16th October 1905
Reference Numbert19051016-770
VerdictGuilty > insane
SentenceImprisonment > insanity

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770. WALTER STEPHENS, otherwise CYRIL DESPARDE (47) , Indicted for, and charged on the Coroner's inquisition with, the wilful murder of Edith Eliza Stephens. (See page 1549.)

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

HELENA FRANCIS MORRIS . I am the wife of Frederick Morris, a clerk, of 62, Ormeley Road, Balham—from about the beginning of February last I have done some house work for the deceased at 44, Honeybrook Road, and afterwards at 45, Honeybrook Road—she and her husband moved from one house to the other—I last did work for her about a fortnight before August 24th—I was told to go back there on the 24th—I saw the prisoner while I worked there—he and his wife appeared to be on very affectionate terms—as far as I noticed, they appeared to be sober people—on the morning of August 24th I went to the house according to appointment—I knocked at the door, but got no answer, so I waited—Mrs. Mackintosh lives opposite—I had not done any work for Mrs. Mackintosh before that—there are flats there—Mrs. Mackintosh occupied the flat over the one previously occupied by the prisoner and the deceased—I did some work for Mrs. Mackintosh on that day—I wrote this note (Produced) and put it in this envelope (Produced)—it has no address upon it now—I addressed it in pencil and put it into the letter box at No. 45 (Read): "Mrs. Morris called at 10 o'clock, as promised, but will call at 1 o'clock to see if Mrs. Stephens is in. Mrs. Morris"—the address on the envelope is now rubbed out, but an just recognise the writing—it is very faint—I put on it, "Mrs. Stephens, 45, Honeybrook Road"—I went back at 1 o'clock and tried to get in, but there was no answer—when I went home in the evening I wrote another note (Read): "Dear Madam,—I came this morning at 10 o'clock and then at 1 o'clock. Will you kindly let me know if I am to come tomorrow, and what time, and oblige, Yours respectfully, H. Morris"—the envelope is, "Mrs. Stephens, 45, Honeybrook Road, Cavendish Road"—I sent it by a messenger after tea.

ANNIE ROWLAND . I live at Tranmere—the deceased was my sister—she was about forty-five years old and had been married to the prisoner for about twenty years—I saw something of them up to about two years ago—up to that time I thought they were very fond of each other—they were very happy—I have not seen my sister for two years—after her death I came up to London and got from the cloak room at King's Cross station a bag belonging to her—I found that it contained some clothes of hers, a card of a lodging house keeper at Yarmouth, "Miss Huke, Ferndale House, 43, Princes Road, Great Yarmouth. Apartments, or board and residence. Two minutes from sea"—on the back is, "Pepper, salt, onions, vinegar, milk, dogcakes, butter and custard"—I got the bag on the Tuesday following my sister's death and paid 8d. on it—I think it was for four days at 2d. a day.

Cross-examined. From what I saw and heard they appeared to live very happily together.

WILLIAM ROWLAND CLIVE . I am manager to Mr. Greener, gun maker, in the Haymarket—on August 24th, between 2 and 3 p.m., the prisoner came in to purchase a revolver—he came to the desk where they are displayed—he looked at several—I asked him if he wanted a small pattern or a military one, and if he wanted it for abroad or one for holster use on horseback—he said he wanted it for house protection—I think that I may have suggested the words "house protection"—he selected one at £3 3s.—he thought that was rather high and I showed him one at £1 15s. 6d.—I then asked him if he had a gun licence—he said he had not it by him or with him—I said it would be necessary for me to see it before I sold him a revolver—he said he supposed he could get one—I said he could get one at a Post Office—he left the shop—I think he was away about an hour—when he came back he produced a licence (Produced): "Cyril A. Desparde, E. I. and S. Laundry, Limited, 36, Osborne Road, Acton, W."—it is granted at Charles Street, Haymarket, at 2.55 on August 24th, 1905—I asked him for his name and address and he produced this card, which has the same name on it—the writing on the back is written by me and is of no account—it was used as a piece of waste paper on my desk—on his second visit, when he produced the licence and selected the revolver, he said he wanted come cartridges—I said, "How many do you want?"—he said, "A box"—I said, "Do you want bulleted or blanks?" because sometimes blanks will answer the purpose for house protection—he said, "Oh, bulleted cartridges I will have"—I sold him a box of fifty for 2s. 6d.—this (Produced) is the revolver and this box of cartridges is similar to the one I sold him—the revolver has one barrel and five chambers—these five empty cartridge cases correspond with the cartridges I sold to him—this (Produced) is the bill, "Cash. £1 18s. received."

Cross-examined. After he had gone I said in the hearing of my assistant that I thought the man seemed strange, and that he had shaken hands with me for rather a long time—customers who are strangers do not shake hands with me—he looked at me a little vacantly—I think he said, "I am absolutely certain I want bulleted cartridges."

Re-examined. The prisoner seemed perfectly rational—he answered me straightforwardly, and was apparently a reasonable man—he was not excited, and seemed perfectly sober.

JOHN BAVOILLOT (263 W.) On August 24th, about 10.15 p.m., I was on duty near Honeybrook Road, when I heard about five revolver shots, and I saw the flashes—I ran to the spot and saw the prisoner standing in the centre of the roadway—I went up to him and he said, "Yes, here I am. I done it; I will give myself up. The revolver is over there," at the same time pointing to a low wall—I told him I should take him into custody—when I first saw him he was about 150 or 200 yards from me—as I was covering that distance to come up with him, he moved from the footpath to the centre of the road and then stood—he was then about 20 to 25 yards from 45, Honeybrook Road—I did not see the deceased at all—I took him towards the police station, and as we were passing 44, Honeybrook Road, he said, "Mrs. Mackintosh, you are my murderer"—he stopped and turned towards No. 44 to say that—he spoke in rather a loud tone—that is the only thing he said—I took him to the station, where he was charged.

Cross-examined. I did not see Mrs. Mackintosh there—there was no woman there who could hear what he said—when he said that, I did not ask him what he meant—it seemed strange to me.

FREDERICK SMART (855 W.) At 10.15 p.m. on August 24th I heard some revolver shots in Honeybrook Road—I went in that direction and saw the last witness and the prisoner there—in the prisoner's hearing the constable directed me to search for a revolver in Knight, the builder's, yard—I searched there and found this revolver—I took it in the condition I found it to the police station—I saw the chamber opened—all five cartridges had been discharged.

ARTHUR JOHN SPENCER . I live at 42, Honeybrook Road, and know the prisoner and his wife by sight—I do not know upon what terms they were—I saw them in the street, but that is all—on August 24th, about 10.15 p.m., I heard something come against my street door—I opened it and saw the prisoner firing at his wife on the opposite pavement—I recognised the prisoner in the dim light—the deceased was about 10 feet, at the outside, from the prisoner—I heard her say nothing to the prisoner, but to me she said, "Help me"—I went into the street and assisted her into my house—she could walk quite well—I took her upstairs into the kitchen—I have a flat—I assisted her into a chair and gave her some brandy—she was bleeding, but otherwise she appeared to be scarcely injured—I went downstairs for assistance, and found some constables at the gate, and they came up and took charge of the lady—a doctor came and she was taken in a cab to St. Thomas's Hospital—she had a small basket bag, a sunshade in her hand, and a coat over her arm—next morning I found a bullet lying in some blood on the floor of my kitchen—I handed it to the police—it was similar to this one (Produced).

Cross-examined. When I saw the woman she ran towards me—the prisoner did not do or say anything, but stood quite still.

HENRY WORLOCK (511 W.) At 10.15 p.m. on August 24th I went to Mr. Spencer's house and saw the deceased upstairs suffering from wounds—Dr. Edwards arrived, and by his directions I went with the lady to St. Thomas's Hospital—I took a blouse and a skirt, which the doctor had removed, with me, and afterwards gave them to the police inspector.

HENRY HERBERT JOHNSON EDWARDS . I am a registered practitioner, of 1, Poynder's Road, Clapham Park—on August 24th, at 10.15 p.m., I was called to 42, Honeybrook Road, and found the deceased sitting in a chair suffering from four injuries in the throat, one just to the right of the middle line, one on the left elbow joint 4 inches above it at the back of the arm, a third 1 1/2 inches in front of the elbow, and the fourth on the right buttock—from the position I judged there were three shots—one had gone through the arm—the woman did not at that time appear to be dangerously injured, but it is difficult to say from bullet wounds whether a person is dangerously injured or not—I sent her to the hospital in a cab, accompanied by one of the officers—there appeared to be slight marks of burning near the wounds in front; her clothes were burned at the back—the revolver would have to be about 4 feet off to produce that effect.

BERNARD HYAM , M. R. C. S. I have other degrees, and on August 24th I was casualty officer at St. Thomas's Hospital when I received the deceased woman there about 11.15 p.m.—I found the wounds described by Dr. Edwards—at that time the woman did not seem to be dangerously wounded—she first exhibited dangerous symptoms the following morning, Friday, and she died on the early morning of Saturday—a post-mortem examination was held upon her, when it was found that a bullet had entered her chest, struck her spine and lodged in her left lung and was the cause of death.

JAMES SAVAGE (Inspector W.) I was in charge of Balham police station on the night of August 24th, when the prisoner was brought in by Bavoillot, who said in his hearing, "This man has shot a woman in Honeybrook Road with a revolver"—I said, "Where is the revolver?"—the prisoner said, after a pause, "I threw the revolver away"—I went to Honeybrook Road and made some inquiries, returned to the station and told the prisoner I should charge him with attempting to murder Edith Eliza Stephens, his wife, by shooting her with a revolver—he made no reply—I asked him his name and he said, "Walter Stephens," and his address 45, Honeybrook Road—he said, "I am also known as Cyril A. Desparde"—he did not give me the address of where he was known as Desparde—I asked him his occupation—he said he was a commission agent or theatrical agent—Constable Smart handed me a revolver and I extracted five cartridges from it—these other forty-five were handed to me by the prisoner—he produced them from his coat pocket in a box—they are the same kind as the others—I found a licence on him, a bill for the revolver and a pawn ticket for a chain pledged in Wardour Street—I also found a bottle containing nearly a quartern of brandy with a very small proportion taken—I also obtained an envelope which had not been opened—it was found on the prisoner and he opened it in my presence—it

contained the second of Mrs. Morris' letters—the prisoner appeared to me to have been drinking for several days, and appeared to be sodden with drink—I should not describe him as drunk—he understood perfectly well what I said to him and stood erect—his answers were quite sensible—I thought it desirable that the Divisional Surgeon should see him and I sent for Dr. Needham—the prisoner appeared to be dazed.

Cross-examined. We do not always send for the Divisional Surgeon—if there is something strange about a prisoner we think it best to have the Divisional Surgeon or any medical man to express an opinion about him—it is not because of the gravity of the case—I thought a medical man should see the prisoner because of his condition—I thought there might be something up with his mind which I could not observe.

TOM ANDREWS (Detective-Sergeant). On August 24th I was at Balham police station when the prisoner was brought there in custody—after he had been charged he said in the charge room, "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, and 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 halfpenny stamps on and posted it to the address mentioned on the letter. It was printed on the back of the flap. I rubbed out the address in front"—next morning I got this letter in the envelope marked "H" from Mr. Mackintosh, who brought it to the station—it was then closed, and so far as I could see it had never been opened—I could then read what had been the address on the front of the envelope—it was, "Mrs. Stephens, 45, Honeybrook Road"—that appeared to have been erased with india-rubber. [MR. MUIR said that the deceased had made a statement at the hospital, but that he did not propose to put it in.]

Cross-examined. The police made every inquiry about the prisoner—I find that he has been in Jersey and that he has had at various times attacks of delirium tremens and that during those attacks he has been more than once in hospital and under restraint—in 1895 he was placed in an asylum in Jersey—it does not say a padded room—I also find that he has been in an asylum at Camberwell.

JOSEPH NEEDHAM . I am police surgeon to the W division—on Augtust 24th I was called to the police station at 11.30 p.m.—I went into the receiving or charge room and found the prisoner standing with a number of officers round the desk where the inspector was engaged and I stood aside, not wishing to interrupt his duties—the prisoner stood at the desk in a careless, indifferent manner, answering the questions of the inspector and the detective-sergeant—the chief thing which struck me then was his vacillating manner, at one moment wishing for certain evidence to be called or produced at the Court, as he called it, then retracting and wishing that to be deleted, then again asking that it should be produced—when the officers had finished the inspector turned to me and said, "I want you to see this prisoner; he has been brought here charged with shooting his wife"—I then commenced to question him and he objected to being catechised much, as he called it, in a public place—

I therefore took him into the corridor of the cells, provided him with a chair and engaged myself in conversation for a considerable time—I noticed first that he had been drinking for a considerable time—he had been drinking that day, but not to such an extent as to upset his steady self-control—he knew what he was saying; he could understand; he could walk—he had all the physical signs of chronic alcoholism, such as offensive breath, furred tongue and general appearance of neglect, but his pulse was not hastened and he was by no means excited—he was very deaf with his left ear and his right was not perfect—I tried to find out if he had been sleeping well—he had nothing to complain of on that score, but said he had taken no food for some days—he was generally bloated with drink—I could not tell if he had had no food for many days, but a man does not generally eat if he is drinking deeply—he then began to narrate his experiences and past life and told me much of his troubles in America and so on, but throughout he referred to his wife only in terms of affection—he said he had lived with her for twenty-one years without a cross word—I gradually led him back to the reason of his being in the position in which he found himself, but could get no reason for his conduct beyond this letter, to which reference has been made—I asked him why he did not meet his wife—he replied that he had intended doing so, but had spent the latter part of the day riding about on tram cars—he was dominated all through the conversation with this peculiar idea about this certain letter, the contents of which he said he did not know.

Cross-examined. That was the only occasion that I saw him—I was then at the station about two hours—from my examination of him I was of opinion that his mind should be carefully inquired into, and I made a statement in the Occurrence Book to that effect—as far as I could judge, I came to the conclusion that there was something decidedly strange about him.

Evidence for the Defence.

THEODORE ADOLPHUS . I am medical superintendent of the Constance Road Infirmary, Dulwich—I remember the prisoner being admitted to the lunacy ward there on August 15th, 1898—he was first placed in the padded room on August 20th at 10.30 p.m. and remained in until 7 a.m. next morning—he was out of the padded room during the day and was again placed in it at 7 p.m. on the 21st and remained until 7 a.m.—on the 22nd he was so bad that we were not able to take him out, and except for two intervals he remained in all day and the whole of that night—on the 23rd he was taken out again at 9 a.m., when he was very much better—that time he was under our care from the 15th till the 29th, when he was discharged against my advice—he was seen by a Magistrate on the 16th, and on the 29th I did not consider he was fit to go out, so I got him seen by another Magistrate and recommended that he should be sent to an asylum—ours is the reception ward of the parish for the observation of lunatics—the Lunacy Act allows them to be detained there for fourteen days to see if they are fit cases—in my opinion the prisoner was not fit to take his discharge, and I marked the register to that effect.

Cross-examined. While under my observation he was suffering from alcoholic mania, which is one of the forms of delirium tremens—that is a kind of mania which, unless the cause is repeated, passes away—a man is not bound to have a second attack if he takes care of himself—a man who has had delirium tremens may become and remain perfectly sane—that a man had delirium tremens in 1898 is no evidence that he was insane in 1905, but there is no doubt that it would affect the mind to some slight extent; some of the finer faculties would be affected, such as presence of mind, self-control, and the power of forming an accurate judgment—those, I am afraid, after a bad attack of delirium tremens would be likely to be permanently affected.

Re-examined. I am of opinion that repeated attacks of delirium tremens are likely to injure the mind—from my experience a good deal of the present insanity is due to drink.

JAMES SCOTT . I am the head medical authority at Brixton prison—since August 25th the prisoner has been under my care, and I gave him my special attention with a view to determining the condition of his mind—when he was received he was suffering from the effects of prolonged excessive drinking, and he showed the physical signs of it—mentally he was slow and dull, but did not talk or act irrationally—I did not find evidence of any actual insane delusions—I would not go so far as to come to the conclusion that no insane delusions had existed, but I could not find direct evidence of it—in my report I said, "It is impossible to deny that the prisoner may have had mental delusions"—that would be due to drinking—I have heard the whole of the case—if the prisoner believed what he said about that letter I should consider it a delusion—I have not been able to come to a satisfactory explanation of the case on any grounds other than that on August 24th the prisoner was under the influence of delusions, the result of prolonged drinking.

Cross-examined. I tried to converse with the prisoner about this case—he stated at first that it was entirely due to drinking—afterwards, when I questioned him on points which appeared to me of importance, he stated he would rather not discuss them with me before the trial—I cautioned him in the usual way that he need not tell me anything, because I might have to use it in the witness box—I asked him about his remarks about Mrs. Mackintosh and he then said he would rather not discuss it, and said he was acting under instructions from his solicitor—I was therefore unable to get any direct evidence of his delusions—I do not think he was able to distinguish between right and wrong to any great extent on August 24th; to a very limited extent, if at all—I cannot say that he did not know the nature of his act in face of his statement to the constable—he appeared to know the nature of the act, and understood the charge, and I think afterwards he understood the quality of it—a letter was sent to me in reply to inquiries, by Dr. Labby, medical superintendent of the Jersey Lunatic Asylum, and he stated that the prisoner was under his care in January and February, 1897, at an establishment called Cranbourne Hall, Grouville, for delirium tremens, and two days after he was there he assaulted Dr. Labby with a heavy bell—Dr. Labby expressed the opinion.

that he was then certainly insane as the result of heavy drinking—if a man has attacks of delirium tremens, the more they are repeated the weaker the mind will become.

LILIAN MACKINTOSH . I am the wife of John Mackintosh, and we live in a flat at 44, Honeybrook Road, Balham—the prisoner and his wife occupied a flat below us from about November last year to February this year—I did not see much of them during that time, and less on account of having an illness in January—I did not leave my own flat much—I never heard them quarrelling, but of course I knew there was drink in the question—I spoke to them as neighbours—I never wrote to either of them or visited them—on Thursday, August 24th, I employed Mrs. Morris for about an hour—that was the first time I had ever employed her—there is not the slightest reason for the prisoner saying, "Mrs. Mackintosh, you are my murderer."

Cross-examined. Mrs. Morris asked me for an envelope, and I am not certain whether she addressed it to Mrs. Stephens—this (Produced) is one of the envelopes I gave her—it has my address upon it, and it came to me next morning with these stamps upon it—it was closed—I did not open it—it was taken straight to the Cavendish Road police station—I had had no quarrel with the prisoner or his wife—we had lived in the same house—neither myself nor Mr. Mackintosh had been in their part of the house, except, I think, on the first day when the deceased asked me to put some nails in, or something like that—the prisoner was not there then—lifter they moved across the road I did not go into their flat—during my illness the deceased came over to inquire—I am quite certain there is no possibility of the prisoner having any grudge against me.

JOHN MACKINTOSH . I live at 44, Honeybrook Road, Clapham—the last witness is my wife—I knew the prisoner and his wife had occupied the bottom flat—as far as I could see they were living happily.

Cross-examined. No reason could exist why the prisoner should have any grudge against me or my wife—I have very little to do with either of them.

Evidence in Reply.

ROBERT EDWARD GOING . I am employed at 36, Osborne Road, Acton, which is the E. I. & S. Laundry—it is a company registered in that name—the prisoner was employed there by me as canvasser; I am the manager—he was in my employment for five or six weeks, I think, from early in March to the second week in April—I do not remember seeing him after that—I did not see him daily during the six weeks—he used to call upon me once a week—he showed no symptoms, to my mind, of unsoundness of mind—as far as I know, he went about my business in a proper way—any good done to the business as far as I could make out had been done by his wife—she was not employed by the company—I never saw her.

Cross-examined. I have never seen him drunk—I cannot say that he gave me the idea of a man who had been drinking for a long time past, but I rather jumped to the conclusion that he had been drunk from his manner, and I thought he was considerably superior to the position he was

then occupying—I thought he had come down in the world and that the reason was that he had been drunk.

GUILTY of the act, but insane at the time. Confined during His Majesty's pleasure.

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