Murder

Extracts from the Birmingham Gazette -1883
Attempted murder of wife in Birmingham
Yesterday evening a man named Thomas Clarke [32] living at 8 House, 2 Court, Garrison Lane, was lodged at the lockup in Moor Street in charge of murderously assaulting his wife Erma Clarke with an axe, inflicting such serious injuries on her that late last night her injuries were considered critical in the extreme. The circumstances of the case are of such an extremely painful character. The parties having been married only a week. Clarke who was a stoker for several years ago tempted to commit suicide by cutting his throat.Thomas Clarke is described a man with a rather intemperate habit. Last week Clarke was seized with severe pains in the head which rendered him unable to work. He remained at home for the week procuring some medication to alleviate his suffering from a chemist in the neighbourhood. Yesterday he appeared no worse than he had been on the other days of the week.Yesterday between 5 and 6pm, after the tea things had been cleared up Mrs Hart, the mother of the injured woman with whom they had been living with had left the house intending to call on her neighbour. Mrs Clarke was tending the fire. Clarke was in a recumbent position on the sofa no-one else was in the house. It would appear that moments after Mrs Hart had left, Thomas Clarke jumped up from the sofa and rushed at his wife, according to a statement she made to some of the neighbours, before she passed out. He first of all knocked her down with his fist, then jumped on her. The door of the coal place had been left open and in there was an axe.

Clarke noticed the axe and seized it and struck his wife who was then prostrate on the floor with a terrible blow on her head. She screamed out. Her cries caused Mrs Hart to go back to the house. On opening the door Mrs Hart saw Clarke again hit his wife on the head with the axe. Mrs Hart saw three terrible wounds on her head from which the blood gushed out in copious streams. Before Clarke could administer another blow which, had it been struck in all probability would have killed the woman almost on the spot, Mrs Hart and another woman named Bradley seized him by the shoulders and managed to push him to the other side of the apartment and relived him of the axe.
They then directed their attention to Mrs Clarke. The unfortunate woman was found to be in an almost unsensable position. The upper part of her dress was red from her blood as was the whole of her face. The small mat on which Mrs Clarke’s head was being rested on was also covered in blood. Efforts were being made to stop the flow of blood and her face washed and a blanket wrapped around on which she was taken to a cab to the general hospital having by this time to be totally unconscious. She was examined at the hospital by Mr Bartlett the house surgeon who found she sustained a compound depressed fracture of the skull. There were 3 wounds to the head, one of them being over the left ear being 2.5 inches long, the other two not so serious. A slight wound over the left shoulder was supposed to of been caused by the axe gliding off the head and catching the shoulder.

An operation was performed subsequently to the injured woman. Late last night she had not recovered consciousness.

Clarke hurriedly left the house on realising what he had done not withstanding that he was only partly dressed he rushed along Garrison Lane into St. Barn Street and into Alcester Street where he encountered P.C Bertie, R 68, and throwing his arms around the officers neck he exclaimed, “I`ve murdered my wife”, and then he fainted away.

Thinking he was in a fit, P.C Bertie and another officer carried Clarke into a adjacent house in the street. When Clarke came round, P.C Bertie questioned about his statement. He repeated that he killed his wife and gave his name and address. The officers took him to Moseley Street Police Station. Sergeant Shepard and another officer visited the house which they found crowded with neighbours. No traces of blood were found on the floor but numerous clothes saturated with blood were lying around the room.
Clarke was quite sober at the time and at this stage it is not know why he assaulted his wife but later in the evening he was moved from Moseley Street to the lock up in Moor Street.

Birmingham Gazette – Monday 19th November 1883

Stop Press

Birmingham Daily Gazette – Thursday December 20th 1883.

The attempted murder of wife in Garrison Lane.

Mrs Clarke died yesterday afternoon and the charge would
be one of wilful murder.


The Inquest

Monday December 24th

Thomas Clarke who was in the custody of a Police Officer kept his eyes to the ground nearly all the time. He seemed unaware as to what was happening in court. When asked if he had any questions for the witnesses at the commital he looked around blankly and back to the floor.

Witness Ann Hart, mother of the deceased stated that her daughter got married on the 11th of December and she and her husband had moved in with her.

P.C. James George Bertie [E68] said that on Sunday the 18th of November 1883 he came to Alcester Street at about 6:05pm. Clarke had been running and he put his arms around the officers neck and said, “I have killed my wife”, and fell to the ground in a fainting fit. Police Sergeant Shepard attended the house.

Ann Baliss, 2 Court, 7 House Garrison Lane, said she lived next door to the prisoner. On Sunday evening in question she heard a scream from the prisoners house. She hurried in and found the deceased in the same position on the floor as described by Mrs Hart. As witnesses Thomas Clarke rushed by her into the street.

Mary Ann Bayley of 10 Court House, Garrison Lane, said that when she lifted up Mrs Clarke she saw the chopper lying by her side. There was blood and hair on the flat end of the chopper.

Lucy Low, a single woman of 3 Garrison Lane, said that she accompanied the deceased in a cab to the hospital. She seemed quite sensible and able to talk. The Coroner stopped legal argument.

At this stage a legal argument started between the Coroner and the jury. The jury man said that he wanted to know what Ann Clarke, the deceased, had said to Lucy Low. The Coroner said that since Ann Clarke was described as quite lucid and sensible she was obviously not in immediate fear of dying therefore it was not a dying deposition. The only time evidence that could be heard in these circumstances was that if the statement from Ann Clarke had been informed from a deposition taken down in the presence of a justice of the peace of oath.

Police Constable Peter Kinlough, E21, went to the prisoners house just after Mrs Clarke had been taken to hospital which was still covered in blood and hair in the coal hole.

Mr Charles John Evers, assistant house surgeon, at the hospital described the 3 head injuries to the head each of which constituted a compound fracture of the skull.

Dr Barring, the house surgeon at the hospital, said that it was necessary to trefine the skull. She died on Wednesday last. She did not become unconscious until just before her death. Dr Barring stated that he did not think that Mrs Clarke knew she would die before the death. Mrs Clarke was advanced in her pregnancy. Death was caused by the head injuries. After the Coronor had summed up the jury with out retiring gave a verdict of wilful murder against Clarke.

He was committed to assizes on a Coroners warrant.


The Trial

At the trial of Thomas Clarke, the Police officers gave evidence that he was, in their opinion, insane. No medical opinion was called.

Conviction on a charge of murder would normally carry a mandatory death sentence with execution by hanging taking place approximately three weeks after conviction. In this case, the judge accepted the Police opinion and Clarke was committed to the asylum.