25th June 1900
Reference Numbert19000625-406
VerdictGuilty > with recommendation

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406. ALFRED HIGHFIELD (21) was indicted for and charged, on the Coroner's Inquisition, with the wilful murder of Edith Margaret Poole.



LORENA CORENGIER . I am the wife of Joseph Corengier, of 25, Margaret Street, Clerkenwell—the deceased was my sister, and at the time of her death was 19 years old—she had been a domestic servant, and at the time of her death was a housemaid at the Temple Bar Restaurant in the Strand—she lived there—our mother lives at 15, White Horse Alley, Clerkenwell—my brother, James Poole, occupies the room

upstairs in the same house as myself—the prisoner has been keeping company with my sister for five or six years—he used to work at the Westminster Brewery, and he has been a barman at various public-houses in London—they were to be married on next August Bank Holiday—last Easter Monday, April 16th, my sister had a whole holiday, and they went to the Crystal Palace, I believe, after which she made a statement to me—on Sunday, May 13th, I was expecting her to come to dinner with me—she came about the middle of the day and had dinner, and spent the afternoon with me and my husband—I did not see the prisoner that day till about 5 o'clock, when he came to see my brother—he was in the house when I saw him—I did not see him come in; I called him down from my brother's room, and he came downstairs—my sister was still with me—it was in consequence of what she had said to me that I called the prisoner down—he came into our room; he shook hands with my husband and with my sister—he said to her, "Why is it that you have not seen me?"—he made no reply—we then all had tea—my sister and the prisoner talked together, and after tea he asked her if she intended to go out with him any more—she said, "We had best part"—he stood up and said, "I am done"—then my sister and the prisoner and my husband and myself went out together for a walk, in the direction of Mrs. Negus' house, in Milman Street, Bedford Row—as far as I know, nobody asked the prisoner to come with us—we all went to Mrs. Negus'; she was not quite ready to come out, and while she was getting ready we all four went into a public-house at the corner of Great James Street, Bedford Row—this was about 7.30 or 7.45—we all had something to drink; my sister had a small glass of stout, and the prisoner a glass of mild bitter—we were in the public house about 15 minutes—my sister and the prisoner were together during that time—I saw that they were talking; they seemed friendly—I could not hear what was said—they had walked together from my house to Mrs. Negus' behind my husband and myself—Mrs. Negus came into the public-house and had something to drink, and then we all five left the public-house and walked in the direction of Great Queen Street—me and my husband and Mrs. Negus walked in front, and the prisoner and my sister about eight or 10 yards behind—as we were walking along Great Queen Street I heard Mrs. Negus say something—I turned round and saw my sister on the ground, and the prisoner on top of her—I thought he was punching her—I had not heard any noise behind us up to that time—I and my husband and Mrs. Negus ran back to where they were, and I said to my sister, "What has Alfred done to you"—she could not answer—Mrs. Negus pulled the prisoner off her—I went up to him and said, "What have you done? You have killed my sister"—he said, "I know what I have done, and I don't care if I die for it"—my husband also went to my sister—it was not light enough to see where she was injured, but someone lit a match, and then I saw blood running from her throat—some people came up and assisted us, and she was taken to King's College Hospital, where she remained till May 22nd, when she died—I saw her from time to time.

Cross-examined. I believe the prisoner is 21 or 22—he and my sister were quite children when they began keeping company—he seemed very fond of her—I knew they were saving up their money to provide a little

fund upon which to live—he made her presents from time to time; some rings and other things—there was an engagement ring—she was not wearing it at the time—I believe she had pledged it—she never told me she was a member of a clothes club at her situation—they did not meet after Easter Monday, as far as I know—I do not know that they met on April 18th or 19th—my sister had been at the situation in the Strand a fortnight before this happened—she had been in some other employment between April 30th and May 13th—I remember saying before the Magistrate on May 25th, "I went up to Highfield, who was standing by, held by Mrs. Negus, and asked him what he had done to my sister; he said, 'I know what I have done; that is all I heard.'"

Re-examined. I did not see anything of the prisoner on Saturday, May 12th—my sister never told me that she had pledged her engagement ring—my mother told me that she had heard so—at tea on Sunday the prisoner said to my sister, "You have not got my ring on," and she said, "I have got it."

JAMES RICHARD ARTHUR POOLE . I live at 20, Margaret Street, Clerkenwell—the deceased was my sister—I have known the prisoner about three years—I knew that he was keeping company with my sister—the last time I saw them together before May 13th was before Easter—on Saturday, May 12th, the prisoner came to my house in the evening and asked me if I had seen Tiny—that is my brother-in-law, Mr. Corengier—I said "No, I have not seen him"; he did not say what he wanted to see him for—we went out and walked towards my mother's house—we went as far as the Red Lion public-house—we had a drink together, and I left him—I said to him, "If you like you can come round to-morrow and have a cup of tea"—he had been to my house before, but very rarely—my sister had been there occasionally—they have come there together—on this Saturday evening there was no reference to my sister that I recollect—next day, Sunday, the prisoner came about 5 p.m.—I live in the upper portion of the house, and my sister, Mrs. Corengier, in the lower portion—he came up to my room—I did not let him into the house—I knew my sister Edith was in the house—after he had been with me a short time someone called him, and he went down—I saw him again about six on the landing outside my sister's room—I said to him, "How are things; all right, I suppose?"—I knew he and my sister had had a grievance—he said, "No."

Cross-examined. He had always seemed to be very fond of my sister—when I opened my door to him on the Saturday evening I said, "Hullo! how are you getting on?"—he said, "Rough"—I believed that to refer to his work—on the Sunday I knew Edith was downstairs, but I did not tell him so.

ESTHER NEGUS . I am the wife of Charles Negus, of Millman Street, Theobald's Road—I knew both the prisoner and the deceased—I have seen them out walking together—on Sunday, May 13th, the deceased came with Mrs. Corengier and her husband to go for a walk—I am not another sister—I met them afterwards in public-house, and we all went for a walk—I and Mrs. Corengier and her husband went in front and the prisoner and Edith behind—I had seen them in the public-house talking together—when we were walking I did not hear any

conversation—they were arm in arm—we went along Great Queen Street, and when we were near the Freemasons' Tavern I looked round and saw Edith on the ground, with the prisoner on the top of her—I had not heard any noise before—I thought he was punching her—I did not see his arm moving—I ran back and pulled him off, and kept hold of him till a constable came—as I pulled him off I saw him throw a knife away, as I thought—I said, "You have killed poor Edie"—he said, "I know what I have done"—I said, "What have you done it for?"—he said, "She has blighted my life, and I have blighted hers"—I followed the prisoner and the constable to the hospital—he was taken there before he was taken to the station.

Cross-examined. There was a good deal of confusion after this happened—what the prisoner said was said before the people came up—I noticed that his hands were bleeding—there was some blood on my clothes, off his hands—I had known the young couple about nine or ten months—they seemed very happy together.

ROBERT WILLIAM ATTO . I live at Fitzroy Court, Tottenham Court Road, and am a cab-driver—on Sunday, May 13th, I was walking in Great Queen Street with my wife about 8.30 p.m.—when we were about opposite the Freemasons' Tavern I heard screaming from the opposite side of the road—I saw a young man pushing another away, and I crossed the road, and found that the prisoner was the man who was being pushed away—the girl was lying partly on the pavement and partly in the road—I heard Mrs. Negus say to the prisoner, "You have killed my sister"—he said, "I cannot help it, if I die for it"—I then saw that the young woman's throat was cut—a constable arrived, and I said to him, "Take him, that is the man who done it"—after the constable had taken him away, I searched in the road for the knife—I found this razor (Produced) close to the kerb on the north side of the road, which was the opposite side to where the young woman was lying—it was half open; I closed it and put it into my pocket—I afterwards took it to Bow Street Police-station, and gave it to an inspector—I saw some stains on it, as it is now—they looked like blood-stains.

Cross-examined. I am nearly certain that it was Mrs. Negus who said, "You have killed my sister."

Re-examined. I am certain of the words, at any rate.

HARRY CHURCH . I live at Old worthy Square, Gray's Inn, and am a warehouseman—on Sunday, May 13th, I was in Great Queen Street about 8.30—I heard screaming, and saw a young woman on the ground, with a wound in her throat—I saw the prisoner being held by a young woman, and an old gentleman—somebody called him a scoundrel—he said, "You don't know what she has done to me," or "for me," I do not know which it was.

FREDERICK JAMES STRINGER (205E). On May 13th, about 8.45, I was called to Great Queen Street, to the Freemasons' Tavern, where I found the prisoner being held by somebody—Atto pointed him out to me, and said, "That is the man that has done it"—I took the prisoner into custody—he said, "I did it, and I don't disown it"—I took him first to King's College Hospital, to see the condition of the young woman, and then to Bow Street Police-station, and handed him over to the inspector

in charge—he did not say anything on the way—I searched him, and found this razor case (Produced)—it holds the razor which is produced—I found five or six letters and a photograph—this letter from the prisoner to the girl I found on him—the envelope is addressed, "To Edith, from Alf."

CHARLES CUTBUSH (Inspector, E). The prisoner was brought to me at Bow Street Police-station on the night of May 13th—in consequence of what the last witness told me I went to King's College Hospital and saw the deceased—I returned to the Police-station and said to the prisoner, "I have seen Edith Poole, detained in King's College Hospital, suffering from wounds in her throat"—I cautioned him and then said, "I propose to charge you with attempting to murder her; do you understand?"—he replied, "Yes"—he was charged—the charge was formally read over to him—he made no reply—this razor was brought to me at the station about then by Atto—about an hour afterwards I saw the prisoner in the cells at the station—he said, "Three weeks ago I lost my situation at the Westminster brewery Company over that girl; she aggravated me to-night, and in a fit of madness I did what I did"—I simply went to see him to see if he would like his friends acquainted with his position.

Cross-examined. He was in a dazed condition—he had two cuts on one finger and one on another, or on his thumb—a doctor was called in to dress them—I made a note of what the prisoner said.

Re-examined. When I say he seemed dazed I mean he seemed flabbergasted with the result of something—the wounds on his fingers were incised wounds.

ALEXANDER CRABB . I am a surgeon at 4, High Street, Bloomsbury—I was called to Bow Street Police-station on May 13th about 10.30—I examined the prisoner's hands and found them covered with blood—on washing the blood away I found two incised wounds on the right thumb, and one on the left index finger—they were not deep, only superficial—the wounds on the right thumb might have been caused by grasping the bottom part of the blade of the razor—they were U shaped.

GEORGE AUGUSTUS ROBERTS . I am House Surgeon at King's College Hospital—the deceased was brought there at 8.55 p.m. on May 13th, suffering from wounds in her throat—she was then almost pulseless—she lived till 12 p.m. on May 22nd—I attended her all the time—I made a post-mortem examination and found three wounds in the neck; one on the left side, starting from the middle line behind the ear, running downwards and forwards, about 4 in. long, and from 1 in. to 1½ in. deep nearly all the way—it was not quite so deep at the two extremities—there was one across the front of the neck, dividing the larynx from the upper part of the windpipe; that was right across the front of the throat and 3 in. long; another wound on the right side of the neck, starting about 1 in. from the middle line behind the ear, running downwards and forwards, but was only skin-deep—those wounds led to septic pneumonia in the lungs, of which she died—the wounds were the cause of her death—they might all have been caused by this razor—the wounds on the left side and the one on the front of the neck would require a good deal of force to inflict—she had some wounds on her hands, as if she had

put them up to protect herself—they were healed up at the post-mortem examination, but we tied them up on the morning following her admission—they were nothing serious.

Cross-examined. I cannot say whether the fingers of both hands were tied up or not—it would have been possible to have taken a deposition from the deceased—my reason for not allowing it to be taken was because there was a chance of recovery for her, and if the deposition had been taken it would have militated against that recovery—the septic pneumonia was in consequence of the blood from the wounds having flowed down the windpipe, it being severed.

ELIZABETH POOLE . I am the mother of the deceased—she lived with me up to last Easter—she left on the Saturday following Easter Monday, when she went to the Temple Bar Restaurant—before that she had been employed at Edwards and Skinner's, on Holborn Viaduct—she had been there just on five years—she had been keeping company with the prisoner five or six years—I heard that they were supposed to be married on the coming Bank Holiday—up to Easter Monday they were apparently on good terms—I knew she was in the habit of writing to him, and he to her—on Easter Monday I did not see the prisoner all day, because I was at work in the morning, and they went out—he was supposed to call for her—she came home about 12 p.m.—on Easter Tuesday the prisoner came to my place to ask for Edie—I noticed his face was scratched—I said, "Oh, Alf, whatever is the matter with your face?"—he smiled, and said, "I have been in a bit of a bother at the brewery, and one of the chaps has scratched my face"—I said, "What a funny thing for him to scratch your face!"—nothing more was said—my daughter was not at home when he called—when he heard that she was out I think he said he would call back—I told my daughter that he had been—I cannot remember whether he ever came to the house again after that—if he did, it must have been when I was out, as I never saw him—I do not think I ever saw my daughter and the prisoner together after the Easter Monday—I know his handwriting, and also my daughter's—I took the dress my daughter had been wearing on this Sunday night from the hospital, and I took a letter and a handkerchief from the pocket—I think this is the letter (Produced)—I gave it to Inspector Cutbush—I afterwards went to the Temple Bar Restaurant, and brought away her boxes—at the request of the police, I looked in them for any letters—I found these three letters (Produced)—this one is in my daughter's writing, and the other two in the prisoner's—they wrote to each other pretty often—they paid money into a bank—my daughter kept the bankbook—I do not know where it is—I could find it perhaps.

Cross-examined. My daughter had been in her new situation a fortnight before this happened—I believe their banking account was in the Post Office Savings Bank—the money was drawn out, I do not know when or by whom—my daughter was a member of a clothes club in her other situation, to which she would have to subscribe—I cannot say whether the prisoner helped her at all in her subscriptions—there were things bought for a home which was to come into existence on August Bank holiday.

Re-examined. I think my daughter drew the money out of the bank, and I think they spent it at Easter.

LORENA CORENGIER (Re-examined). I frequently saw the letters which passed between the prisoner and my sister—she used to show them to me—these five letters are in my sister's writing, and this one in the prisoner's (Produced)—these two letters, which were found in my sister's box, are in the prisoner's writing—this pencil writing, I should say, is the prisoner's writing.

Cross-examined. This photo is of my sister.

Re-examined. This letter was found in the deceased's trunk, and is from the prisoner—(Read, postmark, April 19th: Asking the deceased to meet him and forgive him for what had occurred, as he was sure that if he had been as sober as he is now he would not have said what he did, as nothing wrong had ever entered his head before.)—This letter from the prisoner was written in May—(Asking the deceased to write to him and tell him if she really wanted to part from him, stating that he had got a job at the stores in Victoria Street, that he had been going to start at a public-house, but that he had got a very bad character from the brewery.)—this letter is written by the deceased to the prisoner, but I do not know if it was sent—the other letter was found in the deceased pocket, it is to the prisoner; and is dated May 4th, 1900, and is written from the Excelsior, Charing Cross Road: "I have heard from Mr. Lee and your character is very bad; unless you can explain that, it is no good your coming here on Saturday.—Yours, R. EADE"—written on the back in the prisoner's writing is: "Dear Edie,—I have not received a letter from you; will you write, I am out of work through my character, but it is not for long, for I do try.—Yours, ALF"—this is another letter from the prisoner to deceased—(Stating that this would probably be his last, as he was a broken-hearted man, that after he was gone she would know the truth of his words, that he wanted to say good-bye, as he could not last out much longer, and that it would be good-bye for ever.).

Evidence for the Defence.

HERBERT LEE . I am the brewer and manager of the Westminster brewery—the prisoner was employed there for some time as a labourer—at Easter he wrote me a letter resigning his post, and subsequently a Mr. Eade called one day when I was out, with regard to the prisoner's character—he left a note saying he would call again, but he sent a telegram enclosing a prepaid reply—the telegram to me was "Is Highfield's character satisfactory?"—I replied, "Highfield is honest and can work"—I intended that to be a good reference, but, by a mistake of the telegraph clerk, "honest" was transferred into "lowest"—I suppose it read, "Highfield lowest, but can work," but I have not seen the telegram—I can mostcertainly give the prisoner a good character; his father has been in our employment 25 or 26 years; his people are of great respectability.

Cross-examined. The prisoner said his reason for leaving was that he could not agree with his foreman—I subsequently gave him another character to another public-house—I wished to help him—I think I wrote that character on May 12th—it arrived after this affair—I am not sure if it was sent on May 12th—I sent it to the proprietor of the Corner Pin public-house, Strutton Ground, Westminster.

ELIZABETH POOLE (Re-examined). We cannot find any other bank

book except this one (Produced)—I think my daughter had another, but I will not be quite sure.

Cross-examined. I think she had a Post-Office Savings Bank book, but I cannot find it.

GUILTY.—Strongly recommended to mercy by the Jury on account of the excited state of his mind, the loss of his work, his previous good character, and his youth. — DEATH .

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