40 year old Mary Daly was the last woman to
be hanged in
Mary was having an affair with 25 year old Joseph Taylor and on the afternoon of the 16th of June 1902, he was in the Daly’s house. He was observed by her two children, 11 year old John and his 10 year old sister, Lizzie, sitting by the fire and talking in hushed tones to their mother. Around 9.30 p.m. the children were put to bed, only to be woken by the sounds of a commotion outside the house later that night.
Their father, also John, was a coal carter
and had arrived home and put his horse away when he was attacked by
The murder was reported the following day by young John and Sergeant Conlan was the first officer to arrive. According to the Irish Times report of the 13th of December, 1902, “He went to the place and found the body lying on its left side in a field at the rear of Daly’s house.” “There were three wounds on the back of the head and several on the left side of the head.”
John Taylor, who lived close by, was the principal suspect. When interviewed he denied any knowledge of the crime and claimed to have been asleep at the time. However five weeks earlier he had told police that Mary had asked him to kill her husband but that he had refused to do so.
Given the children’s evidence both Mary and Taylor were arrested. He was charged with murder and she was charged with being an accessory after the fact. It was decided to try them separately.
The principal witnesses for the Crown were John and Lizzie Daly, whom the judge described as “unusually intelligent” children.
It could be established that
The judge also told the jury that “The immoral relations between the prisoner and Daly’s wife were certain. There had for some time been murder in the air.”
The jury believed the children’s testimony and it took them just 50 minutes to reach a verdict of guilty. Joseph Taylor was sentenced to death and told the judge “Thank you, my lord; I am an innocent man all the same.” He was transferred to Kilkenny Gaol to await execution.
Mary’s trial was now begun in the same courtroom. She was charged with being an accessory after the fact in the murder. Once again her children were the principal prosecution witnesses. The defence argument was that even if her children’s testimony was truthful, their father was killed as a result of a drunken quarrel between him and Taylor, in which Mary would have been powerless to intervene.
Sergeant Conlan testified to the finding of the blood stained pitchfork behind the door in Daly's house. Mary told him "He had that himself on Sunday morning" and that he had been beating her. Conlan asked her why there was blood on it. She claimed he had cut her hands with it. Examining her hands he could only see scratches, perhaps inflicted by her own fingernails, but no signs of cuts.
The jury took 55 minutes to convict Mary, but added a
recommendation to mercy. She was led
from the dock “in a dazed condition”.
The judge told the jurors that another jury had already found Joseph Taylor guilty and that he concurred
with both verdicts.
The Doctrine of Common Purpose, that was part of British common law in 1902, states that if two (or more) people commit a crime, they can be held equally responsible where there was common purpose, i.e. they both intended or could have reasonably foreseen the outcome. This would seem to apply in these two cases.
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