12 Days of Criminal Christmas: Industry and Idleness

ginOn 17 January 1801, farmer John Shore went on trial at the Old Bailey, charged with the murder of his wife Mary by dragging her ‘from one chamber to another’. Their servant, Elizabeth Turner, gave evidence, saying:

“I remember…the prisoner left his house in the morning, and returned in the evening. After he went out my mistress was in the kitchen preparing for old Christmas Day. She had during the afternoon drank three quarterns of gin. She was far from being intoxicated; she knew what she was about.

“My master returned about half after nine… The prisoner said he supposed she was drunk. He went up stairs. I heard my mistress cry out, I heard her cry “O Lord!” He came down for something to fasten the door with; he used to fasten her in this room when she was in liquor.”

The next day, Mary was found dead in this room, covered in bruises and vomit. The jury heard that John Shore was an ‘industrious, sober man’ – a clear comparison being made to his wife, who was in the habit of drinking.

He was found not guilty, with the press noting that ‘the prisoner is a respectable, decent looking old man’; the fact that he regularly locked his wife in a room was not deemed to be particularly noteworthy.

Source: The Morning Post, 17 January 1801

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