“I just went raving and I hit him,” said Michael Dennis McCarthy, a 28-year-old steel erector, pleading not guilty to the murder of Sidney Rees, a 48-year-old labourer.
On the night of DECEMBER 4th, 1953, Mr. Rees had been found lying dead on a road at Trimsaran, Carmarthenshire. His forehead had been split open, exposing his brain, and he had several skull fractures.
The police learned that Mr. Rees – a bachelor – and McCarthy had alighted from the same bus from Burry Port, where both had been drinking, but not together. When questioned, McCarthy admitted the attack, saying he was drunk at the time and claiming provocation.
He told a Carmarthenshire Assizes jury that Mr. Rees had come up to him, committed an indecent act, and when pushed away had invited him to commit a homosexual offence. “I hit him in the face, and he fell down,” McCarthy had told the police. “I don’t remember much about it, but I remember catching hold of his ears and bumping his head on the floor. I left him lying on the road because I felt blood on his face. I was drunk at the time and saw red. If I had been sober I would have passed his suggestion off as a joke.”
His defence failed to secure a verdict of manslaughter, and on March 17th, 1954, McCarthy was sentenced to death.
Dismissing his appeal on April 12th, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Goddard, said: “Apart from a man being in such a complete and absolute state of intoxication as to make him incapable of forming the intent charged, drunkenness which may lead a man to attack another in a manner which no reasonable sober man would do cannot be pleaded as an excuse, reducing the crime to manslaughter if death results.”
But McCarthy was spared the gallows. Reprieved on May 16th, 1954, he was released from prison after serving nine years.