Article Index


The Charge of Wife Murder at Workington - part one

Johnston MASON (34), grocer, imperfectly instructed, was charged with the murder of Emma MASON, his wife, at Workington, on the 1st August last. There was a further count charging him with manslaughter. - The Grand Jury ignored the bill for murder, and found a true bill for manslaughter. - Mr HENRY and Mr PAGE appeared for the prosecution, and Mr SHEE and Mr MATTINSON, instructed by Mr W PAISLEY, Workington, for the defence. - Mr Henry addressed the jury for the prosecution, laying down to them the law of manslaughter, and its bearing upon the case, so far as the acceleration of the death of a person suffering from disease was concerned - Maria MARSH, examined by Mr Page, deposed that she lived in King-street, Workington, and went out cleaning. For three weeks before the end of July she had been employed in the prisoner's house. On the 31st July she went there between nine and ten o'clock. Mason and his wife were there then. In the afternoon an old woman, named Mrs DAW, and !
her daughter, were in the house. The prisoner was not then in the house. They had tea about half-past six. The prisoner came in with Robert MONCRIEF, and prisoner asked if his supper was ready. Witness said not quite ready, but it would be in a few minutes. Robert Moncrief then went out, and Johnston Mason called him back, but he would not come, and Mason was cross because he would not come back, and Mrs Mason said Robert Moncrief had just come to make mischief. Mason then struck her across the face, Witness could not see whether his hand was open or shut. He was going to strike again, and witness told him to sit down. He did to, but he said to his wife "I'll choke you before morning." He then told them to shut the shop up, and went out. Witness thought that would be about seven o'clock. Witness stayed until nine o'clock. Mrs Mason made no complaint at the time she was struck. Witness went to the house next morning about ten o'clock, and saw Mrs Mason in bed. Witness spoke t!
o her, but she did not answer. Noticed one of Mrs Mason's eyes was black. - Cross-examined by Mr SHEE: Witness was there on the Thursday morning between nine and ten o'clock. Mrs Mason and her husband had some whisky together before Mason went out. In the afternoon before the tea there were three gills of ale for Mrs Mason, Elizabeth PARKER, and witness. Some rum was brought in the afternoon. - Do you know whether it was her habit to put rum in the tea? - No, sir, I never knew it before. - Cross-examination resumed: Prisoner was out half an hour between his coming in at tea time and getting his supper. His supper was not quite ready the second time he came in. - did he not use some other words besides "I'll choke you?" - No, sir. - After the blow with the hand was given you observed no marks given? - No, sir. - Beyond what you have told us there was no quarrelling? - No, sir. - Mrs Mason did not complain after receiving this blow from her husband? - No, sir. - By Mr Henry: W!
as your mistress quite sober that day? - Yes, sir. - And was she in her usual state of health? - Yes, sir. - By the Court: Was the prisoner sober when he came in on Thursday afternoon? - Yes, sir, he seemed to be so. - What was the state of Mrs Mason's health during the three weeks before this happened? Had she good health or bad health? - Not always good health. -What was the matter with her? - A week after I was there she had a bad throat. - Elizabeth DAW deposed that she was a widow, and lived at Workington. She had known Mrs Mason three years. On the 31st July she went to the deceased woman's house with some work. After she gave it deceased asked her to stay and have a cup of tea. Six-pennyworth of rum was got at tea-time, and a little was put in each cup, and the remainder carried away in a bottle. When they were at tea the prisoner and Moncrief came in. Prisoner had been at Maryport. He asked if there was any supper ready, and the girl said it would be ready in a very !
short time. Witness began to clear things away, and Moncrief and prisoner went to a tailor. Mason before going to the tailor showed Mrs Mason the cloth, and gave Mrs Mason and her daughter a necktie each, Moncrief was asked to come in by Mason, but he said he had just had his tea. Mrs Mason said, "It seems to me that Bob comes here to make nothing but strife and disagreement between us." Mason then gave her a slap on each side of the face. Mrs Mason asked if his supper pleased him. He asked if she had tasted it, and she said, "No." He said, "Taste it; it'll do for me." He said before he went out that if she upbraided him any more about Robert Moncrief coming he would choke her before morning, but witness did not take any notice of that, because it was a frequent word of his. - Mr Henry: Oh, was it?" - Cross-examined by Mr Shee: Mrs Mason offered prisoner a cup of tea, hand he threw it behind the fire when he smelt it. Did not see the rum until it was put on the table. Before!
 Mason came in Mrs Mason was very drowsy and dull, and had been so all the week, and fainting away a deal - five or six times in a day. She asked witness's daughter, if anything happened to her, would she (witness's daughter) take care of little Amy, the youngest child. Previous to that day the servant had had to carry deceased in her arms out of the shop and put her in the easy chair. - By the Court: Before this happened did any doctor see her? - No, I think not, sir. - Cross-examination resumed: At eight o'clock, when Mason went out, witness did not observe on Mrs Mason any fresh bruise; only one on her temple. Deceased had complained of her head being very bad the week before. The blow was with the open hand, Mason gave his wife two bits of slaps on her face. What witness said before the coroner must have been taken down wrongly, if it said that she said that Mason only slapped his wife on the head once. - The Judge observed that before the magistrates the witness said wh!
at she said now. - By Mr Shee: Mrs Mason did not complain any more after the slaps than before. - By the Court: Did she faint when her husband was by? - He was never much in. - How many times did she faint that day before this matter? - I believe she fainted away twice that day. - Was she sober when she was drowsy? - I have never seen her sober since she came to Workington. She used to drink very hard. - Was Mason sober that evening? - No, sir, he was not. - You said that "I'll choke you before morning" was a common word of his. Who did he say it to? - Witness said he would say it to dogs or cats that were in the way.