Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 06 October 2022), January 1889, trial of WILLIAM ATKINS (21) (t18890107-179).

WILLIAM ATKINS, Breaking Peace > wounding, 7th January 1889.

179. WILLIAM ATKINS (21) , feloniously wounding Lucretia Pembroke, with intent to murder; second Count, with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

MR. MEAD and MR. CHARLES MATHEWS Prosecuted; MR. RIBTON Defended,

at the request of the Court. LUCRETIA PEMBROKE. I am fifteen years old—I have been waiting at a coffee-house, 17, Spa Road, Bermondsey, kept by Mrs. Whiting—I

have been there about three years—I have known the prisoner about two years or a little more—he used to come to the coffee-house to have his meals, and he did some papering and whitewashing there about three weeks ago—I have always been on friendly terms with him—on Monday, 10th December, about half-past four in the afternoon, he came into the shop; my mistress was upstairs—two little children, aged three years and fifteen months, were in the shop with me—the prisoner came in at the front door; I did not see him do anything to the door, I had my back turned—he asked for a pennyworth of tea; I gave it him, he did not offer to pay for it, I did not ask him for it; I asked him if he wanted any bread and butter—he said, "No"—he was sitting at a table—after that I walked away from him; he began to walk after me, and then ran and caught hold of me by the waist and drew a knife—I did not see him draw it, I felt it round the right part of my throat—he did not say anything, he only did it once, I then saw him run to the back-yard, I felt blood coming from my throat; I called out and ran to the front door, and found it was locked, the key was in it on the inside—I stayed there till my mistress came down shortly after and assisted me—a constable came, and I was taken to the hospital—Sergeant Bradford came to the hospital, and I made a statement to him—I saw the prisoner as he made his way to the back, and 1 saw a small blade of a knife in his hand—I did not know the prisoner's name, I used to speak of him as "Silly Billy."

Cross-examined. I have frequently heard him called "Silly Billy"—I and the children gave him that name—he had not done anything to deserve the name—he used to play with the children in the shop; they used to call him "Daddy," and he used to mock them, and used to say"Daddy" after them—he was not quite like other young men of his age, that was why I called him "Silly"—he did not hear me call him "Silly."

ESTHER ANN WHITING . I am the wife of Joseph Whiting—last witness has been in our service about three years, helping me in the coffee-house—I know the prisoner quite well—he has been a customer between two and three years—when he was in work he came to breakfast, dinner, and tea; when out of work he would come occasionally—he did some white washing for us about a fortnight before 10th September—I used to talk to him from time to time, about the weather and different things—I never thought him strange; he was always very civil and polite to me—I did not give him any money for the job he did; I gave him food—on Monday, 10th December, about half-past four, I was upstairs and the little girl was downstairs with the children—I heard screams, and ran down—there is a door at the bottom of the stairs, I found that was locked on the outside—I bad left it open when I went upstairs—I pushed it and got it open and went into the shop; I found the girl at the top of the shop near, the street door; that was also locked and bolted—she was bleeding from the throat, and there was a lot of blood from the top of the shop to the bottom—she made a statement to me, and I sent for the police.

Cross-examined. He (prisoner) was in the habit of coming to the shop often, never for anything but refreshment as a customer—I have met him out accidentally, and spoke to him for a minute or so—I have never seen him out with the girl; he would take his meals in the shop, and she would be in the room at the back with me—I never heard of his being called

"Silly Billy,"I never saw him out of temper; I have seen him looking very dull, and he said it was because of want of work—the children used to run out to him when he came in, and he has played with them, not in a silly manner—I never heard them call him "Dada."

SARAH NETLEY . I am the wife of William Netley, a butcher, of 19, Spa Road—on the afternoon of 10th December, about half-past four, I was in the back yard of 21, Spa Road; from there I can see into the back yard of 17—I saw a man on the stable of the adjoining house to Mr. Whiting's, I could not tell who he was, because I did not see his face, and it was rather foggy—he jumped over into the tanyard, and I lost sight of him—I have known the prisoner about two and a half years, ever since he worked in the tanyard at the back—I have seen him three or four times a day—I have served him in the shop and spoken to him, and he has answered me very rationally; he stammers a little—I never noticed anything strange about him.

Cross-examined. I never noticed him downcast, as if there was anything on his mind, he always seemed about the same; he was not a very lively sort of man, he always appeared very quiet; I never saw him laughing—he did not strike me as curious at all—he always paid me for what he had—I heard Lucretia once call him "Silly Billy" when she wanted to make me understand who he was.

ALFRED EDWARD PRICE . On 10th December I was house surgeon at Guy's Hospital when the girl was brought there about five o'clock in the afternoon; she was very pale and faint from loss of blood—I found a large deep gash on the right side of her neck, from the middle of the neck to the right side of the ear, about five inches long; it was a very deep wound, but did not open the windpipe; it went down to the jaw bone; one artery was severed; she had lost a great deal of blood—it was a dangerous wound; it would require great force to inflict, unless done with a very sharp knife; this penknife (produced) is rather blunt; I think with that it would require great force; it has one blade only—besides that wound there were two small incised wounds, one on the chin and another cutting off the top of the lobe of the right ear; these were very slight wounds—she remained in the hospital till 1st January, when she was discharged cured—she did very well, and is perfectly healed now.

Cross-examined. I have had no communication with the prisoner—I saw him before the Magistrate; he was then just as he is now—he said nothing—he has rather the type of a man of weak intellect, but I have met with men having just the same type of countenance.

WILLIAM BRADFORD (Police Sergeant M). On the evening of 10th December, about half-past seven, I went with another officer to 7, Limerson Street, Bermondsey, where the prisoner was lodging; I said to him, "We are police officers; we are going to take you into custody for feloniously cutting the throat of Lucy Pembroke, of 17, Spa Road, this afternoon"—he said, "Is she dead? '—I said, "No, she is not dead; but she is very dangerously ill in the hospital, and she says you did it with a penknife that you took from your pocket; have you got one about you?"—he put his hand in his pocket and produced this knife, and said, "This is the only one I have"—I took him to the station, left him there,' and went to Guy's Hospital, where I saw the girl—she made a statement to me—I returned to the station and again saw the prisoner—I said, "I

have just come from Guy's Hospital, where I have seen the little girl Pembroke, and I asked her if she could tell me who the man was that cut her throat, and she said it was Bill Atkins; he lives at 21, Limerson Street, Bermondsey; they call him "Silly Billy"—I said, "Are you sure it is him?"—she said, "Yes, I know him quite well; he has done a little whitewashing and papering in our house about a fortnight ago"—he then said, "Yes, I did do the whitewashing and paperhanging there"—he was subsequently charged, and when it was read over to him he made no reply—I examined the knife; there were no marks of blood on it.

Cross-examined. I believe he was not out of work at this time—I have only known him casually in passing—I know nothing with regard to his mental condition—he appears to be a man that does not seem as sharp as one would naturally expect.

LUCRETTA PEMBROKE (Recalled). This knife has such a blade as I saw in the prisoner's hand.

GEORGE TUPPING . I am a leather finisher, of 86, Delaford Road, South Bermondsey—I have known the prisoner for three years—he has been employed with me in the same firm during that time—I have had him continually under my observation—I have seen nothing strange in him whatever.

Cross-examined. I never saw any sign of weak intellect about him; he has always been rational, reasonable, and sensible—I never heard until this morning that he had been subject to epileptic fits—if I heard persons say he was almost imbecile I should entirely disbelieve it, as far as I have seen of him. Mr. Ribton called

PHILIP FRANCIS GILBERT . I am Surgeon of Holloway Prison; the prisoner has been under my observation there since 11th December—I have conversed with him and seen a good deal of him; I have formed the opinion that he is very weak-minded, almost imbecile—he has not had any epileptic fit while I have seen him—he has conformed to all the prison regulations—notwithstanding that, I adhere without any hesitation to the opinion that he is of very weak intellect.

Cross-examined. I have seen him and spoken to him very often—I have had him under my special supervision—he understands and answers, very slowly but rationally—I have seen him four or five times a week—that has been his demeanour during the whole time—he understands what is now going on—I think he is capable of appreciating what he is doing, and of distinguishing between right and wrong to a certain extent.

By the COURT. In using a knife on the girl's throat he would know that he was doing a dangerous thing; I think he would know he was doing wrong—I don't think he would appreciate fully, as an intelligent man.

MARTHA FORD . I am a widow, and live at 4, Charlotte Row, Nelson Street, Bermondsey; I am an aunt of the prisoner—he has been subject to epileptic fits from his birth; I have seen him in one—the last was quite nine years back, but he has had them since—as far as my judgment goes he is not right at times; he is very sullen and morose occasionally, that comes on him in fits, and then he does not appear to understand what he is doing—I am sure that his mind is to some extent affected, from my experience of him from boyhood—he once

shut my little girl in a doorway and left her there; I suppose she had done something that he did not like—when he was sullen his appearance altered very much; he had a very vacant look, especially with the right eye—he suffered very much in his head at times—it was not from grief, more from passion—I have not known him commit any acts of violence, only on that one occasion; but I have seen very mischievous acts when these fits were upon him, throwing things about in a rage, and playing with fire—I have not heard him called "Silly Billy," but as a child I knew him to have a nickname—his mother died eight years ago.

Cross-examined. There has been no insanity in the family that I know of—his grandfather was subject to epileptic fits—he wandered at times—the prisoner was very passionate—he had an injury to his head when he was young—before he was born his father kicked his mother very severely in the loins, and he had twenty-three fits in one day—independent of that a horse kicked him in the back of his head when he was three and a half years old—he has the scar now—sometimes he has had these fits when asleep in bed—the last I know of was nine years ago—he has been earning his livelihood—he was six years and more with Mr. Thorpe, a paperstainer, and he went from there to the tanyard for three years.

GUILTY on the second Count Seven Years' Penal Servitude.