7th January 1889
Reference Numbert18890107-180
VerdictNot Guilty > unknown

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180. SARAH HUXLEY (33) , Feloniously setting fire to the house of Samuel Marsh, persons being therein.

MR. BROMBY Prosecuted; MR. HUTTON Defended.

MARY MARSH . I am the wife of Samuel Marsh, of Redhill—the prisoner entered our service, as housekeeper, on 14th December last—she had a good character when she came to us—on the 19th December fol lowing, about half-past seven in the evening, I heard an alarm—I was inside the house at the time—the alarm came from the inside; someone inside the house told me that the nursery was on fire—that was not the prisoner's bedroom; hers was the room beyond, a small ante-room, through which I had to pass—at the time I first heard the alarm of fire, I think my husband was outside, to the best of my recollection—the only servant we had besides the prisoner was a nurse-girl, Annie Killick, aged about fifteen, or not quite fifteen; she had been with me nearly five months—as far as I know, there was no one else in the house but my three children, no other servant or anybody else employed in the house—on getting the alarm of fire, I rushed upstairs into the nursery; I found that it was full of smoke—passing that, I went into the prisoner's bed room; there I saw the blind had fallen, having been burnt, and the valens and fringe round the window was smouldering, and the bottom part of the bedclothes was on fire; they were smouldering, and there was dense smoke in the room—my husband was called, and he and I succeeded in putting the fire out—I advised the prisoner to sleep in another room that night—next evening, the 20th, about eight o'clock, I was again told that the nursery, was on fire—I proceeded there and found smoke proceed ing from the same room where I had been the night before, and the palliasse which I had left on the little iron bedstead, free from fire, was smouldering—I believe the prisoner was there, she had got up there before me—I broke the palliasse to pieces, and with the help of water I put the fire out—it was smouldering from the upper part—I think the

prisoner was in the room when I went in, to the best of my recollection, out I should not like to be quite positive of that—it was not the prisoner who gave me the alarm on the second occasion, I believe she gave me the alarm the previous evening—about half-past eight on the 20th I received an alarm that there was fire in another room in the same part of the building—I really can't be quite sure who told me; that came from an opposite direction—I think that was about an hour after we had put out the other fire—that alarm was given from inside the house, it came from outside and then reached me—there is a street alarm outside the house—it was somebody in the street that gave the alarm, it was not given to me direct—on hearing it I rushed up the staircase the same as bei fore, and passing through a very large sitting-room to a large bedroom beyond, I found a petticoat and the curtains on fire, and the window blind and valens smouldering—with the help of some man who came up the side staircase with water we put it out—about half-past nine the next day, the 21st, I discovered some more fire—I went up to my bedroom, where I had seen the previous fire; I smelt smoke again, and found fire—I thought at first it must be fancy, but I opened a little side door, and saw volumes of smoke pouring along another landing, a different portion of the house—I rushed downstairs and called Mr. Marsh—I could not find him on one side of the building, I found him on the other—he went upstairs with me, and we ran from room to room, and eventually opened a door where the prisoner had slept the night before, and there in the middle of the bed I found the whole of the bedclothes were smouldering—the room was full of smoke, and the gas was alight over this smouldering—I and my husband succeeded in putting it out—the whole of the bedclothes were burnt; it had not touched the bed, but the whole of the bedclothes were in a mass of smouldering—about half-past seven that evening Mr. Marsh and I were in the office together—I went into the kitchen, where the nurse-girl and the prisoner were, and I said to the girl, "I want certain garments aired for the baby this evening; be sure you don't forget them"—I mentioned what I wanted—the prisoner was standing on one side of the kitchen-table, and on the other, facing her, was the little girl, with me, on my left-hand side—the prisoner immediately said to me, "Shall I go and fetch them? I know exactly where they are—in the long box"—I said, "Yes, if you like"—there is a staircase running parallel with the side of the kitchen—you have to go up some stairs from the kitchen to the room where the box was—there is a short landing and one flight of stairs—the box was in the sitting-room on that landing, the box was close to the door of that room—when I said to the prisoner, "Yes, if you like,"I passed back into the office, leaving them in the kitchen—I did not see the prisoner go—I was in the office two or three minutes when I heard the street door bell opposite the office door, and opposite the kitchen door from which I had just passed—I heard the nurse-girl run to answer the bell; I had left her in the kitchen—it was the street door bell that rang—I did not see the prisoner go out of the kitchen—I left her and the girl there together; it was the girl that went to answer the bell—she went towards the door, and I followed her, because I did not know whether she would be able to attend to the door, I saw her—I am sure it was her, I actually saw her, and know it was her—she had just opened the door; there is no doubt about it—a gentleman

was at the door—I opened the office door and showed him in—the girl was standing by my left side—as I was in the act of letting him pass me into the office I looked round on my left-hand side up the staircase, and saw smoke pouring along the landing—I said to the nurse-girl, "What, is this smoke again?" and I rushed upstairs—she followed me—I saw the box, and under the lid of it I saw smoke oozing out in all directions—I opened the box, and the clothes were really alight; a good many linen garments, children's pinafores were on fire, actually flaming—the prisoner was not in the room then; I found nobody in the room; the room door was not shut—I told the girl to get some water; she got some, and I poured it over the flames, and put the flames out; I pressed the whole mass together till I felt it was out, and then I closed the door and went downstairs, and called Mr. Marsh—he was in the office—I did not see the prisoner at all between my leaving the street door and finding the box on fire; I did not know where she was; I am not quite sure whether she was sent for or whether I went down and called her myself; she was downstairs, I am not quite sure where; she must have been downstairs—when I next saw her she came into the sitting-room where I was, where the fire had just been; I mean the last fire—the clothes were in an ottoman box—it was after my husband and I had put out the fire I saw the prisoner; I believe she came from downstairs, to the best of my recollection—as far as I remember I called her myself; she came into the room where I was—I said to her, "Will you explain this fire? you have just been here, not five minutes ago; was there a fire here when you came?"—she said, "No"—I said, "Then you ought to know; if you don't know how the fire got there you ought to know; I don't accuse you of lighting the fire, but I don't trust you any longer in my house, you must pack up your box and go; Mr. Marsh will see you to the station"—she said, "I know nothing whatever about it; it certainly looks very suspicious against me, but I have not lighted the fire"—I had asked her if she had been to the box—she said "Yes"—"Was there any fire when you went there?"—she said, "No"—she said she had got the things from the box—that was so; the things were taken out and were on the kitchen table—Mr. Marsh said he was not satisfied with her leaving the house under the circumstances, and he must have this investigated—he sent for the police, and an officer came—on the evening of 21st December a dressmaker was employed in the house; she only came to fit on a dress; she was in the bedroom where the second fire was, not the room where the prisoner slept, but my bedroom; she was only waiting there to try my dress on for me—I was there with her, having my dress fitted on—that was before I went down to the kitchen there was no needlework going on—her name is Miss Carr—she was not in the house at the time of the last fire—she had not been there the day before when the other fires occurred; only on the 21st, not on the 19tn or 20th—the second fire was is the billiard-room, on the 20th; that would be the fourth—the billiard-room is a very large room; it is not used as a billiard-room, it is called the south bedroom—it used to be a billiard room, that is how it got that name—the box with the clothes in it was not in that room—the prisoner told me that she had to go into the bar to serve a customer after I left the kitchen—I don't know that of my own knowledge—I can't say whether or not there would have been time for

her to go into the bar—the bar is close at hand to the kitchen, not two steps.

Cross-examined. It was part of her duty to serve in the bar—I had a written character with her—I have found out since that she had been four months before coming to us at Brighton with a relation—the first fire that occurred was in her bedroom, that I discovered in the evening—there was gas in that room—I cannot remember whether the gas was alight when I went there—it was a gas arm about one-quarter of a yard long, a single moveable bracket, that you can twist backwards and for wards; you can twist it towards the blind—when I went up the first time I believe the prisoner was in the room; to the best of my recollection she did not go up with me—I went up by myself, the nurse-girl following—the prisoner never attempted any assistance in putting out the blind, or made any remark; the blind had fallen—Mr. Marsh came up just behind me in some few seconds, and he put it out—my eldest child is four years old in February—one child was in bed—the second fire occurred next evening in the same room; that was the palliasse of the bed—the bed was lying under the window against the wall, that would be close to the blind and near the gas bracket; the prisoner was in the room then—I said to her, "How is this?" she said, "I am sure I don't know"—I said, "How strange!"—I think she went in just before me, to the best of my recollection—the third fire was in my room the same evening—I was standing between the doors at the bottom of the staircase when someone exclaimed that our bedroom was on fire—the prisoner did not go up with me, I found her behind me afterwards—that fire was very quickly put out; it took longer than the others—the fourth fire was in the billiard room; that room was very rarely used, the gas would very rarely be alight—I told the prisoner to go and sleep in that room, we conveyed the bed there—when I went to bed about half-past eleven I looked and she had a candle—she had no need to light the gas—at the time when she volunteered to go up and get the clothes I don't know whether she went at once, I went immediately into the office; I was there I think about three minutes before I went to the side door to answer the bell, it might have been a little more—it was then I saw the nurse-girl—as far as I knew the prisoner was thoroughly content with her place with us—she made no complaint, not the least—the servant-girl had made no complaint to me, the prisoner had made complaints of her; she complained that she behaved rudely to her—I told the girl of it; we called her in, and Mr. Marsh told her she had behaved rudely to the prisoner—the complaint the prisoner made was that as she and the char woman were having their tea together the girl stood still looking at them; she fold her to go upstairs to the nursery, and she did not go as quickly as she liked, and she immediately came into the office and told us of the girl standing looking rudely at them, and we called her in and told her that she ought not to do that sort of thing—I told her that the prisoner had made that complaint of her—she did not answer in any way—she did not say she was sorry, or make any answer, or excuse herself—she was not at all pleased—she did not at all like being called to account—we mildly scolded her—that was not the only time I had cause to do so—she was a young child, very inexperienced, and she had my little children, and I wished her to go in my way—when I told the prisoner to go for the things I did not

see her take any matches—the articles were brought down into the kitchen—the gas was alight in the room before I went into it—it was a usual thing to light it soon after six—it is generally one person's work to light it—it would be the prisoner's work to do that—it was on the occasion of the third fire that the dressmaker was there.

Re-examined. The fault I found with the girl was not knowing her work; she is only a child—I thought I could train her in my ways—I think she would do well with housework, but not as a nurse-girl—she showed a dislike to being spoken to, several times, not taking it kindly, not quite as I liked a girl to be, but I have had so much to do with young children that I did not put it down to anything—her general character for honesty and so forth was quite correct—as far as I know she was honest.

SAMUEL MARSH . I am a livery stable-keeper at Redhill—I was in the stable on the evening of 19th December last—that is on the same side of the house as the bedroom, which was then occupied by the prisoner—I was seeing the stables shut up for the night—while I was doing that the nurse-girl came running out calling me, and saying that the nursery was on fire—I went into the house and upstairs—I found the room adjoining the nursery on fire; that was the room occupied by the prisoner; I could see the flame, that was all I could see for the smoke—the flame was at the window; the room was full of smoke—I could not see who was there till I got to the window, I then found my wife and the prisoner, they were both trying to extinguish the fire; I assisted, and at last put it out—next day I was away from home and know nothing of what then occurred—the next day, the 21st, I was at home in the morning; about nine o'clock, just after I had had breakfast, I went into the yard to give orders; I had scarcely got out there before the nurse-girl came running out again, "Mrs. Marsh wants you directly upstairs;"I went in and ran upstairs—my wife said, "The place is full of smoke again"—we both commenced searching for the fire, she went one way and I the other; last of all I went to the room that the prisoner had slept in, called the billiard-room; I opened the door and found the room full of smoke; I went straight in and saw the bedclothes smouldering red hot—I immediately ran and pulled them and rolled them all up together, and carried them out in the passage, and one of my men brought a pail of water which I threw on the remnants, trampled on them, and put the fire out—about half-past seven the same evening I was in my office writing, when I heard someone call out, "Come upstairs directly, there is more smoke in the house"—I won't be positive whose voice it was—I ran up, and there found my wife by the side of the box, and the girl by the side of her—she said that she had found the box all ablaze, and had thrown one jug of water on it—I said, "Fetch another," and I poured it out and put my hands and pressed the things together, and made sure the fire was quite out—the prisoner was downstairs all this time; I found her in the kitchen; my wife went down and called her, and she came upstairs, as if from the kitchen—I did not see her come out of the kitchen—I asked her if she could in any way account for these fires, it was a very mysterious thing that I should have had five fires break out in forty-eight hours in different parts of the house, and wherever she went the fires followed soon after—she said, "Yes, it certainly looks very suspicious, but I know nothing about it"—I said,

"Well, it is too serious a matter to let pass over; I must give you in charge on suspicion of having set fire to the place"—she Said, "Well, I am not surprised; it certainly looks very suspicious against me"—the police were sent for, and I gave her into custody.

Cross-examined. I assisted in putting out three fires—I was absent at two—the nurse-girl called my attention to the first, and I think to the second, but I am not sure—I saw the prisoner assisting in extinguishing the first fire.

MARY ANN KILLICK . I am nearly fifteen years old—in December last I was in Mrs. Marsh's service; I have now left—I had been there for some five months—on 21st December, in the evening, I was in the kitchen with Mrs. Marsh and the prisoner—Mrs. Marsh said I had better go and get some things for the baby to change to-night—she did not tell me where to go for them; I knew they were kept in the long box up stairs, in a different place to where they used to be, but I knew where they were—the prisoner said, "I will go and get them," because she knew where they were—I did not answer when Mrs. Marsh spoke to me; I was going, when the prisoner said she would go—she went up and got them, and brought them down and put them on the kitchen table, or put them round the guard to air—she was upstairs about a minute—I then heard the door bell ring; I ran to the door and let the gentleman in—Mrs. Marsh ran to the door and spoke to him, and the gentleman walked into the parlour—Mrs. Marsh saw some smoke coming down the stairs; I was with her then; I saw the smoke—Mrs. Marsh ran upstairs, and I went up behind her—she went into the sitting-room; I did not follow her—she went in and shut the door, and told me to get some water, and I got a basinful from the tap upstairs and took it to her—I knew that there had been four fires in the house before—I had not set fire to them.

Cross-examined. I am not in Mrs. Marsh's service now; I left because I was not old enough for her; she told me to leave; that was the only reason she gave—when the prisoner went upstairs to the box she was only absent one minute—Mrs. Marsh went into the office; she was there about two or three minutes before the bell rang—during that time I was alone in the kitchen—the prisoner went into the scullery—that does not lead to the bar, not near the bar—I don't know how long she remained in the scullery; I did not see her come out—I was alone in the kitchen four or five minutes till I went to the bell—I gave information about the first five and I gave information to Mr. Marsh that the prisoner's room was on fire—a young man came to the door—I was downstairs, the prisoner went up stairs first and I went behind her, and then it was on fire—on the second occasion I ran downstairs and told Mr. Marsh; I knew of the fire then because a young man came and said so—I don't know him, I know him by sight—I did not tell Mr. Marsh who he was—it was the prisoner who told me the blinds were on fire—at the first fire a young man called and told me to come out to the back door and look; he only came once, and that was on the first occasion—on the second occasion the prisoner went upstairs into her room and saw smoke, and she said, "What is this?" and she went into the room and found the bed was smoking, and she said, "Sarah, run downstairs and tell Mr. Marsh"—I went up to the nursery on that occasion—I had not to pass the prisoner's room to get to the nursery; I slept in the nursery, it was the next room

to the nursery—you have to go through the prisoner's room to the nursery—on the third occasion it was the man who worked there that told about it—I was in the prisoner's room getting water to put out the fire; before that I was downstairs in the kitchen—I don't remember where Mrs. Marsh was—I got the water from the tap upstairs; I had gone upstairs to get water—I don't know how soon it was after that that I heard of the fire in Mrs. Marsh's bedroom.

Re-examined. There were four things brought down by the prisoner out of the box and put on the kitchen table; these were the things that were hung up to air—I was putting some elastic on some stockings when I heard the bell ring.

By the COURT. The prisoner had been in the house a week when these fires began—there had been another servant before her, the prisoner came the same night as the other left—the other servant and I did not get on very well together—the prisoner and I did, except one night I was very rude to her, and she went and told Mr. Marsh, and he gave me a talking to—I did not behave very properly—I was suoking my teeth when he told me, I was not angry, I showed that I was displeased when I went in—I was lying on the tea-table; they were having tea, and the prisoner told me to get off, and I said, "I shan't," and she complained to Mr. Marsh—that was very rude of me; I think it was her duty to tell Mr. Marsh—I think that was before the first of the fires, I am not sure; I think it was the third night she was there—I did not think that after the other servant left I should be promoted, and that somebody else would come and take care of the children—I did not say so to anyone—I was not disappointed when the prisoner came—I asked her whether there was not another servant coming in my place to the children—I did expect somebody else would come to take the children; there was a young girl came one night, I did not know what she came for; she was left in the sitting-room, and I thought she would be taking my place, and that I was to leave because Mrs. Marsh said she would make a change—I did not think I was to be housekeeper, I knew I was not old enough—I did not think I was going to have any help with the children.

MRS. MARSH (Recalled). I have letters which the prisoner has written to me—I think this letter (produced) is her writing, it looks very much the character—I do not remember the girl being flippant when the curtains were burning, not the least—I never saw anything of the kind throughout all the fires.

THOMAS JEFFRIES (Police Sergeant). I saw this letter handed in to the Court before the Magistrates on Monday, that was in the presence of the prisoner—she referred to it in her deposition—(The letter was read as follows)—"To Mr. Pearson, Superintendent of Police. Dear Sir,—I am perfectly sure that the nurse-girl, Annie Killick, is guilty of trying to set fire to Mrs. Marsh's house. When the first fire took place, she it was who turned the gas up and drew it in front of the blind, of which I cautioned her at the time, when she, of course, denied having been there. The second fire, which occurred in Mrs. Marsh's bedroom some few minutes after Annie Killick had been, it is supposed, up in the nursery, where she ran when the dressmaker and Mrs. Marsh left the latter's bedroom. The third fire was in the billiard-room, where I did not know that the gas would light. The two nights that I slept there I took my candle with me, and brought it down with me in the morning to light the

fire. The gas was lighted there on the morning of the fire for breakfast, when Annie was supposed to be up in the nursery; so you see, Sir, suspicion points to her. The last, in the box, of which I am accused, occurred soon after I had been unfortunate enough to fetch the child's clothes from it, which I brought down and placed on the kitchen table, beside which Annie was sitting. I then had to go to the bar to serve several customers, and when I returned Annie was upstairs; soon after that the box was on fire. I have quite forgotten to mention that when Mrs. Marsh's curtains were burning, Annie burst out laughing, saying at the same time, 'There is no danger with so many men on the building'; all this seems to me to be quite sufficient, even if it was not for her con fession to me, that she hated Mrs. Marsh since I have been there more than ever before—to use her own words, 'She had been nasty to her. 'I have nothing more to say, Sir. You will judge which is the guilty; obtain my release, I beseech you; for after two such dreadful nights as I have had, my very soul is weary of my life. I feel almost too ill to speak. See that they set me free, Sir, I beg, or I shall die before long. As God is my witness my statement is true. Heaven bless you for your kindness to me."

The Prisoner's Statement before the Magistrate. "I repeat the statement that I made to Superintendent Pearson, and I wish it added to this deposition."

The prisoner received an excellent character.


Before Mr. Recorder.

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