In 1852 William Sparrow, William Maggs, and Robert Hurd were charged with the murder of Sarah Watts at Woodlands, neear Frome, Somerset, England. The following account of the trial was published in the Somerset County Gazette on April 10, 1852
There was not quite so great a concourse of persons anxious to obtain admittance to the Hall on Tuesday, when this trial came on, as on the previous day. Nevertheless, the atrocity of the crime, and the horrible circumstances of brutal barbarity which preceded the act of murder, drew great numbers to the Castle yard at an early hour, and whenever either of the doors of the Hall was opened, a tremendous rush was made to obtain places within. At nine the place was crowded; and at that hour the learned Judge (Erle) took his seat on the bench.
The prisoners, William Sparrow, William Maggs, and Robert Hurd, were then placed at the bar, and charged with the murder of Harriet [Sarah] Watts. When called on to plead, they severally answered, in a firm, resolute tone, that they were “not guilty.”
They are persons of somewhat forbidding aspect, especially Hurd, whose conduct in the dock was much calculated to prejudice the Jury against him. He is evidently a daring, unscrupulous fellow, capable of resorting to violent means to accomplish an object where other measures might prove abortive. As soon as the Jury was sworn, he took from his pocket, with an air of confidence and an assumption of pomposity, some writing-paper and a pencil, and during the trial he constantly employed himself in taking notes of the evidence and handing down remarks upon it to the learned counsel for the defence. His manner had some influence upon the others; and the whole three, though they paid great attention to the testimony delivered by the various witnesses, seemed disposed to make a show of bravado and of confidence that the crime with which they were charged could not be brought home to them. Hurd evinced great impatience while the learned counsel for the prosecution stated the case, and occasionally made sundry ejaculations expressive of his surprise at the construction put upon some of the circumstances detailed; and as the witnesses delivered their evidence, he placed himself in an attitude to confront them, fixing his eyes upon them with an expression of much anger and ferocity. He was a[t] length ordered to turn around and face the bar.
Mr Moody and Mr Everett were counsel for the prosecution; and Mr Edwards and Mr Cole for Maggs and Sparrow.
In stating the case, Mr Moody said he had the honour to appear before the Jury to lay before them the grounds on which they were asked to say that the prisoners were guilty of the crime of wilful murder. It would be superfluous to address observations to them with a view to bespeak their attention to the momentous importance of the case, for it was impossible that they could be without a deep sense of the great responsibility under which they would have to act. But he would forewarn them that the closest application of their understandings and faculties would be requisite in this case, on account of the nature of the evidence on which he sought to establish the charge against the prisoners. The Jury would have to look at a vast variety of circumstances. They would have, first, to listen to the preliminary address which he should have to make, and in which he should endeavour to give them such a notion of the whole case as should enable them to examine and investigate every detail of evidence as it was prevented [sic] before them. When they had heard him, they would have the labour of hearing every part of the rather large amount of evidence that would be produced, and then to inform their minds as to the conclusion to which they should come, and say whether, from the facts adduced they could come to a conclusion that the prisoners were guilty of the crime imputed to them. In this, as in every other case, the first question would be, whether or not the crime had been committed by anyone. He would, therefore, shortly state the circumstances, so as to put this question out of the reach of all difficulty. Sarah Watts, the poor girl who was murdered, was a child of about 14 years of age, daughter of John and Leah Watts, who occupied a dairy farm at a place called Woodlands, about 2 miles from Frome, in this county. The house was situated about 100 yards from the road which passed in front of it, and Mr Watts and his wife left their house on the morning of the 24th of September last to go to the Frome market. They left their child at home, and only that child. They were in the market up to time enough to return home at four o’clock in the afternoon. When they reached their house the father called to his daughter, but she did not answer; and hearing a dog, which belonged to them, lapping up something in the dairy, he went there, and saw that the animal was lapping some whey which had been spilt upon the floor, and then he saw his daughter lying on the floor, with her clothes much torn, her body bruised and bloody, and quite dead. Soon afterwards she was taken upstairs, and the evidence of the surgeon, who saw her at about seven o’clock, would be conclusive as to her having met her death by violent means. There were marks of such violence upon her person as she could not possibly have inflicted upon herself, and the natural conclusion was that it was inflicted by other hands. Therefore the Jury would have no difficulty as to the first proposition, that the child had been murdered. Further than this, he was now to state that murder was not the only crime committed upon her. The surgeon would state that in his opinion the child had also been ravished. Nor were these two the only crimes perpetrated, for the house was also robbed. The parents were of course greatly alarmed, and their attention was soon attracted to the fact that some bread and butter had been taken, and the cheese cut in such a way that they were sure the child could not have done it; and on going upstairs they found the house had been ransacked, and several articles carried away-among them a watch, which would prove an important fact in going through the evidence. He would now draw attention, in detail to circumstances which would be material in bringing home the crime to the prisoners; and here it would not be improper of him to make some remark upon the peculiar nature of the evidence which would be offered. This robbery, which was probably the original a common object of the persons who committed the murder, was so skilfully contrived and executed that, though effected in broad daylight, and within a hundred yards of a highway, and close to some other dwelling-houses, he was not in a position to produce either an eye-witness or a ear-witness of the transaction itself. No one saw the deed committed; no one heard the child cry; no one saw the guilty parties enter the house or go from it. He had therefore to rely upon what was called circumstantial evidence-a description of evidence which, as the Jury had probably been present during many of the trials at that Assize, they must have seen, was relied upon in a great measure in most cases, and in some entirely so. The value of circumstantial evidence was not to be found in any single fact, but in the combination of many facts. When different facts-they might be trivial or important,-but when different facts in connection with a certain crime were found to agree in throwing the guilt upon a party-though neither of them could perfectly fix it-evidence of that kind was considered as conclusive and satisfactory as the positive testimony of an eye or ear witness. Mr Moody then described the house in which the murder was committed, illustrating his remarks by using a model of it, which was lying on the table. He then said, in the corner of the dairy was a tub of whey, which stood upon a trundle. When the father entered the dairy he saw blood upon the floor, just under the child’s head, and at a subsequent time he observed that the whey was discoloured, as though with blood,-from which it had been inferred by some that the child, having been beaten about the head, had been thrown into the tub, and afterwards withdrawn from it, for her clothes will wet with whey. Nothing was said as to this inference, however, for some time; and he drew attention to this fact because it would be found important in connection with a statement made by one of the prisoners. As might be well supposed, a matter of this frightful atrocity attracted the immediate attention of the magistracy in the locality; and the first thing they did was to apply to the Home Office for one of the metropolitan police to be sent down to investigate the affair. A person named Smith, of what was called the Detective Force, arrived therefore on the Sunday at Frome, but he did not enter up on his enquiry until the following day, the 29th, and his exertions forwarded the discovery of the perpetrators of the deed in a very considerable degree. In pursuing his inquiries he found, at the left-hand side of the door leading from the kitchen into the dairy, a distinct mark of a hand-four fingers and thumb, the latter being bloody. This indicated that the struggle had taken place. Smith also observed there was a mark upon the wall, like that which would be produced by the point of a shoe; and on comparing the girl’s boot with it he found the toe to correspond exactly. There was also a mortar between the sole and the upper leather of the boot. On the 1st October the whey-tub was emptied, and at the bottom of it was observed a large red spot, which the father thought was produced by blood, but of this there did not appear to be perfect certainty. Having stated these facts he thought it would be convenient to give a short history of the prisoners from the morning of the 24th of September, as far as he had materials up to the time of their apprehension.
He had already stated that a robbery had been committed, and he believed he could produce such evidence as would show that in this all the prisoners were perpetrators. The child was seen just outside the house at one o’clock; and it was evident that the murder took place between that hour and four. The prisoners were seen in company with each other on the morning of the 24th, apparently intent upon some important transaction and about two o’clock all three of them were seen going in the direction of Watts’s house and were seen within half a mile of it.
The prisoner Hurd here said, addressing the Judge,-My lord, I humbly hope you will allow some learned gentleman to watch this case on my behalf. I have petitioned Sir George Grey-
His Lordship said his thoughts were then upon the subject on which the prisoner had spoken. Having asked Mr Edwards if it would interfere with the course he intended to adopt with respect to the other prisoners if he undertook the defence of all three, and, being answered in the negative he informed Hurd that Mr Edwards would defend him.
Mr Moody expressed his satisfaction that the prisoners would all have the benefit of Mr Edwards’s assistance.
Hurd-No, your honour; not me.
The Judge-Yes, the learned council has undertaken your case also
Hurd-Thank you, my lord.
Mr Moody then said, Mr Watts and his wife, having left their house at about nine o’clock on the day in question, passed on their way to Frome a beer-house kept by a person called Cornish. When they passed, the three prisoners were standing near the door of the beer house in company with another man, and they must have seen Mr Watts pass, and soon afterwards they went away in different directions. Two of them, Maggs and Sparrow, were soon afterwards seen at the Marston turnpike gate, whence they went in the direction of Watts’s house; but they had not been seen closer to it than half a mile. At that time the murder could not have been committed. He next traced them to the Victoria Inn, with another man named Sargent; and there they made an appointment to meet again within an hour. Soon after two they were seen to pass through Marston turnpike-gate, and to stop at a short distance from it. Hurd going in advance and then beckoning to the others to follow. They proceeded down a lane, and Hurd parted from them, and he could not be identified with them again until after the time at which the robbery must have been committed. Maggs and Sparrow were next seen to go through a field to a place about half a mile distant from Mr Watts’s house, this being about two o’clock. He (the learned counsel) could not trace them further; but the next fact to be mentioned was, that a man was observed leaving Mr Watts house, running away in a shuffling manner, with something in one hand, and this man had on a smock frock. Now, it would be shown that on the morning of the 24th Maggs wore a smock frock, and Sparrow a Jim Crow hat. Whether the person running away was Maggs or no, no one could say; but it was an important fact, that soon afterwards he was again seen in Sparrow’s company, with different clothes on. This was between three and four o’clock. They were next found together in Frome market, all the prisoners and another man, and some of their conversation was overheard,-something about a watch, the expression used by one of them being “No tin,” and something about a watch. They were then traced to the Crown Inn, where they remained from about four o’clock till seven. When old Mr Watts had discovered the robbery, he went into Frome for a constable; and as he was in the house of the constable, Hurd, who appeared to have been watching outside fell in with him and, apparently sympathising with him, invited him to go into a beer-shop and have a pint of beer, which Mr Watts did. What motive actuated Hurd in doing this, if he was in any way connected with the robbery, the Jury would infer. The learned counsel then referred to some facts individually applicable to the prisoners. With respect to Sparrow, he stated that he knew the premises, although it did not appear that the child could have known him, as he had not been at the house for many years. When old Mr Watts entered his house he saw on the table in the kitchen a silk handkerchief, and it would be shown that this belonged to Sparrow,-a fact which would be testified to by three witnesses. Sparrow had also volunteered to the constable a statement, to the effect that he had not had a silk handkerchief for the last seven years. There was another important fact for consideration:
A person who had not been at the scene of the murder when it was first discovered could not possibly have known all the detail respecting it; but Sparrow, who it would be proved was not present at that time, nor during the next day, had at a public house in North Bradley, are the 30th of September, stated the circumstances down to the minutest particular. Sparrow had a wound on his thumb when at Bradley, and which was expected to have been caused in the struggle with the poor girl, and to have made the mark on the side of the door, as already spoken of. When asked how he had got it, he answered that he received it in a fight at Bradley fair, though from the state of the wound, it was evident he must have had the inJury some days before. His statement was, that he had got it bitten in a certain fight which took place in an inn there on the 29th; but it would be shown that it must have been caused four or five days previously; and more than that, it appeared that at the time of the fight in question he was quietly seated in another part of the house. As to Maggs, a few days after the murder was discovered an old man, who would be called before the Jury, overheard a conversation which Maggs had with another person. Maggs said “Well, have they found out anything more?” The other answered, “No, but they say that Sparrow is going to peach; that the constable has been and told him that he shall not only have a pardon, but shall also have fifty pounds;” on which Maggs said, “he can’t get the pardon nor the fifty pounds, for he was the man that killed her; and he said he would not have done it but that she knew him.” Now, coupling these things with the fact that the two prisoners were traced almost to the house, and that Maggs had on a smock frock, which he afterwards changed, it would be for the Jury to say whether conviction was not brought home to their minds as to their guilt. With regard to Hurd, the evidence assumed a milder aspect; it seemed to show that he was an accomplice of the robbery, but there was nothing which went clearly to prove that he participated in the murder. The learned counsel drew attention to some points of minor importance; that it is not necessary to report his observations at more length, especially as these would be found in the evidence which is subjoined.
William Mansford, land surveyor, of Frome, described a model of the house, and also some plans of the premises.
John Watts: I live at Battle farm in Frome; am father of deceased: on 24th of September I went to Frome market; left my house a little after nine o’clock; my wife went also to market; she left a few minutes before me, but I overtook her; we passed the beer-house together; we left my daughter at home; we returned home a little before 4 o’clock; I did not see whether the door was open or shut; when I went in I called my daughter to bring my boots, that I might put them on; I sat opposite the fireplace; she did not answer, and, hearing a lapping in the milk-house, I went in and there saw my daughter lying on the floor, with blood over her face; she was lying near the door, and behind it, or across it rather; her clothes were very much torn, and her appearance indicated that she had struggled a good deal; the floor was wet; I just put back her clothes, and saw that she was a corpse; I did not examine her further; and I went out and called someone; from the time I went out to the time I went back no one had been in the house, because I did not go away from the door; my wife came in, and then I went to the turnpike house, and returned in five minutes with Mrs Score [Court?]; several persons were then in my house; I then went out to some beasts, and returned again very soon; some tea was made for my wife, and then we missed some bread and cheese and butter; I then went upstairs with my wife and we missed a coat, waistcoat, and shawl; I afterwards went to Frome, where I gave information; I returned about nine o’clock; it was dark then: I saw Hurd and the constable, near the Crown Inn; I did not know Hurd, but he asked where I had been; he asked me to go with him to the beer-house and have a glass of beer; I did so, and went home about nine; I had not drunk anything before for the day; I had no conversation with Hurd; I have seen the clothes which were stolen; I saw them at the office of the magistrates; Hurd paid for the beer; on the 25th September I went away from home; I returned about one or two o’clock; I remained home the rest of the day; during that day I did not see Sparrow there; the constables were there; on the 1st of October the whey was turned out of the tub, and I saw something like blood in it; this was a week after the murder.
Cross examined: There are several houses near mine but none within 200 yards; the Turnpike house is near; there are others around-three in all, separate from each other, and on the three sides of mine; a person named White lives in one of them; he is a labourer; in the other a farmer, named Pickford, lives; he has some sons; these people ordinarily dine about one o’clock; I left my dog at home that day; it was accustomed to bark at strangers, but I have not known it to bark since; it was not at all injured, that I know of; my daughter had no acquaintance but children at school; she was very small for her age; at first we thought my poor daughter had died of fits; we had not at first any idea that she had been murdered; a suspicion was awakened by the discovery that articles had been stolen: near the door of the dairy was blood on the wall, & above, four marks of fingers; the blood was underneath the mark made by the thumb; it was a patch of blood, not a drop; the body was moved from the dairy, but I don’t know by whom; several people were there; I can’t say if there was much blood on the child; there was very little blood in the milk house; it was only on one small place; they had no difficulty, that I saw, in carrying the body through the doorway; a great many people were there, and many conjectures were made as to how the girl met her death; I don’t remember hearing anyone say the whey was bloody, but I thought it had a bloody appearance; there were also a great many people there next day, and the house was nearly full sometimes; I could pay no attention to them; my grief was such I hardly knew who was there; Mr Hoddinott was there several times, and I remember his pointing my attention to the handkerchief; my wife said there was no handkerchief left, but I don’t think she said this until after he had asked whether anything had been left in the house by that person supposed to have committed the murder; my wife found the handkerchief and she asked me if it was ours; she had asked me this before Mr Hoddinott put the question; I had no handkerchief at all like that; I therefore at once saw it had been left there by someone.
Re-examined: When I returned from the turnpike house, I was asked by my wife about the handkerchief; I don’t know that I spoke of blood being in the whey when I observed it; the blood on the wall was close to the mark made by the thumb; Farmer Pickford lives about a stone’s throw from mine.
By Mr Edwards: I had never spoken to Hurd before I saw him at the beer-house; there was great excitement all about, in consequence of the murder; it was after I had been for a constable that I met him; this was about 9 o’clock; I can’t say whether he said anything to sympathise with me; he said something like this-he hoped the scoundrels would be found out and their necks wrung for it.
Hurd here said, on the 7th October, before the magistrate, Watts had corroborated a statement which he (Hurd) had himself made as to his having treated Watts with beer.
Sarah Watts: [I’m sure this should be Leah Watts] I am wife of the last witness; on the morning of the child’s death I went to market, having left just before my husband; we left at a little past nine; my husband got home first, and I found him coming out of the house; I went in, and took off my shawl, laying it on the table; there was on it an old silk handkerchief; went into the milk-room and found my child dead; she was removed upstairs about a quarter of an hour after; we found that bread and butter had been taken, and that he induced us to make a search; the drawers and chests had been opened; and some clothes taken; my attention was not drawn to the watch before Saturday, when my husband having asked about it we found that it was goneI think I had seen it on the Monday before the death of my child; I was home all day Thursday, but don’t remember seeing Sparrow there at any time that day; I never saw him before we were in the magistrates court; the whey-tub was emptied the Wednesday after the murder; I had noticed something in the whey-a little colouring, like blood, but it disappeared soon after; when the tub was empty and I observed a little “pitching” at the bottom, not clots, something like blood; Mr Hoddinott spoke about these marks, but I don’t know that anybody else did; there is a wooden latch on the wall near where the finger marks were.
Cross examined:The latch is a large wooden one; I don’t remember whether I saw these marks before or after the body was removed; Smith drew attention to them, but I don’t know if this was the first time I had seen them; I never knew my daughter to have had fits before her death, but my general impression was that she had died naturally, until we missed bread and butter; it was then that, for the first time, I thought someone had broken in; none of the chests or drawers had been locked; the watch was kept in the chest, under the clothes; the blood on the wall is just under where the thumb would touch-I think close to it; there were not many people in the house on the evening of the murder; those who were there suggested different modes as to how the girl was killed, but I was so much frightened that I hardly knew what they said; we found out that she must have been murdered, because her head was very much bruised, though no blood came from it; I have been twice before the magistrate on this case, but did not mention about the handkerchief the first time; I did so the second time; Hoddinott took possession of it.
Re-examined: The boxes had nearly all been opened, both in my room and in the one in which my child slept; there seemed to have been great hurry.
Mary Wheeler: On the 24th of September I was at Mr Pickford’s house, near John Watts’s; in the afternoon I heard someone call out, “She’s dead, she’s dead-been dead this hour;” it was Mrs Watts; at a little after four o’clock I went over, and saw Mrs Watts above stairs; I saw the body in the milk-house; it was lying more on the back than the side; the body was cold; I assisted in laying it out, it having been taken upstairs almost directly; no blood at all came from it as we removed it; observed marks of heavy blows about the child’s head and face; on one side of the face, a very severe one; she had one mark on her knee, and another on her shoulder.
Cross-examined: I did not feel the marks on her; there was some blood about her, and some about the floor under her; three persons assisted in carrying her up, and I was one of them; we removed her as we found her, not having altered her clothes in any way; at first I thought she had died in a fit, but her mother said she never had had one; I had not then seen all the bruises about her body; I was not there when Hoddinott came, that I remember; there were many other persons there.
Re-examined: The girl was quite dead and stiff before I saw her, and her lips as purple as a ribbon; there was some whey about the floor, as though it had been spilt over from the tub; there was a large piece of skin off her temple, and I said the blood must have come from that place.
Mr Giles: I am a surgeon, and was called on the 24th to see the girls; I was there about half past 7; I found her upstairs, laid out; there were several persons below, and two or three above; I found on the body a bruise on the right side of the forehead; there was another also on the forehead; the face was swollen and livid; three scratches were on the left side of the neck; I saw Nath, on the private parts, to convince me that felony had been committed; she had not arrived at puberty; this felony had been committed before the circulation had ceased; I made a post-mortem examination on the 26th; I found outside the skull, and beneath the scalp, some clotted blood corresponding to the bruise outside; inside the neck were two bruises, each about the size of the top of my finger; I have no doubt whatever that she died of violence committed by some other person; I ascribe the death to suffocation; the marks in the neck were such as would be made by the thumb and finger; this pressure would of itself be quite ample to produce death.
Cross-examined: Her brain was congested, but not sufficiently to have caused death; suffocation produces congestion of the brain; the marks on the head were not enough to have caused that congestion of the brain; I stated this before the coroner; very great excitement prevailed; matter usually begins to form in two or three days after a wound, such as a person might receive on his thumb; it might come earlier, but not generally so.
Re-examined: At the inquest attributed the death to pressure on the windpipe; I said nothing about death having been caused by drowning, but I think someone else spoke about it.
Alfred Hallard: Remember the 24th of September; was working for Mr Chedzey; was going down the road towards the Woodlands at about one o’clock; past Watts’s house, and saw Sarah Watts there; she was just outside, and had no bonnet on; I came back that way, but did not see anyone.
Cross-examined: A great many people are always about the road leading to Woodlands; I have not met a great many on that same road, but there are generally a good many on further; I don’t remember that I met anyone I knew on that road; I only met a wagon by the gate, and farther up I met people; I had frequently seen the girl as I passed; I knew her, but did not speak to her.
Re-examined: I was going along the road when I saw her; the road on which many people go is not near Watts’s house; only few people pass along the one near his house.
Henry Smith-I am a Sargent in theMetropolitan Detective Police, and was sent down to investigate the murder; I arrived on Sunday, the 28th of September, and commenced my investigation on the following morning, when I went to the house and examined it; I saw some blood in the kitchen, a little from the fireplace, on the left-hand side, going into the kitchen from the milk house; there was blood on the door and on the wall; I examined this part carefully, and found a mark of a left hand; about three quarters of an inch below the thumb-mark was a spot of blood; it was evidently a left hand and fingers were close together; it seemed as if someone had been pressing against the wall; the blood touch the end of the thumb-mark, and extended downwards; in the dairy was the whey-tub, on a stool, and on the wall were six marks, as if someone had been pushing against it; they were such marks as a shoe would make; the girl’s shoe was produced [it was produced here also] and I found it corresponded with the mark in the wall; in the shoe was some mortar, between the upper leather and the sole; the whey-tub was near enough for the child’s head to be put into it while her feet reached the wall; the whey was in the tub at the time; there was no appearance of blood in the whey, that I saw; I saw the tub emptied, and there were something like blood on the bottom; but I can’t say what it really was; my suspicions alighted on the prisoners at the bar and other persons some short time after, from what I had heard; being in the shop of Newport, a constable, Hurd came in there; I told him my business, and said I wanted to know where he was on the 24th; I also said that I should take down in writing what he might state, and that he might make a statement or not, as he chose; he said, “I was living at Little Keyford, near the Mount; I left home at nine, by myself; came down to the lamb and had one pint of beer; then went to the Unicorn; then to the Crown; had rum and cider there; about 10 or 11 was down in town, and was about the town all day;” I did not take him into custody; this was on Wednesday, October 1st; on the 6th I that took him into custody, at Frome; I thought he was at the Lamb, and going to that house, he came out and followed me down to the magistrates’ office, where I took him in charge, stating that he was suspected of having been a party to the murder; he replied, ” you don’t mean that;” I saw Maggs the same day; I told him also that I wanted him about the murder and robbery; I cautioned him, and told him I wished to ask him about it; he then made a statement to the effect that he had been at various public houses, but not near Watts’s house; apprehended him at the Blue Boar, in Frome; I went to Westbury on the 3rd of October, and saw Sparrow in custody; when I saw him he said he was detained for a watch; he supposed me to be the prosecutor, and said, “all I know is I bought it are of Bob Hurd; Will. Maggs was with me and can prove it; I gave 57s. for it;” I said I had come to ask where he was on the day the murder was committed; he also made a statement, something similar to that of Maggs; I examined his thumb and found the top was wounded; there was matter on the top, and two marks or scabs on the knuckles, with one on the wrist; he said he had got these fighting at North Bradley on Monday night; he said he didn’t know who it was with whom he was fighting-that it was a Bradley man, and that he had bitten his thumb; I received a handkerchief from Hoddinott, and kept possession of it some time; I then returned it to Hoddinott; I went to Maggs’s house to see for his clothes, and his wife gave me a shooting coat, waistcoat, Jim Crow hat, a silk handkerchief and two cotton ones; the hat was produced before the magistrates; Newport saw it produced there; the latch of the door of the milk-house is one of the old-fashioned sort; the road opposite the house is a small one, and the house is about 60 yards from it; the noise made in the kitchen or dairy would be heard in the road.
Cross-examined: My suspicions alighted on several persons; I was busily occupied in making inquiries up to the time I took Hurd in charge; on the first Hurd came into Newport’s shop after me; he first spoke to Newport, who is a constable; he asked what Newport had sent for him for; he said also that the overseer, Lawes, had collared him, and that he (Hurd) had a mind to knock him down; he also said that if he had collared Lawes, he should have been up for it; he did not appear at all put out by my questions; his answers were short, but his manner was not confused; at other times I heard him say he hoped the guilty party would be found out; Maggs did not answer so readily; his wife said to him, “I wouldn’t answer him-who is he?” (That was, myself”; I did not observe that he was confused; he said he knew nothing about it and that he hoped the guilty person would be found out; Hurd was that large until the 3rd, and Maggs until the 6th; Sparrow also gave his answers coolly; I had in custody a person named Sargent, who was detained about a fortnight; we were before the magistrates six or seven times; I can’t say who were present on each occasion; I had the handkerchief in my possession two or three days; I gave it to Mr Parrott, constable; this was, I think, before Mrs Elliott was examined; I did not give it to anyone else; a man named Helyar was examined before the magistrate on two occasions; on the second the deposition he made on the first was read to him; I have read it over to him since then, and have read to some other witnesses the depositions made by them respectively; I have heard them read by others; I was before the magistrates on the first occasion; he did not say he did not know Maggs or Hurd, nor did the magistrate point them out to him.
Re-examined: the depositions were read over by the magistrates clerk; when I gave the handkerchief to Parrott I marked it; I am quite sure it is the same.
[During the examination of this and other witnesses the prisoner Hurd wrote several questions and remarks, which he handed to his council].
Benjamin Cornish, beer-house-keeper of Culverwell, Frome: I saw prisoners on the 24th; Hurd had on a coat similar to the one he now wears; Maggs’s clothes I did not observe; Sparrow was dressed somewhat similarly to his present dress; they were together, and were going towards Frome; I saw Hurd on Unicorn hill, and three or four minutes after in the market; there are various roads from Maggs’s house to Frome, and I saw him on one of them; Hurd came to my house on the Thursday night, and had a smock frock on; he had some meat in a bundle.
Sophia Cornish: I am wife of last witness; on the 24th of September I saw the prisoners and another man called Sargent; I knew Hurd and Sparrow before this, and I had also seen Maggs, but did not know his name; Watts passed by as they were standing near our house; in the afternoon I again saw the prisoners with another man; this was between three and four; Sparrow was going from the Mount, by our house; he had on a black, common-shaped hat; it was not the same as he had in the morning-he then had on a green Jim Crow; I saw Hurd again on that day, at my own house; this was after nine in the evening, when Watts was with him; he said he was very sorry for the murder-they were d_ _ rascals who had done it, and he hoped those who were guilty of it would be hanged, drawn and quartered.
Cross-examined: with the exception of Sparrow’s hat I did not see any change in his dress; the murder was of course the subject of general talk.
William Bailey: on the 24th of September I was working for Stephen Wheeler, who lives near the Asylum at Kayford; and I saw the prisoners going towards Woodlands about 12 o’clock; I afterwards saw them standing at the bottom of the hill; this was about ten minutes after; they were talking to one another; I saw them separate; I saw Sparrow and Maggs coming direct from Woodlands about four o’clock, and going towards Frome.
Cross-examined: I have lived in Frome since this murder, but have never been before the magistrates; I heard people talk about it, but I did not go to give my evidence; I have never been in the dock myself; I have remembered ever since I saw them about 12 o’clock, but I never went to the magistrates because I did not know I was to do so; I spoke about the matter to Mr Cruttwell, and probably that is the reason I am here; I was working near the asylum at this time; I looked at the clock when they passed; I did so because I had a right to; I went to look what time it was, and they passed; I was working upon my own account at the time.
Re-examined: I had talked about the matter with Mr Dyne, of Bruton, and after this Mr Cruttwell sent for me.
Martha Stephens-I am the wife of George Stephens, and live near Frome; on the 24th of September, I saw two of the prisoners; I had known them before; Sparrow I had lived handy by ever since he was born; I also knew Maggs; I saw them cross the road and get over Marston gate; this was about a quarter before twelve o’clock; they crossed the road, and went into the ground opposite my house; it is farmer Hoddinott’s ground; one had a coat on, and the other a sleeve waistcoat; they were going towards Woodlands.
Cross-examined: I never was before the magistrates to give evidence; I was called on about six weeks ago about these facts; I saw many people that day, but I didn’t notice them; I am quite sure, however, it was the prisoners I had seen; I had seen them before; they lived at short distances from me; I looked at the clock just when I saw them, and it was about a quarter to 12; I don’t know if our clock was quite right, but I believe it was; the prisoners were not carrying anything.
Benjamin Miles: I have known the prisoners seven years, and saw them at Frome on the 24th of September; they were together; it was about half past one; I heard them agree to meet each other again that afternoon; Hurd took out his watch; after this they parted company.
Cross-examined: this was at a quarter or half past one; they were in the market, which is about a mile and a quarter from the Marston turnpike gate; I had known the prisoners before; Maggs had on a short jacket, a dark one; it had some stripes in it; Sparrow had a dark coat, which, so far as I know, was the one he now has.
Ann Hiscock: I live at Butt’s Square, in Frome; on the 24th of September Sparrow came there, between five and 10 minutes before two; he enquired for Sargent and went to Sargent’s house and remained there a quarter of an hour; I saw them go away together, and I did not see them afterwards; Sparrow had a blue coat and yellow buttons.
Cross-examined: he seemed to be much as usual, I should think; he asked his questions in an ordinary way, and did not appear to be in any hurry; Butt’s Square is something less than a mile from Marston gate.
Joseph Watts: I live at Tytherington Lane, and know all the prisoners; on the 24th of September I saw them in the lane, with another man; they were under a bush; the lane leads near to Marston gate; they were together; I saw Hurd go through the gate and beckon to the others, who then immediately went after him, and they all went in the road leading to Frome; I spoke to Maggs and Sparrow, and shook hands with Maggs; I went on with them to the corner of Sandy-hill Lane; they went down the lane, and I left them; I heard the Rectory bell about half an hour before I first saw them.
Cross-examined: I went to Frome market when I left them; Sandy-hill lane leads down to Hurd’s house; I saw nothing besides on the road; I am sure I saw the prisoners; one had a short “slock” on-that was Sargent; Hurd had on a sleeve waistcoat; I don’t know how the others were dressed; I once worked for Lord Cork, and left his employee because some silver spoons were lost. Counsel: did you take poison some time ago, and charge it upon your wife?-witness: that’s nothing to do with this matter. Counsel: and that’s your answer? Witness: yes, that’s my answer.
Richard Baby: In September last I kept the Marston gate: on the 24th of September I saw four men in the Tytherington Lane; they were standing under a hedge and were there about 10 minutes; they went on towards Frome; the taller man (Hurd) beckoned to the others, who remained near the gate, and they followed him; Watts passed through the gate about the same time, and overtook them; this was just after my dinner hour, which is about one o’clock; a carriage went by at the same time; one of the men had a smock frock on.
Cross-examined: I had never seen the prisoners before; there was only one other man I had seen that day with a smock frock on, like one of the prisoners.
Sarah Cox: I was in service of the Rev Richard Boyle, of Marston, in September; it was my duty to ring the dinner bell, usually at half past 12 and a quarter to two; it was rung a little earlier on the 24th of September-20 minutes to two.
Henry Helyar: I live at Ridgway; in September I was working at Tytherington as a mason; on the 24th I saw the prisoners Hurd and Maggs; I had known them before; one had a smock frock on, and the other had a coat on; one had a high crowned hat, and the other a Jim Crow; they were coming from Binney Lane which leads to Tytherington.
Cross-examined: this was before I had my dinner,-which might have been about two o’clock; it was before I had my dinner; Counsel-have you never said it was between ten and eleven? Witness (hesitating)-no, I haven’t. Counsel- Will you swear you did not tell John Jones it was between ten and eleven? Witness-I don’t mean to say anything about it. Counsel-Which is Maggs? Witness (looking at the prisoners) was unable to state. He, after long hesitation, half pointed to the wrong man; but, apparently doubting, he was asked which, and, being unable to say, was not further pressed for an answer.
Henry Lambton: I was working at Robert Bird’s house on the 24th of September; his house is a Tytherington; Tutmarsh is about a quarter of a mile from it; I don’t know the prisoners, but I saw them come out of the Bruton road, down the fields; when I first saw them they were in the Tytherington road; there were two of them; they had come out of Binney lane, which passes Tytherington road; one had a coat on, and the other a smock; one a high crowned and the other a low crowned hat; this was before I had dinner; a boy called Hallard was working with me, in Mr Chedzey’s barton; he had gone away at that time for Mr Chedzey’s dinner.
Cross-examined: the last witness is my master; he said, when they went, “that’s Maggs and that’s Sparrow;” I only saw them then; other men went down the road, but master did not say who they were; master never said, to my knowledge, it was between ten and eleven that the prisoners went down; I was in Frome on Wednesday, and went to a public house with master; I went into one room and he to another, so that I did not hear what he said.
Robert Walter: on the 24th of September I was going from Frome to Bradley; I knew a house occupied by John Watts; I could see it from the turnpike road; I saw someone telling from the house up towards Bull’s Bridge; he had a dirty smock frock on; I did not see what hat; he was going at a sort of run; he had something under his arm; this was from half past two to three o’clock, as nearly as I can say; I only had a sight of him about two minutes.
Cross-examined: I have been before the magistrate in this case, or somewhere; I was examined by somebody. I don’t know who; the prisoners were not there; I heard of the murder within a week of the time it happened; I have been in ill health for some time; one man appeared to have a smock frock on, but that is all I can say about him; I had been into Frome, but am sure it was not as I was returning that I saw the prisoners.
Re-examined: I knew Mr Watts was in the habit of attending Frome market.
Joseph Noble: on the 24th of September I was in a field near the road that leads to the Mount from Felton; I saw prisoners, Maggs and Sparrow, near the Mount; they were coming from Felton, and were going towards Frome; this was between three and four o’clock; they had dark coats on; neither had a frock on.
Cross-examined: I think they had the same coats on as they now have; they were going on quietly; they came along close by me; I had not often seen Maggs before.
Harriet Morgan: I know Maggs and Sparrow; saw them on the 24th of September, between three and four on the road leading from Blatchbridge, and in the direction of Frome; they were not far from the Mount when I first saw them.
Cross-examined: neither had a smock frock on; Sparrow had the same blue coat that he has now; nothing in their manner attracted my attention; I don’t know that ever I saw Maggs in any other and dark clothes; I never saw him in a white smock frock though I have known him many years.
Henry Kean: on the 24th of September I saw Maggs and Hurd; had known them before; they were going down towards the asylum, on the hill; this was at about half past two; I saw Maggs put his hand in his pocket, take out something, and give it to Hurd.
Cross-examined: they were going along very slowly; Maggs had on a dark coat, and Sparrow was dressed much as he is now.
Alexander Barber: I am a gardener at Frome; on the 24th of September I saw Hurd and Maggs at Frome market; there were three others with them; Maggs had a dark coat on; the two I did not know had on Jim Crow hats-a dark one and a light one; as I was passing by I heard Hurd say, “a watch, and no tin;” this was near four o’clock.
Cross-examined: I don’t know that I have ever spoken to Hurd, though I have long known him; I was passing by them when I heard the expression, “a watch, and no tin;” I never went before the magistrates of my own accord; I was first examined more than a week ago; I was sent for first, and then formerly examined; I am not certain how long it was ago, but I think it will be three weeks next Thursday; there was a great many men standing in market; I know a man called Wimper,-he was there with Hurd and the others.
Joseph Singer: I keep the Crown Inn, at Keyford; on the 24th of September the prisoners came to my house with a man of the name of Sargent; they were there at about four o’clock; they were not there about one and two; they remained till nearly seven; I think Hurd went out a little time, but came back again; they went away one after another.
Cross-examined: I had not seen them at any other time in my house; there was nothing peculiar in their manner; they were talking and laughing in the ordinary way; Sparrow was at my house the Sunday after; I can’t say if he had anything the matter with his hand or not; I don’t know what their dress was; I don’t know that I ever saw Maggs in any other than dark clothes.
Martha Watson: my father keeps the New Ring of Bells at North Bradley; the fair was on Monday the 29th of September; I saw Sparrow there, but did not observe if he had anything the matter with his hand; on the day after I saw him show that he had a bad thumb; I saw it also on the 1st of October; he held it up for me to see; it appeared to me to be very bad; there was matter escaping from the nail; he said he had hurt it in a fight; on the Wednesday my father asked him if it was true there was a murder committed at Frome; he replied that there was, and that he had seen the girl; I asked if he really had seen her, and he said he had-that he saw her on the following morning; he said she had had a blow in the head, and after that was put into the whey; he said there were ten constables there when he was; father asked if there was any suspicion, and prisoner said he did not know; he said there had been four people taken up, and set at liberty again; he said she had a blow in her face; I asked him which he thought caused her death; the blow or the whey? And he said he didn’t know; he had told us she had a blow in the head; he said she was lying in the back kitchen, and her clothes were over her head; I understood that he himself saw her in the back kitchen; he said he thought it would never be found out, for he thought there was only one person concerned in it.
Cross-examined: I was asked for this on Wednesday, October the 6th ; I then told the policeman about it; on the 10th of October I went before the magistrates; I don’t pretend to give the exact words used by Sparrow; there was no one there besides father and mother; I have heard many different reports about the murder.
John Jackson: I was at Bradley in October on the 1st ; the fair is on three days; Sparrow was there and I saw him at a public house on Wednesday; understanding he was from Frome, I asked if he knew anything of the murder; he said there was only one man that did it, and he’d never tell; he said the girl was first beat about the head with a stick, then put into a whey-tub, and then taken out and thrown on the floor; I asked if he knew the Wattses; he answered, “yes, very well;” I heard someone say, Sparrow’s neckerhief being in a knot near his ear, “are you going to be hung?”-Sparrow replied, “well I s’pose it won’t be long first;” I saw that his hand was injured, and he said it had been hurt the day before; I thought it was an old wound.
Cross-examined: I went before the magistrates three times; about the knotted handkerchief, I won’t swear that Sparrow was laughing when he so answered; this was in the public tap-room.
Hannah Watts: I was at Mr Watts’s house on the 25th; I was there all day; I am a relation; the body was upstairs all that day; strangers were not upstairs that day; I saw Sparrow for the first time before the magistrates; I’m sure he was not at the house on the 25th; there were about two or three constables there.
Cross-examined: I went away at 11 at night, and was in the house all day; I was in the milk-house sometimes, but not staying there; some magistrates were there, and constables, with neighbours; I knew most of them, but perhaps not all, but Sparrow was not there; some went up and saw the body, and then went out; I did not know Sparrow before I saw him in the magistrates’ office; the post-mortem examination took place upstairs.
Re-examined: those who were allowed to go upstairs were persons connected with the family.
Charles Watson: I am father of Martha Watson; saw Sparrow there on the Monday; on the Wednesday I saw him, and having heard of the murder at Frome, I asked him about it; he said he lived at Blatchbridge, near where the murder was committed; he said the girl was murdered by a blow in the head, and then put into the whey, and, that the blood stained the whey; he said three or four had been taken up, but had been discharged for want of evidence; he said she had been found on the dairy floor, with her clothes over her head.
Cross-examined: I first brought up about the murder, and then asked him about it.
Samuel Tanner-I live at North Bradley, and was at the fair on the 29th of September; I saw Sparrow there in the afternoon; his left hand was either tied up, or he had something in it; I saw him again next day, at Watson’s.
Cross-examined: I saw him in the fair; I won’t say it was not his handkerchief in his hand: I have not been before the magistrates to give evidence; I was not called on till about a fortnight ago.
Thomas Harding-I am a waiter at the ring of Bells, North Bradley; Sparrow was there on the 29th of September about dinner-time, and again in the evening; there had been a fight, but Sparrow was not in it; he was in another room; I saw him after the fight, and he said he would fight anyone for a sovereign; a person accepted his challenge, but I prevented them from fighting; I saw Sparrow next day and he told me there was something the matter with his thumb; he said, “look here, how they served me last night, have a bit of my thumb;” there was a matter on it.
Cross-examined: there were several persons there drinking-sometimes as many as twenty; the fight was between nine and ten o’clock; I said it was a bad bite when he showed me his thumb; I did not tell him he was not in it, because he was a stranger to me, and I thought it no business of mine to do so.
Robert Singer: I am in the employ of the landlord of the Crown in; on the 29th of September Sparrow was there, and I saw that his hand was bad.
Cross-examined: Sparrow had some beer and tobacco; but it was not the tobacco paper that he had around his thumb; I am a waiter at the inn.
Re-examined: I had seen the thing round his thumb after he had the tobacco, but I don’t know if it was the paper or not.
William Staple: I am one of the constables for Wiltshire; on the 1st of October Sparrow was in my charge, for stealing a watch on the 24th of September; he said he had bought the watch at the Victoria public house, of Robert Hurd,, and that Maggs was present; he said Maggs owed him 10 or 12 days work, and that he had pawned some clothes to make up the money; he first said he’d given 37s. for it, and then he said 27s.; I observed his thumb to be in a bad state, and he had a mark on his knuckle; the top of his thumbnail was nearly off; I asked how he had hurt his hand; he said “I hardly know, but I think some of the chaps bit it at Bradley fair;” Maggs came to Westbury on the 6th, with some linen and handkerchief for Sparrow.
Cross-examined: it was this watch which was supposed to have been stolen from Mr Watts; in consequence these parties were taken up; that was the first thing that gave rise to suspicion against them; I have made every effort to trace an owner for it, but have failed; Maggs told he was going down to give evidence for Sparrow, but he did not make his appearance in time; I had told him the time.
George Sharland: I am a surgeon and examine the prisoner Sparrow on Friday, the 3rd of October; there was no blood on his clothes; he said he had a bad hand, and that some matter which was on his shirt had got there by his putting his hand into his pocket; I looked at the wound on the hand; it was of several days’ standing; it could not have been caused by a bite; matter would not be formed until the third or fourth day; incrustations would not appear for several days; some of the stains on his clothes were old.
Cross-examined: the thumb must have been in a very painful stakes for some days; I should think the injury had been received nine or 10 days; the pain of such a would be intense; on the second knuckle of the forefinger there was a mark or bruise.
James Hoddinott: I am a constable at Frome; on the 24th I went to the house of deceased; there was blood on the floor; there was a silk handkerchief on the table; it has been in my possession nearly ever since; I now produce it; I went into the milk house and observed a spot of blood there, as if a man’s thumb had been pressed against the wall; there was more than one mark; it appeared as if the person pressed down his fingers afterwards; there was blood under a tub which was standing on a stool; it was half full of whey, and there appeared to be blood in it.
Cross-examined: I saw Maggs on that day in the marketplace; Sparrow was with him; he was not dressed as he is now; he had a dark coat on; Sparrow wore a green Jim Crow; I saw Maggs, Hurd, and Sparrow as I was going into Cornish’s beer shop, with another man.
Elizabeth Helyar: I keep the Bryans Lane turnpike gate, leading from Bradley to Frome; I know the prisoner Sparrow; I recollect his coming to my house on the 12th of September; he came to light his pipe; I saw in his hand a dark red and white silk handkerchief; there was near one corner a slit, and not far from it another; can’t say the handkerchief produced by Mr Hoddinott is the one, but it is like it.
Mary Francis: I am wife of Henry Francis, and keep the Horse and Groom public-house; I knew prisoner Sparrow; he was at my house on the 15th of September; I observed a handkerchief; he was also there on the 20th; I then again saw the handkerchief; he went out and left the handkerchief on the settle; it was very ragged and broken, and had “slents” in the corner; and was very dirty; the handkerchief produced is like it; I would rather swear that it is the same than that it is not; the marks and slents are like those in Sparrow’s.
Cross-examined: it was on the 13th that the pocket handkerchief was left on the settle; I have not said it was on the 20th; there were several other persons also present in the tap, and they may have looked at it; I recognised the handkerchief immediately when before the magistrates; I had not seen it from the 20th till then.
R. Brinton: In June last I mowed for Major Trevelyan; Sparrow was also employed by him; he lent me a silk handkerchief; the one produced is something after the same pattern, but I can’t swear to it.
Edward Newport: I am a constable residing at Frome; I was present when the examination of Hurd and Maggs was taken at my house; I was at Watts’ house the morning after the murder was committed; I have been engaged in tracing it; I produce a Jim Crow hat; I saw Sparrow and Maggs in the marketplace on the day of the murder; perhaps I took from Maggs’s house; he wore in the marketplace is similar hat; when I produced the hat before the magistrate, Sparrow said it was the same Maggs wore; I took him into custody on the 27th of October, and he said Francis had sworn falsely about the handkerchief, as he had not had a silk handkerchief for years, except the one round his neck; on the 25th I was three times at Sparrow’s house but I did not see him; there were about 10 or 12 persons there in the morning.
Cross-examined: I was not there on either occasion more than half an hour; I saw prisoners on the 24th of September; I can’t say whether I was then with Payne.
Robert Helyar: on the 2nd October I was employed to break stones on the road from Blatchbridge to Woodlands; on leaving work I passed on the road through Woodlands, and on to Blatchbridge hill; while there I saw Maggs coming out of the lane; he went on to Blatchbridge hill and crossed the road, and went into another lane, behind Holt Cottage that leads up to Keyford; I went into the field close to the lane, where there is a “stave-gate;” and passed up the hedge; while Maggs was in the lane, a man met Maggs, but I don’t know who it was; when Maggs met this man he asked whether he had heard anything afresh today, and the man said he had; Maggs said “what did ‘ee hear;” he said, “I hear that the officer has been to Sparrow’ s, and said, “Oh, my good fellow, it is good it is not thee that done this murder, you’ll have a pardon and £50;” the man said” “he won’t have a pardon nor £50, but he’s the man that killed her;” that was all I heard them say.
Cross-examined: this took place at nearly 7 o’clock; I did not say to Hester Hurd on the second of October that I did not know Maggs, nor ask her what sort of man he was; I know William Burge; I did not say to him that those three persons knew no more who did the murder than I did, or that I believed the murderer was not far from the house; I had no dispute with my wife about getting the reward that was offered; I did not tell Burge that I met Maggs in the lane, and that Hurd also met him and began to talk about the murder; I never had any conversation with him about Hurd; I did not tell the same person that it was Sparrow that met Maggs; when I went to be examined before the magistrates my wife did not ask me whether I knew Maggs; I did not say I did not, nor ask what sort of a man he was; she did not tell me that I was to go to Shepton and wait to see the prisoners, and then I should know Maggs; I was never in gaol for stealing; I was once in gaol 14 days for some turnips that my girl took; I never gave orders to a young woman living with me to go and steal one of Farmer Taylor’s sheep; I did not go before the magistrates earlier because I was afraid to go; the men were not all in gaol; I had a long way to go to my work, and in the dark, and I was afraid that I might get an injury; I heard my evidence read over to me yesterday. (On being asked which of the prisoners was Maggs, witness appeared quite confused.)
Re-examined: William Burge is my wife’s son; I live close by Hurd; I was attacked the day that Maggs and Hurd were committed; I had given my evidence and was attacked by Burge and Hester Hurd; I was knocked down by somebody; I saw them come in the room, and the lights were put out; the windows were also beaten in; I have since left the place.
William Butler: I know last witness; on the second October, I saw him at work on the Maiden Bradley Road.
Sarah Butler: on the 24th September I was at the house of Mr Watts; I once lived there, and I then use Sparrow; he worked in the air; Sparrow sometimes came there; Maggs lived in a house not a quarter of a mile from the house.
Cross-examined: that was 15 or 20 years ago.
This concluded the case for the prosecution, and the court then rose.
THE FROME MURDER.
The trial of Sparrow, Maggs, and Hurd, was then proceeded with.
Mr Edwards rose and said, the case for the prosecution having closed, it became his duty to offer them some observations in behalf of the prisoners at the bar; and in doing so he only felt anxious lest, by any observation he should make, he should give any sort of importance to the evidence which had been brought before them, because he declared to them that, in the whole course of his life, he never heard of so severe a charge preferred against a person supported by more unsatisfactory evidence than that which had been brought before them on that occasion. He was not at all surprised that unsatisfactory evidence should be offered for the purpose of convicting these men, if possible, of the crime: under the circumstances it would be next to impossible that the evidence should not be suspicious. There was that poor girl, in the middle of the day, and almost in the midst of the town of Frome, brutally treated and murdered, under circumstances which, thank God, were very unusual in this country. The utmost excitement prevailed immediately all round the neighbourhood. Reports were spread in all directions, and everyone was most anxiously concerned, and very properly concerned to find out who were the perpetrators, one after another was brought up for examination, and it seemed that one person, whose name he would not mention, was brought up, who had been discharged. This he alluded to because it showed that in the excitement of the moment, and under the influences which he had been describing, persons against whom not a breath of evidence could be brought were suspected of the crime. Mr Watts, it appeared had lost a watch, and it was ascertained that Hurd sold Sparrow a watch on that day. Immediately a report was spread that the murderers were detected, and the parties all taken-that the watch was discovered, and all the things on them. Now, if this was really the case-if the stolen property was found on the men-it would be good evidence that they had committed this most horrible crime. They were taken up on suspicion, and as to the story of that watch, it turned out that it was not Mr Watts’s, and there was not the slightest reason to suppose that the watch was obtained in an improper manner. Circumstances had, in fact, given rise to suspicions which were perfectly ill founded. The neighbourhood was greatly excited, and they knew that when this was the case, imagination might often exert more influence than reason; and a suspicion would often arise, where there was no evidence at all. Let them remember another circumstance: it was this, that a reward of £100 was very properly offered for the purpose of discovering the criminals; so that while on the one hand they had the people in an excited state of mind, on the other there was a reward offered which might excite the cupidity of persons desirous to obtain it. He said, judging of the matter from these circumstances, he should expect that when the case came before them the evidence would be found to be just as it had proved. He had to complain, on the part of the prisoners, that when before the magistrates they were refused an attorney to assist them. Accused of so serious a charge, unacquainted with the forms of a court of law and with the laws of evidence, they were refused the assistance of an attorney to cross examine the witnesses that appeared against them; and not only that, but the magistrate on more than one occasion refused to hear witnesses who came to give evidence for them. Now that was just the state of things that might be expected where prejudices had been excited; but the men now came before them-a Jury of twelve perfectly unprejudiced persons-and he trusted that they sat there determined to weigh every particle of evidence given against these men, and determined to do even-handed justice, whatever might be the result-to return a verdict such as they might justly return on the evidence before them. There was another thing that he (Mr Edwards) had to complain of: Smith the policeman comes down pounces on three men at a moment’s notice, & asks them to make a statement . His learned friend had mentioned to them that the judge who presided over that court, and for whom he (the learned counsel) entertained the highest respect, had expressed an opinion that that was a proper course for a policeman to adopt. Now, if that had been a matter of law, he should feel himself bound to take his Lordship’s decision; but as it was a mere point of prudence, he thought he was bound, with the most perfect deference to his Lordship, to say that in a case of that sort, if constables were allowed to put prisoners on their examination, and elicit statement from them, it might be attended with the most fearful consequences, and more especially as this was the opinion of almost every learned Judge that had sat on that bench. He did say that they should not be allowed thus to examine them, and then bring their own statements against them in evidence. The prisoners, when brought before the magistrate, made statements which they had duly considered, and they applied for permission to bring witnesses to prove the statements; but that was refused. But they (the Jury) were met not there to trap those men, and when he had gone through the evidence, they would find that there was not the slightest against Hurd or Maggs; and if no clearer evidence should be brought before them in reference to a dog, he was convinced that they would not hang the dog on it. He would now call their attention to the evidence; and as there was the least against Hurd, he would commence with him. His learned friend, in opening the case, had admitted that it was one most difficult to prove. The spirit of his remarks was, that he could bring no satisfactory evidence to show that they were implicated; but he asked them, whether they were convinced or not, to have the kindness to convict them. Now he should like to see that turned into a syllogism, for he could not at all understand, in that instance, his learned friends logic. It appeared that the father of this girl, who had told them the story-a most melancholy one it was-came home, and found the poor girl murdered, and naturally the desire at once arose to obtain justice. As soon as he had composed himself, the first thing he did was to go to the constable and tell him what had occurred. The news spread as quickly as possible, and everybody was soon talking about it. He comes out from the constables and meet Hurd; and among all that population, all feeling the utmost possible concern, Hurd only expresses his sympathy, and, without knowing him before, in the overflowing of his heart, he asked him to go to a public house, and take a glass of beer. Was that the conduct of a murderer? If that man went to that house and committed that offence, his conscience would have condemned him. He would have seen a hand where no one else did, and heard a voice where to others all was silent. If he had perpetrated that offence, the father would be the last person he would dare to approach; but perfectly unconscious of suspicion, and knowing his innocence, he goes, & there before all the people expresses his opinion that the perpetrator ought to be drawn and quartered for the offence committed. Mr Smith came down from London, and he of course created quite a sensation. Everybody expected that Mr Smith, whose detective powers were so well known, would unravel the mystery that surrounded that crime. The story of the watch gets told to him; and what does he do but go to Newport, and Newport sends to Hurd to come to his shop. Was Hurd at all afraid to meet the officers of the law? Did he skulk away? No: he goes to Newport and finds him with the constable. The constable asked him where he was on 24th of September-proof that there was some suspicion attached to him. Did he hesitate for a single moment? He at once gave them a relation of where he was-though one, perhaps, in some respect wrong. But he would ask them, if they should be asked where they were 10 days ago, could one of them at once tell? It would only be by thinking it over and over, that they would be able to call it to their memory. Doubtless, the man told them where at the time he believed he was. What was the next thing against him? There he was with the charge made, but free; and was he taken up and secured? Not at all. He was free five days; and he (Mr Edwards) would ask them, did they think that any murderer would have remained so one single moment? He admitted that it would be extremely difficult to escape under the circumstances; but, depend upon it, if guilt had been preying upon the heart of that man, the voice of that guilt would prove stronger than the suggestions of prudence, and he would have attempted to fly from justice. On the 6th October he’s going down as a witness for Sparrow, and he accompanies Smith for the purpose of explaining whose the watch was, and thus clear the man from the charge; and then, in the face of the magistrate, Smith, says to him, “You are my prisoner; I apprehend you.” “Why?” Says Hurd in surprise; “what for?” “I apprehend you for the murder of Sarah Watts.” The man supposed he was joking, and could scarcely believe it was the case; and he said, “you are joking; that is not the charge.” He could not believe it possible that he was charged with that offence and thought it must be some other. Was that the conduct of the guilty man, or was it not that of a man perfectly conscious of his innocence? There was one witness that had been found in the purlieus of Frome, and brought before them, who told them that on the 24th September he was in the marketplace at Frome, and heard Hurd say, “a watch and no tin.” Was that a reason why they should suppose that those three men had committed a murder that day? If Hurd had perpetrated that horrible crime, would he have gone into the public market, and with two other person talk over it, and the circumstances attending it? It might be said, perhaps, these were companions. Thank God that there was this one circumstance attending crime. An honest and good man might be a faithful friend; but vice altered the character in that respect, and when persons were guilty together, every one feared his fellow; and it was quite impossible that they would be talking the matter over. If there was any dependence to be placed on this story, there could be no doubt that the man had sold the watch, and he might have been talking about it. It appeared that Maggs actually had sent to get the money to pay for the watch. As for the places where the prisoners had been seen-if his learned friend’s statement were true, they must have been gifted with ubiquity, and been in several places at the same time. They were told that Hurd was seen at the Marsdon turnpike-gate, but that was in going down to his house. It was also said that Hurd was seen at three or four o’clock in the afternoon. He asked them whether that was evidence which showed that there could be even a reasonable suspicion against the man who now stood at the bar. Watts had spoken to the time as half past one, and another witness had seen him between 12 and one. But he (Mr Edwards) should call a sergeant of Marines who would prove that he was in Hurd’s company, in a public house, and that he remained there till two o’clock. Mr Watts, no doubt, might have seen Hurd and the other men sometime or other during the day, and they might have been confounded with the men that passed through the Turnpike gate; but if this sergeant could be believed, he was at the time at a distance. If this was the case in regard to time, it showed the Jury the responsible situation they held that day, and, having the lives of three men in their hands, with how much caution they ought to observe the evidence brought before them. He submitted, however, that not the slightest evidence of a conclusive kind could be adduced. Now he came to Maggs; and no doubt the evidence for the prosecution was a little stronger against him, in as much as this, that it had been stated he was seen at a greater number of places; but only in that. Respecting the statement that Maggs made, he would again observe that it must have been almost impossible to him to state at once what he did on the 24th, ten days after. Smith had been making inquiries of him, and he must have known that suspicion existed against him; but did he run away? Like Hurd, he remained, perfectly conscious of his innocence; and on the sixth of October he was apprehended. It appeared that Maggs and Sparrow were seen with Hurd at 11 o’clock, and between 11 and 12 they were seen by Newport in the marketplace, and according to the story urged for the prosecution, at a quarter before 12 o’clock, in two places at the same moment. His learned friend had informed them that there was a variation in the time by the clocks, but that was not shown in evidence. One said he saw Maggs and Sparrow come out by the turnpike gate, and Bailey said he saw them, at precisely the same moment, at the Asylum. Not the slightest reliance therefore, could be placed on the time. Let them not, then, come to the conclusion that because the thing was difficult to prove they must be contented with unsatisfactory evidence; and if the evidence did not point out the circumstances clearly, let them not take it upon their consciences to convict the prisoners. Then Helyar came before them;-they had seen him, and he (the learned counsel) must say he never saw such a scene in any criminal Court in all his life, as when he was asked to point out which was Maggs. He looked upon one, and then another, as if to try whether there was anything in the expression of their countenance to show which was; and when asked whether he could swear that that was Maggs, he could not, that, feeling that he had committed himself, immediately walked down. His boy then comes up and pledges his oath that on the day in question his master said to him, when some men passed, “that Maggs, and that’s Sparrow.” The men were also seen at a public house in the evening, and there was then nothing remarkable in their appearance. They were drinking, joking, and talking, just as others might; but could the Jury for a moment suppose that three men committed such a crime, and then went to a public house to amuse themselves? One other matter brought before them as evidence was a declaration; but according to the law that could be no evidence against Sparrow, and it could be no evidence against Maggs, except that he knew Sparrow had committed the murder. It was important to see what the story was about this. It was told them by the man Helyar, who represented that he had been working on the road on the second October, and left work at one o’clock; but after working from six in the morning to six at night, was it probable that he would remain to seven for no earthly purpose? Well, he told them that, and that on returning he saw Maggs; he went over a gate and walked along by the hedge, another man met Maggs, he placed himself between two trees, and then came up and he heard their conversation. A more improbable story was never heard. What was the conversation that took place? Maggs asked him whether he had heard anything further. The man said that a policeman had been down to Sparrow, and said to him “My good man, I am glad you did not commit the murder, for you’ll have a pardon and £50.” and Maggs then said, “He’ll not have the pardon nor the £50, for Sparrow was the man that killed her.” Was it to be supposed that men would thus go and talk over the matter in a public road? Now, he should call a witness to show that on that day, from five or six o’clock till night, Maggs was in his own house, and this man was refused to be heard before the magistrates. As to the case against Sparrow, had the
statement of his learned friend been borne out, he (Mr Edwards) would certainly have had much difficulty in meeting it; but never had evidence more signally failed as in the present case. The first thing against him was, that he was seen at different times in company with Maggs. The next thing against him, and which was to be the strong and convincing proof, could not be made out. A handkerchief was found in the cottage, supposed to belong to the murderer, and that handkerchief his learned friend said would be proved to belong to Sparrow. The learned counsel then contended that the handkerchief might not have been left by the person who committed the crime, and said that, even if it was, that handkerchief was not marked by the name Sparrow, and people did not carry about pocket handkerchiefs marked with other person’s names. If obtained by improper means, every effort would be used to render it impossible to identify it. The evidence that it belonged to Sparrow had utterly failed. The first witness said it was like the pocket handkerchief Sparrow had, but so hundreds and thousands of others were like it. The next witness on this point had stated what was clearly false, for when asked the question, “did you see the handkerchief from the 30th up to the time you went before the magistrates,” she said, “Never.” His learned friend then said, “Did Hoddinott ever show you the handkerchief?” “No;” but this was clearly contradicted by Mr Hoddinott. The only evidence, in addition to this, was that of the man who was called to show that six months ago Sparrow lent him a handkerchief, and which, he said, was something after the same pattern. Then it was stated that the man had said he never had any silk handkerchief at all; but it appeared that he only said that he only had one that he wore about his neck. The next thing as alleged in the case was one of which he (the learned counsel) must complain that it had not been fairly putting reference to the prisoner. His learned friend had stated this as a part of the case, that Sparrow had related circumstances which could only be known to the man that actually committed the offence. He had stated that the poor girl was knocked on the head and then thrown into the whey, and taken out upon the floor. But they had been told in evidence that on that very night the news of the murder was known all over Frome, and also that there was blood in the whey. They knew how these things spread, and that they lost nothing in spreading; and naturally enough the statement went a little beyond the truth, for he said that there were clots of blood in the whey, which was not the case. Supposing he did appear to know a good deal of the matter, they should not be the slightest importance attached to that. His learned friend also said Sparrow had stated that there were ten constables at the house, and it appeared that there were a great number; but what was more natural than that, to make the matter more horrifying, and to make it appear that he was well acquainted with the circumstances, exaggerations of this sort should be made? Did they suppose that if these men actually committed the offence they would be desirous of talking about it? They would have said nothing about being near the house. Another piece of evidence was, that somebody, seeing that Sparrow’s neckerchief had slipped round, asked him whether he was going to be hanged, and he said he might be soon. He (the learned counsel) asked the witness who made that statement whether it was said in joke, and the answer was that he could not swear it was not. The man’s conduct and manner, then, showed that he could not be the guilty party. Now they came to the last part of the case-that are about the marks on the wall. His learned friend first supposed that these were made by the murderers, but there was not the least evidence of that; and he was satisfied that all the probabilities were against it. It had been put to them that the man must have injured his thumb against an iron staple, but it appeared that there was no iron staple there at all, but only a wooden one. It appeared that the murderers had lifted the deceased ap; and what was more probable than that, there being a great quantity of blood about, one of them touched the wall with it. The learned counsel then argued that the wounded Sparrow’s thumb was occasioned at a fight at a fair, and remarked that Sparrow like the others, had never shown the slightest sign of guilt, but from the first to last had declared his innocence and expressed his most earnest wish that the guilty party be brought to justice. He had now gone through the circumstances of the distressing case, and before he sat down and let him ask their consideration of this fact-that there was no evidence whatever connecting prisoners with the transaction, or even to show a probability that they committed the offence. A man had been seen running away from the house with something, and his manner was such that the witness who saw him thought whether there was anything the matter with the beasts,-showing that his conduct was suspicious. Most probably that was the murderer; and he would put it to them if, in the face of evidence as clearly in favour of prisoners as it could possibly be, they convicted prisoners, would they not fail in their duty to their country, to their God, and to the three men at the bar? He thanked them for the attention they had paid, and would now proceed to call witnesses. (The address of the learned counsel occupied two hours and a half.)
Peter Mortimer, examine by Mr Cole will:-I am a sergeant in the Royal Marines, and was recruiting at Frome in September; on the 24th I was at the Victoria beer-house there; I saw Hurd at about 12 o’clock, he had a dead goose with him; I also saw Maggs and Sparrow some few minutes after; they remained in my company up to about two o’clock; I heard Hurd offer a watch the sale at that time; I went before the magistrate, but they would not hear the evidence.
Cross-examined by Mr Moody: the offer of the watch was generally made to those present.
John Thorn:-I am a labourer, and work at Felton farm; on the day of the murder I saw Maggs and another man with him; it was about three o’clock, and they were on Felton hill; they were going towards Maggs house, and walking along quietly; Maggs spoke to me as he passed
Sarah Stephens: I lived at the Butts, near Blatchbridge: on the 24th of September I was at my aunts, in Vicarage street; I passed by Bellows’ lane, and heard the clock strike; I saw Maggs and Sparrow going in the direction of Maggs’s house; they stopped and talked to a man about five minutes.
Charles Stephens: I am a mason and living at the Butts, at Blatchbridge; on the 2nd of October I went to Maggs’s house, about five, and left at about eight o’clock; he was there all the time.
Ruth Maggs: I am the daughter of the prisoner Maggs; my father and Sparrow came home on the second of October, at about quarter past three; my father sent me up stairs to get his purse; they did not remain long; Sparrow has a silk handkerchief which he wore around his neck.
Cross-examined: I remember Smith coming to the house Sparrow’s handkerchief; Sparrow lived at my father’s house; I did not see my mother gives Smith anything; I did not give him anything; I know young Burge, had not intimately; Mr Smith asked me some questions about Sparrow and my father; I didn’t know that he took them in custody; I told him that I was told on the 24th of September of the murder, and neither Sparrow, Sargent, nor Hurd came to my father’s house that day; that was true.
And re-examined by Mr Edwards. I did not say that my father or Sparrow had not come, but that neither Hurd nor Sargent came; I did not say that my father and Sparrow did come; on Saturday afternoon there was nothing the matter with Sparrow’s thumb, nor on Sunday or Monday morning; I first saw it when he came home from the fair.
- Ivie:[? Mr Ivey was chief constable at Frome at the time:] I am a constable at Frome; on the 24th of September I saw Maggs and Sparrow together in the marketplace at about 11 o’clock; Hurd came also over the bridge.
James Allen: I am a baker, residing at North Bradley; I was there at the fair on the 29th of September; I saw Sparrow with a gun in his hand; I saw his hands, but did not observe anything the matter with either of them; I did not observe that either hand was tied up; I saw him next day, and he showed me his thumb; it was very bad.
Cross-examined by Mr Moody: I did not look minutely at the hand on the 29th, to see whether it was hurt.
Richard Rice said he remembered the day of the murder and saw Hurd with a dead goose; he went to the magistrates’ meeting at Frome to give evidence for the prisoners, but was not examined.
Elizabeth Payne: I saw Sparrow on the Sunday evening after the murder, at his uncle’s; I saw his thumb, and there was nothing the matter with either of his hands on that occasion.
Cross-examined: I had no reason through observing the hands particularly, that should have seen a wound.
Mr Moody re-called Mr Smith who deposed: I examined the girl Maggs at her father’s house and took down what she said; she said neither Sparrow, Hurd, or Sargent were at her father’s house during the day of the murder; I went to Maggs’s house for Sparrow’s clothes; I saw Ruth Maggs there; she went upstairs with her sister, and some things were brought down by them; Ruth brought down some handkerchiefs; one was a red silk one with white spots, and the others were cotton; I went out, and on returning missed the silk one; the mother said, in the girl’s presence, that she had given the silk one to Sparrow.
Cross-examined by Mr Edwards: I asked questions of Ruth Maggs about the clothes; the silk handkerchief was not unfolded.
Mr Newport, recalled, corroborated this statement.
Mr Edwards, in reference to this evidence, commented on the conduct of the police officers in asking questions of Ruth Maggs, against her father, and then coming to contradict her. They had all observed his statement, and would they believe that what she said was not true? Would they not rather think that Mr Smith had made a mistake than that she came to perjure herself, and that without benefitting her father? He was satisfied that the evidence he had adduced was correct.
Mr Moody then rose to reply, and said he was most unwillingly called upon to perform a duty which had been seldom cast on him; but he felt it his duty to address them calmly, and to confine his remarks to the fact that the case. With regard to Hurd, he did not say that he was actually concerned in the murder. The evidence rendered it probable that he had plotted the robbery, and if the Judge should decide adversely to him on the point of law, they might have to discharge him. He did not contend that Maggs was the actual person who committed the murder, but that he was present when the crime was committed, and that Sparrow was the man who actually committed the offence. He thought it necessary to make a remark as to the proceedings at the investigation before the magistrates at Frome. The course of refusing an attorney to be present in such cases was not unusual, and there had been an act of Parliament recently passed by which magistrates were almost prohibited from admitting them. The course complained of had, he admitted, been taken. The magistrates did refuse the prisoners an attorney or witnesses but they did so for the purpose of justice, because they could not tell what use might be made of the facts then arrived at. The witnesses who had deposed to these facts might be tampered with, and it was therefore found necessary sometimes to hold what was called a close examination. The learned counsel vindicated the course adopted by the police officers, and then remarked at great length on the evidence, and on the comments made on it by Mr Edwards. He contended that the evidence of the sergeant of marines was inconsistent with other parts of the case, and that therefore it did not alter his case. He concluded by remarking that Sparrow and Maggs being proved to be together both before and after the murder, if Sparrow was guilty and committed the deed, it would go far towards implicating Maggs. With respect to Hurd, his Lordship had expressed to him and opinion in law that the fact of Hurd planning the robbery would not prove him to be an accessory before the fact, and he should therefore not press the case against him.
The Judge summed up, cautioning the Jury to bring to the inquiry and mind and prejudiced by anything they might before have heard, and also unprejudiced by the complaint made by the learned counsel for the defence, and which appeared to be unfounded. As to the complaint made, that the officers of police had enquired of the persons apprehended, and tried to obtain information from them, he considered that that was no grievance. If no inquiries were to be made, crimes would not be discovered; and opportunities ought to be afforded prisoners to make their own statements. If they were honest to the police, they would clear themselves from guilt; while false statements might operate against the, and confirm their guilt. The public had no reason to complain of innocence being cleared, and guilt brought forward. With respect to the magistrates, he thought they were quite justified in the course they had taken. He had known important cases in which the magistrate had used their discretion, and discharge parties whom he should not have discharged; and he therefore thought it quite proper that in important cases the magistrate should decline to try persons themselves, and commit them on the charge. It would appear that three modes of producing death had been used: first, by giving a blow on the head, then by throwing the body into the whey, and then by holding the windpipe and producing suffocation. There were two matters which were most important of the Jury’s consideration, and which were attested by a respectable witnesses. One was that a mark of the left hand had been left on the wall, from which it was concluded that the hand was bleeding when the impression was made; and the other was, that when Mrs Watts returned there was a handkerchief on the table, which was not there when he (sic) went out. At two o’clock the girl was seen, and at about half past three the murder must have been committed; and it was, most probably, one of the murderers that were seen running out of the house, in a smock frock, and carrying something. The question for them was, whether both or either of the prisoners, Sparrow and Maggs, committed the crime? The case for the prosecution premised that are robbery had been planned, and the charge against Hurd was that he counselled that robbery. He might state that where are robbery was planned, and in executing it the murder took place, all engaged in the robbery were responsible for the murder. The law was, that where persons were concerned in committing a robbery, whatever one did, all were responsible for; but if a man was not present and only counselled a robbery, he was only responsible to that which he had counselled. There was nothing to show that murder had been counselled in this case. Sometimes a burglar went and broke into a house at night, and armed himself for the purpose; but it did not appear that any arms were used on the present occasion, and it appeared to him that Hurd was entitled to be acquitted. The learned counsel had very properly withdrawn the case against him. The evidence of Helyar had been remarked on by the learned counsel for the defence and certainly he seemed to be quite at a loss for some time, and very unwilling to commit himself by identifying Maggs. If the handkerchief could be traced to Sparrow, it would be a strong fact against him, and it was important to consider whether it had been satisfactorily proved to be his property. The circumstances of there being a wound in the thumb, taken with that of blood being found on the wall, must also be taken into consideration. If they thought that there was no reasonable doubt of Sparrow’s, it would be their duty to convict him; if there was, they must give him the benefit of the doubt. With respect to Maggs guilt there was no such circumstance as that of the handkerchief. The statements made by him might be considered to fix guilt on him, if there were other strong evidences of it. The great thing against Maggs was the evidence of Helyar, and they must consider whether or not they could place reliance on this. His Lordship went over the evidence, touching each point with great clearness, and then bade the Jury consider whether both or either of the prisoners were guilty.
After deliberating a few minutes, the Jury asked to leave to retire, and were escorted to the grand Jury room. In about 20 minutes they returned and gave the verdict of acquittal of all the prisoners.
The verdict appeared to be at first misapprehended by the prisoners, who at once began to exclaim that they were innocent of the charge. Hurd said, “My Lord, we are all innocent. Providence has done this.” Maggs then said, “I declare to God we are innocent.” Sparrow said, “We were not within a mile of the spot. God has done it.” Hurd then said, “My Lord, it will all be found out within a month. Let me speak to Mr Smith (the detective officer). They all then said, “Let us see Mr Smith.”