23rd May 1887
Reference Numbert18870523-642
VerdictNot Guilty > unknown

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642. EDITH HALL. (13) , Feloniously setting fire to certain shavings in the dwelling-house of George Perkins, persons being therein.

MR. DILL. Prosecuted.

HENRY GRIGGS . (Policeman X.) On 15th April, about 2 a.m., I was on duty in Uxbridge Road, and met the prisoner going towards Acton, with only her skirt and dress-body on—I said "What brought you out at this time of morning?" she said "The house is on fire." I said "How did it happen?" she said "I was in bed; a dark gipsy-looking man came over the back garden wall; he had a large knife in his hand, and tapped at my bedroom window, which was shut, and said through the window, if I did not let him in, he would stab me with it; I got up and let him in, and then took my clothes from off the table, and came out at the front door, leaving it open"—I told her to follow me, but she did not—I then went down to 13, Pitfield Gardens, the house she mentioned, and found the street door half way open; seeing a glare at the back of the house, I knocked two or three times at the street door, and Mr. Perkins came to the front parlour door and I went to the back with him, and saw two separate fires made of rubbish, one on the ground, right against the scullery door, and the other on top of the copper alongside the scullery door—they looked like shavings and rubbish, and there was some sacking—the heaps were about the size of the top of this desk—Doggett brought the prisoner back; I asked her again how it happened, and she gave the same story—I said "Why did not you follow me back?" she said "I was afraid"—I asked her again how it occurred, and she answered to the same effect—when I had got the fire out I went to the station and fetched the Inspector—the prisoner had a fit at the station, and I took her on an ambulance to the infirmary.

By the. COURT. She said the bedroom where she slept; that was the back parlour, she had a little bed on the floor in a corner—I had not time to write down the conversation.

GEORGE EDWARD PERKINS . I am a coal agent, of 13, Pitfield Gardens,

Shepherd's Bush—the prisoner was a servant in my father and mother's employ—on 15th April, about 2 a.m., I was in bed in the front parlour, heard a noise in the passage like the steps of some one running up and down; it was a lightish step, and the person undid the bolts of the door and went out into the street, but the door was not shut, which rather attracted my attention, and in about four or five minutes, just as I was preparing to get up, a policeman came, and I accompanied him to the kitchen, and found it full of smoke, and a fierce blaze was raging in the scullery, which lighted up the place through the glass door which divides the scullery from the kitchen, which was shut, but not fastened; that is not an outer door—the prisoner slept in an iron bedstead in the kitchen; she was not there then—no one was there at first, but afterwards the whole household arrived—the house was perfectly secure.

By the. COURT. The step between the scullery and the kitchen was partly ignited—the copper had not been used for a long time—a bag of shavings was kept in the scullery on the copper lid—the prisoner had not put them there, but some of them had been taken out of the bag and placed on the step, and a sort of bonfire laid—they could not have fallen there, because they were in a sack, screwed round at the mouth—I had walked through the scullery about 9.30 that evening, and there were no shavings there then—the prisoner went to bed at a little before 10, and the rest of the family, I think, were in bed by 11 o'clock, but I cannot say positively about a gentleman who occupied a dressing-room upstairs—the shavings appeared only to have been burning a very short time.

JOHN DOGGETT . (Policeman. 340 J.) On 15th April, about 2.20 a.m., I was at the corner of Finden Road and Cunningham Road, Shepherd's Bush, and saw the prisoner running down Cunningham Road, carrying a bundle; she appeared half dressed, and was crying—I said "Where are you going?" she said "Home"—I said "What are you doing here carrying this bundle at this time of the morning?"—she said "I was awoke by a noise, and saw the place on fire, and a gipsy-looking man threatened to stab me, he having a big knife in his hand; I opened the door and took my clothes and ran out of the house: I told the policeman at the top of the street, who has gone to catch the man who threatened to stab me"; I told her I did not believe what she said, and she would have to go back with me to the house—she implored me not to take her there, and I said I should take her to the station—she then said she would go with me, and I took her to the house, where she was detained till the Inspector arrived.

Cross-examined by the Prisoner. I said "If you did not do it you must come back with me," then you came back with me.

By the. COURT. I do not know why I did not say that before; these (produced.) are my notes of the conversation; I do not know that I have read them since I wrote them. (The notes did not contain the sentence "If you did not do it you must come back with me".—that was as the child was pleading not to be taken back to the house.

WILLIAM SORDS . (Police Inspector X.) On 15th April, about 3 a.m., I received a communication and arrived at 13, Pitfield Gardens, at 4 o'clock, and found the constable there and Mr. Perkins—I saw the remains of two fires in the scullery—I asked if anyone knew how they occurred, and the prisoner, who was in the kitchen, said "I heard a noise during the

night and pulled the blind aside and saw a man standing outside, having the appearance of a gipsy, with a long knife in his hand; he threatened to stab me if I did not open the door; and on going towards the door I saw apparently a blaze" or "a glare of fire underneath the scullery, and I opened the door and let him in, and picked up my clothes which were on the table and ran out"—I made no note, it was so short I thought I could remember it—what she said was "making a noise at the front door as I opened it"—I told her I did not believe her story and I should take her to the police-station, and she said "I did not do it"—I found no trace of anybody having been in the back garden; there is a small plot of grass in the centre with a border of mould for flowers, and the back door opens on to gravel which ran for six or seven yards from the window to the grass plot, and the mould is about 3 feet wide; I examined it carefully, and there was not a single footmark on it—I took her in custody, and when she was charged at the station she had an epileptic fit.

By the. COURT. During the conversation I said that it would be impossible for her to open the second door, the scullery door, without getting burnt; there are two doors, one from the parlour into the scullery, and one from the scullery into the garden—it was against the front door that the fire was, it goes from the kitchen into the scullery—there were five other people in the house I believe; I saw three gentlemen whose names I have since ascertained—I made no inquiry of them what time they came in or whether they had gone into the scullery, nor did I inquire of any inmate of the house as to what hour those men came in, or whether they had been smoking or getting a light, only of Mr. Perkins—I did not see the lodger upstairs to know him; the inmates were all partly dressed—I do not mean to suggest that that is why I did not make inquiries of them. I received the principal part of my information from Perkins.

The prisoner's statement before the Magistrate. "I do not know who set the place on fire; I did not set it on fire."

Prisoner's Defence. I did not set the house on fire; I know nothing about the fire; I wish to call my father.

WILLIAM HALL .. I am the prisoner's father; I live at 50, Cafner Road, and am a shoemaker—the place is about a quarter of a mile from my house, and she had been in service there a week and a day when this happened—she has had several fits at my house during the time she has been out on bail—she has not been subject to them, but she has had some—she is 13 years old—this was her first place—she has only left school a few weeks—we were living in the country, and we came up here to see if we could do better—she was a very good girl at home—I have not found her vicious or mischievous at all—I was at the prosecutor's house the night pravious with some boots, for a doctor who lives there, and she said she liked the place very much, and I was to make a pair of boots for her, and her brother was to bring them on the Saturday—there was nothing to make me think she wanted to leave her place—I have tried my uttermost to find out whether she did it.

The prisoner. The doctor told my father something.

The witness. The doctor told me that if she did it, she was not in her right state of mind, and was not accountable for her actions.


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