WALTER STEPHENS.
12th September 1905
Reference Numbert19050912-709
VerdictMiscellaneous > no agreement

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709. WALTER STEPHENS, otherwise CYRIL DESPARDE (47) , Indicted for, and charged on the Coroner's inquisition with, the wilful murder of Edith Eliza Stephens.

MR. MUIR and MR. BODKIN Prosecuted; MR. HUTTON and MR. CURTIS BENNETT Defended.

ANNIE ROWLAND . I am the wife of Hezekia Rowland, of 10, Adelaide Road, Tranmere, near Liverpool—the deceased was my sister—she was about forty-five years old and had been married to the prisoner for about twenty years—I stayed with them several times when they lived in Jersey, I should think about ten years ago—they were very happy—the prisoner was doing nothing—he had been left a little fortune; I think he lived upon the capital—I last saw the deceased two years ago at Tranmere—

she was a telegraphist in the post office—I heard of her death from the hospital and came to London—I obtained a bag which was lying at King's Cross cloak-room—I did not recognise it as my sister's, but I did its contents—in the bag I found a card with an address on it which I should think is in the prisoner's writing, "Miss Huke, Ferndale House, 43, Princes Road Great Yarmouth"—she lets apartments—I do not know if you can come up from Great Yarmouth to King's Cross—I do not know if the deceased had been at Great Yarmouth or not—I paid 8d. for the bag at the cloak-room—I took it out on the Tuesday or Wednesday—it had been there I think, since Thursday, August 24th.

Cross-examined. The prisoner always appeared to be an affectionate and loving husband—I remember the deceased talking about her undergoing an operation; it must be quite fifteen years ago; she always said the prisoner nursed her through it as well as any woman could have done.

HELENA FRANCES MORRIS . I am the wife of Frederick Morris, of 62, Ormeley Road, Balham—I have been in the habit of doing housework for the deceased at 45, Honeybrook Road—I knew she went for a holiday to Yarmouth—I knew she was expected back at the end of the week in which she was killed—I also did some housework for Mr. and Mrs. Mackintosh, who lived at No. 44—on Thursday, August 24th, I went to No. 44 at 10 o'clock—I had not been there on the Wednesday—on the Thursday I went first to No. 45; I had been there on the Wednesday—I could not get in, the house being closed—I waited, but could get no answer, and Mrs. Mackintosh called me across the road and I did some housework for her—she lives opposite—I wrote this note (Produced)—Mrs. Mackintosh gave me the paper and envelope; I put it into the box at No. 45—I wrote the note and envelope in pencil—the pencil writing on the envelope is now rubbed off—there was no stamp on it; it is now stamped and has gone through the post—it went to the address, 44, Honeybrook Road, which is in type on the back (Read): "Mrs. Morris called at 10 o'clock as promised, but will call at I and see if Mrs. Stephens is in. Mrs. Morris"—I wrote again from home in the evening—the letter was delivered for me by a boy about 5 o'clock—this is the letter—I got no answer to either of the communications—I did not find Mrs. Stephens at home—the latest that I called on the 24th was 1 o'clock—when I did the housework for Mrs. Stephens she and the prisoner always appeared to be very affectionate—I have been working for them for five months—I went there once a week, sometimes once a fortnight—as far as I know, the Mackintoshs and the Stephens were friendly; I have never seen them in each other's house or speaking to each other.

By the COURT. The first time I spoke to Mrs. Mackintosh was when I went over on that day and she asked me to do something for her while I was waiting—I never did any work for her before—the Stephens kept no servant—they had a flat of four furnished rooms—they had no children.

WILLIAM ROLAND OLIVER I am manager for Mr. Greener, gunmaker, in the Hay market—on August 24th, between 2 and 3 p.m., the prisoner came in—he was perfectly sober as far as I could tell; I noticed nothing peculiar about him—he said, "I want to purchase a revolver," or "Show me a

revolver"—I said, "There is a case of revolvers; what might you want one for; a large pattern or a small one?"—he said, "Oh, I suppose a small one"—I said, "The email ones are there," and I got some out and showed them to him—he rather equivocated about the price and said, "It is rather a high price"—I think I showed him a three guinea one, and then I showed him this small one (Produced), price £1 15s. 6d.—I asked him what pattern for abroad or for house protection, and he said, "House protection"—after he had selected it I said, "Will that do?"—he said, "Yes, that will do. I want some cartridges"—we keep a pistol's register, and before he selected one I asked him if he had his licence—he said, "I have not it by me"—I said, "It will be necessary for me to see it"—I asked him for his card and he gave me this one, "Mr. Cyril A. Desparde, E. I. and S. Laundry, Ltd., 36, Eastbourne Road, Acton, W."—he said, "I have not got the licence, but I can get one," or something to that effect—I said, "Yes, when I see it I can sell you the revolver"—he said, "Very well, I will get one"—I think he said, "I suppose I can get one at a post office," and I may have said, "Yes, sir," or something to that effect—he left the shop—that was before he said anything about the cartridges, I think—he came back in about an hour and produced this gun licence—we have to take a note of it in our register—the name on it is," Cyril A. Desparde," and it shows that it was purchased at 2.55 p.m. on August 24th—when the revolver was selected he said, "I shall want some cartridges"—I am not sure whether it was on his first or second visit or on both that he spoke about the cartridges—I said, "Do you want bulleted cartridges, sir, or blanks?"—he said, "Bulleted cartridges"—I sold him a box of 50 exactly like this one—it looks as if five had been used from this box—I gave the prisoner a receipt for £1 18s.—the revolver is operated entirely by pulling a trigger and releasing it—it is what we call a double action revolver.

Cross-examined. When he left the shop a second time I made the remark to the proprietor that I thought it a little strange by the way he held my arm to wish me good-bye—unless I know a customer he does not shake hands with me as a rule—when Tasked him whether he wanted ball cartridges he said, "I am absolutely certain I want bulleted cartridges."

ARTHUR JOHN SPENCER . I live at 42, Honeybrook Road, Clapham Park, which is almost directly opposite No. 40—I know the prisoner and his wife by sight only—I have been there about two years—I have seen them coming in and out-together—as far as I could see they appeared to be on good terms—on August 24tb, at 10.15 p.m., I was indoors bolting the front door when I heard a noise which seemed like something striking my door—I immediately opened the door and saw the prisoner, whom I recognised, firing at a woman—I did not know that she was his wife—she saw me at once and ran towards me and I assisted her into my house and shut the door—she was very excited, but not seriously hurt—she made some remarks, but they were all like, "Help me"—I assisted her upstairs, sat her down in the chair and give her a little brandy and then I rushed down for the police when I found they were already at the gate—they came in and took charge of the case at once—next morning I found a

bullet on my kitchen floor where the deceased had been sitting—it was in a pool of blood—it was a bullet very like this (Produced)—I do not think the prisoner moved many steps away from the place where he fired the shots—he was on the pavement right opposite his own house and not more than 10 feet from the deceased—the houses have small gardens in front of them—he was in front of the little garden—I heard a report before I opened the door and I saw two flashes.

JOHN BAVOILLOT (263 W.) On August 24th, about 10.15 p.m., I was on duty in Honeybrook Road when I heard five pistol shots and saw some flashes—I ran towards the spot and saw the prisoner standing still in the centre of the roadway, about 50 yards from No. 42—I went up to him—he said, "Yes, here I am. I done it; I will give myself up"—I asked him where the revolver was—he said, "Over there." pointing to a wall—I told him I should take him into custody, and I took him towards the station—on the way we passed Mrs. Mackintosh's house, No. 44, and the prisoner said, "Mrs. Mackintosh, you are my murderer"—he spoke in rather a loud tone—that is the only observation he made on the way to the station—he was charged, and made no reply.

FREDERICK SMART (855 W.) On August 24th, about 10.15 p.m., I heard some shots in Honeybrook Road—I went there and saw the last witness with the prisoner in his custody—in his hearing the constable said that there was a revolver on the other side of the wall belonging to a Mr. Knight, a builder—I got over the wall and found this revolver; it has five chambers, and there were five discharged cartridges in them—they correspond with the cartridges in this box.

A. J. SPENCER (Re-examined). The woman had a little rush basket and a cloak over her arm and a sunshade, as if she might have been travelling.

HENRY WORLOCK (511 W.) On August 24th, about 10.15 p.m., I went to 42, Honeybrook Road, and found the deceased in Mr. Spencer's kitchen—shortly after I got there Dr. Edwards came, and by his direction I took her to St. Thomas's Hospital—she only complained of her heart—I took with me the blouse and skirt which the doctor had removed—I afterwards gave them to my inspector.

HENRY HERBERT JOHNSON EDWARDS . I am a medical practitioner, of 1, Poynders Road, Clapham—on August 24th I was called to see the deceased at 42, Honeybrook Road—she was sitting in an armchair in the kitchen—she complained of great pain in her left side—I examined her and found four bullet wounds; one in the middle line of the body just below the throat, on the level of the upper border of the chest bone, another an inch and a half above the bend of the left elbow, and another on the left elbow, and the fourth on the top of the right buttock—I was unable to find any bullet in the chest wound by probing—it appeared that the two wounds on the left arm had been caused by the entrance and exit of the same bullet—the wound behind was rather a scrape than a serious wound—bullets the same as this might have caused the wounds—round the wound in the chest and also near the wound on the arm I found marks of burning, and from those appearances I should think the pistol was discharged

from about 4 to 6 feet away, but I cannot say with any degree of certainty—I recommended her removal to the hospital.

BERNARD HYAM , M.R.C.S. I am casualty officer at St. Thomas's Hospital—I saw the deceased on her admission about 11.15 on August 24th—I have heard the description of the wounds given by Dr. Edwards, which is correct—I probed the wound in the chest, but was unable to find any bullet—I did not at first consider her injuries to be serious, but a little later there was a swelling on the side of the face and a pain in swallowing, and next day she spat a small quantity of blood—she got weaker, and was in a state of collapse, and on the 25th, about 3.30 p.m., I communicated with the police—her condition was serious at that time—it could not be said definitely whether she would recover, but her condition was obviously a serious one unless she made a turn for the better—I last saw her alive about 4.15 p.m. that day—the police arrived after that and she died about 1 o'clock next morning—a few days later I made a post-mortem examination, and found that she was a healthy woman generally—I traced the course of the wound in the chest, and found that it had passed through the gullet, struck the left side of the spine, grazed the top of the left lung, injuring it sufficiently to create difficulties in breathing, and just behind the lung I found this ballet (Produced)—the cause of death was directly traceable to that wound, and was the immediate cause—the wounds on the left arm were the entrance and exit of one bullet—from the position and the direction that wound took I think her arm was held up to protect herself, and I think the shot was from behind; there was scorching at the back—the other wound must have been from the front—when I had last seen her she was quite conscious.

TOM ANDREWS (Detective-Sergeant). On August 24th I was at the Balham police station when the prisoner was brought there in custody—after he had been charged he said, "I want a letter produced by Mrs. Mackintosh, 44, Honeybrook Road, because I want to see the contents. It was addressed to Mrs. Stephens, 45, Honeybrook Road, delivered by hand. I do not know the contents of that letter, but I want it produced in evidence at my trial. The letter I put two half-penny stamps on and posted it. It had a printed address on the back. I rubbed out the address in front"—next morning Mackintosh came to the station and I received from him this letter and envelope—it was sealed down, and had originally been addressed in pencil to Mrs. Stephens—on the 25th I went to St. Thomas's Hospital in consequence of a police telegram—I saw the house surgeon and the deceased, and took a statement in writing from her—she was in a very collapsed condition and scarcely able to speak.

[MR. MUIR said that he did not think he could put the statement in evidence, as the statement, "Do you make the statement with the fear of death before your eyes?" was stated not to be sufficient to make it admissible. Reg. v. Gloucester].

Cross-examined. There were two letters written by Mrs. Morris—no letter was written by Mrs. Mackintosh.

JAMES SAVAGE (inspector W.) I was at Balham police station when the prisoner was brought there, and in his hearing the constable said,

"This man has shot a woman in Honeybrook Road with a revolver"—I said, "Where is the revolver?" and the prisoner took a box of cartridges from his coat pocket behind, handed it to me and said, "I am very sorry," and then after a pause, "I threw the revolver away"—I went to Honeybrook Road, made some enquiries, and then returned and charged the prisoner with attempting to murder his wife by shooting her with a revolver—he made no reply—he gave his name as Walter Stephens, known also as Cyril A. Desparde, of 45, Honeybrook Road—he sad he was a commission agent—I received this revolver from another constable and took from it five discharged cartridges—in this box there are forty-five undischarged, which make up the fifty which the box contained—I searched the prisoner and found upon him a gun licence, a receipt for the revolver, this pawn ticket marked D, dated August 24th, 1905, showing that Mr. W. Stephens pawned a chain on that day for £1 with Mr. Bravington, of 27, Wardour Street—I found a quartern bottle nearly full of brandy, (Produced) and also this letter and envelope—it was then sealed down—the prisoner opened and read it (Read): "62 Ormeley Road, Balham Dear Madam,—I came up this morning at 10, then again at 1 o'clock, but you were not in. Will you kindly let me know if I am to come to-morrow, Friday, and what time, and oblige, Yours respectfully, H. Morris"—the envelope is addressed, "Mrs. Stephens, 45, Honeybrook Road, Cavendish Road"—the prisoner appeared rather vacant, as if he had been drinking for several days, but I did not consider him drunk then—he stood erect in the charge room and answered every question I put to him as regards his name—he could walk perfectly—he smelt of drink, and from his appearance I thought it was desirable to send for the divisional surgeon and Dr. Needham came—from another constable I received some clothes belonging to the deceased; they have bullet holes in them corresponding to the wounds.

Cross-examined. The prisoner walked to the station—I thought he appeared very vacant in his manner—I have not made enquiries about his past; Inspector Allen has—I have heard that he was twice locked up in Jersey on account of his mind eight or ten years ago—he was detained as a lunatic, but I cannot say for how long, and also since at Peckham.

Re-examined. I got my information from the police report. [This stated that the prisoner and his wife had lived in Jersey in 1894 and 1895; that he was of intemperate habits; that his wife left him, and th-e police were informed that hit house was on fire; that the prisoner was found to have set it on fire and he was removed in a state of delirium tremens and was confined in a lunatic asylum from November 28th until December 2nd. 1895].

JOSEPH NEEDHAM . I am police surgeon of the W Division of the Metropolitan police, and in consequence of instructions from the Balham police station I went there at 11.30 p.m. on August 24th—on entering the receiving room I saw the prisoner standing at the desk with a number of officers, and not knowing for what purpose I was called I stood aside to watch the proceedings—I recognised the prisoner as a stranger and observed he was answering questions quietly without excitement, very deliberately, rather vascilliating, and not knowing quite what he wanted, and asking

the inspector to take certain evidence and statements and then wishing them to be erased—finally the inspector, having completed his work, asked me to see the prisoner—I began to put questions to him, but he objected to answer me because of the publicity of the position—I thereupon took him into the corridor of the cells and spent a considerable time talking to him and examining him—I found him suffering from chronic alcoholism, but it that moment he certainly was not drunk in the ordinary accepted term—he showed the usual signs of deep drinking—he was very deaf with one ear and partially so with the other—he answered all my questions slowly and rationally, with the exception of those relating to a letter which he alleged he had received that day addressed to his wife—to this letter he attached great importance, at the same time admitting that he did not know its contents—he mentioned Mrs. Mackintosh's name, but made no statement concerning her beyond saying that the letter had emanated from her residence and he said the letter would explain its contents—I then left him and made my report in the book—I enquired into his sleeping habits because I suspected mental trouble, he said he had slept during the last few nights and told me he had been drinking during the day and had spent some hours riding about on tramcars—he volunteered the statement that he had had a disappointment that morning in business which had not gone well—he became very communicative and told me a great deal of his past life—we did not refer to the charge against him except that he said the letter would explain all this trouble.

Cross-examined. That was the letter which came from No. 44—I came to the conclusion that his mind was unhealthy, and I immediately expressed the opinion that I thought it was a mind which should be enquired into—I put it into my note in the Occurrence Book, so that the Magistrate should see it—I was simply judging from his conversations and the answers to my questions—I had been informed that the woman was wounded—apparently he had no motive—he told me that they had lived on affectionate terms for twenty-three years—he volunteered that statement.

Evidence for the Defence.

THEODORE ADOLPHUS . I am the medical superintendent of the Constance Road Infirmary, Dulwich, in Camberwell Parish—I remember the prisoner being admitted to the lunacy ward there on August 15th, 1898—he was first placed in the padded room on the night of the 20th at 10.30 p.m. and remained there until 7 a.m. next morning—the next night he also was in the padded room from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and he remained there the whole of the next day and the next night—on the morning of the 23rd he was taken out at 9 a.m.—he was under my care from the 15th to the 29th, when he was discharged—he was sent there by two Magistrates and they considered that he was not mad enough to be sent to an asylum—I recommended that he should be sent to a lunatic asylum and I marked the register, which I have here, when he left that he was not fit to take his discharge.

Cross-examined. Under the lunacy laws we can only keep a person for fourteen days and then only by the order of a Magistrate and the Magistrate can only detain him if he sends him to an asylum—if I could have

done so I would have kept him—he had attacks of mania which had every appearance of acute delirium tremens and he was extremely violent—the acute stages of delirium tremens pass away very suddenly and the patient becomes perfectly rational, but the finer faculties are permanently impaired—in such a case a man to all intents and purposes is sane after the acute stage has passed away, and I should think that that stage of sanity would have been reached in the prisoner's case if he had been kept in our custody about another month; I think a month in an asylum would have done him a great deal of good—I was rather doubtful about letting him go out—I do not think that he should be kept for ever in an asylum.

Re-examined. Extensive drinking would bring on attacks of delirium tremens which would be likely to permanently injure the brain—in medical opinion a great deal of the insanity at present in the lunatic asylums is due to drinking.

By the COURT. I have known nothing of the prisoner since.

JAMES SCOTT . I am the head medical authority at Brixton prison—the prisoner has been under my care since August 25th—I have not found direct evidence of his suffering from delusions, but he was evidently suffering from the effects of prolonged drinking—since he has been under my care the physical signs have passed off to a large extent—he told me that he had been sent to observation wards three times—long intemperate habits would weaken a man's mind—he would not discuss the letter with me—I cautioned him, as I always do, that I did not want him to give me anything in confidence, as I might be obliged to use it in the witness box—I asked him about the letter, and the purchase of the revolver, and the disappointment in business, and he said he would rather not discuss those with me—he said in a vague way it was all due to drink—I have heard Dr. Needham's evidence and without coming to the conclusion that the prisoner had mental delusions it is difficult to explain his conduct, and nothing I have heard in the evidence has shown any ordinary motive for his act—I said in my report, "It is impossible to deny that the prisoner may have had mental delusions"—that would be due to drinking—the letter which Dr. Needham mentioned struck me as a delusion of suspicion, which is very common in alcoholics.

Cross-examined. If the prisoner believed in what he said about this letter I should consider it a delusion—delusion of suspicion is a common term used with regard to mental diseases and a very common form with people who have such delusions—they suspect others of conspiring against them to hurt them in some way—in the case of husband and wife the delusion frequently is that of infidelity or trying to poison—that is not an uncommon delusion in alcoholic insanity—I think that on August 24th the prisoner was under the influence of delusions, the result of prolonged drinking.

By the COURT. If you thought a man robbed you of a £5 note and you killed him because you thought he had robbed you, I should not call you insane; but as regards these facts there seems no foundation on which one can base an opinion; I have listened carefully to the evidence and

I have detected nothing which could give rise to these delusions—my idea of a delusion is a false idea—a sane person may have a false and baseless suspicion, but his reason will control his conduct.

By MR. MUIR. Many a person has a false idea that another person has done him some injury, but I should not necessarily call that person insane, but with the insane their ideas take a much stronger hold and frequently guide their actions—in judging of insanity you must make up your mind first of all whether the patient's belief is false and baseless, and if you find there is such a false and baseless belief on the part of the patient, it gives rise to the idea in your mind that he is insane; it is one of the leading and chief symptoms of insanity—I have not detected any insanity in the prisoner while he has been under my observation—as to this hallucination, he declined to discuss it with me altogether, and I had no opportunity of arriving at an independent opinion upon that, and I had no right to force him, as I might be trying to force a confession of guilt—on August 24th from the mental condition he was in I do not think he knew the difference between right and wrong—I think he knew the nature but not the quality of his act—chronic long drinking blunts the moral sense to a very great extent.

The Jury, being unable to agree, were discharged without giving a verdict, and the trial was postponed to next Sessions. The COURT considered that more might have been found out about the prisoner, and that Mrs. Mackintosh might haw been called to say what the knew about the deceased.

Before Mr. Justice Bucknill.


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