2. dancing to the gallows


Previous: the passion of jealousy and the demon drink

In the period immediately before he killed his wife and also thereafter, Walker Moore was, to many of those who saw him, clearly mentally ill. When he arrived at the house of correction at Preston, he was confined to the hospital, “..his health being bad. His manner, we believe, is, at times, somewhat wild, the consequences, it is supposed, of long-continued dissipation”. Things improved little during his trial, at the Lancaster Assizes on 13 Aug 1862, before the judge Baron Wild: when the guilty verdict was delivered and the death sentence passed, Moore danced in the dock. Someone who had followed the case closely, and had perhaps seen this jig, later wrote to the editor of the Preston Chronicle in his defence, signing himself simply “Humanitas”.

“Now, in the opinion that the prisoner was beside himself, I do not stand alone; it was shared in by the respected coroner before whom the inquest was taken, and he has had an experience extending over half a century. It is deeply to be regretted that the learned judge did not assign him counsel. Several well known barristers, who were in attendance, were most anxious that such a request should be made to them.”

Moore, though perhaps in no fit state, was left to defend himself and offered little more than that his wife deserved what she got.

Humanitas continued:

“What I submit, therefore, is that there has not been conclusive evidence adduced to show that the prisoner was of sane mind when he committed the deed; that he was mad as a March hare through jealousy..”

With effective counsel, he continued, Moore would have avoided being condemed to “public strangulation”.

In the event, the end of Walker Moore came in a different fashion.

lancaster-castle.jpg (JPEG Image, 932 × 699 pixels) - Mozilla Firefox 27122013 205445

Lancaster Castle, where Walker Moore was tried at the assizes

Next: a mob dissappointed

Sources: various contemporary newspapers

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