HE went to the police station, agitated but without remorse. "I don't know whether I have killed my wife," Bill Blackman told the constable on desk duty. "I hope I have. She has been knocking about with another man." Despite being repeatedly struck over the head with a small axe, Mary Ann Blackman had survived, no doubt in part to her young son whose brave intervention saved her from the grave.

It was the eternal triangle. There were three in the marriage, and Blackman took second place behind their lodger.

Initially love blossomed between with the couple but gradually during their 25-year relationship, ill feeling grew - as did his demeanour when inflamed by drink. Violence flowed as much as the beer. Eventually, she could take no more and on November 23, 1911, she took out a summons for a separation on the grounds of cruelty. The emnity escalated and she slept in another room.

The simmering hatred erupted into violence a fortnight later. At 5am, Blackman came downstairs for breakfast, still prepared by his wife, before leaving to catch a tram to work as a labourer.  "Are you going to look over the matter or do your worst?" he demanded.  She cried out: "I am, I'm unhappy and you don't give me any money."

He stormed out, but returned shortly afterwards, snarling: "I miss my car and have lost my work. Are you happy?"

She retorted: "It doesn't make any difference whether you have you have lost your job. You don't give me any money."

The two angrily parted. Blackman went to his bedroom for a change of clothing which he chose to put on in the scullery where his wife was making bread and butter. What then happened led to Blackman, 48, appearing at Hampshire Assizes on February 8, 1912, charged with attempted murder.

Daily Echo: A small axe

"Suddenly, she felt a blow on the head which knocked her to the ground," prosecutor Mr Temple Cooke alleged. "He struck her on the arms and shoulder with a chopper. She got up and he struck her several times on the back of the head with the chopper. She fell down again and her son, 12 years of age, came in and tried to help his mother. He got him away from her."

However, Blackman renewed his assault, twice striking her on the head and once on the thumb before she fled to neighbours. Taken to hospital, a doctor treated her for nine scalp wounds that had penetrated to the skull, bruising to her shoulder and a compound fracture of the thumb.

Within minutes, Blackman presented himself at the police station, fearful but unremorseful of the beating because she had been "knocking about" with the lodger.

But the barrister observed: "Even supposing there was something between them, that did not warrant the violence."

After she and the doctor had testified, Blackman's police statement was read out, in which he complained of living "a life of misery" because she favoured their seaman lodger. "My wife has flouted at me at every turn. She has followed him into the washhouse, kissing, whispering and hugging one another. She has banged me in the face in front of him, and she took the children to the ship to see him off. She told me to clear out as she intended to live with him. She made me so excited I didn't know what I was doing. The climax came when she told me to clear out and make room for the other man. I had repeatedly asked him to leave but he refused. She said if he went, she would also go."  In evidence, Blackman reiterated his contempt for the lodger but amended his account of what led to the assault on his wife. "I had got my clothes when my wife struck me and I struck blindly at her. I was crazy at the time but did not intend to kill her. The lodger had no home and I introduced him as a friend. Now he has served me this turn."

Jurors acquitted him of attempted murder but convicted him of causing grievous bodily harm. Then they learnt of his drink-related offending.

"I have known him for several years and when in drink, he is of a very violent nature," Detective Inspector Tupper revealed. "He has been convicted of drunkenness, assaulting the police and fighting. He has broken another man's nose in a fight."

Passing a sentence of penal servitude for five years, Mr Justice Darling told Blackman: "The jury have convicted you on the clearest possible evidence. One might have expected the wounds to have been more serious than they were. I will treat this case as one of great gravity."