Date Of Execution: 1 Jan 1841
Execution Place: unknown
A Soldier, who was executed at Chelmsford for the Murder of his Wife, with whom he quarrelled because he had no Potatoes for Dinner
JOHN MUCKETT was in the first battalion of the 4th Regiment of Foot, quartered at Colchester.
At the trial, Thomas King and his wife stated that the prisoner and his wife and the witnesses lodged in the same room. About five o'clock on the day stated in the indictment the prisoner came home, and said he would have some dinner. His wife said she would put the kettle on, and get him some tea. He replied that he would not have tea always, he would have some bacon. His wife accordingly got him some bacon, and laid it on a stool near the bed where he was lying. He then grumbled because he had no potatoes. She immediately set about preparing some. He damned her for not making more haste. She replied she could not handle the dirty kettle and iron the officers' linen at the same time. He said he would have no half words and grumbling at him, and immediately knocked her off the stool. She gave him a small blow in return, on the shins, with the nozzle of the bellows, upon which he kicked her, and threw her across the room.
King then interfered, and said the prisoner should not beat her any more. He said he would: she was his own wife, he would do as he pleased with her, and he would kill her as soon as not. He again gave her several violent blows on the head. The poor woman attempted to walk across the room, but was very lame, and was obliged to lie down on another soldier's bed. Her husband made her come from thence, and lie on their own bed. She was very sick in the evening, and he appeared sorry for his conduct.
The deceased was put to bed; and nothing more occurred until the witnesses heard the prisoner calling in the night: "Betty! Betty!" He said his wife was very ill. Mrs King got up, and found her dead. The prisoner then, in a state of remorse, went down on his knees, exclaiming he was a wretched man, for he had murdered her.
The Lord Chief Baron told the jury that this was a clear case of murder, and the jury having found him guilty he was sentenced to be hanged. At the place of execution he addressed the spectators, acknowledging the justice of his sentence, though he solemnly declared he had not the most distant idea of causing the death of his wife when he inflicted the fatal blows; and he earnestly exhorted the spectators to bear in mind the dreadful example they had before them of the consequence of suffering a sudden impulse of anger to get the better of their understanding.