THE local press adopted an arrogant attitude towards the lower classes inability to hold drink when it reported a brutal Christmas murder.

The Hampshire Advertiser and Salisbury Guardian pontificated about the fatal stabbing being "entirely produced by the use of those destructive spirits so much in use among the lower orders of society."

In reality, Thomas Randall had killed his wife, Elizabeth, because he was insane.

The drama took place in a small tenement where the pair had been drinking heavily for some three days before inviting three friends to join them to add to their festive cheer.

Indeed, a copious amount of ale was consumed without any indication of what was to follow.

However, within a few minutes of them leaving, a neighbour heard a small noise in the house and saw Randall running out of the door exclaiming: "I have done the job. She is indoors, go and have a look at her."

Somewhat puzzled, he went inside and was confronted by the horrific sight of the bootmaker's wife lying at the bottom of the stairs with blood pouring from a wound behind an ear which had been inflicted by one of his trade's paring knives.

The victim was treated as best as neighbours could but died 10 minutes later from loss of blood.

The press report described Randall "raving about like a madman" in front of the property contained in a court adjacent to St James's Street, Portsea, Portsmouth, but he was swiftly detained and the following day December 28, 1830, he was committed in custody to stand trial at Hampshire Assizes on a coroner's warrant.

Randall duly appeared before Mr Justice Gazelee on February 24 the following year, charged with murder.

Little was reported of the hearing.

The six lines revealed Mr Carter appeared for the prosecution and the facts and background had been printed by the Advertiser at the time of the killing. It ended with the jury acquitting him on the grounds of insanity.