Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Beaten to Death

In July 1839 Richard Howe is arrested and remanded in Stafford Gaol awaiting trial on the charge of the assault of his wife Mary. It emerged surgeon Mr C Waddell had been seeing Mary for some two years but saw nothing untoward until 25th July 1838 when he saw her when she complained of severe pains in her head, chest and liver. She told the surgeon her husband had caused the swelling to her face, her abdomen and the difficulty in breathing. He diagnosed the problem as inflammation of the pleura.

Next day he returned to find her condition had worsened and, when he returned on the third day, he found her so ill that her life was threatened. Every single day he returned to check on Mary's condition, doing so until August 5th, by which time he considered her out of danger. Yet still Mr Waddell paid regular visits to check on her condition. On 3rd January 1840 he discovered Mary complaining of severe pains in her side and began the daily visits once more, until 21st January, the day of her death.

The post mortem revealed little but an inflammation to the lungs. Both Waddell and Dr Edward Knight of the General Infirmary agreed the death had been due to the injuries she sustained in July the previous year. The court subsequently heard how she had spoken of her husband as a man fuelled by drink, how he crushed her frail body, and pushed her face down against his own chest until she felt she would be asphyxiated. A neighbour spoke of their many rows. How she heard Richard say he would ensure she would "maintain him" and that Mary had replied she had always "maintained him in his idleness". This had resulted in Richard threatening "if you call me idle again I'll split your face!" Soon after she had heard a scream. When she went to see if help was needed she was ordered out by the husband, a scuffle ensued and the neighbour removed from the house, at which time her punched her in the face. Another witness, William Hall, said he had also suffered at the hands of Richard Howe.

The jury retired and found Richard Howe guilty of Wilful Murder. He was hanged for his crime.

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