“Get up, you old sow, you are drunk.” - The Manslaughter of Selina Jones.

On the night of 12th of August 1872, Selina Jones was found dead at her home at Newcastle Hill. It was suspected that her death was caused by series of falls she had earlier that evening but over the days that followed something very different was uncovered.

Unfortunately, not much is known about the early life of both Thomas and Selina Jones. What little we know has been drawn from census records, court records, and newspaper articles. 

The first record of the family living in Bridgend is the baptism record of their eldest daughter Esther Ann. Esther Ann was baptised at Nolton Church on the 1st of March 1861. At this time the Jones family were living at School Court.

By the time of the 1861 Census, the family were living at Phillips Court. Thomas lived there with his wife, Selina and their children: Henry and Esther Ann.

The Census record also shows that the Jones family shared their house with another family, the Davies'. These were: Esther Davies, Alfred Davies, and their two children. Both Thomas, Selina and Esther Davies are all listed as 'Hawkers.'

The 1871 Census tells us that the Jones family were now living at Newcastle Hill. Here Thomas and Selina lived with their children: Henry, Esther Ann, David, Shadrach, and Rosana. At this time, Thomas' mother, Ann, aged 79 was also living with the family.  Again, Thomas and Selina are listed as 'Hawkers.'

On the night of the 12th of August 1872, Selina Jones was found dead at her home at Newcastle Hill. She was aged 42. Selina was buried at St. Illtyd's Church, Newcastle Hill.

In the days following her death, an Inquest was called. Upon the warrant of the Coroner, Thomas Jones was taken into custody on the charge of causing the death of his wife. Owing to the importance of the case, the Inquest was adjourned until the following weekend.

The Inquest into the death of Selina Jones resumed at The Angel Inn on the 23rd of August. The postmortem was performed by Dr. Leahy. He found a severe laceration on one part of Selina's body. He went on to say that haemorrhage from the womb caused her death, and that blood had flowed from wounds which were probably caused by a kick.

Thomas Jones appeared before Magistrates on the 24th of August and was committed to Cardiff Prison to await trial. He was later transferred to Swansea Prison on the 18th of February 1873.

The Assizes entry for Thomas Jones. 

On the 6th of March 1873, after eight months in Prison, Thomas Jones stood trial on the indictment of  “having feloniously, wilfully, and, of malice aforethought, killed and murdered his wife Selina Jones at Newcastle, near Bridgend on the 12th August, 1872.” At the coroner's request, Thomas was also charged with Manslaughter.

Mr. B. Williams and Mr. Arthur Williams were the prosecutions. Although undefended, Thomas attended the court at the request of Mr. Allen. Eleven witnesses, who were mostly neighbours, were examined during the trial.

The first witness to be sworn in called was Elizabeth Hapgood:  

"I know the prisoner and his wife, and I remember her being in my house on the evening of the 12th of August, last. She had a pint of ale, and whilst she was in the house, her husband, the prisoner came in. At the time she had a pint of beer in her hand. She then left and he remained, and later in the evening, about nine o'clock, she returned, and the prisoner was still there." 

"She was then the worse for drink. She came in and caught hold of a parcel he had and was about striking him with it. He jumped up and I went between them. Just then another man who was in the house also got up and took the deceased out and prisoner followed her, but came back in the course of a quarter-of-an-hour. In about another quarter-of-an-hour prisoner's little boy came in and said to the prisoner that the deceased was ill."

The second witness to be sworn in was William Home and said: 

"I remember being in the Talbot on the night in question, and saw the deceased there; she had a pint of beer. Shortly after she had been there, prisoner came in, and when he saw his wife he told her to "go home," and she said “I won't go home," and he said I will make you," and prisoner gave her a push."

"Prisoner remained in the house afterwards drinking, and in about half-an-hour afterwards the wife returned to the house, strongly under the influence of drink. She appeared to be in a temper. Prisoner was sitting down on the settle with a bundle by his side. She caught hold of it and said, “I will have it," but he said" You shan't," and a struggle followed."

"Prisoner rose up his fist about to strike his wife, but he did not strike her. I went between them, and took her out to the door and put her in the direction of her home, and I persuaded her to go." 

"It was about a quarter of an hour afterwards that the prisoner left, but again returned in a short time and sat down by me, and said to me "So help me God she (the deceased) won't come down for me again in a hurry."

"After the prisoner's little boy came down he said, "Father come home, my mother is ill," That was the first time the little boy came down, but prisoner did not go out. The little boy came down again and said, "Father come home, mother is dead." Prisoner said, “Drunk she is." 

"The deceased used to drink heavily, and when drunk was often very quarrelsome."

Sarah Howe was next called and said"I remember seeing the deceased on the evening of the 12th of August on her own doorstep. She was rather intoxicated, and abused everyone that passed. I walked down the length of two houses, and as I was returning I heard a plate being broken."

"I ran on towards her house, as there were two or three children about the door, and sent them away. I then heard her scream “Murder” three times, and exclaim “Oh Tom." The door was closed after these screams. I could see that it was open, but I could not see in. I do not know who closed it. "

"I often heard rows between the prisoner and the deceased, who was a woman of a very quarrelsome temper. Deceased was a very violent woman, and would abuse anyone that looked at her."  

Mary Ann Phillips was next sworn in and said: "I was returning passed prisoner's house, and it was then about nine o'clock. My attention was attracted to prisoner's house by hearing screams, and in consequence, I stood opposite the door, which was then half-open." 

"I looked through the half-opened door into the room, and I saw Selina Jones and the prisoner; I saw the prisoner strike his wife in the face. She was then sitting by the door, when he struck her she said: "Oh, Tom, don't." I then went away, leaving the deceased screaming. "

A view of Newcastle Hill.

Thomas Riley was next examined by Mr A. Williams and said: "On the evening of the 12th August I was passing prisoner's house with my wife, it was between nine and ten o'clock I heard a man saying “Give me my supper.”"

"I did not know whose voice it was I also heard a plate broken. I also heard screams, and a woman's voice saying" Oh, you have murdered me." I then went away, and saw the prisoner on the following morning, but not that night. I did not see prisoner that night, but I heard him coming to the door and say “Get up, you old sow, you are drunk.”

Thomas Jenkins, examined by Mr B. T. Williams, said: "On the evening of the 12th August, I was in The Lamb Inn, about nine o'clock, and prisoner came in there, and afterwards his mother came in and asked for 6d for tea and sugar, which he gave her."

"I also heard the prisoner tell the landlady to let her have some gin for his wife. Afterwards, prisoner said, “My wife is not what the man calls her a whore, but I have nearly done for her now." 

Mary Jones was next called, and examined by Mr A. Williiams, and said: "I was passing it on the evening of the 12th August, between half-past nine and ten, when the prisoner's mother called me in. I went in and saw prisoner's wife sitting in a chair. I went up to her and found that she was quite dead and cold. I sent the little boy to fetch his father. There was a quantity of blood on the floor, and it appeared as if it had been washed up."

Ann Jones, the mother of the Thomas Jones was called, and said: "I am 81 years of age, and the mother of the prisoner' I lived with him and his wife Selina. It was about seven o'clock that the wife came home on the evening in question. She had been drinking before she came home."

"Selina suckled her child and then went out. I also went out afterwards to the public house and the deceased said, “Go home mother, I'll come after you. She soon afterwards came home, and was followed by her husband. It was about half-past nine that she came home and immediately after he came in, she up with a soup plate, and threw it at him." 

"He then went out of the house, and she said she would follow him in a minute. She got up to go after him, but fell over the table, and the little boy and myself then caught hold of her arm, and she got up, and we put her in the armchair by the fire, and I thought she went to sleep."

"Soon afterwards I went up to her, and got a little alarmed because she did not speak. I then went to look for my son, the prisoner, and it was then I had the gin."

Ann was then questioned by the Judge.

The Judge: "Did she drink it?"
Ann Jones: "Yes. She was alive then, I am sure I put it to her mouth, and I am certain she swallowed it. I afterwards put my hands to her head. Afterwards, my son came home, and he sent for Dr. Jenkins. When my son gave me the gin, he told me to give it to his wife, as it would do her good and liven her up." 

Dr. Jenkins, Bridgend, said: "On the night of the 12th August last, a little after 10 o'clock, prisoner and another man came for me, and the prisoner said he believed his wife was dead. I went directly, and I found the wife in the house seated in a chair by the fire. She was dead, and I thought at the time that she had been dead a quarter of an hour."

"I noticed the floor of the room was smeared with blood. By smeared, I mean that the blood had been washed up. I examined her and found blood on her clothes and legs. I did not examine her minutely because there were no external injuries. I thought I should have to make a postmortem examination."

Cross-examined by Mr. Allen: "It was a little after 11 o'clock when I was in the house. I formed no opinion then as to the cause of death. I did not make a post-mortem examination it was done by another gentleman in my absence."

Dr. Leahy deposed the making a post-mortem examination, the results of which he detailed:
"He was of opinion that she bled to death from the internal wounds, which corresponded with a slight external contusion which he found on her person, and such wound would have been produced by a kick." 

"He did not think the wound could have been produced by a fall. He did not think that even the falling upon the leg of a table would have produced it. I do not think the weight of a body falling against the leg of a table would have produced the injuries.”

Helen Bevan was next called and said: “A little after ten, I went into the house, just as Dr. Jenkins was coming out, and I found the prisoner's wife sitting down in the chair. I undressed the deceased and washed her. On one of her cheeks, there was a slight discolouration. The witness also spoke to other marks of violence on the person of the deceased."

Thus ended the case for the prosecution. 

The Jury afterward retired and having been absent a short time returned into court with a verdict of guilty of Manslaughter. The Judge deferred passing sentence, but at the rising of the Court sentenced the prisoner to ten years' penal servitude.

The mugshot of Thomas Jones taken at Pentonville Prison in 1874.

I have been able to obtain the prison records of Thomas Jones. It gives an interesting insight into the type of gentleman he was.

While at Swansea Prison Thomas is described as being 5ft6, with foxy red hair, blue eyes, and a light complexion. It is noted that he had five blue dots tattooed near his left thumb and is described as a Drunkard. At that time Thomas was unable to read or write.

He was suffering with the early stages of Syphillis, a compound fracture of the right leg and a joint ankle stiff.

On the 28th of April, he was transferred to from Swansea Prison to Pentonville Prison.

Thomas is described as being fat and having problems with both of his legs.
By this time he has lost most of his left little finger and had ulcers. At the time of his admission to Pentonville Thomas was 5ft6 and weighed 144lbs.

Shortly after his admission to Pentonville, Thomas was hospitalised with a large ulcer on his right leg. He stayed in the infirmary for for months.

On the 19th of January 1874, Thomas was transferred from Pentonville Prison to Portland Prison. 

During his time at Portland, Thomas was hospitalised seven times for various complaints including Lumbago, Diarrhoea, and an abscess.

He served another six years of his sentence at Portland before being released on license on the 31st of December 1880.

The Licence for Thomas Jones

What happened to Thomas after his release from prison? Thomas Jones came back to Bridgend. 

At the time of the 1881 Census, Thomas was lodging at 17 Newcastle Hill. He is listed as a 'Pedlar.'

By the time of the 1891 Census, Thomas had moved to Nolton Street. There he was lodging with eight others and is listed as a 'Hawker.'

In 1901 Thomas was an inmate at The Bridgend and Cowbridge Union Workhouse. Aged 80, he was listed as a 'Pauper' with his previous occupation being a 'Hawker.' 

Thomas died at Bridgend and Cowbridge Union Workhouse in 1911 aged 91.

(Sources: NLW - Ancestry - Glamorgan Archives - Pentonville Prison) 

1 comment

  1. Really interesting, thanks for sharing! Who knew people lived to age 91 in the 18/1900s!


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