Frederick Henry Seddon.

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IThe ATTORNEY-GENERAL I am. I was only referring to the fact that
she admitted that one yesterday.
Mr. JUSTICE BUCKNILL The 23rd August was the last date.
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL I was only going to observe this, that on the
19th June the 216 is withdrawn in actual gold, and it is taken home to the
house. On the 26th June, the 5th July, the 15th July, then 4th August,
the 8th August, the 10th August, and the 23rd August notes are being
passed by Mrs. Seddon. And, gentlemen, let me further observe this.

(During the month of August, 1911, when the changing of notes has become
as familiar to her as eating bread and butter, even in that month of August
she gives a false name and false address. Mrs. Seddon, when pressed with
this, gave you what I submit is a very extraordinary explanation. Of course,
these matters are for you to judge. It is a very difficult situation, no doubt,
for her to explain. Again, it is a matter partly for her, and no doubt
a matter upon which you may judge, whether under the circumstances,
in view of what has happened, it was any good making the pretence that
these notes had been given by Miss Barrow to her to cash. But when ehe
is asked whether she could give any reason for Miss Barrow doing this, she
gave what is perhaps one of the most extraordinary answers in this case.
She said, because Miss Barrow did not like notes; she did not like having
; notes. Upon the evidence, which is beyond all dispute, and is not disputed,
i Miss Barrow had hoarded notes from the year 1901 until the time when
she went to live at Tollington Park; and some of these very notes with
which we are new dealing which have been traced are notes which Miss
Barrow had hoarded up in the years 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, and
so on, till the year 1910, because she had this fancy for keeping the notes
in her cash box. Those are the admitted facts. No explanation, no
suggestion has been given why all of a sudden she went to change these
notes into gold.

Then Mrs. Seddon goes to the Post Office to change the notes. Well,
gentlemen, you heard her. She was asked to give her name and address;
she said she had never handled a 5 note. It is a little difficult to accept
in view of this that she had been carrying on a business for some twelve
months, and, according to them, if you accept their statement, a business
in which hundreds of pounds passed. I will assume that she had never
changed a 5 note in her life. She goes to the Post Office. Gentlemen,
can you conceive the state of mind of the woman who is honestly there
with a 5 note which she is asked to cash for some one who is a friend
of hers, and who is asked by the postmaster to give her name and
address, and immediately gives a false name and a false number of the
street in which she had lived? She says she did that because she was
unused to it. Well, if it had been a solitary occasion difficult as it might
seem one might in mercy have accepted the explanation, but how can
you? She goes on in March months afterwards when she has been
dealing with some of these 5 notes in shops where she is known, spending
money, and having to change the note; of course, there she could not
give a false name and address, because she spends the money, and they

Closing Speech for the Crown.


know her there; but at these other places that she goes to on other
occasions she changes notes and gives false names and addresses. Gentle-
men, she is bound to admit that she did not know anybody of the name
of Scott; she did not know anybody living at 18 Evershot Road; and
equally is it not perfectly clear that, of course, notes with false names and
addresses endorsed upon them are very much more difficult to trace than
notes with a right name and address upon them.

Gentlemen, the conclusion which I ask you to draw when you consider
the evidence upon this part of the case is that she had improperly made
use of these 5 notes. That the 5 notes were in existence when she went
into the house there is no doubt; that is proved beyond all contradiction;
it is indeed admitted. Yes, in August of 1910, according to the story as
told, when this incident occurred with the Hooks there is some small
controversy which I will not pause for a second to deal with some squalid
dispute between him and Hook Miss Barrow brings the cash box to Mr.
Seddon and asks him to take care of it. That is very likely true. That is
in accordance with the agreement that had been made by which she had
placed herself in his hands entirely with regard to the annuity. It will
accord with the transfer by her of 1600 worth of stock into his name
without even a scrap of document to show that she had an interest in an
annuity at all. It will accord with everything that had taken place. It
would be, as my friend says, an example of the implicit confidence that
she was placing in him. She brings in the box, and he says she said to
him, " There is 30 to 35." Why does he say that? If he were to tell
you the truth, which was that she told him what money there was really
in it. of course, it adds a great deal to the money which has got to be
accounted for somehow or other on his own showing, or which, at any rate,
would have been in her possession. But be says she told him there was
30 to 35. Now, Miss Barrow could not possibly have said that. That
is the point I want to make clear to you; because, on their own showing,
there was, at the very least, 170 in notes in that cash box. This story
about the 30 to 35 is absolutely untrue. I am not unmindful of the
fact which, in fairness to them, perhaps ought to be mentioned, that they
say they do not know, or did not know, that the 5 notes were kept in
the cash box; they both say that; because they say they never saw it
opened until after her death. They have failed to give the faintest explana-
tion of where these 5 notes came from, and you had the most definite
evidence, both of Hook and of Mr. Vonderahe, about it. It is quite clear,
in my submission, that it is an absolute impossibility that Miss Barrow
could have said to him that there was 30 to 35 there. They tell the
same story, of course ; their evidence to a certain extent except as to some
points to which I will call your attention is an echo the one of the other.
30 to 35 she brings to him to take care of, their story is, because she
is afraid of Hook. Mr. Seddon is absolutely precise about it. He says he
will not accept that cash box for safe custody unless she counts out the
money then and there to him, and he would give a receipt for it to her.
His story is that she said there was 30 to 35 ; he says, " Count it out,"
and, for some reason utterly unexplained, she goes up to her room with the
cash box and never comes down, and nothing more is heard of it. Of
course, to a great extent, you have to reconstruct what happened during


Trial of the Seddons.

Attorney-G eneral

this time; because we have only the evidence of Mr. and Mrs. Seddon as
to what happened at the particular moment; but, fortunately, there is
the evidence to which I have called your attention, which makes that
statement of theirs absolutely untrue.

Now, gentlemen, just let me remind you of the money that passes

into this woman's hands, according to the story told by the defendants

^ themselves. There is I will leave out the 8 which was discussed yester-

* day; it only complicates matters there is 165 cashed by the changing
of notes into gold. There is 91 which was received by this lady for the
annuity, according to the Seddons' own statement. There is 216 which
was drawn out on the 19th June. That is 472. But you will observe,
gentlemen, I have not taken into account at all in that 472 the amount
of gold that she had when she came into the house. Now, there is no
doubt that there was a considerable quantity of gold. There are three
persons who have spoken to it Hook, Mr. Vonderahe, and Ernie Grant
they all saw it; the exact amount is not very material, but, so far as we

are able to get the figures, there is, upon the evidence, 380. If there
was 380, as has been deposed to in such definite terms, that would give

[ 850 as the total sum of money which was in her hands, subject, of course,
I to this you must put on the other side of it what she was spending.
I We have got a very great light upon the kind of life she was living and
the amount she was spending. She was living up in this one bedroom with
a small kitchen in which she used to have her meals with Ernie Grant. We
know what Ernie Grant cost to keep according to the Seddons, and I will
assume that Ernie Grant was kept by them during the two weeks as he
was kept by Miss Barrow; that comes to 10s. a week the cost of keeping
the boy. I say I know that, because we have got the account which I put
in, where he accounts for the 10 which he found, and he puts down the
keep of Ernie Grant for two weeks at 10s. a week. It really is not very
material; there is 12s. a week which only for a few months she was paying
as rent, because from the 1st January she does not pay any rent at all;
that is included in the annuity; she had not got to pay that; leave that
out of account. Apparently she was a very shabbily dressed woman, and
spent very little upon herself. Let us put down that she spent 1 a week
upon herself for mere food and clothing, or 30s. ; it does not matter, it ia
not worth spending a moment over. The utmost you can get out of it is
that she spent about 2 a week at the very highest, and spending that for
a short time from the 1st January, we will say, until the 14th September,
you have got the total amount of money that she could have spent; say she
spent 100 during that time. According to the way in which she was
living, she could not have spent it very well without spending some money
outside; but, say, 100. Then you have got 750 to account for; that is
assuming that there were no other notes than those we have traced. You
may leave out the 10 which had been given her on the 2nd September.
Then, gentlemen, the total amount of money found in this woman's posses-
sion on the day she died was 3d. in coppers.

Now, gentlemen, if they had possession of the money out of the cash
box; if, just in the same way he had complete custody of her bank
notes and her gold, at some time or other the day of reckoning would
come, and that money would have to be paid over. My submission to you

Closing Speech for the Crown.


is that this is a material factor to take into account in this case, because
if you come to the conclusion that they had dishonestly used the notes
and had got the gold, with the greed and covetousness, unfortunately,
of some men, dreading the arrival of the day when they might be called
upon to account for the money, you get motive, overwhelming motive, for
desiring this woman's death. If you add to that that there was the payment
of the annuity which had to be made, the payment of which rested upon
him as long as this woman was alive, then you again get a further reason
why it would have been to his interest beyond all dispute that this woman's
life should cease.*


Tenth Day Thursday, I4th March, 1912.

The Court met at 10.30 a.m.

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL, resuming When the Court adjourned
yesterday I was asking you to bear in mind the story told by both
prisoners as to the dealings with the cash box, in order to put before you
what I suggest is the true explanation of how these prisoners came to
be passing these notes when dealing with Miss Barrow's money. In
this connection it is not unimportant to refer for a moment to what has
been said by the female prisoner, in addition to what I mentioned yester-
day. She apparently gave the explanation to her husband when he asked
her about it, according to the story we have heard in the witness-box,
that she did not want everybody to know her business, and that is why
she had given the false name and address. That is an explanation which
one understands if she was improperly passing these notes, the property
of Miss Barrow, but an absolutely impossible explanation to accept if
the story she is now giving is true. It was very remarkable how the
story shifted. The male prisoner in the box gave this explanation when
I pressed him about the passing of these notes, and he said that was her
story. You may remember that I put some very simple and easy questions
to him, which showed perfectly plainly that that was a theory which no
reasonable man could ever accept in explanation. When she came into
the witness-box she never said a word about that story. There was an
entirely different suggestion about never having passed a note before.

I am not going to delay by dwelling at any greater length upon those
incidents, except to say a word or two in passing about the male prisoner's
dealing with the notes. According to his story, he received one 5 note
in payment for a cheque for 9 8s. 4d., which he says he sent to Frere,
Cholmeley & Co. in October, 1910, for the ground rent which was due on
the Buck's Head. The other 5 note, which got into his banking account
at the beginning of January, 1911, he says came into his possession by
her giving him a 5 note on five different occasions in payment of the
12s. rent, and for which he returned her 4 8s. change. With regard to
the first 5 note as to the cheque, it is of very little importance in this
case, but when we once know, as we do know, that he had already made

* See note by Seddon, Appendix K.


Trial of the Seddons.


the bargain in September of 1910, by which the India stock was to be
transferred and the Buck's Head property was to be his, and he was to
pay an annuity, and when we know that on the 14th October he had
already got her India stock, and that on the 5th October, from the
letters produced, the solicitors were already upon the scene to make out
the assignment of the Buck's Head, it is not very difficult to understand
that as part of that bargain it would have been his duty to pay the
ground rent then, as he did on subsequent occasions from the moment
the assignment was completed. It is not a very important matter. But,
as regards the other 5 notes, it is very difficult to follow from his point
of view. During that time a considerable number of notes are also
getting into the possession of his wife, and, if you can understand the
story as told by them, it would seem that she was always giving out 6
notes and getting gold in change; that year, I think during October,
November, and December, she received at least 25, which she passes
and deals with in notes, and he gets 30. The explanation as to his
five 5 notes, I submit to you, is quite impossible to accept in the circum-
stances of her story and of his story. Apparently she must have been
getting all the gold she could possibly want. She is getting gold changed
from these notes of the wife. She is getting all the gold she could
possibly want from him, if only to change one, and in addition to this
she must be having, according to this story, in her possession, a consider-
able amount of gold, even on their statement. There it is. I do not
mean to go into it in more detail. It shows us this, that both of them
are dealing with this money, both of them are dealing with these notes,
and I submit to you both of them are unable to give any reasonable
explanation of why they are dealing with it.

Now, that brings me up to the month of August. I do not mean
to repeat either what was said yesterday in the history of the case by
my learned friends, or what I may have referred to myself. That brings
us to the month of August, 1911, when apparently she consults Dr. Paul.
You have heard Dr. Paul's evidence ; he says that she was suffering from
a slight ailment, congestion of the liver, or a bilious attack, but it was
not bad enough to keep her in the house. That was for the first two
or three times that she goes to see him, and during the last twice she is
suffering from a slight attack of asthma, and not congestion of the liver
at all asthma which, he said, was not sufficient to keep her indoors for
a moment; she was walking about in her usual health, meeting her
relatives, as we know, during this month of August, and taking the boy
to school, fetching him from school, and living her ordinary life.

Then we get to the month of September, and I want to direct your
attention to what appears to me to be the most important point in this
case, and that is the purchase of arsenic on 26th August, 1911. The
theory of the prosecution, as I opened, supported by evidence, as I will
show you directly, is this, that Margaret Seddon had gone to Thorley's
shop at Crouch Hill on 26th August, 1911, and had purchased there a
packet of arsenical fly-papers. The answer that is made to that case
by the defence is that she never did go there, and that Mr. Thorley
had made a mistake in identifying Margaret Seddon as the person who
bought those papers. If the view put forward by the prosecution is

Closing Speech for the Crown.


right; if, on examination of the evidence that has been given, you
come to the conclusion that she did go to Thorley's on 26th August and
purchase these fly-papers, then the whole theory of the defence, all the
views put forward by the defence, break down, and the case for the defence
crumbles away. I will tell you why I say that because no attempted
explanation has been given as to why it was that those fly-papers should
have been asked for on 26th August. What is far more important even
than the purchase is that when this girl went to Thorley's, as we know
she did, she asked for four packets of fly-papers, which would contain
twenty-four papers, each one of which, as we know, contains more than
sufficient to kill an adult human being. Of course, it may be very well
that any person who was going to use these fly-papers to poison a human
being would not know exactly how much there was in a fly-paper. But
if the girl went to buy four packets of Mather's arsenical fly-papers
according to Thorley, whose evidence I will read to you directly, then I
do eay that there is absolutely no explanation that could possibly be
given by the defence which is consistent with innocence, and, indeed,
none has been attempted.

The case for the defence is based upon this, that the girl never did
buy these fly-papers. Let us see what happened. Let me just recall
to your minds what took place in this Court. Mr. Thorley was called,
and his evidence amounted to this. You may remember as I opened the
case all that I said in reference to it was that Margaret Seddon had
purchased a packet of these fly-papers on 26th August; and Mr. Thorley
came into the box and stated that a girl had come into his shop to
purchase them ; he did not know her name was Margaret Seddon ; all
that he knew was that on a particular day, which was a Saturday, a
girl came and he sold her a packet of fly-papers. He was cross-examined,
and, of course, tested, as he had to be by my learned friend, and he
was asked why it was that he had any special recollection of that particular
sale, and he gave evidence which hitherto could not have been admitted,
but which became admissible evidence, whatever doubts there might be-
about it before, the moment his memory was challenged upon it, and
he said that he remembered it distinctly because on that date the girl
came in and asked for four packets of fly-papers, and that he had not
got four packets to sell her, he had only one, that that was the last
of his stock, and that he made a note in his order book to order more
because she had wanted more, and he said that he would have them in
the next week. That is how the evidence stood with regard to it. He
said, further, that he had seen the girl before, because once he had
opened the door for her, and he had seen her on another occasion with
his daughter. He did not know her name, and he did not know who
she was, but what he did know was that she had been to his house to
the door, at any rate, to speak to his daughter, on two occasions. He
remembered her face, that was all ; he never knew her name. Then
inquiries are made by the police necessarily made in the neighbourhood
to ascertain whether any fly-papers had been sold to the Seddon house-
hold during this period ; and he is asked whether he can identify the
girl or not. He says he does not know whether he can identify her or
not. Then he goes into a room where there are some twenty people,

z 353

Trial of the Seddons.


and he picks her out for a very good reason because he has known
her he has seen her on two occasions before, and he remembers that
the girl who came in to purchase the arsenical papers was the girl he had
seen twice when she had called for or been with his daughter. Mr.
Thorley was sharply cross-examined by my learned friend necessarily,
and he was asked whether this was not the result of some conversation
with Mr. Price, another chemist. He explained that it had nothing what-
ever to do with it, and he didn't have any such conversation. Mr.
Price was the person who was supposed to have put it into his mind. You
remember why that was. Mr. Price is the chemist from whom Maggie
Seddon, on the 6th December that is two days after his arrest sought
to purchase fly-papers. He refused to sell them to her, no doubt because
of what he had heard in connection with the case. But Mr. Price,
according to the view that was put by my learned friend in cross-
examination, was supposed in some way to have suggested to Mr. Thorley
the material from which Mr. Thorley came to the conclusion that Maggie
Seddon was the girl to whom he had sold fly-papers in August. Mr.
Thorley says he had no conversation with him about it ; and in order
that there should be no doubt, and that the matter should be at least
thoroughly questioned and sifted, I put Mr. Price into the box at once,
so that my learned friend could cross-examine him upon this point. He
never ventured to ask him a question upon it.

Mr. MARSHALL HALL Thorley's evidence was that he identified her
in the morning before he had seen Mr. Price, so it was useless to ask
him questions about it.

The ATTORXEY-GEXERAL I agree with my learned friend that it was
useless to ask the question of Mr. Price, but the reason why I put Mr. Price
into the witness-box was, if any suggestion of that kind were made, it
could be put to him ; but if my learned friend says it was useless to put it,
I am quite in accord with him about it. Therefore Mr. Price had not
suggested it in any way to Thorley. How was it Thorley identified the
girl? He told us. He went there in the morning, and I will just call
your attention to what he actually said about it, because of its extreme
importance. Gentlemen, may I make this further reference to Mr. Thorley.
It is not suggested, and, indeed, on the material before you it could not be
suggested, that Mr. Thorley is anything but an honest, straightforward
tradesman, carrying on his business in this locality. There is no ground
for any aspersion upon his character, and none is made. Mr. Thorley's
anxiety must be, not to be a witness in a murder case in connection
with fly-papers which he sold to a girl, but his anxiety must be to keep
out of the case if he possibly can. He is not a man who wants to
put himself forward in the witness-box to come before you to tell his
story. One knows quite well, first of all, in the case of a tradesman selling
goods such as these, that he is by ro means desirous to explain and tell you
what happened. There is always the question for consideration as to
whether he was not bound to make an entry of it, and whether he ought
not to have made an entry of it in a poison book. That, of course, is
not material for the purpose of this case, and I pass from it ; but a chemist
knows that, and he does not want to come into the witness-box and tell his
story. And above that, as we know, no man who is carrying on his business

Closing Speech for the Crown.


is desirous of attending either the Police Court or this Court and giving up
a good deal of his time in order that he may give his testimony. But Mr.
Thorley is an honest man; he is unable to tell a lie about it, and the
consequence of it is that when Mr. Thorley is asked to come to the station
and see if he can identify that girl, and he does identify the girl, he is
bound to say that he does as an honourable man, and he goes into the box
and tells you without the faintest doubt that the girl to whom he sold those
fly-papers on 26th August was Margaret Seddon. I only desire to read

Online LibraryFrederick Henry SeddonTrial of the Seddons → online text (page 47 of 57)