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Albert Edward MATHESON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Mutilation
Number of victims: 1 +
Date of murder: November 18, 1957
Date of arrest: 5 days after (surrenders)
Date of birth: 1905
Victim profile: Gordon Lockhart, 15
Method of murder: Beating with a bottle and a hammer
Location: Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, England, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to death on January 30, 1958. Commuted to life imprisonment

Diminished responsability defence

Manchester Guardian

January 31, 1958

On January 30 Albert James Matheson, aged 51, was found guilty of the capital murder of Gordon Lockhart, aged 15, whose mutilated body was found in a sump under the boxing ring of the hall in Newcastle where Matheson was employed as a handyman. Matheson, who was a sexual pervert, had formed an unnatural association with the boy.

He told the police that he had taken 35 in a registered envelope out of the boy's pocket and that was why he had killed him. He was charged with capital murder on the basis that it was committed in furtherance of theft.

The defence was that Matheson, although not insane in the normal sense, in that he knew right from wrong, suffered from abnormality of mind such as to diminish his responsibility for what he had done, and that he ought therefore to be convicted of manslaughter, not murder. The question was, was his mentality so abnormal, due. to arrested or retarded development or disease, that he was not mentally responsible for what he had done ?

Dr. Ian Pickering, senior medical officer of Durham Prison, gave evidence that Matheson, who was diagnosed as a psychopathic personality in 1943, had between 1935 and 1943 been much given to self-injury, and had been a voluntary patient in a mental hospital in September, 1957.

His mental age was less than that of a boy of 10, and was in Dr. Pickering's view abnormal at the time of the act to an extent which substantially interfered with his responsibility. His idea of right and wrong was very elementary.

Dr. Robert Orton, consultant psychiatrist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, agreed with Dr. Pickering's view, and Dr. Thomas Cuthbert, consultant psychiatrist to the Newcastle Hospitals Board, added that Matheson had no feeling of remorse or of having done wrong, and that the question of right or wrong hardly ever entered his mind.

In his summing-up, the judge, after dealing with the background of the case, directed the jury that, if they were satisfied that Matheson was suffering from abnormality of the mind which substantially impaired his mental responsibility, the only verdict open to them was manslaughter.

Sexual perversion was not an abnormality of the mind, but an abnormality of morals. After an absence of 65 minutes the jury returned a verdict of capital murder, and the judge sentenced Matheson to death.



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