At 8pm on Friday 16th January 1885, Police Sergeant Braddock received information that two persons (a man and his wife) had died suddenly at their house, No.19, Gold Street, off Broad Street, Pendleton. The house was a 2 up, 2 down terraced and had an entrance from Back Gold Street. Since the previous Wednesday it had been occupied by James Malone, age 61, his wife Catherine, age 51 and their daughter Honora Hill age 33. They had all previously lived at 18, Gold Street, opposite and prior to that they had occupied a cellar in Hankinson Street. The house had limited furniture. There were two "shake down" flock beds on the floor of the front bedroom and the rear downstairs room contained a small table, 1 chair and 1 stool. The front room was "entirely destitute of furniture".
When Sergeant Braddock arrived at the house he was informed by Honora Hill that her parents were dead in bed. She stated that on the previous night, they all went to sleep as usual, but at 5am she was awakened by a strange noise and found her father lying across her legs, cold and lifeless. She shouted to her mother that father was dead and her mother said "I am dying too, I am suffocated" and immediately expired. Honora said that the room was full of smoke at the time. Sergeant Braddock wondered why the deaths were not brought to light until 8pm when they were discovered by Hill at 5am. Hill had been to a nearby shop to buy candles when she mentioned that her parents were dead. He also wondered about the smoked-filled room when there was now no evidence of smoke, although there were the remains of a fire in the grate. He checked the chimney and found that it was blocked by two pieces of wood, about two feet above the fireplace and that they had been there for a considerable time. Probably put there by a previous tenant to check the downdraft. He also found a hammer under the scullery. When this was reported to the Chief Constable he replied that Hill's statement was unsatisfactory and she was arrested.
Dr J.S.Bury came to the house to undertake post mortems. James Malone had a pale face and looked peaceful. He had some blood on his right thigh and right wrist, but this was attributed to his wife bleeding from the nose as she lay on him. He had some vomit on the left of his face and the front part of his hair. He also had bruises of a serious nature, but not sufficient to account for his death. An internal examination revealed 3 broken ribs, but no congestion of the organs which would indicate asphyxia.
Catherine had no bruises, but her face had a purplish hue. Her nose, lips and gums were swollen. Her body looked agitated, unlike her husband's that was calm. Dr Bell thought that this could be a case of poisoning so he took the stomachs away for further examination.
Magisterial Proceedings were opened on Monday morning 19th January. Honora Hill was charged with having caused the deaths of her parents on 16th January.
An Inquest was held on Monday afternoon, 19th January at the Hare and Hounds Hotel, Broad Street, conducted by the Coroner, Mr F.Price and with a 14 man Jury. The first witness was Mrs Ann Rowlands, eldest daughter of the deceased. She said that her father was from County Galway in Ireland and was a Linen Weaver by trade, but recently he was a maker of small buffets and a Hawker of broken firewood. Mother used to go with him. He was very weak and had not been able to hawk for a long time. He was subject to dizziness. Her mother Catherine was always complaining of a bad cough, bronchitis and shortness of breath. Her sister Honora was a Hawker of drapery and was her parent's chief support.
Dr J.S.Bury gave evidence of the Post Mortems, but said that the analysis of the stomach contents, being carried out by Dr J.C.Bell, was not available, so he could not say what the cause of death was in both cases.
Police Sergeant Braddock gave his evidence and mentioned that Honora had been staggering, but had not taken a drink.
Honora Hill, youngest daughter of the deceased, said she was the wife of William Hill, but had not lived with him for the past 8 years. She said that on the night in question, she had lit a fire in the bedroom grate at 9.30 pm using "rattle-jacks" (cheap, coke refuse from the gas works). When she went to bed at 11pm the room was full of smoke and she had to open a window. It was the first time she had lit the fire there. Her parents came to bed after she had fallen asleep. She had woken up at about 4.30am and found her father lying across her legs and could not get up. She called to her mother three times. She was trapped in bed for most of the day. She shouted for help and banged on the walls, but nobody came. She also said that her father had had a nasty fall on Thursday evening. He was dozing by the fire and fell across the top bar. The kettle fell on him and scalded him. He complained of pain in his side.
Catherine O'Hagan, second daughter of the deceased said that Honora was the youngest daughter. She added that her father had fallen down the cellar steps at Hankinson St. three times, complaining of pains in his side.
Matthew Malone, son of the deceased stated that he was a Greengrocer and lived at 2, Gibson Street, Seedley. He was the only son and all the family came from Tuam in Ireland about 20 years ago. They lived in Hulme until 5 years ago before coming to Salford. He knew about his father falling, but couldn't do much to help. He knew his parents argued and sometimes struck each other. He had brought some "rattle-jacks" on his cart just before Christmas. Honora had been in domestic service from the age of 14 to when she married. She had a brain fever about 5 years ago and she hasn't been right at times. She regularly attends St. James's Catholic Church.
Mr Brockbanks from the Borough Engineers Department said that he and Mr W.S. Spencer from the Gasworks had conducted experiments with "rattle-jacks", but it was inconclusive. It is possible that there was a downdraught caused by the wind on that particular night.
The Inquest was adjourned.
The Funeral of James and Catherine Malone took place on Wednesday afternoon, 21st January. Their bodies had been laid side-by-side in the front room of their house in Gold Street. Hearses from the workhouse arrived at 3.30pm. They were put into two black-painted, deal coffins. Expenses were bone by the Union. Several hundred people witnessed the departure. About 100 people were at Weaste Cemetery and the little Catholic Chapel was nearly full. The service was conducted by Reverend John Welch, Priest at Salford Cathedral. Mrs Rowlands was the only mourner and was "rather demonstrative in her grief". At the graveside her demeanour entirely changed. Several persons who sought to show respect for the dead were rudely pushed aside by her, but "no scene occurred".
The Inquest was re-opened on Monday afternoon 26th January.
Dr Cullingworth, Physician and Surgeon of 260, Oxford Rd, Manchester and Lecturer in medical jurisprudence at Owens College, who conducted a second Post Mortem, agreed with Dr Bury, who carried out the first PM, but added that he had been able to examine the lungs and found that they were consistent with inhaling carbonic oxide gas (carbon monoxide).
Mr William Horscroft Waters, Demonstrator of Physiology and Lecturer on Histology at Owens College had analysed the blood and found that in both cases, there was absorption of carbonic oxide gas. He also said that Honora Hill would have been affected by gas absorption and would probably have been unable to move for hours after waking up, which explains her staggering and confusion.
Dr J.C.Bell conducted analytical investigation on the deceased stomachs and found no narcotic poison.
The jury returned a finding of Accidental Death.
On Tuesday 27th January, Honora Hill's Solicitor, Mr Desquesnes, applied for Bail. The Magistrate, Mr J.Makinson, wanted two Surities of £20 and the Solicitor negotiated it to £10 each. This was forthcoming and Honora was freed on Bail after spending eleven days in prison.
On Tuesday 3rd February at Salford Police Court, Detective Super-intendent Donahoe said that in view of the Inquest verdict, the police would not proceed further in the matter. The prisoner, Honora Hill should be discharged.