In July, 1898, news broke that an apparently very gruesome murder had been committed in Hull. The victim was a lady by the name of Emily Hall, and the injuries inflicted upon her were, according to many papers, far too disgusting to publish.
The Leeds Mercury, carried the news of the crime in its edition of Tuesday, 26th July, 1898:-
THE ALLEGED MURDER AT HULL REVOLTING CRUELTY
The inquiry on the body of Emily Hall, who died the Royal Infirmary, Hull, on Friday at midnight, from serious injury, the result of brutal violence, was opened before Mr. Alfred Thorney, City Coroner,
George Stoner, the man under arrest for the woman’s death, was charged during the day with wilful murder, at the Central Police Station, and was conveyed to the Coroner’s Court in a cab.
So keen is the interest aroused in the crime that a large crowd besieged the Infirmary gates, and, generally throughout the city, public indignation has been roused by the revolting character the cruelty.
When the prisoner alighted from the cab, he was smoking, apparently unconcernedly, and conducted himself with the greatest sangfroid.
After evidence of identification, several persons declared that Stoner was in the company of the deceased woman.
MRS CLIFOSKY’S TESTIMONY
Mrs Clifosky, the German woman, occupant of No. 1, Princess Row, at which Stoner and his female companion put up, said that Stoner represented to her that she was his wife.
When they took the woman to the Infirmary at night, she was asked what Stoner had done to her, and she replied that he had “done enough.”
THE DOCTOR’S EVIDENCE
Dr. Hainsworth, who had made a post mortem examination of the deceased, deposed to the injuries received, which he described as excessive burning, tearing and laceration of the parts. There was a dreadful wound in one part, and near the right kidney was a cake of scented soap.
In his opinion, the injuries must have been caused by instrument of an uneven nature or by a hand and finger-nail.
DEATH FROM HAEMORRHAGE
Mr. Knight, assistant-house surgeon at the Infirmary, gave corroborative evidence, and stated that death resulted from haemorrhage.
THE ARREST AND VERDICT
Evidence of the arrest of Stoner was next given by Sergeant Hotham, who stated that at the residence of the prisoner he found a man’s shirt with blood-stained right wrist.
The accused, on the advice of his solicitor, declined to give any evidence.
The jury returned verdict of wilful murder against Stoner.”
STONER IN COURT
The Hull Daily Mail, on Tuesday, 26th July, 1898 reported on Stoner’s court appearance:-
“At the Hull Police-court this morning, George Stoner was brought before Mr E. C. Twiss charged with the wilful murder of Emily Hall in Princess Row, Dock-street, last Friday.
The accused is a well-known man. and in the vicinity of the court a large number of people congregated in the hope of obtaining a glimpse of him.
He was, however, taken from the police station to the court at an early hour by Inspector Wardell, and was spared the degradation of meeting his friends with handcuffs on his wrists.
HIS COURT APPEARANCE
Dr H. Woodhouse appeared for the prosecution, and Mr Dodgson represented the defendant.
Prisoner entered the dock smiling, but he was a trifle paler than. The Mayor occupied a seat on the bench.
Dr. Woodhouse briefly detailed the circumstances, which were disclosed in the newspapers yesterday, and said that the post mortem examination revealed revolting offences to have been committed upon the poor woman.
THE NATURE OF THE INJURIES
Dr Woodhouse described the nature of the injuries, and said that the medical evidence would show that they could not have been self-inflicted, and that great violence must have been used.
The question of Stoner’s identity seemed to be clearly established, and the whole of the circumstances pointed very convincingly to the prisoner,
NO SOUNDS HEARD
Mr. Twiss: Were any sounds heard by the occupier of the house when they were in the room above?
Mr. Woodhouse: No. I shall lay the facts the case before the Public Prosecutor, and meanwhile I shall ask your Worship to accept formal evidence of arrest, and grant a formal remand.
I hope to be able to proceed with the evidence on the 9th of August, if that is a clear day.
EVIDENCE OF ARREST
Sergeant Hotham gave formal evidence of arrest.
Mr. Woodhouse: Did the prisoner make any observation when you met him on Saturday night?
Witness: He said “I do not know her.”
Continuing, the witness stated that when charged with wilful murder on Monday, he made no reply.
Mr Twiss: Do you ask any questions this morning. Mr Dodgson.
Mr Dodgson: No.
REMANDED FOR EIGHT DAYS
Mr Twiss: Have you anything to say why should not be remanded, Stoner?
Stoner: No, sir.
Mr Twiss: You must be remanded for eight days.”
THE CHARGE AGAINST GEORGE STONER
MEDICAL EVIDENCE TODAY
Although at first glance, it seemed like a clear cut case of murder, as The Hull Daily Mail reported, on Tuesday, 9th August, 1898, the medical evidence suggested that there was a possibility that the accused had not intended to murder the victim:-
“The charge against George Stoner, of the murder of a woman named Emily Hall, was investigated at the Hull Sessions Court today.
Mr C. V. Knight, assistant house-surgeon at the Infirmary, said he first saw the deceased about a quarter past ten, and she died about five minutes past twelve.
He assisted Dr Hainsworth in making the post mortem examination the next day.
He then described the injuries.
NOT LIKELY TO KNOW IT COULD PRODUCE DEATH
Cross-examined: When the deceased was admitted to the Infirmary, she was in a state of collapse. He could not tell whether this was caused through alcoholism or loss of blood. She would be less likely to cry out if if she had consented.
It would be impossible to insert a foreign body without a person consenting unless great violence was used.
Assuming the injuries were caused by a person who was not a medical man, he would not be likely to know that they would produce death, but he must have known he was causing injury.”
HIS CRIMINAL TRIAL
Stoner finally appeared in court on Wednesday, 30th November, 1898, and The Hull Daily Mail of that day reviewed the interest that the case had generated across the country:-
“The evidence adduced at the inquest, and subsequently at the Police-court examination, left so many important points unexplained that doubt has existed as to the view a judge and jury would take of the matter.
This feeling has been aggravated by the discreet silence of Stoner and his advisers as to the nature of the defence, and it will not be until the prosecution exhaust their case today that the prisoner’s statement will be put forward of his connection or otherwise with Hall’s death.
The details of the alleged murder have few, if any, parallels in English criminal history; hence the uncertainty as to the probable punishment in the event of Stoner being found guilty on any of the counts of the indictment.
It was generally understood that the fact of the evidence showing that a man who was not a medical man would not be likely to apprehend that an act similar to the one alleged against Stoner would produce death would dispose of the capital charge, and that the issue would be one of manslaughter – again assuming. of course, that any offence at all was driven home to Stoner.
It is safe to say that no prosecution from Hull excited so much interest as the one under observation, and the result has been anxiously anticipated.”
However, the prosecution presented an extremely strong case, and the Jury, after asking a few questions of the Judge, found him guilty of murder.
The Judge, Mr Justice Darling, duly passed the death penalty on the accused.
Asked if he had anything to say as to why sentence of death should not be passed on him, Stoner replied, “No, I have not: only I am not guilty of it.”
A RESPITE ISSUED
However, on Monday, 19th December, 1898, the newspapers broke the news that the Home Secretary had issued a respite sparing the life of George Stoner, who was due to be executed the following day.