12 January 1899
(Before Mr. Justice darling)
Kate Marshall, 44, whipmaker, was indicted for and charged on the coroner's inquisition with the wilful murder of Eliza Roberts.
Mr. Horace Avory and Mr. Biron conducted the prosecution. Dr. E.P.S. Counsel defended.
In opening the case, Mr. Avory said that the prisoner and the deceased were sisters. The deceased was the wife of a man named Roberts, a painter, and the prisoner resided with them in Spitalfields. It was alleged by the prosecution that on the night of November 26 the prisoner, in the course of a quarrel with the deceased, stabbed her with a knife in the breast, causing a wound from which she died within ten minutes or a quarter of an hour. On November 26 the deceased's husband was away from the early morning until half past six o'clock in the evening, when he returned home. The deceased was then in the room, but the prisoner was out. The deceased left the room, no doubt, to join the prisoner in a public house. At 12 o'clock the deceased and the prisoner, both of whom had been drinking, returned home, bringing some beer with them. The husband of the deceased was then in bed. The prisoner and the deceased commenced quarrelling about their work, and they seized each other by the hair. The deceased's husband separated them. Soon afterwards the quarrel was renewed, and the prisoner took up a jug and smashed the windows of the room, and a table was also overturned and some crockery broken. The husband, who had gone back to bed, said that the deceased then made some observation to the prisoner, and that the prisoner thereupon rushed at her and struck her a violent blow in the breast. The husband got out of bed and seized the prisoner by both wrists, and he then noticed she had a knife in her hand. They struggled together in the room and out on the landing. The husband called for help and kicked at the wall to arouse persons who were sleeping in the adjoining room. A witness named Amory and other persons came on the scene. The deceased's husband got the knife from the prisoner's hand, and, sending for the police, gave her into custody for stabbing the deceased. The knife, which was a shoemaker's knife used by the prisoner in the course of her trade of whipmaker, was handed to the police, and it was noticed that there was blood upon it. When the prisoner was about to be taken to the police station she tried to get back to the deceased, saying she was her sister and that she must have a kiss before she went. The prisoner was taken to the police station, and shortly afterwards news came that the deceased was dead. The police told the prisoner that she would be charged with wilful murder, and she said, "My God! If it had been any other person than my sister I would have done it." It was but fair to the prisoner to say that the meaning of that statement was that she would not have done it in the case of her sister. The charge was repeated to the prisoner and she said she was innocent of it. The defence which the prisoner had set up was that it was not she who had stabbed the deceased, but it was the husband who did it. The real issue therefore was whether it was the prisoner who inflicted the fatal wound or whether it was the deceased's husband. The evidence of the independent witnesses who came upon the landing immediately after the occurrence was that they saw the husband holding the prisoner down, apparently to restrain her from violence, that the knife was in her hand at the time, and that he took the knife from her hand.
The husband of the deceased was called, and gave evidence. In cross examination he said he had been bound over to keep the peace towards the deceased, having struck her with a poker. He had no grudge against her for that, but was every bit as fond of her as before. He was drinking on the morning of November 26, but he was sober enough, and he had nothing to drink after he returned home at half past six o'clock that evening until 12 o'clock, when the prisoner and the deceased returned, bringing some beer with them, of which he had a glass. He was fond of the deceased. On the night of September 26 he did not threaten to break the other side of the deceased's head with the poker. He did not rush at the deceased and stab her with a knife. He did not try to escape from the prisoner.
In re-examination he said he had lived on good terms with his wife until the assault as to which he had been cross-examined, and for which he was bound over in his own recognizances in £5 to keep the peace. That was four or five weeks before November 26. His wife continued to live with him after that. There was no quarrel or disturbance between him and his wife on November 26. He never had the knife in his hand on that night until he took it from the prisoner's hand.
It was stated that when the prisoner was being taken to the police station, she said to the deceased, "Oh, Liz, won't you speak to me? What have I done? I must have a kill if I die first."
The medical evidence showed that the deceased had a wound on the right breast and on the arm. The wound on the breast was an incised wound, which had gone through the cavity of the chest, and penetrated the lung to a depth of about an inch. It was the wound on the breast which caused her death.
At the conclusion of the case for the prosecution, Dr. Counsel intimated that the prisoner would be called as a witness.
The case was adjourned until tomorrow morning.