Frederick Henry Seddon.

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insurance company until he became a local superintendent in the north of
London ; he possessed the confidence of his employers ; sums of money were
entrusted to his care every week, and they were so satisfied with him that
they allowed him to pay their money into his own bank and send a cheque
on to them for it; so that he possessed their full confidence; nothing in
the world is known against him. But I think one must say this, that,
even on the evidence given by himself and given by his wife, he was fond
of money. The only dispute of any importance that they appear to have
had together arose on a matter of money. For some reason he was angry

Justice Bucknill's Summing Up.

Mr. Justice Bucknill

with her, as I understand it, with regard to some accounts in the wardrobe
business she was carrying on with so much success, and he got into a passion
apparently (we need not inquire into whether it was rightly or wrongly),
and threatened to throw the books into the fire. He offended his wife,
and to the extent that she left him; she would not have it. It was money
that brought about that comparatively trivial matter. She came back
again, and they lived happily together so far as we know. Now, only a few
words about her, and we pass on. There was not a word to be said against
her so far as we know ; we must certainly assume there was not. She was a
hard-working woman, who, although her husband was getting as much
as 6 a week, did what many a woman would not do, most of the work
in the house. She cooked and helped to keep the house in order; she was
not only a wife, but a servant ; they kept one servant, Chater, whose duties,
I suppose, were comparatively light. So she is entitled to be introduced
to you as a good wife and hard-working woman, and a woman of good

Now, these two people are charged with the murder of Miss Barrow,
and there can be no doubt about it that if this crime were committed by
one or the other, or both of these people by the man if it were done by
him, and if he only is responsible there is the love of gold that made
him do it; and if the wife helped him, acted with him with one purpose,
if the two acted together with one purpose, although she may not have
done it for love of gold, and only have done it to serve her husband, if he
compassed the death of this woman for her gold and the wife helped him
either, as the learned Attorney-General has said, by cooking the food
into which the poison was put with her knowledge if that can be sup-
ported or by doing anything else which would lead you to the conclusion
that she was helping to bring about the death of this woman by poison,
why, of course, she is equally as guilty as he is. But you may say there
is a great difference between the two. It is the case put forward by the
Crown that it was the cupidity (I think that was the very word used by the
learned Attorney-General) of the man that brought about this unfortunate
woman's death. There is a difference between his cupidity and the position
of the wife, as you may think. And any point that can be taken in her
favour you must take as also with regard to him. Although motive here
has been made so much of, and although motive, if it exist, is such an
important factor in this case, do not think motive is proof of crime; it is
a matter brought into the case for the purpose of assisting the tribunal,
that is yourselves, to come to the conclusion that, from the Crown's point
of view, this murder was the act of the Seddons, or one of them, and that
it was a murder, not of passion, not of hatred, not done in a moment of
heat or anger, but a murder which was designed for the purpose of getting
this woman's money, or, if it had been got before by illegal means, of
getting her out of the way so that they should not be punished for that
which they had done, if they had done it.

I think I have said enough on the general part of the case, except this
one other observation, and that is, if there was motive, there certainly was
opportunity. Up to the time of this woman's death from 1st September
to 14th September she was living in this house alone, except for Ernie


Trial of the Seddons.

Mr. Justice Bueknill

Grant, and the only people in the house were the Seddons, or their friends
or relations. Therefore there was the opportunity.

Now, the first question that I want to draw your attention to is the
first question you will ask yourselves. You have probably asked it your-
selves already, because you have been discussing it; I am sure you have
not been confined all these days without having discussed it more or less.
What was the cause of Miss Barrow's death? The Crown says that the
direct and approximate cause of her death was a fatal dose of arsenic
given to her, although previous doses may have been administered, within
three days of the death, or within four or five hours three days being the
greatest limit and four or five hours the shortest limit. That is the
evidence of Dr. Willcox, to which I am now going to call your attention.
Dr. Willcox's evidence is that of expressed certainty. You will remember
he has told you, " I am sure that she died of acute arsenical poisoning ;
I have no doubt about it." I will read the words to you in a few minutes.
I am sure you will forgive me if I take up some little time, because you
know my address to you is not the address of counsel ; it is the address of a
judge who is trying to help you to remember some of the evidence which
you might not otherwise have keenly in your recollection.

I say it [says Dr. Willcox] because of the amount of arsenic that I found in the
stomach and intestines ; from that amount I feel satisfied that she [Miss Barrow] must
have had administered to her, or must have taken, arsenic more than that amount
which was found in the stomach or intestines, or in the body, which altogether
amounted to 2'01 grains, and I should judge she had had a strong dose ; the fatal dose
would not have been less than 4 to 5 grains, and 2 grains is a fatal dose.

Now, gentlemen, you know it has been said very often that, however
high the authority of a scientific witness may be, the jury are to be dis-
tinctly independent, because the evidence is the evidence of opinion only.
Well, that has its limitations. In this particular case Dr. Willcox stands
at the very top of his profession in regard to scientific analyses. That is
admitted; I am not going to say anything which is not admitted; Mr.
Marshall Hall has said that. Mr. Marshall Hall has also said of Dr. Willcox
what, of course, he is entitled to say from all who know him as a public man,
that he is an absolutely honest, straightforward man, and he would not go
one hair's breadth out of his way to hurt anybody. He has a reputation
which entitles him to have that said of him, and I should think you would
agree with that from the way he gave his evidence the modest and quiet,
but at the same time the clear and firm manner in which he gave his
evidence. He says that he is certain, so far as he can be certain of
anything, so far as his scientific researches have taken him, that this woman
died in the way I have just told you. And yet it is said that you might
say that it is possible that a mistake has been made.

The way in which it is suggested the mistake may have been made is
this, as I understand it. There is a calculation always necessary. You
take a bit, and you leave a bit, and you analyse a bit, and you argue
from that that the bit which is left, together with the bit you have analysed,
gives a certain result. You take the different organs of the body; you
make an analysis and test with regard to each. In each case there were
two tests, the Marsh test and another. Those tests the " mirror tests,"
as we will call them were used with regard to all the organs except two,

Justice Bucknill's Summing Up.

Mr. Justice Buekniil

and with regard to those two another well-known test was used. As the
result you get 2'01 grains found in the body of the deceased person. But
the reason why Dr. Willcox says he is certain the fatal dose was adminis-
tered either within three days or four or five hours, taking each as the limit,
is because of the amount of arsenic which he found in the stomach and
intestines. He has described all that to you. In the stomach he found "11
grains and in the intestines he found '63 grains, but the tests were different,
for in the stomach the Marsh test was applied, and in the intestines and
in the liver another test was applied. Gentlemen, when you get a man
of this position standing absolutely uncontradicted with another well-
known doctor who has not been called, to whom an offer has been made in
effect, " come and test yourself. Here is what I have done. Here is the
hydrogen apparatus. Here are the parts of the different organs of the body
which have not been tested. I invite you to test, and I invite you to do
what you like " is it not almost impossible to come to any other con-
clusion than that Dr. Willcox is right as to the amount of arsenic found
in the body? It is entirely for you, but I do not know what could guide
you to come to a contrary conclusion. If you see your way, of course, you
will act on it, because of a certainty you would be entitled to take a view
not in agreement with Dr. Willcox, if you saw some reason for doing it.

One point has been made with regard to the hair. Dr. Willcox was
extremely fair with regard to that. He was pressed, and the answer
comes to this, that if you find arsenic in the distal ends of the hair the
ends farthest from the roots one would expect that the arsenic had been
administered some time before. I do not think he has given any exact
time for that. That would tend to show that that particular arsenic
some particular arsenic eventually found its way into the distal ends of
the hair more than three days before the death, as I understand it.
Well, that is a fact, and there it is for what it is worth. But, the amount
found in her hair has not been taken into calculation it seems ; it has been
left out! I cannot give you further assistance, except to remind you
of the fact that Dr. Willcox was called back, and he told you that certain
hair had been soaked in the fluid from the body, and how it had been
tested after that, and it was found that the hair had absorbed a certain
amount of arsenic. I cannot give you any more assistance about it; it
is not my duty to try. You have heard counsel on both sides, and I
myself am unable to do it.

Now, I assume that you come to the conclusion that Dr. Willcox is
right, for which purpose I had better read you a few paragraphs of his
evidence. I will read my note. I have taken it word for word from
the transcript. He said, " There might have been an amount of, say,
about 5 grains up to about 5 grains, taken within three hours of death."
Then, " The arsenic is conveyed all over the body by the blood stream
rapidly." Do not forget that extreme rapidity. I offer this suggestion
probably more rapidly in one case than another. No two people are
made exactly the same. The receptivity of one is not the receptivity of
another. I mean by that that the absorption of arsenic into the blood
and the passage into the different organs may be quicker in the case of
one person than another, because the constitutions are different ; it is
possible. You cannot, therefore, be certain on these matters. You must
IB 385

Trial of the Seddons.

Mr. Justice Bucknill

make an allowance for any difference in the idiosyncrasies of individual
people. " The fatal dose was taken within two or three days of death,
probably within two days " but I am going to give you further evidence
on that. Then he gives the reason why he said that, " The relatively
large amount of arsenic found in the stomach and intestines leads me to
that opinion." You see my notes make the story consecutive by leaving
out a great deal which is unnecessary. " Miss Barrow had certainly
taken arsenic during the last two days, and it is likely that it might have
been taken for some days before." Then he tells you how he tested
these different papers, how he found papers which were bought at Price's,
Thorley's, Needham's, Dodd's, and Spink's, all seemed to contain different
amounts of arsenic; the lowest was 3'8 grains and the highest 6 grains.
Then he tells you how a paper boiled for five minutes in a quarter of a
pint of water gave the result to him, Dr. Willcox, of 6'6 grains ; that
would be what would happen in that particular case. Another paper was
boiled, for the same time I suppose, and that gave 3*8 grains. Then
we find this observation, " 2'01 grains (which is the amount found in the
body altogether) might kill a person, and that was probably part of 5
grains, the fatal dose," or words to that effect. Then he is cross-examined
by Mr. Marshall Hall. He speaks of the individual idiosyncrasies of
people. Then he says this, " In acute arsenical poisoning burning in the
throat might occur, also cramp." There is no evidence that there was
any burning of the throat, or any cramp in this particular case. You
observe he uses the word " acute." In answer to Mr. Marshall Hall, he
eays, " A dose of four or five grains would produce abdominal pains in
half an hour probably." Then he gives the answer I was referring to
before, " The extreme period that would elapse between the fatal dose
and death was three days, and the minimum period of a few hours five or
six hours, or less." Then he is cross-examined with regard to the
multiplying factor, as we call it. You will understand what the multi-
plying factor is. This is a point which Mr. Marshall Hall is fully entitled
to ask you to consider when you are considering the exact accuracy with
regard to the 2'01 grains being found in the body. The multiplying
factor is sometimes so high, Mr. Marshall Hall says, that error is possible
that error is probable. Therefore, without charging or suggesting that
Dr. Willcox has not done the matter carefully and skilfully the argument
adduced by Mr. Marshall Hall on behalf of his client is this : skilful as you
may be, with all the science you can bring to bear with regard to the
accuracy of the test, you have got to make a calculation which may make
your ultimate figures wrong. Whether it would make them less or make
them more I do not know, but, of course, if error is possible, that is the
observation on it. The amount found may have been less, or the amount
found may have been more, but using the best means that Dr. Willcox
had, the results were those which he has given us. Then Mr. Marshall
Hall made another very good point, if I may say so, with regard to the
weight of the body. This woman, we will suppose, had a weight, we will
say, of about 10 stone, but when the post-mortem took place it had reduced
to 4 stone and something pounds, so it became much more difficult at
that time to tell with accuracy what was the correct amount of muscle
which you were to take as the supposed weight when you are calculating

Justice Bucknill's Summing Up.

Mr. Justice Bueknill

BO as to get the amount of the arsenic found in the muscle. Dr. Willcox
admitted it freely. There it is. You come to the same thing again,
" I have done all that science enables me to do, and I tell you that that
science gives me certain results with regard to the muscle." I think there
was a grain found in the muscle, was there not? Then comes the answer
which Dr. Willcox gave, " This was a case of acute arsenical poisoning.
I have no doubt about it." Then he is cross-examined about the hair.
I need not trouble you about that; it is unnecessary. Then he admits
that the symptoms of arsenical poisoning and of chronic diarrhoea are
identical. Then Dr. Willcox says, " Miss Barrow may have had some
arsenic after Dr. Sworn saw her (I think Dr. Sworn saw her the last
time). The fatal dose may have been given within a few hours of death."
Then he repeats that the arsenic in the stomach, the intestines, and the
liver must have got there within two days. Finally, " There cannot be
the slightest doubt as to this being a case of acute arsenical poisoning."

That evidence has been very fairly dealt with by learned counsel
on both sides. If I may say so, throughout this case that has been the
case. I do not know what your answer may be which you have to give
to this question, but I should not be surprised if you said that you are
satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that this lady died of acute arsenical
poisoning as distinguished from " chronic," which, from the Greek word
''time," means that she had been taking arsenic for a period of time as
distinguished from a few days.

The next question is, if she died of acute arsenical poisoning, was it
taken by her accidentally, was it administered by some person
medicinally, had it got into the medicine which she was given,
or was it given to her by the accused persons, or by one of them?
In consideration of this part of the case, I think I will begin with the
woman's evidence. I will tell you why. She saw most of her during her
illness. She was with her from day to day. She had taken her to Dr.
Paul. Dr. Paul, I think, saw her six or seven days. " I yesterday
looked up the last time, and I found the 29th was not the last day, it
was the 30th of August." Then, having got better under Dr. Paul Dr.
Paul telling you that there was nothing the matter with her of so grievous
a natxire as to have even kept her indoors if she had chosen to go out he
is called in again on 1st September. Then Dr. Paul said, in effect, " Too
busy, can't come." It is not my duty, and I am not going to criticise
the duties of medical men, but I had an idea when you had a patient
under your control, or under your care, you ought to give a better reason
than " I can't come," if you are asked to come and see her two days
after a visit. I do not know what the profession thinks about it. This
woman had been seen by him on several occasions ; she saw him last on
30th August. She wants to see him on 2nd September, and Dr. Paul
eays, "Too busy; can't come." Dr. Sworn is called in, he being the
medical adviser of the male prisoner. Dr. Sworn conies in and sees her,
and there was nothing that Dr. Sworn saw, according to his evidence (and
there is no dispute about it) that led him to believe that she was suffer-
ing from anything else than epidemic diarrhoea. He treated her for it.
I am going to read you his evidence, because I think it is important. I
will not read it all, of course.


Trial of the Seddons.

Mr. Justice Bucknill

I was telephoned for. I went and saw Miss Barrow in bed. Mrs. Seddon was in
the room. Miss Barrow and Mrs. Seddon gave me history of case. That day, before
she had diarrhoea and sickness, she appeared to be very ill. Miss Barrow said she had
been ailing on and off for a long time. Mrs. Seddon said she had had liver attacks and
asthma. I asked if she had been attended to by another doctor. They said she had
been attended by another doctor, and that they had sent for him at noon and at 8 p. m.
Miss Barrow had pains, sickness, and diarrhoea, pain in the abdomen. She had been
vomiting before, not whilst I was there. I prescribed bismuth [and so forth] and
morphia, both in the same mixture, a dose every four hours. I saw her next day, 3rd,
in the morning, 11 to 12 noon, she was no better, and that sickness and diarrha>a
continued. I prescribed some medicine. On Monday the 4th I saw her again. About
the same. I understood that sickness and diarrhoea had not ceased. She had not
yielded to my treatment. She was no weaker. I was not satisfied with her condition
on that day. Mrs. Seddon said she would not take her medicine.

Now, you see Mrs Seddon is there on each occasion apparently
looking after the woman, according to that statement of Dr. Sworn,
and apparently waiting on her in a friendly, kind manner, and was solicitous
about the health of the patient. Now it is said she was poisoning her.

That was before I went into the room. And also before Miss Barrow. She was
deaf. She could not hear what was said in an ordinary tone of voice. That day I
prescribed an effervescent mixture, potash and bicarbonate of soda in two bottles. On
that day diarrhoea was not so bad, so I gave her nothing for it. I spoke to Miss
Barrow and said if she did not take her medicine I should send her to a hospital, and
she said she would not go. On the 5th I went again. She was slightly better. Mrs.
Seddon was present. She said her sickness was not so bad, and diarrhoea not so bad as
yesterday. I did not alter the treatment. On the 6th she was improving and I
continued same medicine. On the 7th she was slowly improving, same medicine. On
the 8th the same medicine. Slowly improving. On the 4th I stopped morphia because
the pain was less. On 9th she was about the same. Mrs. Seddon said motions very
offensive, so I gave Miss Barrow a blue pill. On 10th, Sunday, I did not call. I said
on 9th if patient no worse I should not call. On Monday llth [This is the day the will
was made] I saw her between 10 and 12 noon. She was about same as on Saturday. I
saw Mrs. Seddon on llth. Miss Barrow was then suffering from weakness caused by
diarrhoea and sickness. She had no pain on llth. I ordered Valentine's Meat Juice
and brandy for the weakness.

Do not forget that date, because the Crown suggests that that is
the day which would be one of the limitations one of the limited periods
for the administration of the fatal dose; they suggest that the llth,
when the Valentine's Meat Juice was given, was the first opportunity for
mixing this concoction got from poisonous fly-papers, which we have
heard would also be of a brown colour.

I told Mrs Seddon to give her soda water and milk if sickness came on, and gruel,
and later on some milk pudding. On llth her condition was not very good. It was not
very good any time that I saw her. On llth a will was not mentioned by anyone.

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL Is not that the mental condition, my lord?
Mr. JUSTICE BUCKNILL What did I say? I have here

Her mental condition was not very good. It was not very good at any time that
I saw her. On llth a will was not mentioned by anyone. A will would have to be
explained to her.

Do not forget that, because it is charged against these people that one
of the suspicious circumstances, at all events against the man, is making
the will for her when she was in the condition in which the doctor describes
her to be. It is said that that is a very suspicious matter.

Justice Bucknill's Summing Up.

Mr. Justice Bucknill

A will would have to be explained to her. She would not grasp all the facts, but
she was quite capable of making a will if it was properly explained to her.

The man says it was properly explained to her.

I did not want to make the will for her, not being a lawyer. I did not know
very well how to put it together. I knew something about the expressions in a will and
had a fair idea, and I did the best I could. I never expected her to die, so I was not
very particular about it ; I did what she told me to do. It was signed and witnessed.
All I know about it is I did it because she asked me to.

On the other hand, you know what the learned Attorney-General
has said, and I shall have to refer to the will again before I have finished.

Her mental condition from 1st to llth did not improve. It was about the same.
I first ordered Valentine's Meat Juice some time after the 4th I think. On 12th I did
not see her. On 13th I saw her about noon, I think ; not sure. On 13th diarrhoea had
come on again. She did not seem in much pain. I gave her a mixture. She had a
little return of the sickness. I gave her a chalk mixture, bismuth and chalk ; strength
about same. She was weaker on account of the diarrhoea. I saw Mrs. Seddon on that
day. I simply said Miss Barrow was worse, and that I would send her a mixture to be
taken after each motion. I gave no diet instructions on that day. She was in a little
danger but not in a critical condition. I did not expect her to die that night any more
than any patient who with an attack of that sort might die from heart failure or any-
thing like that. Her pulse was weaker on 13th than the day before, not intermittent,
simply weak. I did not see her alive again. I took her temperature twice ; one day 101
on 7th [101, you know, is not dangerous] some days it was 99. I never found it sub-
normal. I did not take it every day. On 13th I did not take her temperature.

Then he tells you what happened afterwards when he saw Mr. Seddon.
That is the evidence of the doctor during the time that he saw her. I

Online LibraryFrederick Henry SeddonTrial of the Seddons → online text (page 52 of 57)