Frederick Henry Seddon.

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rubbed out.

Now I proceed to the next material date, 21st September; I am
passing over intermediate dates. On that date there is the interview
with the Mrs. Vonderahe, and there is the remarkable story given by him
about the letter of 21st September. When you have got documents to
deal with it is a very difficult thing even for a shrewd man like Seddon
to escape from the consequences of what he has written. It is easy to
give explanations when the only person who can contradict them is dead,
but it is not easy when you are confronted with a letter, and in this
letter of 21st September he makes an undoubted false suggestion, in my
submission to you, with the purpose and with the intention of concealing
really what had happened, and trying to cover up that he had had the
dealings with this woman's property and that he would benefit by the


Trial of the Seddons.


death, because he did not want any inquiry into how this woman had met
her death.

Just imagine this for yourselves. Suppose you had been a relative
of this woman, and you had come to inquire and find out what had really
happened, and you saw that this man, in whose house she had been
lodging, was benefiting so greatly on his own showing, when you got
the real facts about her death you would want to know a little more
about the cause of death, and you would want to inquire a little more
closely into what had happened. So he wants to put them off the scent.
The authorities, the police or the Director of Public Prosecutions can,
when they start inquiry, find out a lot. His object is to prevent inquiry,
and he writes this letter to the relatives as executor to the will " I
hereby notify" he has drawn it up carefully; it is not a mere letter
which he has sat down to write, and which is done in great haste or hurry ;
it is a letter which he has carefully prepared and which he hands over to
them for them to give to their husbands, who would want to know some-
thing about what has happened " As executor under the will of Miss
Barrow, dated llth September, 1911, I hereby certify that Miss Barrow
has left all she died possessed of to Hilda and Ernest Grant, and appointed
me as sole executor to hold in trust until they become of age." What
would you have imagined if you, a relative, had seen that statement
that all that there was had gone to Ernest and Hilda Grant? I daresay
they may have expected that Miss Barrow would leave it all to Ernest
and Hilda Grant. " Her property and investments she disposed of
through solicitors and stockbrokers."* etc. If you had received that
letter would you ever have expected that he was the man who had got
all her property, and that it was he who had granted the annuity.
Gentlemen, I will not labour that. Seddon, in the box, was quite unable
to deal with that letter. He had to admit that it concealed the facts ;
he had to admit that it was untrue ; all he could say about it was that
it was unintentionally untrue. You will judge whether Seddon, who was
carefully preparing a letter which he was going to give as executor to
the relatives, wrote something which was unintentionally untrue when
you come to consider the whole of his conduct.

Then, on 9th October, he sees Mr. Vonderahe, and a most serious
conversation took place, because at that interview, according to Mr.
Vender ahe's statement, Seddon tells him deliberate untruths, and Seddon
has had to admit again in the witness-box that he did not tell the truth
to Mr. Vonderahe. He did not tell Mr. Vonderahe that it was he who
had sold the annuity and got all the property. What did he say when
he is asked, " Who is the owner of the Buck's Head and the barber's
shop? " he says, " I am," but he adds, according to Vonderahe's
evidence, " I purchased it in the open market." He has told you that
he did not tell them that he had granted an annuity for it. One thing
further. He is asked then, " What about the India stock who bought
that? " and the answer which he gave is, " You will have to write to
the Governor of the Bank of England and ask him, but everything has
been done in a perfectly legal manner through solicitors and stockbrokers.
I have nothing to do with it." Gentlemen, for what reason should Mr.

* See Appendix C.

Closing Speech for the Crown.


Seddon tell these untruths to Mr. Vonderahe? For the simple reason
that he did not dare tell him the truth in case Mr. Vonderahe wanted an
inquiry. He knew quite correctly that Mr. Vonderahe, as he had stated,
was not satisfied and wanted to know more about it, and the one thing
he was anxious about was that Mr. Vonderahe should not take any
further trouble, and should not pursue his inquiry. You have had the
story told by him about the legal next of kin. I can only say with
reference to that that it is very difficult to understand why a man who
is in a position of executor and trustee, as he was in this case, who had
nothing to conceal, who had acted honestly, and who wanted to satisfy
the relatives, and whose duty it was to satisfy the relatives, who was
only desirous of doing what an honest man should do in reference to the
woman who is dead why he should not have told the whole of the story
truthfully, honestly, and straightforwardly when he was asked questions,
and even before he was asked questions, to the relatives.

That series of incidents to which I have called your attention after
the death of Miss Barrow, as I suggest to you, show that his conduct
after the death was inconsistent with innocence, but was quite consistent
with the guilt of a man who, in consequence of his crime, was most anxious
to cover everything up and to prevent inquiry. My learned friend said,
"Well, he called in a doctor." Do you imagine that Mr. Seddon, who
apparently was so fond of study, and who has told us in his own words,
" One thought led to another," and who had his encyclopaedia

Mr. MARSHALL HALL He never said that he had an encyclopaedia.

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL I think he did distinctly say so, but my
learned friend thinks that is putting it too high.* I think he did most
distinctly say so, but I will leave it out who had opportunities of con-
sulting books do you think Mr. Seddon did not know if he did not have
a doctor there would have to be a coroner's inquest? Gentlemen, all
this parade about the doctor falls to the ground when you bear that in
mind. If there were an inquest it would be much more serious than
calling in a doctor. My learned friends have also, during the course of
this case, commented upon the conduct of this woman particularly my
learned friend Mr. Marshall Hall, if he will permit me to say so, in a
passage of remarkable eloquence, dwelt upon what Mrs. Seddon had done
in attending to this woman. Both he and my learned friend Mr. Rentoul,
with all the force which they addressed you, said, "Oh, but look at Mrs.
Seddon's conduct. Why, she had put hot flannels upon Miss Barrow,
and even kissed the corpse!" Gentlemen, that leads me to make one
comment upon it, which otherwise I should not have made. All this
suggestion of her affection and care of Miss Barrow, and the shock to her
of Miss Barrow's death, falls a little flat if you remember that on the very
night of the woman's death, and before even the body was carried out,
she goes off to the music-hall somewhere about eight o'clock at night,
staying till twelve o'clock. I am bound to call attention to that when
my learned friends are suggesting that she was so fond of Miss Barrow
that these various things happened.

* He said ' ' There may have been something of the kind in the office. " ED.


Trial of the Seddons.


I have dealt really now with all the material aspects of this case.
There is one other suggestion which, perhaps, I ought not to pass unnoticed
that is the suggestion that my learned friend Mr. Marshall Hall made,
" That her money might have been hidden in a hole which nobody has
ever yet been able to discover." His suggestion was that this 216,
and the gold, and the notes, might be somewhere in a hole dug by Miss
Barrow for the purpose of hiding it. The awkwardness of that suggestion,
far-fetched as it is, is that Ernie Grant has told us that he actually saw
her counting out something which she had taken out on the bed gold
just before they went to Southend, and that was in the month of August,
1911. So it was there then, and there is no question that it was in

Now, gentlemen, I have gone through this story to you, I hope, in
all fairness to these prisoners, and I have called your attention to the
strong features against them, and my learned friends have quite rightly
called your attention to what should be said in their favour. Certainly
no jury could have been more attentive to all the details of this case, and
have been more watchful than you have been during the many days that
this case has now occupied, and I do not think I should be serving any
useful purpose if I went at any great length into the various incidents
in connection with this case. You see now how the matter stands. You
understand, as you have done from the first when I opened the case, that
this case rests upon circumstantial evidence. It is right, when you are
dealing with circumstantial evidence, that you should scrutinise, examine,
and investigate it most carefully. It is utterly wrong to suggest, as
has been suggested during the course of the speeches in this case, that
you should not convict on circumstantial evidence. If criminals can
only be convicted upon direct evidence of the crime, well, the result would
be that a vast number of crimes which are detected, inquired into, and
punished in these Courts, never would be discovered; but I agree entirely
with this observation, made by my learned friend many times I am
not saying that it was made too often ; it is quite natural that they should
dwell upon it and emphasise it that you must be very slow to convict
upon circumstantial evidence. I agree entirely with that, and indeed,
as I am saying it, I ana not at all certain that I am not going to repeat
almost his exact words.

If, as the result of the whole of that evidence, you come to the con-
clusion that these prisoners, either both or one of them, did commit this
murder, then it will be your duty to say so notwithstanding that the
evidence is circumstantial. Upon that I do not think it is necessary to
dilate, because the proposition is well known. We have been brought
up to study the law, and I have no doubt you are well aware of it, and
certainly my lord will tell you so. But if you have any doubt any
reasonable doubt after you have considered all the circumstances of
this case, then it is your duty to acquit. If, on the other hand, you come
to the conclusion beyond reasonable doubt if you come to the conclusion
that you are satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that either one or
both of the prisoners did the act, you must not fear the consequences.
You must not shrink from your duty, you must not fail to perform the
obligations you have undertaken on oath.

Closing Speech for the Crown.


It is right that I should at least put before you my view as I indicated
to you when I began the address to you, subject, of course, to anything
which my lord may say, from whom you will take your direction in law.
The case that I put before you is that both these defendants were engaged
in the common purpose of administering the arsenic to this woman and
thereby bringing about her death. If any acts were done by either of
them, or by both of them, in furtherance of the common purpose, or by one
of them with the knowledge and acquiescence of the other that these acts
are being done in furtherance of the common purpose, both are guilty.
If, for example, one brewed the solution and the other administered it, if
those acts were done with a common purpose, both are guilty. It may
be when you come to take the whole of this case into your consideration
you may think that the evidence shows beyond all reasonable doubt that one
of these prisoners is guilty, but that you have some element of reasonable
doubt with regard to the other. Supposing you come to the conclusion
that you have no reasonable doubt with regard to the male prisoner, but
that you have some doubt you are not quite satisfied beyond all reason-
able doubt that the woman is guilty, then it would be your duty to
acquit her. You will only find them both guilty if the conviction is
forced upon your minds from the consideration of the circumstances of
this case that they are both guilty. I agree with my learned friend Mr.
Marshall Hall that in these cases it is not right to speak about "the
benefit of the doubt." If there is a reasonable doubt it means the Crown
has failed to prove its case. If we have not established it to your
satisfaction beyond all reasonable doubt in this case when you have brought
to bear upon the examination of the facts and circumstances the wisdom
you possess, and which you would supply to ordinary human affairs, why,
then, of course, my learned friends are entitled to say, and I say with them,
that both prisoners would be entitled to be acquitted.

I am not going now to consider the differences that may be mad
with regard to the evidence, but I will only say this, that the evidence of
subsequent conduct to which I have adverted during the course of my
observations to you during the last half hour, are mostly matters of
evidence against the male prisoner, and not so much against the woman,
-but you must bear in mind in seeking to do justice in this case that she is
present at, I think, all, at any rate, most of the conversations to which
I have referred with the Vonderahes. You must bear in mind what her
position is with regard to her husband. You will also bear in mind this.
Our law is very merciful, and very merciful particularly to a wife, but
not in a case of murder. The presumption which the law would other-
wise make is not made in favour of the wife in a case of murder. I mean
by that, that suppose a wife is present when an act of larceny, or an
act of stealing, is committed by her husband, the law presumes that she
is acting under the coercion of her husband, and the law presumes there-
fore that she is innocent of the crime, but the law says also that there
i no possible duty upon her to obey her husband if he tells her to do
an act in furtherance of murder. According to the law of this country
there is no such presumption in favour of the wife that she did murder
because her husband coerced her into it. I mention those matters to you
because they may have occurred to you during the course of the hearing of


Trial of the Seddons.


this case. Those are the considerations of law which should apply, and I
only venture to make them in the hearing of my lord, so that my lord if he
differs from anything I say would put to you what he thinks is his view,
and, in any event, as I have no doubt my lord will in charging you
tell you what the legal position is as regards both the defendants. Now,
gentlemen, the matter will rest, after the summing up, entirely with you.
To you is entrusted the ultimate duty of deciding upon the facts of this
case. References have been made to the responsibility which devolves
upon those who are trying this case, or taking part in the trial of this
case. Gentlemen, of course, that is quite true. There is a responsibility
no doubt upon my lord, and a responsibility, of course, upon us as counsel,
but the ultimate responsibility rests with you. You have to weigh the
circumstances, take them into consideration, and determine them for your-
selves with such assistance as my learned friends and I have been able to
give you in arriving at a conclusion, subject, of course, always to the
main assistance, no doubt, which you will get from the summing up of
my lord. It rests entirely with you. All I ask you is, when you have
made up your minds, not to shrink from the conclusions to which you
think you are forced by the evidence that has been given. If you are
satisfied, say so, whatever the consequences. If you are not satisfied,
do not hesitate to acquit either the one or both. Give effect to the
results of your deliberations and the conclusions you come to, and, if
you have done that, you will have done your duty, and justice, I am
satisfied, will have been done.

Mr. Justice Bucknill's Summing Up*

Mr. JUSTICE BUCKNILL Gentlemen of the jury, after nine days of an
anxious trial, during which time I have observed that you have paid a
most intelligent interest and taken the greatest possible care to under-
stand everything that has been said, either by way of evidence or by
way of speeches, we are now drawing to the close of this painful inquiry,
and my observations only stand between you and your final deliberation.
I hope you have not yet made up your minds not that I am going to argue
for or against the accused people, far from it (I never do such a thing),
yet I may be able to point out to you and to help you to appreciate some
of the difficulties of the position ; that is my duty. If I should be of
assistance to you, how glad I should be. Therefore I hope that you have
not yet made up your minds.

I also hope fervently that you will be able to come to a conclusion.
I am certain of one thing, that, whatever judgment you may pronounce by
your verdict, your country will say that you did it as honest and as in-
telligent men. You must not be frightened at the consequences if you find
yourselves driven to give a verdict hostile to either both or one of these
people. Verdicts given by timidity are always quite wrong, because they
are not verdicts which are given according to the evidence. Nor are you
going to give a verdict one way or the other moved by any feelings of
prejudice or sympathy, although I know full well that you must have



Note written by Seddon during the luncheon interval on the second day
of the hearing of his Appeal.

Justice Bucknill's Summing Up.

Mr. Justice Bucknill.

a sympathetic feeling for a female who stands charged with the wilful
murder of another female ; I feel it, and every honest man must feel it.

You must forgive me for repeating this, but what I am saying will
stand recorded, and may be criticised, and therefore I have to repeat to
you what will not be recorded, the speeches of learned counsel, so that you
may have it from me as if they had not said it. I must tell you again
what your especial duties are in the consideration of the facts which have
been laid before you. The Crown has to prove its case. You have heard
that many times, for the reasons I have given you, but I will tell you
again. The Crown has to prove its case, and the reason is that unless
the Crown has proved to your satisfaction beyond reasonable doubt not
all possible doubt, but beyond reasonable doubt these people are entitled
to your acquittal. I have had to consider this matter very carefully, and
I shall just read this passage to you so that I may be quite sure that the
language I use may be what I wish it to be " It is not necessary that
a crime should be established beyond the possibility of a doubt, for there
are doubts, more or less, involved in every human transaction. There
are crimes committed in darkness and secrecy which can only be traced and
brought to light by a comparison of circumstances which press upon the
mind more and more as they are increased in number. Your duty is
calmly and carefully to investigate the case and see what is the conclusion
impressed upon your mind as men of the world, as men of sense, and as
men of solid justice. If the conclusion to which you are conducted be
that there is that degree of certainty in the case that you would act upon
it in your own grave and important concerns, that is the degree of certainty
that the law requires." So, of course, if you see a reasonable doubt,
you must, as you will be very glad, not to give them the "benefit " of it,
but to acquit them. I do not like those words "benefit of the doubt,"
because, where the Crown has to prove a case, if it has not proved it,
there is a doubt ; you do not give the accused person the " benefit " of it ;
you simply acquit him, because the Crown has not proved its case.

Now, this case, as you may gather from what I have read, is a case
founded upon circumstantial evidence. The learned Attorney-General, in
his very careful argument and very fair speech just now, called it " in-
direct evidence." I disagree a little about it. Circumstantial evidence
is not indirect evidence, except that it is indirect in this way, that it is
not as direct as the evidence of an eye-seer the person who sees the thing
done. Circumstantial evidence is made up of a series of circumstances
or facts or events, each of which is direct necessarily, because, if it were
not, you would not perceive it; each circumstance is direct until at last
the sum of those circumstances may very rightly and properly impel you
to find a verdict of guilty. Therefore circumstantial evidence is very
often absolutely as strong as the most direct evidence that could possibly
be adduced. Now, this is a poison case; these people are charged with
having poisoned Miss Barrow. Needless to say (because I am sure you
have thought it already, and you will accept it), if they, or either of them,
are guilty of this crime, it was a crime which had been carefully thought
out and was carefully committed in secrecy. The history of those great
poisoning cases of which most of us know, and which many of us have had
to study, shows (of course, again it is common sense) that the poisoner

Trial of the Seddons.

Mr. Justice Bucknill

does not poison in open daylight, that is to say, in the presence of other
persons; it is one of those secret crimes which is done in the dark. And,
if this case is made out against these people, there can -be no doubt that
it was a very abominable crime. That is sufficient on that part of the

Now, I am going to ask you, if you will allow me, to bear in mind
for a few minutes only the three people in this case the deceased woman
and the male and female defendants. Just consider for a moment or two
the sort of people they were. Miss Barrow was a lady said to be forty-five
years old or thereabout, and a spinster. She was deaf in the sense that
she did not hear as other people did, and she perhaps had that same
suspicious nature that deaf people have sometimes; they do not hear what
people say, and they naturally get suspicious; one has experience of that.
She was quick to like, and quick to dislike. She was a woman of good
means; she had quite enough to support herself very nicely and properly.
She was very keen to have her own way, I dare say, in money matters,
and a good woman of business. So far as we know, she was very fond of
Ernie Grant and his sister Hilda. Perhaps Ernie Grant was the one
living person of whom she was really fond. She was very fond of the boy.
She used to take him to school in the morning, bring him back to dinner,
take him back after dinner, fetch him in the afternoon, and take him in
the evening for a walk; she was as fond as a mother of him, and she was
a respectable lady. She lived with the Grants until Mrs. Grant died; Mr.
Grant was alive when she went; he died in 1906, and Mrs. Grant died in
1908. Then Miss Barrow went and lived with somebody else for a short
time. Then she went to the Vonderahes, where she was several months,
and there she took offence at something that they did or did not do ; it
may be they did not cook well; there is some evidence of that. However,
they did not please her, and she went, as she was entitled to. Seeing an
advertisement in the paper, inserted as we are told by the male prisoner,
she answered it, and eventually took the upper floor of the house, and what
she intended to do, according to Hook's evidence, was to live there with
Ernie and have the Hooks with her, and Mrs. Hook was to teach her
housekeeping and how to cook, so it would be a little family on the top
floor. It was unfurnished; she took the furniture with her. It does not
very much matter whether the furniture was hers or whether it was Hook's ;
that is a matter which is of no importance in this case at all. So she
intended to live there, and she remained there until her death. Now,
as regards these two people, the husband and the wife, so far as we know,
up to the time of this alleged crime they were very respectable people.
He was a man of considerable ability, who had worked his way up in the

Online LibraryFrederick Henry SeddonTrial of the Seddons → online text (page 51 of 57)