Trial of Charles Street
Report in the Cambridge Independent Press. 27 March 1875
[Note: this is a complete transcript of the full report and Charles Street was born 1854]
CROWN COURT – Tuesday.
STEEPLE MORDEN – MURDER,
SENTENCE OF DEATH.
The court house was this morning early besieged by a crowd of persons anxious to obtain admittance to hear the trial of Charles Street, for the willful and cold-blooded murder of his uncle Abraham Cambers, and by the time that Mr Justice Grove took his seat on the bench every part of the court allotted to the public was densely packed, even the ladies’ gallery being so full that it looks as if it would overflow. The jury empanelled to try the accused murderer, had for its foreman Mr W Baker of Fitzroy Street, Cambridge, and was apparently above the average in intelligence of Cambridgeshire petty juries. As soon as his lordship had taken his seat on the bench the accused was placed at the bar, and by no means presented the appearance which had been expected. He is a short thick-set young man of twenty years of age, and without the slightest repulsiveness in appearance. He has a fresh complexion, dark eyes and dark hair, which was parted in the middle. The accused, on being challenged as to his guilt, pleaded Not Guilty, but without indicating that earnestness which might have been looked for in a person put on his trial for an offence which probably would lead to his life being taken. It cannot be said that the accused treated the matter with perfect indifference, but he certainly appeared to take no more than the intelligent interest of an ordinary person, and this was a case was the case all through the long and serious trial. On only one brief occasion did he evince the slightest emotion, and that was on the appearance in the witness box of his poor old mother. On no single occasion was there any communication between the unfortunate prisoner and his counsel, and when at length the foreman of the jury, amidst most ominous silence, gave the verdict which virtually condemned him to death, the prisoner was unmoved, preserving the same composure or absence of emotion while sentence of death was passed upon him.
Charles Street (18), labourer, was indicted for what he did, on 16th of November, 1874 at Steeple Morden, feloniously, willfuly, and of malice a forethought, kill and murder Abraham Cambers.
He pleaded not guilty.
Mr Bulwer QC and Mr Browne (Instructed by Mr F Grain were for the prosecution: Mr Mayd (Instructed by Mr H Thurnall of Royston) defended the prisoner.
Mr Bulwer, in opening the case to the jury, said they had heard the nature of the charge that they were to investigate. He need hardly point out to them that it was the most serious investigation in which they could be engaged, being a matter of life and death. He was instructed to this case before them, and in one respect he felt satisfaction that the evidence was of the clearest possible character, as he always felt in a case of this importance it was satisfactory that the evidence should be clear one way or the other. He then proceeded to lay the facts before the jury. The man at the bar was indicted for the murder of an old man, aged 74, who kept a beer-house at Steeple Morden, in this county, where he lived quite alone. The prisoner was about twenty years of age, and a grand-nephew of the old man. About 18 months before the occurrence, he had for 3 years resided with his uncle at Steeple Morden, and of course he had ample opportunities of knowing the old man’s habits, where he kept his money, and his mode of life. Afterwards he lived at home with his father a farmer at Guilden Morden about three quarters of a mile from Cambers’ house. The reason why he ceased to reside with his uncle, he was rather addicted to drink, and it seemed had occasional fits of delirium tremens, and his father thought as Cambers kept a beer house was not the most fit place for the young man to reside at. He believed that for the last 10 months the prisoner had been a total abstainer, and had thoroughly reformed his habits as regards drink. On Sunday 15th of November, he should prove to them, the old man Cambers was seen alive and in his usual health at 9 o’clock in the evening, by a neighbour, who would be called before them. On the following Monday the 16th the same witness noticed at seven o’clock in the morning, that the curtains of the house were undrawn, and that smoke was issuing from his chimney, showing that the old man was about the house at his ordinary avocations. He thought, between eight and nine o’clock, that witness would tell them, that she was getting her breakfast, and that she heard the report of firearms, and that at ten o’clock that morning she noticed the shutters were put up, and, he believed, his door fastened which was his usual habit when he went out so that the impression was that the old man had gone out. Somewhere about half-an-hour after this the prisoner was at the Bull’s Head, Ashwell, a village about three miles from the spot, and the prisoner then made a statement, to which he would call their attention more in detail presently, in consequence of which the landlord and another witness he would call before them, drove over to the old man’s house arriving there at about half-past two or three. There they, upon opening the shutters, saw the old man lying in his blood upon the floor, stone dead. They fetched a policeman and on their return towards Ashwell, met a doctor with whom they came back to the old man’s house. Then the policeman went to Ashwell; he then apprehended the prisoner, and found upon him £22 in gold, 15s. 4d. in silver and eight-pence in copper, which, he had no doubt, they would be of opinion was the money saved by the old man to pay his rent and beer account. He would call their attention to the prisoner’s conduct and behaviour chronologically, and he would show them he was at home that morning between seven and eight o’clock, that he excused himself from going to work to assist his father for some reason or other. He thought he said that one of his master’s horses was lame and that he was going to give it a rest. He left his home, and between his father’s house and his uncle’s, called at a little shop and there purchased an ounce of gunpowder, a quarter of a pound of No. 6 shot, and a pennyworth of caps. That was a little before eight o’clock. After purchasing the powder, shot, and caps, he was seen shortly afterwards by a groom, employed by a gentleman named Merry, who was exercising his Master’s horses and spoken to against the gate of his uncle Camber’s house. He had told them, that between eight and nine, a witness who lives close by, heard the report of a pistol or gun. After that a woman named Martha Webb saw him on the road walking fast, about 300 yards from the house in the direction of Guilden Morden. About half-past nine he returned home, took off shirt-front and coat, and left the house, and then went to the house where Jonah Newell was at work somewhere near the Bulls Head, and asked him to have his morning’s drink. This brought him to the statement which that witness and another would lay before them. It was to this effect. That having invited him to have his “eleven o’clock” and gone into the Bull’s Head, he thought Newell had something to drink, and the prisoner said it would be the last time he would have the pleasure of drinking with him. He said “the old man has been the ruin of me, and now I have ruined him”. Newell did not know what he was alluding to. The prisoner gave him his watch to take care of it, Newell passing some jocular remark with reference to it. The prisoner went on to say that he purchased some powder and shot from Master’s, that he went down to his uncle Camber’s house, and just as he was going in, Mr Merry’s groom came by. When he went into the house he asked his uncle how he was, and he replied. “All right, Boy. “ He asked him how much he owed him, he replied “Eighteenpence.” He then asked, “Has father brought that old pistol back? “ His uncle said, “Yes. “ He asked him how much he would take for it, and he said, “Nine shillings.” He then threw down a sovereign, out of which his uncle took the 9s. and the 1s. 6d,. and gave him 9s. 6d. change. He then loaded the pistol two or three times to make sure of its going off, then loaded it again, sat by the side of the fire, with his finger on the trigger, all of a tremble and when Cambers went to stoop over the fire, let fly at him. He fell on the fire which burnt a hole in his trousers, and he spat on his fingers and put it out, and left him alone in the middle of the house, and if they went to look they would find it just as he said. This was corroborated by every little fact in the case. The pistol was found the next morning behind some sticks in the old man’s house, with a discharged cap upon it, and the barrel was dirty with the explosion of the powder. Deceased was found lying upon the floor dead, shot in his head, with a bullet corresponding with those the prisoner had purchased. On his clothes were found spots of blood, and they noticed that in his statement, he mentioned that the old man had fallen upon the fire, which had burnt his trousers, and that he spat on his fingers, and put the fire out; and just above the knee of the old man’s trousers was found a hole burnt just as he had said. There were other little matters, although he had told them nearly all in this very bad case, except as to the motive. He believed it would appear that the young man had some ill-feeling towards his uncle with reference to some paltry sum of eighteen-pence for which the old man had threatened to sue him in the County Court, and that he had on several occasions vented his ill-feeling towards his uncle with reference to that. He should show them that as long ago as 1873 he nourished ill feeling, if his own expressions could be taken as evidence, and that upon the day of the murder there was found upon him a sum of money of which they would probably be of opinion he had robbed his uncle. It would be his duty to lay the evidence before them, and to crave their attention to it. He could not at that moment suggest to them any doubt whatever as to the truth of the charge which was laid against the prisoner, and it would be their duty to give their verdict according to the facts of the case. He then proceeded to lay the evidence before them, leaving the result in the hands of the jury.
Elizabeth Warboys (by Mr. BULWER) said: I am a married woman, living with my husband at Northbrookend, Steeple Morden. I knew Abraham Cambers. He lived at Steeple Morden about 24 or 25 yards off me. He was a publican. He lived alone. I remember the day he was found dead. On the Sunday night, about nine o’clock, I went in for a pint of beer. He was then alive and well as usual. That was the last time I saw him alive. On the following morning, when I got up about 7, his blinds were drawn : after that I saw his blinds undrawn and smoke issuing from his chimney. I went to breakfast at about 8.30. I did not see the old man that morning. While I was at breakfast, I heard the sound of a gun, but I did not know where it was. a. After breakfast I went to the well at his house for my water at about 10 o’clock, and his shutters were closed up. That was his habit when he went out. That afternoon the prisoner’s father and some other people came to the house and opened it, and I went in with them. They undid the shutters and got through the window and let Mr. Street and me in through the back way. I saw his breakfast things on the table, bread and butter, and tea in the pot not wetted. The kettle was on the fire-place. The fire which had been lighted had gone out. The old man lay on the floor dead. There was a great quantity of blood on the floor. It had come from his head. The breeches he wore were taken off in my presence, and I gave them to Superintendent Pallant. I knew Charles Street when he lived with his uncle. I don’t exactly know how long he had lived there, but he had not lived there lately. I did not see him that morning.
Agnes Masters (by Mr. BROWNE) : I am the wife of Thomas Masters who keeps a shop in Guilden Morden. I recollect on Monday morning, November 16th, Chas. Street came to the shop for one ounce of gunpowder, and quarter of a pound of shot, No. 6, and a pennyworth of gun caps. I supplied those articles. This was a little before 8. On the Thursday morning I gave p.c. Pallant samples of the gunpowder, caps, and shot.
By Mr. MAYD : He bought some tobacco. He did not say who it was for.
Alfred Warboys (by Mr. BULWER) : I am groom to Mr Merry, of Guilden Morden. On the morning of the 16th of November, I saw Charles Street about 8 o’clock. I was exercising my master’s horse. I saw him standing against the gate in front of Abraham Camber’s house. I said”Morning Charlie, “and he said, “Morning Alfred.” I did not notice the house. I rode on to Wendy. I returned past the house about 11, and the shutters were closed then. I did not see Chas. Street any more that day.
Edward Tyndale, surgeon (by Mr. BROWNE) : I live at Ashwell. I saw Martha Webb last Thursday. She was liable be to be confined every hour. It would be dangerous for her to travel to the assizes. I was present when she gave her evidence before the magistrates at Arrington in the presence of the prisoner, before the Rev. H. Stone. He had an opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses.
The JUDGE quoted several cross-decisions with reference to the admission of the depositions in the case of inability to travel through pregnancy : but said in this case he should be inclined to think there was proof of inability to travel.
Mr. BULWER said that if there was any difficulty, he should not press the matter.
Catherine Street (by Mr. BROWNE) said : I am the mother of Charles Street. On Monday morning, the 16th of November, my son left home at about eight o’clock, after breakfast. I next saw him at about half-past nine, when he changed his clothes – his coat and shirt front. I gave them to Supt. Pallant the next day. I don’t know that my son and Cambers were unfriendly or had any dispute. There were something said about eighteen pence that was owing to my son Charles.
By Mr. MAYD : My son is 20 years old. During the last few month he has been subject to fits, and there has been an alteration in his state of health. On the Sunday my son was very strange. He kept going to bed and getting up again, lying down with his clothes on, looking at you so very strange. He first went to bed after breakfast. He got up about ten and went to bed again and got up a little before twelve. I don’t think he went again. He was in the habit of going to chapel. He did not go that morning. He looked very strange. He has been a quiet respectable young man. I have seen him have five fits, very strong ones. They made him insensible and sometimes very violent. He threw himself about, and the first fit he had he tore the bed clothes to pieces. He once had a fit and fell on to the fire.
By the JUDGE : When he recovered from the fit he did not know anything of it.
By Mr. MAYD : He foamed at the mouth, and the fits seemed to affect his head and mind. He has complained of pains in his head very much lately. Sometimes when he has been spoken to he has not answered. Some of my own family have been afflicted. My mother died the deranged, and an uncle drowned himself in a vat of beer. I had an aunt who went out of her mind and she was put somewhere to be taken care of. She used to go down stairs on her hands. My mother’s father hung himself.
By Mr. BULWER : I can’t recollect my mother’s father hanging himself. I have a brother and sisters that remember it. I have heard of it from them. I did not know my aunt. It was my mother’s brother who was drowned. He was a large brewer. I do not know the circumstances under which he was drowned. I was about ten when my mother died. She always seemed in great trouble, crying and wringing her hands. This was after my father’s death. My son Charles formerly lived with Cambers, who was my husband’s relative. He lived with him three years. I believe the fits were not caused by drink. He had one when he lived with Cambers. We wished him to come away from Cambers’. I believe he did rather indulge in drink when he lived there. I have heard of delirium tremens, but I don’t think my son suffered from it. My son had been a teetotaler for six months. I believe up to the 16th of November. When he tore the bed clothes the fit was not from drink. The first fit he had was taken in Wrestlingworth Chapel. Before he went out on Monday his father asked him to go in the field and plough with him. It is a twelvemonth last September, I believe, since he had the first fit.
By the JUDGE : I have been talking about the derangement of some members of my family since the 16th of November with my husband and daughter, but I knew it all the time before the 16th.
By Mr. MAYD : I have a sister, Mrs. Tingay, who is ill and unable to attend.
William Street, the elder (by Mr. BULWER) : The man at the bar is my son. On the morning old Mr Cambers was found dead, my son breakfasted with us, and I asked him to go to plough instead of his brother. He made no answer, and I went and got the horses ready. I went to plough. I was at the plough nearly two hours, and then I saw him coming home on the footpath, about a furlong from my house. He was coming from the direction of Cambers’ house. I saw him no more that day. In the course of the day James Warboys and Summerfield came to me, and in consequence of what they said I went home, and then went to Cambers’ house and found the old man dead. Cambers had a pistol which used to go with a flint, and I took it to Hitchin and had it altered into a percussion one. The pistol produced is the one. I did not notice the brass plate on it. I had paid Cambers £5 in sovereigns the Wednesday evening before. My son used to live with him about three years, and he then left and came to live with me about eighteen months before November 16th. During the eighteen months he worked at labouring work, and paid me 5s. a week for his board. When he lived at his uncle’s he used to get a little too much now and then, but very seldom. He left there by my direction, because he had fits whilst he lived there. I am not able to tell you whether they were delirium fits. A twelvemonth last September he had the first fit, and it took seven of us to hold him. He had since then been a teetotaler for eight or nine months.
By Mr. MAYD : I have noticed an alteration in his conduct since that fit. I have known him to have five fits. Since the first fit he has mentioned the 1s. 6d. he owed his uncle several times. I have heard him say that his uncle was coming after him to kill him several times. About six or seven months ago I was in bed, and he came home crying. I went out and saw him with a great shut-knife in his hand. He said. “Look here, father, a great man has been trying to kill me : he has cut my clothes all to pieces. “ He dropped the knife, and fell on the floor in a fit. He pointed his finger, and said someone was running after him. There were several cuts on his coat collar. The coat produced is the one, and the cuts have been darned up by my daughter. He would often be strange, and in the orchard said he saw things running, trees moving, and things on the wall. At meals he would sit and look at me; and another time begin to cry, and not answer when I asked him to have anything, and when I gave him it he would cry. He would sometimes come up to me, put his arms around my neck, and kiss me. I only know my wife’s sisters and brothers.
By Mr. BULWER : He was not addicted to drinking too much when he had his first fit. I took him away after the fit. He was ill for a week after it. I wished him to be a teetotaler. I was afraid he would get in the habit of drinking, and therefore wished him to be a teetotaler before it did happen.
Josiah Newell (by Mr. BULWER) : I am a bricklayer of Guilden Morden. Street occasionally worked with me. I was at work at Ashwell on Nov. 16th. Charles Street came to me that morning at about 10 o’clock, and asked me if I was going to have my “eleven o’clock.” I said it was not time. He said, “Never mind, come on, “ and I went with him. We went to the Bull’s Head, kept by James Warboys. We went into the taproom; some more went with us. Picking came in afterwards. We had something to drink. I think the prisoner ordered it. I had some beer and he had some pepperment. He sat down and said, “The old – – – – – – has been the ruin of me, and now I have ruined him.” I asked him what it was, but he would not tell me. He said, “.I am going to the devil.“ I said, “You’ve no need to take that old watch with you; you’ll know what time it is when you get there.” He said, “I’ll give you it.” He took it off and gave me the watch and Albert chain as well. He said, “Don’t sell it if anyone offers you £20 for it. “ We had worked together for two months, and I had known him for several years. Picking then came in, and the prisoner said he went to Masters’ at the Fox and bought some powder and shot and caps and went down to his uncle Cambers’, and as he was going in Merry’s groom was going by. He continued, “I went in and asked my uncle how much I owed him.” My uncle said, “Eighteenpence, boy.” I said, “Father brought that old pistol back, didn’t he”? He said, “Yes.” I asked him how much he wanted for it, he said, “You shall have it for nine shillings.” I said, “I’ll have it.”, and chucked a sovereign down on the table. He took the 9s. and the 1s. 6d., and gave me 9s. 6d. back. I went outside and loaded the pistol two or three times to make sure whether it would go off or whether it wouldn’t. I went in again and sit down by the fire, and loaded the pistol again and sat there with my finger on the trigger all of a tremble all the while. When the old man stooped over the fire I let fire at the old – – – – – – and he fell on the fire. I pulled him off : the fire had burnt a hole in his trousers, and I spat on my finger and put it out, and laid him across the house, and the blood was running from him. If you go and look, you’ll find him just as I say.” I did not say anything. I remained at the Bull’s Head till about two o’clock. I was in his company the biggest part of the time : he was talking to different people. He appeared sober, and was in no way different from his ordinary manner. He spoke rationally and quietly, and seriously. He did not go away before I did. I and another young man started off to see whether what he told us was true. Cambers’ was about four miles. We met Mr. Warboys and Summerfield on the road, and did not go on. I was not present when prisoner was taken into custody.
By Mr. MAYD : It was about one o’clock when he made the statement. He said he loaded the pistol and fired it off two or three times to make sure whether it would go off. He had a little peppermint, and I think a little brandy.
Herbert Picking (by Mr. Bulwer) said : I went into the Bull’s Head about 11:30. Street and Newell were there, sitting on a settle and I believe I sat on the other; I had some bread and cheese with my beer. Street said, “I’ve shot my old Uncle Cambers this morning. I went down to my uncle’s this morning, and said ‘Uncle, how are you.‘ He said, ‘All right boy.’ I said, ‘How much do I owe you?’ He said, ‘One and six, boy.’ I said, ‘Has father brought the old pistol back?’ ‘He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘How much will you take for it?’ He said, ‘Nine shillings.’ I said, ‘I’ll have it,’ and threw down a sovereign to pay for the pistol and the 1s.6d. I owed him, and he went upstairs and fetched it, and gave me 9s. 6d.change. I went outside and tried it two or three times, to make sure that it would go off. I looked to see if anybody was coming, but saw no one : I then went inside and loaded the pistol, and held my finger on the trigger till I saw a chance, and, then let fly at the old – – – – – – -. He then fell down by the fire. If you won’t believe it go and see for yourselves. You’ll see a sight that you never saw before if you pull the shutters open. I locked the door, and threw the key away.” He seemed all the while fidgeting about. This was the first time I had seen him. I went back to my work. I had no conversation with him about it.
By Mr. MAYD : He did not appear as if he had been drinking.
William Street, jun, (by Mr. Bulwer), said : I am the prisoner’s s brother. I knew of his lodging with his uncle Cambers. At the time he was living there I can’t say he used to drink much. He used to have fits. I don’t know what. delirium tremens is. On the 16th of November I got home about 12.30. I and my father went to my uncle’s house. We were the first persons who got there. The door was locked, the key not in it, and the window shutters put to but not fastened. I got in at the window, and let my father and the old lady in. The fire had been lit and was out. The breakfast things were there, and the old man was dead on the floor. I watched the body till the policeman came. I had seen the pistol in the house before. I can’t say I knew how much money my uncle had. A fortnight before he had £6 or £7 all in silver. It was on the table, and I believe he was counting it. My brother had been a teetotaler about nine months. I can’t say why he became a teetotaler. He left his uncle because he had fits and, we were afraid to let him lodge with his uncle lest he should kill himself or someone else. I don’t know what caused the fits. He was given to drinking sometimes at his uncle’s. I don’t know whether it was drink that caused the fits. I said before the magistrates it was delirium, but I did not know the meaning. I never saw anyone in fits but my brother.
By Mr. MAYD : When my brother has had the fits it had taken a good many to hold him, and an old man alone would have no control over him. I was with him at Wrestlingworth Chapel when he had the fit. He did not appear to have been drinking. He was strange all the time in chapel. Coming home, he kept getting worse, and I had to carry him part of the way. When we got home he had the fit on him, and it took seven of us to hold him. I’ve seen him in three fits. After the first fit he did not seem right for a week afterwards. At Ashwell he had one, about twelve months ago. He then wanted to drown himself in a moat we came past. I had to prevent him from doing so. I have had to go out on several occasions to look after him, for fear he might have a fit. I have heard him sometimes call a brown horse a white one; pigs dogs; and say he had ploughed several acres of ground a day. We knew sometimes he had been ploughing, but that he could not plough so much. He used to say there is a woman come into Cambers’ bedroom; that she looked as if she was combing her hair, and that he had seen her several times.
By Mr. BULWER : He used to go to work regularly, and bought his own clothes. He was obedient to his father.
P.c. Charles Morling (by Mr. BROWNE) : I am stationed at Guilden Morden. On the 16th of November I went with James Warboys Summerfield to Cambers’ house about half-past three. I found Cambers lying dead. I called in a surgeon, Mr Locke, and then went on to Ashwell and apprehended prisoner at the Bull’s Head. He was sitting in the taproom with a lot more. I asked him where he had been during the day. He said, “I have been nowhere, only to Ashwell.” I took him into another room, and found it on him £22 in gold, 15s. 4d. in silver, and 8d. in coppers. I gave him the usual caution, and told him the charge. He said “All right, I’ll go with you.” On the road, he said, “If the old man had not fetched the pistol downstairs this would not have happened. Was he quite dead when they found him! I don’t know whether he was when I left him. After I done it I got away as quick as I could.” I said, “He was dead.” He said, “Then I suppose I shall get my neck stretched for it.” I met Supt Pallant and went into the station with him. Next I found the pistol at Cambers’ house, under the staircase, behind some sticks, in a recently discharged state, and with a discharged cap on it. I gave it up to Supt. Pallant the same day. I’m not aware that the key has been found. On the 19th I gave the purse and money to Supt. Pallant. I have known him two years and a half, and have seen him generally once or twice a week. I noticed nothing peculiar about him.
James Warboys was called and sworn, but said he had nothing to add to the evidence of Newell or Picking.
Charles Summerfield (by Mr. BULWER) said he heard the prisoner at the Bull’s Head say he had shot his uncle. He had noticed nothing different in the prisoner. He went to the house with Worboys.
Supt. Phillip Pallant (by Mr. BROWNE) said : I went on the 16th of September [sic] to Cambers’ house in the afternoon. I searched the house and found 6s. 6d. in copper, and 7s. 6d.in silver in his trousers pocket, and 5d. in copper. The 6s. 6d. was in a box. I afterwards accompanied p.c. Morling with the prisoner to the Station. Next day I took possession of a coat and shirt front which Mrs Street said belonged to the prisoner. On the front were some fresh spots of blood. I produce the pistol and money given up by Morling. I produce the waistcoat and trousers I took from the prisoner. There are spots of blood on each. Elizabeth Warboys gave me a pair of breeches in which there is a burnt place.
By the JUDGE : I believe the pistol had been fired more than once as it was fouler than it would have been with once firing.
James Pearce, labourer (by Mr BULWER), said : “I know the prisoner and have known him for years, and worked with him many a day. I have noticed nothing peculiar in him in my life. About 12 months ago last December he was working with me, and speaking of Cambers, said, “I should like to shoot the old – – – – – -. He blamed me for taking some money, but I didn’t have it.” I said, “You mustn’t think about doing such as thing is that! You’ll get hung.” He said, “They’ll never hang anybody for shooting an old – – – – – – like him.” I had heard him several times talk about his uncle. it was as ugly as it could be between them, and he always put those words in. We were talking about Cambers and his money. I said Charley would have plenty when his uncle died. Prisoner said he never would die, but he should like to shoot him. Cambers was a hale, hearty old man.
By Mr. MAYD : I never knew him to have a fit. I have known him for several years, and have only heard his mother and them say so. When the last conversation took place we were coming home from the field. The other conversation occurred in the fields. The other conversation was in a field near Cambers’ house.
John William Stack (by Mr BROWNE) : I was traveller for Messrs. Fordham, of Ashwell, at the time of the murder. Cambers at that time owed £10 16s. for beer, and a year’s rent £11, due three days afterwards, making all together £21 16s. He paid very punctually indeed.
P.c. Phillip Pallant, jun., of Arrington (by Mr. BROWNE), said : I went to the house of Abraham Cambers and saw Mr Tyndale take the shot from the deceased’s head. On the 19th I received from Agnes Masters some shot, powder and caps. The shot found in the head he believed were of the same kind.
Thomas Francis Revell (by Mr BULWER) : Prisoner was working for me from September 23 to November 7. During the time he worked for me I noticed in him nothing different from the other men.
By the JUDGE : His wages were 12s. a week.
William Drury Locke (by Mr. BROWNE) : I am assistant to Mr Tyndale, surgeon. I was called into the deceased’s house on November 16, and found him dead. His head was lying in blood. I found a wound on the front of the head. At the post-mortem examination I noticed another wound behind the ear. I saw the head opened, and that the cause of death was in the head.
Edward Tyndale, M.R.C.S. (by Mr. BROWNE), said : I with the assistance of Mr Locke, made a post mortem-examination, and found the cause of death to be a wound in the head. The pistol produced would be likely to cause it. The brain was completely suffused with shot and spiculae of bone. I washed the shot produced out of the brain.
By the JUDGE : The instrument causing the wound must have been very near.
Thomas Brooks Bumpstead (by Mr. BULWER) : I am a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and surgeon at the County Gaol. Since the prisoner’s committal I have repeatedly seen him, and have detected in him no symptoms whatever of insanity. I have had conversations with him, and he is answered like a rational reasoning man. From the evidence of the father and mother as to the fits, I should presume they were of an epileptic character. Delirium tremens does not always take the form of fits. After such fits as have been described the brain would not recover its natural balance for an hour or two. Before the fit came on the brain would be in an altered condition. Supposing a fit did not come those symptoms might exist. I fail to discover any symptoms of insanity or mental aberration in the prisoner from what I have seen.
By Mr. MAYD : The frequent recurrence of fits would cause the brain to grow weaker and weaker. In cases where the premonitory symptoms occur without a fit following, the brain may be as much affected as if one did follow. The evidence as to the strange conduct of the prisoner given by the relatives indicate a weak intellect.
By Mr. BULWER : I should imagine it would only be a temporary weakness. Drink would be a very exciting cause in these symptoms.
By the JUDGE : Epileptic fits come on rather suddenly, with seldom more than a minute’s warning. The weakening of the brain by epileptic fits would produce imbecility. I am not aware of its producing delusions or paroxysms of insanity.
By Mr. BULWER, : as the facts of the crime were not disputed, addressed the jury on the question of insanity, arguing that there was not one tittle of evidence to show that the prisoner was not responsible for anything he did on the morning of the murder, or that he did not know what he was about at the time.
Mr. MAYD, in addressing the jury on behalf of the prisoner, said that in a case of that kind he could not help feeling an immense amount of anxiety – more particularly when there was concerned a young man who had indeed borne an irreproachable character, a young man only 19 years of age – in entering upon that subject. He did not for a moment go away from the fact that the prisoner at the bar killed that unfortunate man. It would be idle for him to do it; he should be stultifying himself to try to persuade them that such was not the case. His duty took another form, and it was this. In the exercise of his discretion, and he trusted he had exercised it rightly, he had not disputed for one moment that the unfortunate man came by his death at the hands of the prisoner at the bar; but he proposed to ask the question whether or no this unfortunate young man, although he might not be a confirmed lunatic, yet that, when he committed the crime, he was suffering under such delusion that he was not responsible for his actions. He would ask them (taking the young man’s life into consideration for the last eighteen months or two years) whether there were not sufficient facts before them to enable them to choose the less of the two dreadful alternatives before them, that they would be able with clear consciences to say that there were sufficient facts to show that the prisoner had been labouring for months and months under extraordinary delusions, and that at the time of his committing this most awful deed he was not really responsible for his actions. He then reviewed the evidence, commenting on it, arguing from that given by the father, mother, and brother of the prisoner, and also from the general conduct of the prisoner, that there was proof of insanity. He referred especially to the epileptic fits under which he suffered, and dwelt on the effect produced by them on the mind of the prisoner. Here he apologised for his own short-comings trusting they would not weight against the prisoner, and concluded was an appeal to the jury on the evidence for their verdict.
The JUDGE, in summing up, explained at great length the law of insanity in excusing homicide. By the law homicide, or the causing of death of a man, was murder unless it could be shown to result from some course which reduced the crime, or excused, or justified it. With regard to the particular question which they would probably have to consider – the question of the state of the mind of the prisoner – the law was the same. If they were satisfied upon the evidence that the prisoner’s hand took away the life of Abraham Cambers, and that he took it away apparently from an act of his own will at the time, that question would have to be considered. The only answer set up by the defence was the affirmative answer that he was insane at the time; and probably a more difficult question had never agitated the minds of thinking men than the question of what amount, or degree, or kind of insanity was sufficient to excuse, so to speak, so far as murder was concerned, an act committed by a person who took away the life of another. It was not enough that the jury should be satisfied that the prisoner’s mind was not in the ordinary state. It was not enough that the person was of a comparatively weak intellect only, or that his brain was in a diseased state. The jury must be satisfied that at the time he committed the act he did not know he was doing a wrong act – that he did not know the nature and quality of the act he was committing : and if it was proved a prisoner was labouring occasionally under delusions, that was not enough unless at the time he committed the act he was labouring under such a delusion that he believed the circumstances be such as would justify him if they actually existed. He quoted the opinions of several learned judges, to the effect that whether a prisoner was sane or insane at the time the act was committed, was a question of fact for the jury, and depended upon the previous and contemporaneous acts of the party. If under the influence of a delusion a prisoner supposed another man to be in the act of attempting to take away his life, and he killed that man in supposed self-defence, he was not liable; but if his delusion was that he believed he had inflicted an injury upon his character or fortune, and he killed him under that belief, then he was liable. If the fact supposed by a prisoner in his delusion were only such a fact as would lead him to act in revenge for some past injury, then he would act not as a person not knowing right from wrong, but as a person committing wrong on his own supposition of what the fact was. Even in cases of insanity where a man committed, during a lucid interval, an act which would be murder if he were sane, it was equally murder. He then applied these propositions to the present case, and summed up in a very lengthy manner, commenting upon each minute point of the evidence, and concluded by putting in summary to the jury questions embodying the propositions he had laid down.
The jury retired, and after an absence of about five minutes, returned into court with a verdict of GUILTY. The foreman adding that the jury strongly recommended the prisoner to mercy on account of his youth.
The JUDGE assumed the black cap, and then, addressing the prisoner, said : Charles Street, you have been found guilty of one of the greatest crimes that can be committed by a human being – that of the wilful murder of a fellow creature, and I am bound to say that legally the jury could not have come to any other conclusion. Whatever your state of mind at the time may have been, you seem, for some reason which we have not had fully explained, to have entertained an animosity, and, as far as one can judge, a causeless animosity against your uncle, whose life you unquestionably took away. You appear to have done it knowing at the time that you are committing a wrong act, and endeavouring at the time to conceal it, although afterwards, apparently conscious of the act you were committing, you seemed to rather glory in stating what you have done to other people; and the same opinion, from whatever source derived, you seem to have retained upon your mind, that there was some grievance for which you thought yourself entitled to take away this old man’s life. My duty, however painful it may be, leaves no option. I am bound to pronounce upon you the heaviest sentence which the law can assign for the commission of the heaviest crime. The jury have recommended you to mercy, and all I can say with reference to that is, that that recommendation shall be forwarded to the proper quarters – it rests not with me. My duty is only to pronounce upon you the sentence, which is, that you be taken from hence to the prison from which you came; from thence to a place of execution, and that you be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and that your body be buried within the precincts of the gaol
The condemned was then removed from the dock, retaining the air of apparent indifference which he had manifested throughout the whole of the trial : indeed, he was to all appearance as unconcerned as any in the court.
The court then adjourned.
Last Updated on June 28, 2020