MURDER MOST FOUL! By Caroline De Vries, Thomas Eggar LLP


(Advisory: Persons of sensibility may find this article distressing and liability for any ensuing fits of the vapours and the like is excluded.)

Sir John Jervis Handbook on The Office and Duties of Coroners (Sweet and Maxwell 1866) contains this helpful guidance:

It is not only such acts as obviously tend to cause death that constitute murder, but also all such as may endanger the life of another and ultimately occasion his death if wilful and deliberately committed.

Such was the case:
Of him who carried his sick father, against his will, in a severe season, from one town to another, by reason whereof he died;
Of the harlot who, being delivered of a child, left it in an orchard covered only with leaves so a kite killed it;
Of another who hid her child in a hog stye, where it was devoured;
Of the husband who with his beatings and threats to throw his wife out of the window, so terrified her that she jumped out of the window in apprehension of his violence, he was answerable for the consequences of his acts as much as if he had thrown her out of the window himself

But there are many nice distinctions upon the subject of malice and the circumstances of every case are peculiar to itself. Where death occurs without malice and imputably to human infirmity, the offence will be manslaughter.

Such was the case:
Where a man, on words of provocation, threw a broomstick at a woman from a distance which unfortunately killed her;
Where a master struck his servant with a clog, because he had not cleaned it, and death ensued was holden to be manslaughter because a clog be very unlikely to cause death;
Where a mother, being angry with her child, took up a poker and, running to the door of the room, threw it out after him and killed another child who was entering the room at the time;
Where a man, finding a pistol in the street and imagining (from having tried it with the ramrod) that it was not loaded, presented it in sport at his wife, drew the trigger and unfortunately killed her, this was ruled to be manslaughter

Remember, the acts and circumstances you have read about here are very rare so please, don’t have nightmares……….

Caroline De Vries – Thomas Eggar LLP