Frederick Henry Seddon.

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had been given to her, and if she had sworn that she had posted the letter,
and if she had sworn that Smith had touched her on the shoulder and
said " Good afternoon " at that time, when my learned friend came to
cross-examine her she would have been subjected to the deadly cross-
examination, " You told a lie to Inspector Ward, and you are not to be
believed upon your oath."

The only thing in the case which I complain about of the conduct
of my learned friend is when he turned round and said, " Why doa'i you
all her? " It is no part of the defence to call witnesses to disprove
what is not properly proved by the Crown. The proper way to prove
that this girl bought fly-papers was to put the girl who is alleged to have


Closing Speech on behalf of F. H. Seddon*

Mr. Marshall Hall

bought them in the box, or, having regard to the flimsy identification
that is put forward by Mr. Thorley, to have satisfied themselves that th*
evidence was not reliable, and therefore not have called Mr. Thorley
upon it at all.

Gentlemen, I appeal to you with confidence so far as that part of
this case is concerned, and I appeal to you on behalf of that child, as
well as on behalf of her mother and father. It is not true that that
child was ever sent to buy four packets of fly-papers on 26th August.
Nor is it true that she ever went into Mr. Thorley's shop for the f urpose
of buying fly-papers at all. As I said before, and I say again, I am
not suggesting that Mr. Thorley deliberately told you what he believes
to be false nothing of the kind. I would not make such an accusa-
tion against a perfectly independent witness of that kind. V l '~bat I
suggest to you is this he could not identify the buyer of those fly-papers.
He has told us when the police came to him he was unable to tell them
he could identify her, and when at last on 2nd February he is taken
down to the Police Court for the purpose of identifying the person, he
does identify the girl he has seen on two occasions when she had been
to the private door to see his daughter. He knows perfectly well that
one of the people who is put up is Margaret Seddon, and having seen
the picture of the girl in the illustrated papers before he went down
it almost might be a case of auto-suggestion he identifies this girl
because hers is the only face amongst the twenty people he knows.
First of all, she is one of the only two children that are there, and,
secondly, she is the only one of the whole lot that he has ever seen ; and
he has seen her upon occasions when she has been to call upon his
daughter. I submit to you a more flimsy bit of evidence was never put
forward in any case, leave alone in a capital case, than the suggested
identification of Margaret Seddon by Mr. Thorley after an interval of
something like five months. On 26th August, 1911, Mr. Thorley sells
four fly-papers to a girl, as he says, and he has no entry of any sort or
shape in his book of the transaction. Then on 2nd February, having
in the interval told the police he cannot identify the girl, he is taken
down to the Police Court where Margaret Seddon is, and then he pro-
fesses to identify her, and asks you to rely upon his identification of the
person who bought these four fly-papers on 26th August. Gentlemen,
I say that is not evidence upon which you can rely, and there is no
evidence whatever that you can rely upon that any fly-papers ever came
into this house until they were purchased on the 4th or 5th September
(probably Monday, the 4th) by the prisoner, Mrs. Seddon, herself.

Before we go any further, let us consider all the assumptions against
Mr. Seddon. There is a strong mass of assumptions in this case which
you are asked to make. First of all, you have got to assume that he
had an intimate knowledge of arsenic as a poison and its effects ; secondly,
you have to assume that his knowledge was such that he knew that the
symptoms of arsenical poisoning were identical with those of epidemic
diarrhoea; thirdly, you have got to assume that he knew the quantity
for a fatal dose, or the alternative theory, that he knew exactly how
much to administer for a gradual dose which would ultimately terminate
fatally and yet not excite suspicion during the interval of its administra-


Trial of the Seddons.

Mr. Marshall Hall

tion. Next, you have got to assume against Lira that he knew that the
fly-papers contained arsenic in sufficient quantity to kill an adult human
being. Next, you have got to assume that he knew how to extract the
arsenic from the paper in a proper way, so as to get the maximum
amount of arsenic out of each paper. And yet (you have got to assume
the negative against him now), knowing all this, you have got to assume
that, having made this extract of arsenic for the purpose of poisoning
this woman, he never discovered the one thing which is the characteristic
of arsenic, which can be found in any book dealing with arsenic, that it
has a preservative effect upon the body, and therefore from that point
of view, and from the prisoner's point of view, it is one of the most
dangerous poisons that can be used. You have got to assume that he was
entirely ignorant of that, or you must assume this, that he could have
been such a madman as not to take advantage of the opportunity of
cremating her, which would destroy all traces of his crime. You have
also to assume that he knew the symptoms of arsenical poisoning were
so identical with those of epidemic diarrhoea that it was safe for a doctor
to visit the patient from day to day as she was being poisoned, and that he
knew that merely an inspection of the stools and vomit would not indicate
the presence of poison in the patient. Lastly, you must assume that
he knew that the effect of arsenic was such that in the case of a person
being poisoned by arsenic, the external appearance of the dead body
was so indistinguishable from that of a person who had died from epidemic
diarrhoea that it would be perfectly safe to call in a doctor in order to
get a death certificate. While I am on that, do not forget that he
never asked for a death certificate. He went to get Dr. Sworn to see
the body. Dr. Sworn said it was not necessary to see the body, and
he tendered to him voluntarily the death certificate which he got. Gentle-
men, eight assumptions have to be made against these two people. Am
I not justified in saying that every one of them is a violent assumption?

Gentlemen, there is another comment. If this man or this woman
knew that arsenic was a poison, and they knew of its action, and they
knew that it simulated the symptoms of epidemic diarrhoea, they must
have known those symptoms could only have been simulated by the pro-
duction of intense pain, intense suffering to the person to whom they
were administering it; and is it conceivable that those two people could
have calmly sat down together to administer poison in small doses to
this woman, causing all this intense agony, from 1st September up to
13th September, when she died? My learned friend is driven to it. He
cannot help himself by the exigencies of the case. My learned friend
asks the doctor " It might have been that the poison had been ad-
ministered from 1st September," and you are asked to find, not only
that they are murderers, but murderers so cruel that they would have
administered this poison in doses for a long period of time, causing this
awful agony and suffering to this victim of their evil design.

All these assumptions are to be drawn against these two people
because of two things. First of all, because the male prisoner benefits
by the death of the deceased in that the annuity ceases, and secondly,
there is the suggestion and here I submit that there is no evidence at
all worthy of your consideration that Miss Barrow was in possession of

Closing Speech on behalf of F. H. Seddon.

Mr. Marshall Hall

a large sum of money at the time of her death, and that they murdered
her in order to obtain possession of it. I am not dealing with Mrs.
Seddon in this case, but I cannot help commenting on that for a moment.
I am not dealing with it one way or the other; I am merely dealing
with the fact which is proved. It is suggested by the prosecution that
Mrs. Seddon wrongfully got possession of these notes, amounting to
something like 105, which she cashed, and the notes that were dealt
with by the husband, 165 in all in notes, were wrongly dealt with by
him. According to the prosecution, all those notes were obtained and
dealt with in the lifetime of this woman. What need was there to kill
her? Put it as a proposition on the very lowest possible level. What
need was there to kill her if they had so successfully got from her in her
lifetime, the Crown suggests wrongfully, this large sum of money? On
the contrary, if it is so easy to get this money from her, there is no
complaint. One of the last things we hear she said to the doctor when
he suggested her going to the hospital was, "Oh, no; the Seddons will
look after me better." The boy said that he was happier at the
Seddons' than he ever was when he was at the Vonderahes'. It is sug-
gested that these people murdered this woman for gold, or for notes,
whatever it is alleged she had in her possession at the time of her death,
and that they robbed her after death.

Let me deal with the annuity for a moment. It is not suggested
even by the Crown that there was anything wrong or fraudulent in that
annuity. We know that Miss Barrow was a keen woman of business:
we know she was " a hard nut to crack," to use the colloquial expression
that has been used. We know she fully understood and approved of
the business transaction. To put the question whether she fully and
entirely approved of this annuity transaction beyond all possible doubt,
you have only to refer to the letters which are in existence written by
Miss Barrow, which show conclusively that she not only knew of it, but
that she approved of it, and thoroughly and entirely understood it.
Although comment may be made that Mr. Seddon as an insurance agent
has told you that he did not look upon her as a very good life, it may be
you will not like a man striking what would be a good bargain for him-
self under the circumstances, but, after all, it does not follow that because
a man thinks that it is a good investment to make from his point of
view, because he does not think that the annuitant is going to live the
number of years which upon the table is computed to be her expectation
of life you are not going to say that a man is a murderer because he
makes a bargain which he thinks an advantageous bargain, and she
wished him to make it, approved of and carried out by the formula required
by the stockbrokers and the Bank of England. She is absolutely in one
transaction represented by solicitors. I will only trouble you with one
letter. Look at her letter of 4th January, 1911. I do want you to
realise this. This letter of 4th January, 1911, was written when
the whole matter has been through the solicitors' hands, and when she
has disposed of her India stock.

I do not want to take up too much of your time ; it will take hours if
I detail all the points ; and I do not want to detail them, because it is not
necessary ; but I will just take a summary of them, and my learned friend


Trial of the Seddons.

Mr. Marshall Hall

will correct me if I am wrong. You will remember all the formalities that
had to be gone through with regard to the transfer of this stock. She
wrote to the savings bank, where she was known. She asked for some-
body to accompany her to identify her. She is introduced to the stock-
brokers. She is taken by the stockbrokers to the Bank of England.
She signs the transfer in the presence of the stockbroker, and the stock
is transferred. Then comes the transaction with regard to the Buck's Head.
First of all, some attempts are made to deal with it without solicitors,
an inoperative document is drawn up which is destroyed, and that is raked
up here, I do not know why I do not know what it has got to do with
the case. It is raked up in order to make some suggestion or other, I
suppose ; but still the document was absolutely inoperative, and was de-
stroyed. Later on she was told she must consult a solicitor. A
separate solicitor is instructed on her behalf, and a separate solicitor
appears for her and advises her. After all this is done, the climax of
it is on 4th January, 1911, when she writes this letter. I will read every
word of it to you " Ee the Buck's Head public-house, 202 High Street,
N.W., and the hairdresser's shop adjoining, No. 1 Buck Street, N.W.
Mr. Keeble, Messrs. Kussell & Sons, solicitors, 59 Coleman Street, E.G.
Dear Sir, I regret I was unable to call upon you to-day with Mr. Seddon
as requested by your letter to him of the 3rd instant. However, I under-
stand from him that you are preparing a deed of conveyance of these
properties to Mr. Frederick Henry Seddon entitling him to receive rents
and take over liabilities and responsibilities from Quarter Day, 25th
December last, in consideration of a life annuity of 52 per annum pay-
able to me by him. These arrangements I am quite agreeable to, and
will arrange to be at home between 3 and 4 p.m. on Friday next to meet
you to sign the deed of conveyance. Yours faithfully, Eliza Mary Barrow."
There is no suggestion that that letter is anything but a perfectly honest
and straightforward letter, and that letter is written from beginning to
end in her own handwriting. I think the address, " 63 Tollington Park,"
is a printed address, but with that exception the whole of that letter is
a letter written by this woman. This woman was a shrewd woman, a
business woman, and " a hard nut to crack," yet there she is by that
letter of 4th January divesting herself of practically the biggest items of
property she possesses. I do not know why we should not draw some
assumption in the man's favour. Everything is presumed to be in favour
of an accused person. It may be that she realised the great business
capacity of that man; it may be she realised, " Here is a man who has
made his way in his own profession, who has climbed up from the lowest
beginning to one of the highest positions that an insurance company can
offer him, and he is a shrewd man of business," and she trusts him
absolutely, as demonstrated. Do not get away from this do let us
remember this. Let us go back to the time before any question of the taint
of murder arose. On 4th January she trusts this man implicitly. She
has handed over to him this stock without any security except a memo-
i*andjum which he gave her, saying he was going to give her 72 per
annum a document which is lost. With the exception of that
memorandum in the month of October, when she executed a transfer to
him of the East India stock, by which he acknowledged to give her 72

Closing Speech on behalf ot F. H. Seddon.

Mr. Marshall Hall

per annum for her life, she had no sort of security of any sort or shape
for this 1519, which was the net proceeds of this particular stock.

Gentlemen, do consider this for a moment. This man who is now
called a thief, a perjurer, and a murderer, and everything else that the
law can call him, or suggest that he is, in the month of October is getting
possession of this stock, which he could the next day if he so pleased (he
has got the transfer, and it is absolutely in his own name) have sold and
done whatever he liked with the money. He might have taken it and
thrown it into the Thames for all the law could interfere with him. Yet
what does he do? He never deals with the transfer at all. He never
begins to realise the money until after the whole arrangement is complete,
when the lawyers have completed the transfer of the Buck's Head, and
the whole question of the annuity has been finally and definitely settled.
The annuity becomes payable in advance in the month of January, and
he regularly paid it for every month of that year. His receipts prove
that. It is only then that he deals with this stock. How does he deal
with it? Does he deal with it like a thief or a dishonest man? How
does he deal with it? He acts as a competent, shrewd, sharp man of
business. He says, " Here is an investment which has depreciated
largely." Miss Barrow was worried about it. She told him that it
had cost and we know it had cost 1720, and it sold for 1519, and
therefore 200 of her money absolutely ran away in the few years she
held that stock ; 200 of her capital has gone. She is alarmed. The
whole world was alarmed about that time. Anybody holding stocks,
shares, and securities on land of any sort or shape was alarmed. Is
there a man in this country who has not been alarmed during the past two
years with regard to the security of his tenure and the price of Consols?
Is there any man or woman who has not been properly alarmed as to the
financial condition of this country? This woman is alarmed. She has
seen 200 of her money run away. She has only got 3 per cent. ; she
bought for lOSfths, and therefore she is only getting that. She has
seen her capital running away, and therefore she is naturally anxious,
and seeing that this man is a shrewd man she hands it over to him.
What does he do with it? He absolutely invests it in the purchase of
leasehold property bringing in a large yearly rental, so that out of that he
can make perfectly certain of being able to pay Miss Barrow the annuity
which he has covenanted to pay, and which will have to be paid if he
dies and she survives him, and which will also provide the sinking fund
whereby he can at the end of the time reinstate the value of those
leaseholds when they have expired and run out. You cannot attack
these transactions. They may have been foolish on the part of the
lady. You may think it was foolish of her not to go to the Post Office
or to an insurance company and buy Government annuities or insurance
office annuities. If you go to an insurance office to-morrow and want
to insure your life they would look at you, and say, "You are a very
bad life, and we will put you into the fourth or fifth class, and charge
you double or treble premiums." But if you go the next morning and
say, " I want to buy an annuity," you have to buy the annuity at the
biggest rate. It may be that this man did that with this woman, and
thought that if he could get this investment it was a good investment.
T 289

Trial of the Seddons.

HP. Marshall Hall

He is a north countryman, a thorough man of business, and not a man
of sentiment. I am not asking for any sentimental pity, or anything of
that kind. This man may have thought this was a good investment,
and she may have thought the same for two reasons. First of all, the
insurance office or the Post Office only pay after a period of six months,
and she wanted her money at once ; and, secondly, if she was paid it weekly
she only got her first payment at the end of six months, and there would
be six months without any interest at all. In addition to that, she got
26 more over and above what she would get from the Post Office or
insurance office, because their rates are practically identical. Yet it is
because of this transaction this prosecution must have been originally
launched. The Crown says, " Here is a man who is granting an annuity
to a woman in return for cash which she has paid him, and she dies
within twelve months. The presumption is that he murdered her because
he was interested in avoiding the payment of the annuity for the rest of
her natural life. Upon her death this man benefits to the extent of
2000." He does nothing of the kind. Supposing this woman con-
tinued to live in this house. It is a large house, and it pleased
her. She was to have had the rooms rent free. She would have had
to pay some 7s. a week for the girl for her work. There would also have
been the boy's keep, amounting to 13s. a week if she died 13s. for the
boy and 7s. for Maggie makes 20s. All he had to pay her was 2 8s.
a week; so the total benefit to this man upon her death was 1 8s. a
week. People do not commit murders for 1 8s. a week. You have got
to consider what this man is. Here is a man of unblemished character.
If there is anything sure about this case it is the fact that he is a man
of unblemished character. There is nothing whatever against him. He
has been successful in his business. He has won the admiration of the
people for whom he worked, and he is put into one of the finest positions
which they have to offer. He has been twenty-one years in the same
employ, and he is getting seven guineas a week by way of salary and
commission. He is a man who for his class of life is well to do. He
has got some money put by ; he has got some Cardiff stock.

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL 5 10s., not seven guineas.


Mr. MARSHALL HALL 5 15s., my lord, and then there were some
other matters. He was drawing interest from his stock, and he has
got other property. He is practically living rent free. He has made
his will. From one interest and another we will say that he was getting
over 6 a week 300 a year. For a man in that position that is a
very good and substantial income. There are instances on record where
people have been murdered for coppers. It cannot be suggested that a
man in that position is going to murder a woman with all the attendant
risks for 1 8s. a week. That is the assumption. Is it a more violent
assumption than all these eight assumptions against him, or the assump-
tion I submit to you, that he did not murder her, and that he had no
real and sufficient motive to murder her? Look at Miss Barrow. We
know perfectly well that she was a difficult woman to deal with on the
question of business. That is what we are told ; yet we know perfectly
well that she did deal with him, and she dealt with him in the way which

Closing Speech on behalf of F. H. Seddon.

Mr. Marshall Hall

her own letters indicate, and which the documents in existence corroborate
up to the hilt.

Let us now take the facts in chronological order so far as they are
material in this case. The first date that I refer to is a date towards the
end of 1909. Mr. Seddon, who has on his wife's behalf financed a wardrobe
business in Seven Sisters Road, is doing quite a good turnover, because,
so far as they are available, the books corroborate it. The books are at
your disposal, and you can see them for yourselves. Out of an investment of
something like 40 he makes 100 per cent, in the course of eight weeks.
He has some money which he has put into the business to finance it, and
he has made this profit. Then comes this trouble. You have heard it
again this morning ; I was going to allude to it, of course. In the month
of November there was some trouble with regard to business matters
between himself and his wife, which, unfortunately, culminated in a quarrel,
and eventually in a separation. On 6th January she leaves him for a period
of five weeks, and, as he said, " I tore up the books; I was angry; I thought
of putting them at the back of the fire ; I did not put them at the back of
the fire; I left them in the house." When Inspector Ward came to examine
the house he saw them, and he could have made any comments on them,
which he did not; therefore we are entitled to assume that those books,
as far as they are not in any way impeached by the prosecution, are correct.
Was that all? Are you going to entirely disregard the evidence here? I
do not think, as far as I can judge from the cross-examination, that you
are asked to disbelieve either Naylor, or Wilson, or Wainwright, but if
Naylor, Wilson, and Wainwright are right in the month of November, or
October, 1909


Mr. MARSHALL HALL It was in the middle of 1909 some time in
1909 he had in his possession a bag containing a very considerable amount
of gold, put at something between 130 and 150 sworn to by one of
these men, who is a man of business, another who is a man in trade, and
another a Post Office employee all people of position, presumed to be
respectable men whose characters are unimpeachable. They swear
positively to Mr. Seddon having possession of this money on the night
they saw it. There is a slight discrepancy as to whether Seddon did or
did not say he had 200, but Seddon said, " If I did, all I said was ' Here
is a couple of hundred pounds. If you know of any wardrobe stock going,
I have a couple of hundred pounds to buy it with.' " Mr. Seddon said, " If
I did say it, it would not have been strictly true; I had not got a couple
of hundred pounds, but I had 150." He sold the business for 30. That

Online LibraryFrederick Henry SeddonTrial of the Seddons → online text (page 38 of 57)