James Hall was working as a builder in a yard on Manresa Road in Westminster. He was climbing the scaffolding to readjust it when a piece of wood sailed past his ear. The wood had been thrown by one of his mates, as a prank no doubt, but he couldn’t see whom at the time and then he noticed a group of small boys playing nearby.
Grabbing a flint stone from he found lying by the poles he aimed it at the boys and let fly. It hit one of them, a lad named Frederick Littlewood, who fell the ground. As his friends gathered round him he simply groaned ‘take me home’ and they ran for help.
Fred passed away the next morning, he was eight years old.
The inquest heard what had happened and the police arrested Hall and on the 10 June 1891 he was stood in the dock at the Westminster Police court for Mr Sheil to decided what to do with him. Hall was desperately sorry for what had happened; he clearly had no intention of killing the boy, or anyone for that matter. He said he only wanted to frighten the boys.
The magistrate decided he needed more information, more witnesses if possible, and so he released Hall on his promise to return to court in seven days and took his own recognizance to the value of £10.
It was a stupid thing to do but ultimately it was an accident. Hall himself was only 18, not that that would prevent him from hanging if a jury deemed that he had committed murder.
[from The Standard, Thursday, June 11, 1891]