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Frederick Henry Seddon.

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anything to do with people who slammed the door in Maggie's face."
There, again, you must take the temperament of the man. I do not
suppose there is a man in your box who would look with such miserable
spitefulness on such a small transaction as that as he did. What did it
matter if the girl had the door slammed in her face compared with the
importance of the relatives knowing of the death of their kinswoman?
She might have just stood out in the street and shouted it out, or asked
a passer-by, or given a boy 2d. to go round, or even have sent a telegram,
or done something. Nothing was done except the letter, and it is said
the letter was not written. This is the alleged letter, of which he kept
a copy

Mr. Frank E. Vonderahe, Dear Sir, I regret to have to inform you of the death of
your cousin Miss Eliza Mary Barrow at 6 a.m. this morning from epidemic diarrhoea.
The funeral will take place on Saturday next between 1 to 2 p.m. Please inform Albert
Edward and Emma Marian Vonderahe of her decease, and let me know if you or they
wish to attend the funeral. I must also inform you that she made a will on the llth
instant leaving what she died possessed of to Hilda and Ernest Grant and appointed
myself as sole executor under the will, Yours respectfully, F. H. Seddon. Frank Ernest
Vonderahe, 31 Evershot Road.

They say that letter was never received. He kept a copy of it.
What do you think of the letter? " I must also inform you that she
made a will on the llth instant leaving everything she died possessed of
to Hilda and Ernest Grant, and appointed myself as sole executor."
According to him, this will only disposed of the jewellery, furniture, and
effects which belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Grant, the father and mother of
Ernie and Hilda. It was only intended to apply to that, and the letter
says she died leaving " what she died possessed of " all she died
possessed of it means, I suppose "to Hilda and Ernest Grant."

What I do not understand for the moment is this (if there is an
explanation, I should very much like to know it), at that time when he
was writing that letter he had made a search in the trunk and in the
cash box for money which he believed to be there; he believed 216 at
least to be there, or part of that money, which she withdrew from the
savings bank. The wife had seen her withdraw it, and the wife had
said she believed she put it into the cash box. When he came to look
for the money he must have expected to find the money. He was greatly
astonished not to find more than 4 10s. ; he believed she was possessed
of a great deal more on llth September, before she died, when she made
this will. Therefore, it seems to me there is no answer to it in this
respect (I do not know what importance you will give to it), that then
he was saying to himself, " The jewellery and furniture and the goods
which belonged to Mrs. Grant, let them go to the two children, but that
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Justice Bucknill's Summing Up.

Mr. Justice Bucknill

is not all she had got; the will does not pass all that she is possessed of,
because she has got a lot of gold in the cash box." He never told the
Vonderahes that. It is not suggested that he did. He did not say it in
the letter, and he did not tell them one single word about having opened
this cash box, and opened this trunk, to look for the gold that he thought
was there, and to his great surprise was not. That part is left out from
the letter. And when we go to the next document it is also apparently
left out. The will says

This is the last Will of Mary Barrow. I revoke all other wills ... I give
and bequeath all my household furniture, jewellery and other personal effects to Hilda
Grant and Ernest Grant ... to hold all my personal belongings, furniture, cloth-
ing and jewellery in trust until the aforesaid Hilda Grant and Ernest Grant become of
age, then for him to distribute as equally as possible all my personal belongings com-
prising jewellery, furniture and clothing to them, [and so forth, and so forth].

That is the will. When he made the will there was nothing there
about the gold or cash, or anything else. That may be an accident, and
much less important, because the man was not accustomed to making a will,
and he may very often draw very silly documents which will not hold
water afterwards. Therefore I should not give the same importance to
that as I think you might think it necessary to give to the letter. The
letter seems to be one which is worth your most serious consideration.
And, then, consider the mode of looking for this gold when the body was
being attended to by the independent witness and the wife. It was he
who made the search in the first instance, not the wife; you will remember
he said, " My wife gave me the keys, and I looked in the cash box, and
I looked in the trunk, and afterwards we looked together in the drawers."
He admits himself that he was the person who looked while the wife,
according to him, is looking after the body. Considering the indecent
hurry in opening that cash box and opening the trunk to see what this
poor woman who, according to the letter, was only possessed at that time
of furniture, jewellery, and apparently nothing else, although he expected
to find gold in the cash box that letter is a very, very serious
document for your consideration. That is the conduct after the death.
It is said that that conduct on the 14th points only one way to guilt.
That is for you.

Now, for one moment, let us consider the conduct before the death.
I must take you to a much earlier date, because I want to say this in his
favour ; I want to say it in both ways if I can. A great deal has been
said about that public-house and barber's shop transaction, and really (it
is for you, not for me) everything seems to have been done in order. The
woman was a woman of sound mind and understanding. Whatever her
reasons were, she was willing to assign to him her interest in the barber's
shop and public-house. It was done by a solicitor who represented her,
and a solicitor who represented him. The figures were properly worked
out, and the deeds were properly drawn up. It is a perfectly simple deed
by which he binds himself in consideration of an assignment to pay her
so much a year for life. So much has been said about it one way or
the other, but I think where you get independent witnesses like Mr. Russell,
a gentleman in a high position as a solicitor, saying that that transaction
was perfectly fairly carried out, it is rather difficult to say that it was not.

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Trial of the Seddons.

Mr. Justice BucknUl

Therefore she was a free agent to do what she liked with this property,
and she freely and voluntarily (and her letters show it) assigned to him,
and he bound himself to pay her this annuity. You recollect that this
public-house business was only concluded in January; in the October
previous the negotiations began about the public-house affair, but were
not concluded until January. And about the same time, August, or
September, or October, there was the question of 1600 3 per cent.
India stock, but here he has not got the good fortune to be able to produce
a document. He has told us it was in the nature of an annuity certificate
given by him to her. That may be quite true ; it has not been found, but
still it is not proved that it did not exist. He says, " I gave it to her."
At all events, he acted upon it ; he paid her regularly 10 a month made
up of 4 re, the public-house and barber's shop, and 6 re the India
3 per cent, stock. She got it; there is no suggestion that can be made
that she did not get it. He was punctual in his payments, and many
receipts have been put in. But then, of course, there was always, if a
man had got a wicked and murderous mind, as it is alleged he had, the
motive, " Well, if I could only get her out of the way I shall not have
to pay her annuity any more, and I shall have the capital to do as I
like with, and the property to do as I like with." Gentlemen, it is a
far cry off murder, but still that is the allegation against him he is a
murderous creature who did these things for the purpose of getting back
his money and freeing himself of the obligation. It is entirely for you
to say. A more important point I should suggest for you to consider
was the gold in the cash box. He thought there was gold in the cash
box. He said so. He does not say how much he thought was there.
He said when Miss Barrow offered him the custody of the cash box, she
said there was only 30 to 35 there, but, anyhow, he thought there was
gold in the house. Of course, if this woman was robbed of these notes
and of this gold, of which there is no direct evidence, it would be the
thing for wicked, criminal people to get her out of the way, but, at all
events, it is put in this way ; taking all these facts into consideration, the
public-house property, the India 3 per cent, stock transaction, the
possession of the notes by the wife which were cashed by her, it is sug-
gested it was a joint affair between them all those circumstances coupled
with the conduct of the man immediately after the funeral, coupled with
the letter and the will all those matters make up such a case against
him that you can have no reasonable doubt that he is the man who
administered the poison which killed this woman.

Gentlemen, there is very little more to be said, except about the
question of the money which had been seen in this cash box from time to
time. Hook has told you he saw a lot in bags. That is the beginning of
the history. Ernie Grant has said he saw the bags at a very late period
of her life ; she put them on the bed, and she was counting money
money, not notes. There is the suggestion that this deceased person was
in the habit of keeping money in the cash box ; that she was in the habit
of hoarding the money ; she hoarded gold ; she liked it ; the money
which came from the savings bank was put there. It is suggested that
to this money which she could not have spent (or there is no evidence
that she spent it) was added the money from the annuity. As you
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Justice BucknilPs Summing Up.

Mr. Justice Bucknill

have been told so often in this case by Mr. Marshall Hall, there is no
direct evidence of it all. No single witness comes forward and says,
" She showed me so much money," or " Told me she had so much money,"
except the Vonderahes and Hook, which was a long time before this. In
passing, you must remember this, that Hook's testimony has been some-
what discounted by a quarrel he had had with her; she would not have
him; she did not want him; she turned him out. So it may be said
with some justice that you should be careful how you accept Hook's
evidence, because Hook is a man who had no good feeling for her
really, because he thought it was a rare good thing for him to live with
her, and she had turned him out either because of his neglect or of his
troublesome conduct. To that extent you may think it necessary to
discount Hook's evidence. But there were the Vonderahes. I do not
know what attack could be made against them. I do not know what
can be said against them. I do not suppose you want me to read their
evidence to you about it.

Now, I come really to the concluding sentence or two which I wish
to utter. Did she die of acute arsenical poisoning? In all probability
you will say yes because Dr. Willcox says so, and Dr. Spilsbury says so,
and they are uncontradicted. That is not enough, however, to justify a
verdict of guilty against either of these people. Was that arsenic which
BO caused her death a fatal dose, administered within either three days
or four or five hours by the prisoners or either of them? I have nothing
more to say upon that subject now except to implore you to remember that
the Crown has to make out the guilt. It is not for the accused persons
to do it. The burden of proof is upon the Crown, and they have to
satisfy you beyond the reasonable doubt of honest men on an important
matter, as in the statement I read to you, just now of the guilt. If you
are not satisfied, you will say, " Not guilty " as against both. If you
think that the woman is not guilty, why, of course, you will only be too
glad to say so.

The law in the matter with regard to husband and wife is very simple.
In olden days it was considered more than it can be said now I am not
speaking jokingly that wives were more under the subjection of the
husbands. To-day women are more civilised, and they are on a different
basis, so to speak, in husband and wife relationship than they ever used to
be. The old law still stands if any wife in the presence of the husband
does a criminal act, murder and treason excepted, it is supposed if she
does it in the presence of her husband she is acting under his marital
coercion. But that does not apply to murder ; a woman cannot plead or
ask the Court to direct a jury to say there is that presumption in her
favour in a case of alleged murder ; she stands exactly as any other person
would do. It is too heinous an offence for the rule ever to be applied to
euch a case. But you must be satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that
this woman did act in the way in which it is alleged she did, either by
putting the poison into the food herself, or by giving it herself, or by
helping the husband to give it himself, so that she did something of such
importance in the matter that you are satisfied that she was acting with
him in one common object, one common murderous design of taking this
woman's life away. I asked one witness whether she thought that the

405



Trial of the Seddons.



Mr. Justice Bucknill

wife seemed honestly solicitous about the woman's health. She said,
" Quite." Are you satisfied that you can find a verdict of guilty of
wilful murder against her? If you are driven to do it, do it, and I will
tell you why because even although she is a woman, she comes under
the same laws as anybody else; she is one member of a society in a
civilised country. If she is guilty of murder she has got to pay the
penalty of it just the same as if it were a man. Do not be moved by
sympathy. Do not be moved by fear. You have nothing to do with the
consequences. We are not here to think of consequences. Believe me
we are not. I am sure there must be men in your body who would have
given anything not to have been in this case. I can only tell you, as far
as I am concerned, I have the same feelings. But we have got to do it.
We are both bound under our oaths the oath that I took and the oath
that you took to do justice. Justice means to acquit them if you have
a doubt. Justice directs you shall convict if they are guilty.

With regard to the man, it is said that this is designed cold-blooded
murder, done for the purpose of getting the woman's money, or avoiding
the result of obtaining money which he had got from her, it may be,
illegally. That is more or less speculation; I mean to say there has been
no direct proof given of one single dishonest act on his part; he is not
proved to have robbed her; it has not been proved that he obtained these
notes from her which his wife, it is alleged, cashed, no more than his wife
did. His wife came into possession of them. It is not altogether incon-
sistent with the dead woman having given them to the wife, as she says
she did. His obligations have been faithfully carried out in the two
matters in which he had bound himself the India 3J- per cent, stock and
the public-house. But his conduct has been very suspicious. However,
you cannot convict on suspicion. Take all these circumstances into your
consideration. Take all the circumstances which you know are material
to the point, not irrelevant circumstances guard yourself from that not
circumstances which would arise from prejudice or gossip. I am sure you
will not think about what you have heard about the case. That would be
wicked. If you find yourself compelled to give a verdict hostile to him
you will do it. It matters not what religion a man belongs to, what
nationality he is, what sect or brotherhood or anything else he may belong
to, he who lives under the protection of the laws of the country in which
he abides must keep them, and if he breaks them he must pay the penalty,
even although the penalty be his life.

Gentlemen, may you have strength given to you to come to the true
conclusion. These people cannot be tried again. May you have strength
given you to do that which is and will be justice if you do it on the lines
which I have indicated to you. Then, whatever the result may be (which
has nothing to do with you), you will have at all events the gratifying
testimony of a clear conscience.

The jury retired at 3.58, and returned into Court at
4.58 p.m.

The DEPDTT-CLERK OF THE COURT Are you agreed upon your verdict?
The FOREMAN OF THE JUKT We are.
406



Justice Bucknill's Summing Up.

Mr. Justice Bueknil

The DEPUTY-CLERK OF THE COURT Do you find Frederick Henry Seddon
guilty or not guilty of wilful murder ?

The FOREMAN OF THE JURY Guilty.

The DEPUTY-CLERK OF THE COURT Do you find Margaret Ann Seddon
guilty or not guilty of wilful murder ?

The FOREMAN OF THE JURY Not guilty.

[At this point Seddon turned and kissed his wife, who became
hysterical.]

The DEPUTY-CLERK OF THE COURT You say that Frederick Henry
Seddon is guilty and Margaret Ann Seddon is not guilty, and that is the
verdict of you all?

The FOREMAN OF THE JURY That is.

Mr. JUSTICE BUCKNILL Tell her she is discharged, will you?

[Mrs. Seddon was then removed.]

The DEPUTY-CLERK OF THE COURT Frederick Henry Seddon, you stand
convicted of wilful murder. Have you anything to say for yourself why
the Court should not give you judgment of death according to law?

The PRISONER (F. H. SEDDON) I have, sir. I do not know whether
anything I have to say can in any way affect the judgment that is about
to be passed upon me, but there is one thing that is quite patent to me,
and that is, that these moneys which it is suggested by the prosecution was
in Miss Barrow's possession have not been in any way traced to my account,
either during the life of Miss Barrow or since her death. There is the
sum of 165 suggested in notes turned into gold. There is the sum of
216 which was stated to have been drawn out in June. There is the sum
of 91 which has been paid to Miss Barrow in the shape of annuities by
me. If Hook's evidence is accepted, there was the sum of 420 in the
house. I think, my lord, that that sum comes to something like 890
odd. The prosecution, as far as I can learn, has traced my banking
accounts back to the year 1907 or 1908. I have had submitted to me
documents at Brixton Prison which I have gone through from that date,
and I am in a position to explain every item on my banking accounts during
that period. All that the prosecution has brought up against me in the
shape of money is the sum of 155, which is since Miss Barrow's decease.
It has been stated during the evidence just yesterday and to-day that
the sum of 200 was stated that I had in my possession. I clearly pointed
out from the witness-box when it was stated there that it was not 200
which the Attorney-General stated (it was very near the sum of 216 which
Miss Barrow drew in June). I clearly stated then that it was 170 which
I claimed to have in my possession, which was testified to by three inde-
pendent witnesses. There were other witnesses in my home that I could
have brought forward proving that I had that money in my possession,
who have not been called in this case. I clearly show that the money I
put in the Post Office Savings Bank, 30, that the 35 I put into my
current account, say, 65, and 90 that I invested in the building society
shares, say, 155, and 15 which I reserved for my holidays, was the
sum of 170, and yet since I have stated that in the box it has been
stated over 200, or 200 thereabouts.

There is one other point that I would like to put, and that is regard-
ing Thorley's evidence regarding the alleged purchase of arsenical poison

407



Trial of the Seddons.

F. H. Seddon.

packets. If it was true that my daughter went to Thorley's for the
purchase of arsenical fly-papers on 26th August, and he informed her that
he had only got one packet of arsenical fly-papers in his possession, and
that he would have more in on Monday, I have not heard one word said
as to whether my daughter went back on the Monday for the other three
packets of arsenical fly-papers. I have not heard any evidence adduced
that if my daughter required the four packets of fly-papers she called at
any other chemist on the way back again. If she was sent either by
me or her mother for four packets, that is twenty-four fly-papers; naturally
the girl would get the four packets of fly-papers either at the chemist's
shop she went to, or she would call on some other chemist's shop on the
way coming back, as there are plenty on the way. Another point I want
to put forward in respect to the alleged purchase of this packet of fly-papers
from Thorley's. It has been brought forward by the prosecution that my
daughter called at Miss Wilson's on the way. It is not stated what the
distance is, but, as far as I can judge, if Thorley's shop is anywhere in
the vicinity of Crouch End station it is a much further distance than what
has been stated as two minutes' walk from there.

I should also like to mention, my lord, that in your summing up I
do not know whether I am quite clear upon it or not you said there was
a time when the wife left me in the room when the will was being prepared.
I have no recollection that my wife stated that she left the room at any
time. As a matter of fact, I have never been in Miss Barrow's room alone
from the 1st September until the date of death. On 4th September it is
stated that I went up to speak to Miss Barrow, to remonstrate with Miss
Barrow about leaving her room. I did go up on that occasion to remon-
strate with Miss Barrow about leaving her room, but I was not alone;
my wife was with me. I do not know when my wife stated she was not.
It is not true. She did not state it. I do not know she stated it ; I do not
believe she was ever questioned upon the point.

I should also like to state that there has been no witnesses called
respecting my possession of the jewellery previous to the death of Miss
Barrow. There are witnesses respecting my being in possession of this
jewellery. There is an independent witness.

It has been stated by the prosecution that Miss Barrow was devotedly
attached to the boy, Ernest Grant. It has been pressed home to the jury
by the prosecution that Miss Barrow was very devotedly attached to the
boy that she intended to make him her heir. There has been no witnesses
brought forward by the defence to contradict that assertion. I contradict
it, for Miss Barrow had repeatedly shaken the boy in the street, and she has
from time to time in the home shaken him and shouted at him, and woke
us up in the morning shouting at him when she has been getting him ready
for school. It has been stated on one occasion, and one occasion only,
did she threaten to throw herself out of the window in consequence of the
annoyance that the boy gave her. There is witnesses to prove that this
kind of thing went on between Miss Barrow and the boy, and even to the
extent that she said it was getting [inaudible]. That was Robert Hook
that gave evidence.

I venture to say that my position in this case is this : I am surrounded
by a set of circumstances from which there seems no way of extricating
408



Justice Bucknill's Summing Up.

F. H. Seddon.

myself if I am condemned on circumstantial evidence. It seems to me that
various points that might be in my favour perhaps have not been given
sufficient consideration to. I say in this way, that had Miss Barrow
thrown herself out through the bedroom window, this set of circumstances
would be just the same. I would have been believed to have thrown her
out or pushed her out through the window. Had Miss Barrow fallen
downstairs the same thing would have applied. If she had been killed,
Mr. Seddon had such interest in the matter he would have thrown her
downstairs. When she went to Southend-on-Sea, had she have fallen into
the sea Mr. Seddon would have pushed her into the sea. The same set of
circumstances would have operated against me. I can see through it.

There is another point I would like to mention. My wife found a
bottle of gin in her bedroom after her death. That has never been men-
tioned in the evidence. We do not know where Miss Barrow got that bottle
of gin from. It was half-full of gin. We do not know what was in the
gin. We know that it was only half-full. This inquiry did not take place



Online LibraryFrederick Henry SeddonTrial of the Seddons → online text (page 55 of 57)