TIMOTHY Lynch holds a unique place in local casebook history - he is the only blind man to have been convicted of murder.

Lynch, 40, appeared before Hampshire Assizes on February 10, 1904, over the gruesome death of a fellow inmate at the Winchester Union where he had gained the unenviable reputation of being somewhat of a bully.

Despite the extraordinary nature of the crime, news was only broken to the public in two paragraphs which stated Lynch had been charged with killing with malice aforrethought 84-year-old Richard Marriner and remanded in custody pending trial.

It was however revealed the two paupers had clashed before, primarily because of Lynch's fiery temper and their opposing faiths, the victim being a protestant and his alleged murderer a catholic.

They occupied ward three where ordinarily only the elderly not in need of medical assistance lived. However an exception was made in Lynch because of his blindness.

He had been banished to other workhouses across the south and west to learn basket and mat making but was quickly rejected at each because of his fractious behaviour and sent back to Winchester where the two men repeatedly fell out, due in part to Lynch taking umbrage to Marriner's spitting.


Winchester workhouse.

Winchester workhouse.


A clearer picture over the fatal drama emerged two days later on December 17 when an inquest, which Lynch declined to attend, was opened into his adversary's death.

George Brewer, 63, revealed what led up to the demise of Marriner who with others had been out that afternoon and returned for tea. The former part-time milkman but a potter by trade, went to his bed, emptied his pockets and put on a blue suit while the tables were being prepared.

Lynch came into the room and collided with him, saying: "Where are you going Dick?" (Marriner's familiar name) and he replied: "I am here," confirming he was sitting at the top of the table, a source of annoyance to all.

"Lynch did not go there in a threatening way but quite quietly," Brewer recalled. "He collided with a chair and seemed annoyed at that. He aimed a heavy blow at Marriner's head after catching him on the shoulder. He evaded the blow and with the chair capsizing, he fell onto the floor.

"He resisted as much as he could, shouting: 'Let me get up and I will get up' but Lynch told him: 'You will not get up until I have finished with you. You have tantalised me for years and I mean to finish with you now, even if I have to out you."

But as abruptly as the fracas started it ended and the inmates sat down for tea except for Lynch who lay on his bed. The meal over, the tables were cleared and Marriner, as was his duty, took the surplus bread away, but as he returned to the room, he forgot to close the door which rankled Lynch who sprang from his bed and shouted: "I will teach you to shut the door."


King George V

King George V


As the octogenarian said he was going to do so, Lynch struck him an uppercut. Marriner tried to make light of it: "Well, that is one for his nob anyway. I will make my bed" and sat down.

Lynch however would not be placated, threatening him: "I am not done with you yet, I am coming for you again. I have been turning over in my mind what to do with you, whether to fist you or boot you. I would not soil my hands with a dirty cur like you."

As Marriner lay trapped between two beds, Lynch repeatedly struck him.

"They were given in rapid succession," said Brewer. "Marriner begged 'Don't kill me please, leave off" but Lynch told him: "I have not finished with you yet."

Lynch's father, David, who remarkably also lived at the workhouse, intervened, pleading with his son to back off.

"Come away from the old man and leave him alone" but he bluntly told his father: "If you don't shut up I will come and serve you worse than he.

"All of us were dumbfounded," Brewer admitted, adding that Lynch had often hit Marriner who had been "most irritating" towards him and had made himself "obnoxious" to him for four years.

A second witness, Henry Glasspool, 79, said no sooner had Marriner said grace before the meal, Lynch went after him, calling him: "You beastly protestant, you have insulted me for four years and I will pay you, I'll beat it in or beat you out" and then struck him "fearful."

Fred Monday, 78, testified how Lynch "went for" Marriner and clouted him two or three times about the head with a fist and a pair of slippers.

"Marriner hallooed 'murder' or something like that. There was a scuffle between the two men."

After order had been restored, Lynch ironically brought his enemy tea but the following morning, with his condition causing concern, Marriner was transferred to the infirmary.

Realising the severity of his beating, Lynch anxiously asked a porter how he was, saying he was sorry.

Marriner did not recover and died the same day principally from a double fracture of the skull.

When charged with murder, Lynch made no reply, only to express his sorrow. "I was in drink or this would never have happened."

When the case came Mr Justice Darling, Lynch scandalously had no barrister to represent him. It was only on the receipt of a letter he had written the judge issued a dock brief and appointed a lawyer to act for him.

He then pleaded not guilty on the basis he had harboured no intention to kill.


Aretas Akers-Douglas

Aretas Akers-Douglas


Mr Temple Cooke, who appeared before the Crown, told jurors in the opening words: "This case is a very sad one because the prisoner is blind and is only just able to distinguish light from darkness and the deceased was an old man."

The evidence reflected what had been delivered at the inquest. At its conclusion, the prosecutor read out a statement from Lynch: "I had no intention of killing the man. If I had seen him, I would never have struck him on the head. I did not know where I was striking him. He aggravated me so. I am very sorry. I do not wish to call any witnesses."

Temple Cooke then went straight into his closing speech, telling jurors: "It is up to you to say whether there was any justification for the dealing of the blows in such a way to cause the man's death and unpleasant as is your duty, it is for you to return a verdict of murder."

Mr Simon, defending, accepted Lynch could not justify his actions on the basis of self defence but inviting them to return a verdict of manslaughter, reiterated Lynch's statement he had not intended to kill.

"Undoubtedly he lost his temper when he fell over the chair but it is not safe for you to come to the conclusion merely on the ground of lapse of time. It is important when you view the whole set of circumstances the ultimate result is mischance and it is itself manslaughter because from an illegal and improper blow delivered in the heat of passion the unfortunate man died."

In his summing up, the judge reminded jurors Marriner had been described as "an aggravating old man." He then asked them to ponder the question: "If there was time for the blood to cool, was there anything in the provocation which would reduce the charge of murder?

"It is impossible for you leave out the consideration the expressions used by the prisoner. If you believe what the prisoner said, you cannot put it out of your mind what was the provocation given.

"If a person uses a threat and follows it by something which leads to a man's death, what provocation is there that would justify you in bringing in any other verdict than that of murder? Is there any evidence which justifies you in saying that is there anything less than murder?"

The panel retired before returning a verdict of guilty but endorsed with a strong recommendation for mercy because of his blindness and the provocation he had endured.

Asked by the judge whether he had anything to say, Lynch replied in a whisper: "no."

In profound silence, the judge donned the infamous black cap, telling him the jury had returned the only possible verdict but he would pass on their strong recommendation to the authorities.

Indeed, within a week, the Home Secretary Aretas Akers-Douglas had intervened and on his recommendation to King George V, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.