23rd November 1880
Reference Numbert18801123-1
VerdictGuilty > unknown

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1. WILLIAM HERBERT (54) was indicted for the wilful murder of Jane Messenger. He was also charged on the Coroner's Inquisition with the like murder.

MESSRS. POLAND and MONTAGU WILLIAMS Prosecuted; MR. GILL Defended. HENRY JAMES MESSENGER. I live at 41, Edward Square, Islington, and am a wood turner—the prisoner is the husband of my late wife's eldest sister—his home was at Footscray, in Australia—he arrived in this country on 16th March—he stayed at my house from 18th March to the 16th August, five months all but three days—on 16th August the prisoner, my wife, and her brother left my house, not together, but within a quarter of an hour of one another; my wife had not my permission to go—I saw her again on 8th October—I did not know where she was living between 16th August and 8th October—on 8th October she came to the place where I worked, 69, Southampton Street, Pentonville—on the 11th I saw the prisoner; he came to my work in the morning; I told him if he waited till dinner-time I would fetch his letters, and give them to him—I did so, and he gave me an acknowledgment—I asked him if he had seen my wife; he said he could take his Bible oath that he had seen nothing of her since 16th August, when they left my place—since that time I have had no conversation with him—on 21st October my wife returned to my home; she only slept there on that night—on Friday morning, the 22nd, I went to my work—I returned home at dinner-time; my wife was not there then—she did not sleep at home on the night of the 22nd—on the 23rd I went to the Great Northern Hospital, between 10 and 11 in the morning; I there saw the dead body of my wife, Jane Messenger—her brothers name is Samuel Bernard Anstace.

Cross-examined. I had never seen the prisoner before he left England—I did not see him till 18th March; I never knew his name before that—he told me that he had been 28 years out of England—I knew that he

had married my wife's elder sister, and that he had a grown-up family out in Australia, sons and daughters; he told me so, I did not know it otherwise; I did not know it from my wife, not before he came—he said that he used to do slipper-making in Australia, and his wife kept a dairy, and that he came home, leaving her there—I do not know how he had got the money to come home; I do not know at all what his means were, whether he was in a state of poverty there, or that he had a difficulty in getting the money to come home—my wife's brother was not stopping at my house when the prisoner came home; he did not come there till 2nd August; he arrived on Bank Holiday from Canada; he came to stop in the house, and stayed there till the 16th—we used all to be together; we had our meals together—the prisoner came to England to try to get an estate for the brother, Samuel Anstace, and for his wife, for the family; he thought the wife's brother Sam was dead when he came over, and he came to lay claim to the estate for his wife—I don't know exactly the date when he first knew that the brother was not dead; it was not soon after he came back, it was some time after—he was under the impression that the estate he had come home to claim was of enormous value—as far as I know, he believed that his wife's family were entitled to it; it was the constant subject of conversation on his part; it is an estate called the Stock well Park Estate; he used to say the value of it was close on 175,000l. a veer—he was a great deal with the brother; they were always together, talking on this subject—he was not in a feeble state of health when he came home; once or twice he said he had got a bad cold; he was not attended by a doctor indoors, he went to a doctor—he was not very unwell for weeks, that I am aware of; I know he went once or twice to the doctor, he might have gone when I did not know—I only noticed his trembling once, that was when he had the first letter from his wife—I did not take much notice of him myself, I was not much indoors with him—I did not know of the state of his health being considered dangerous, or of his having been advised to leave where he was—he never said to me that the scenes he had witnessed were too much for him—I heard my wife say once that she could not stand my treatment—I think that was about a week before she left home—I think it was said to an old lady who used to live with us—her brother has not spoken to me about my treatment of her—I am not aware that she was attended by Dr. Chalmers for injuries that she had received—she was attended by Dr. Chalmers, he was our family doctor; I don't know what for, only when she was confined; not for injuries that she had received that I am aware of—I heard after she went away that she had sought the protection of a Magistrate, but she told me when she came back that it was nothing of the kind—I do not know that it was her own brother who took her away; he and her went away together while I was at my work—I don't know that she left by the persuasion of the neighbours—I sought to find her—she came to see me on 8th October—I did not try to find out where he was that same night; I asked her, but she would not tell me where she was living, she would not even tell me the station she had to get out at—I did not prevent her going back again, because I wanted her to bring the child back with her—she had taken the child with her, and when she came back to me she brought the child—I did not like to prevent her going away then, because I wanted the things she had taken away with her, as well as wanting the child—I had no idea

where she was that night—I saw her brother the day of the funeral, not since—I saw him before that, and I asked him and he said he had not seen her—I believe he told me that more than once—I heard of her death on the Friday, about half-past 3 in the day—I did not leave off my work and go and see where she was; I was told where she was, it was not a stone's throw from me, and I thought I would go when I left off work, but I went next morning instead; I had to stop and make my book up and finish the work I had in hand, or I should not have got my money—I was too much upset to go that night; I went next morning—the prisoner did not do any work while he was at my house—at the time he left my house he was not in a very weak and feeble state that I am aware of.

SARAH DE BOO . I am a widow and live at 45, Stonefish Street, Notting Hill—on 8th August a friend of mine brought the prisoner and Mrs. Messenger, and her brother to my house; they wanted two rooms—I had but one to let—they came again on 16th August, together, about 3 o'clock in the day, and they continued to live at my house for seven or eight weeks—they had one common room, and Mrs. Messenger slept in my parlour—she had a child with her, and the child slept with her—they took their meals together in the common room—there was a bed in that room—the prisoner and the brother Sam slept in that bed—in the day time they were all together upstairs—Sam went out sometimes—the prisoner and the deceased were sometimes left alone in the upstairs room—I can't say exactly how long Sam stayed there; it might have been four or five weeks, be then left—after he left the prisoner and the deceased continued to occupy the upstairs room during the day time, she continuing to sleep downstairs with the child as before;—the child was between three and four years of age—I used my parlour in the day time, and I used to sleep there as well as the deceased and her child—the other rooms were occupied—in the morning the deceased used to go upstairs to the room where the prisoner was, when she had dressed herself—the prisoner left my house a week before Mrs. Messenger; he left on the Saturday morning as she left on the Thursday evening following, 21st October—between the Saturday and the Thursday the prisoner used to come to see her every day—she told me where she had taken a room for him—I never saw her again alive after she left on the Thursday evening—when I last saw them together they appeared to be on good terms, I never saw them any other way but on good terms.

Cross-examined. The deceased woman was brought to me by Mrs. Pegler, a cousin of the prisoner—the deceased's brother was there with her—I was told that the prisoner had come from Australia for some property—I was told a few days after that Mrs. Messenger had left her husband—she told me that he ill-treated her—she used to sleep in the same room as I did—I frequently spoke to her—she used to tell me that she had a very comfortable home—when they first came they wanted two rooms, I had not got them—Mrs. Messenger slept in my parlour—they were always upstairs together—the child was always with her—they talked a great, deal about the property—the prisoner went to work while he was at my place—he used to leave early in the morning, it might have been at seven—I think he returned in the evening sometimes about 9 o'clock—he might be getting on for 10—that did not continue up to the time he left the house, I think it was about a fortnight before he left he had

nothing to do—I did not notice the state of health he was in—he did not seem to be in a desponding state; I did not see much of him; I only thought he was strange, that was all; he would creep about the house so, come downstairs without his shoes, and I thought it was funny for a man to do that, I thought it might be because he should not make a noise—there was nothing else that I noticed strange about him—Mrs. Messenger told me one day that she had found a bottle of laudanum in his pocket, and she told me she threw it under the grate—no scene took place about it—she said when she told the prisoner of it that he said "Eh, what?"—she told me that she accused him of intending to poison her—they had been there some weeks when she told me this—I may have used the expression "he was in a terrible way," because she told me that he spoke in that style "Eh, what?"—I don't know whether that bottle of laudanam was destroyed, I did not see it—I only heard of its being destroyed; there was another one found a day or two before the deceased left—it was not shown to me—Mrs. Messenger told me she had found another bottle—she did not give it me, she told me where it was, and left it there, and I got it—she asked me whether she should throw it away or whether I would accept it—during the time they were there I never heard the slightest sign of quarrelling—when they first came the one thing that seemed to occupy the prisoner's mind was the claim to the property, but not so much at the latter part, after the brother left—I understood that when he left he went to one of his sisters, I am speaking of Sam—when the prisoner left he went to live at a milk shop dose handy, I can't think of the name of the street—I knew the deceased was going to leave, I think the next day after she had seen her husband, I knew it then for the first time.

Re-examined. When the prisoner came down without his shoes he did not go into the parlour—he went out to the back—the closet was at the back—sometimes it would be in the morning, sometimes in the evening—Mrs. Messenger told me that she had found this laudanum in the prisoner's pocket, and that she had accused him of buying it for her—she did not say why—I can't say for certain how soon that was before he left—I did not pay any attention to it at the time.

JOHN BRADLEY . I live at 25, Chatterton Street, Finsbury Park—I am agent to a railway company—on Friday, 22nd October, about 12.30 in the day, I was entering Finsbury Park from the Blackstock Road—I saw the prisoner there with a lady; they were entering by the same gate walking side by side—they took the path to the north of the inner circle of the park—I lost sight of them for a short time—I saw them again in from 10 to 15 minutes—they were then sitting on one of the seats opposite the lake—they were in conversation—I then made my way out to the park, it commenced raining—as I was going along I heard a report of a pistol—that was about four or five minutes after I had seen the prisoner and the lady sitting on the seat—I at once turned round and saw the lady running away from the prisoner towards me; he was running after her trying to catch hold of her—I ran towards them, and saw the prisoner fire at her breast—I saw the revolver; he had hold of the woman's shawl with his left hand and fired with his right—she fell on her knees, held her hands up, and appeared to implore the prisoner to spare her, and looked at him in the face—he fired at her again, he aimed at her breast; he was not more than three feet from her when he fired that shot—I was about 20 yards off—she then fell forward on her face—the prisoner then

threw his overcoat on one side with his left hand and put the revolver to his breast with his right hand and pulled the trigger and fired, he reeled for a short distance and fell on his side—two or three gentlemen came up—the prisoner got up again with the revolver in his hand and walked in front of the deceased and it fell out of his hand—she had fallen down and he stood in front of her, and walked backwards and forwards—a gentleman picked up the revolver and I took it from him just as the prisoner was making a rush to get it; he said, "Let me have it"—I sent for the police; a policeman came and I gave him the revolver—the prisoner was taken to the station—I went to the woman, she was still lying down, I saw that she was bleeding from the breast—when she was lifted up I saw a bullet, it appeared to come from her stays—I took it from the stays myself, just about the left breast, and I gave it to the constable—a doctor came and examined the woman, and she was assisted away to the hospital.

Cross-examined. I went into the park to walk about, I was not well at the time—from the time I saw them first till I heard the first shot was from 15 to 20 minutes—I did not hear what they said, but I could have done if I had paid attention; there was nothing to prevent my hearing if I had wished—there were very few people about—when he fired the third shot he was within 3 feet of her, and I was about 20 yards off, not more—he moved his coat aside and fired at his heart with very great coolness and deliberation; after he had shot himself the revolver dropped from his hand, he made an attempt to get it—it was not a struggle, he made a rush—the woman never spoke in my hearing.

JOHN ALLCOCK . I live at 2 Finsbury Park Villas—I am an attendant on an invalid gentleman—on Friday, the 22nd October, about half-past 12, I was in Finsbury Park, I heard the report of a pistol—I at once turned round and saw the prisoner firing at the woman, I saw him fire two shots at her with a pistol after hearing the report—he appeared to be close to her when he fired; after that he opened his coat, pointed the revolver at himself, and fired; he then dropped the revolver by his left-hand side, I picked it up with my left hand and gave it to Mr. Bradley—I saw the woman on the ground—I unpinned her shawl—her clothes were on fire—I extinguished the flame—I saw the bullet taken from the stays.

Cross-examined. I did not hear the prisoner make any statement, only ask me for the pistol; no expression of regret.

SAMUEL TAYLOR (Policeman Y.) At half-past 12 on 22nd October I was called to Finsbury Park—I there saw the deceased woman on the grass, apparently dying, the prisoner was standing by—from what was said to me I took him into custody—I told him "I shall take you to the station, where no doubt you will be charged with shooting that woman," he said "I shan't try to run away, as I have shot myself, and I am fast bleeding to death; "he pulled open his coat and pointed to a burnt mark in his waistcoat—Mr. Bradley handed me the revolver and also the bullet; shortly after, on the way to the park-gates, the prisoner tried to get the pistol out of my hand; he said "Give me that, so that I can finish the job"—a cab was called, and while I was handing the prisoner into it he took this knife (produced) from his breast coat pocket—it is a common butcher's knife, it had the appearance of having been lately sharpened—he threw it out of the opposite cab window—it was immediately picked up by a boy and handed to me—I did not lose sight of it—on the way to

the station he took from his pocket this box of cartridges (produced)—he said "I don't want to hide anything from you now;" I produce the revolver—the prisoner was taken to the station and thence removed to the hospital—after leaving the station, on the way to the hospital, as we were coming dawn the Caledonian Road, he said "Is that woman dead?"—I said "I don't know"—a little farther on, going down Southampton Street, he pointed out a house to me, and said "That is where her husband works"—I subsequently handed over the bullet, the cartridges, and the knife to my inspector, Mr. Macfadden—I was present when the revolver was examined at the station; in it were found four cartridge cases and two complete cartridges; it was a six barrelled revolver, two barrels were still loaded with cartridges, and four were discharged—the box purported to contain 50 cartridges, and six were gone—I remained on duty at the hospital while the prisoner was confined there as a patient; until he was discharged—on 23rd October, about 1.30 in the day, he made a statement to his cousin Mrs. Reed in my presence; I took it down; I have it here and produce it—he said "There was a certain object I had in view. I wanted to speak to her about it, and I took a tramcar to Finsbury Park for that purpose, with the full intention of doing what I have done if the interview with her was not satisfactory to me; the reason of my doing so no one on this living earth shall know."

Cross-examined. When he asked me if she was dead he did not say he hoped she was—he did not say that he had intended to shoot at his heart but unfortunately the ball had gone too low—I found out afterwards that the place he pointed out was the place where the husband worked—I did not hear him say at the hospital that he had killed the best friend he ever had in the world; I believe it was said—he was asked at the station where he lived; he described the street and the house, but did not know the name of the street or the name of the people with whom he was living—the place was afterwards found out—I don't know whether there is any one here from there.

JOHN MACFADDEN (Police Inspector Y.) I received from the last witness the articles mentioned by him, and also a pocket-book—at the station I asked some persons in the prisoner's presence who the deceased woman was, and the prisoner replied "She is Mrs. Messenger, and lives at No. 41, Edward Square, Caledonian Road"—the doctor in attendance re-marked in the prisoner's presence that the revolver was a new one, and the prisoner replied "Yes, I bought it this morning"—on 25th October I made inquiries about the revolver at Messrs. Bland and Son's, gunmakers, 106, Strand—a photograph and a pocket-book were found in the prisoner's greatcoat pocket at the hospital, and they were handed to me by Constable Taylor; it is the photograph of a woman—I produce two bullets, one handed to me by Mr. Wharry, the doctor, and the other by the constable Taylor.

Cross-examined. I found some letters at the prisoner's lodging,. 133, Walmer Road, Notting Hill—I found put the place in consequence of his description; he told me it was close to a Wesleyan chapel—a registered letter was received while he was at the hospital; it was from his wife, posted in Australia; there was an enclosure in it addressed to the deceased—the pocket-book has a number of things written in it, and addresses of lawyers and counsel; I have inquired of nearly all of them—in

the pocket-book there is this entry: "If anything happens to me, my address is William Herbert, Mrs. Pegler's, 91, Portobello Road, Netting Hill;" he never lived there, he had his letters addressed there.

MARK PARTRIDGE . I am manager to Messrs. Bland and Sons, gunmakers, 106, Strand—I remember on Monday, 25th October, Inspector Macfadden making some inquiries at our shop—a few days before that, I can't swear to the date, the prisoner came to the shop rather early in the morning; he said he wanted a revolver; he asked the price; I said we had none of our own make under two guineas; he said "That is much too dear for me, I want a much cheaper one;" he said that he was going to Australia, going into the bush., that he had been there before, that he did not want one for use, only as a matter of show, that he never had any occasion to use one, he wanted it to lay in his portmanteau in case of necessity, he might want to use it, he hoped he never should—I showed him a very common one, of a foreign make, and told him the price was 10s. 6d.; he said that would suit him—I sold him the revolver and a box of cartridges—I cannot identify this revolver; it was very much like this, and these cartridges would be the size for this revolver—they are similar to what I sold him—he paid for them, and took them away with him.

THOMAS COCHRANE . I live in Finsbury Park; I am the superintendent there—on Friday, 22nd October, I saw the woman lying there, and after the doctor had examined her I took her in a cart to the Great Northern Hospital; she died shortly after starting.

JOHN MACFADDEN (Re-examined by MR. GILL). I did not ascertain that the prisoner had been suffering from illness recently, I never heard it alleged until to-day—I did not make inquiries of Dr. Chalmers as to whether he had been attending him—I have said that from inquiries I had made. I believed that the address in the pocket-book was written some six weeks before, when he stated that he was a little ill; that was what the persons referred to said—I have said that I heard to-day for the first time of his suffering from illness; I meant illness to the extent of being attended by a medical man.

ARTHUR JAMES WHARRY . I am house surgeon at the Great Northern Hospital—on 22nd October, at 1.30 in the day, I saw the deceased woman, Jane Messenger, at the hospital; she was dressed—I examined her; on the right side of the body, in front of the chest, she was burnt; the dress was also burnt, the body and part of the stays; I think my hand would cover the space that was burnt; there was a corresponding indentation on the steel of the stays, and a bruise on the chest corresponding to that indentation; on the left side of the body I found holes in the dress and bodice, and a circular wound between the third and fourth ribs, about an inch inside the nipple—I subsequently made a post-mortem examination—I found that a bullet had passed through the chest, injuring the left auricle of the heart and the right part of the left lung, and become buried in the sixth rib. two inches from the spine; death was caused by the bullet injuring the heart and lung—I handed the bullet to the Coroner, and the Coroner handed it to Inspector Macfadden—the deceased appeared to be about 35 years of age, as far as I could judge.

Cross-examined. I have not studied the subject of insanity at all—I did so for the purpose of my examination, but I have not given my attention to it, nothing more than simply to pass my examination—I know

that there is a form of that disease known as melancholia, well recognised in the profession—a man may suffer from that for some time without showing any outward sign of positive madness—a suicidal tendency is an evidence of melancholia—I should not think that a homicidal tendency was so much so as a suicidal—I can't say that a suicidal tendency is a common result with a person suffering from that sort of insanity—disappointment may to a great extent produce melancholia, and different internal diseases will cause it.

Q. Are there many cases of persons suffering from melancholia where it has never been suspected that they were labouring under it until they have committed some act, such as an attempt at suicide?—A. I don't know that; I really cannot answer that; it is a subject to which I have not given much attention since my examination.

Re-examined. Melancholia is excessive low spirits, that is what it is.

FREDERICK JAMES GANT . I reside at 16, Connaught Square, and am senior surgeon to the Royal Free Hospital—on 22nd October, about 2 in the day, I examined the prisoner at the hospital—he was gasping for breath—I found a small triangular penetrating wound, two inches in a vertical line below the left nipple; blood was still trickling from it; there was a corresponding aperture in his jersey—the ball had traversed the chest, and has lodged there very deep—there was no second aperture; the ball was never extracted; it is lodged in his chest now—he remained under my care until he was removed, about three weeks after his admission—I believe he was removed on the morning of the day that he went to the police-court.

Cross-examined. His life was in danger when he came in—he had inflammation of the lungs and pleura on that side—I saw him within 10 minutes of his being admitted; it was my visiting day at the hospital—he did not tell me that he had killed the best friend he had in the world—I did not hear that statement—I am no authority whatever on the subject of insanity—I have practised surgery purely all my life—I have not given my attention to insanity at any time—I have had no such experience at all; not much even in reading; I really do not know anything of it; I practised purely as a hospital surgeon.

HENRY JAMES MESSENGER (Re-examined.)My wife was 29 years of age last April—this photograph produced is the image of her.

Cross-examined. About 10 years ago I heard of my wife's sister desiring her to go out and join her in Australia—I have heard of it recently, from the prisoner since he has been in custody, a desire on the part of the sister that she should join her there—I heard the prisoner say that he would never take the brother with him—I know that the prisoner used to write letters to his wife while he was at my house—I don't know whether he posted them or not.

JOHN MACFADDEN (Re-examined.) I see here a letter of 23rd August; the address on it is, "William Herbert, Esq., care of Mr. Messenger, 41, Edward Square, Caledonian Road, London, England"—it appears to have gone through the post; it has the postmark of Footscray, Victoria, August 24, and the London postmark of 2nd October—there is a letter contained in that envelope addressed to "My dear husband," and signed, "Your loving wife, Elizabeth Ann Herbert." (This being read stated:" I received your welcome letter together with the portrait, which I am very pleased to accept; Jane takes the shine out of me; I shall have mine taken again. I do not like it after hers, &c") I also produce

an envelope addressed in the same way, with the postmark of Footscray of 2nd September, and the London postmark of 14th October—it appears to have gone through the post, and is marked "registered"—it contains a letter, dated August 31, from the wife to the prisoner, with this passage in it: "When Sam arrives get him to send his likeness, and ask Jane if she has got another of hers, and to let me have it if she can spare it. Annie and Willie are going to have theirs taken and sent home."

FREDERICK JAMES GANT (Re-examined by MR. GILL). I am a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons—I saw a good deal of the prisoner in the hospital; he was my patient there—apart from the wound he appeared to be suffering from very great depression—he several times alluded to the attempt on his life—the second or third day after his admission he said that he was tired of his life; that it was no use my showing him the attention I did, to endeavour to restore him, he was tired of his life—that was the state of his mind during all the time he was there.


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