When two London families, the Porritts from Peckham and the Copleys from Blackheath, met up at a night club in Kent on the evening of May 14th, 1961, their night out became a saga of mayhem.
The trouble began in the clubs ladies toilet, where the women of the two families fell out and began fighting. The families return journey to London developed into a chase in which the two cars collided and there was further trouble. The Porritts went home, and then George Porritt, a 27-year-old car dealer, went to the Copleys house where there was another incident in which his cars windscreen was shattered.
When he arrived back at his home at around 2.30 a.m. on MAY 15th, he found that the Copleys were ahead of him. His front door had been smashed, and in the front-room his 48-year-old stepfather was being held against the window by two men, one of whom was holding a knife to his throat.
“George, George, theyre tooled-up!” the stepfather shouted. “Get the gun!”
“I pulled the gun from my pocket,” Porritt was later to say, “and I pointed it at the man who had a knife at my stepfathers neck. I tried to hit the man.”
But his bullet killed his stepfather, and in the front garden he afterwards shot two of the Copleys.
Charged with his stepfathers murder, George Porritt pleaded not guilty when he was tried at the Old Bailey in July 1961. Mr. Justice Glyn-Jones told the jury that although Porritt had not intended to kill his stepfather, he was guilty of murder if he intended to kill the other man, but instead killed his stepfather, or if he intentionally fired his gun at the other man. Even if it had not been proved that he intended to kill the other man, it had been proved that he intentionally fired at him.
The jury convicted Porritt of murder, but strongly recommended mercy. When the case went to appeal, a verdict of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation was substituted, the judges believing that had this option been offered to the jury they might have chosen it. Porritts death sentence was replaced with a 10-year prison sentence.