On This Day – November 20, 1902

In the Criminal Court to-day, before Mr. Justice Hood and a jury of 12, Emil Forsell, a young Norwegian sailor, was charged with having, on November 20 last, wilfully murdered Sophia Rigg, in Latrobe street west, near to Spencer street. An interpreter had to be sworn, as accused was not sufficiently acquainted with the English language. The evidence brought to prove the case for the Crown showed that deceased was on her way to visit her son, and was spoken to by her niece. Shortly afterwards accused was seen trying to commit an offence, and when interfered with the woman was dead. Death was caused by sudden and violent suffocation. A statement was made by the prisoner to the effect that he was so drunk that he did not know what he was doing, and he thought deceased was a woman with whom he had been in company with all day. Mr. Paul, counsel for the defence, submitted that the evidence was not clear that prisoner had caused the death of Mrs. Rigg, and that he way too drunk to know what he was doing. He asked the jury to return a verdict of manslaughter. Mr. Justice Hood said the authorities seemed to show that the conviction must be murder or nothing, and later, in addressing the jury on the point, said the law was not satisfactory in this. Juries, he pointed out, refused frequently to convict in cases of illegal operations, and persons who ought to be punished escaped. After the retirement of the jury an argument was heard whether the jury could convict for manslaughter, and Mr. Justice Hood said he would instruct the jury that they could do so, and reserve a case on the point for tho Full Court. The jury having been so instructed, almost immediately returned a verdict of not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter, and accused was remanded for sentence, pending the decision of tha Full Court on the point reserved.