the crocker manslaughter trial

the Crocker Manslaughter trial

As reported in full in the Sherborne Mercury



The Sherborne Mercury, Friday 14 April 1843

At 9:30 this morning, an inquest was held at the Moon Inn, before RP Caines, Esq, and a very respectable Jury, on the body of George Watkins, a Private of the Rifle Brigade, one of a recruiting party in this town. The Jury having been sworn, proceeded to the Running Horse beershop opposite to view the body. The Jury having returned, the following evidence was given:

Alfred Etheredge, son of Mr Etheredge, sworn -- On Saturday fortnight I was in my father's office, and heard a noise in a yard belonging to beershop called the Running Horse, kept by Samuel Russell; I went to the gateway of the yard, which I found closed: I tried to get admission into it, but could not, as the gates were closed, but I'm looking through a crevice in the gate I saw two or three men fighting; the deceased was one of them, and a man named Crocker was another; both of them had their coats off; Crocker had hold of the deceased by the arm; and whilst of these men were so engaged, I saw another man strike the deceased two blows with his fist in the face. I do not know who that man was, the deceased was knocked down, and fell against the wall of the stable and was kicked out by someone. I returned to my father's office and finished what I was engaged in when I went out. Before I returned I saw a man named Leach in the yard, and after the fight was over I saw him lead the deceased away; there were others in the yard at the time, but I did not know them.

Robert Allen, butcher of Stafford, sworn -- I was present in the yard of Russell's beer shop when the fight commenced; did not know the name of the deceased. A man named Crocker was with him, and another man and a soldier named Samuel (his surname not being known) of the 67th Regiment. They appeared to have been drinking together; soon after I came in some dispute arose between Henry Phillips and the soldier, and they were about to fight, but were prevented by Crocker and the deceased. Crocker said there should be no fighting there, as he considered himself the best man in the town, this he repeated several times. On his making these observations the deceased said "Then I will have a go at you." They went into the yard, Crocker first and the deceased followed him, they stripped and the fight began. I saw several blows pass, they fought several rounds and both were down several times; one blow by the deceased knocked him down, his head falling against the wall of the stable. From that blow the deceased felt stunned, his countenance changed, and he lay on the ground about a minute. After this man named Grey acted as a second for the deceased, and Henry Leach for Crocker. In my presence neither of the second's encourage the fight, both the deceased and Crocker had been drinking, the deceased more so than the other. The police here stopped the fight, and after it was over, the deceased appeared to suffer from the effects of the ill-treatment he had received. He then partook of some cider, but could not keep it on his stomach, as he was sick, and vomited several times. He was bleeding from a cut under the eyes, the nose, and mouth. Whilst deceased was lying on the ground I saw Crocker's wife strike him three or four times on the back of the head. I also saw Crocker strike him, whilst down, and most unmanly blow, saying at the time "Take that you ----." This blow caused the cut under the eye, the blood gushing out immediately afterwards. I remained at the door of the kitchen the whole time the fight was proceeding, and expressed my horror at the cruel manner in which the deceased had been used. I left the deceased in the kitchen, Crocker with him, abusing him. The deceased was sick and vomiting there.

John A'Court, smith, in the employ of Mr J King, coachbuilder; sworn -- I knew the deceased and William Crocker. On Saturday fortnight I was in the employ of Mr King whose premises adjoin the yard of the Running Horse. I heard a row, and on looking over the wall saw the deceased and Crocker fighting. I saw several blows given by each. I saw Crocker and the deceased fall together against a wall, Crocker was on the deceased. Crocker at length rose on his legs, and whilst deceased was sitting on the ground Crocker struck him a backhanded blow, which caused deceased to fall again. The deceased then rose without assistance. A soldier of the 67th Regiment who was present named Samuel, and who was stripped also struck the deceased in the face. A man named Henry Phillips then interfered and said it was unfair work. After this there was seconds for each, a man named Leach for Crocker and Grey for deceased. The seconds did not encourage the fight. The fight continued for some time afterwards, it was stopped by the police. After the fight the deceased appeared in a very weak state and exhausted.

Arnold Cole, surgeon, was then sworn -- on 29 March I had occasion to go to the beerhouse, called the Running Horse. George Watkins, the deceased, came out and said he wished to speak to me, as he had felt unwell for some days. He complained of pain in his head and general indisposition. There was some severe marks of bruises about the eyes and forehead, which he accounted for by stating that he had fallen against a bank into the water, near Compton Mills on the previous Thursday. I bled him, taking about 12 or 14 ounces. I also gave him some medicine and saw him again the next day, when he appeared rather better. The following day I again saw him and he did not appear so well. The symptoms of the head were more marked than when I saw him before. I was then informed by the landlady that the deceased had not told me the whole of the particulars, and added that he had received some blows in the Running Horse on the Saturday, which the deceased afterwards acknowledged to me, and said the reason he did not tell me at first was because he thought I should consider it disgraceful. I saw him daily from that period until his death which took place at 4 o'clock on the morning of the 12th inst. During that time he complained greatly of a pain in his head. I have this morning in conjunction with Mr Shortland, made a post-mortem examination, and the results is as follows - "external marks of severe bruises about the head and forehead. On opening the head I found great congestion of the vessels of the brain, and its membranes, with effusion into the ventricles, sufficient to explain the cause of death. There was no local extravasation to indicate that any local injury was produced by a single blow at the time." I have heard the evidence read over, which has been given before the jury at this inquest, and I believe that the blows referred to in the depositions, together with exposure to cold, were the causes of the illness which terminated in the death of the said George Watkins.

After this evidence had been given the jury deliberated about five minutes and unanimously returned a verdict of manslaughter against William Crocker, by fighting with the said George Watkins, on 25 March last, and that he died in consequence thereof on 12 April. The jury also expressed to their disapprobation of the conduct of Crocker's wife, and of the soldier, Samuel.

The Coroner then issued his warrant for the apprehension of Crocker.





The Sherborne Mercury, Saturday 19 August 1843

William Crocker was indicted for the manslaughter of George Watkins. Mr Fitzherbert prosecuted. The prisoner was defended by Mr Kinglake. The jury, after hearing Mr Justice Coleridge's summing up returned a verdict convicting the prisoner of common assault only. Six months' imprisonment.