“At three o’clock yesterday afternoon, an inquest was held upon the body of the late Mr. Mills, Coroner White presiding.
Spectator. January 11, 1876
Spectator. January 11, 1876
The Palm’s Hotel at the corner of King and Bay streets was the centre of attention for Hamiltonians when the coroner’s inquest on the body of Nelson Mills was held. The people gathered, both inside the hotal, and on the sidewalk surrounding fully expected to get a glimpse the accused in the case, and they were not disappointed.
The prisoner, Michael McConnell, was brought into the jury room at half past three, handcuffed and guarded by three constables
A transcript of the proceeding follows :
The first witness called was –
James. H. Mills, sworn : The deceased was my uncle; he was born in Canada, and was 57 years of age; he belonged to the Presbyterian church; saw him last alive at five o’clock on Sunday morning last; did not see the assault; heard that an assault had been committed upon him by one Michael McConnell on Wednesday morning last; saw him half an hour afterwards; he said nothing to me at the time; on Sunday morning he asked me if they had found the knife; I said yes, I understood so; he asked me where he was arrested and I told him he had been arrested at his house and that he had made no resistance. Mills replied, “No, he knows he was guilty;” was not present at Mr. Mills’ death.
Thomas Hayes, sworn : Am a labourer; live in this city; last Wednesday morning about ten minutes to ten or ten o’clock myself and James Balderson were going up Queen street, about ten yards from George street; were on the east side; I heard some screams; I turned round and saw the deceased running towards George street on Queen street; saw the prisoner, whom I recognize now, following him with a knife; saw deceased fall in the middle of the street, but whether he was knocked down or tripped, I cannot say; as I was passing George street George street, I saw the prisoner and his wife talking on the corner; after the deceased fell down, I saw the prisoner stab him with a knife; prisoner was standing up at the time; saw him lift his hand with a knife in it, and stick it into the deceased three or four times; the deceased then got up and ran to George street when he fell; the prisoner was still following him with the knife in his hand; while the deceased was down, I saw the prisoner stab hi in the right side or the bowels once then step back and walk to the corner of Queen and George streets, where he stood a few minutes; a man in his shirt sleeves came up at this moment, and seeing the knife in his hand, stepped back, but the prisoner said, “I won’t touch you, and walked on down Queen street wiping the blood off the knife with his fingers;” my mate was about two blocks behind me when I followed him along Queen street; I asked four men who were working to assist me to arrest him, but they laughed at me; I followed him over a fence and saw him go into the house; soon afterwards, I saw Detective McPherson coming; I went in with him and identified the prisoner, who was then arrested; Smith, the bailiff, was in the house and he asked prisoner if he was out of his mind; He said, “No, it was Nelson, I know the man”
To the Foreman : When I heard the deceased scream, he was running across Queen street from the front of his house on the opposite side of the street, hen he fell, and was stabbed several times; he rose as I ran to George street, apparently making for his own side gate; he fell again in front of it and the prisoner stabbed him there again; I saw the prisoner talking o a woman on the corner of Queen and George streets before the assault; cannot say whether it was his wife; they were on the south east corner of the two streets.
To Prisoner : Passed you on the east side of Queen street; (here the prisoner asked that the rest of the witnesses be required to leave the room which was granted); you were standing on the corner of Queen and George streets talking to a woman; I was walking on at the time; I was ten or fifteen yards past you when I heard deceased scream; I was walking at an ordinary pace; (here the prisoner requested that witness should show how fast he was walking, which he did by walking along the room). The object of the prisoner’s cross-examination was not made apparent.
Duncan Campbell, of the City of Toronto, Doctor of Medicine, being sworn, deposed : I am an Examiner of Physiology and Microscopic Anatomy for the Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario; in accordance with a message received by telegraph, I came to Hamilton this morning to assist in the post mortem examination on the late James Nelson Mills in conjunction with Drs. Vernon and Husband of Hamilton; examined deceased and found him to be a man apparently 57 years of age, body well nourished and robust; in the head and face were four incised or punctured wounds; 1st, one across the forehead on the right side three and a half inches long and penetrating to the bone; 2nd, a wound, apparently a stab, on the left side of the frontal bone about three quarters of an inch in length and penetrating to the bone, which upon raising the scalp was found to have been chipped, a portion about half an inch in length and about an eighth of an inch in thickness being loose and detached.
An incised or punctured wound on te left side of the head, above the ear, penetrating to the puriatal bone and cutting it slightly. The wound is semi-circular and about three inches long.
An incision wound, three and a half inches long, extending from the left eyebrow down to the cheek, cutting deeply in the cheek, but not the bone.
A wound about three quarters of an inch in length, apparently a stab in the right hip over the dorsum of the right itium, penetrating to the bone.
None of the wounds above enumerated especially endanger life.
On the left side of the back, about four inches from the spine; a punctured wound between the eleventh and twelfth ribs of the left side, which slanted upwards and inwards, grazing and chipping slightly the eleventh rib, and penetrating into the cavity of the chest. Upon subsequently opening the body, the wound was found to have gone through the lower lobe of the left lung, about an inch from its lower margin. This lung was greatly collapsed and consolidated, the cavity of fleura in the left side containing ten ounces dark liquid blood. The right lung was healthy, as were all the rest of the organs within the chest; I do not consider that this wound caused the death of the deceased but I do not think that he would have long survived it.
SEVENTH AND FATAL WOUND
A punctured wound in the epigastrium, about an inch from the medium line and about an inch in length, penetrating downwards and inwards, both towards the medium line and the interior of the abdomen; this wound, on opening the abdomen, was found to have penetrated the large curvature of the stomach about two inches from the pylorus, making two openings having apparently passed twice through the stomach,cutting through a fold or distended portion of it; the omentum was found inflamed and the peritoneal coverings and the organs of the abdomen, which with the exception of these evidences of inflammation, were all sound and healthy.
I believe deceased died from inflammation of the peritoneum, caused by the contents of the stomach passing through the wounds into the cavity of the abdomen and that no treatment of any kind would have been of the least avail.
To Dr. White : the wounds might have been caused by the knife produced in the jury room, and presumed to be the weapon used.
Dr. Elias Vernon, sworn : I assisted the last witness in his examination of the deceased; have hard his evidence and corroborate it; was sent for on Wednesday morning last to attend the deceased; saw him first about 10:45; found him sitting in a chair apparently in great suffering; he was leaning forward, and was unable to lean backwards on account of the pain he experienced in the abdomen; examined the wound in the back and as soon as I removed the pad, a quantity of blood gushed out; he complained greatly of the wound in his stomach and I examined that to see if the knife had entered the cavity of the abdomen; passed a small whalebone probe into the wound but there was some obstruction, and I desisted; I finally got him in a comfortable position by elevating his feet; his pulse was very low and I gave him stimulants; there were no signs of inflammation until the lapse of twenty-four hours, when the bowels began to bloat and he commenced to have hiccoughs; there were some signs of hiccough from the first; he gradually got weaker and died on Sunday morning last at half past eight.
To the prisoner – deceased took two or three spoonfuls of milk and two or three spoonfuls of broth; food goes directly into the stomach from the mouth; (the prisoner asked Dr. Vernon if the human stomach was like a pig’s stomach and wanted him to make a cut of it on the table); deceased took a pint and a half of liquids; before his decease he threw up a pint of liquids; the stomach of the deceased would hold about a quart; the prisoner said that he wanted to show that if there were two cuts in the stomach, no food could remain in it. He said that the witness had said that food had afterwards flowed out of it. The prisoner complained to the coroner that the answers to his questions had not been satisfactorily given.
On further consideration the witness thought that the stomach would hold a quart and a half.
Prisoner – “How much was in the stomach when it was opened ?”
Witness – “Four ounces of dark fluid; he had no movement of his bowels after his assault.”
To Foreman – “Do not think it possible that any dark liquid could pass into the stomach through the wound.”
Prisoner – “I want you to describe, doctor, the two ends of the stomach.”
The Coroner thought the question was unnecessary at this examination. On being satisfied that he would be allowed to ask the question at the next examination, he appeared satisfied and sat down.
On further examination, Doctor Vernon thought that the knife produced was capable of producing the wounds found on the body of the deceased.
Prisoner – “I want to know, doctor, if the liquid that flowed out of the body was still in the abdomen?”
Witness – “The liquid found lying in the intestines might have escaped from the stomach through the wounds?”
Dr. Husband, sworn : Knew deceased; was called to attend to him on Wednesday morning; was told that Mr. Mills had been stabbed about the head and face by a man with a butcher’s knife; on entering the house, I found deceased lying upon his face on a low bed, and pressing both hands on the it of his stomach, but he could not remain on his back at all; he then got into a sitting posture on the side of the bed; I then looked at the wounds on his head when my patient called my attention to the wound in the stomach by saying, “I’ve got my death blow here;” I then passed my probe in the wound to see if it penetrated the cavity of the abdomen, and found it did; I then placed a carbolined band over the wound, maintaining it firmly in its place by a broad bandage; I found him in the most extreme peril from shock and haemorrhage; the pulse was hardly perceptible at the wrist; from the feeble action of the heart, and the loss of blood, he had already sustained, the bleeding was easily controlled; as soon as the bleeding was stopped, I gave him stimulants sparingly for two or three hours, until reaction was re-established. I examined the wound on the right side, and found from the spurting out of air and blood, that the lung had been pierced; at this stage of the proceedings, Dr. Vernon came in, and I corroborate the evidence he has given in every particular; was present at the post mortem examination today by Dr. Campbell; have heard his evidence and corroborate it.
Prisoner – “When did you see him first?”
Witness – “Soon after ten o’clock on Wednesday.”
Prisoner – “Don’t you think that if the wound in the stomach had been sewed it would have prevented death?”
The Coroner thought this question unnecessary.
Sarah Elizabeth Smith, sworn : I was a servant in the employ of the late Nelson Mills; was in his employ nearly five years; on the morning of the fifth of January between nine and ten o’clock was standing at the front door and saw prisoner there and he asked me if Mr. Mills was there; I said I thought he was not; he told me to go and see; I went to the room adjoining the hall and told Mrs. Mills that Mr. McConnell wanted to see Mr. Mills; she was seated in a chair and hesitated a few moments before getting up; at this moment I heard the cry of “Murder;” she and I rushed out the front door and saw deceased running across Queen street; the prisoner was running after him with a butcher’s knife in his hand; deceased fell near the fence surrounding Watkin’s premises; as he was getting up, the prisoner struck him several times on the head with the knife with the knife; at this stage I threw stones and dirt at him; Mr. Mills ran up George street; prisoner followed him; I cried murder before I threw the stones; Mr. Mills fell on George street in the middle of the road in the middle of the road between the first and second gate on his own premises; prisoner jumped on top of him and stabbed him in the back; prisoner then walked up George street to Queen street; Mr. Mills was assisted in by Mrs. Mills
To a Juror – When McConnell came to the door, he was accompanied by a woman; I heard her afterwards; I heard her afterwards calling murder; McConnell was at Mr. Mills house on the previous day.
To prisoner – Did not see you and Mr. Mills; did not hear you have any words with Mr. Mills; first saw Mr. Mills crossing Queen street running from his murderer;
Dr. Husband recalled – Immediate cause of death was inflammation of the abdominal cavity
Detective McPherson – On Wednesday morning between 9 and 10 a.m., a man came to the Chief’s office and said Nelson Mills had been stabbed; the chief ordered me to go and capture the prisoner; I jumped into a buggy and drove to King street when I was told that the prisoner had gone up Queen street towards Concession street; I then went to the prisoner’s house and found him washing his hands; I said, “McConnell, what have you been doing?” ; he replied, “you don’t know all about it” I then stepped forward and took two butcher knives off the table and put them in my pocket; I then arrested him; he said, “I won’t resist, and I will give you my seven shooter,” which he did; the revolver produced is the same; I then looked around and found the knife produced on the table under his coat with some fresh marks of blood on it; he asked permission to change his clothes, which I granted; I then took the clothes he had taken off, and brought them with the prisoner to the station; I noticed fresh spots on his pants and vest.
To the prisoner : Your knuckles were bleeding on each hand; the hurts looked like bruises.
The prisoner exhibited his knuckles and showed scars on some of them.
George Morris, sworn : Am a butcher; know the prisoner; last Wednesday forenoon saw McConnell whetting his knife on a stone in his stall which is almost opposite; when he had sharpened his knife, he slipped the blade up his sleeve, holding the handle in the palm of his hand; Mrs. McConnell was in the stall; Mr. McConnell was going to come out of the stall when he had done this; his wife put a hand to each shoulder to keep him back, but he pushed her aside; he came out of the stall and told her to come on; as they were passing out of the market, I heard McConnell say, “ well, I’ll see if he or them will boss me or not;” cannot say that the knife produced is the same I saw in prisoners hand that morning; my attention was drawn to the prisoner by Mr. Taafe coming in front of my stall and saying, “What’s the matter with McConnell?” It is not an unusual thing for a butcher to carry a knife in his sleeve; have not been on bad terms with the prisoner, he would not answer, so I quit.
Francis Taafe, sworn ; Am a butcher; on Wednesday morning last, between nine and ten o’clock, I saw McConnell’s wife running across the street, and heard her tell her husband that the Bailiff was in the house I walked past and asked Morris if he saw McConnell’s wife; I then saw McConnell take his apron off, take his steel and sharpen his knife; saw his wife put her hands upon his shoulder as if to detain him, but he pushed her away and said, “ I’ll soon show them;” he put the butcher knife up his coat sleeve and walked out of the stall, and his wife followed; the knife was similar to the one produced in Court; I never had any hard feelings against the prisoner; it is not unusual with butcher’s to carry their knives in their sleeves; it is about a year since we were on speaking terms.
The prisoner asked the witness several questions.
The Coroner said he intended calling more witnesses. The jury said they were satisfied with what they had heard. The room was then cleared, and in a few minutes the jury agreed to the following verdict:
“That the deceased, Nelson Mills, came to his death on Sunday morning, the 9th day of January from wounds inflicted on him by one Michael McConnell.
Before the jury separated, Mr. C. E. Pierce asked the prisoner why he put the knife up his sleeve and the reply was that he was going to cut up a quarter of frozen beef. In answer to a question put by the foreman of the jury, McConnell replied that he was not sorry for what he had done. He was then handcuffed, placed in a cab and returned to prison.
When we wrote yesterday of the tragedy which ended in the death of Mr. Nelson Mills, we supposed that further comment upon the wretched author of the crime would not be called for, until such time as justice finally laid its hand upon him. But his hearing yesterday before the Coroner’s jury calls for some remarks, which may be made without violating the ordinary journalistic rule, inasmuch as the facts of the killing are not in dispute; they are clearly established and not denied. The prisoner evidently has a perfectly clear perception of where the responsibility of the murder lies. It is, in his opinion, upon the failure of Mr. Mills to put up the fence which he wanted put up. The failure to put up the fence was the cause of his refusal to pay his rent, his refusal to pay the rent was the cause of Mr. Mills sending the bailiff to his house, and that, in turn, was the cause of his murdering Mr. Mills. This is a chain of causation which seems perfectly clear to him, and whatever moral responsibility there is in the matter rests, he thinks, on the first link, namely the failure of Mr. Mills to put up the fence, the other links, to his mind, are the logical consequences of the first, and his inability to get others to give due consideration to this view is evidently a source of irritation to him. This obtuse perception of logical relations is by no means an uncommon one. It is probably the most fertile cause of the innumerable smaller evils of social life, which, taken together, make a large portion of the sum of human misery. The child who strikes his head against the chair sees in the chair the cause of his pain, and takes revenge; the illogical mother, however, sees the cause in the carelessness of the servant who placed the chair where it was, though there was no more reason to suppose that placing it there would lead to mischief than if it had been placed anywhere else. These are but primitive samples of this confusion of logical relations. If we had time and space to trace it through social life, we should find that it was at the bottom of most quarrels which lend bitterness to experience and disturb the harmony of neighbourhoods. This frightful example of what it may lead to is an instructive lesson in the training of children. The habit of attributing things to their true causes, if formed in childhood, would in all likelihood, be applied to the larger and more complicated affairs of manhood. Had McConnell been at home when the bailiff entered, it is more than probable that it is the bailiff who would have been murdered, in which case it would have been quite clear to the culprit’s mind that Mr. Mills was the only party responsible for the deed, and that he, if anybody, ought to be punished for it.
The bearing of the prisoner before the Coroner’s jury, yesterday, was such as to chill every feeling of commiseration which would naturally be felt for any man in his awful situation, and not infrequently, the indignation of those present was with difficulty repressed. He grasped, with capacious avidity at every apparent discrepancy in the evidence, and seemed to think that if he could contradict a witness on any point whatever, no matter how remote its bearing upon the case, that it would be an advantage to him. For instance, the witness Hayes testified that he was ten to fifteen yards distant when he first heard Mr. Mills scream. It is more probable that he was from twenty to twenty-five yards distant. The point is of no importance whatever, but the prisoner grasped at it eagerly, and put Hayes through quite a lengthy cross-examination, with a view of proving that he was a few yards further off than he has stated. Similarly, when Mr. Mills’ negro servant was examined, the risoner misunderstood her to say that she first saw Mr. Mills on the occasion when he and his assailant met. Knowing this not to be the case, his small but nimble shrewdness seized it as if his whole defence rested upon his making out that she had not told the truth on that point. “Where did you say you first saw the deceased?” “On Queen street,” was the answer. “What was he doing?” “Trying to escape from his murder,” retorted the girl, but even this well planted home thrust was lost upon him. The medical testimony was that owing to the wounds in the stomach that organ could not perform its functions; that the food could not pass through it into the intestines. “How much nourishment had the deceased taken from the time he was stabbed until he died?” the prisoner inquired. The doctor supposed that, including cold water and a few spoonfuls of broth, he had taken about a pint and a half. “What had become of that pint and a half?” was his next inquiry. The doctor replied that part of it was found in his stomach and part in his abdomen, having exuded through the wounds.; “but had they measured he quantity to see whether it corresponded with the pint and a half which deceased had taken?” and that they had not, seemed to him to be a very gratifying flaw in he case against him. When Mr. Taafe and Mr. Morris testified to his sharpening the knife before he started on his errand of murder, it was almost with an air of triumph that he demanded to know if they had not been on bad terms with him; and as he appears to have been on bad terms with everybody who ever had anything to do with him, he had no difficulty in eliciting the fact that the witnesses kept him at a great distance as they could. Such were the frivolous questions with which he conducted his examination of the witnesses, and all this while admitting that he had inflicted the mortal wounds.
The Theatre Comique was in the news once again, with a description of the performance at the theatre the previous evening:
The Theatre Comique was in the news once again, with a description of the performance at the theatre the previous evening:
"Last evening, a large audience greeted the first appearance of the lady club swinger, Miss Nellie Clark. Her performance is simply wonderful, and it is now acknowledged that she is the greatest living club swinger. The singing of Miss Stanley was as usual very fine, and elicited enthusiastic applause. Miss Ada Richardson performed the trip jig with great success, and her song immediately constituted her a favourite. The performance of the La Rue Brothers on the high bar was very fine, and was executed with astonishing grace. On Wednesday evening, the Parentos will take their benefit. During the evening, they will make their celebrated leap for life from the back part of the hall to the stage."