25th July 1887
Reference Numbert18870725-785a
VerdictsNot Guilty > unknown; Not Guilty > no evidence

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785. JOHN SAWYER (40) was indicted for, and charged on the Coroner's Inquisition with, the manslaughter of Annie Sawyer.

MR. GRIFFITHS Prosecuted; MR. GEOGHEGAN Defended.

ANN JOYCE . I live at 49, Tower Street—the prisoner and his wife lived in the top room at No. 51—I knew the prisoner by sight, his wife I knew intimately—he was a joiner, and was employed at Chingford; he used to come home on Saturdays—my room was on the same floor as his, only 49 is a new and higher house than 51, which is an old house—I could not exactly hear what was going on in their room—on the night of 4th June I was in my girl's room, next to the bedroom—I heard Mrs. Sawyer say something through the window—the first I did not hear, but I heard her Bay, "I will shut the door"—the prisoner was in the street immediately under my window; he said, "We will see," and he walked up the stairs—I could hear the sound of his feet going up—he went into the room, and I could hear the door shutting—I then left my room and went into the front room—the next thing I heard was a loud, long, piercing scream—that would be within five minutes after hearing him go upstairs—I ran to my wash-house window and looked out—before I looked out I heard a thud and the window shut—then I looked out and saw a dark figure in the street as it lay—I then heard a step on the stairs, and the prisoner came out at the door and stooped over her—he said something to her I did not hear—he took hold of her by the arm and said, "Pull yourself together, you are mad! what made you do it?"—Mrs. Walker ran out of the house immediately, and Mrs. Regulars—I then went and put my hand on her forehead, and said, "Poor Mrs. Sawyer, how did it happen?" and she said, "I jumped through the window, Mrs. Joyce"—the prisoner was by at the time.

Cross-examined. I had never been in their room—the window was open all the evening; she spoke through the open window—I don't think the prisoner knew I was there when he said "Pull yourself together"—there was no one else there that I could see.

ALFRED HUMPHREYS . I am a confectioner, and live at 49, Tower Street about a quarter, to half-past 12 in the early morning of 5th June I was outside 47—I heard a slight rattle of glass, the shaking of the window frame, then a slight rattle of glass, the shaking of the said "Oh, don't," then a prolonged scream and a thud on the pavement—just before hearing the thud I saw something light pass before my eyes—I have a wooden leg; I did not go up to the woman—I did not see the prisoner then—I heard somebody coming down the stairs—the deceased was lying in front of the door, and the prisoner came out and stooped over her—Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Regulus, and Mrs. Joyce came up, and I went away.

Cross-examined. I could not identify the prisoner as the man that came up; it was so dark—he said "What have you done? You must have been a fool to jump out of the window."

MARGARET WALKER . I live at 49, Tower Street—between a quarter and half-past 12 in the early morning of the 5th my attention was attracted by a loud scream and a thud on the pavement—I went down to the woman; I got within about half a dozen yards of her—her prisoner said

"Mrs. Walker, come and give me a hand here?"—I went and stooped down and said "Oh, Mrs. Sawyer, how did you come here?"—she said "Oh, Mrs. Walker, he has thrown me from the window"—I looked at him and said "Whatever have you done? you are mad"—I called Mrs. Regulus and said "She has just told me that he has thrown her from the window"—the prisoner could hear what I said—I saw Mrs. Joyce come up during the time; Mrs. Regulus first, then Mrs. Winter, and then Mrs. Joyce—I know the room that the Sawyers occupied—I looked up at the window; it was shut; there was only one window to the room.

Cross-examined. It might be about five minutes before Mrs. Joyce and Mrs. Regulus came up; it might have been a minute or two—she told Mrs. Regulus, after she asked her once or twice, that she had jumped through the window—I don't know whether Mrs. Joyce was there—I can't remember seeing her there—I don't remember saying before the Magistrate "Mrs. Sawyer said to Ann Joyce and Mrs. Regulus 'I jumped through the window'"—I heard her say it to Mrs. Regulus—my husband is a constable; he is not at the same station as the sergeant—I was there when the sergeant came—I heard him ask the deceased how she came there—I had not seen the sergeant before I spoke to the deceased; he came up in about a quarter of an hour—I heard him say to the deceased, "Were you thrown out of the window?"—I did not hear her say "No, I suppose I must have jumped out"—she said "I suppose I must have walked out"—I think the prisoner and deceased had lived in the house about five years—I never heard any quarrelling.

ANN WINTER . I live at 51, Tower Street—I knew Mr. and Mrs. Sawyer; Mrs. Sawyer perfectly well—on Saturday, 4th June, I saw her the first thing in the morning—she came into my place—she appeared very much depressed in spirits, more so than I had ever known her—it was in reference to money matters—I saw her again between three and four in the afternoon—she was then very much depressed indeed—her husband had come home at that time—she told me he had only brought her 7s.—I saw her again in the evening—after eight we went over the Broadway together—I think she seemed a little more cheerful than she had been during the day—I got home before 10—I next saw her about 12, at the gate; she spoke to me—she appeared quite sober—I believe she went upstairs I went indoors—about quarter of an hour after I heard a scream—my girl went out, she told me something, and I went out—Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Regulus and the prisoner were by her right side—I did not see Mrs. Joyce—I asked Mrs. Sawyer how she came there—she said "Oh, my back, Mrs. Winter, don't leave me"—I took her right hand and her husband went away from her side a step or two—the police sergeant came up; some one fetched him—he said "Mrs. Sawyer, how came you here? were you thrown out?"—she replied "No"—"Did you jump out?"—"No"—"Then how came you here?"—she said "I suppose I must have walked out."

Cross-examined. Richard Sawyer is the prisoner's stepson—he was examined at the inquest—I know that the prisoner had been out of work all the week—she told me so—she said she was so put out about money that she did not know what the end would be—that was several hours before her husband came—she seemed more out of spirits than I ever knew her—she was a cheerful, quiet woman—I never knew her quarrel with any one.

ROSE REGULUS . I live at 51, Tower Street—I knew Mrs. Sawyer very well, but never had much conversation with her—I saw her on Saturday afternoon, 4th June, in Mrs. Winter's—she appeared very much upset—I did not see her any more that day, only as she came past my window when she had been marketing with Mrs. Winter; that was a few minutes before 10—I went out about 20 minutes past 12—shortly after I returned I heard a scream—I opened my window to see what was the matter, and I saw Mrs. Sawyer lying down flat on the ground, and Mrs. Walker standing by her side and the prisoner on the other side—Mrs. Walker said "Come down and help me"—I went down and I asked Mrs. Sawyer how she had come out of the window—she said she had jumped from the window—Mrs. Walker said "She has told me he threw her"—I saw the police sergeant come up, but he was not there then—the deceased made no other answers, but complained very much of her back—the prisoner did not go away, but he went a little way from us—the deceased told him to go away.

Cross-examined. She was then lying on the ground, and four or five people were standing round her—she was in great pain, complaining of her back—the prisoner was standing by her feet—he did not move away more than three yards—he went and fetched a cab—I never knew her to have an illness—she was a stout-built woman—I don't know about her strength—I have never been in their room—she used to suffer very much from rheumatism—I never knew them quarrel.

SAMUEL DRAKE (Police Sergeant J 31). About one o'clock in the morning of the 5th I was sent for to Tower Buildings—I saw eight or 10 persons there; Mrs. Sawyer was lying on the ground, being held up by a man and woman—I asked her how she came there—she gave me no answer—I pressed her to tell me; I said "Did you fall from the window?" making no answer, I said "Were you thrown from the window?"—she made no answer to that—her husband then came up—I asked him if he could account for his wife being in that position—he turned round and said "Ask her yourself; she knows all about it"—I then said "Have you been for a doctor?"—he said "Yes, but I can't get him to come"—a constable then came up—I sent him to Dr. Akin, of Mare Street, Hackney, who attended and advised her removal to the German Hospital—the prisoner accompanied her there—he was present when the doctor saw her—I could not say that he heard what was said; he was six or seven yards away from where the doctor and the women were—while I sent the constable for the ambulance a mattress was brought out—we took her to the hospital as comfortably as possible—when I first went up the prisoner was not there, and he did not say anything to him in my hearing.

Cross-examined. I have not told a different story before the Magistrate—I said before the Magistrate "I asked her several times how she came to be in that position"—she said "Let me alone, oh my back!" that is correct; I afterwards asked her if she fell or was thrown out, and she said "I came from the window"—she did not say she had jumped out—Joseph Tomkins called me on the scene, he lives near.

OTTO KELLER . I am a surgeon at the German Hospital—about three in the morning of the 5th of June I was called up and saw the deceased, and admitted her to the hospital—I examined her—she was suffering from an injury to the spine, she was quite conscious—she was in a

serious condition—I entertained hope at that time; I do not quite remember whether I examined her head—I next saw her a little after 10 in the morning—she then made a statement to me—I had very slight hope of her recovery at that time; she did not say anything one way or the other as to any hope of recovery, she died about seven the same evening—the cause of death was fracture of the spine and the lower part of the back, and compression of the spinal cord; I saw some contusions about the head, no doubt the cause of death was the broken back—the injuries were consistent with a fall from the window.

Cross-examined. There was only one wound on the head, that was very likely from the fall—it was at three in the afternoon that I spoke to the prisoner; he then seemed to be very sorry for his wife.

Re-examined. I told him his wife was likely to die—I asked him how it happened; that was in the morning when she was admitted—he said "Ask her, you had better ask her, she knows it"—I asked him twice or three times, he would not tell me, and then I asked the woman in his presence and she would not tell.

REV. FREDERICK CROFT COX . I am incumbent of St. Philip's, Dalston—I was sent for on Sunday morning to the German Hospital, I got there about 10 and saw the deceased—she said she had no hope whatever of recovery, she said she was half dead then, and had but three or four hours to live—she made a statement to me—I dissuaded her from thinking the case hopeless, as I thought the doctor then would have no chance; I thought that the best advice I could give her; I don't think it altered her mind in the least—I am absolutely certain that she knew she was about to die—I saw her again about half-past four in the afternoon—she was hardly able to speak then.

OTTO KELLER (Re-examined). I said before the Coroner "She was not aware she was dying when she made the statement to me, she had hope of recovery," that was the general impression I had while speaking to her, not from anything she said—she never said anything to lead me to believe that she had hopes of recovery, but my impression was that she had hopes of recovery—I had not told her that she was in a very serious state, the manner in which she spoke led me to believe that she did not know she. was dying.

REV. FREDERICK CROFT COX (Re-examined). When I saw her at 10 a.m. I asked her what brought her into that condition—I had known her very well as a regular attendant at my church for nearly four years—her reply was that she jumped out at the window to escape either the ill-treatment, or the violence, of her husband—she could not say much at a time—the next time I saw her a patient in the next bed made a Suggestion to me, and I pressed her as to whether she had told me the whole truth; I said "Have you made the same statement to me as you have to the police?" she made no answer to that, but she proceeded to speak as to her physical condition, which was very bad indeed at that time; she complained of the most intolerable thirst—then I told her that it would be unjust to herself and her husband if she went out of the world with a double statement on her lips—she said she wished to leave no trouble behind her.

Cross-examined. I would not swear whether the word, she used was "ill-treatment" or "violence," or whether it was "threatened violence"—I understood her to say that she jumped from the window to escape from violence that was coming, threats of violence—I could not speak to

the exact words—it was at a quarter to four in the afternoon when I next saw her, and it was after the patient in the next bed said something to me that I said she should not leave the world with a double statement on her lips—she heard what the patient said; she said she had not told me exactly what she told the police constable, she did not go into details—the nurse did not tell me anything—at that time the deceased was perfectly conscious—I was there till five o'clock, another clergyman went afterwards—her words were not "I wish to leave all trouble behind me;" that was not the inference I drew from her words—she did not alter her statement in the least—she was a very religious woman, not an excitable one—I never saw anything of religious excitement about her.

GEORGE EDWARDS (Police Sergeant J). I saw this woman in the hospital ward in bed about 11 a.m. on 5th June—I was in company with police inspector in uniform—I said "How did this happen?"—she said "I had complained to my husband about his wasting his money in drink and not coming home until late hours at night; he came into the room, shut the door, and said he would pay me; I was afraid he would strike me; I jumped out of the window; I freely forgive him as I hope God to forgive me"—that statement was made in the hearing of the patient in the next bed—I then went to the prisoner's house, where I saw him—I said "I have just seen your wife at the hospital; she has told me that you threatened to pay her last night; you went into the room and shut the door, and she was afraid you would strike her, and she jumped out of the window; I have to make some inquiries into this case; can you give me any particulars about it?"—I took down his answer shortly afterwards—he said "All I know, as soon as I opened the door she went out of the window; I heard her scream, and I ran down at once; the room was in darkness; I thought my son was in bed, but he had not arrived home; I never laid my hand upon her"—I said "She says herself you did not strike her"—he said "She has been very funny lately; she has been suffering from religious mania."

Cross-examined. I was not examined at the Coroner's inquest, nor was I present—Bond, the inspector, was present—I was prepared to give evidence, I was not there—Richard Sawyer has lived with the prisoner as stepson for three or four years: I do not know it from my own knowledge.

WILLIAM BOND (Police Inspector J). I went to the prisoner's room and took the measurements of the window—from the floor to the windowsill was 2 feet; from the window to the ground outside was 17 1/2 feet—I took the prisoner into custody upon the Coroner's warrant on 14th June—I told him the charge; he made no reply.

Cross-examined. He had already been committed on the Coroners warrant—Richard Sawyer, the stepson, was examined before the Coroner in thy hearing—he is the only witness who has not been examined to-day.

ROSE REGULUS (Re-examined) Richard Sawyer, the stepson, was there when the woman was taken to the hospital.

Witness for the Defence.

RICHARD SAWYER . My name is Abraham, but I have taken the name of Sawyer—I am a son of the deceased, and the prisoner is my stepfather—I am 26 years old, and I lived with the prisoner and the deceased ever since they were married in 1872 or 1873—I did not see her fall from

the window, but I came up when she was taken to the hospital—when I came up she was being supported on Mr. Winter's knee; I relieved him, and supported her on my knee—I said "Mother, how did this happen?"—she said "Oh, my back! oh, my back! I am exhausted; my back is broke"—I said "How did you come here?"—she said "I jumped from the window"—I asked her what she done it for—she said "I don't know"—the prisoner and I took her to the hospital—my mother has threatened to commit suicide on several occasions, five or six times—about three months before she jumped out of window she went to the drawer to get a razor; she said she wished to be in heaven, she wished to be with her Maker—she got the case; I took it from her—she said she would throw herself from the window because she wished to be with her Maker; that was the kitchen window—she was very constant in her attendance at church—the prisoner has not been in constant work all this year—when he had constant work he would allow my mother money—he has had none lately—the week when this happened was a very bad one; he had not many hours' work because it was holiday week—he was paid so much per hour—my mother said she could not serve two masters.

Cross-examined. I gave evidence before the Coroner—my mother told me she had jumped out of window, but did not tell me why—I believed what she told me, that she had no reason for doing it—I went to the hospital with her because she was my mother; I did not go because I thought what she said was doubtful—I did not say before the Coroner "I thought it looked very doubtful," I can swear it; I never used those words "I thought it looked very doubtful"—when I came home that day, Saturday, 4th June, I saw my father at the public-house drinking—my father does drink sometimes; he does not have a drop too much—there have never to my knowledge been quarrels between my stepfather and mother about his drinking too much, nor about his stopping out too late; if there had been quarrels I should have known something about it—I am not aware that my mother said when dying, that it was on account of his staying out late—before I gave evidence before the Coroner I had only told Mr. Winter about my mother threatening to commit suicide; I told him about three months before my mother died—nobody else has heard it unless my father has—my mother threatened it so often I did not think anything of it, she said it so often—she has threatened to drown herself on several occasions because she wished to be in heaven—my only reason for not mentioning it was that it might have caused a disturbance.

Re-examined. My mother told me on that day she had been left 7s.; she said she could not make both ends meet—on one occasion she said, through my being out of work so long, "I don't know what to do, I must have money from somewhere, I don't know how to go on like this, I must put an end to it"—I had been out of work then for some months—I had tried to get work.

By MR. GRIFFITHS. I did not come home from the hospital till about 4.30 a.m., and I did not then look at the window.

MR. GEOGHEGAN submitted that this evidence did not establish a case of manslaughter; as far as the evidence went the deceased might have jumped out at the window because she was afraid the prisoner would strike her, and not because of any actual violence on his part.

MR. GRIFFITHS said he contended

that the evidence was for the Jury whether the prisoner had actually thrown the deceased out, and if not whether he had used such violence to her as to cause her to throw herself out; in either case it would amount to manslaughter.

MR. JUSTICE STEPHEN, after referring to the cases of Reg. v. Wager Reg. v. Pitts, 1 Carrington and Marshman, p. 284, and Reg. v. Evans, and Reg. v. Hickman, left the case to the Jury, if, in their opinion, by actual violence, or threats of violence on the part of the prisoner, the deceased was forced, as her only means of escape, to jump from the window; in that case it would be manslaughter; but if she did the act constrained by fear or despair operating upon her mind, that would not be sufficient, and they should acquit him.


There was an indictment against the prisoner on the same facts for an assault on the same person , upon which no evidence was offered. NOT GUILTY .

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