A Husband Committed For Manslaughter

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, on Sunday, 21st October, 1888, carried the following story, which demonstrates just how lightly domestic violence was taken by some Police Courts at the time of the Jack the Ripper atrocities, even when that violence resulted in death:-


“Dr. Macdonald held an inquiry at the Shoreditch Town Hall, yesterday, into the circumstances attending the death of Emily Roberts, aged 43, the wife of a boot finisher, living at 4, Essex Place, Hackney Road, E.

Joseph Roberts, the husband of the deceased, stated that, on the 6th of October, he had a quarrel with his wife and she struck him. He returned the blow, and gave her two black eyes.

From that time she became ill and Dr. Campbell was called in, but, although everything that could be done was done for her, she died on Thursday last.

By the Coroner:- At the time of the quarrel, they were both in drink.


Emily Egling, of 7, Essex Place, Shoreditch, deposed that the deceased was her aunt.

On Sunday, the 7th inst., the deceased came to the witness’s house. She had two black eyes, and witness asked her how she came by them, and she said, “He (meaning her husband) knocked me down and knelt on my stomach, and hit me in the face. The quarrel was all over the cat.”

The witness was aware that the deceased had been in the habit of drinking for the past two or three years, but her husband was also in the habit of doing likewise.


Dr. Robert Inman, of 243, Hackney Road, said that on account of Roberts not being able to pay Dr. Campbell, he (witness) being the parish doctor, was called in. He paid his first visit on Tuesday last, when he found the patient prostrated and restless. The stomach was much swollen and inflammation of the bowels set in.

Witness asked her if anyone had struck her, and she said that on Saturday, the 6th inst., her husband came home drunk and knocked her down, knelt on her stomach, and punched her face and head.

On Monday she felt ill, and on Tuesday had to go to bed.

Witness attended her again the following day and found her dying. He told her that her end was near, and asked her if she had anything to add to her previous statement, and she replied, “No, nothing; It is all true.”

The next day she died from inflammation of the bowels.

In reply to a juror, the witness said that the inflammation would be caused by a man kneeling on her.


After a short deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of “Manslaughter” against Joseph Roberts, the husband, who was then taken into custody by Serjeant Leech, on the coroner’s warrant, and removed to the Kingsland Road Police Station.”.


Later that day, Jospeh Roberts appeared at Worship Street Police Court.

The Hackney and Kingsland Gazette, reported on the proceedings in its edition of Monday, 22nd October, 1888:-

“At Worship Street, Joseph Roberts, 41, boot fitter, of Essex Place, Hackney Road, was charged with the manslaughter of his wife by kicking her in the stomach.

Emily Roberts, daughter of the prisoner, a child of about 12 years old, said that it happened on Monday week last.

Her father and mother quarrelled. She did not know how it began. She was next door at the time. She saw her mother hit her father with her hand and knock him down. He got up and hit her mother and knocked her down.

Witness did not see her father kick her mother.

Her mother got up and went indoors and lay down. No doctor was called then.

Her mother died last Thursday, and she (witness) knew no more.


Police-sergeant 32G said that an inquest had been held that day (Saturday), at which evidence was given that the prisoner had kicked the deceased in the stomach, and that she died from peritonitis in consequence.

A verdict of manslaughter was returned against him in his presence. He was then taken into custody, and said that it was all through the drink. He had knocked her down, but he did not mean to hurt her.

The prisoner was remanded till Tuesday.”


The London Evening Standard, reported on Joseph Roberts next court appearance on Wednesday, 24th October 1888:-

“Joseph Roberts, 41, boot fitter, of Essex Place, Hackney Road, was charged, on remand, with the manslaughter of his wife.

A Coroner’s Jury has returned a verdict of Manslaughter against him.

The evidence given by a little daughter of the Prisoner’s was that the husband and wife quarrelled in the street where they lived on the night of Monday, the 8th; that the wife struck the husband, who fell; and that he, on getting up, returned the blow, and the wife fell, it was said that she was the worse for drink.

She died ten days later.


Other witnesses were examined, but there was an utter absence of evidence of intentional violence, and, after hearing medical evidence, which showed that the Deceased died from peritonitis, Mr. Montagu Williams discharged the Prisoner, who, however, stands committed for trial on the Coroner’s warrant.”


Joseph Roberts had, in fact, already appeared at the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey), on Monday, 22nd October, 1888, “charged on the Coroner’s inquisition only with the manslaughter of his wife.”

However, since the Magistrate had not committed him for trial, the prosecution offered no evidence, and a verdict of “Not Guilty” was returned.