Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 04 October 2023), April 1912, trial of TEBBITT (t19120423-9).

TEBBITT, Breaking Peace > wounding, 23rd April 1912.

TEBBITT (30, agent), was indicted for feloniously shooting at Charles Berg with intent to murder him, and with intent to resist his (Tebbitt's) lawful apprehension; feloniously shooting at Leopold de Rothschild with intent to murder him.

Mr. Bodkin prosecuted; Mr. Muir defended.

Mr. Bodkin stated that from reports which had come to him he had reason to think that prisoner was not fit to plead. The jury were first sworn to try whether prisoner was fit to plead to the indictments.

THEOPHILUS BULKELEY HYSLOP , M.D., 5, Portland Place. On March 8 and April 22 I saw prisoner in Brixton Prison, and had lengthy interviews with him. I found him to be suffering from a condition of chronic delusional insanity, with ideas of persecution in a special way; he thought that he was persecuted indirectly through Mr. Rothschild, and that a tutor of chemistry at King's College had been indirectly influenced by Mr. Rothschild to make a wrong equation of some chemical formula, and that this error had upset him very much, and he thought that, as there was nothing else left to do, he was in duty bound to retaliate upon Mr. Rothschild. It seemed to me, from what I gathered from his history, that this condition had been gradually

growing from February last year. I should consider prisoner very dangerous if at large. In fact, he volunteered the information to me that if he were allowed to be free, if his studies were interfered with in that way, there would be no other course left open to him than to retaliate in that way. I do not consider him to be in a fit condition to give proper instructions for his defence, because, under my very mild cross-questioning, he became confused, irrelevant, and, incoherent.

Cross-examined. He is in some respects fairly intelligent. I know he very strongly resents the suggestion that he is insane, and desires his sanity to be established in the course of this inquiry; that is the usual rule. That does not shake my belief; 99 out of 100 persons who are suffering from mental diseases deny the fact. I know he is very studious. I have heard that since I examined him for the first time he desired to be examined by another mental expert. He did not accept my view that he is insane.

SIDNEY REGINALD DYER , Medical Officer, Brixton Prison. Prisoner has been confined there since March 4. He has been under constant observation, and I have had several very long interviews with him. I have heard the evidence of Dr. Hyslop with regard to his delusional insanity. Prisoner has told me about the tutor in chemistry at King's College having been influenced by Mr. Rothschild, and has said that if he was interfered with, personally, in this way, he thought he was justified in shooting the origin of it. I think he is very dangerous. I should call him a homicidal maniac. I think he is so demented by these delusions that he is incapable of giving intelligent instructions for his defence.

Cross-examined. He is rather an intelligent type, and he talks rationally on most subjects, but he is so obsessed with delusions that they rather seem to percolate into other topics, and he becomes incoherent. He talks coherently and intelligently on labour matters and politics, and, to a certain extent, he is quite understandable; then these delusions of persecution seem to come into them. He communicated with the head of the Labour Party to nominate a mental expert to examine him, which I regard as a very intelligent thing to do.

Mr. Muir. I have taken instructions from the defendant. He was examined by this gentleman, who was nominated for him by the gentleman who is at the head of the Labour Party, and the defendant does not desire that gentleman to be called.

Chief Inspector JOHN WILLIS, City Police. I was present at the Mansion House at the last hearing of this case before the Lord Mayor. At the end of the case the usual caution was given, and prisoner was asked whether he had anything to say. His behaviour was most extraordinary; be wanted to initial every page of the information and the statement made by him that was written down: he protested that he was unable to initial every particular sheet. He then objected also to the two different kinds of paper being used. He insisted on making the statement viva voce, instead of putting in his written statement, and afterwards refused to sign it until he initialled each

sheet. The statement is as follows: "I have reason to suppose that there is a general impression that I was insane at the time 1 made my attempt on the life of Mr. de Rothschild. I consider I was perfectly sane, and think an impartial reading of the police evidence will support my opinion. I am completing a full statement of the motives for my action, which are mainly political, and which I will read to the judge who tries me. I take this opportunity of saying that no reliance can be placed upon any report, speeches, statement, etc., of other people, which purport to contain expressions of my view." It was obvious that prisoner suspected the bona fides of the way in which his statement was being taken, and he wanted to protect himself against any misapprehension of anything he said. The statement was taken in the ordinary course.

The jury found that prisoner was fit to plead.

(Thursday, April 25.)

Prisoner pleaded guilty to all counts of the two indictments. Mr. Bodkin said that prisoner was the son of parents of the highest respectability, members of the Jewish community. His father used to attend the Central Synagogue, which Mr. Leopold de Rothschild also attended. In that way, a good many years ago, Mr. Rothschild through knowing his father also got to know prisoner and took a kindly interest in him. Some years ago prisoner went to Australia, and while there he used to write to Mr. Rothschild on his birthday and send him small presents, and Mr. Rothschild occasionally sent him small gifts, either himself or by his secretary. Mr. Rothschild had heard nothing of prisoner since 1909. Prisoner seemed to have come back from Australia and to have begun to study chemistry at King's College, and although he had a perfectly good home to go to, and kind parents, he preferred to live alone in lodgings of a humble character in the neighbourhood of the Tottenham Court Road. Since November his demeanour had altered; he was very restless at nights. On March 4 prisoner was seen' loitering about in St. Swithin's Lane, into which New Court turns, for some two hours and a half. About five o'clock Mr. Leopold de Rothschild, in his motor-car, was leaving New Court for the purpose of going to his home in the country. Charles Berg, an officer of the City Police, who was attached to these banking premises upon special duty, was stationed at the exit of the court for the purpose of keeping pedestrians out of the way of the car. Upon the car turning into St. Swithin's Lane prisoner went to it, and fired three shots through the front window, and another through the side window of the car. Berg ran up to the prisoner and caught hold of him Some people who were passing along also came up. As soon as Berg came near prisoner stepped back a few paces, extended his right arm, and shot straight and deliberately at Berg. The bullet struck Berg upon the jaw, on the left side of the face, passed right through the neck, and embedded itself upon the opposite side, avoiding by only a hair's-breadth several most vital and dangerous organs in the neck. Berg fell down. A gentleman named Whitlock, one of those who had interfered to stop prisoner, was fired at, the bullet embedding itself in

his clothing. Berg was taken to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and was there for about a month as an in-patient; he is now recovered, except for being left in a nervous and shaky condition. Prisoner was arrested. On the way to the police station one of the officers said, "Who was in the car?" Prisoner replied, "Mr. Leopold. I think I saw Lord Rothschild go out; I intended to shoot Leopold." At the police station prisoner asked, "How is the man I shot? I heard that he was hit twice; I should think he would recover. As the bullets were small ones they would have to put the X-Rays on him." In reply to the charge of shooting Berg and at Mr. Leopold de Rothschild, prisoner replied, "That seems to be correct." At his lodgings in Tottenham Court Road were found a number of cartridges for the revolver (produced).

Mr. Muir said that the prisoner did not consult him as to the plea he should give in answer to the indictments, and his plea took him quite by surprise. He thought that prisoner would have pleaded Not Guilty, and that the question of his sanity or insanity would be inquired into by the jury. He had explained to prisoner that the course he had taken in pleading guilty had prevented that, and that he had to be dealt with as a sane man. Counsel had not the smallest doubt that the Prison Commissioners would inquire into his sanity, and if they found that he was a dangerous lunatic he would be sent to Broadmoor, just as he would be if found insane by a jury. The only matter the prisoner desired him to call attention to was this: He said that if he had here his exercise books with regard to the equation, which he said was given to him wrongly by his instructor at the college where he was studying chemistry, he would be able to demonstrate that the equation given him was in fact wrong, and therefore that the medical experts were mistaken in supposing that that was a delusion, and their conclusion that he was insane was accordingly based on wrong premises. It had been said that there had been some blood relationship between him and Mr. Rothschild, causing him to make the attack. Prisoner desired him to say that there was no foundation for any such idea in his mind. In fact, there was no foundation for any such idea. The prisoner's parents were most respectable people in a good position, and were greatly distressed that any such rumour had got about. The certificates were in court of the marriage and birth, and so on, to place any such rumour absolutely beyond question. The acquaintance between Mr. Rothschild and the prisoner began when the prisoner was a little boy, and Mr. Rothschild kindly allowed him to sit beside him at a service at the Central Synagogue, and afterwards gave him a sovereign. There was no question of charity in the gifts which Mr. Rothschild sent the prisoner, but they were merely acts of friend-liness. Prisoner's friends desired that any suggestion that he had accepted charity from Mr. Rothschild should be cleared away. Prisoner was studious and solitary in his habits, and now he almost welcomed the idea of the solitude of a prison cell, where he could be alone with his books and no one to interrupt him. He thought that Mr. Rothschild had for some reason conceived an enmity towards him, and that using the great influence which prisoner supposed him to possess, he had influenced the instructor at the college to mis-instruct him and

to prevent his progress in his studies. Prisoner's view was that the only way in which he could put a stop to that interruption to his studies was to put an end to Mr. Rothschild's life.

Mr. Bodkin said that Mr. Rothschild was absolutely unaware that the prisoner was at King's College or had any connection with that institution.

Mr. Justice Coleridge. William Tebbitt, I am placed in considerable difficulty by the course which this case has taken. Although, personally—and everyone who has listened to the case must take the same view—although, personally, I am of opinion that you are not re sponsible for your actions, and therefore that no moral blame can possibly attach to your conduct, yet I am placed in this difficulty, that I am bound to consider you, for the purpose of to-day, as a sane man, responsible for your act, and to pass the same sentence upon you that I should pass had you been a sane man responsible for your act, and; had attempted wilfully and of your malice aforethought to kill and 1 murder two, if not three, people. Had you been a sane man the sentence of the Court would have been that you should be kept in penal servitude for Twenty years, and that is the sentence which I pronounce. At the same time, it is more or less a formality, because I am satisfied, and you may be satisfied, that that sentence will not be carried into effect, and that, your state of mind being inquired into, the result, in fact, will be that you will be detained during His Majesty's pleasure.


(Wednesday, April 24.)