Spouse murders – especially those perpetrated by husbands on their wives – were extremely common through the 19th century.
In many cases, drink and drunkenness played a massive part in the crime, as is illustrated by the following case, which was reported in The Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser on Saturday the 19th of December 1863:-
SHOCKING MURDER IN LONDON
Early on Sunday morning, a woman named Maria Green was found dead, with her throat cut, at a house in the Waterloo Road, and one Samuel Wright, a bricklayer by trade, with whom she had cohabited there, is now in custody charged with having murdered her.
The house in which the crime was perpetrated is of three storeys, and in the occupation of a Mrs Redbourne, a widow, who resides there with her daughter and two sons, but lets off the greater part of it to lodgers.
The deceased and the man Wright occupied a single room in front on the second floor; one Anna Ireland, who will be a principal witness at the inquest, lives on the first floor; and a dressmaker rents the shop and a room behind the basement.
QUIET AND INOFFENSIVE PEOPLE
Wright and the deceased had cohabited together for nearly a year but had not lodged for more than a few months with Mrs Redbourne. She describes them as quiet inoffensive people on the whole, while in her house at least, the man especially.
The deceased, who was about 40 years of age, is said to have led a disreputable life for some time, and to have consorted with another man before becoming acquainted with Wright, who is about ten years younger than she.
Two children, which she was accustomed to say were hers, went occasionally to see them, but her own friends represent her to have been childless, and the landlady always believed that they were the offspring of the man Wright by another woman.
THE WORSE FOR LIQUOR
On Saturday evening, Wright and the deceased, who had been drinking together in the company of a woman, who was an acquaintance of both at a neighbouring public house, returned home towards midnight, the deceased being very much the worse for liquor.
She sat sulkily down on the stairs, and at first refused to go farther, but he at length coaxed her to accompany him to their room on the top floor.
Nothing more was beard of them until between 3 and 4 o’clock on Sunday morning, when a son of the landlady, a young man of 29, and who slept in a back room, adjoining that which they occupied, was awakened by a disturbance in their apartment.
The noise appears to have been heard not only by the woman Ireland, who slept on the floor immediately below, but by the dressmaker on the ground floor, before it awoke the young man Redbourne, who happens to be very deaf.
He alarmed his mother, who slept in a room on the basement, and she having hastily dressed herself opened the street door to look for a policeman.
The woman Ireland, hearing the door opened, threw up her window, and, in an excited manner, urged the landlady to bring assistance for she was sure someone was being murdered on the floor above.
WHAT IRELAND SAW
Presently afterwards, she dressed herself and went out with the landlady in search of policeman, leaving the street door open and the lad Redbourne in the passage.
They were absent about 20 minutes, and on the way Ireland told the landlady that she had been awakened by a violent knocking on the floor above; that she got and went, upstairs, and, meeting Wright leaving his room with his sleeves tucked up and his hands besmeared with blood, she asked him what was the matter; that he replied gruffly she might and see; that she entered the room and found the woman Green lying on the floor, her head towards the fireplace, and moaning piteously, and who on seeing her said in faint voice, “He has cut my throat, and that she (Ireland), being much frightened, ran downstairs to her own room, and locked herself in.
POOLS OF BLOOD
The landlady and Ireland returned with Police Constable Newton, L 76, whom they had met near the Victoria Theatre.
On examining the room he found the body of the deceased on the floor, with a frightful wound in the throat, and the head, which was then towards the bed, in a pool of blood.
There was another pool of blood near the fireplace, as if the head had rested there after the wound had been inflicted.
The body, indeed, appeared to have been removed between the time the woman Ireland saw it and her return with the constable; and the man Wright, who was in the apartment on their entering it, had washed the blood off his hands in the interval.
THE SURGEON ARRIVES
Mr. Harrapp, a surgeon, and partner with Mr. Dodd, of Waterloo Road, who had been called in, pronounced her dead, though the body was still warm.
While Ireland and the landlady were off for the policeman the prisoner, if he been so inclined, had ample time to escape, but he did not avail himself of the opportunity, nor did he offer any resistance to his apprehension
Both to Mr. Harrapp, the surgeon, and the constable, the prisoner is understood to have made statements while in the room, but it were better that these should be relayed in evidence than repeated on hearsay.
THE SCENE IN THE ROOM
The deceased was dressed when found, as was also the prisoner, and as a fire was burning briskly in the room, it being then four o’clock in the morning, the presumption is that they had not been in bed.
A razor, with which the wound in the throat is supposed to have been inflicted, lay open, and across the face of the deceased were the marks of blows, dealt probably with a poker.
The knocking overhead, heard by Ann Ireland, had evidently proceeded from the dying woman with a view to bring assistance.
TAKEN TO THE POLICE STATION
The prisoner was taken to the Tower Steet Police Station, and underwent an examination on Monday at the Lambeth Police Court.
A brother of the deceased and his wile, who lived in Shoreditch, called on Sunday at the police station to make enquiries about the matter.