3rd April 1854
Reference Numbert18540403-502
VerdictNot Guilty > non compos mentis
SentenceImprisonment > insanity

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502. GEORGE VERNON HENNAN was indicted for the wilful murder of Jane Hennan.—He was also charged upon the Coroner's Inquisition with the like murder.

MR. RYLAND conducted the Prosecution.

MARIA HENNAN . I am the prisoner's mother. I knew his wife from the time they were married—on Friday, 17th March, he and his wife passed the evening at my house—they, had been married thirteen years—I have seen a good deal of them all that time—they were a very happy couple, and very affectionate—they left my house between 10 and 11 o'clock on the Friday night—they drank tea and supped there—they seemed on their usual affectionate terms, and left to go home—the prisoner took some porter; he had half a class, and then drank out of the mug rather hard—some six years ago he was under a physician at St. Bartholomew's Hospital for his head—he was quite incapable of work, and childish, almost like an idiot—for the last two or three months before this happened, I observed him particularly; we have all been terrified by his manner and the look of his eyes—his wife had had no rest for a month—he made curious faces, and had a wild look; I was frightened of him, and had been for some time—it was our wish that he should be placed somewhere, but his wife could not bear to part with him, she was so fond of him—this is the fourth time that he has been in this way—I saw him on the Saturday morning this happened—I was just out of bed, and some one brought him into my room, somewhere about 9 o'clock—he was dressed; his clothes were wringing wet; he had been in the water—I pulled off his clothes, and he got into my bed—he

looked very wild—he did not appear to me to be in his senses—shortly after that Brannan came and took him into custody—he has never been right since he underwent a serious operation, under Dr. Salmon—that has nothing to do with his head—when he was a boy he had an accident to his head; he was then about seven years old; he fell down, and the back of his head was cut against a sharp tool—it was a serious injury; he was covered with blood, and put to bed—he has been very curious on and off ever since.

SUSANNAH TUCKER . I am landlady of the house No. 39, Waterloo-street, where the prisoner and his wife lodged—I have known them since they lodged with me five years—they have been an affectionate couple, for all that I ever heard—I remember their being out on the Friday evening, at their mother's—they had a key to let themselves in—I did not hear them come home that night—I cannot say whether they slept at home that night—I did not see or hear them—I was down on the Saturday morning just before the clock struck 6—I saw the prisoner that morning about a quarter past 8 o'clock; he was then going out—I did not observe his appearance, for I only said, "Mr. Hennan, how do you find yourself this morning?" because he had been complaining of being ill a long time—he said, "Very bad, very bad indeed"—he seemed to be bad—he went out, and I saw no more of him.

COURT. Q. I believe you never heard any disputes or quarrels between them? A. Never, all the time they were in the house.

JAMES DOUBLDAY . I am a surgeon. I was called to No. 39, Waterloo-street—I got there a few minutes past 9 o'clock—I found the body of the deceased on the bed, covered over with clothes—she was lying on the right side, with the head on the pillow, in a recumbent position, just as she would be lying when she was asleep—she was in her night drew—there was a frightful wound in the head; the skull was completely battered in on the left side—it was sufficient to cause instantaneous death—it had been effected with some heavy instrument—I found a hatchet in the room, which would inflict such a wound—she could not have done it herself—there was blood upon the hatchet—there was also a deep wound on the neck, which had dislocated the neck—either wound was sufficient to cause instantaneous death.

Cross-examined by MR. SLEIGH. Q. I believe, about a month previously, you were consulted by this man, in consequence of some affection of the head? A. He was brought to me, about a month previously, to sign a paper for him, to have relief; 1 did not attend him at the time—I examined him, and found that he was labouring under a depressed state of mind, and I gave a certificate for him to have relief, but I did not imagine that he was insane at the time—his wife stated, in his presence, that he had spoken now and then of making away with himself, but she did not say that she was afraid of his doing so—he said he had felt himself tempted to do so.

MR. RYLAND. Q. Is that your certificate (producing a paper) of his state of mind on 24th Feb.? A. It is.

WILLIAM BRYANT . I am the prisoner's brother-in-law. On this Saturday morning, about 10 minutes to 9 o'clock, I and my wife were out, and met the prisoner—I did not know him at first, he appeared so altered, being so wet, and he was making such grimaces; it was impossible for any one to know him; he looked as if he had been in the water—I stopped him, and said, "George, where have you been?"—he began to dance, and made some grimaces at me, and at first he could not answer, but at last he said, "I have been in the water," and I think he said, "in the Thames."

COURT. Q. Did he appear to you to have all the appearance of a man that was out of his mind? A. Yes; I took him to his mother's house, and he was put to bed there.

MR. RYLAND. Q. Had you noticed him a few weeks before this time? A. He appeared very bad a few weeks before, and was still worse this morning.

(MR. BARON MARTIN thought, upon this evidence, the Jury must be satisfied that the prisoner was of unsound mind at the time; and if so, it was unnecessary to proceed further.)

The JURY found the prisoner

NOT GUILTY, on the ground of Insanity. He was ordered to be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure.

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