24th June 1901
Reference Numbert19010624-479
VerdictNot Guilty > unknown

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MR. MUIR and MR. BODKIN Prosecuted; and MR. GILL, K.C., and MR. CHARLES MATHEWS appeared for Bettinson, Douglas and Corri, and MR MARSHALL HALL, K.C., and MR. STEPHENSON for the other prisoners.

ALFRED BOXALL (Inspector, E). On April 22nd I got information as to a contest to take place that evening at the National Sporting Club; I went there at 8.25 p.m.—I saw all the defendants, and got from them the position they were to occupy—the principals were the deceased and Roberts; Bettinson is the manager of the club; Douglas was the referee; Corri, the timekeeper; Gutteridge, Lock and Chester, Smiths' seconds; and Baxter, Jordan and Greenfield, Roberts' seconds—I cautioned all the defendants that should any serious injury arise from the contest they would be held strictly responsible—none of them said anything; I acted under the general instructions in cautioning them—the room was prepared for the contest—there was an arrangement called the ring, which consisted of a platform raised 2ft. or 3ft. above the level of the floor—round it were arranged a number of seats for persons to sit and look on—on the platform there were posts with two ropes, one above the other, hanging between them—the posts were between 2ft. and 3ft. high—the ring was 16ft. square—the platform on which the ring stood was larger than

the ring, and extended about 18in. beyond the posts on each side—the posts were padded—the floor was also padded and covered with stretched canvas—after I heard of Smith's death I went and took a section of the floor padding; it is four thicknesses of felt—I saw both Smith and Roberts there that evening—they were dressed in their private clothes—next morning I received some information, and in consequence went to Charing Cross Hospital, and there saw one of the doctors—they would not let me see Smith—at 1 p.m. on April 24th I learnt that he was dead—I accordingly laid an information, and applied for a warrant, which was granted, and on the 25th the defendants surrendered at Bow Street—I received these gloves (Produced) from a man named Shepherd, the glove attendant at the club, also some copies of the club rules, and some of these pink notices of the intended fixtures for 1901.

Cross-examined by MR. GILL. This was my first visit on this occasion—I saw the club about 1891—the posts of the ring have cushions on them—I do not know if the men were protected with cotton wool; I was not present—these are 6oz. gloves—it has been the practice for years past that notice is given to the police when competitions and contests are taking place at the club—there are no boxing competitions in the Police Force.

JOHN TROUTBECK . I am the Coroner for Westminster—I held an inquest on the body of Smith—Bettinson, Douglas, and Corri were present at the inquest; their evidence was tendered—they had a solicitor representing them—I took down their evidence in writing; it was read over to them, and signed by each of them—(The depositions of Bettinson, Douglas, and Corri before the Coroner were here put in and read.) (MR. MUIR proposed to have Louis Sidney Darling's evidence read. MR. GILL submitted that it was not admissible, as it was not evidence MR. HALL objected to it, on the ground that only the best procurable evidence was admissible, and submitted that Darling's evidence was not the best procurable. MR. JUSTICE GRANTHAM considered that it would be best to call the witnesses, and not to read their depositions. )

Cross-examined by MR. HALL. The verdict of the Jury was "Accidental death."

Cross-examined by MR. GILL. This is the fourth inquiry I have had, and in each case these are the identical club rules; we discussed them in open Court, the police being present.

Re-examined. I have not compared these rules side by side with the rules in the former cases—I do not see in the former rules one about a man being disqualified for falling without receiving a blow.

GEORGE SHEPHERD . I am the glove attendant at the National Sporting Club—these gloves (Produced) are what are known as 6oz. gloves, and are the actual ones used in the contest on April 22nd.

Cross-examined by MR. HALL. Four-ounce gloves used to be used these were made 2oz. heavier—I think the change was made about 12 months ago; I do not know why; I suppose because the club thought they would be on the safe side.

EDWIN JOHN CHURCHILL . I am a gun-maker, of 8, Agar Street, Strand—I was present at the National Sporting Club on April 18th—I have been a member about three years—I saw the contest between Roberts and Smith—they were dressed in the usual way; in drawers,

socks, shoes, and gloves—the gloves were examined by the seconds and the referee before they were put on—I saw Bettinson there—he examined the gloves, and so did Corri—I am familiar with the rules of the club—this contest was under these rules—up to the seventh round I thought Smith was a little way ahead—in the seventh round Smith invited Roberts to get in a blow; he was leading off with his left, and he avoided a blow from Roberts; he went like this (Imitating the action), and came back on to the ropes; his head struck the ropes, and he doubled up and came under the ropes on to the floor—as he got up time was called; he went to his corner a little bit groggy, but nothing unusual—after the usual minute interval the men stood up again—I did not notice anything about Smith till he turned round to face Roberts; then I saw that he was dragging his right foot after him; when Americans are boxing they have a way of dragging their feet in that way to get a firm hold on something—they got to the right side of the ring while sparring—Smith's back was to the referee; he went down on his knee—I cannot exactly say what caused that—I saw Roberts strike a blow, but whether Smith wan struck or not I do not know; I believe he was; he rolled over—Roberts stood away—no other blow was struck—Smith was counted out—he got up with the assistance of his seconds and went to his corner—at the end of the 10 seconds the referee called out, "Out," and awarded the contest to the other man—the deceased became conscious; I see his seconds wipe him down and sponge him and help him to his room—I do not think the blows exchanged in the contest were at all hard; I have seen a great deal harder at the German Gymnasium, and at other boxing contests—it is usual in a boxing competition to strike hard blows—I should think they were striking as hard as they could to win the contest.

Cross-examined by MR. HALL. I used to box—the scoring is by points—the harder you hit, the more likelihood you have of getting through your opponent's guard—getting a blow in depends as much on your opponent's agility as on your blow—I think these two men were equal in skill—so far as I am aware, there is no advantage in a man using unnecessary violence; in fact, he would be militating against his own chances of success, because you want to keep your head cool and your hands handy, and also to keep your temper—I do not think in the last round that Smith got a blow; if he did it was very light—if he was hit it was on the chin—he was defending himself—it could not be called a knock-out blow by any exaggeration—in the seventh round he overbalanced himself in trying to get his balance—from first to last Roberts boxed perfectly fairly.

Cross-examined by MR. GILL. I have seen hundreds of contests—I was at the club when the Brigade of Guards and Lord Wolseley were there, and when his lordship made a speech—in a competition there would be a smaller number of rounds—I much prefer to see the punishment that soldiers get than men like Smith and Roberts—theirs is really scientific boxing—this contest was a scientific display—if a man was four and a half joints ahead in the seventh or eighth round it would be possible for his opponent to win by the end of the fifteenth—in this competition points were given for skill in guarding, slipping, ducking, or getting away, and the hitting should be quick—up to the seventh round both these men seemed to be as fresh as they were when they started.

Re-examined. Unnecessary violence would be a foul blow, or one below the belt.

LEWIS SIDNEY DARLING . I live at 132, Clapham Road—I was at the contest at the National Sporting Club on April 22nd as a guest—I understand the rules of the club—I saw Smith and Roberts in the ring—up to the seventh round Smith was the better on points; he was ever so much cleverer—so far as strength went, there was nothing to choose between them—they were both trying to hit hard—towards the end of the seventh round they both fell down in a corner of the ring, Roberts on top of Smith—I saw Smith's head on the rope for a second; then it slipped on to the floor—Smith lay down till Roberts got up, then he got up and time was called—the seconds ran in and helped each man to his corner—when Smith left his corner for the eighth round he did not appear so well as he had been; he appeared to be lame, and drew one foot behind him—the round began, and one or two blows were exchanged—after a little while Smith sank down and held the ropes with one hand—he did not fall as if he was knocked down; his knees were curled up under him in a sitting position—at the end of 10 seconds the referee called out "Out," and said that Roberts was the winner—Smith was attended by his seconds, and eventually was taken to the hospital.

WILLIAM HENRY DODD . I am House Surgeon at Charing Cross Hospital—I saw the deceased on his arrival there at midnight on April 22nd—he was unconscious, and suffering from an injury to the brain—we did what we could for him, but he died on April 24th—I was present at the post-mortem—he appeared to be a healthy man in every way—on the right side of his brain and under the membranes there was some blood, which covered the whole of the right side—it came from the vessels of the membrane of the brain—there was a clot on the brain—that had caused his death—there was a slight laceration on the lower and right side of the brain, which caused the bleeding—the original cause of the bleeding was the rupture of some vessels on the surface of the brain—the rupture must have been caused by some blow on the head—it would require a sudden blow, and if a man gets a sudden blow on the head the brain is thrown against the side of the skull by the jar—that might happen from a blow from the fist or a fall on the ropes or on the floor; but it must have been a padded object, because there was no mark.

Cross-examined by MR. HALL. There was no external mark corresponding with the cause of death—a man falling will make a natural effort to recover himself—if in falling to the floor he struck something between his head and the floor without expecting it, he would strike that object with more force than he would strike the floor, because he would not expect it—if Smith fell in trying to avoid a blow, and in falling struck his head on the rope, that would cause the injuries—people taking part in anything that produces excitement, like a walking race or a heated argument, are more likely to produce effusion of blood, but excitement alone is not sufficient, but it would produce the expansion of the blood-vessels, and render them more likely to be affected by a blow than a man who was quiescent.

Cross-examined by MR. GILL. There was no mark of any hard substance on the head at all.

By the COURT. If the rope was a hard one it would be likely to leavea mark—a fall on a rope which was not hard might cause the injury.

Douglas, in his defence, on oath, said that he had been interested in boxing since 1875, and since then had been present at many hundreds of contests and competitions; that he had judged at many amateur boxing competitions, and had seen a number of competitions and contests at the National Sporting Club, and had acted as referee there, and they were conducted under the same rules as the present contest; that on the night of the contest he cautioned Smith and Roberts about boxing fairly, when they both said, "Oh, there is no fear about that, sir; we are the best of friends, and we only want to see who is the better boxer"; that both were good boxers and equally matched, but Smith was the cleverer; that he did not notice anything the matter with Smith till the beginning of the eighth round, and then thought he was pretending, and before he could form a definite opinion he sank down on his knees; that a referee would not allow the contest to continue, where one man had got five points for 14 rounds out of 15, and the other man nothing; that there was no heavy fighting in this contest; that if there was no rule to make a man come up at the end of 10 seconds after being knocked down, it would be impossible to carry on the contest like this one; that he thought that unless a contest was very close, a man must know if he was leading or not; that he had never seen a man who could not box boxing with a man who could to nearly the end of a contest, in the hope of giving his opponent a knock-out blow; that without the 10 seconds rule a contest could not be decided, and that he had never before seen any fatal accident from boxing.

Evidence for the Defence.

GEORGE HENRY VYSE . I am President of the Amateur Boxing Association, and have been interested in boxing for the past 35 years—I was amateur champion in days gone by—I have acted as referee on many occasions, both in amateur and professional competitions, at the Championship of the Brigade of Guards, the Army Boxing Championship, the Oxford and Cambridge University Championship, and many others—I have also acted as referee on many occasions at the National Sporting Club—I am thoroughly familiar with the way in which contests and competitions are carried out there—I have never seen anything approaching a fatal result from boxing competitions—I do not think there could be greater care displayed than at the National Sporting Club—I heard Mr. Douglas give his evidence; he is accepted as an authority on boxing matters—I thoroughly agree with him in what he has said—a referee at the National Sporting Club is allowed a great deal of discretion; he can almost do as he likes—no shouting or anything of the kind is allowed while a match is going on—the referee has every opportunity of judging the contest—I think the rules of the club are perfectly reasonable and proper; they originated in our own amateur rules—we introduced the system of judging by points—I was not present on the night of the Brigade of Guards' display; they box under National Sporting Club rules.

Cross-examined. I have never been present at the Public Schools' competitions; I am not familiar with the rules under which they take place—there would be no difficulty in applying a rule which said, "No points are allowed for a knock-out blow"—I think there would be the greatest

difficulty in saying if a competitor is working for a knock-out blow—I know Colonel Fox; I do not know if he would put his name to a rule which could not be carried out—there would be no difficulty in carrying out the rule, "If a knock-out blow takes place by accident, the prize will be allotted to the competitors by their previous marks"—I have not seen the Scottish Amateur Boxing Rules; I do not think they have been in existence very long—there was not a joint discussion between our Association and the Scottish Association; they have never put themselves into correspondence with us—there would be no difficulty in carrying out this rule, "In the event of a knock-out blow, the round in which it occurs shall finish, and the marks for that round shall be awarded for the work done up to that point"—I do not think there is more inducement to a man to deliver a knock-out blow than an ordinary one.

Re-examined. A knock-out blow is a most difficult thing to do; it is more often an accident than not—I never recollect decisions by myself or Mr. Douglas being disputed.

By the COURT. If you want to hit quickly, you naturally hit hard—the only man I ever saw who could hit quickly and not hit hard was Jim Mace, and he is alone in the boxing world.

LORD LONSDALE. I am a member of the National Sporting Club, and have been interested in boxing for 25 years—I have seen a great deal of it—I know the club rules; they were all founded on the Marquis of Queensberry's rules—there was an exhibition of boxing for young men under 17 years of age, and it was found necessary, for the sake of endurance and minimising danger, to make certain rules, and the foundation of them was taken up by a committee—Rule 5 was the subject of careful consideration—it is a reasonable rule—it was made from a humane point of view—the Marquis of Queensberry came to the conclusion that a boy or a man who went down could, after a time, proceed; but the exhaustion was so great that it became dangerous, so the 10 seconds rule was made.

Cross-examined. The National Sporting Club rules were instituted to substitute science for brute force—I think that the rules which existed before the Queensberry rules necessitated a fight to a finish—I have attended some Public Schools' competitions—the rules are signed by Colonel Fox; they say, "Rough fighting will not be allowed"—I think that is the same as "roughing on the ropes," which comes under the head of wrestling. Rule 5 says, "No points are awarded for a knock-out blow; if a competitor is seen to be working for a knock-out blow he will be cautioned, and if he does not desist he will be disqualified; if, on the other hand, a knock-out blow takes place by accident, the decision will be awarded on the points already allotted to each competitor"; but who is going to find out if a man is working for a knock-out blow?

Re-examined. In the days of the prize fight a round took its own time; I believe it lasted till one of the men fell down, or was knocked down.

THE HON. VICTOR MONTAGUE . I am an Admiral—I have taken an interest in boxing for years—I have witnessed a great many contests and competitions at the National Sporting Club, of which I am a member—I know the conditions under which they take place; from what I have observed, they are conducted in a thoroughly satisfactory manner and with every care.

THE EARL OF KINGSTON . I am a member of the National Sporting Club, and am very keen on boxing—I have seen contests and competitions at the National Sporting Club—I know the conditions under which they are carried out from what I have observed there, and I think they are carried out with every possible care; I have seen men box there six or eight times—I was not there when the Brigade of Guards had their boxing competition there; I know it was held there.

Cross-examined. By belonging to the club, members can see the contests—I like watching them; that is why I joined—I think it is fairer with the 10 seconds rule, and I like it better.


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