Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 08 May 2021), May 1887, trial of JOHN FRANK FYFIELD. (68) (t18870523-643).

JOHN FRANK FYFIELD, Killing > murder, 23rd May 1887.

643. JOHN FRANK FYFIELD. (68) (A blind man.), for the wilful murder of Mary Ann Fyfield.

MESSRS. MEAD. and. BODKIN. Prosecuted. MR. RODGERS. Defended.

WILLIAM KEARSH . I am a carpenter, of 139, Gray's Inn Road, my premises are at the back—the prisoner and his wife occupied my kitchen, which is about eight yards from my workshop—on 3rd May I heard screaming in the kitchen as of some one in pain or struck; it was "Oh, oh!" in Mrs. Fyfield's voice—I have heard her voice frequently—at the same time I heard the prisoner using foul language, which appeared to be directed at the woman.

Cross-examined. The kitchen is underground. (Pointing to its position on a plan.)—I was on the ground floor and they were in the basement; there was no window or opening from which I could see into their room, but if the kitchen door is open I can hear—there was a staircase between us, and a doorway at the foot of it—I told the Coroner what I have said to-day about the alleged quarrel on the Tuesday—I did not say before the Magistrate "I did not at the Inquest mention the quarrel, because I was told to sit down before I arrived at it"—I signed my deposition—the quarrel was from 4 to 7 o'clock—I heard those expressions "Oh, oh!" between 4 and 5 o'clock, shortly after they entered the house and went down into the kitchen—I heard more than that, I heard the prisoner using extreme language, and at 5 o'clock I heard the remark "Oh, oh!" as if she was hurt, and that was repeated two or three times, and the dog began to howl as if he was struck instead of the woman.

By the. COURT. I mean I believe he struck the dog as well as the woman, and the dog came running up the kitchen stairs—from 5 o'clock till 7 the prisoner was continually expressing himself against his wife, and the dog was barking.

ESTHER ELKINGTON . I live with my husband at 139, Gray's Inn Road, at the top of this house—on this day, about 4 o'clock, I was in the wash-house in the yard and heard the prisoner and his wife come in; they went downstairs and I heard them quarrelling—they had a little boy in their charge, and after the perambulator was wheeled into the yard I heard Mrs. Fyfield scream, and a few minutes after that I heard her shriek; I heard no other voice—I have lived in the house some time, and know that the prisoner and his wife lived on rather disagreeable terms.

Cross-examined. The scream about 4 o'clock was as if somebody was hurt or had had a blow I suppose—it was not the cry of the dog which had been struck—I heard two screams—I could not see anything—I then went up to my own room, three floors above and four floors from the sunk floor—I never saw the prisoner strike his wife, or strike any other person—I did not hear the deceased scream on the Wednesday night—I heard no quarrelling that night—if I had had my door open I might have heard screaming, but I was in bed and the door was shut on account of my two babies.

CHARLES LEE . I am the landlord of 139, Gray's Inn Road—the prisoner and his wife have occupied the basement a year and eight months—on Wednesday, May 4th, about 10 p.m., the prisoner came up and paid me two weeks' rent, and I then went over to the Calthorpe Arms and had a glass of drink with him—after we had been there a little time the deceased joined us, and she had two or three glasses of ale; she seemed rather heavy when she got there, as if she had had a glass before—the

prisoner had three half-quarterns of hot rum—we all left and went home, and when we got to the street-door the prisoner told his wife to go and fetch a sovereign out of the kitchen as he had to pay a debt at Mr. Finch's, at the Old King's Arms; he is the landlord—that is in Gray's Inn Lane, three or four minutes' walk from the Calthorpe Arms—the deceased had the remains of a black eye, which was done about three weeks before—I sleep in the parlour—I heard the prisoner and his wife come in about 12.20 or 12.30—the parlour partially overlaps the kitchen—they came in quietly and went downstairs to their room—next morning, about five minutes to 9 o'clock, I heard the prisoner come upstairs; he knocked at my door and said, "I think that woman is dead. Mr. Lee come down and see"—he had on a pair of corduroy trousers, a flannel shirt, and no coat; he was not in his bare feet, but I cannot say whether he had any boots on—I went downstairs, opened the door, looked in, and saw Mrs. Fyfield lying on the floor between the bed and the fireplace; her head was, I think, slightly raised, but I did not go sufficiently near to see what with—the fender was in its usual position, I believe, and all the furniture as usual—I left the prisoner there and went for Dr. Smith—I had heard no noise in the basement that night—the prisoner and his wife seemed always on pretty fair terms.

Cross-examined. My room is over their room—I was in bed when they came in; I heard no screaming or quarrelling whatever; I don't think I was awake for any time afterwards—I have never seen the prisoner lift his hand to the deceased, but I saw scratches on her face on this morning, and I have seen her several times with black eyes—she was in the habit occasionally of taking a good drop of liquor, and she was unsteady in her walk sometimes—I did not hear the dog bark on this night.

Re-examined. I have been down into the prisoner's room twice in consequence of noises I heard there; one was two months before Christmas, and two months before that, but not this year—I was in bed and heard quarrelling, and had to get up and go down—I have not heard it stated in the prisoner's presence how the deceased got the black eyes.

ARTHUR WILLIAM MIDDLETON . I am barman at the Calthorpe Arms, I know the prisoner and his wife as customers—on 4th May the prisoner and Mr. Lee came in first about 11 o'clock, the deceased came in afterwards; she was sober, and so was the prisoner—I did not notice the deceased's face—they left about 11.20 or 11.30.

Cross-examined. I saw no quarrel between them; she did not walk like a person in pain, it was a brisk step, as usual, when she came in and went out.

JOSEPH FITCH . I keep the Old King's Arms, Gray's Inn Road—on 4th May, about midnight, or the morning of the 5th, the prisoner and his wife came in together; my house is between Wilson street and Elm Street; he had some warm rum and she had some mild and bitter; they were there five minutes, I should think; she was suffering from a black eye and a cut under it, which did not appear to be fresh; she was perfectly sober, the prisoner was not drunk, but he was very talkative; I knew them as customers, they appeared on very friendly terms.

Cross-examined. I did not sell him any gin in a bottle to take away.

LUCY CHILVERS . I keep the Blue Lion, Gray's Inn Road, and know the prisoner and his wife as occasional customers—coming to my house from the Old King's Arms a person would pass Wilson Street—on the morning of May 5th, about 12.20, they came in together and had a little

rum, they both drank of it—I keep open till 12.30—it did not strike me that they were the worse for drink—they stayed about five minutes; the deceased had a very bad black eye, which I had noticed for three or four weeks—I did not notice a cut under it—they went away together; she was very quiet and she walked well.

CHARLES THOMAS OFFORD . I am potman at the Blue Lion—I saw the prisoner and his wife there on 5th May about 12.20; as they were leaving he said to her "Why the f—hell don't you go the other side?"—I don't know what led him to say that but she was slightly intoxicated, and staggered against the partition in the bar; they went out—that was all that occurred; I did not serve either of them with any gin, nor did I see any one else do so; I did not see any gin in their possession—the deceased opened the door, which requires a 9-or 10-lb. pull—Inspector Anson tested it in my presence.

Cross-examined. The prisoner was sober, as far as I can say.

MARIA TILBURY . I am married, and occupy the second floor at 139, Gray's Inn Road—I heard no disturbance on Wednesday night, May 4th, but on Thursday morning, the 5th, I was going downstairs, and the prisoner was at the door—I did not notice whether he had boots on—he asked who I was—I told him, and he said "Will you come down, Mrs. Tilbury, and see my wife? I am afraid she is dead"—I went down with her; no one else was down there; I saw the deceased lying on the floor, between the bed and the fireplace—I did not notice whether anything was under her head—there was a bruise under her chin and down her face—I said "What are those marks on her face?" he said "That is where she has been knocking herself about"—I went and told Mr. Fox, a lodger on the first floor.

Cross-examined. I have seen the deceased once or twice when she has had a little drop of drink, and I have heard her scream out once or twice when I could not see her.

Re-examined. I heard screams a week or a fortnight before her death; they were then both in the kitchen, I believe.

SIMON FOX . I am a cab driver—on 5th May I lived at 139, Calthorpe Road, and about 9 o'clock that morning Mrs. Tilbury said to me "Mr. Fox, the blind man has done it this time," and I went into the kitchen and saw the prisoner there—I did not notice what he had on his feet—I should say that he and his wife lived on very sociable terms—I saw the woman's body, and said "I shall go and fetch a constable, because the woman looks as if she has been ill-used"—he said "What has that to do with you; who are you?"—I said "I am the cab driver"—I informed Cooper.

JOHN WRIGHT . I am relieving officer for St. Pancras—on 5th May, about 9 o'clock, Lee gave me information, and I communicated with Mr. L. Smith, the parish surgeon, and went with him to the house, and saw the deceased—there were marks on her face, and I asked the prisoner how they came there—he said "I woke up at 3 o'clock in the morning, and she was blundering about the room—I wanted her to come to bed"—the body was then taken to the mortuary.

WILLIAM HOOPER . (Policeman E. 223). On 5th May, about 9.15, Fox spoke to me in Guildford Street, and I went with him to 139, Gray's Inn Road, and saw the deceased in the basement, lying on the floor between the bedstead and the fireplace—her head was against the wall, resting

on a pillow, and her feet towards the window—she was covered with a woollen shawl, and only had a short black bodice on and a pair of grey stockings, no shift or anything—the prisoner was sitting on the side of the bed; he had on a pair of lace-up boots, but they were not laced, and a coat and trousers—I said to him "How do you account for her having that black eye and bruise across the chin?"—he said "I am sure I do not know, policeman, unless she got it by falling about; we went out together last evening and had a glass or two, and came home about a quarter-past twelve; I then undressed and went to bed, leaving my wife sitting on a chair; I said 'Ann, why don't you come to bed?' she replied 'All right, Jack;' I then went to sleep again, and woke up about a quarter-past 7; I called to her, but getting no answer, I got out of bed, and commenced to feel about, and I discovered that she was dead and cold; I then went upstairs to Mr. Lee, the landlord, and told him, and he went for a doctor"—I found on the mantelshelf a small bottle containing laudanum and a bottle and glass on the window sill—the bottle contained nothing—I smelt it, and it bad contained gin, and there was a very small quantity of gin in the glass—the prisoner said "When we came home last night she brought home a bottle of gin with her at a quarter-past 12"—the fender was in its proper place, and nothing appeared to be disarranged.

Cross-examined. I saw no female apparel in the room except what the deceased had on—I do not know whether it was a wooden or a stone floor.

By the. COURT. I made this note (produced.) at the time at the foot of the stairs in the passage, on a level with the street door, and made a copy in case the other should get lost—I went upstairs from the basement, and wrote it from my recollection—it took me 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour to write it, standing in the passage—the prisoner was quite sober—I know nothing against him.

ALFRED HANSON . (Police Inspector E.) I was called from Hunter Street Police-station about a quarter to 10 o'clock, and on going into the room I saw the prisoner—I did not make these notes till the Saturday, when I found the gravity of the case—I said to him "Can you give any account of this?"—he said "We were out drinking last night; she lowered. three half-pints over the way; I asked her not to have any more; we got home all right; we took home a quartern of gin with us; I asked her to go to bed; she said she would sit in a chair, and she did so; I went to bed, and woke about 3 o'clock; she was still sitting in the chair; I asked her to get into bed; she said that she would lie on the floor, and she did so; I woke again about 7 or half-past, and called to her; she made no answer; I felt all round for her, and found her on the floor, and I found that her face was very cold; I felt further, and found she had dirtied herself, and I put my hands in it; I then thought she was dead, and called the lodgers"—I said "Can you account for the mark under her chin?"—he said "She must have done it by the fender"—I do not remember his saying anything about the bottle in the night—after hearing the doctor's report as to the post-mortem, I directed the prisoner to be taken in custody, and I followed him to Hunter Street Station—I said to him "You will be charged on suspicion of causing the death of your wife, Ann Fyfield, at 139, Gray's Inn Road, yesterday morning?"—he said "She must have knocked herself about

by the fender"—when the charge was read over to him he said "Why was it I was not brought here yesterday?"—I said "I was not satisfied"—he was about being removed from the dock, and said in a low tone "I am dissipated and a drunkard, but I can't help that"—I made notes of his statements.

Cross-examined. I believe the floor of his room is wood—I think there is a possibility of my mistaking what he said at the station, because it was said in a low tone—my impression is that he said "I am. dissipated," and not "She was," but there was some noise going on.

By the. COURT. The prisoner is blind—I made no inquiry how it was that when he awoke he could see his wife sitting in a chair; it struck me as rather odd, but there was no one to inquire of—this is the fender (produced.)

FRANCIS HUSTEAD . (Police Inspector E.) I produce two plans of the room and premises, 139, Gray's Inn Road—they are correct, and drawn to scale—one is of the basement and ground floor, and the other of the neighbourhood—I went into the prisoner's room to measure it—it has a wooden floor, with a stove in front of the fireplace—the room is 3 yards 6 inches wide—the bed is rather more than 4 1/2 feet wide—the edge of the bed was less than a yard and a half from the wall, and that would leave 4 feet 3 inches between the bed and the fireplace—the hearthstone is about 15 inches deep; I did not measure it—the room was very dark.

Cross-examined. I did not measure the jambs of the fireplace; they are very small.

Re-examined. The hearthstone which projects was not covered by the fender, there were a few inches beyond it when I saw it—the fender is about 8 inches wide.

CHARLES LEE . (Re-examined by. MR. RODGERS. The flooring of the room is wood, with a hearthstone in front of the fireplace between it and the bedstead, and on the hearthstone stood this fender—the bed was about a yard and a half from the wall, the fireplace would not be quite so much.

SIDNEY LLOYD SMITH . M.R.C.S. I am medical officer of St. Pancras—on 5th May, about 9 a.m., I was called to 139, Gray's Inn Road, and saw a woman on the floor dead—I should say she had been dead three or four hours—there were several recent bruises about different parts of her face, and the remains of a black eye, which was not recent; by recent I mean within a few hours—there was an abrasion of the skin, an abrasion at the end of the nose, a scratch by the side of the nose, a bruise on the left cheek, a bruise on the left temple, and a bruise on the upper lip, with the flesh lacerated—the lower lip had a mark, but I think that was an old ulceration—all those could have been inflicted by her tumbling about in the room, except the upper lip, I am doubtful about that, and the scratch on the nose I do not think could be self-inflicted—I examined the pupils to see whether they were dilated, to see if there were evidences of poison—next day I made another examination with Dr. Smith, and found nine ribs broken on the left side; the second rib was broken in three places, and the third in two places, the fourth, fifth, and sixth in one place, the seventh in two places, and the eighth, ninth, and tenth in one place; the third, fourth, and fifth were torn from their cartilages—on the right side eight ribs were broken, one fracture each, and the chest-bone was broken between the first and second ribs—there was no

connection between the death and the other organs—there was an abrasion in front of one leg, it might be called scratches, and we then saw that the lobe of the left ear was lacerated—I think she died from shock to the system produced by those injuries—I found no external marks of violence on the chest, corresponding with the fractures; the only marks of violence we saw were on the face—the fractures had been effected by force applied to the chest-bone; that would fracture all the ribs and would make them break outwards—I do not think they could have been self-inflicted; she might have done it herself if there had been only one or two ribs broken, but not with 17—I do not think she could have walked from the public-house, or walked at all, with her ribs broken in that way—some of them might have been caused by a man standing on her chest, without boots, and jumping on her, but not all, unless it was repeated—repeated jumps time after time might account for it, or a man kneeling with force on her chest might have done it, but that would require to be repeated—if the prisoner was insensibly drunk during the night, and repeatedly fell upon her, that would account for it, but he would have to fall in a certain way, not on the same spot, but very nearly so; if he fell flat on the body I do not think it would have produced it—I think there must have been some kind of prominence—when I say self-inflicted, I mean by the woman falling about—I saw the prisoner when I went to the house, and asked him when he found her—I did not notice any appearance of his having been intoxicated during the night.

Cross-examined. What I have been telling the Court is my opinion, I have known people have their ribs broken by falling on their ribs—I know Gray's Inn Road, it has a stone causeway pavement; a person falling upon it might break a rib or two, but if she fell a few times it would be rather unusual to break a rib each time she fell—I do not think she would break her ribs if she fell on her breast, but if she fell on her ribs she might break them at the point of striking—I do not think if she fell on her face she would be likely to break her ribs, not unless she caught on the edge of the pavement—this (produced.) is a correct representation of the human body, showing the ribs—a drunken woman tumbling about on the edge of the pavement, might break a rib now and again—her age was about 58, when the ribs are certainly brittle—I do not think they would be more brittle if the person was fond of liquor; I do not think drunkenness would affect the bones much, but the ribs of a person of 58 are very readily broken—she would certainly have felt the breaking of her ribs—persons have gone about for days with broken ribs not knowing it, but it would give pain; you can tell within a few hours or a day, when ribs are broken—these ribs were broken within a few hours in my opinion; the examination took place on the evening of the next day, and I should say that the ribs had been broken a few hours before death—I do not think she could have done all this injury by falling about in the night—I think the old man (The prisoner.) could have stood on her body if she were lying on the floor; I do not say that he could have broken all these ribs by treading on her, but by jumping or kneeling—there was not the slightest mark of injury from kneeling, kneeling would not put the marks on her face nor the scratches on her legs—I did not suggest kneeling on her body, it was suggested to me—if the prisoner got up in the night and blindly stepped

on her, and fell upon her it might have produced a large number of the fractures, but I do not think it would have produced them all—if he had fallen on her and in endeavouring to get up had fallen again, that might have caused the sequence of fractures, that is, the row of fractures, but I do not think it would have broken the bones in two or three places—I saw him about 9.30 a.m., he was then quite rational and sober as far as I could judge.

Re-examined. Supposing the injuries had been caused by the woman falling and tumbling about, I think it would be necessary that she should fall on some projection; I cannot tell you what projections there were in the room, I saw the fender and a couple of chairs—if she fell on a chair it would not produce all these injuries—there were no bruises on the chest, only on the face—there was no external injury on the chest, there might not have been marks if she was jumped upon; you may have excessive internal injuries without any outside appearances, the clothes would act as a sort of cushion—if you could see the bare chest afterwards you would see a red mark, but it would disappear soon—if she fell on the fender I should expect to find a bruise and a different kind of fracture, by a direct blow the ribs would have been driven inwards, in falling in the street I should expect to find bruises.

By the. JURY. The injury to the lobe of the ear might have been done by a fall or by other means. (A chair with a broken back was here produced.—she would not fall far if she fell off that chair.

JOHN BLAND SUTTON . F.R.C.S. I am assistant surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital—I was present at this post-mortem examination with Dr. Smith—I agree with him as to the number and extent of the fractures of the ribs, and also as to his enumeration of the external injuries—the organs were perfectly healthy—the cause of death was shock to the system resulting from the injuries which were caused by force to the breastbone—I have heard Dr. Smith's opinion to-day and agree with him.

GEORGE DANFORD THOMAS . M.D. I am Coroner for Central Middlesex—on 7th May I held an inquest on the deceased, and it was adjourned to Saturday the 14th—the prisoner was examined on the 7th—I took down what he said; I duly cautioned him that what I had stated to me was optional on his part, and I should take it down in writing, and it might be used for or against him in any Court—he was then sworn, and made a statement, which I took down; this (produced.) is a copy of my notes, they were read over to him—he was remanded by the Magistrate in the morning, who permitted him to come to my Court in the afternoon, and he did come—he saw this document, he was allowed to do so by the constable in charge, who is my special officer; he is here. (The witness then read the notes of the prisoner's evidence, in which he stated that he and his wife had been drinking together, and as she was the worse for liquor, she fell as they were crossing Gray's Inn Lane, and that she was got up with assistance, that they went home, and she refused to go to bed, but that he went to bed and went to sleep, and he heard the clock strike three, and heard her tumbling about the room, and then as he could not hear her, he asked her to get into bed, and receiving no answer, he felt about the room for her and found her on the floor, and put a pillow under her head and left her there, and went to bed again, as he had done on previous occasions; that he got up again at. 7 o'clock and found the furniture turned topsy turvey, but that he did not remember either falling or sitting upon her.)

Witness for the Defence.

ELIZABETH HUNTLEY . I am the wife of Richard Huntley, and am the foster-daughter of the prisoner; he and his wife always lived on the best of terms, as far as I saw, but I very seldom went to their house—I never saw him strike her, nor heard him threaten to do so—he has never struck me, unless when I was too young to know it—he has a dog which goes about with him; he was kind to his dog, as far as I am aware of, which was very well fed—I was with them the day before her death, Wednesday—to the best of my recollection, they were on the best of terms—I do not know much about the deceased, I did not very often visit her, but I have heard that she was given to drink—I lived in the house from my infancy, my parents took me away, but I went back after two years, when the prisoner was blind—he was a kind-hearted old man, and I always knew him to speak very kindly of her.

Cross-examined by. MR. MEAD. I was at the house between 3 and 4 o'clock that afternoon.

GUILTY. of Manslaughter.— Eighteen Months' Hard Labour.

Before Robert Malcolm Kerr, Esq.