On May 31, 1964, Cyril Church beat Sylvia Nott into unconsciousness. Thinking he’d killed her, he dumped her body in a river, where she drowned.
Is this murder? The deliberate act wasn’t fatal, and the fatal act wasn’t deliberate. “His case is that he genuinely and honestly believed that she was dead,” Justice Glyn Jones told the jury. “I direct you that, if that was his genuine and honest belief, then when he threw what he believed to be a dead body into the river, he obviously was not actuated by any intention to cause death or grievous bodily harm; you cannot cause death or serious bodily harm to a corpse.”
They convicted Church of manslaughter.