Location: Durham, England, United Kingdom
Transcript & Images from the Sunderland Daily Echo report of the outcome of the trial of Charles Wilson's sons (who were accused of his murder).
FATHER & SONS
The Southwick Road tragedy
ACCUSED FOUND NOT GUILTY AT ASSIZES
When the Durham Assizes were resumed this morning it was understood that Mr Justice Lush, who yesterday was engaged on the Monkton alleged arson case, was indisposed, and would not be present at the court until this afternoon, so that this case could not be resumed until then.
John Wilson (20) and Charles Wilson (18), miners, were both charged before Mr Justice Greer with the wilful murder and manslaughter of their father, Charles Wilson at Sunderland, on the 19th March. The youths pleaded not guilty on both charges.
Mr Willoughby Jardine (prosecuting) was instructed by Messrs W. Bell & Son, and Mr E. Paley Scott (defending), by Mr Lionel Wolfe.
Mr Jardine reciting the evidence for the prosecution, said that the father was 52 years of age and a colliery stone worker. He was a very powerful man being 6ft. high and 16st. in weight. He regretted to have to say that at times the man was a drunken and brutal husband, and a violent and quarrelsome father. The family resided at 50, Long Row, Southwick Road, Sunderland. John was not living at the house, having had trouble with his father about two years previously. A quarrel took place on Saturday, March 12th, when Charles Wilson, the father, came into the house drunk. The son (Charles) took his mother's part and when his father got hold of her by the shoulder and attempted to strike her, Charles hit him on the wrist and stopped him. The father said "I will kill you Charles." Charles said "You will have to treat my mother better; if you touch her I will give you this," pointing to the poker. The husband said "Let me have that poker. I will kill the lot of you." As he rushed to get the poker Charles threw the teapot at him and they all ran out of the house. The woman went to her sister's at 9, Albany Street to sleep. On the next day (Sunday) she went to her house and tried the door as she had been told that something awful was going on in the house. The door was locked, but she could hear voices and she heard the son Charles say: "You had better lie still or you will get some more." They told her that the man was all right, but she brought the police. The deceased was then lying in the porch. He was bleeding from the left leg and his legs were tied with a woollen muffler. John had a pick shaft in his hand. He told the police constable that it was in self-defence or his father would have murdered them. Charles said they "had to do it or it would have been the gallows for him; he would have killed us." The dead man told the constable that as soon as he entered the house the boys had struck him, John with a coal rake and Charles with a pick shaft.
The jury would have to consider, continued Mr Jardine, the fact that the son John did not live at the house and the son Charles had not slept there the night before. What was John doing there at all? Was not the truth of the case that the quarrel on the Saturday night and the threats of the dead man to his wife had worked up Charles, and he and John had laid in wait of their father and struck him down. The jury might probably think that the magistrates were wise in putting forward a charge of manslaughter against these two men. It was impossible to believe that the two men had acted in self-defence owing to the great violence that had been used.
Grace Wilson, widow of the deceased, said that John joined the army and his father was annoyed with him for doing so and would not allow him to come back after he returned. On the day of the quarrel the miners had had a 12s reduction in wages and her husband kept that amount off her weekly allowance. He said that he was not going to do without the money, and it would have to come out of her. She then said it was not fair to spend all he did on drink and gambling when she could put the money to good use.
Detective-Inspector G.B. Allinson (Sunderland) said that when he charged the youths with the wilful murder of their father they made no reply.
Mt Scott-Paley: I suppose you have made enquiries about the deceased man. May we take it generally that the information you have got confirms what Mrs Wilson has told us? -- Yes.
Dt Gerald Hickey (Sunderland), police surgeon, and Dr McLaren (house surgeon of Monkwearmouth and Southwick Hospital, to which place the deceased man was taken, detailed the injuries, and the latter said that for some time after admittance the injured man progressed well. He had not expected him to die at that time.
Chas. Wilson, one of the accused, said he believed that if he and his brother had not intervened on many occasions his father would have killed his mother. On the Sunday morning his father told him, "You will not live long. You will have to have an eye in the back."
By Mr Paley Scott: How was it that you and John went to the house on the Sunday night -- I met my brother John in High Street at ???, and told him I was afraid to go home for fear my father came home drunk and violent, and John agreed to go with me. We got home about nine o'clock.
Mr Scott: Was it true you waited for your father, and set upon him as he came in? -- No. My father came in about 10.30. I was in the kitchen and John was getting a drink of water. As soon as my father saw me he made a running kick at me. I avoided him and got out of the way. He kicked me on the arm. I got hold of a pick shaft. He was then in the doorway. John came out of the pantry and struck my father on the face, knocking him into the passage. My father tried to prevent him shutting the door, and shoved his leg in between the door. I tried to shut the door, and hit him several blows on the leg with the ??? shaft and he ??? down in the passage exhausted. We then tied him up for the night, so that he could not come and knock our brains out with a poker.
By the Judge: He did not know that any bones were broken, and added that his father was conscious the whole time.
John Wilson, the other accused, said he agreed with all his brother had said.
Mr Paley Scott: It is suggested that you and your brother had made it up to punish your father? -- Certainly not, sir.
Were any blows struck at him after he was tied up? -- No, sir.
Addressing the jury, Mr Jardin said that however undesirable Charles Wilson, the elder, was, to say that the sons were entitled to kill their father was going too far. Neither of the boy's evidence accounted for the fact that their father was covered with bruises. They had used far too much violence to the accused.
Mr Paley Scott said that he understood the prosecution did not serious [sic] suggest that the full charge of murder should be pressed. When the youths had their father tied up they could have killed him in a few minutes. He asked the jury to allow their imagination to lead them to that little home in Sunderland where the tragedy took place. What a terror that man must have been that week-end to his family, and he would be like a dark cloud hanging over their heads. Mrs Wilson was one of those wonderful women who had just gone on doing her duty, trying to keep her family decent, instead of taking her husband to the police court. She had stood his almost insane drunken violence until latterly she had become afraid to be left alone with him. The youths' story was clear and consistent with what took place, and he suggested that if the father had found Charles defenceless, it would have meant the gallows for him.
After his Lordship had summed up the jury retired to consider their verdict and to have their lunch. At 2.35 they returned, and the foreman announced that the youths were found not guilty of either murder or manslaughter. They were thereupon discharged.