16th October 1905
Reference Numbert19051016-772
VerdictGuilty > with recommendation

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772. MARION SEDDON was again indicted for the wilful murder of John Miles Seddon.

MR. MUIR and MR. SYMMONS Prosecuted; MR. HUTTON Defended.

MARION HARMS . I am single, and live at Warner Road, Walthamstow, and am the prisoner's niece—in September last I was living with her and her husband at 72, High Street, Mortlake—they had formerly been at Steins, where they had a small confectioner's business which had not been successful—they moved to Mortlake on a Monday in June—at Mort-lake the business was not a success; it was very bad indeed—about the middle of September they said they were in difficulties about money—I think the rent was £36 a year and they were in difficulties about the September rent—Saturday was their best day—I cannot say for certain what their takings were on Saturdays, but I think about two or three shillings—they were worrying very much about that and spoke to me about it—Mr. Seddon was seventy-eight years old and his health was very bad—during the daytime he used to lie on the couch, but was just able to go out for a short walk in the evening—the prisoner used to get about the house—hex health was better than her husband's, but it was not good—on September 11th Mrs. Barrett came to 72, High Street—the prisoner asked me to write to her and ask her to help them with the furniture—they were going away because they were in difficulty about the rent, and they wanted to get away before quarter day—I do not know whether the furniture was going—Mrs. Barrett was the deceased's sister-in-law—on the night of September 11th Mrs. Barrett and I slept in the same room on the first floor—we went to bed about 11—the prisoner and her husband slept on the same floor in the back room—there was no one else in the house—about 8 o'clock next morning the prisoner came in—Mrs. Barrett was awake and was sitting up in bed—the prisoner said something about 30s.—she was in her nightdress and looked rather unsteady—as she went out of the room she staggered when she got to the door—I got up and went downstairs and made some tea and took it up to the prisoner—when I got to the room I opened the door, but I did not go in because the prisoner waived me away and said "No"—Mrs. Barrett followed me up—after that I went and fetched Dr. Mackintosh—it was about twenty minutes from the time the prisoner woke me until I went for the doctor—he came about fifteen or twenty minutes after I went for him—I had seen this bottle (Produced) in the room about a month before—when I went in with the doctor I noticed the bottle some time after, and while he was there he

showed it to me and asked me if I had seen it before—I do not know what became of it; I did not take it away—the prisoner's mother was with them at Staines and after they moved to Mortlake—she had left the house about a week or a fortnight before this occurrence because the prisoner could not afford to keep her—I have never seen the deceased write—I do not recognise the writing on this letter (Produced)—I saw a paper like this in the sideboard before it was sold and there was no writing on it then—it was sold about a fortnight before this occurred—I remember a pocket letter case which the deceased had—this letter was taken out of it by Mrs. Barrett after the deceased's death—we took it out with some of the other papers—we did not look at it, and they were taken away—the letter case was in the pocket of the coat he used to wear.

Cross-examined. When they went to bed that evening they seemed to be on the same terms as usual.

Re-examined. There was no quarrel between them.

ELIZABETH BARRETT . I am a widow—my late husband was the prisoner's brother—I live at Walthamstow—on September 11th I went to the prisoner's house at 72, High Street, Mortlake—she told me they had been doing very badly in business and had not enough money to pay the rent, and that she had sent for me to get the furniture away before quarter day—the deceased was in very bad health and spirits, and the prisoner looked very ill and worried—that night I slept with my niece, and the following morning the prisoner came into our room and woke us about 8, but I am not sure of the time—she said to me, "Wake up, Lizzie; we have taken poison. I have 30s.; it is all I have. See that we are properly buried, and take that girl home with you"—I afterwards found a sovereign and a half-sovereign on her dressing table—that was all the money I found in the house—the prisoner then went out of the room and tottered as she got to the door—she went to her own bedroom—by my direction my niece went downstairs and made some tea, which I hoped would make the prisoner and the deceased sick—my niece took the tea up to the door and was waived away by the prisoner—I sent for Dr. Mackintosh—I did not go into the front room until after he arrived—I recognise this document (Produced)—I found it in a letter case belonging to the deceased after his death, in the pocket of the coat he was wearing—I do not know the writing—I have never seen the deceased's writing.

Cross-examined. Up to the night of the 11th, when they went to bed, they had always been on good terms with one another, and when they went to bed they were on good terms.

JOHN WILLIAM BURROWS . I live at Albert Road, Kingston, and at the inquest on the deceased on September 21st I was acting for the clerk to the Deputy Coroner, Dr. Goodwin, for the Kingston Division of Surrey—the prisoner was present and heard the evidence given—she was asked if she wished to give evidence and was cautioned that it would be taken down in writing and might be used against her—she was examined, but not cross-examined, and made her own statement—I wrote down her evidence and it was signed by her as correct. (Read): "I am now going to reside at 3, Colchester Road, Southend-on-Sea, with Mrs. Mercer, my sister. I

have only to say that my husband has been in a miserable depressed condition for a long time; for the last two years our circumstances have been getting desperate, and we decided that as there was no means of earning a living, we had better leave the world together. On this morning in particular I had been laying awake and worrying; then I jumped out of bed and I said, 'I can stand this wear and tear no longer; I'll end it.' I took the bottle and the glass and poured out the biggest part of the poison. I said, 'I am going to take this; it will end it at once and for ever.' He just said, 'You won't.' I said, 'I will,' and I drank it off. Then I said, 'I have left enough for you; will You have it? I said, 'It means this or the workhouse.' He said, 'Yes, give it me.' I poured it out and he snatched it out of my hand. I put the bottle and glass back and got into "bed and stopped there for about an hour; then I got up and wakened my sister-in-law and said, 'Wake up, Lizzie; I want you to listen to what I am saying.' I said, 'Listen, because I shan't have long to speak; we have taken poison.' She said, 'Oh! you haven't,' and I said, 'We have, both of us.' Then I told her to bury us quietly and cheaply and make as little fuss as possible. She kept crying and did not pay much attention. Then my niece woke up and began to cry. I said, 'Take this girl home with you and look after her.' I said, "I am sorry to give you so much trouble, but I cannot help it,' and then a pain came in my chest and I got giddy. I went back into my room. My husband was lying just where I had left him, on the edge of the bedstead. He opened his eyes and looked, so I just said, 'I have just been and wakened Lizzie and told her what we have done.' He said, 'Come and get in bed, then.' They were the last words he spoke. I remember nothing more, except the door opening and my niece saying, 'I will go and fetch the doctor.' That is all. I took the biggest portion, as I thought it would take more to kill me. (Signed) Marion Seddon." By the Jury. "The furniture was sent by my orders to Miss Gray. The writing on B is my husband's writing. The allusion is to my mother. He was very spiteful to her. I never saw document B before. It is written on a memorial card that he had in a pocket letter case. (Signed) M. Seddon." [MR. SYMMONS proposed putting in Exhibit B and MR. HUTTON said he would be glad if it was read]. "My last request and Desire is that you should dispose of ail our effects and live on the results as long as it lasts and then Follow me as your case is now Hopeless. Above all pray Don't be ruled by your Demon Mother. Instead of which you by order of your mother are giving all your own goods away and are saving your mothers so that she may bring her Beauty out and plank on you and claim all as hers and make you her Slave. This is all arranged. What a Blind Fool you must be not to see through it and won't listen to anyone else. To ray Wife."

CHARLES BATCHELOR . I am a registered medical practitioner, of Fairfield Road, Stains—I have known the prisoner and her husband for about seven years—they kept a small confectioner's shop—I have attended them professionally, the deceased for diabetes, and the prisoner on one occasion had neuralgia—in 1901 I prescribed a liniment and some mixture, and on November 16th, 1904, she had a repetition of the liniment which contained

one ounce of belladonna liniment, and half an ounce of aconite liniment, and half an ounce of soap liniment, making a total of two ounces—she had about six bottles of that liniment—this bottle (Produced) is mine, because I recognise the handwriting of my dispenser—it has on it "Liniment as before. Mr. Seddon"—there is a poison label on it, and it is a poison bottle.

Cross-examined. Diabetes causes great depression.

ROBERT DUNBAR MACKINTOSH . I am a medical practitioner practicing at the Bungalow, Mort lake—I was called in to see the prisoner and her husband on September 12th, about 8.45 a.m.—I found them in bed together—he was in a comatose state, suffering from collapse, and I diagnosed that he was suffering from belladonna poisoning—the prisoner was suffering from the same poisoning and was in a similar condition—I attended to them for about two hours, administering antidotes and using the stomach pump and every remedy that I possessed—at the end of the two hours the prisoner had improved, but the deceased was weaker—I advised that they should be sent to the hospital and I communicated with the police—I saw this bottle (Produced) on the table on the left-hand side of the bed, empty—it was quite dry inside—I also saw a tumbler there, which was dry—they both smelt of belladonna liniment—I estimated that the poison had been taken about two hours before I went there—I judged that the husband had taken the larger dose.

WILLIAM FRANCIS DAVIDSON . I am a registered medical practitioner, and in September I was the house surgeon at the Royal Hospital, Richmond—the deceased and the prisoner were brought there on September 12th between 4 and 5 p.m.—I saw them—the deceased was in a deeply comatose state, his face pale, and his breathing was very shallow—he was unconscious and remained so for some house, when he became delirious and started vomiting—those are symptoms of belladonna poisoning—he remained in that state until 6.30 p.m. next day, when he died—I made a post-mortem on the 15th or 16th, and what I discovered, confirmed my diagnosis—on the morning of the 14th the prisoner was still in the hospital and gradually recovering—that morning I saw her on my rounds with the nurse and said to her, "This is a sad affair; how did it come about?"—sitting up in bed she said, "About half-past 6 on Tuesday morning I got out of bed and, going to a cupboard or a drawer"—I cannot remember which she said—"I took out a bottle of liniment. I divided it into two unequal parts and drank the larger part myself. I then said to my husband, Are you going to take your share?' He snatched the bottle from my hand and drank off the contents. I then went to an adjoining room and woke my sister-in-law and asked her to settle our affairs for us. Returning to the bedroom, my husband told me I had better get into bed. I do not remember whether I did so or not. The last thing I remember is my niece coming into the room and saying, 'I will run and fetch a doctor'"—at the same time she said her husband had chanced very much within the last few years owing, she thought, to financial difficulties—she did not say that he had changed to her, but said he had become very quarrelsome and irritable lately while normally he was very good and docile and easy

to get on with—she said that on one or two occasions she had taken a knife from his hand; she did not say what he was going to do with it—when she was making this statement to me her husband was dead, but she did not know it.

GOLDEN BARRELL (Detective-Sergeant). At 6.30 p.m. on September 21st I arrested the prisoner at the Coroner's Court after the Jury had given their verdict—I told her I should arrest her for the wilful murder of John Miles Seddon on September 12th by aiding and abetting him to take poison—she replied, "What! after the verdict of the Jury?" and I said, "Yes"—the verdict of the Jury was that he had died from syncope and exhaustion following upon the effects of swallowing a liniment containing belladonna and aconite, and that the deceased took his own life while in a state of temporary insanity owing to financial troubles—at the station the charge was read over to her and she made no reply.

WILLIAM KEENS (Sergeant B.) I went to 72, High Street, Mortlake, on September 12th, about 2.30 p.m., and found this bottle, which I took possession of and produce.

GUILTY. The Foreman: "We wish her to be strongly recommended to mercy; we are unanimous on that point."

The prisoner: "I did not murder my husband."


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