Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 27 February 2021), May 1883, trial of ARTHUR HOWIS SYRES (11) (t18830528-626).

ARTHUR HOWIS SYRES, Killing > manslaughter, 28th May 1883.

626. ARTHUR HOWIS SYRES (11) for the manslaughter of Alexander Syres.

MR. POYNDER Prosecuted.

CHARLES LEDGER (Policeman P 26). I was on duty at Peckham at

11.30 in the forenoon of April 12—the prisoner's mother brought the boy to me, and made a statement in his presence, which I took down—it is attached to the deposition—I read it over to him, and he said "It is correct: I bought the poison at a chemist's in Hill Street"—I accompanied him there—he took me to Dr. Butler's, and said that was the shop—we went inside, and in Dr. Butler's presence he said "I asked for one-pennyworth of poison powder, and was served by a boy"—Dr. Butler said he never had a boy in his shop to serve, and that it was three years since he had an assistant—the prisoner said that he could not tell where the lad got the poison from, but that he put the penny in his pocket, and told him to make haste home—he said the poison was screwed up in a piece of paper, like a farthing's-worth of sweets, and that he kept it in his pocket-handkerchief until 4 o'clock on Sunday, and that he gave it to the baby at 4 o'clock on Sunday—he said he bought the poison the day before, that would be the 10th, and he gave it to the child on the 11th.

MARGARET SYRES . I am the wife of Alexander Syres, of 5, Park Road, Peckham—the prisoner is my husband's by a former wife—he will be 12 next September—on 12th February I saw my baby Alexander die; he was a twelvemonth and five days old—he was taken with vomiting on the Friday, got well again on the Saturday, and on Sunday, at 3.30, it was taken again in strong convulsions, and at 10.45 on Sunday night, and died at 4.15 next day—in March the prisoner and his sister Ada were playing together, and he said to her "Yes, dear, he would have been alive only for my giving him what I did"—I asked what he gave it; he would not tell me; he only said what he had taken himself, and he had taken poison before—he said that he had given the baby the same that he had taken himself—I told his father when he came home what he had said—his father questioned him, and he repeated the same—his father said "What do you mean? is it any more of your lies?" because he is a boy to tell such stories—that was why I did not place any truth in his statement—he said to his father that it was the case that he had done it—he never mentioned about rat poison till he was at the station—on the Wednesday Ada was taken ill; that was the day the prisoner ran away—he did not come back all night; that was how he came to the station-house and had this charge made against him—I did not see him till I went to the station next day, when I went there to make inquiries—I asked him what he was there for—he said he had lost the money—I said he was unkind because he had beat the little girl, and then he mentioned the poison, and made the statement to the constable.

By the COURT. I thought the baby died of teething—I went for the doctor at 3.30, but he did not see the child till 1.15 next morning, but it had then lost consciousness—I had never seen a child like it before—it foamed at the mouth, and twitched at the mouth a little while, and then went into strong fits—we had no rat poison or poison of any kind in the house—he took some rat poison on the last day of December; I did not see it; he was not in my place when he took it.

JOHN L. HEMMING . I am a surgeon, of 98, Lower Park Road, Peckham—I saw the child on 12th February, when it died—in my opinion it died from a convulsion produced by teething—I did not see it die—the symptoms it displayed might also be attributable to any irritant poison, such as red precipitate or rat poison—red precipitate is never

used as a rat poison, phosphor paste is—I have been to Dr. Butler's shop—I saw some packets of red precipitate there—they were marked "Red precipitate, poison"—they were produced by Dr. Butler—they were kept in a drawer under the counter.

By the COURT. Red precipitate would cause the symptoms I saw—I saw the child's gums; it was teething—but for the prisoner's statement I should say the child died from teething—if I saw a similar case to-morrow I should say the same.

CHARLES ROBERT BUTTERS . I am a surgeon, and keep a shop at No. 75, Hill Street, Peckham, for the sale of drugs—I serve in the shop myself, and sometimes my housekeeper, Miss Foster, serves—no male person but myself serves—I have an errand boy, who merely comes twice a day to take the medicines out, at half-past one and five—I keep rat poison in a glass case on the counter—it would not be possible for the errand boy to sell a pennyworth of that and put the penny in his pocket, because he is never there except five minutes at a time when I am there—I do not make up the rat poison—I buy it ready made of a man I have known 20 years—it is labelled "Poison"—this will kill rats and mice—I keep red precipitate; that is labelled "Red precipitate, poison"—it is kept in a drawer under a desk at the end of the counter, close to the window—I invariably make them up myself—they contain half a drachm, and are sold at a penny a-piece—they are used for children's heads—one might be sufficient to kill a child 12 months old—on Saturday, 10th February, the errand boy was not alone in the shop at any time—I was at home at four—I might or might not have been at home at 12—when I was called down by the sergeant he said "This boy says he has purchased poison here"—I said "Nonsense"—the prisoner said "Yes; I bought it here at 4 o'clock on Saturday afternoon; I saw a boy; I asked him for a pennyworth of poison powder; he went behind the counter, stooped down, took something out of a drawer, twisted it up in a piece of paper, and gave it me, took the penny and put it in his pocket, and told me to make haste home"—now on that day I was not out at the time he mentioned—it is quite impossible that he could have bought the poison at my shop at the time he stated—I said at the time it was false—I do not keep any poisons under the counter—the bottles I use are kept on a shelf, and I have to get a pair of steps to get them down.

THOMAS WORTH (Police Inspector W). On 31st December the prisoner was charged with attempting to take his own life by phosphor paste—I questioned him as to why he took the poison—he said that his parents illused him, and he ran away from home, and he purchased the poison at a chandler's shop in Peckham Park Road—he said he took a portion of it and that he had the other portion in his pocket—I searched him, and found a piece of phosphor paste the size of half a walnut—it is a poison used for destroying vermin—that was retained by the police until the charge was disposed of, and it was then destroyed—the prisoner was discharged.

ARTHUR RALPH . I am errand boy to Dr. Butters—I have been with him since January—I never served in the shop—I never sold the prisoner any rat poison, or anything screwed up in a piece of paper.

The Prisoner's Statement before the Magistrate. "All I can say is I did it."

Prisoner's Defence. "I have nothing to say."

NOT GUILTY .

Before Robert Malcolm Kerr, Esq.