deceased—after I had touched her face I did not notice her move at any time—I was in the room when Dr. Lehaine came—when the prisoner saw the doctor and me he became very violent; he threatened to brain the doctor with the poker, and me for fetching him—he said his wife was only shamming, she could speak if she liked; and I went and hid all the fireirons in the cupboard.

Cross-examined. I married the prisoner's son David—I have known the prisoner about 16 years—most part of the time X have lived near him, and have seen him almost every day, every week at any rate—he has frequently complained of pains in his head, and suffered with very profuse bleeding at the nose—I have often noticed a strange wildness in the prisoner's eyes before, when he was sober, particularly when he was in a temper—he has very frequently threatened to cut his threat—my husband also suffers from the How of blood to the head, and both my children suffer the same—one is eight-and-a-half and the other five-and-a-half years old—both the father and mother of the prisoner died from that, and the prisoner's brothers are the same, both suffer from it; one is dead, the other is in America; I don't know if he is dead—two or three weeks before 3rd March the prisoner threatened to cut his throat—that was at a time when he was quite sober—he sometimes broke out into violent fits of passion, with very little reason, if his tea was not ready; he then said he would cut his throat and have done with it—his general demeanour was that of a kind, affectionate husband and father—when I last saw the woman alive, about 1, she was perfectly sober—she suffered very much with her eyes all her life; she was almost blind—she had only once taken a little refreshment when out with me—when I came back at 5 the prisoner knew he had beaten her, but did not know he had injured her so far—I did not know she was dead; I thought she was in a fit till the doctor came—there were no signs of breathing in her; she was on her side on the bed—I could only see the side face—he was dreadfully violent and raving at that time—after the doctor came he continued raving, and his daughter, my sister-in-law, had to hold him—the doctor declared after a while that

she was dead—he had to get the prisoner quiet, and after he got him quiet he told him his wife was dead—he appeared to disbelieve that, and said she was shamming; he knew her long enough; she was only obstinate—I was only away from the house a few minutes before I came back with the doctor—I pretended to go for the beer, but really meant to go for the doctor—when first I got back at 5 the prisoner was repairing a boot in the same room as the woman was, and when I got back with the doctor he was still doing so, and said "Where is the beer?"

Re-examined Now and again the prisoner would have a drop of beer—sometimes he would get the worse for liquor—he used to work very hard as a shoemaker—he carried on that trade from a boy; he was apprenticed; he was a good workman—that was the way his living was made, and he was well able to do it—the last year he only mended boots—he was a dreadfully passionate man; it was soon over ordinarily—I have never known him actually attempt to do anything to himself—his stamping and raging lasted about half an hour; that was a long time, an unusual time for him; he was unusually angry that afternoon—he was apt to get passionate after drink—if he slept after drink he was very passionate when he woke—he was able to repair the boot; he had one tip nearly done—the old lady would have a drop with her husband now and again, but she was a sober woman ordinarily; she would have what she had with the prisoner—she was a very quiet woman as a rule.

THOMAS JAMES SPINKS . I am nine years of age, and live with my father and mother at 65, Pulford Street—my mother is the prisoner's daughter, the prisoner is my grandfather—I used to go and see him every Saturday at 1, Eden Place, Chelsea—on the Saturday, 3rd March, on which my grandmother died, I went to the prisoner's house; I got there from 2 to half-past—I went into my grandfather's room; he was on the bed then asleep—my grandmother was there on a chair—I spoke to her, and gave her a little sum of money that had been sent to her by my mother—I then ran away to play—after that my grandfather came out to call me back to the house—he wanted me to make the tea—as a rule my grandfather or grandmother did it; I did not do it as a rule—he went into the house first, and I followed him—my grandmother was still in the room there when I got there; she was sitting on the same chair—I got the tea ready; I made it—after that my grandfather said to my grandmother "I want some bread"—she said she had not got none, no money—he then got up and threw grandmother off the chair; she fell on the floor against the table—I got frightened then, and ran out upstairs into Mrs. Healey's room—while up there I heard sounds of quarrelling coming, from my grandfather's room.

JOHANNAH HEALEY . I am wife of Thomas Healey, living at 1A, Eden Place, Chelsea, first-floor front room—the prisoner lives on the opposite side of the passage of that house, underneath—he has lived there a great many years—on Saturday, 3rd March, I was in my room, about the middle of the day, between 1 and 2 o'clook, and I heard some talking—Mr. and Mrs. White were speaking; Mr. White said "Give me the money; what have you done with it?"—Mrs. White said "James, I have paid my way with it"—I then heard Mr. White say "You had a right to come to me first"—after that I heard a noise like a falling about and a shuffling; a noise of persons moving about or falling, and moving of furniture, a noise like that—I heard Mrs. White say "Oh, James, don't"—after that I did not hear the prisoner say anything for

time, it was very quiet then—after I heard "Oh, James, don't," the boy came up to my room; I called him up, and after that I heard them shoving and quarrelling, and arguing one with another—I noticed the prisoner's voice, all I could hear him say was about the money; she had a right to come to him and give him the money—I sent the boy for a constable; the constable came and went to the door—I did not look into the room—I heard the constable say "What is the matter? If I hear any more of this I must take you into custody"—the constable went away after saying that—later in the afternoon (I could not say the time, I was very ill at the time) I saw the prisoner going up the court carrying a can; I did not speak to him—I saw him again that afternoon in the passage of our house; nobody was with him; he was going out into the back yard—I did not see him come in from the back yard; I saw Mrs. White go across and fetch Mrs. Mayhew, she came back with her—later in the evening some other constables came.

Cross-examined. There could not be a more kind or affectionate husband on earth than the prisoner—I lived in this house four or five years with them, and I knew them before as neighbours—I have known him 26 or 27 years—I believe he has been married 41 years—I have had daily opportunity of seeing the terms on which they lived; there could not be a happier couple—she had a serious illness, bronchitis, some years ago, she had suffered from it on and off for some years; he nursed her always as well as he could, always got up in the morning and got her a cup of tea.

REBECCA. ROBSON . I live at 66, Sidney Street, Chelsea—I am single and am a housekeeper—on the afternoon of 3rd March I went to Eden Place to get a pair of boots that the prisoner had been mending—I got there about a quarter past 3—when I got into the passage I noticed that the door of the prisoner's room was a little ajar—I looked into the room and saw there Mrs. White, the prisoner's wife, lying on the floor with her head towards the bed, and her feet were towards the fire—the feet were a little drawn up and the face downwards a little—she was on her right side—I did not see the prisoner when I first looked into the room—Mrs. White had nothing on but a black dress bodice; the body-part without the skirt; no skirt, no petticoat—the body was perfectly naked with the exception of the black dress bodice—her arms were through the arms of the bodice—there was a chair standing in the room with a towel on it—I did not notice any woman's clothes in the room—I heard the prisoner mutter from the bed "I suppose there will be no more work done to-day; they must come and fetch their things"—then the prisoner called to the deceased to get up—he was lying on the bed—I heard him say "I will see if I don't make you get up"—there was no movement whatever from his wife—he sprang from the bed and took the poker from the fireplace—I knocked at the door quickly and the prisoner told me to come in—I then pushed the door a little further open and saw the prisoner standing at the feet of Mrs. White with the poker in his hand—he hit her a tremendous blow, a heavy blow, as near to the left hip as I could say—I said "Oh, have mercy, and don't hit the poor creature with the poker"—he said "I don't care if I kill her"—I said "I will fetch a policeman"—he said I could go and do so; he said he supposed someone had sent me—I said oh, no; I had come for the boots—he then replied I would not get them; they were not done—I then went away—if I had seen a policeman I should have sent one there; I did not see one—the prisoner

was very excited; he was holding the black part of the poker in his hand; I specially noticed that—he hit her with the round knob of the poker when he hit her on the hip—I saw him strike three blows; the first was a very heavy blow, the other two were not quite so heavy—the first was on the hip, the second and third were about the same place—after the second blow the wife groaned a little—she did not get up nor move—when I went away I left the door open—I was there nearly 10 minutes as near as I can guess; it was a quarter past 3 when I went there.

Cross-examined. I have known them for some little time—they have been in the habit of doing repairs for me—I have known him about 12 years—I had always known him as a very quiet and peaceable man—he did not give me the idea of a person who was drunk on this occasion, rather that of a person who had been suddenly seized with a paroxysm of passion—I expostulated with him, and then he said he did not care if he killed her.

WILLIAM SWINDEN (Policeman B 481). On 3rd March I was on duty in the Fulham Road—about 4 o'clock in the afternoon the boy Spinks said something to me, and he and I went to 1A, Eden Place—he stopped outside—I went into the prisoner's room—the door was closed—when I got in I saw deceased lying on the floor in front of the fireplace on her right side—she was dressed—I only saw her face; there were no marks on her face—I considered her to be asleep—the prisoner was lying on the bed awake—I asked him what the disturbance was about—he said there was no row—he said "I want to get her up on the bed," pointing to the deceased;" she is drunk, and she will lie on the floor to sleep"—I looked at her, and considered her to be asleep—I did not wake her or disturb her—I told the prisoner not to make any disturbance, to keep himself quiet, and I left the room—I noticed the furniture in the room; it did not appear to be disturbed at all—the prisoner appeared to be quite sober—when I went away I left him on the bed as I found him—Mrs. White was lying with her feet towards the window, on her right side, with her face to the fireplace—his work-bench is under the window—her head was towards a chest of drawers opposite the window—her back was towards the bedstead—she was lying lengthways of the fender.

LOUISA MAYHEW . I live at 4, Eden Place, and am wife of Walter Mayhew—I have known the prisoner and his wife the last 14 years as being near neighbours—on 3rd March I was in my house about half-past 4, the prisoner came to me—he called out "Mrs. Mayhew"—I said "Yes, Mr. White, come in"—he said "No, I won't come in"—I then went to the street door, and saw him standing there—I asked what he wanted—he said, I want you to come over the way to help my old woman on the bed; I have very nigh settled her"—I went across with him to Mrs. White, and went into the room with him—I saw his wife lying on the floor on her left side, her head towards the bed and her feet towards the fireplace—I could not say how near her head was to the table; I was excited—her head was clear of the bedstead, nearer the leg of the table—she had on her bodice and chemise, her petticoat lying underneath her, a red petticoat—it was stripped open all the way up, torn right open, and all the chemise and bodice were wrenched open, she was naked to her throat, the bodice was undone, her breasts and everything were bare—the chemise was stripped open all the way up, torn right away, and the petticoat in the same way—part of the petticoat was lying under her—I said "Mr. White, what have

you been doing of?"—I asked her first if she could speak—she could not; there was no answer—I touched her hands; they seemed quite cold—her hip was very much discoloured with bruises, and her left hand was very much swollen and discoloured—I said to the prisoner "Mr. White, what have you been doing of?"—he said "I don't care; she should have done what I wanted, and got me a cup of tea ready"—he asked me if I would try and rouse her—I said "I can't; there does not seem any life in her"—he said "She can get up if she likes; she is only shamming it; will you help me up on the bed with her?"—I said "I can't, she is too heavy; she has no power in herself; I must fetch some help"—he said he would not have anybody in, if I could not do it myself I could go—she was placed on the bed by the prisoner and myself together—the prisoner again asked me to try and rouse her; he still would have it that she was only shamming, that she could get up if she liked—he said as he could not have any tea he would have some beer—I said "You don't want anymore beer"—he said he would have a pint of beer—he then took the can and went and fetched a pint of beer—during his absence I went over to my husband—I came back before the prisoner with the can of beer—he sat down and drank it—there was a pint of beer in the can; that would cost 1¾d.—he sat on his work-seat—I did not notice whether he drank the beer or not—he lit his pipe and smoked—he then said "Can't you rouse her, Mrs. Mayhew? Try and rouse her"—Mrs. Spinks came and looked through the window with her little boy; that was about 5 o'clock—the prisoner looked very wild in his eyes, but he seemed to walk straight; he did not seem in drink at all; he looked very strange in his eyes—he was there when Mrs. Spinks came in—I said to her "Fanny, look what your father has done to your poor mother"—I pointed out Mrs. White lying on the bed, and also the bruises—Mrs. Spinks asked me to stay while she went for her brother or his wife—Mrs. Catherine White came back with Mrs. Spinks, and then she went for a doctor—I was there when the doctor came—the prisoner raved at him very much—he said she did not want a doctor, and if he did not go out of the place he would pay him, and the one that fetched him—that was meaning the daughter-in-law, and Mrs. White also—Dr. Lehane examined the body, and then went away—I was there later on when the constables came, from a quarter to half-past 7—I was not there all the time; I had to go over to my baby.

Cross-examined. The prisoner did not seem to think his wife was dead—the very first moment I saw him when I went in, I was struck with the wild appearance of his eyes—I have known him on and off for 14 years—they were a very happy couple when not in drink; they never quarrelled; I never saw any blow struck or anything at all, all the time I have known them—they both drank, but Mr. White more than Mrs. White—I could see a little speck of blood on the left side of the head through the white hair.

Re-examined I found no money on the deceased at the time.

FANNY SPINKS . I live at 65, Pulford Street, Pimlico, with my husband—Mrs. White was my mother—I heard that something had happened at 1, Eden Place on 3rd March, and in consequence I went to my parents' house—I got there from 5 to half-past 5, I should think—I saw my father sitting on his stool at his work-bench doing something to a boot—my mother was lying on the bed, and Mrs. Mayhew was standing by the side—I did not see my mother move; I spoke to her, and she gave a

sort of groan—I remained by the side of the bed for some few minutes after the groan I heard no sound from her, and saw not the slightest movement—the prisoner said she had come home drunk, and he had paid her—the doctor was then fetched—I stopped in the room from the time the doctor left till the police came—during that time the prisoner was on his bench-stool doing something to a boot, trying to do it.

CATHERINE WHITE (Re-examined). I found money on Mrs. White—when I came in at 5 o'clock the deceased was on the bed with some clothes laid over her, covered over her—she had on a black bodice and a chemise, part of which was torn—her red petticoat was underneath her—I did not notice it—if there had been no clothes laid over her she would have been quite naked, except a black bodice and a chemise—she had received 12s. for the boots she left—on the way back she called at several places to pay sums of money—I don't know exactly how much she had left when she got home; she had not paid all the 12s.—on 17th March, a fortnight afterwards, I was in the room they occupied, and saw David White find this purse which my mother had had on 3rd March—there was 3s. 2 1/2 d. in it—that made the money right within 8d. or 8 1/2 d.—when the prisoner went out to get the can of beer he took 6d. from the 1s. 6d. his daughter sent over by the little boy.

DANIEL LEHAINE . I am in practice 21, Pelham Crescent—I am a Doctor of Medicine and a Master in Surgery—on 3rd March I was called to 1, Eden Place, to Mrs. White—I got there about 10 minutes to 7—I found Mrs. White lying on the bed—the prisoner stood up when I went inside the door; I think he was sitting on the stool previously—when I went in he said there was no doctor required; that she could speak if she liked; she was only shamming—I examined her body; she was dead—the body had partially cooled; it was not quite cold—I should say she had been dead about a couple of hours—there was a small incised wound on the left side of the head, above or behind the ear—there was a small quantity of dried blood stuck between the hairs—there was a discolouration of the skin of the right eye and nose, an abrasion of the skin over the left eye and left cheek, and a discolouration of the skin around the left ear, and in front of the left ear—there was a punctured wound on the back of the left hand; the hand itself was very much swollen—the right hip had several recent contusions; most of them ran into each other—all the bruises I have spoken of were recent—that was the result of my examination at the time—after I had made it the prisoner asked me if she was dead—I said "Yes"—he said "A b—y good job, too"—he said "Fetch me my coat and I will go to the, police-station"—he then asked for some beer, and some person supplied the money, and he went to fetch it himself—when I first went in he was in a very highly excited condition—I should think he was sober—he swore at me and said he did not want me there, and threatened to brain me with the poker—he did not seem to realise that he had killed his wife at that time—some money was given him and he went away with the can—he returned with the beer, and I left almost immediately after without saying anything to him or he to me—I sent for a constable—on 6th March I made a post-mortem examination of the body—I again examined the bruises—I found some old discolourations on the left hip and left thigh and legs—I removed the whole scalp—where the wound was on the left side there was extravasation of blood resting on the bone, and the bone itself was fractured underneath the blood—the fracture was

an inch and three-quarters long from front to back, and an inch broad from above downwards—the bone was depressed and broken into several smaller pieces, the whole thing was depressed—on raising the depressed portion of bone I found blood resting on part of the dura mater—I removed the whole of the skull, and found the dura mater was pressing on the brain inwards—the vessels of the pia mater I found gorged with blood—I attribute that engorging to the external pressure, and I attribute death to that depressed fracture of the skull—there were probably two blows with the knob of a poker, because the fracture seemed like that. (Describing it)—they were nearly semicircular fractures; the sound bone came down to the fractured bone—either one of these pokers would produce it—I thought this was the one, but either could cause it.

Miss ROBSON (Re-examined). I cannot say with which poker I saw him hit his wife on her hip.

DANIEL LEHAINE (continued). Supposing a woman had been hit one or two blows I should say she would become unconscious directly—in my opinion some considerable violence must have been used to inflict such an injury to the head—the injuries on the hip might have been caused by the fists, or the other discolorations by a series of falls—the hip discoloraticns could have been done by a poker—I examined other organs of the body; they were healthy with the exception of the lungs.

WILLIAM DAVEY (Policeman B 389). On 3rd March, about a quarter past 7, I got a message from Dr. Lehaine, and went with another constable to 1, Eden Place, where I found the body of Mrs. White lying on the bed—the prisoner was sitting in a chair smoking his pipe—I asked him who had Killed the woman—he said "I did"—I then cautioned him—he then made this statement to me, which I took down in writing in the form of a report after I got to the station—I signed it—I asked him who had done it—he said "My God, I settled her; she would not do as I wanted her, so I hit her three times on the head with the soft end of the poker; that is the knob"—after he made that statement I took him to the station—on the way there he said "We have lived happily together for 41 years, but if she had done as I told her I should not have killed her; I suppose the Old Bailey will be my lot"—he was taken, and after he was charged he made a statement to the inspector, which I took down—I did not read the note afterwards, and could not say what that was—when I arrested the prisoner I found these two pokers together in the cupboard by the side of the fireplace—on the knob of this long one there were marks of blood.

DANIEL LEHAINE (Re-examined). When I got there at 10 minutes to 7 the body was on the bed—it had on some kind of a loose bodice and a chemise, and an old cloak was thrown over the lower part of the body; that was loose—I did not see a red petticoat; if there was one it was underneath her—if nothing had been thrown over her, the body, with the exception of what was covered with the chemise and black bodice, would have been naked.

THOMAS BEHTHLI (Re-examined). About 8 o'clock on the evening of 3rd March I was on duty at the police-station, King's Road, Chelsea, when the prisoner was brought in by Davey, and was detained in the reserve room—I went to Eden Place, and there found Mrs. White's body—I went back to the station, And while the prisoner was being put into the dock I said to him "I suppose you know what you are going to be charged

with"—he replied "Wilful murder, I expect; it was not wilful, though; it was done in the heat of passion, she got drunk"—then he was charged with wilfully murdering his wife by beating her on the head with the poker, and after the charge was read to him he said "She came home drunk after she came home from Balham, and laid on the floor, and I tried all I could to persuade her to lie on the bed; she would not, and I pulled all the clothes off her, and I beat her with the poker because she was obstinate. When she would not get up I beat her about the head with the poker; that is how she got to be killed. Of course I am sorry for it, but it is no good saying that now"—I noticed some blood on his left hand, which appeared to come from an old wound which I noticed there—it seemed to be an old one, not freshly done—he was sober, but my impression at the time was that he had been drinking in the earlier part of the day—he did not seem then, at 8 o'clock, to realise; he exhibited the most utter indifference.

CHARLES ROSS (Police Inspector B). On the evening of 3rd March I was on duty at King's Road Police-station—after the prisoner had been charged he made a statement, which I wrote down, and which is attached to the depositions—he signed it. (This was read as follows: "She came home drunk and laid down on the floor, and I tried all I could to persuade her to lay down on the bed, and I pulled all the clothes off her, and beat her with the poker, and that is how she got killed, and when she would not get up I beat her on the head and body with the poker. I am sorry for it now, but it was done in the heat of passion. ") The statement was entirely voluntary.

GUILTY. —The Jury strongly recommended him to mercy on account of his age and want of premeditation. DEATH .

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