FREDERICK FINNEGAN.
24th November 1834
Reference Numbert18341124-5
VerdictGuilty > unknown
SentenceDeath

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5. FREDERICK FINNEGAN was indicted for the wilful murder of Charlotte Matilda Finnegan.

Messrs. ADOLPHUS and BODKIN conducted the Prosecution.

GEORGE PITT . I am the son of George Dibden Pitt, of Gibraltar-row, West-square. On Friday the 8th of August, I went out to fish—I went to a ditch near the Surrey canal, about three o'clock in the afternoon, I saw a child in the ditch—it was in the water, lying on its side—it had its clothes on—the water did not quite cover it—I did not touch it, but called a man named Carter—I saw nobody but Carter—he was about one hundred yards off, walking along—he came and took the child out of the ditch.

Cross-examined by MR. STAMMERS. Q. What kind of place is this ditch? A. A large narrow place—I do not know how long—it is where the canal flows over—it goes into it—the banks are about two yards high—the bank I was standing on is about a foot from the water, and about two feet from the child—it is about two yards from the top of the bank to the water; I mean the place where people walk; but I had gone down the bank—there is no fence or any thing on the bank; it is quite open—the child was about two feet from the side of the bank.

COURT. Q. If you were walking along the road, is there any thing between you and the water; any fence? A. No; there is a foot-path at the top—then you go down, and there is another path—there is no bank between the foot-path and the water—the bank is about two yards from the water.

JAMES CARTER . I am a gardener and labourer, and live in Downing-street, Camberwell—on the 8th of August, I was near the Surrey canal—Pitt called to me—I instantly ran to him, as he said there was a child in the water—I saw the child lying in the water, on its left side, in the ditch, which runs parallel with the canal—it is a ditch made to take the waste water—it is of a clayey nature at the bottom—it had been cleaned out a fortnight before, I believe; but there was mud and clay at the bottom—I should think the water was about eight inches deep—I instantly ran to the child—it was lying on its left side, and its hand a little out of the water under its face—I got hold of its left arm with my right hand, and when I pulled it, the shoulder cracked—it is a good bit down from the bank to the water—I should think it is from a foot to fourteen inches—the top of the bank, which is the towing path, is about six feet—I let go of the arm and got down, and took hold of the child under both its armpits—it still seemed to me to stick, as if it was forced in by some means—I had a difficulty in getting it out.

Q. In your judgement, would the weight of the child by itself have buried it so deep in the mud as it was, if it had fallen from the bank by accident, or any means? A. No. I should think not; for there was a great quantity of flags there, and there was sufficient strength in them—they are strong enough to keep a heavier weight than that from sinking so deep—there was a handful of flags lying on the bank, as if they had been

just pulled out—they were wet, green, and fresh, as if just pulled up—I took the child out to the top of the bank, and called a veterinary surgeon, named Eldridge, whom I saw in Mr. Moseley's yard, about one hundred and thirty yards off—he came instantly and felt the child's pulse—he said he thought he could feel the pulse still beating—I ran from there to the Albany Arms as fast as I could—it is two or three hundred yards—I took the child with me, and got a hot bath ready as quick as possible—they had hot water in the house—I stripped the child and put it in—I ran directly and fetched Mr. Haskey, a medical gentleman, who attended to it instantly—I should think it was nearly a quarter of an hour from the time I first saw the child till Mr. Haskey came—every means were used to recover it, but in vain.

Cross-examined. Q. By "flags," I suppose you mean green flags that grow by rivers? A. Yes; I gave the same account before the Coroner as I have now, that it required more than extra exertion to lift it out of the mud.

Q. Did not you say it might have happened from the child rolling down the bank? A. Not the sinking into the mud—I said I thought it was forced into the mud—I said it might have rolled down the bank into the ditch—I said that was not impossible—it is possible it might have rolled down into the ditch—I examined the body of the child—there were no marks of violence on it.

COURT. Q. Before the Coroner were you asked, at the close of the examination, whether the child might have rolled down? A. Yes; I said it was possible it might—the flags on the bank were only on that particular part—they were fresh gathered, as if pulled just out of the spot where the child lay, and the flags under where the child lay were driven into the mud—I went and examined them afterwards—there were no footmarks by the side of the ditch—it was impossible to see them, as it is turf and gravel—it had been raining for two days before—when I went down to take the child out, the footh-path against the side which had been fresh cut gave way, and my foot slipped—I made no impression, with my feet on the top of the bank.

Q. Supposing the flags to be taken out fresh and green, was it necessary, to enable a person to take them out, to have gone down from the top of the bank, to the place where you were? A. He must have gone down from the towing path to the lower path—I saw no marks there—the person must either have knelt down, or put their feet right into the water to get at them—I saw no knee marks—the nature of the flat part of the bank would not make even an impression of a heavy shoe—I stood on the lower bank in the first instance, and reached the body without putting my feet in the water; but finding it would not come up, I was obliged to put my foot down.

JURY. Q. Supposing a child had rolled from the upper foot-path, would it have rolled into the water, or only on the lower foot-path? A. It might, if it had tripped head over heels—the bottom bank is not above two feet or eighteen inches—I cannot say whether, in that case, it would have gone so far into the water.

MATTHEW HASKEY . I am a surgeon, living at Camberwell. I know the spot where the child was taken from; it is in the parish of St. Giles, Camberwell, I believe—I know it is in Surrey—I was called to see the child on the day in question, at the Albany Arms—it was a female child—I thought it about two years old—life was quite extinct when I first saw it

—I stripped the body and immersed it in hot water, and used other remedies, without effect—I examined it all over, and found no mark, wound, or bruise whatever on it—I saw no discoloration on any part of the body—my opinion is, that it died from suffocation in water—that is my opinion, from what I saw and heard.

Cross-examined. Q. Suffocation it produced in various ways? A. My opinion is, that it was choked—suffocated and drowned in water.

LUCY PROUDFOOT . I am the wife of Henry Proudfoot, of Canal-row, Camberwell. I have known the prisoner upwards of twelve months—I lodged in the same house with him for upwards of six months, but not at that time—his wife lodged there with him—I recollect the child who is dead perfectly well—they used to call it Matilda, and sometimes Charlotte—she was called both those names by her father and mother—I know the prisoner and his wife were separated—the child lived with the prisoner's father and sister on the other side of the canal bridge, nearest St. George's church—on the 8th of August, I saw the prisoner on the canal bridge, with his little girl Matilda—I believe it was near one o'clock—he was a little way on the bridge, going towards the Albany road, as if from his father's house—he spoke to me first, and asked how I was?—I said I was pretty well—I had my baby in my arms, which is one month older than the prisoner's child—his child would be two years old in September—the two children spoke to each other, and my little girl gave it a bit of cake—he had hold of his child's hand, walking—I believe the prisoner was dressed in a black coat and corded trowsers—he had very large whiskers to what he has now, and a crape hat-band on a black hat—I asked him if he was living with his wife—he said yes, he was, and Mr. Goddard was going to put them into business—I kissed the child—I stooped down and asked the child if Daddy whipped her now, and she said, "No"—I did not hear of the death of the child till next day, Saturday—I did not go before the Coroner—nobody interfered with me, and as I was subject to fits, I thought I would have nothing to do with it—when the prisoner parted from me, he went towards the Albany-road way—that would be towards the ditch the child was found in—we were not above seven yards from the turning.

Cross-examined. Q. When you met the child walking with the prisoner, they were walking hand-in-hand? A. Yes, as father and child—I never heard her called any other names than Matilda or Charlotte—I have not heard her called Charlotte Matilda, but sometimes one, sometimes the other—I never heard both names together—I believe the prisoner and his wife are married; she always said so—I never heard the prisoner speak about it—my eldest child is seven years old—I have whipped him sometimes.

COURT. Q. They passed as man and wife, and lived together as such? A. Yes.

(Mary Matilda Finnegan and John Finnegan being called upon their recognizances, and not appearing, their recognizances were estreated.)

ELIZABETH BARNES . I am single, and live in Garden-row, Camberwell—I am the prisoner's wife's first cousin. I knew the child whose death is being inquired into; her names were Charlotte Matilda Finnegan—I did not see her after death—the prisoner and his wife had separated about three months I believe: the child was under the care of his father—they had another child, younger than this, who was with its mother—it is four months old—on Friday, the 8th of August, I saw the prisoner and his wife

together in George-street, Camberwell, between one and two o'clock in the afternoon—the infant, four months old, was with them—I heard the prisoner say to his wife, "I have murdered"—I heard no question to which that was an answer—I heard nothing before that—the prisoner's wife said, "Oh God, where is my child?"—the prisoner said, "She is happy and in heaven"—at that time he had the infant in his arms—I took it from his arms, on his saying the child was happy, and in heaven—I said, "Fred, don't say so"—he said, "Betsy, you think I am trifling; I tell you I am not; she is happy, and in heaven; she will want no more earthly provision"—I had the child then in my arms—the prisoner kissed his wife; he kissed her more than once; the wife returned the kisses—the prisoner then left, and the wife then fainted—she was taken into her own house, and attended to—the prisoner had a black hat on, with a crape hatband, and his whiskers were very full—his wife's name is Jane—I saw the prisoner next day (Saturday) about twelve o'clock—his hatband was off then, and his whiskers were taken off—I noticed his hands at the time of the conversation on Friday; they were dirty, as if mud had been dryed on them—I afterwards went to the father's to inquire after the child, and they gave me some account of how it went away from there.

Cross-examined. Q. You are related to the prisoner? A. To his wife—I am her first cousin—I have not had frequent opportunities of seeing them—I have seen them since their marriage—they parted shortly after their marriage.

Q. Do not you know that on the very day of his marriage he disposed of his furniture, tools, and every thing he possessed? A. No, I do not—I came up in the midst of the conversation between them—I was not there at the beginning—I do not know what passed before I got there—the prisoner appeared to be perfectly collected; not agitated in the least; not till he parted with his wife—I did not observe the slightest agitation when he related the circumstance.

Q. Will you have the goodness to tell me, having known him some time, whether at various periods he has not displayed insanity of mind? A. I never saw any thing of the kind.

COURT. Q. You probably may know he had a good cause for wearing crape; he was in mourning, perhaps, for some of the family? A. For his mother—I do not know how long she has been dead—I did not hear the wife say any thing about what he ought to do, or was to do—I have repeated all the conversation I heard, to the best of my memory—I did not see the child after death.

GEORGE BARNES . I am a shoemaker, and am brother to Elizabeth Barnes. I know the prisoner, and knew the child slightly—I did not see her after she was dead—I first heard of the child being destroyed about six o'clock on Friday evening, the 8th of August—I took very little notice of it, and laughed at it rather, not thinking it to be true—the answer I made was, he had only said that to frighten his wife—about half-past nine o'clock in the evening I was returning from business which I had to do, and met the beadle and some others, and understood then the child was really dead—I looked for the prisoner at his father's house, and his wife's house, and several other places, but could not find him that night—next morning I overtook him in Acre-lane, going towards Clapham—I said, "Halloo, Finnegan, how is it that you are here?"—he seemed rather amazed, and said, "How did you know that I was here?"—he immediately said,

"You have seen Jane?" (meaning his wife)—I said, I had not—he said, "You are deceiving or betraying me"—I will not be certain which—I told him I was not—he seemed to doubt it—I told him I had seen my sister, who had seen his wife, and she had told my sister she had an appointment to meet him at Clapham Common, but his wife was too ill to come, and she had requested my sister to come in her stead, that my sister was rather tenacious and unwilling to come, and I had come there to meet him, thinking he had something to communicate to his wife, which if he had, and would tell me, I would communicate it to her, as I should be very ready to do every thing in my power to bring them together again, and make them comfortable—some other trifling conversation took place between us till we arrived at the Plough, at Clapham, still walking on while we talked—when we got to the Plough, I asked him if he would have a glass of ale—after hesitating a little, he agreed to go with me—we went in, and as soon as we got in at the door, I said to him, "You are my prisoner"—I saw a person named Fieldwick, of Camberwell, and said, "Mr. Field-wick, I claim your assistance to take this man for murdering his child"—Finnegan then said to me, "Don't make any noise about it, I will go whereever you like"—I took him to the station-house at Camberwell, and from there to Union-hall, at seven o'clock that evening—I did not see the child after death.

THOMAS CLIFFORD . I am beadle of the parish of Camberwell. I knew the child, Charlotte Matilda Finnegan, in its lifetime—I saw the body of a child at the Albany Arms, on Friday evening, the 8th of August—it was the body of the child who I knew as Charlotte Matilda Finnigan—I was sent for when the prisoner was brought to the station-house—I have the clothes of the child—I recollect seeing her in these clothes at church—they were covered with clay mud—I have a plan of the spot—it is impossible for a child to get there by itself, as they were bringing loam to raise the road, and it was all along—if the child had been on the towing path, it was not impossible for it to fall into the ditch—I know the bridge across the canal from the side of the water nearest to his father's house—it is about eight hundred feet from the bridge to where the body of the child was discovered.

Cross-examined. Q. Were you present at the christening of the child? A. Certainly not—the prisoner's sister told me its name; and I removed the prisoner, his wife, and child, in 1833 from our parish to Lambeth, and know its name by that—the prisoner's sister lives with her father.

Prisoner's Defence. I left the child there under great excitement of mind, and I cannot tell how it came by its death.

GUILTY— DEATH . Aged 28.


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