It was bad news for everyone in the Cambridgeshire village of Kirtling when Sam Poulter, the butcher, got drunk. He would open his back door, fire his shotgun into the air and roar with laughter.

He would also beat up his wife Julia, although as this normally happened indoors it only bothered the immediate neighbours.

On Saturday, December 23rd, 1905, Poulter got more drunk than ever, and threatened to run amok. People tried to restrain him, whereupon he fired wildly into the air.

Julia Poulter wisely kept out of the way until evening. As she came home through their orchard Poulter, legless, thought she was someone come to attack him. He fired, and Julia, hit in the back, died instantly.

At Cambridge Assizes on Monday, JANUARY 15th, 1906, he claimed it was an accident. The prosecution insisted, though, that it was wilful murder, and when the jury returned a guilty verdict the judge said he agreed with them.

The Home Secretary of the day thought differently. On the grounds that it was drink and drink alone that turned Butcher Poulter into a “lunatic with homicidal tendencies” he was reprieved, and served nearly 18 years in prison.