Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 24 October 2021), April 1816, trial of GEORGE BARNET (t18160403-6).

GEORGE BARNET, Breaking Peace > wounding, 3rd April 1816.

293. GEORGE BARNET was indicted for that he, on the 17th of February , with a certain pistol loaded with powder and leaden shot, which he in his right hand had and held, feloniously did shoot at Frances Maria Kelly , spinster, a subject of our Lord the King, with intent to kill and murder her .

SECOND COUNT. Stating his intent to be to disable her.

THIRD COUNT. To do her some grevious bodily harm.

FOURTH COUNT. Simply charges him with shooting at her; but states no intent.

FIFTH COUNT. Charges him with shooting at Edward Knight, a subject our Lord the King, with intent to kill and murder him.

SIXTH COUNT. Stating his intent to be to disable the said Edward Knight.

SEVENTH COUNT. Stating his intent to be to do the said Edward Knight some greviously bodily harm.

AND EIGHTH COUNT. Charges him with shooting at Edward Knight ; but states no intent.

NATHAN HARRIS. I am a dealer in jewellery, and live at 176, Drury-lane. I was in the eighth row from the orchestre of the Pit of Drury-lane Theatre, on the evening of Saturday, the 17th of February; the prisoner sat two rows in front of me, on my right; I sat on the left of him. I did not see him until the after-piece; his standing up then when every other person near him was sitting down, made me observe him. This was at the first commencement of the Farce; Miss Kelly and Mr. Knight were on the stage; they were embracing each other in the characters of Nan and Joey, two servants in the Modern Antiquities, or Merry Mourners. When this took place, they had parted from each other, and Mr. Knight had retired to the right of the stage, as looking from the audience, and Miss Kelly to the left. When she had got nearly to the stage-door, retreating, with her face towards the audience, I happened to turn round, and saw the prisoner stand up above all the rest, with his right hand pointed on a level with his shoulders, towards the left stagedoor, where Miss Kelly was standing; he was on the right hand side of the Pit, and she was on the left hand side of the stage, as you look from the audience; she was therefore on his left. I did not see what he had in his hand; but I saw a flash, and heard a report immediately after. I did not hesitate a moment, but made towards where he was, and leaned over, and pitched right upon him, and seized him instantly, before he had time to sit down. Upon my seizing him, he said he was not the person that fired the pistol. I saw nothing about him. At that time, I had not seen the pistol. I told him I was sure he was the man, as I saw him. He only said, he was not the man that fired, don't take hold of me. I saw the flash in his right hand; I saw the wadding momentarily drop out of the muzzle, straight from where it was fired; the pistol was no longer than his fingers; I saw the wadding alight. He dropped his right hand momentarily, as if towards his great coat pocket. I took him across the seats until I got further assistance; then he was taken into the avenue, or the lobbey of the pit; there he was searched, and a small black paper pencase was taken from his pocket, which contained gunpowder; there was something else taken from him; but I did not see it, because there was so much confusion and such a crowd.

Cross-examined by MR. DOWLING. I never saw the pistol at the office at Bow-street. The prisoner was about six feet from the orchestra; he fired in a slanting direction; I observed he was extremely agitated after the handenffs were put on; he went very peaceably to Bow-street, and never made any resistance. I did not tax him with shooting at Miss Kelly; but I told him, I should not let him go.

GEORGE RORAUER . I was in the pit of Drury-lane Theatre at the time this happened. I was stand-at the corner of the orchestre, on the King's side, the left as you face the stage. I was looking at the performance, and I observed a flash, it proceeded from the right hand side of the pit; I merely saw the flash, it was about twenty-five feet from me. I heard something like shot rattle against the lamps, I mean the line of lamps called the float, between the orchestre and the stage. I saw a man taken across the pit, whom I afterwards discovered to be the prisoner. I immediately made my way out of the pit, and ordered the doors to be closed. Then I assisted in searching the prisoner; I saw a pen-case containing gunpowder taken from him, also a quantity of small shot; the shot was also in his pocket; I also saw the key of a pocket pistol taken from him. I went with the prisoner to Bow-street office, and while he was there, a pocket pistol was produced, by a gentleman of the name of Taylor; Mr. Taylor stated in the presence of the prisoner, that he found it where the prisoner had stood in the pit; the prisoner made neither observation nor answer. I then examined the pistol; it appeared to have been recently discharged. The depositions were then taken against the prisoner by the magistrate.

RICHARD BIRNIE, ESQ. I am the magistrate before whom the prisoner was brought. I took the examination of several witnesses, they were reduced to writing. I asked the prisoner what he had to say; I think he did not answer at first, and I told him he had heard what had been said against him, and asked him what made him fire the pistol, and he said to make an alarm. I then asked him how he came to point it so, as the witnesses had described, and his answer was, she can explain. He did not mention Miss Kelly's name; I think it had been mentioned;no other lady's name had been mentioned.

Cross-examined by MR. DOWLING. He could not avoid hearing what was said.

Q. I believe you had an opportunity of observing his conduct while he was before you - A. I had.

Q. Were you enabled to form any judgment with respect to the state of his mind at that time - A. Never having seen him before, I cannot positively say whether there was any thing unusual in him; but there was a sort of gloomness over his eyes.

Mr. Roraner, Re-examined. After the performance was over, I examined the direction which the shot had taken; I found marks of shot in front of the orchestre, in the direction from where the prisoner stood to the stage door; I found some marks on the stage door itself. I picked up some shot in the orchestre, very small shot indeed; they had struck against the board in front of the orchestre, and had dropped down; those which had struck the stage door, might be about two feet nine inches from the floor. The shot I found in the orchestre were the same size as those found in the prisoner's pocket.

EDWARD KNIGHT . I was performing the character of Joey in the Modern Antiquities, or Merry Mourners. I remember the circumstance of a pistol being fired; I was near the centre of the stage at the time; Miss Kelly was on my right hand as I face the audience, if they call that the King's side; but I don't know that it is so. I saw the flash in the pit; it was on my left hand. I did not see the person who fired, nor did I see the pistol. I think I heard the rattling of shot against the tins in the orchestre.

Cross-examined by MR. DOWLING. I am not positive that it was shot that I heard; but I now think it was something that made such a noise as I think shot would have made. Neither I nor Miss Kelly have been informed that it reached the stage door.

MISS FRANCES MARIA KELLY . On the night of Saturday, the 17th of February; I was performing at Drury-lane Theatre. In the commencement of the after-piece, when I was on the stage, I indistinctly saw a flash in the pit; but don't know what it was; at the same time I heard what I conceived to be a detonating ball which we have frequently heard, and on former accasions I have been very much alarmed by them. I have no acquaintance with the prisoner in the least. I never saw him in my life until to day, to my knowledge. I did not see him when he was taken up.

JOHN BAKER . I am a constable belonging to Bow-street. I was in attendance at Drury-lane Theatre on the evening of the 17th of February last, I was in the back part of the pit, and heard the pistol; I immediately made my way to that part whence the report proceeded, when I saw Mr. Harris with the prisoner by the collar; he called for a officer, and I told him, I was one. I took him into custody, and took him to the back part of the lobby, and by order of the public, I searched him; I took from him powder and shot, which I have produced here to day. I immediately took him to the office at Bow-street, and while I was in the office, a Mr. Taylor came there, who produced a pistol in the presence of the prisoner. This is the pistol; it appeared to have been recently discharged; it has been in my possession ever since; nobody has ever seen it until Friday morning last. I afterwards went with the prisoner to Tothill-fields, in company with a man named Dickins. I either asked him was it his intention to kill, or was it his intention to shoot Miss Kelly, I am not positive which; his answer was I will tell you the pistol was not loaded with ball or slug. Dickins asked him if he ment to shoot Miss Kelly, and he said yes. No more passed until we got to Tothill-fields; no more conversation passed that night. The prisoner said, he lodged in Princes-street, Drury-lane; I can't call to mind the number; we went there, and there I found a pistol, the fellow to the one which is produced; I found some papers and shot, which was in that box.

Q. Do those shot correspond with those you found in his pocket - A.Apparently they do.

SAMUEL DICKINS. I am a constable of Bow-street. I accompanied the prisoner and Baker in the coach to Tothill-fields; as we were going along Baker put the question. what was his reason for firing the pistol; he gave no answer immediately. Then Baker said to him, did you mean to shoot Miss Kelly; I did, says he. What! with intent to kill her? says Baker. He did not give any answer then for a minute or two, and then he said, I did. What was your reason, says Baker, for doing it; the answer he gave Baker was, she knows perfectly well, herself, what it is for. That was all that I heard. Baker told me to be sure to take notice of what he said, and I did.

Cross-examined by MR. DOWLING. Q. Then as Baker told you to take particular notice of what he said, I presume you have given us the correct account, and you mean to adhere to it - A. To the best of my knowledge, I have stated correctly what passed.

Q. Was it you or Baker that used the word kill - A. I did not.

Q. That you are sure of - A. That I am sure of.

Q. Are you sure the first question was did you mean to shoot Miss Kelly - A. Yes; and then Baker stopped, and than added, what! with intent to kill her.

Q. That account you mean to adhere to - A. Yes. I did not hear the subsequent conversation in Tothillfield Bridwell with the prisoner.

MR. DOWLING. Here requested that the letters which Miss Kelly had spoken of as having received, might be produced.

MR. GURNEY. Conceived that they were not legal evidence, nor did it appear that they were the hand-writing of the prisoner. He would however, waive any objection that might arise as to their admissibility in evidence, and would appose no difficulty in the prisoner's way.

MR. DOWLING. Stated that he had it in his power to prove the hand-writing.

The letters were now put in and read.

First letter, "addressed to Miss Kelly, Drury-lane Theatre, February, 12th. 1816."

Did love ever prompt you to rehearse, The part of honour unessayed in verse; Or passion strive to guard it from decay, Applause to gain, or applause to pay. The works of genius would its charms resign; And your honours praise echo every line. Mistaken girl! ambition would you sway. I assume a part in each concerted play? Your sex's softness endeavour to abuse, And for offence-not even one poor excuse.'

'I have here madam, defined your character and disposition in a few words; and shall go so far as to say, that you are not a stranger to my name.'

'Years ago I was your admirer; but always met with disappointment. Coquetry indulged you; although always obtained at the expense of others; without vanity to myself, I think my good intentions towards you have been more trifled than any of my cotemporaries. My claim to your person is therefore greater which determines me to demand your hand, or in other words to make you my wife.

'You will either consent to this, or accept my challenge. I will attend you at any hour you please, on Wednesday, or before. I have witnessed your dexterity of firing a gun; but suppose a pistol will better suit you, as being much lighter.

'Had you not infringed the rights of your sex, I should not have thus addressed you; but as it is, no other person can better answer this letter than yourself; it shall not break contempt on trifling excuses.'

(Signed) 'GEORGE BARNET.'

No. 22, Princes-street, D-ry-lane.

Second letter,"addressed to Miss Kelly, performer at Drury-lane Theathre, 14th of February, 1816."

'Madam, I received a letter yesterday evening, which from its apparent rusticity, I believe it to be yours. You would act wiser if you was to add your name, as I am not sufficiently acquainted with your hand writing, and as I hinted in my last letter, not to subject others to be answerable for your forwardness. If the terms specified in my letter, were not to my satisfaction, why not express yourself as one becoming your profession. Why suffer your temper to over rule your reason? I love the sex, and once esteemed you as an ornament to it, until you would my indignation by your impertinence and scandalous abuses.

'You are very partial to a diaguised male dress; but let me not experience any more of your folly; for if you do, I will secure you as an impostor, and punish you for your temerity.'

'I am Madam, your well wisher,

' GEORGE BARNET .'

MR. DOWLING declared his intention to call witnesses to establish the insanity of the prisoner.

JOHN CROCKET . I am the prisoner's father-in-law; I am a porter to an orange merchant in Covent Garden. I married the prisoner's mother; the prisoner's own father died before he was born. As he grew up from a boy, he appeared always as a reserved child, and not fond of playing, At times lately, he was very queer. While he was at his meals, he would burst out a laughing, and when we would ask what he laughed at, he would not give any answer. He was brought up as a law stationer. He was first bound to Mr. Edmatis, in Chancery-lane, from whom he was turned over to Mr. Riorder. After he was out of his time, he went to one Mr. Norcroft; after that he went to live at Sevenoaks, with Mr. Clarridge an attorney there, and remained there about nine months. I was sent for by Mr. Clarridge to fetch him home; I went down to Sevenoaks that day; it was on a Saturday. When I got down. the prisoner was opposite a gentleman's house, taking off his hat and bowing to the house, with a mob round him. This was in July, 1813; I had some difficulty in bringing him home from there. He said he would not come away, and I forced him away on the Monday morning. He stopped about a quarter of an hour before the gentleman's house, in my presence. I am certain he is not in his right mind. I don't think he was in London a fortnight or three weeks after his return from Sevenoaks, be-before he went by sea to Yarmoath, with an acquaiance. We thought the sea air would do him good; he staid five weeks to the best of my recollection. After he had returned about a fortnight, he went to write for Mr. Norcrutt. He lodged and boarded with me while he was at Mr. Norcroft's. He remained with me then about three or four months; he was always very low spirited, and kept no company at all. He then went down to Abergaveny, in Monmonthshire, where he remained with one Mr. Jones, a law stationer, about nine months. He returned again, and was very ill, very dull, and melancholy; he was that way about five weeks. He then went to writing for Mr. Norcroft; he boarded with us.

Q. What was his conduct, for a few days previous to this unfortunate affair - A.He could not eat any thing, and was very unsettled in his mind.

ELIZABETH CROCKET. I am the mother of the unfortunste young man at the bar. He is the son of a Mr. Barnet, formerly a waiter at the Plazza Coffee-house. He was of a very melancholy habit, and very low spirited. Before this unfortunate job, he fell off in his victuals very much indeed On Saturday the 17th, he seemed to go in and out a great deal, and did not stay a minute within doors. In the course of the evening he was in the yard, and while he was there I heard a report, like that of a pistol; but did not see the pistol. I had not time to speak to him after that, for he ran out immediately. That same evening he drank his tea very quick, and ran out immediately after it. He seemed very much agitated. I thought he was going to the play, for he was very fond of going.

ANDREW NORCROFT . I live in Chancery-lane. I know the prisoner at the bar; he sat in my office about two years ago. He did not live in the house with me; he was extremely industrious, and attentive to his business, though very dull. I have no doubt, but that this very close application affected his health. He wished me to look out for a country situation for him; and I accordingly recommended him to Mr. Clarridge, of Sevenoaks. Mr. Clarridge wrote to me upon the subject of the state of his mind, and I in consequence, sent his father down.He did business for me a few days previous to this unfortunate affair. He then did that business in a very slovenly manner, totally unusual with him, and spoiled the engrossment, by leaving out the greater part. He seemed in a very disturbed state of mind. I expected he would have come on the Saturday that this happened, but he did not.

MORTY RIOHDEN. The prisoner at the bar served six years of his apprenticeship to me; he always conducted himself to my satisfaction; he was always very reserved, After he had been with me, he went to Mr. Norcroft's. I advised him to go into the country for his health sake. While in my service, he has frequently gone out for an hour or two, and on his return told me he did not know he had any thing to do, when he had left a great deal of work undone. He would frequently laugh over his business without any apparent cause. From the observations I have frequently made in his conduct, I think he was perfectly out of his mind.

JOHN THOMAS CLARRIDGE . I am the son of Mr. Clarridge, attorney, of Sevenoaks. I was at Sevencaks during the time that the prisoner was in my father's service. In consequence of what I had been told, I went out one day in company with my father, and saw the prisoner standing with a crowd round him, opposite to a gentleman's house. He was gazing very attentively at the house, for a considerable time. I took hold of one of his arms, and my father took hold of the other, and we led him away to his lodgings; from what I saw at that time, I thought him out of his senses.

CHARLES HURLEY. I am a law stationer. I have had an opportunity of observing the conduct of the prisoner, during the latter end of January and February last; I had frequent occasion to be at Mr. Riorden's office, where he was. I have repeatedly observed him laugh when nobody was in conversation with him at all. I particularly observed him one day, burst into an immoderate fit of laughing; I asked him what he laughed at. I knew nothing had occursed to excite his laughter; but he made me no reply whatever. I have frequently seen him very melancholy; in a kind of reverie of thought.

MARY CHARD. I live at Sevenoaks. The prisoner lodged with me during the nine months that he was with Mr. Clarridge. During that time, I have had frequent opportunities of observing his conduct. He left me in July or August, 1813. He seemed particular in always keeping by himself. He was in the frequent habit of standing on a heap of stones, opposite to a gentleman's house. He would stand there all weathers; frequently with a great mob round him, chucking him under the chin, and making game of him. I remember his sitting in church once with his hat on, and the clergyman was obliged to send to him to take his hat off. I have seen him also, making lidicolous gestures frequently in the church. I was not in the church when he addressed the congregation. I remember his running behind a gentleman's carriage for five miles; at least I saw him set out with it, and he came running behind it up to my door, in a very great heat. I certainly thought him out of his senses.

MARY HAGARTY. I live in Castle-street, Holborn. The prisoner lodged in my house from the 3rd of October, in the last year, to the middle of January; he was during that time very much dejected, and that dejection would frequently give way to the most immoderate fits of laughter, and violent mirth. I observed his conduct during the illness of my own children. At the latter end of October, he expressed a strong desire to see the child that was ill; he came to the sofa, where she was laying in a dying state; we expected her hourly to die. On my asking him his opinion of her, he made no reply, but burt out in an immoderate fit of laughter to my face. I certainly thought he did not possess a sound mind, and it is my belief that he is insane.

JOHN WANT. I am a surgeon, and live in North Crescent, Bedford-square. I have had some experience in the diseases of the mind. I have seen and conversed with the prisoner since his confinement. I have an opinion with respect to his sanity, formed on his conduct and conversation on that occasion, and I have not the slightest hesitation in pronouncing him of unsound mind.

Cross-examined by MR. GURNEY. I was with him three quarters of an hour, and have not the least doubt that the appearances I observed, were genuine, and not assumed or counterfeited.

This being the evidence of one side, and on the other, -

THE COURT, Summed it up to the Jury, and told them, that unless they conceived that the prisoner at the time he fired, was so far a master of his senses, as to be enabled to distinguish between right and wrong, they ought to acquit him, on the ground of insauity, and specify that reason in their verdict.

NOT GUILTY,

On the ground of Insanity .

First Middlesex Jury, before Mr. Baron Wood .