Thomas was the main focus of the subsequent trial and newspaper reports. This is probably because the victim’s family claimed that William offered Thomas a shilling to “leave off” poor John. This was contradicted by other witnesses, but the whole trial was riddled with inconsistencies.

Some witnesses claimed that Thomas had hit John before he fell and others stated that “no blow was struck” and that John tripped over. The whole case was a mess of contradictory evidence. The judge was unimpressed, and eventually felt forced to dismiss the jury. He gave a verdict of “Not Guilty” and a message was sent to the police court rebuking local officers for shoddy police work:

“The difficulties in the case were, his Lordship several times remarked, very greatly enhanced by the very careless manner in which the depositions were taken at the police court”

“Fatal Fight”, West Middlesex Advertiser and Family Journal; 18 August 1866; page 3 column 6 (retrieved from www.findmypast.co.uk)

The full trial can be read at: www.oldbaileyonline.org