Preston wife committed suicide after killing her butcher husband with a knife

In early September 1906 an inquest was held in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum following the death of Margaret Dewhurst, aged 38, who was being detained at His Majesty's pleasure following the insane killing of her husband, aged 42, a Church Street butcher of Preston.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 2:12 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 2:25 pm

The court heard that since her arrival she had been carefully watched, but that earlier in the week she had been left alone for three minutes, and in that period she attempted to hang herself by means of a chain which she had secured to a beam. She was discovered in an unconscious state on the floor of the room and within a couple of days she passed away.

A subsequent post mortem examination revealed that there was a clot of blood on her brain. This supposedly being the result of some injury received some time ago and the reason she had been suffering from violent headaches which were mentioned at the trial following her husband's tragic death.

The jury had no hesitation in recording a verdict of suicide whilst in a state of unsound mind.

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Early in May 1906 she had appeared at Liverpool Assizes accused of killing her husband. The court heard of the events of the morning in mid-April when Albert Dewhurst was slain in their butcher's shop in Church Street.

It had seemed like any normal morning according to butcher's assistant Samuel Massey.

The two men were busy cutting up the meat and Mrs. Dewhurst was making up orders from the book. Albert Dewhurst was due to visit the Cattle Market at about 7.15am and left the shop for that purpose, but he was back within minutes after missing the tram he intended to catch.

No sooner had Dewhurst passed Massey and entered the kitchen than his attention was drawn to the open kitchen door through which he saw Alice Dewhurst lurching towards her husband with a butcher's knife in each hand.

Within moments she had struck him a fatal blow, turned and headed upstairs where their young child was sleeping. In panic, Massey ran into the street where a constable was on hand and the pair of them rushed to disarm the woman.

Just what caused Alice Dewhurst to carry out such a dreadful deed was a mystery, the couple had a seemingly happy marriage. It was stated that the woman had not been in the best of health recently, complaining of pains in her head. In court she looked a picture of misery and it was felt by the medical men that only a fit of madness could have prompted her action.

She was deemed unfit to plead and ordered to be detained during His Majesty's Pleasure being taken to Broadmoor.

The tragedy had shocked the community, as the couple were regarded as a happy and contented pair. Mr. Dewhurst had been a member of the Preston Butchers Association from its inception and had also been a committee member for 10 years.

He was recognised as a devout Catholic who was a regular attender at the nearby St. Augustine's Church. A family friend revealed that only a few days before, they had been together on an outing to Blackpool and there had been no indication of any problems between them, although the wife had been ailing for some time.

When news reached Preston of her death it was agreed that she would be returned home to be buried in Preston Cemetery. On the following Saturday afternoon she was quietly interred within the graveyard in the same plot as her mother.

The time of the funeral had been kept a secret and only a handful of mourners were at the graveside.

On the Sunday, however, news had spread and there were crowds of people around the grave. There had been much sympathy for a woman who had been a loving wife and mother.