10th July 1805
Reference Numbert18050710-26
VerdictNot Guilty > non compos mentis

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457. THOMAS FISHER was indicted for the wilful murder of Ann his wife .

SUSANNAH BERLEYSAN sworn. - Q. Where do you live? - A. No. 13, Mount-pleasant, Cold-bath-fields, near Gray's-inn-lane .

Q. Did the prisoner, Thomas Fisher , live in that house? - A. Yes.

Q. What was his business? - A. A gun-lock smith .

Q. Did you know the deceased, Ann Fisher ? - A. Yes; she was his wife.

Q. Were you a lodger in the house? - A. Yes, Mr. Fisher was master of the house.

Q. In the beginning of June last, do you remember being with Mrs. Fisher, drinking tea with her? - A. Yes, it was on the 3d of June, on Whit-Monday, I was drinking tea with Mrs. Fisher in the front parlour, it was about five o'clock when I first sat down.

Q. The prisoner Fisher was not with you? - A. No.

Q. Did he come at the time that you were drinking tea? - A. Yes, as I supposed it to be him, I did not see him, he came to the front parlour-window, the shutter of which was put to to keep the sun from her; I saw one of the shutters pulled back, when instantly was broke a small pane of glass, we supposed it to be Mr. Fisher that did it; I did not see him. The deceased, Ann Fisher , had bolted the door of the shop; Mr. Fisher, as I supposed came to the parlour-door and asked for the key of the shop; I knew his voice; Mrs. Fisher just opened the door enough to give it him, she shut the door and bolted it again; I heard the person go out into the yard and go up stairs, then he came down stairs to the parlour-door again, and said, will not you let me in.

Q. Who was it that said that? - A. Mr. Fisher: she answered, no; then the deceased stood against the door, he tried to force the door open, and instantly he went from the door, I heard the back window go up; Mrs. Fisher, the deceased, then went from the door into the back parlour to prevent him from shoving the window up; I only saw her leave the door, she said, he should not come in; I heard fire-arms go off instantly.

Q. Did you hear any thing said? - A. No, not a word.

Q. Upon hearing fire-arms go off what did you do? - A. I instantly called her three times, and no answer was made me; I then thought she might have hid herself under one of the beds or in one of the beds; I looked inside of the room and saw the blood flowing down on the floor.

Q. Did you see the woman? - A. No, I never saw the woman after she left me and went out of the room, I instantly got out of the front parlour-window and went into the adjoining house, to call assistance, and nobody came to my assistance; I fetched the doctor afterwards; that is all I know of the affair.

Cross-examined by Mr. Knapp. Q. I wish you would try and recollect yourself - Do not you recollect that she made use of some expression in the course of the afternoon, that she would have no devils in there? - A. That is what she said during the afternoon, not at that present moment; I looked upon it that she meant the prisoner, I took her meaning as such, and that was her expression.

Q. Then you heard her say that she did not mean to have any devils in there - You had been lodging there sometime? - A. About sixteen months as near as I can say.

Q. Can you give us any reason why she used the word devils? - A. He had been seen apparently deranged at times.

Q. Did it happen frequent? - A. Yes; frequent in the dead of the night, I have seen different transactions going forward.

Q. How long had you observed that before this fatal accident took place? - A. About a fortnight before this took place.

Court. Q. What took place about a fortnight ago? - A. He went up and down stairs in the dead of the night, singing and tearing.

Q. What do you mean by tearing? - A. Going about singing and going into the rooms and tearing the lines down.

Mr. Knapp. Q. Did the conduct that you have been talking about, namely, singing in the night, continue during the whole of the fortnight? - A.

Sometimes it was once or twice a week, and sometimes it was two or three times a week.

Q. Then from the whole of your observations with respect to his conduct at different periods, it did not appear to you that he had the right possession of his mind? - A. I do not suppose that he had.

Jury. Q. Was his general conduct sober? - A. I cannot say any thing with regard to that, I never noticed whether he was sober or not.

Court. Q. You say you looked in the back-room, was there any smoke in the room at the time you heard the report of fire-arms? - A. The place was full of smoke apparently, which I took to be from the fire-arms that went off.

Q. Did it smell of gunpowder? - A. Yes.

JOSEPH UNDERWOOD sworn. - I live at No. 7, Pool's-buildings, Cold-bath-fields.

Q. How far is that from where the prisoner lives? - A. About thirty yards; on Whit-Monday, I was alarmed by a child that Mrs. Fisher had been killed; I went to Fisher's house, I saw the prisoner sitting in the corner of the front parlour; I then went to the back-room, where lay the deceased, the wife of the prisoner, about two yards from the window; her left eye was forced out of the socket and laying upon the left temple, and a great quantity of blood had issued from her head; she appeared to be apparently dead. I went a little way from the prisoner's house, where I met Mr. Rice, an officer, whom I informed that Mr. Fisher had shot his wife; he requested me to go back with him, and he would take the prisoner into custody; I went back with him, the prisoner was then sitting in the same chair as before; I then went to the back-room and saw the deceased, and came to the front room and asked which was Fisher; upon being informed, he was requested to stand up to be searched: I then went afterwards to the back shop to look for the pistols.

Q. Was he searched? - A. Yes, he was; and a large knife and a small one was found on him; a man of the name of Lagan, said, Fisher, I never thought you would have done this; the prisoner replied, he had done it; I then went to the back shop to look for the pistols and could not find them, I was coming from the back shop and I met Mr. Wood the officer, I went back with him again, and on the second search, Mr. Wood found two pistols at the further end of the shop, in a barrel of scraps of old iron; one was apparently discharged, the other was not, it appeared to be damp, and it was black at the muzzle and there was some blood on the pistol.

Q. Was Fisher sober at the time? - A. He appeared very much agitated, his eyes were darting from one subject to another in the room; he looked very wild, he did not appear to be intoxicated.

THOMAS WHITE sworn. - I am an officer belonging to the Police-office, Hatton-garden.

Q. In consequence of your being informed of the prisoner's wife having been killed, you went to the prisoner's house? - A. I did; when I got there I saw a great mob about the door; I went in company with Wood.

Q. Do you mean the last witness Underwood? - A. No, Wood an officer belonging to Hatton-garden-office; when I went in I found the prisoner sitting in the front parlour, I secured him with a pair of handcuffs, and then went backwards and saw the deceased lying upon her back; she was quite dead, and a great quantity of blood all round her head; I then came back and stopped with the prisoner till Wood went and searched for the pistols, which I believe he found.

Q. Did you examine and see where the wound was? - A. Yes, the ball had entered in at the left eye apparently. In taking the prisoner to Hatton-garden, I asked him why he was guilty of such a rash act; he said, it was done through the heat of passion.

GEORGE WOOD sworn. - I am an officer of Hatton-garden; I went with the last witness to secure the prisoner, understanding his wife was killed; after the prisoner was secured, I went into the shop to look for the pistols; I searched the shop all round, at last I found them in a corner of the shop, in an old barrel with some old iron, just behind the forge where he worked, they lay on the top of the iron; they were all over blood both of them, (I produce the pistols) this pistol appeared to have been just discharged, it was quite damp and black in the mouth.

Q. Was the other loaded? - A. Yes; I opened the pan, I will not be positive whether it was primed or not, or whether the priming fell out at the time I opened the pan; they seem not to be finished pistols, they are not stocked.

Q. Did you see the other examined before the Magistrate? - A. I drew the charge before the Coroner, it was loaded with this ball (producing it.)

ROBERT RICE sworn. - I live at No. 13, Pool's buildings, Mount-pleasant.

Q. In consequence of an alarm that Mrs. Fisher had been shot did you go to this house on Whit-Monday? - A. Yes; I went into the back parlour and saw the deceased lying on the ground, I viewed the body and perceived that she was wounded in the left eye, and a vast quantity of blood lying about her; I then asked which was the prisoner; they told me in the front room; I found him sitting with his right hand bleeding; I then asked him to stand up and desired one of the men who stood by to hold his hands while I searched him; I was endeavouring to know if he had any pistol about him; I took two knives from him and a pair

of spectacles; I asked him how he could be guilty of such a rash act, and where he had put the pistols; he at last answered me, that he did not know; I asked him two or three times how he could be guilty of such a horrid crime; he said, it was aggravation; two officers of Hatton-garden came in and White put the handcuffs on him and took him to Hatton-Garden.

SARAH BLUNDLE sworn. - I am a neighbour of the deceased; I went into the back parlour and saw her laying with the blood about her near the door where she died; the prisoner was sitting in a chair in the front parlour; I asked him why he had done such a thing; he made me no answer at all; I staid till the surgeon came.

Cross-examined by Mr. Gurney. Q. How long have you known this man? - A. I have lived in the neighbourhood nine or ten years; I have known him as a neighbour.

Q. From the observations that you have made of his conduct did he appear to be a man in his mind or not in his mind? - A. I cannot say much about that.

Q. What you can say about it I should like to know? - A. He has been at times not as if he was right, that I do think.

Q. Has that been once or twice or frequent? - A. Very frequent indeed within this five or six months back he has not been so clever as usual; I have heard his wife say when I have been in the house that she could bring twenty people that would bear witness that he was a madman; that I have heard her say with my own ears; I only know from what I have heard his wife say.

Jury. Q. How did he appear to be that day? - A. He appeared to be very much agitated for what he had done I suppose.

BENJAMIN SPRIGGS sworn. - I was sent for by the Overseer to go to the prisoner's house; I was in the room at the time the shot was found that was the cause of her death.

Cross-examined by Mr. Knapp. Q. You have known the prisoner? - A. He has been at our watch-house a great many years since.

Q. Do you know any thing of the state of his mind? - A. I have often thought that he talked like a deranged man at the time he was there; he talked very much at random, and sometimes very sensible; I think this was about eight or ten years ago, I have seen him at different times since.

Court. Q. How lately have you seen him previous to his wife being shot? - A. I think it must be six months before.

- ARMSTRONG sworn. - I am assistant to Mr. Mariner, a surgeon; on Monday evening, the 3d of June, on my arrival at the house of the prisoner, I was taken into the back parlour, where the deceased laid on her back, surrounded with blood; I perceived the left eye was lacerated in the socket by a ball or some such thing; I perceived that it was a ball which had entered the inner angle of the left eye; I then put my hand to the back part of the head, and felt the bone at the back part of the head was fractured between the skull; I took hold of the hand of the deceased and felt there was no pulse, she was perfectly dead; I then stated to the persons who were in the front parlour, that Mrs. Fisher was dead, and desired them to come in to assist me in raising the body.

Q. Did you open her head? - A. Not at that time, I did on Wednesday morning, at the request of the Coroner; I discovered no more than the back part of her head was fractured; a ball had entered the inner angle of the left eye and had fractured the bone, and that was the cause of her death.

Q. Did the ball pass the brain? - A. It did.

Prisoner's defence. Through my sons and my wife frequently I have been past my senses by their ill usage; she has put me in prison; we had a separation, she would not let me go one way or the other, my wife got me to take my two eldest sons into partnership; that would not do, she would have the agreement made, that they should have part of the tools, part of the stock, and part of the houshold furniture, and the lease of the house, and all the book debts outstanding to have an equal share; I agreed to all these considerations, and yet it would not do; they then wanted to separate from me, and take that part to themselves; the agreement was not strong enough, I always considered the business was to be done at No. 13, Mount-pleasant, and no where else, in consequence of which she wished them to go away from me and likewise herself, and because I would not agree to that, they were always upon me, which drove me beyond my senses at times.

GEORGE BARCLAY sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knapp. I am a smith.

Q. You now live at Woolwich? - A. Yes.

Q. Were you ever an apprentice to the prisoner? - A. Yes; I was bound to him in the year 1783, I continued with him ten years.

Q. When you first went to him was he a quiet inoffensive good master? - A. Yes; quite so far as I know.

Q. After you had been with him when did you discover any difference in his conduct? - A. Not till such time he received a blow with the sledge hammer on his head, which was about five or six years after I had been with him; Plumley was making a plug for the barrel, as we call it, Mr. Fisher was standing at the work stooping, and the man was striking above him on the tool, it was done by accident, the hammer struck him so violent on the head as to fell him to the ground; he was laid up for two or three days.

Q. Tell what you observed of his conduct after

he received this injury? - A. He used to go through the shop and give orders, and after that come and ask what I was about, who gave me the orders; I told him he had; he would contradict it, and tell me to do other work; that sort of conduct continued down to the time I left him.

Q. Have you seen him since you left him? - A. Yes, about two years ago, and then his discourse varied very much; he did not appear to have a found mind.

THOMAS CONSTABLE sworn. - Examined by Mr. Gurney. Q. You are a gun-founder? - A. Yes.

Q. I believe you served your apprenticeship to the prisoner at the bar? - A. I did; I was with him about fourteen years altogether, at different times; I have observed him to work hard of a morning, from six o'clock till nine at breakfast-time, and then I have seen him walking for two or three hours together, not speaking a word, and he has started up at times and looked wild; he has let the heats be in the fire till they were spoiled; I thought he was really out of his mind; sometimes he was singing, and sometimes talking of Moses and Aaron and Jacob, and then he would look as wild as could be.

Q. Have you seen him do any thing respecting money? - A. Yes; once when he had a bill to a large amount to take, I went to look for him up at Piccadilly; he had been to a master that he worked for there; coming home, I met him in the King's Road, he was standing at a post with a great many guineas in his shoes; I went up to him, he knew me, and he said to me, Tom, is that you, do you want any money; I said, no; I put on his shoes time after time; he at last took the guineas home in his shoes.

Q. During the whole of the time that you have known him, have you considered him as a man in his right mind? - A. I have not.

Jury. Q. At the time that the money was in his shoes, was he drunk or sober? - A. He was in liquor then.

Court. Q. How soon after you came to be his apprentice did you observe that he acted in this extraordinary way? - A. It might be a twelvemonth.

Q. Did he continue so to act at times during the remaining six years of your apprenticeship? - A. He did, and for the remaining time that I was with him at different times.

Q. Who took orders for the business, and made out the accounts? - A. He generally took orders himself; I believe he chiefly carried on the business, so far as I know.

JOHN PATRICK sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knapp. Q. What are you? - A. I am hammerman to the prisoner.

Q. Did you work with your master from Easter to Whitsuntide? - A. Yes.

Q. Tell whether you observed any thing with respect to his mind? - A. I always thought that he was a real madman; when we took a heat out, (that is a piece of iron out of the fire to make it into what we wanted it for,) he would turn away, and talk as hard as ever he could, and let the iron cool, and stare as bold, quite like a madman; on the Monday that I left him, he made me draw a ball, which was two men's work to do; it was horse-nail stubs drawn into iron, and when it was done, he threw it down, and went away.

Jury. Q. Was he sober? - A. He was as sober as ever a Judge in the world was; I never saw him disguised in liquor but three times, all the time I worked with him.

Court. Q. You say he made you draw a ball, which was two men's work to do - what ought to have been done with it? - A. Instead of putting in the iron again to make it hot, to make it fit for what he wanted, he threw it down, and went away.

Q. Do you know where he went to? - A. No, I kept in the shop.

Q. Did you see him that day when he came back? - A. Yes, I parted with him at a public-house between two and three o'clock, and we had no more than two pints of beer - him, me, and my wife; I did not see him after that till after five or six o'clock, it was all settled at the Office then.

MARGARET KING sworn. - Examined by Mr. Gurney. Q. How long have you known the prisoner at the bar? - A. Four years, I live next door to him; I have had an opportunity of frequently seeing him, and if ever a person was insane Mr. Fisher is; my wash-house faces his work-shop; I have seen him standing and talking to himself, and singing, and muttering, when no one has been in the shop.

Q. Was he an industrious man when he was perfectly right? - A. Perfectly so, indeed.

Q. I believe you saw him a very short time before this unhappy offence? - A. I did; he came to my lodger twice for a candle, about half after four in the afternoon; my lodger was out; he came to me, and said his wife would not let him have one; I said, I am sure she would; he looked in a deranged state, in a cross manner, which he had looked before, when he was in a deranged state.

Court. Q. What do you mean by saying he looked in a cross manner, as he had before when he was in a deranged state - Did you ever know him confined on account of insanity? - A. Never; it was my opinion that at times when he has been in a cross refractory way that he was in a deranged state.

Q. Do you know that he was not right in his mind? - A. I cannot say he was not right in his mind.

Q. You know nothing more than having heard him mutter in the shop, and of his being cross and refractory, that is the only ground that you have for saying that he was in a deranged state? - A. Just so.

WILLIAM SLATER sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knapp. Q. You were an apprentice to the prisoner? - A. Yes, it is six years next November since I left him.

Q. During the time that you lived with him, did you observe what his conduct was? - A. I thought at times that he was not in his senses by the manner of his behaviour to his men and his apprentices; when the men were at work in the shop, he would go and throw their heats back, and order them out of the shop; and when he and I were at work together, he would take the heats up, and walk up and down the shop like a man that was out of his senses, and would walk up and down the shop with his arms folded; he was always muttering; he would be up and down the house all night sometimes, and call me down to help move the things out of their places in the middle of the night; this conduct continued on him at different times till I left him.

Q. Have you seen him after you were his apprentice? - A. Not till Saturday previous to the Whit-Monday; I went then, and knocked at the door, and a little girl answered the door; I told her I wanted her uncle; he came, and I asked him if he wanted any body to work for him; he said he did not know, he had work enough.

Q. Did he appear to be in his senses at that time? - A. No; he sat himself down in the chair, and folded his arms up for two or three minutes before he made any reply again; he then got up, and said he must go into the shop, and bid me good by; he was then just the same as when I left him, like a man out of his senses.

ELIZABETH GRAY sworn. - Examined by Mr. Gurney. Q. You keep the Cheshire Cheese public-house, near the prisoner's residence? - A. Yes; I have known the prisoner for nineteen years.

Q. Do you remember his having the misfortune of receiving a blow on his head? - A. I have heard talk about it; he has been in the habit of coming backwards and forwards to our house; I never saw him sit steady, he was roaring and singing; I never thought he was in his right mind, he generally went by the name of Mad Fisher.

JOHN SHAWMAN sworn. - Examined by Mr. Gurney. Q. How long have you known Fisher? - A. About eighteen years; my general opinion of him was, that he was labouring under mental derangement.

FRANCIS LOWNDES sworn. - Examined by Mr. Gurney. Q. I am a medical gentleman, I knew the prisoner about seven or eight years ago; this man forged the iron work for me belonging to a medical apparatus; the business was done principally with his wife; he occasionally called; he talked perfectly incoherent; I never could make any thing at all with him, he talked so frantic, he was running out of one thing into another, fancying that he had made a gun superior to all in the world.

WILLIAM BARTON sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knapp. I am a gunlock-filer; I have known the prisoner upwards of thirty years, I have been in the habits of intimacy with him for these last three years; I have seen him stand at the hearth, when he has come to work, with his hands up to his mouth, looking at no particular object, and talking to himself; I have asked him a question concerning the work, and he has given me no answer, but kept muttering and talking to himself.

GEORGE GROVESNOR sworn. - Examined by Mr. Gurney. Q. How long have you known the prisoner? - A. From the year 1790; I always thought he was a crazy man, he usually went by the appellation of Mad Tom Fisher .

WILLIAM SMITH sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knapp. Q. Do you know the prisoner? - A. I have known him about sixteen years; I always conceived he was a man very much out of his mind, as he was frequently talking to himself, and making songs out of his own head that were nonsensical and disagreeable to hear.

ELEANOR COTTON sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knapp. I live in Gray's Inn-lane; I have known the prisoner seventeen or eighteen years.

Q. During the whole of the time that you have known him, in what state of mind has he been? - A. Like a mad bullock more than any thing else.

Court. Q. That expression conveys nothing distinct, in which the Jury can go by - What has been his manner and deportment? - A. I have seen him frequently run up and down the street where I live in that mad state; the last time I saw him run past my house, he roared out, and bit his lips till they bled; I always fastened the door when he ran past, I was afraid of him; he was always called Mad Tom Fisher ; I was very intimate with his wife; I have seen him firing pistols out at the window with nothing, I believe, but powder.

MARTHA WELLS sworn. - Examined by Mr. Gurney. Q. How long have you known the prisoner? - A. Twelve years; my husband is dead, he was a barber; I carry on the business; the prisoner has been a quarterly customer to me for these twelve years; he never paid the quarterage himself, his wife paid it; the prisoner often came backwards on a Sunday at my house; my husband died in the same delirious way, which made me very much frightened at him; the prisoner would sing, rattle, and roar, in much the same way as my husband did in his madness.

Q. Did you ever hear of a blow that he received

on his head? - A. I have lived thirty-six years in one house, I remember hearing of it.


On the ground of insanity .

First Middlesex Jury, before Mr. Justice Lawrence.

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