Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 27 October 2021), February 1878, trial of WILLIAM POTTER (40) (t18780211-259).

WILLIAM POTTER, Breaking Peace > wounding, 11th February 1878.

259. WILLIAM POTTER (40), Feloniously shooting at Annie Potter, with intent to murder. Other Counts—with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

MR. HORACE AVORY conducted the Prosecution; and MR. KEITH FRITH with MR. STEWART WHITE the Defence.

ANNIE POTTER . I am the prisoner's wife—in consequence of some differences between us I was living apart from him in January last—on 18th January I was staying with Mrs. Beresford in the East India Road—I saw my husband on that day, when he shot me—I was only just up—I had been ill in bed all day—it was about five in the afternoon—I had sent for him, and some one told me he was waiting to see me—I came up the stairs from the kitchen—I did not see him at all—he stood in the dark in the parlour, there was no light there, only in the hall—Mrs. Beresford followed me upstairs, and I said to her "Where is he, Mrs. Beresford?"—he said "Here I am, my dear"—I said "How can you dear me, when you know you have been unkind to me?"—I don't remember hearing him reply—I saw the flash of fire in my face, and heard the report of a revolver, and I remember nothing more till I saw him with the policeman—I felt no pain—I found my hand was full of blood.

Cross-examined. I was living with my husband not quite two years—I don't know that he left his occupation as a seaman on our marriage—he purchased a business—we were very happy together—he was affectionately disposed towards me in one way, but he did not care to work for me—the business might have been profitable, but he sold it and left me—he did not take a home for me or provide for me—he did not take a house for me at Blakeney; I had a house there, but I could not support myself, I went home to my father and mother—my mother hired the house for me, it was not at the prisoner's instigation—I ceased to live with him last November twelve months—I only saw him once since, in February last year—during that time he has entreated me to return to him—I refused to do so—there was a child born of the marriage—he asked to see the

child when he came in February—for the moment I would not let him see him, but I did bring the child for him to see, and he took it and kissed it—I did not refuse to tell him its name—he asked me its name, I said "You know it as well as I do"—he said "I forget it," and I told him it was Henry William—I believe that was in Mrs. Beresford's presence—I came to stay with her at Christmas on her invitation—I am a milliner and dressmaker—I was never a nursery governess—I did not know Robinson before I came to Mrs. Beresford's, he was a lodger there—there was no correspondence between me and Robinson—I had one letter from him, I burnt it after giving it to Mrs. Beresford to read, it was concerning business—during my stay at Mrs. Beresford's Robinson and I went out together on two or three occasions, once in the evening—when he has had me out for a long walk he has asked me to take something, and I have had it—I don't know where, I am a stranger to London—I think one place was in the Strand and one in Holborn—we returned home late on one occasion when we missed a train—I once went to the Adelphi Theatre with him, not to any other place of amusement—I did not know then that I had a husband, I never heard a word of him for nine months—the last letter I had from him was from Greenwich Hospital, and I did not know whether he ever came out—I made no inquiry about him—I never told him that I had got another man in his place, or any words to that effect—I never said so to Mrs. Beresford or to any one—I don't remember shaking my fist in his face, I don't think I did—I know Burnham and know a man there named Savory, the landlord of the house where we lived—I never went out with him—I never spoke to him only on business—I never heard the prisoner breathe his name only on business—I never told him that I would go out with Robinson.

Re-examined. My husband was suffering from a dreadful disease in Greenwich Hospital—last November twelve months he came home a complete bunch of dirt and rags, with a horrible disease about him, and I refused to live with him for that reason—I believe the writing on this envelope (produced) to be his.

MARY BERESFORD . I am the wife of Alfred Beresford, of 146, East India Road—on 18th January Mrs. Potter was staying with me—the prisoner came there about 2 o'clock and asked if I was in—my little girl said yes—he asked if his wife was in, she said she was ill in bed—he came down into the kitchen and said "Is my wife ill?"—I said "Not particularly ill, only she has got a bad headache"—he said he would like her to sign a paper of separation—I said "I will tell her what you say"—he said "All right, I should like to see her, and she can speak for herself"—I said "Certainly, so she can; you can see her, but don't come to-morrow; being Saturday, I shall be busy; come on Monday morning and then you can talk it over"—he then went away—later in the day she sent my little boy to him to tell him not to come—after that, about 5 o'clock, the prisoner came again—I told him that I had told his wife what he had said, and she was annoyed at it—I then went downstairs and told her that her husband was upstairs in the passage—I had left him standing just inside my parlour door; there was a light in the passage, but not in the parlour—his wife came upstairs, I followed her—he said "Hallo, my dear"—she said "Why do you call me your dear when you say that I tell lies?"—he said "You do tell lies, and you always did tell lies"—she said "You say that I told lies while I was in Weymouth; who

do you know that I told lies to when I was in Weymouth?" and she said "I will murder you"—she was standing opposite to him at the time; he was standing in the doorway and she was opposite the door—she put her fist up and said "I will be hung for you"—she was very angry when she said "I will be hung for you"—he said "Will you?" and he deliberately fired in her face with a little revolver—I did not see where he took it from, I saw it in his hand and saw the blaze in her face—he was about a yard from her when he fired—I did not see whether the shot took effect, I turned round and ran downstairs, and she followed me—I met Mr. Robinson on the stairs, coming up, having heard the report, and the prisoner fired at him on the stairs; I did not see whether he hit him—Robinson reeled off the stairs, he did not fall—I went on down the stairs, and Mrs. Potter clung to me at the foot of the stairs, and while she was clinging to me the prisoner fired another shot—I don't know who he fired at, but the bullet went through my left breast; he was on the stairs at the time, it might be one or two stairs above me, I could not say—we then went into the back kitchen, and Mrs. Potter fell down at my feet, and he followed us in and shut the door and fired again at her as she laid at my feet—I saw him point the revolver at her—I then said "Pray don't shoot me"—he said "No, I won't, I did not intend to hurt you"—Mr. Robinson then pushed the door in, and the prisoner fired again at him, and said "You and all"—that shot went into the door—Robinson made his way in and I ran out—the constable afterwards came and the prisoner was taken away—he seemed excitable, that was all.

Cross-examined. I never had any quarrel with the prisoner—I don't think he intended to hurt me, but he intended to kill his wife—that was the second attempt he has made—his wife had been staying with me. since Christmas—Robinson has lodged at my house off and on 13 months—Mrs. Potter only had a bedroom; her room adjoined Robinson's—I remember the prisoner calling one day, about 10 days before this occurred; he saw his wife on that occasion—I was present part of the time—while she was staying with me she went out with Robinson once or twice—they came home late once—I know Mrs. Dixon, of East India Road—I never said to her that Robinson and the prisoner's wife had been living together—I remember meeting the prisoner on New Year's eve at the George IV., at Poplar—his wife was outside in the road—I don't know whether he asked me where she was or not; he asked if I had heard from her, and I said I had not heard from her lately—I had not heard from her because I was with her—I did not say that when I had last heard from her she had gone with her sister's children to Ireland, or that she had gone in the country—when I first knew them they seemed happy together—I remember his coming and asking her to return to him, and promising to be a kind husband to her—she said she would never live with him again—I heard him ask what the child's name was—I did not hear what she said—she never told me that she had received letters from Robinson—as far as I know the prisoner had always been a steady, sober man, I never knew anything to the contrary.

By the COURT. I have known him a long time—this is the second attempt, he bought a revolver last February—when I said I knew nothing wrong of him, I meant as regards drunken dissipation, that is all.

JOHN ROBINSON . I am an engineer, and lodge with the last witness at 146, East India Road—I was in the house, downstairs, on the afternoon

of 18th January, about 5 o'clock—I first heard a shot and a scream—I immediately got up, opened the door, and went to the foot of the stairs—I met the two women at the bottom, they were coming down the stairs screaming—I had one foot on the bottom stair going to catch hold of the prisoner, when he fired at me and said "You and all"—the shot struck me in the neck, he was six stairs above me—I felt faint and fell to the ground—I did not exactly lose my senses—I next heard a shot and heard Mrs. Beresford say "Oh, I am shot"—the two women then ran into the back kitchen and he after them, and he shut the door—I heard the women screaming; by this time I had got up; I directly heard another shot before I could open the door—I then opened the door and the prisoner pointed the pistol again at me, and fired at me but missed me—before he had time to fire again I sprang upon him, and just as I got to him it went off again, and the bullet went into the ceiling and made a hole there—I held him till the police came and took him into custody—while I was holding him he said "Let me go, I don't mean to hurt you"—after he was in custody he wished to shake hands with me—I refused.

Cross-examined. I have known the prisoner about 13 months—I first knew Mrs. Potter some time before Christmas—I wrote to her once, only to say that I was coming back to London, that was all—I was going to stay at Mrs. Beresford's, where I always stay—I knew that Mrs. Potter was there, because she was there when I went away—we occupied adjoining bedrooms there—I have been out with her three or four times at night, twice I think to supper-rooms—once in the Strand and once in Holborn—we went once to the Adelphi Theatre, and came home between 12 and 1—I knew that she was a married woman—I did not tell the prisoner about my going out with his wife—I had not a chance—I met him once and he shook hands with me—I have been out walking with Mrs. Potter in the day, perhaps for two or three hours, once or twice—I have taken her meals up to her bedroom when she has been in bed once or twice since the prisoner's committal—she went into the country in November—I went into the country about the same time—I know Eliza Smith—I swear she has never seen me in Mrs. Potter's bed, or surprised me in the act of connection with Mrs. Potter—I heard that there had been some differences between the prisoner and his wife, and that they had not been living together for two years.

Re-examined. Mrs. Potter has been very ill in bed, suffering from the wounds—she could not get up for some days.

ALFRED BERESFORD . I am the son of Mrs. Beresford—on 18th January she sent me to the prisoner—I found him in Wade's Place, against a beershop—I said to him "Mother says you must not come to the house, because perhaps father will be coming home and make a row"—he said "All right"—I wan going on an errand and he came with me, and coming back along Wade's Place he said "Wait a minute, I will go indoors"—he was not indoors a minute before he came out, and he followed me home—I said "Bill, don't come in, wait, and I will go andsee if father is in"—he said "I will make no row," and he came into the passage—he did not appear excited at all—he was quite sober—my mother came up and saw him, and she called up Mrs. Potter.

JOB POPE (Policeman K 147). On 18th January, about 5 o'clock, I heard the report of firearms, which caused me to go to 146, East India Road—I first saw Mrs. Beresford, she was on the top of the stairs,

coming out of the kitchen into the passage—I heard the report of a pistol before I entered the house, and I heard another report after I did enter—I went down into the back kitchen, and there found Robinson struggling with the prisoner, who had this revolver (produced) in his right hand—I held his arm and some one behind me took the revolver out of his hand and gave it to me—I told the prisoner I should take him into custody for shooting Robinson, who was bleeding at the side of the head—I took the prisoner into the front kitchen where Mrs. Potter was standing—she was bleeding from two places in the head—she said "That is my husband, I will give him in custody, he has shot me"—the prisoner then asked her to shake hands and forgive him—she did not do so—I sent for Dr. Hughes, who came, and I took the prisoner to the station—he was there charged—he said "I did not intend injuring any one but my wife"—I gave the revolver to the inspector, it has six chambers.

ALFRED ANSON (Police Sergeant KR 4). This revolver was handed to me by Pope—I examined it at he time—I found that all the chambers had recently been discharged—I took out six empty cartridge cases—I searched the prisoner, and in his waistcoat pocket I found six undischarged revolver cartridges; they fitted the revolver—he said, "How is Mrs. Beresford?"—I said, "I believe she is all right"—he said, "I am very glad of that"—a letter was taken from him at the station—I afterwards found this letter at his lodgings. (Read: On the envelope was written, "Open this and read the contents and then publish." "Dear friends—I write these few words to let the world know that the cause of taking my wife's life, and then my own, is because she has left me to live with another man of the name of Robinson, an engineer, and it is more than I can bear to think that my child should be under the control of another man, and me alive; that alone has driven me to the course that I am about topursue, which I can swear before the One that knows the secrets of all hearts that there never was a more loving husband in the world than I have been, and she knows that and every one else that knows me; I would do all that could be done for her in the world if she would only come to me again, for I am not ashamed to own before the whole world that I love her dearer than my own life; but I must let the world know that Alfred Beresford's wife, of 146, East India Road, Poplar, was the cause of my wife's taking up with this said Robinson. I hope that the world won't think that it is through jealousy, but it is the idea of her depriving me of my rights of being with her and my darling boy; God bless his dear little innocent heart, I love him dearly. My dear friends, believe me, I am truly heart-broken, therefore I care not to live. I hope that this will be published directly after I am dead for the sake of justice. I hope and trust that some of my family will take my darling child and bring him up. I should like for my sister to have him. My sister's address is Miss M. Potter, Mr. R. J. Potter's, Fakenham, Norfolk; my brother's, Mr. Samuel Potter, Dereham, Norfolk."

THOMAS GROSE . I am in the service of a pawnbroker, of 652, Commercial Road—on 17th January, the prisoner came to our shop to purchase a revolver—I sold him the one produced and a box of 50 cartridges—a bullet has been shown me, which is the same sized bullet as those in the cartridges that I sold the prisoner—he saw two revolvers, one larger—he selected this, and said it would do for the purpose he wanted.

Cross-examined. We have many similar revolvers in the shop—I said

at the police-court, "I sold the revolver produced to a man I believe to be the prisoner"—I first saw him in the dock, and thought he was the man, and I believe he is—it was in the afternoon or evening when he bought the revolver, I did not take any particular notice of him; the interview lasted about ten minutes.

THOMAS JONES HUGHES . I am a surgeon, of East India Dock Road—on 18th January I was called to Mrs. Beresford's house—I saw Mrs. Beresford first—I found her suffering from a wound in the left breast—I probed it and extracted a conical cylindrical bullet, which I produce—I next saw Mrs. Potter, she was suffering from two distinct wounds on the right side of the head and one on the left; the two on the right side were caused by one bullet, the entry and aperture of exit communicating by probe right through; the wound on the left side was over the cheek bone, under the eye—I probed that; the probe took a course directly backwards to the root of the left ear, and detected this piece of metal deeply imbedded in the textures—we had to cut down upon it to extract it—it is a similar bullet to the other, but greatly obliterated—I have attended Mrs. Potter ever since—she has been in rather a dangerous condition—erysipelas set in—I considered the wounds dangerous wounds—she is still under care—the jaw is rather stiff—she is not able to masticate—she was in bed three or four days—I examined Robinson—I found a wound on the left side of his neck immediately below the angle of the jaw—I failed to find that bullet.

Cross-examined. I believe I said at the police-court that Mrs. Potter was pregnant, but I meant Mrs. Beresford—I have not examined Mrs. Potter.

The Prisoner received a good character for humanity and kindness.

GUILTY on First Count — Twenty Years' Penal Servitude .