Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 27 September 2022), September 1769, trial of Mary Anson (t17690906-102).

Mary Anson, Killing > manslaughter, 6th September 1769.

543. (L.) Mary Anson , widow, was indicted on the coroner's inquest for killing and slaying her late husband, by biting his little finger , May 20 . ++

Thomas Phipps . I live in Leadenhall-street. I am churchwarden of the parish. I was bound over to prosecute. I know nothing of the matter.

Benjamin Stevens . I lived with Mr. Anson ; he was a glover at Aldgate . On the 20th of May, my master turned the maid out, and said she should not lie there that night; my mistress said she should; upon which some words arose, and they went up stairs. After I had shut the shop up, I went up, and saw master and mistress quarrelling. They were both together scuffling. They pushed one another from each other; that continued two or three minutes. I heard mistress say, If you point at me, I'll bite you. I think they held one another from them then. Master pointed at her, and I think he said, You are mad. Then I saw her bite his finger. They then both went down into the shop; he went down with his finger bleeding, and said she has bit me: then mistress took up a knife, where she got it I cannot tell, and what became of it I can't tell. It was a small knife. I got it from her.

Q. Did she say any thing when she had got it?

Stevens. I did not hear her say any thing. Master's hand bled a great deal. Then they went up stairs again, and I think they went to bed.

Q. Was any thing done to it that night?

Stevens. I think there was only a glove put on it then. I think there was nothing done that night, any farther than words.

Q. What words?

Stevens. I cannot say particularly what words; they were words of anger. I think master went to one bed, and mistress to another, in different rooms. On the Sunday morning I fetched some salve for master's hand, and on the Monday morning, I think, he went to Mr. Thompson. Master lived till the 2d of August, and then died.

Q. Was the wound ever cured?

Stephens. I believe it was never cured. It was attended all the time, either by the surgeon or his apprentice.

Q. Whose knife was that your mistress had in her hand?

Stevens. I do not know. I took it away very easily.

Cross Examination.

Q. Is this the whole of what you saw?

Stevens. I think it is. I was in and out of the room several times.

Q. Did you see any blows struck?

Stevens. I saw no blows.

Q. Did you see any thing of a loaf?

Stevens. No, I did not.

Q. Was your mistress hurt any where?

Stevens. There was a scratch upon her eye, but I did not see how it came. I heard her say master scratched her there, after the quarrel was over.

Q. Did she take hold of his finger, before you saw the scratch, or after?

Stevens. I had not observed that before. I saw her take hold of his finger.

Eliz. Weston. I had been there three or four days. I was in the house when this happened. The beginning of the quarrel was, the maid was shut out at the door, Mrs. Anson had sent her on an errand, and when she came back, Mr. Anson shut the door, and would not let her come in. Mrs. Anson desired me to go down, and tell her she wanted the things she had been for and the change. He went to the door, and opened it, and let me take the things and change, but he told her she should not come in that night. Mrs. Anson went to the dining-room, opened the sash, and bid her go home to her father, at Limehouse. It rained. She said she would not go without a coach. Mrs. Anson flung eighteen-pence out to her, bid her take a coach, and go home. Mr. Anson came up, took the loaf up and a knife, and was going to take a bit of butter. Mrs. Anson took the butter, set it by the side of her, and said he should have no butter till he let the maid in. Then he took the loaf up, and beat it about her head. It was about a third part of a quartern loaf. The loaf broke, and fell upon the ground. Then Mrs. Anson got up, and was angry with him. He slew at her, and she at him. He threw her down three times. There was a great scuffle between them. Then the young man came up (meaning Stevens.) They still scuffled together. The young man went between them, and parted them two or three times. I got between them also. Then Mr. Anson spit in her face, and she bit his finger. I heard him call out and say, D - n you, you have bit my finger. I heard Mrs. Anson say, Let go my eye, and I'll let go your finger.

Q. Had she hold of his finger then?

E. Weston. I really believe she had.

Court. That is impossible; she could not speak and bite his finger at the same time.

E. Weston. Yes, she could.

Q. What was he doing?

E. Weston. He clawed her eye. Her face was scratched in several places. There was one on the corner of her eye. Then they parted, and Mr. Anson went down stairs first. I followed him down, and would have had him let me done something to his hand, but he would not. He put on a new glove. It was but a little place seemingly. After I came up stairs, Mrs. Anson went down, and I followed her, fearing they would quarrel again. I saw her have a little knife in her hand. She saw I was frighted. She said I need not be frighted, she was not going to hurt him. Then the young man took the knife from her.

Cross Examination.

Q. Were there any blows given?

Weston. I saw no blows, no farther than that of the loaf, only shoving her down. I thought once, by shoving her down, he would have dashed her brains out.

Q. How long was the last shove before the bite on the finger.

Weston. That I cannot say. It was all up stairs, in the kitchen.

Q. Are you sure she was scratched in the face?

Weston. I am sure she was, and in more places than one.

Q. Were they given before the finger was it, or after?

Weston. I believe they were all given before; but I am not sure.

Q. Was that violent throwing down at the beginning of the scuffle, or when?

Weston. That I believe was the last time of her being thrown down.

Q. Did you observe any thing said about pointing at her?

Weston. I don't remember any thing said about pointing at her.

Jeffery Thompson. I am an apprentice to Mr. Thompson, a relation of mine, a surgeon.

Q. How long have you been an apprentice?

Thompson. Upwards of three years. I attended Mr. Anson great part of the time during his illness. I did not see him the first day. Mr. Thompson say's the first day he came to the deceased was the 27th of May, which was on a Saturday. I saw him the Tuesday following, which was the 30th. There was a small lacerated wound upon the joint of the little finger nearest his hand; it afforded a very disagreeable discharge, and was beginning to slough. It was a disagreeable thin discharge. The tendon which bends the finger was beginning to slough, and there was a great inflammation over the hand. Had he been lucky enough to apply to Mr. Thompson immediately, it would not have been attended with such bad consequences.

Q. What is your reason for that?

Thompson. The bite then began to be very bad; but had it been taken proper care of at first, it would have been nothing. The wound was given on a Saturday, and Mr. Thompson came to attend it the Saturday following. It did not appear to be very dangerous when I first saw it. I asked him how the accident happened; which he was very cautious of saying. Upon my pressing him, he said it was a bite. I asked him, by a dog or cat, or any animal. At last he said Mrs. Anson had bit it. We made use of what application we thought best. It c ame sloughing on a-pace. The palm of the hand and the arm grew more and more inflamed; then Mr. Thompson took off the finger at the joint, in hopes that would prevent its spreading any farther. But he was of so bad a habit of body, that his breath was so nauseous, every time we went to dress him, we were obliged to desire him to turn his head on one side, he was so extremely nauseous. After the finger had been amputated, and had not the good success, as his arm kept inflaming, Mr. Thompson opened places, in order to discharge the matter. His arm kept sloughing on, and there came an internal mortification, which killed him. That came on in about a fortnight after his finger was taken off, as near as I can recollect. There had been openings before that was taken off, in order to save it. The mortification came on up his arm to his elbow. He was not in a state to admit of the arm being taken off.

Q. When did he die?

Thompson. I believe he died the 2d of August.

Q. What in your opinion did he die of?

Thompson. He died of that mortification.

Q. In your judgement, what did that mortification proceed from?

Thompson. I do not think that the wound was the immediate cause of his death. I am not of opinion that the wound was originally mortal. We have the greatest reason to suppose he might have died by the scratch of a pin, as he was in so bad a habit of body.

Cross Examination.

Q. Whether you can take upon you to say, that the bite on the finger was the cause of his death?

Thompson. It was an accessary cause. His hand and arm were so excessively nauseous, we were obliged to have vinegar in the room to take off the effluvia, a little before the finger was taken off.

Q. to Stevens. You have heard what Mrs. Weston has said, that your mistress said, Let go my eye, and I'll let go your finger?

Stephens. I did not hear any thing at all of that.

Q. When did you first observe the scratch on your mistress's face?

Stephens. That was after my master was gone to bed.

Q. Did she take hold of his hand?

Stephens. I was between them both when the finger was bit; he was pointing at her, and she caught hold of my hand, and then bit it.

Special .