12th September 1881
Reference Numbert18810912-770
VerdictNot Guilty > unknown

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770. JOHN EVANS (a soldier) was indicted for the wilful murder of Emma Thomson.


LOUISE FLUTANT (interpreted). I live at 4, Blyth Terrace, Lambeth, and am the wife of Edward Flutant, who is a clockmaker—about 1 o'clock on the morning of Wednesday, 17th August, I was on Westminster Bridge, going towards Lambeth; no one was with me—I first saw the prisoner in uniform on the bridge with a woman, about at the third gas lamp; they were talking—I did not notice what the words were—they were a little drunk—I passed by them, and then afterwards when they stopped, I stopped also, and saw they were playing together; she was getting up on the parapet of the bridge—the soldier assisted her in getting up and over the other side, the side next the water—her feet were first on the parapet, and afterwards suspended over the water—the prisoner at that time was holding her by the hands at the top of the parapet—I don't believe he was holding her to prevent her falling—I did not see that he held her hands, but I saw that he held her like that (describing)—his hands were not round her waist, but when she was over the parapet he took hold of her arms, and then he let her drop, and she disappeared under the water—I was two or three yards away when I saw this—after he let her fall he did not look over the bridge, but walked away at once—he then had a stick, which I had not noticed before, in his hand—he did not exclaim or cry out at all—I followed him, and called out "Police"—he walked in the direction of Charing Cross—I saw a coffee-stall man there, and spoke to a woman who was passing at the time—I afterwards saw the prisoner taken into custody—some days after I saw the body of the woman—I had not known her before—they were on the right-hand side of the bridge going towards Lambeth.

Cross-examined. I was dressed in black on that night—I saw no one else on the bridge at the. moment this occurred—I saw no cabs pass—I was very near them when the woman dropped, two or three yards, not 20—when I first saw them they were standing still—they were a good deal drunk; they were staggering about—I heard them talking as I passed—there was nothing to attract my attention—they did not seem cross with one another—I told the Magistrate they spoke like drunken people who did not know what they were talking about—I became frightened when I saw her suspended, but I thought they were playing, and I still thought so when I saw her on the other side of the parapet, up to the moment that she fell—I do not think so now—I did not speak to them; I was going to do so, and tell them not to play like that, when he had hold of her hands, but I had not time to do it—she 'got on to the parapet of her own accord; the prisoner did not help her, but he

assisted her in putting her legs over on the other side of the parapet by taking hold of the back of her dress by her waist, and then he was obliged to let her go so that she could put her feet down—he continued to hold her by the back of her dress until her legs were on the other sideof the parapet—I did not see him have hold of her round the waist at any time—when she was over the parapet he held her by the hands, and she was suspended—I said before the Magistrate "He took her by the waist, she slipped through his arms, and then he held her by the hands"—I did not exactly see her slip through—I was standing so that they could both see me all this time—after I saw the woman drop I said to him "What have you done?" he did not answer.

Re-examined. I did not hear anything said by either of them—they did not look angry.

By MR. AVORY. I did not see the stick in his hand before he went away—I did not see him stoop to pick it up.

By the JURY. I saw him holding her about half a minute on the parapet—he did not seem to pull the woman towards him; he let her go—her face was towards the prisoner.

By MR. AVORY. I said before the Magistrate she was obliged to turn round to look at him—she had to turn round to step over the parapet.

CHARLES TOWNSEND . I live at 2, Price's Court, Gravel Lane, Southwark, and am a cabdriver—on Wednesday morning, 17th August, between seven and eight minutes to 1, I was going with my hansom cab across Westminster Bridge, from the Lambeth side towards the Houses of Parliament, on the left-hand side; nobody was inside my cab—I noticed a soldier in uniform and a female on the bridge—the female was sitting on the parapet on the left-hand side, at about the fifth lamp-post past the centre—the soldier's arm was round the back part of her waist; she was facing him—seeing her without bonnet or shawl—directly I pulled up the soldier pulled her, and she jumped off, but when on the pavement the soldier was still connected with her by his hand round her waist—she doubled her fist, and hit him in the chest with her two fists—I heard no words between them, and drove on—I should say they were both sober—I cannot say whether they were in play or earnest; it appeared to me when I went away that they were in play; there were no words between them—I had seen neither of them before—I can't recollect the man now by his face—one female was walking up from the Houses of Parliament, and there were two females some distance behind her by the railing.

Cross-examined. When I saw the woman sitting on the parapet I thought the soldier's arm was round her waist to prevent her falling.

By the COURT. He could have prevented her from drowning herself if he wanted to—when I left them they were standing on the pavement; he seemed to pull her down from the parapet.

CHARLES HENRY CUDD . I live at 3, Holland Street, Brixton, and am a cabdriver—I was examined before the Coroner, but not before the Magistrate—on the morning of Wednesday, a few minutes before the clock struck 1, I was on Westminster Bridge with my hansom cab; I had a fare inside, and was driving towards the Surrey side—I saw a soldier in uniform with a woman having a lark together on the right-hand side; I thought he was trying to take liberties with her—they were on the pavement, leaning against the side, with her back to the parapet,

and her face towards him; he was close to her, he had his arm round her, and I thought he had his hand up her clothes—I said to him "If you are going to do the job do the job at once, don't play with the girl;" he looked at me—I spoke to the fare to call his attention to the soldier, and he said he wanted to get on—as I started on I looked back and saw the prisoner catch hold of the girl and lift her on the parapet; then he got away about a yard, and left her alone; she was sitting on the top by herself, with her face towards the road—I went on with the cab, and when I had got about five cab lengths past them I found the girl was missing—the soldier looked over at the place where the girl had been standing, and then walked away towards Westminster—I could not say whether they were sober or not—I knew neither of them before—the woman had no bonnet, and, I think, no jacket on—I put my fare down in the York Road and came back, but I saw nothing but cabs and people looking.

Cross-examined. I had only gone five cab-lengths when I noticed she was missing—I was walking, although the fare said he wanted to get on, till I saw the woman had gone, and then I trotted—I saw a woman dressed in black not far from them—she was about twenty yards off—I did not see anything to lead me to believe that the prisoner was going to hurt the girl, or that she was going to hurt herself.

FANNY MCGREGOR . I live at 33, Romney Street, Westminster, and am single—I was at a coffee-stall at the left hand side of the bridge past the clock-tower on Wednesday morning, 17th August, about 1 o'clock or just before—I knew the deceased by sight—she was an unfortunate woman—I do not know the prisoner by sight, but I saw him that night—I had first seen them together by the Abbey about a quarter to one, the worse for drink, and quarrelling as far as I could see—as I passed, I heard her tell him to go and b—himself—he made no reply that I heard—they were not walking arm in arm, nor steadily—I saw them turn the corner by the Houses of Parliament going towards the bridge—I never saw the woman alive again—when I was at the coffee-stall I turned round to drink my coffee, and the French lady came across the road—she was very excited and made a statement to me—I saw the soldier walking away very fast from the parapet of the bridge from the right hand side towards the Embankment—I did not speak to him nor hear him say any-thing till I saw him at the King Street Station; there I heard him say he had known the woman four years and a half—I afterwards saw the body of the woman at the mortuary—she was the same woman whom I knew as Emma Thomson.

By the COURT. He also said he had quarrelled with her and he had just made it up that night.

Cross-examined. This was in the police-station before the constable—they were both very drunk when I saw them by the Abbey, they could hardly stand.

By the COURT. I did not know her name—I knew her by sight and to speak to.

JOHN EDWARD SHELDON . I am a private in the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards—on the morning of 17th August, about 1 o'clock, was on Westminster Bridge, coming from the Lambeth side, on the right side, nearest Charing Cross; as I was coming over I saw the prisoner cross over the road from the centre of the bridge on to the same side as

I was—he appeared to be sober—I saw Mrs. Flutant running across the road; she looked at me, and I followed the prisoner—he walked along the Embankment towards Charing Cross—I went up to him—a constable was with me—he had got about 50 yards—I said to him, "What is the matter?"—he said, "I and a girl have had a few words, and she got on the parapet of the bridge and said, 'Shall I jump over?' and I said, 'Yes'"—the policeman then asked him whether he was in company with the female or not—he said, "Yes"—he asked where she was—the prisoner replied, "Over the bridge"—he appeared to be very cool and collected—he did not appear to me to be the worse for drink—the constable took him to the station—he was walking at an ordinary pace—I have been in conversation with him, but not long—the tide was running out.

Cross-examined. We have drunk together in the canteen—we were friendly—we belong to the same battalion, but he belongs to the Scots and I to the Coldstreams—I was out on leave on this night till 6.30 in the morning—I was in uniform—I was not examined before the Coroner; I was before the Magistrate—I was quite sober—I should say the prisoner was sober—he might have had a glass, or two or three, not too much—he did not appear to be walking to get away.

EDWIN WEST (Policeman A 196). About 1 o'clock on the morning of 17th August I was on duty by the Embankment, about 300 yards from the Clock Tower—I heard a screaming from the direction of Westminster Bridge—I at once went in that direction, and saw the French lady running from the direction of the bridge by the Embankment—she spoke to me—I saw the prisoner walking down the Embankment—Sheldon was not with me at the moment, he came up afterwards—I said to the prisoner, "Where are you going?"—he said, "Nowhere"—I said, "Were you in company with a female just now?"—he said, "Yes"—I said, "Where is she?"—he said, "She has jumped over the bridge"—I then told him I should take him into custody for throwing the woman over the bridge, and asked if he had done so—he said, "No"—he said they were having a few words, and she said to him, "Shall I jump in or not?" and he said, "Yes"—he did not say anything more—he had no doubt been drinking in the former part of the evening, but he was sober when I took him into custody—he appeared to understand what I said to him, and what he himself said—he walked as steadily as I could—I took him to the station, and the inspector saw him.

Cross-examined. I should say he had been drinking in the fore part of the evening by the appearance of his eyes, he seemed rather drowsy—he did not appear to have had too much—I had stopped the prisoner and had gone about 10 yards when Sheldon came up.

WILLIAM HENRY BAKER (Police Inspector A). On the morning of 17th August, at 10 minutes past 1, I was at King Street Police-station, when the prisoner was brought in by West—the first witness made a statement, and on that I asked the prisoner if he knew the name and address of the woman he was in company with—he said he did not—Fanny McGregor stated she had seen him in company with the woman in Parliament Square—he was then charged with causing the death of a woman, name unknown, by throwing her over the bridge—t read the charge over to him—he said, "I am not guilty of the charge"—he was sober then—I should say he had been drinking in the evening—he

appeared to perfectly understand what was passing—he was perfectly cool and calm—he answered the questions readily, and walked perfectly straight—the French lady said in his presence, "I saw him lift the woman up and throw her over."

Cross-examined. She was not at all excited when she made that statement—the parapet of the bridge is of iron, and very smooth and slippery, and about 3ft. 6in. from the ground—the prisoner had evidently been drinking, his eyes were glassy like a drunken man's eyes, but he was perfectly sober at the station.

ROSE DANIELS . I am an unfortunate girl, and live at 178, Albany Street, Regent's Park—on 23rd August I saw the dead body of Emma Thomson at the Mortuary at Stepney—I had known her for nine years—she was 25 years of age—she had spoken to me about committing suicide—I saw her about a month before 17th August—she said she was glad to see me, for she did not expect she should see me alive again; this was one afternoon on the Horse Guards' Parade, Whitehall—she spoke seriously, I thought she meant what she said—I said, "What reason have you for doing so?"—she would not give me any answer—she appeared unhappy—she had spoken to me a great many times about committing suicide—she came from Bristol—I saw her attempt to commit suicide about two months ago in Pye Street, Westminster, with a knife; she took it into the back yard and was going to cut her throat; she did not do it, we were in time to save her; I took the knife away from her—she was sober—she appeared to be serious in what she was saying—I have never seen the prisoner with her—I do not know him.

Cross-examined. I have seen her a great many times the worse for drink—she had only come out of prison a fortnight before this occurrence, she had been there 14 days.

CAROLINE BRIMS . I live at 99, Red Cross Street, Borough—I go out charing—I knew Emma Thomson—I saw her body at the mortuary—I saw her on the Tuesday night, about an hour before she went over the bridge, in Buckingham Palace Road, about 12 o'clock—I was talking to a friend there—she was alone—she asked me two or three questions—she had a bonnet on, but no jacket—she was not very sober—I did not see anything of the prisoner—I did not know him—she was living with me in Red Cross Street—I knew of her attempting to commit suicide twice; the last time was about three months ago—we were walking together over Westminster Bridge, and she said, "lam going to make a hole in the water"—this was about 11 on a Sunday night—she was sober—I asked her to come away with me, and she did; I laid hold of her and prevented her from doing it—she was against the parapet—she appeared to be in earnest—I caught her by the hand because I thought she would do it—she said she was jealous—I don't know what of.

Cross-examined. I had never seen the prisoner in her company—I knew him by sight.

ELIZABETH BENNETT . I am single, and live at 1, Queen's Place, Westminster—I knew the deceased for about two years—I knew she was acquainted with the prisoner—I have seen them together; he was in the habit of visiting her—I last saw her about three months ago—I don't know how long she had been with the prisoner.

Cross-examined. She was living in St. Ann Street between 10 and 11 months ago; that was the time I knew him visiting her—I have seen her in the company of other men, soldiers and others.

ROBERT MCNEIL . I live at 57, Maitland Street, Ratcliff—on the morning of 19th August, about a quarter to 5, I saw the body of the deceased in the barge lock of the Regent's Canal—I took the body to the mortuary—she had on a green coloured dress, but no hat or shawl.

GEORGE BAXTER PHILLIPS , M.R.C.S. I saw the body of the deceased at the mortuary at Poplar on Sunday, 21st, about 11 a.m.—I made a post-mortem examination—I should take her age to be about 25 or 26; the features were very much destroyed by decomposition, but the lower part of the body was perfectly free from decomposition, except the abdomen—there were no marks of bruises about the body inflicted previous to death—there were no signs of marks on the arms as if they had been grasped—the cause of death was spasm of the glottis; sudden death, not from drowning, but from falling through the air from the bridge; that was a sufficient cause, especially in a person so diseased as she was—there were not the usual symptoms of death from drowning.

Cross-examined. The lungs were very much diseased throughout, and adherent to the wall of the chest—the head and neck were very much decomposed, but the arms and body not at all—the hands were crushed; the bones were not broken; the skin was divided; that was done after death.

In reply to MR. JUSTICE LOPES as to how the case for the prosecution was intended to be presented to the Jury, MR. POLAND did not press it as one of a deliberate act of murder on the part of the prisoner, but that he encouraged and assisted the deceased in the act of self-destruction, and so was a principal in the second degree to that act.

MR. AVORY submitted that to constitute that offence there must be something in the nature of instigation and persuasion on the part of the prisoner to the deceased to commit suicide, and that a mere acquiescence on his part was not sufficient. MR. JUSTICE LOPES could not altogether agree with that suggestion, but the important question for the Jury was what was in the mind of the prisoner at the time.


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