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George Joseph Smith1915
ERIC R. WATSONIntroduction. I. A Narrative of the Life and Crimes of
George Joseph Smith
He did not pass in purple pomp
We waited for the stroke of eight,
GEORGE JOSEPH SMITH, the most atrocious English criminal since Palmer, was born on January 11, 1872, at 92 Roman Road, Bethnal Green, his father being George Thomas Smith, an insurance agent, and his mother Louisa Smith, née Gibson. The son early displayed criminal tendencies, and seems to have been sent to the reformatory at Gravesend at the tender age of nine, remaining there till he was sixteen.
When he left the reformatory he went to live with his mother, but he speedily took to evil courses, and got seven days for a small theft. That would be about the year 1890. On February 7, 1891, he was sentenced to six months' hard labour at Lambeth Police Court, in the name of George Smith, for stealing a bicycle. He stated to Miss Thornhill, his only lawful wife, that he served three years in the Northamptonshire Regiment, and he referred to a service with it to Sergeant Page on his arrest, while to the witness Crabbe he referred in vaguer terms to a period of military service when he was a gymnasium instructor. The police attach little importance to this supposed devotion to Mars. What is incontrovertible is that on July 24, 1896, he received twelve months' hard labour at the North London Sessions for larceny and receiving three cases in all in the name of George Baker. At this time he was known to the police as an associate of a woman unknown, whom he placed in various situations and induced to steal for him.
After coming out of prison, he proceeded to Leicester, where he opened a baker's shop at 28 Russell Square. While residing there he met, towards the end of 1897, Caroline Beatrice Thornhill, and, after a short acquaintance, during which he suggested cohabitation without marriage, married her on January 17, 1898, at St. Matthew's Church, her relatives, who strongly disapproved of the bridegroom, not attending the ceremony. The bride had previously been a friend of a girl he employed in his shop, and she was only eighteen or nineteen years of age at the time. On this occasion Smith gave the name of George Oliver Love, and described his father as a detective of the name of George Love. The business failed in about six months. "Mrs. Love" went to a cousin in Nottingham, where "Mr. Love" pursued her.
Bringing "Mrs. Love" with him to London, he forced her to take various situations in London, for which he supplied the reference posing as her late employer. He himself did no work. He also obtained situations for her at various places on the south coast, such as Brighton, Hove and Hastings. At the last-mentioned resort the unhappy "Mrs. Love" fell into the hands of the police. Without going into particulars, it suffices to say that Smith succeeded in making his escape for a while from the clutches of the law, only, however, to be arrested in London on November 11, 1900, on a charge preferred by his wife, whereupon he was taken to Hastings, and on January 9, 1901 two days before his twenty-ninth birthday, he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, with hard labour, for receiving stolen goods. He remained in durance until October 10, 1902 when he was released, and he was next heard of in Leicester trying to find "Mrs. Love", but he did not succeed, her brothers chasing him out of the town. "Mrs. Love" had reason to fear for her safety if she remained anywhere within the reach of her George, and she accordingly left the country, taking ship to Canada, where she continued to dwell, except for a brief visit to Leicester in 1912 and 1913, until summoned back to England by Scotland Yard authorities in 1915.
Smith was not, however, without a second wife, even at this early stage. Partly for the gratification of his strong animal propensities, and even more because he much preferred to exploit women rather than work for himself or them, he had availed himself some time during 1899 of a temporary absence from his Beatrice to cast his basilisk glances over Miss , a very respectable and industrious boarding-house keeper in the metropolis. He went through a ceremony of marriage with her in 1899 at the register office, St. George's, Hanover Square. From time to time he would return to her, demanding money, and sometimes showing her large sums of gold, for the possession of which he would account as later he did to Miss Pegler. I shall recur to his relations with this unhappy woman in the concluding part of my narrative. Her last glimpse of Smith was through a grating looking out upon the exercise yard at Pentonville Prison, where her "husband", his sentence of death confirmed by the Court of Criminal Appeal, was in utter despondency pacing up and down, awaiting his removal to the gaol of Maidstone, the place appointed for him to expiate his iniquities.
Some time in 1908 in the name of George Love, he got some very subordinate employment in a West End club; he seems to have been dismissed for inefficiency, so far as can be judged from a letter written when awaiting his trial for murder in Brixton Prison in 1915. The letter, characteristic for its vile grammar and spelling, its incoherence, and its braggart assumption of "my marked love of poetry and the fine arts", begged a favourable statement from the steward.
In June he was in Brighton, and he encountered on the front Mrs. F.W., a widow. He gave the name of George Joseph Smith, posed as a man of means, and pursued Mrs. W. to Worthing, where she was employed: The usual proposal of marriage followed; "He insisted on seeing my bank book." The amount was £33 13s. He professed to be a dealer in antiques; they remained at Worthing about three weeks, and the lady made arrangements to withdraw her balance. She introduced him to Mrs. M, a friend, but the lady took an instant and violent dislike to the antique dealer. On July 3 the happy pair went to Camden Town Post Office to withdraw the money. Smith would have appropriated the lot, but Mrs. W. left in £3 13s.; so £20 in gold and two £5 notes were placed on the counter and snatched up by Smith. "He knew I had no pocket," said Mrs. W.
The usual inexpensive jaunt followed this time to the White City the usual excuse to leave the inamorata, the usual speedy return to the apartments, and the usual lying note about forwarding the box on. The total value of Mrs. W.'s belongings that Smith took was about £80 to £90.
Now was about to begin the one romance of this sordid life. Smith, with Mrs. W.'s money and effects, went to Bristol, where he set up a small shop at 389 Gloucester Road as a second-hand furniture dealer. At 368, in the same road, dwelt Edith Mabel Pegler with her mother. On July 1, 1908 she advertised for a situation as housekeeper, where a servant was kept. Smith replied to her advertisement, and she speedily consented to keep house for him, although he was not in a position to afford a servant. After a week's acquaintance, Smith had so captivated Miss Pegler's maiden heart that she consented to be his, although his means were very nebulous a mythical aunt who allowed him money, and "that he went about the country dealing". The marriage was solemnized at St. Peter's Register Office, Bristol, on July 30 by special licence, Smith being married for the first time in his real name, describing himself as thirty-three years of age, a bachelor and general dealer, son of George Smith, deceased, figure artist.
Smith's relations to the only woman to whom he did not behave with inhuman cruelty, although to her he lied and to her begrudged the smallest sums of his ill-gotten wealth, sufficiently appear from her evidence at the trial. Two matters may here be noted, however. He gave poor Alice Reavil's modest trousseau to his Edith, saying he had been doing a deal in ladies' second-hand clothing. And it appeared from Miss Pegler's first statement to the police, taken by Detective-Inspector Cole and Sergeant Page in Bristol, that Smith only once during all the years she knew him had a bath, at Weston-super-Mare, and that he had never inquired at any of their various apartments for a bath, and that he had more than once remarked to her that he did not believe in using baths in apartment houses which other people had access to. At the trial, it will be noted, under the encouraging suggestions of Mr. Marshall Hall, she was disposed to magnify somewhat the passion which ranks next to godliness, so far as it moved Mr. Smith.
About June 1909, Smith was in Southampton with Miss Pegler, and using his customary licence of wandering forth o' nights without her, he encountered Miss S A F. Posing as George Rose, bachelor and dealer in antiques, he laid immediate siege to her heart, but for a time they did not meet. In October he renewed his protestations; after a fortnight, during which he made play with the mythical moneyed and mysterious resources in the bank, of which, needless to say, Miss F saw nothing, she capitulated, and they were married on October 29 at the local register office by special licence. The rest of Miss F's story is soon told.
They took the train to Clapham Junction, and put their belongings in the cloakroom, while they went to find apartments. "Mr. Rose" knew that his inamorata had £50 in cash before he married her, and he lost little time in ascertaining the full extent of her resources; he looked at her bank-book while she was unpacking, and was delighted to find that she was worth £260, without including about £30 of Government stock. By 2 or November 3 the whole £260 in notes and gold he had asked for it all in gold was in Mr. Rose's possession he denying to his yielding bride the price of a taxi fare. She had already given him the £50. On November 5 the proceeds of the sale of the Government stock were handed over to Mr. Rose in his wife's presence, and, having now acquired everything but what she stood up in, the antique dealer and picture restorer was moved by a very natural desire to expand his bride's mind (as he was soon to enlarge her knowledge of human nature) by taking her to the National Gallery. Here, by a coincidence which befell him again in Miss Reavil's case, Mr. Smith was obliged to retire and leave his submissive lady, promising to return in a moment. He did return to their lodgings, where he packed up every stick of clothing the poor, deceived and betrayed girl possessed, and when, after waiting an hour at the Gallery, she returned to their apartments, she found only three empty boxes and his cycle, which was left in the cloakroom. As in Miss Reavil's case, he sent a lying letter and a further registered letter. Miss F, with but a few pence left in the world, went to a friend's house for the night, and never saw Mr. Rose again until he was in custody on a charge of murder, on April 24, 1915.
Smith, true to his invariable practice, now rejoined Miss Pegler, he writing to her to meet him at Southend. On November 16 he invested £240 of Miss F's fortune in buying 22 Glenmore Street, Southend, the price of which was , £270, £30 remaining on mortgage. During his visit to the Gallery he had doubtless gazed at the masterpieces of our greatest land and seascape painter, and he told his confiding Edith that the funds he had so surprisingly become possessed of represented a fortunate deal in a seascape by Joseph Mallord William Turner.
After leaving Southend, the Smiths went to Ashley Down Road, Bristol, where he resided, maintaining himself on further loans until September 2 1910, when the amount owing was about £93. He was still borrowing on the Southend house, for he sent a receipt for a loan received from the Woolwich Equitable Building Society, from which he had purchased the property.
Smith was now nearing the end of his resources, and he proceeded to search for another dupe. In the neighbourhood of Clifton perhaps in those charming Leigh Woods dear to the memory of every old Cliftonian he encountered Beatrice Constance Annie Mundy. She was the daughter of a deceased bank manager, and was at the time thirty-three years of age. Soon after her father's death her relatives persuaded her to execute a voluntary settlement of her property acquired under her father's will; her fortune amounted to some £2,500 in gilt-edged securities. Smith soon won Miss Mundy's confidence and affection, and they became engaged after a few days' acquaintance. He arrived on August 22 with Miss Mundy at 14 Rodwell Avenue, Weymouth, where they took two rooms, and on the 26th they were married at the register office, he giving the name of Henry Williams, thirty-five, bachelor, picture restorer, son of Henry John Williams, commercial traveller. Miss Mundy, of course, gave correct particulars.
"Mr. Williams" was prompt in discovering that his bride received her income monthly from her trustees at the rate of £8 a month, and that there was due to her some £138, which they retained in hand to meet emergencies. On the very wedding day we find him instructing a Mr. Wilkinson, solicitor, of Messrs Wilkinson & Eaton, Weymouth, to write to Mr. Pouting, the Mundy family solicitor, of Warminster, for a copy of the late bank manager's will. He then discovered the existence of the settlement, which protected the corpus of the property from his grasp; but still he could procure the £138, and he took the most energetic steps to obtain it. By September 13, he had possession of all the accumulated arrears in gold, less about £3 for Mr. Eaton's professional charges. He at once absconded, leaving Miss Mundy penniless, and almost without clothing, and he wrote her the cruel and disgusting letter which was read by Mrs. Crabbe, the landlady, in her evidence, and in which he accused his temporary paramour of disease and immorality both accusations, needless to say, were quite unfounded.
He returned to Miss Pegler, and arranged to pay off his debt to the Equitable, writing from Ashley Down Road, and on September 21 he called at the office and paid off the £93 mortgage. To account for his absence at Weymouth, he told his faithful Edith that he had "been to London and round the country". The pair did not stop long at Bristol, but moved to an address in Southend not Glenmore Road where they took premises and set up a small antique and general dealer's shop. There they remained for about four months, going thence to Barking Road, to Walthamstow, and once more to Bristol, Smith carrying on in each place the same sort of business in antiques. It was early in 1912 that they set up in Bristol, at Bath Road, Brislington.
For seven weeks life ran on uneventfully for Miss Pegler, when her husband began to show symptoms of restlessness. He said he would go to London and round the country dealing. He accordingly left her, with very little money, to run the small shop during his five months of absence, writing on the few occasions when he did write from the Woolwich Equitable Society's address. As Smith did not support her he sent her only £2 in five months and the business was not a thriving one, Miss Pegler sold it for a few pounds (about £5)and returned to her mother at 102 Ashley Down Road. When she next saw her husband she beheld the murderer of Beatrice Mundy.
By what the police believe to be the only genuine coincidence in the case, the errant footsteps of Smith took him in March to Weston-super-Mare, where Beatrice Mundy had been stopping since February 2 at the house of Mrs. Tuckett, a boarding-house named Norwood. I will give the story of the reunion of "Mr. and Mrs. Williams" in Mrs. Tuckett's own words. On March 19 Miss Mundy went out about eleven to buy some flowers for Mrs. Tuckett, who expected her back in half an hour. She, in fact, returned at one. "She said" I quote Mrs. Tuckett "as soon as she went out she found her husband looking over the sea. She was very excited." At three he arrived. I shall dwell later on the instantly unfavourable impression he made on Mrs. Tuckett. The following passage is from her examination-in-chief:
MR. BODKIN: After these questions that you put to the prisoner did he leave?
MRS. TUCKETT: I told him it was my duty to wire to her aunt.
MR. BODKIN: And did he remain in the house that night?
MRS. TUCKETT: Oh no. She went with him. She said, "I suppose I may go with my husband?" I said, "I cannot hold you back; you are thirty!" She was over thirty; thirty-one or thirty-two. She left with him. She never took anything with her. In fact she had promised me to come back that night. I did not see her again.
Apparently it was not only the good Mrs. Tuckett who read the sinister mind of the man, for in the letter of March 15 he refers to the "heated arguments which would have occurred if my wife and self had to face you and your friends this evening".
Incidentally he bilked Mrs. Tuckett of about £2 10s., but any annoyance she felt at this was probably removed by the compliment the judge paid her at the Central Criminal Court three years later.
MR. JUSTICE SCRUTTON: I am obliged to you, Mrs. Tuckett, for the clear and audible way you have given your evidence.
The next move of "Mr. Williams" was to get into touch with his wife's relations with a view to an ostensible reconciliation and the extraction of more money. He accordingly dragged the submissive lady to the office of Mr. Lillington, of Messrs Baker & Co., solicitors, of Waterloo Street. The visit was paid on the very day of the apparently accidental meeting! With extraordinary effrontery Mr. Williams proceeded, in his wife's hearing, to give a totally untrue account of the circumstances under which he had decamped with her money in August 1910. He professed, too, to have "borrowed" £150 from her to repay a loan, and, on the solicitor's suggestion, he gave his wife a note for that sum, with interest at 4 per cent. Mr. Lillington, perceiving that Mr. Williams was doing all the talking and that the wife was "in an assenting demeanour", challenged her as to the truth of every one of the husband's statements, and in every instance she confirmed them. He strongly advised her to send the promissory note to her uncle, but, of course, Mr. Williams frustrated any such intention. When Mr. Lillington saw them for the second and last time on March 16, Mrs. Williams still had the note at their lodgings and it never turned up again.
Leaving Weston-super-Mare, this singular couple travelled about, staying at lodgings in different towns, and late in May they left Ashley and came to Herne Bay. Here on May 20, "Bluebeard of the Bath," as Mr. George. R. Sims has dubbed him, walked into the house of Mr. F.H. Wilbee, J.P., of that town, a considerable owner of small house property there. Within that house was a little office where, at rather a high desk, there sat and had been sitting for thirty-six-and-a-half years Miss Carrie Esther Rapley. He did not know it this cheap accapareur de femmes with the appearance of a butcher and the breeding of a scavenger but he had met one of those women, and there were several in the case, whose feminine instinct, like the protective antennae of insects, warned them that here was a dangerous man. Miss Rapley was not a young woman, but because she was a woman, Smith, without any friendships or even acquaintanceships among men, immediately proceeded to become expansive. I will let her admirably clear evidence speak for itself, only regretting that I cannot give it word for word. She becomes suspicious at the first interview. She asks for a banker's reference, and he produces a Savings Bank book. She asks to see it; he puts it back in his pocket. He is evasive about his means; but his wife has money. "I might just as well tell you she is a notch above me," and he grows more expansive. In the end he takes the house he had come to inquire about, 80 High Street, on a yearly tenancy, at £18 a year, rent payable monthly. The agreement calls for little comment; it was, however, a yearly tenancy; Mr. Williams wanted a monthly one, and he gave up the house, after paying two months' rent in advance, the second payment being at that singular interview with Miss Rapley which we shall come to later.
It will be recalled that soon after the marriage Mr. Williams became aware of his wife's voluntary settlement; he had already obtained a copy of this about September 5, 1910, but he obtained another later, through her, about June 10, 1912, and this he brought to the office of Mr. Annesley, solicitor, of Herne Bay, on June 18. That he was in need of raising money at once appears from the evidence of Mr. Hudgell, clerk to the Woolwich Equitable's solicitor, who produced a letter asking for the money due on the sale of the Southend house, "as it is very urgently required"; the letter bore the date May 12. A copy of the voluntary settlement was laid before Mr. G.F. Spear, of the Inner Temple, to advise. Mr. Williams, in short, wanted to know how he could get hold of the corpus of the wife's property. The trustees were very unlikely to consent to a revocation of the settlement in the circumstances; they were far from unlikely to exercise their discretion in buying the wife an annuity; if she died intestate, her estate would go to the next-of-kin under the Statute of Distributions, and the husband would get nothing; but if she, with £2,500, left a will in his favour, and he, without a shilling, executed a similiar will in her favour, and she died? Counsel's opinion came back on July 2; it was Bessie Mundy's death warrant.
The mutual wills were drawn up by Mr. Annesley and executed by the parties on July 8. Next day Mr. Williams came to the shop of Mr. Hill, ironmonger, and "cheapened" a £2 bath down to £1 17s. 6d.; he did not pay for it, but returned it on July 15. Its dimensions were later carefully taken by Detective-Inspector Neil. It may here be said that it had no taps or fixings at all; it had to be filled and emptied by hand, and the inspector found exactly how many pails would be needed and how long if would take to carry them from the kitchen to the fatal room in order to fill that bath.
On the next day after that purchase Mr. Williams took his wife to Dr. French, who had been qualified about two years, and had set up in practice at Herne Bay, saying that she had had a fit. Being unaware of the symptoms of epileptic or any other fits, Mr. Williams prudently forbore to enter into particulars, and Dr. French put him "leading questions", which enabled him to recall just what the doctor suggested and no more limbs twitching, jaws moving, and so on; there was no suggestion of the dreadful scream which almost invariably heralds an epileptic seizure (as distinct from the petit mal), and Mr. Williams said no word about a scream. The doctor prescribed bromide of potassium, a useful general sedative, a specific in epilepsy and an anaphrodisiac. In answer to the doctor's questions, Mrs. Williams did not recollect anything about a fit; she had never had any, and only complained of a headache.
On Friday, July 12, Williams fetched Dr. French to see his wife in bed. The doctor saw nothing amiss, except that her hands were clammy, the weather being very hot, heart normal, tongue not very clean, face a little flushed; she looked like one awakened from sleep on a hot night. The doctor prescribed more bromide. At 3 p.m. he saw the pair again, when Mrs. Williams looked "in perfect health"; she complained of nothing worse than lassitude, the weather being so hot. Before she went to bed that night she wrote the following letter to her uncle, which she registered. It was produced by him at the trial.
At 8 a.m. next morning Saturday July 191 Dr. French was handed a note. It ran, "Can you come at once? I am afraid my wife is dead." The doctor hurried round to 80 High Street and found the door ajar; he entered and went upstairs with Williams, and saw Mrs. Williams lying on her back in the bath. Particulars of her position will be found elsewhere in the narrative. Her head was beneath the water, and on removing her body the doctor found that the pulse had ceased to beat; the body was not yet cold, but all attempts at restoration proved useless. A square piece of Castile soap was clutched in the right hand. Williams assisted the doctor while he was trying artificial respiration by holding the woman's tongue, her false teeth having been removed. The face was dusky and congested with blood. Finding her beyond human aid, Dr. French left the house, and about 10 a.m. Police Constable Kitchingham arrived, and saw the body lying quite naked; he also saw the bath three-parts full. He took a statement from Williams and went away. Williams now went out to arrange for the laying out of the body, and he first approached Mrs. Millgate, with whom he afterwards boarded, and who lived next door. She said that she was too busy to come, but at 2 p.m. she called at 80 High Street, and learning from Williams that the woman the doctor was to send had not come, she went upstairs with him. What then happened I give in her own words: ***
1. All these brides died on a Friday night or a Saturday morning. Alice Burnham on Friday night, December 12, 1913, and Margaret Lofty on Friday night, December 18, 1914. The convenience of holding the inquest before the relatives could attend need hardly be pointed out. /***
MR. BODKIN: What room did you go into?
MRS. MILLGATE: The middle bedroom; and he said, "She is in there." He stayed outside on the landing and I went in, and I said, "In here." And I went in, and not seeing anything but the bath, I looked behind the door, and I saw Mrs. Williams lying on the floor quite naked.
MR. BODKIN: Quite naked?
MRS. MILLGATE: Yes; that gave me a great shock, and I started back and turned suddenly round and said, "Oh dear, it is not covered over." And he looked frightened as I started back. Mr. Williams looked frightened as I started back.
MR. BODKIN: Did you then cover the body up?
MRS. MILLGATE: Yes; I went back again into the room, and I noticed she was lying on the edge of a sheet, and a lot of it was to her feet, and I picked it up and covered over the body . . . I asked him to fetch me a pillow, just to put under her head, as her head was on the bare floor, and he said to me . . .
Here the witness, who was rather deaf, was interrupted, and she did not give her reply. In her evidence at the police court she spoke of seeing blood near the corpse's waist. The medico-legal aspect of this I shall deal with at a further stage. Williams had early in the morning asked Mr. Millgate for "a few pieces of rag for the woman to wipe up some blood". Alice Minter, who actually laid out the body about 4 p.m., asked for "just the usual things nightdress, brush and comb, bath sponge, and a towel".
Whatever the explanation of the blood, it was Williams who wiped it up.
Mr. Rutley Mowll, solicitor, of Dover, and coroner for East Kent, was informed of the death on the day it occurred by the police probably by Kitchingham, who was coroner's officer. He was for holding his inquest forthwith, but he found the inquest could not be conveniently taken that day, so he gave directions to hold it at 4.30 p.m. on the Monday. The Mundy family had heard by wire from Williams of the death that Saturday morning, very shortly after receiving the last letter from Bessie, which has been set out. The wire ran, "Bessie died in a fit this morning; letter following. Williams."
On the Monday, Herbert Mundy received a letter from Williams. "Words cannot describe the great shock I suffered in the loss of my wife," wrote the bereaved husband. No word was breathed by him as to the holding of any inquest, nor as to the date of it. When Herbert Mundy next heard, "Crowner's Quest Law" had done its best or worst and Mr. Mowll, displaying, as he said, "more than ordinary perspicacity" and having "taken very great care", and having "thoroughly and carefully thrashed out" the case, returned through his jury a verdict that "the cause of her death was that while taking a bath she had an epileptic seizure, causing her to fall back into the water of the bath and be drowned, and so the jurors say that the said deceased died from misadventure".
The more than ordinary perspicacity of the coroner enabled him to state that, "assuming the husband was fond of his wife and there was no evidence to the contrary, but a great deal of evidence that he was it was a terrible plight". (I may pause to remark that Mr. Williams had shed copious crocodile tears during the inquest, as next day he did over Miss Rapley's desk, but in the case of that shrewd lady the simulation of great grief was not successfully attempted.) Mr. Mowll went on to say that "a request had been made to have a post-mortem, and if he had had the request earlier he had it by the earliest possible moment the Mundy family could make it he should then with an abundance of caution have requested the doctor to make an examination".
The first the Mundy family heard of any inquest was in a letter from Mr. Williams, dated July 15, the day of the inquest, running:
On the Sunday, July 14, the dead woman's brother, G.H. Mundy, wrote two letters, one to Williams, the other to the coroner. They were substantially the same, but not identical; and the purpose of them was this, "As Bessie's brother, I must insist that, as she died so suddenly, a post-mortem examination must be held before she is buried, for the satisfaction of all the family. Please see that this is carried out."
Whatever the minute discrepancies between Mr. Howard Mundy's letter to Williams and his letter to the coroner may have been, the coroner saw no reason to afford the Mundy family time to attend the inquest. The coroner and Williams compared their letters, and the result was that only Smith, alias Williams, alias Love, alias James, alias Baker, alias Lloyd, and Dr. French a Herne Bay practitioner of two years' standing, strangely described by his patient as "the best medical man here, who is constantly giving me medical treatment" gave the evidence upon which the verdict recorded was returned. The funeral was carried out by Mr. Hogbin, who had also provided the furniture for 80 High Street. "It was to be moderately carried out at an expense of seven guineas."
MR. BODKIN: And a grave?
MR. HOGBIN: He said he would not purchase a grave. The grave was 8s. 6d., the interment fee.
The funeral, which had been provisionally fixed to take place on Tuesday July 16, took place as arranged, as the inquest had gone "favourably', and two days later Smith resold to the undertaker the piano and other furniture at 80 High Street for £20 4s. On the morning of the funeral, timed for 2.30 p.m., the bereaved husband walked into Miss Rapley's office, and, putting his arms and head on her high desk, he began to sob. "She is dead," he groaned. "My wife; she had a fit during the week. I went out; she went to have a bath, and she must have had another fit, for when I came back I found her dead in the bath." Miss Rapley was too shocked to make any comment, so Mr. Williams proceeded, "Was it not a jolly good job I got her to make a will?" Miss Rapley was more shocked. Mr. Williams became angry. "Well, is it not the correct thing when people marry for the wife to make her will and leave everything to her husband, and for him to make his and leave everything to her?" he snorted. "Did you make yours?" asked Miss Rapley. "Yes," said Williams. "I then looked him very straight in the face and I said," so testified Miss Rapley, "I thought you told me you had not got anything?" "Oh, well, I made my will all the same," was the weak reply.
He then told Miss Rapley of the previous day's inquest the first she had heard of it. She persisted, "Did you let her relatives know?" "Yes, I did, and the brutes sent a letter to the coroner saying it was a very suspicious case." Still Miss Rapley persisted, "Let me see, where did you say her relatives lived?" "I never told you where they lived," snapped Mr. Williams. Miss Rapley saw him once more at Herne Bay; he had come to pay the second and last instalment of rent; incidentally, he wanted her to find him a nice little place in the country not more than £400. When she next saw Mr. Williams he was in custody on three charges of murder.
On July 17 Mr. Williams called on Mr. Annesley, the solicitor who had drawn up the wills, and instructed him to obtain probate of his wife's will. A caveat was lodged by the Mundy family about the end of July, but was withdrawn by Pouting & Co. on August 8, and in the course of the autumn of 1912 all the securities covered by the settlement (with the exception of £900 Cape of Good Hope stock retained until early in the following year against a liability of the estate for unpaid calls on shares in a moribund company) were handed over to Mr. Williams. His exact dealings with the Mundy securities, which he turned into gold and notes and then into house property, and then again into cash and finally into an annuity, were traced in minute detail by Detective-Inspector Neil. Many different banking accounts were used by Smith all over the south and west of England, and he obtained by receipts £2,403 15s. against payments Of £2,042 9s. 5d. The correspondence in relation to the winding-up of Mrs. Williams' estate, carried on between Mr. Annesley, Messrs. Ponting, Smith, and others, is contained in no less than 215 letters and telegrams; the professional letters are very much like others, but the personal ones of Smith, from their spelling, style, and persistent inquiries after money, are very idiosyncratic.
Probate was granted about September 11. Illness in the Mundy family and delays caused by Smith's own interference rendered the negotiations somewhat protracted, and "Mr. Williams" was very reluctant to pay Mr. Annesley's bill, or to furnish Messrs. Ponting with any particulars about himself. Under date August 1, 1912, he writes to Annesley, "I was educated at Whitechurch, Glasgow (sic), after which I went to Canada returned to London. I have always been of an extremely roaming disposition, never keeping a diary, but continually up and down the country buying and selling pictures, etc. I never remained in one particular town more than a week or so." On August 9 he writes, "Now, in regard to my history, which was requested by them, that also is bluff. It is not the matter of history inasmuch as the only proof required is whether I am the lawful husband of the deceased. If it was a matter of history, what on earth is the use of a will?"
The inspector was equally indefatigable in tracing the purchases and sales of house property. The net result was that Smith purchased the houses for £2,187 10s., and sold them for £1,455, a loss of over £600 in a few months. He invested £1,300 in an annuity in the North British and Mercantile Insurance Company, payable half-yearly in April and October, at a total charge of £76 1s. a year.
I will now pick up the threads of the story of Miss Pegler. That lady was never able to ascertain where her spouse resided when away from her. His rare letters came through the Woolwich Equitable or from some accommodation address. When he met her at Margate, as we shall presently see, and she told him that she had tried to find him at Woolwich and Ramsgate, he was very angry, and said he should never tell her his business again. He did not believe in women knowing his business and vehemently requested her to do no such thing again.
About the end of July or the beginning of August Miss Pegler received a letter from Smith asking her to join him at Margate; she did so. They stayed a week, and went on to Tunbridge Wells and other places mentioned in her evidence. She naturally asked him what he had been up to. He was angry, as has been said, but he condescended to inform her that he had just returned from Canada, where he had been very fortunate in buying a Chinese image for a song and selling it for £1,000. Mr. and Mrs. Smith appeared to have lived together for over a year, he leaving her early in October 1913, to go round the country; he explained that he had to do some dealing, as he had dropped £600 over his houses. When he returned after his calculated murder of Alice Burnham, he said he had just come from Spain, where he had bought some old-fashioned jewellery, which brought him in £200 eventually.
A very singular incident had occurred just before Smith went away to marry and murder Alice Burnham. He made the acquaintance, in August or September, while they were at Weston-super-Mare, of a young woman of twenty-eight or thirty years of age, of the name of Burdett, as far as Miss Pegler could recollect. She was a governess, and Miss Pegler several times saw the boy and two girls she had in charge. Some intimacy developed, and the Smiths asked her to tea. She came about four times, sometimes bringing the children. Smith told his Edith that he was going to insure the young lady as an "investment", and an insurance agent actually called to discuss the matter, Smith taking Miss Burdett to see him. A policy for £500 was provisionally arranged. Miss Pegler, much against her inclination, accompanied Miss Burdett to see the insurance company's doctor, and Miss Burdett was passed as a first-class life. Miss Burdett knew quite well that the Smiths were married, and for some reason Smith cancelled the policy if, indeed, it was ever issued and recovered his premium.
When Smith left Miss Pegler he proceeded to Southsea, where he met Alice Burnham, his next victim, apparently at the chapel she attended. She was twenty-five years of age, and was nursing an old gentleman named Holt. She was a stout but healthy young woman, and had made a very good recovery from a somewhat serious operation. Within a very few days Smith had induced her to consent to an engagement. With that minute attention to matters of money so characteristic of him, "George" brought his bank books and private papers when he came to propose, and from what we know of him we may be sure he lost no time in ascertaining from his new flame exactly how her financial affairs stood.
On October 15 the deluded girl wrote to her people announcing her engagement, whilst Smith on October 22 wrote to Mrs. Burnham, Alice's mother, a letter expressing, in endearing terms, his affection for her daughter, and advising her that they were coming down to Aston Clinton to pay a visit. In accordance with the intention expressed in his letter, Smith and Alice Burnham journeyed to Aston Clinton, on Saturday October 25, and were met at Tring station by her father, with his pony and trap. They remained until October 31, the visit being cut short by the behaviour of Smith, which the family found so objectionable that Mr. Burnham asked his daughter to leave. Indeed, from the first Mr. Burnham felt the strongest dislike of Smith, whom he described as a man of "very evil appearance, so much so that he could not sleep whilst Smith was in the house, as he feared Smith was a bad man and that something serious would happen". Smith avoided Mr. Burnham as much as possible.
Notwithstanding the chilling hostility of the family, Alice and Smith gave notice of their intended marriage at the church at Aston Clinton. That intention, however, they abandoned, and, returning to Southsea, they were married on November 4 at the Portsmouth Register Office, he giving his true name, describing his age as forty, and his condition as bachelor, of independent means, son of George Thomas Smith, deceased, artist, flowers and figure.
It may here be noted that Mr. Burnham had inquired at Somerset House, but no trace of Smith's birth could be found.
Alice Burnham's means at the time of her marriage were these in the Savings Bank, £27 19s. 5d.; due from her father £100 and interest on his promissory note; due from her sister, Mrs. Pinchin, £10. She had also a quantity of jewellery and clothing.
It is best to tell the story of what happened in Inspector Neil's own words, as giving the reader an example of an official narrative, which presents the main facts with a telling succinctness. 20/10/13 she drew all her money from the bank, £27 19s. 5d., and on 3/11/13 prisoner introduced her to Mr. Pleasance, an insurance agent, with the result that she was insured for £500. On the 4/11/13 the prisoner married her at Portsmouth Register Office in the name of George Joseph Smith. He immediately commenced application to Mr. Burnham for the £100, which Mr. Burnham declined to send as he was suspicious of the man and desired to know something of his antecedents, and for this purpose consulted Mr. Redhead, solicitor, of Aylesbury, who wrote to the prisoner, asking him something about himself, and in reply Mr. Burnham received an insulting postcard stating that his mother was a cab horse, etc. Every obstacle was put in the way of the money being sent, and the prisoner threatened to commence proceedings. Mr. Burnham was eventually advised to part with the money, and on 29/11/13 he forwarded £104 1s. 1d. to his solicitor, who sent it on to the prisoner through his solicitor. It is known that this money was paid by the prisoner into his own banking account. On 4/12/13 the insurance on Miss Burnham's life was completed and. the premium of £24 17s. 1d. paid. This was no doubt the money drawn out of the P.O. On 8/12/13 Miss Burnham called on Mr. March, solicitor, Portsmouth, and made a will in favour of her husband. On 10/12/13 prisoner and Miss Burnham went to Blackpool and called on Mrs. Marsden at 35 Adelaide Street, but declined to take rooms there as there was no bath there, and they were recommended to go to Regent's Road where they took lodgings with Mrs. Crossley. The same day they called on Dr. Billing where the prisoner explained that his wife had a headache in consequence of a train journey. She was prescribed for. On 11/12/13 Miss Burnham asked for a bath, which was prepared by Mrs. Crossley, and shortly after the prisoner went to Mrs. Crossley and said he could not make his wife hear. She was found dead in her bath by prisoner and Mrs. Crossley. Dr. Billing was sent for, and on 13/12/13 an inquest was held and a verdict of death from drowning was returned. A funeral was arranged for to take place on 15/12/13 and on the day before Miss Burnham's mother and brother went to Blackpool to be present at the funeral. The same day Smith left them (immediately after the funeral) and said he had to get back to Portsmouth. They never saw him again though he promised to write. He went to 80 Kimberley Road, sold all Miss Burnham's belongings and then went to London where he approached Kingsbury & Turner, solicitors, Brixton, on 18/12/13 with a view to them obtaining probate. On 22/12/13 he returned to Miss Pegler at Bristol, when he said he had been to Spain and done fairly well. On the _ 19/1/14 he received the money from the insurance under Burnham's will through Heath & Eckersall, Cheltenham, to whom he had gone after Kingsbury & Turner had obtained probate. He resided in Cheltenham some time with Pegler. The money paid under the insurance was £506, and on 22/1/14 with this money he increased his annuity to the extent of £500. With Miss Pegler he then went back to Bristol.
Here for a time I will leave the Inspector and resume my narrative.
Smith had so completely estranged the affections and warped the mind of Alice Burnham during the brief period of their engagement that she actually brought herself to write two letters on November 22 and 24 to her father, in which she advised him on the former date that that was her last application for her £100 and interest on his promissory note, and finally on the 24th that she had instructed her solicitor to take "extreme measures to obtain the money you have in your possession". She also went so far as to instruct Mr. Robinson, a solicitor, to write to her married sister, Annie Pinchin, demanding the return of £10 which she had lent her; later on, however, on the sister's marriage, she told her to regard it as a gift. The £10 was repaid on November 28, by registered letter.
It is needless to anticipate the story of what happened at Blackpool; the medico-legal aspects are dealt with later. But one or two matters call for mention here, because the witnesses did not refer to them in their evidence.2 On the afternoon following the murder of Alice Burnham, Smith returned with a full bottle of whisky; in the evening there was only a little drop left. He spent part of the afternoon playing the piano. He told Margaret Crossley that he had been in the Marines, and had shaved off his moustache a fortnight previously. He declined to pay the bill for the food supplied to Mrs. Burnham and her son. Mrs. Crossley had great difficulty in getting him to pay for his own board and lodging. He promised to recompense her for the trouble she had been put to, but he never did. To Joseph Crossley he said that he wanted a deal coffin, and on Crossley replying that he would not bury his wife like that, even if he had not a penny in the world, Smith retorted, "When they are dead they are done with." ***
2. For complete evidence in the cases of Mundy, Burnham and Lofty see Trial of George Joseph Smith, Notable British Trials series (Wm. Hodge & Co. Ltd, London). /***
A matter of some importance was noticed in Superintendent Wootton's letter from Aylesbury: "I desire to draw your attention to Smith's letter to Mrs. Burnham dated 13/12/13, giving an account of his wife's death, etc., in which he states that the inquest would be held early next week, whereas it was held on the day the letter was written."
In consequence of this deception, the second inquest was of the same perfunctory character as the first. It was all over in half an hour, and many points of suspicion were never brought out as that Valiant, the coroner's officer, noticed that the distracted "husband" had carefully removed his coat and rolled up his right shirt sleeve before raising his "bride's' head out of the water, and that Mrs. Haynes, who resided next door, had noticed a very considerable quantity of hair at the sloping end of the bath (the deceased had been sitting facing that end) on the Sunday morning, when she went to clean the bath.
Again, Smith was a transparently uneducated man. Yet his statement that, "I am a gentleman of independent means, and have never followed any occupation," aroused no incredulity though he had told his very landlady that he had been a marine! The only witnesses were Dr. Billing, Mrs. M. Crossley, Valiant and another sergeant, and Smith himself. He duly contrived assisted, maybe, by the bottle of whisky he had consumed to make his lachrymal glands perform their function, and his freely flowing crocodile tears moved all hearts except Mrs. Crossley's.
The coroner had another inquest to hold and the 8 p.m. train to catch all between 6.30 and 8, so with little ado the jurors of Our Lord the King found that "the deceased Alice Smith came to her death at Blackpool aforesaid on the 12th day of December, 1913. The deceased suffered from heart disease, and was found drowned in a hot bath, probably through being seized with a fit or faint. The cause of death was accidental."
The deception as to the letting off of the water in Smith's letter to Mrs. Burnham is truly remarkable. When Dr. Billing arrived on the scene he asked Smith why he had not lifted his wife out; he said he could not. He was then asked why he could not pull the plug; he said he never thought of it! And yet in the letter he says "I held her head out of the water and let the water run off away from her; when the doctor came we lifted her out of the bath." His lying hypocrisy can be estimated even better when one reads that in the same letter he describes the death as "the greatest and most cruel shock that ever a man could have suffered".
Smith fled hastily from the scene of his crime. He left his address with Mrs. M. Crossley on a postcard. On the back she wrote, "Wife died in bath. We shall see him again." When the card was shown to her at the Old Bailey two years later, the usher was directed to show her and the jury only the address side of that card. What Mrs. Crossley wrote like what the soldier said was not evidence. As he sped down the street she hurled after him an opprobrious name "Crippen".
With that sordid love of money which never forsook him, he realized all his wife's wardrobe and jewellery just as he had sold Bessie Mundy's linen to a Margate dealer before Mrs. Millgate, his landlady, had got it back from the laundry.
He returned to Edith Pegler,and with her recommenced those aimless wanderings from place to place Bournemouth, Torquay, etc., until about August 14, when, once more in Bournemouth, he marked down his penultimate victim in the person of Alice Reavil, a domestic servant.
She gave evidence at Bow Street, and her statement, as taken by Inspector Cole and P.S. Page, reads as follows:
On 7th or 8th September I was in the garden on the front, sitting on a seat, when a man came and spoke to me . . . We had some conversation, in which he said he admired my figure. After an hour's conversation, in which he informed me he was an artist, and had £2 a week from some land in Canada, he made an appointment for 6 p.m. the same evening. I met him as arranged; he did not tell me where he was staying; I never knew. Next day I met him as arranged, and he then told me his name was "Charles Oliver James". He said he had been to Canada and his agents sent him his money. He also said he understood I had some money. I met him every evening, and I returned to Woolwich on the 14th or 15th September. After the third or fourth day of our acquaintance he asked me to marry him, and I consented, and he said he would put his money with mine and he would open an antique shop . . . He asked me how much money I had, and I said about £70 odd, and some furniture, including a piano. He asked me to sell them, and I decided to . . . We went to the Register Office and were married by special licence [this was on September 17]. In the meantime I had sold my belongings, and they realized £14. After we married we left Woolwich for Waterloo, and went to 8 Hafer Road, Battersea Rise, where he had taken two furnished rooms . . . On the way he showed me a lot of bank-notes, and he asked me for my £14 to put in the bank with his. I gave it to him. When we got to our lodgings . . . he produced a Post Office withdrawal form for me to fill up to draw all my money from the bank. I filled it up, and added, "with interest to close account", and we went out together to post it . . . He put it in the box. I signed the withdrawal form in my maiden name, and he gave instructions to the landlady to take it in . . . About three days later the warrant for withdrawal was delivered, and he took it in. This was on Saturday, September 19, 1914. He kept the warrant. All my clothing was at this address, and was kept in four boxes. On September 21 we went to the Post Office, Lavender Hill, to obtain the money . . . He told me to ask for all £1 notes, but they gave me four £10 notes and two £5 notes, and the remainder in £1 notes and cash. In all I received &poung;75 6s. and some coppers. He picked up the notes and I the cash the odd 6s. I never saw the notes again . . . The same evening we packed our belongings, with the intention of getting another house. He went out to get a man to take the luggage to Clapham station, and later a man arrived with a barrow to take it away as I thought, to the station . . . He told the landlady we should go away next day; he paid the bill I think 10s.; I had bought all the food we had. On September 22 we left the house . . . We got on a tram-car, and on the way he spoke of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and asked me if I would like to go. He took penny fares and we got off at some gardens. We walked through the gardens and on getting to the other end he said he was going to the lavatory and asked me to wait. I did so, and waited about an hour. He did not return so I returned to 8 Hafer Road, and found the attached telegram waiting for me. [It ran, "Wait home for letter. Next post James."] I remained as requested and some hours later received a letter (registered), posted at Battersea. I stayed at Hafer Road the same night, and returned to 39 Plumstead Common Road next day. None of my boxes arrived, and I have not seen them since. On February 22 . . . I attended Bow Street, and I identified a man known as George Smith as my husband . . . I communicated with the Post Office, and obtained the numbers of the notes paid on the warrant. When I married the prisoner he was clean-shaven. I value my clothing, jewellery, etc., at about £50. The result of my meeting with prisoner was that I was left with only a few shillings and the clothes I was actually wearing. What he had taken consisted of the whole of my life savings.
Smith now for the last time rejoined Edith Pegler, taking with him Alice Reavil's modest trousseau. This or, rather, what remained of it he gave to her, remarking. that "he had been to a sale in London and had bought some lady's clothing. He had some left, and gave it to me. It was kept in a black trunk, which I had not seen before. The lady's clothing taken away by the police was brought to Weston-super-Mare by Smith."
During the period between the Reavil marriage and the Lofty murder, Miss Pegler thought about November 1914. "He remarked to me that, if I interfered with his business, I should never have another happy day, as the world was wide, and he would forfeit it all. This was because I had spoken about his annuity. Just after Christmas 1914, we were living in apartments at 10 Kennington Avenue, Bristol, and I said I was going to have a bath. He said, 'In that bath there?' referring to the bathroom 'I should advise you to be careful of those things, as it is known that women often lose their lives through weak hearts and fainting in a bath.'"
Towards the end of 1914 the Smiths were in Bristol, when a mood of restlessness once more swept over George Joseph, and he said he "would have a run round again before Christmas with another 'young fellow' he had met in Clifton'. The "young fellow' was Margaret Elizabeth Lofty, spinster, aged thirty-eight, daughter of the late Rev. Fitzroy Fuller Lofty, who had died in 1892, leaving a widow, one son and three daughters. Miss Lofty soon responded to Smith's overtures; a disappointment in love a year before it turned out that the man had a wife already had rather unsettled her for her vocation as companion to elderly ladies in quiet cathedral cities; and Smith, whatever he lacked in address or education, left nothing to be desired from the point of uxoriousness or virility. She seems to have perceived that her mother and sisters would be critical of her fiancé; so she writes them pious untruths; she is going away to be clandestinely married, and she writes, under date December 15, 1914, Bristol station:
Dear Elsie, I am off to a situation and meet my lady here. We go, I believe, to London for a day or two. Don't worry . . . Your affectionate sister, Peggy.
And she encloses a note for her mother in similar vein all untrue.
As she had but about £19 in the Savings Bank, a life policy became imperatively necessary from Smith's point of view. He is "John Lloyd" now. He has ceased to be of independent means, and has become a land agent, like his father before him, one John Arthur Lloyd. Accordingly, the unsuspecting victim is sent to the office of the Yorkshire Insurance Company, 4 St. Stephen's Avenue, Bristol. She did not strike Mr. Cooper, of that office, as at all a good business woman when he first saw her on November 24. She called again next day, and filled in a proposal form for a £700 endowment policy. One regrets to note that she told several untruths when applying; it is needless to suggest who inspired them. She said she was of independent means, whereas she had but £19 odd; she said that she did not contemplate matrimony, whereas she was bent on nothing else; she said that she had brought her birth certificate because Mr. Cooper had suggested it, whereas he had done no such thing; the question of proving her age had never been mentioned by him. She wished the issue of the policy to be expedited as much as possible, and the insurance was completed on December 4, when she paid the premium, no doubt with money supplied by Smith it was in the form of new Treasury notes obtained from the unfortunate Alice Reavil because she had not enough of her own in the bank. She struck Mr. Cooper as having learnt a good deal "had the business at her finger-ends" about insurance matters since her first visit, and he thought she must have been prompted by someone.
On December 17 the parties were married, Smith of the occupation of land agent and in the name of John Lloyd, aged thirty-eight, his bride of the same age; she gave, of course, a correct account of her parentage. They left Dalkeith House, 4 Stanley Road, Bath, from which they had been married, the same day, and, with no luggage beyond a hold-all and a gladstone bag, took the train to London, and went to 16 Orchard Road, Highgate, where Lloyd had booked rooms on the previous Monday, paying 6s. deposit. The house was owned by a Miss Lokker, and a Mrs. Heiss managed it in her absence; there were reasons why they had to be especially careful, in 1915, and that they did not take in undesirable lodgers without references; in fact, they had had such lodgers, and they had been robbed. The facts were that Miss Lokker was a Dutch subject and Mrs. Heiss a German. At Bow Street Mrs. Heiss stated, "I did not like the way he asked about the bath."
Lloyd, when he called on the Monday, had asked to see the bath. He looked at it "as if he was measuring it with his eyes", and said to Mrs. Heiss, "This is rather a small bath, but I dare say it is large enough for someone to lie in." He looked at her and smiled, and she said, "It is." He decided to take the rooms, paid his deposit, and left. But he had made so bad an impression by his manner that Miss Lokker had decided by Thursday that she would not let him the rooms. When he arrived with his bride, about 3 p.m. on that day, the door was opened to him by a Mr. Van Rhym, who said, "You cannot have the rooms now; they are not ready," and told him to return at 6 p.m. Lloyd appeared annoyed and nasty, and left his luggage in the passage and went away. Detective-Sergeant Dennison had so advised when he visited the house at 2.30, at Miss Lokker's request; he had acted for her in the matter of the other undesirable lodgers. Lloyd returned a little after 5 p.m., but Mrs. Heiss was so frightened by his evil appearance that she would not let him in; he kept knocking and calling out to people in the road that, if it were not for his wife, he would have knocked the man (Mr. Van Rhym) down.
Dennison had arranged to call again at six, and Miss Lokker, in some alarm, went through a neighbour's house to look for him. Lloyd was at the door. "He was in a temper, and asked me if I had anything to do with the house. I said 'No.' He said a lot I do not remember, but I know I asked if he had given a reference. He said, 'I have never heard of such a thing. I have plenty of money and a banker; that is good enough.' He said he had been everywhere abroad, but had never been treated as he was being treated. He said 'I can see it is all planned. All I want is my money and luggage back; I have taken rooms somewhere else.' He did not know I was the landlady, and all the time he was talking to me he was running the place down."
At six o'clock Dennison opened the door to Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd, and said, "You cannot have the rooms, because you cannot furnish references." In reply to Lloyd's question, "Who are you?" the officer cautiously replied, "I am acting on behalf of the landlady." Mr. Lloyd turned to his bride, exclaimed, "They don't want us," and having been given back his deposit, was shown the door by the detective; he departed in a passion.
Mr. Lloyd sought apartments next at 14 Bismarck Road, Highgate (now Waterloo Road), where Miss Blatch had a furnished room to let. He came with his bride, without luggage, paid seven shillings deposit, and went away, as he said, to fetch the luggage. Before agreeing to take the room, Mrs. Lloyd had inquired if there was a bath; the answer was in the affirmative. During her husband's absence, Mrs. Lloyd told Miss Blatch that she did not know her husband's plans, but they were going to Scotland for their honeymoon. It is needless to travel in detail over the evidence of the witnesses as to the death at Bismarck Road. I will condense the narrative in the Inspector's style. About 5 p.m. on 17/12/14 Smith in the name of Lloyd arrives at Iq Bismarck Road, and takes a room after inquiring if there is a bath, and at 8 p.m., on 17/12/14 he takes "Mrs. Lloyd' to see Dr. Bates at 30 Archway Road, who prescribes for her, and on 18/12/14 Mrs. Lloyd goes to the office of Mr. Lewis, solicitor, 84 High Street, Islington, and makes her will, bequeathing everything to her husband, who was appointed sole executor. On the same day she draws out her whole balance in the savings bank from Muswell Hill Post Office, £19 9s. 5d., having given notice of withdrawal on the fifteenth, and on 18/12/14 she returns to Bismarck Road, and at 7.30 p.m. on 18/12/14 Mrs. Lloyd asks for a hot bath, and at 8.15 p.m. on 18/12/14 P.C. Heath is called to the house and he finds Mrs. Lloyd dead, and on 20/12/14 Mr. Lloyd calls on Mrs. Beckett and desires to have the funeral next day, and on 22/12/14 Mr. Schroder holds an inquest, which he adjourns to 1/1/15 when the jury finds that Mrs. Lloyd died from suffocation by drowning in the water, Mr. Dale, instructed by Mr. Aylwin, appearing for Lloyd, and on 4/1/15 Smith, as John Lloyd, calls on Mr. W.P. Davies, solicitor, of 60 Uxbridge Road, Shepherd's Bush, and produces the will of Mrs. Lloyd, née Lofty, and her marriage certificate and her life policy and instructs him to obtain probate. On 19/1/15 in consequence of information received, Detective-Inspector Neil communicates with the Aylesbury police and with the G.P.O., and on 21/1/15 Inspector Wootton replies from Aylesbury, and reports are received the same day from Bath and Bristol. On 22/1/15 three documents reach the police, Mrs. Lloyd's bank book, her withdrawal order, and receipt for £19 9s. 5d., and on 22/1/15 Inspector Neil submits his first report, subject "Suspicious deaths", from Kentish Town, and on 1/2/15 having kept daily observation on Mr. Davies's premises the police see Mr. Lloyd enter the office. On leaving he is stopped by Detective-Inspector Neil and Police-Sergeants Page and Reed, when he admits he is also George Smith, who married Alice Burnham, who died in her bath at Blackpool. "As it was thought he might be in possession of fire-arms he was searched but none were found." He was not dressed in mourning, and the only evidence of such found was a black tie in his bedroom at his new address 14 Richmond Road where was found a hold-all with a quantity of ladies' clothing. Lloyd was identified as Smith the same night by Mr. Burnham and Mrs. Pinchin, and on 2/2/15 he is charged with causing a false entry to be made in the marriage register at Bath. (It was false not only as to his name, etc., but as to his and his wife's period of residence in Bath previous to the marriage.) He is remanded at Bow Street and on 23/3/15 he is further charged with the wilful murder of Bessie Mundy, Alice Burnham, and Margaret Lofty, and after several remands is committed on all three charges on 12/5/15 and on 9/6/15 a true bill is returned against him at Lancaster Assizes for the murder of Alice Burnham, and on 15/6/15 a true bill is returned at the Central Criminal Court in respect of Miss Lofty. On 16/6/15 a true bill is returned at Maidstone in respect of Miss Mundy, and the two country indictments are removed to the C.C.C. vender "Palmer's Act".
Alice Reavil alone of the women defrauded and deserted gave evidence during the proceedings at Bow Street. Smith, on almost every occasion, lost all command over himself, hurling imprecations at Inspector Neil and Mr. Bodkin, who appeared for the Crown and was reviled by the man in the dock as a "criminal and a manufacturer of criminals". Mrs. Crossley was, as at the Old Bailey, denounced as a lunatic. After the prisoner's committal, Mr. Montague Shearman apologized for his client's outbreaks, but he behaved little better on his trial until a withering rebuke from the Judge put an end to his ill-timed and ill-bred interruptions, betraying, as they did, the wreckage of his nervous system, the not unnatural consequence of forty-three years of life mis-spent in crime and debauchery.
As some little mystery has prevailed as to the manner in which Scotland Yard was first put on the track of the murderer, it may be said that Mr. Charles Burnham noticed an account of the Highgate inquest in the News of the World, and forwarded it through Mr. Redhead to the Aylesbury police. Mr. Joseph Crossley had also seen some report of it, and he sent it to the C.I.D. with a cutting reporting the Blackpool inquest. The Aylesbury police communicated with the Blackpool police and with headquarters, which then, through Detective-Inspector Neil and Inspector Cole and P.S. Page, commenced elaborate investigations in over forty towns in England, taking statements from 150 witnesses, of whom 112 were called at the trial, and examining the details of one account at Parr's Bank, Herne Bay, of accounts at three branches of the London City and Midland Bank, at Tunbridge Wells, Bath, and Portsmouth; of accounts at the Capital and Counties Bank at Bristol, Cheltenham, and Weston-super-Mare; of one account of the National Provincial Bank at Weston-super-Mare; of another of the Wilts and Dorset Bank; and of two of the London and South Western Bank at Highgate and Shepherd's Bush, to say nothing of six Savings Bank accounts, of which four were in the names of Smith's victims and the other two in the names of John Lloyd and George Smith.
The police communications between Highgate, Blackpool, Aylesbury, Bath, Bristol, and to the C.I.D. have been placed at my disposal by Mr. Neil. As they are documents of a confidential nature, I have so handled them, quoting here and there to make a point that does not appear in the evidence. It seems that Mr. Schroder was not satisfied about the Highgate death, and would have preferred an open verdict. Mr. Kilvington, for the Lofty family, was, however, satisfied. Mr. Burnham had always suspected foul play, but felt he could do nothing in the face of the Blackpool verdict. The astute Mr. Neil, even as late as January 19, 1915, went so far as to write, "Although we have no real grounds for suspicion that the death was otherwise than accidental . . . it is desirable that he should not have the money in question for a while." Great precautions were used to prevent Smith suspecting that he was under observation, and that inquiries were being pursued about him.
The police did not receive information from Herne Bay until Mr. Lloyd was already charged with the two later murders. It was on February 15, 1915, that Inspector Neil told the prisoner that he had reason to believe he was identical with Mr. Williams, whose wife had died in her bath at Herne Bay. On the 19th of that month her body was exhumed, examined by Dr. Spilsbury, and reinterred. In his report of February 20, the Inspector adds, "I am of opinion that we have not, so far, discovered the full list of this man's crimes."
A feature of the proceedings at the Police Court was the inordinate interest taken by women in the accused; they would, as early as eight o'clock in the morning, take up their station in queues outside the Court, bringing lunch with them, and they literally hemmed the prisoner in, by pressing so closely around the dock that they actually touched him.
The verdict at the inquest was the subject of Parliamentary inquiry, and on July 14, 1915, Mr. Raffan asked the Home Secretary whether he would institute an inquiry into the circumstances which led to the verdict of accidental death being returned at the Coroner's inquests on the bodies of Bessie Mundy, Alice Burnham, and Margaret Lofty, whose deaths were subsequently shown to have been caused by murder, and whether he can state the legal and medical qualifications of the Coroner who held the inquests. Sir John Simon, "I will look into this matter, but its consideration must stand over until the Court of Criminal Appeal has dealt with the prisoner's appeal against his conviction which is now pending"; and on July 22 Mr. Booth asked an identical question. Sir John Simon merely referred him to his previous answer.
The trial at the Central Criminal Court opened on June 22, 1915, and lasted until July 1. It was the longest and the most important murder case tried in England since Palmer's, sixty years before; in one respect it constituted a record no fewer than 264 exhibits were put in; the witnesses came from over forty different towns, and numbered 112, of whom eighteen were solicitors, or solicitors' clerks, and fourteen were officials from banks.
The legal and medico-legal aspects of the trial receive special consideration in the next section; the full report of the story cannot be given here, but the entire eight days of its consideration abounded with dramatic incidents. To the horror of Mrs. Millgate, when she saw the naked corpse behind the door, and the amazement of Miss Rapley at Mr. Williams's appalling callousness, may be added the dramatic incidents, when Mrs. Crossley, of Blackpool, and Miss Blatch, of Highgate, were taken by counsel over the very moments when, unknown to them at the time, the murderer was at his dreadful work in the little bathrooms above where they were sitting in the peaceful pursuit of household duties.
Not even a verbatim report can convey their emotional distress, but I will quote a few words from the official report kindly lent by Sir Edward Marshall Hall.
MR. BODKIN: Whilst you and your daughter and son-in-law were in the kitchen, did you notice anything about the kitchen?
MRS. CROSSLEY: I noticed the ceiling.
MR. BODKIN: What did you notice about the ceiling?
MRS. CROSSLEY: The water was coming through.
MR. BODKIN : Would you like a little water?
MRS. CROSSLEY: No, it worries me to think of the time.
MR. MARSHALL HALL : Did you think he had something to do with his wife's death? Now then, answer me the question. (The witness mumbled something.) I cannot hear a syllable.
MR. JUSTICE SCRUTTON: Ask the question again! Somebody moved or coughed just at the time we wanted to hear.
MRS. CROSSLEY: I shall not answer the question, what I thought.
MR. HALL: You won't answer the question?
MRS. CROSSLEY: No.
MR. HALL : If you won't answer it
MRS. CROSSLEY: I cannot answer it, what I think about that.
But she had already answered what she thought about it, by what she wrote on the back of exhibit 175. The postcard on which Smith had left his address, "Wife died in bath, we shall see him again!"
Miss Blatch, after that terribly grim story of the splashing heard above, the wet arms on the side of the bath, and the final sigh, the organ pealing forth its funeral notes for full ten minutes from the sitting-room, the slamming of the front door, the ring at the bell, the calling out to the dead woman, was asked, "Where were you when he so called out?" "At the bottom of the stairs." "Did you go up then?' "I said, 'I cannot come, Mr. Lloyd.'"
"I rushed upstairs to another gentleman I thought was in the house . . . I rushed to the door. I did not notice anything . . . He said he would go for the police. I said I would go myself . . ."
MR. JUSTICE SCRUTTON: Did you put on your hat before you went out?
MISS BLATCH: I put no hat on.
MR. JUSTICE SCRUTTON: When you saw the prisoner with the body in his arms and the legs in the bath, did you look for any time?
MISS BLATCH: No, I looked for no time; I felt her arms and went downstairs.
The defence was, as in Palmer's case, the least impressive part of the trial. Never, except in the Sandhills crime,3 was Mr. Marshall Hall so destitute of material; his miserable client all the bravado knocked out of him, and speaking, when he interrupted to his own detriment, in a voice which a lady present likened to a patient's when only partly under chloroform was an impossible witness, damning though his absence from the box necessarily was. Counsel combated the theories of Drs. Spilsbury and Willcox, and employed a favourite argument with him, namely, that one would have to go back to the days of the Borgias to find such depths of wickedness as the prosecution alleged. One substantial point he made Would Smith, if he had intended to murder Miss Burnham or Miss Lofty, have gone to the expense of an endowment policy, when for about half the premium he could have got an all-life policy, which would have served his purpose just as well? As will be seen, Smith only abandoned the all-life policy on Miss Burnham when a further premium was demanded from him to cover the risk of marriage; and he probably found that an endowment policy masked his designs better from his two brides, besides furnishing his advocate with a plausible argument. Still, it must have cost Mr. Smith a pang to forgo £500! ***
3. The murder by Holt, between Blackpool and St. Anne's, of Mrs. Elsie Breaks, who had just made a will in his, favour, bequeathing him the amount of her life policy. It well illustrates "the desperate and short-sighted wickedness" of murderers that Holt committed his murder within four miles of the similar murder by Smith, by whose fate he was unwarned. ***
The inevitable verdict was reached on the final day in a very few minutes. Some reporters, who must have been poorly accommodated, said that the prisoner heard it unmoved; in truth he collapsed, so that a doctor stood near him. He was "very pale almost, livid. That tell-tale patch of red on his high cheekbones flushed angrily." Called upon by the Clerk of Court, his lips refused their office. "Then, with an effort, he gasped, 'I can only say I am not guilty.'"
Like Baron Bramwell in sentencing the Flowery Land pirates a half-century before, the Judge forbore to add anything to the words of his sentence, but, unlike the Baron, he concluded with the usual invocation of heaven to be merciful to the doomed man's soul. It is no part of a Judge's statutory or other duty to add these words. Smith thanked his counsel, the judge thanked the jury, and Inspector Neil, and thus ended one of the most remarkable murder trials, both from the atrocities of the criminal and the ingenuity with which the net was spread around him by the C.I.D., in the annals of British crime.
Smith was removed to Pentonville, pending his appeal, which was heard on July 29. A violent thunderstorm raged during the proceedings, and, after a peculiarly loud peal of thunder, the accused man looked nervously at the roof of the Court, as if he seemed to read his destiny in the wrath of the heavens. Mr. Marshall Hall traversed much the same ground in his main argument as at the Old Bailey that there was no prima facie case of the murder of Bessie Mundy apart from evidence of system; that such evidence was not admissible until a case to go to a jury had been built up aliunde. If the prisoner had given evidence that the death was accidental, then such evidence of system was admissible in rebuttal, but was not admissible in chief; there was no evidence of any physical fact by the prisoner causing Bessie Mundy's death, and no evidence as to surrounding circumstances ought to have been given in respect of the deaths at Blackpool and Highgate; that evidence of what took place at Mr. Annesley's was improperly admitted, as it was an interview between solicitor and client, and therefore there was a privilege not to disclose it; that the question put to both Dr. Spilsbury and Dr. Willcox, was the death consistent with accident? was the question for the jury, that the suggestions of the judge that the prisoner might have lifted the bride into the bath and that he might have employed drugs were improper, as supported by no evidence; and that Mrs. Thornhill's twice-repeated remark about the prisoner's sentence of two years had improperly influenced the jury. Mr. Bodkin shortly replied on the circumstantial evidence of an act of murder followed by evidence to show design, and he commented on the position of the body as inconsistent with epilepsy, which was very unlikely to begin at thirty-five years of age. Mr. Hall did not reply. The Court, after the Lord Chief justice had paid a compliment to the powerful and able argument of counsel none the less forcible for being condensed so as to deal with the real points of the case dismissed the appeal. The prisoner, who had only once taken his gaze from the faces of his judges, turned ghastly white, and was at once removed.
He remained at Pentonville until August 4, when, pursuant to his sentence under Palmer's Act, he was removed to Maidstone. The few remaining days of his life he passed in great prostration and almost constant tears. On August 9 he wrote a letter to Edith Pegler. He listened to the Wesleyan minister who was sent to comfort him and to the chaplain; but he discovered no trace of penitence, and made no confession. His execution was fixed for August 13, at eight o'clock, Pierpont and Ellis being the executioners. The last morning found him in a painful state of collapse; he was assisted to the scaffold, which it took three minutes to reach thrice the usual time from the moment the executioners entered the condemned cell. Outside a large crowd had collected, many of whom were women and many women of all ranks gazed from the windows of neighbouring houses and the loud babble of their voices could be heard in the cell while the preparations were being made, and the voice of the chaplain was drowned as he recited the opening words of the burial service. As eight o'clock struck a great silence fell on the multitude, and it lasted while the helpless man was almost carried in a blaze of summer sunshine across the prison yard to the fatal shed. He had to be supported on the drop.
What were his thoughts? It is idle to speculate. Had he ever heard of Nero and his cunning and cruel attempt to drown his mother Agrippina? Had he, with his smattering of book knowledge, ever heard of the last recorded utterance of the most infamous of the Imperial Caesars Qualis artifex pereo? If, stupefied and terrified as he was, he was incapable of coherent reflection, we may be sure his last thought was one of self-pity what an artist to perish, to have thought out a new mode of murder, and only to end like any common cut-purse of the old hanging days!
At the inquest held the same day in the prison, evidence was given that death was instantaneous and painless from fracture of the cervical vertebrae; the body was formally identified by Inspector Neil, and then consigned to the destroying quicklime naked as his brides had lain naked exposed to the gaze of strangers.
(A.) Questions of Law.
The principles regulating the admission of evidence at the trial of other acts than that charged, in order to show system, turned on the case of A.G. v. Makin.
This was one of the points of law raised at the subsequent Appeal, when the principles enunciated in a number of authorities were discussed in full, and are somewhat too technical for a full analysis in a book intended mainly for the general public.
When such evidence is admitted, it is admitted to show, "not that the defendant did the acts which form the basis of the charge, but that, if he did such acts, he did them intentionally and not accidentally, or inadvertently, or innocently". Only a minority of the cases illustrating the principle were murder cases. Palmer's case is often put forward by legal purists as a case where, though there were other indictments against the prisoner for the murder of his wife and brother, the suggestion of the murder of these "was never made or hinted at". Abroad distinction between a case like Palmer's, on the one hand, and Smith's or Armstrong's, on the other, is that in Palmer's case the defence was that Cook's death was due to natural causes, and not to misadventure or suicide. That other persons Palmer had access to had died mysteriously was, therefore, regarded professionally as a matter of prejudice. Of well-known murder cases, in which such evidence was admitted, R. v. Geering was a charge of the poisoning by arsenic of the prisoner's husband in September 1848; there were three other indictments against the prisoner charging her with the murder of her son, George, in December 1848; with the murder of her son, James, in March 1849; and with the attempted murder of her son, Benjamin, in the following month, all by the administration of arsenic. The evidence of the circumstances of the later death and of the illness in the last case was admitted by Lord Chief Baron Pollock on two grounds (1) to show that the death of the husband, whether felonious or not, was occasioned by arsenic and (2) to enable the jury to determine whether the taking of the arsenic was accidental or not. It was not admissible as tending to prove a subsequent felony.
Neill Cream's case was another of murder by arsenic poisoning. It was a very celebrated trial, but it did not figure in the law reports, nor did Mr. Justice Hawkins give any reason for admitting the evidence, because, as he stated in a letter to Mr. Justice Windeyer, any comments he might have made in pointing out the relevancy of the evidence would have been very prejudicial to the prisoner. The murder of which Cream was convicted was of an unfortunate named Matilda Clover, and, the defence suggesting in cross-examination death from delirium tremens, evidence was given, after the close of the direct evidence relating to Clover, of the death of three other unfortunates with the same symptoms, and of the attempted administration of a pill to a fourth, who, however, evaded taking it. In the letter referred to Mr. Justice Hawkins goes, I think, rather further than any British authority has gone, when speaking judicially. "I dissent," he wrote, "from the suggestion that such evidence . . . can only be admitted in corroboration of a prima facie case which a judge would be justified in leaving to a jury if it stood alone. The admissibility of evidence in itself material and relevant to the inquiry can never be dependent on whether it is used to corroborate evidence already given, or is offered as an independent piece of evidence."
The principle has been well stated in R. v. Francis (false pretences) by Lord Chief Justice Coleridge "It seems clear . . . that when the fact of the prisoner having done the thing he is charged with is proved and the only remaining question is, whether at the time he did it he had guilty knowledge of the quality of his act or acted under a mistake, evidence of the class received must be admissible. It tends to show that he was pursuing a course of similar acts, and thereby raises a presumption that he was not acting under a mistake."
This was applied in the New Zealand case of R. v. Hall, where the prisoner was tried for the murder by antimony of Henry Cain on January 29, 1886. The hypothesis of accidental administration was distinctly before the jury. The judge, wrongly as it was held, admitted evidence to show that from June to August 15 of that year the prisoner was in attendance on his wife, and that antimony was found in his possession and in her excreta. In holding the evidence improperly admitted, the Court said "The evidence is admissible as proof of the intent, where the prior fact of administration has been sufficiently established by independent testimony . . . by prior proof must be understood that there was sufficient evidence of the fact to go to a jury. This preliminary question the presiding judge must determine."
In the case before them the New Zealand Court of Appeal saw no satisfactory evidence of a design, which required for its achievement the deaths of Cain and Mrs. Hall in other words, there was no nexus between the two deaths.
A.G. v. Makin is now generally regarded as the leading case, and the instructive judgments of the New South Wales Court of Crown Cases Reserved are quite as valuable as the report of the case in the Privy Council. Its resemblance to Smith's case lies in the presumption of the physical fact constituting the murder charged from the evidence as to the other deaths; in other words, of the facts showing system. Just as Smith was never proved to have been in the bathroom at Herne Bay when Bessie Mundy was expiring there, so the Makins were never proved to have done any physical act to Horace Amber Murray by which he could have been deprived of life. The homicidal act its manner unknown was inferred from the facts showing system, the other bodies found, and the overwhelming evidence of motive. The state of the law will be found clearly summarized in Mr. Herman Cohen's edition of Roscoe's Criminal Evidence.
The law appears as a result of the authorities to be this:
1. No direct rule can be laid down as to the moment at which evidence of facts showing system becomes admissible. Roughly, the moment is when its relevance appears clear to the presiding judge.
2. Direct evidence of the physical act constituting the crime is not necessary before evidence of system becomes admissible.
3. The introduction of such evidence, tending to prejudice the accused, is not permissible before an issue has been raised in substance, if not in words, to which it is relevant, e.g. in Smith's case, that he was absent from the bathroom at all material times.
4. The evidence, to be admissible, must be (a) to prove a course of conduct; or (b) to rebut a defence of accident or mistake; or (c) to prove knowledge by the prisoner of some fact.
5. Whether such evidence would be admissible if there were no prima facie case without it, quoere.
This was the matter left in doubt in Smith's case; as the Court expressly said, "We have come to the conclusion that there was . . . prima facie evidence that the appellant committed the act charged quite apart from the other cases." Mr. Justice Windeyer had said in the Makins' case, "it appears to me that the evidence . . . need not amount to such a case as would be required to justify the judge in leaving it to a jury".
Mr. Marshall Hall's contention that the judge should not have put to Drs. Spilsbury and Willcox the question whether the deaths could be consistent with accident, as that was the question for the jury, recalls a conversation between Lord Brougham and Lyndhurst in old age; they were discussing Sir Francis Butler's oft-criticized question whether the laurel water, in his opinion, was the cause of Broughton's death to the great Hunter in Donellan's case. Lyndhurst "I think that Butler had no right to put the question. The point was not in the province of any witness it was the very question which was to go to the jury. What do you say, Brougham?" Brougham "Butler was wrong; there can be no doubt of it whatever."
(B.) Questions of Legal Medicine.
All cases of death from asphyxiation, whether proceeding from drowning, hanging, strangulation, or suffocation, present certain characteristic post-mortem appearances. Shakespeare has given an enumeration of them in language of which all men have long recognized the beauty, while medical men have recognized its fidelity.
Warwick, gazing on the corpse of Gloucester in the second part of King Henry VI, Act III, Sc. II, exclaims:
Where, however, a death is due to drowning and many bodies die in the water from other causes, such as syncope, shock, or a stroke only about 25 per cent, according to Ferrier, die of pure asphyxia, while in 12.5 per cent of deaths in the water there is no asphyxia at all. Suspension of efforts at respiration due to early loss of consciousness effect the post-mortem appearances, both internal and external. Less water is swallowed; there is congestion of blood in the face, and less bloody froth in the lungs and mouth.
Death may occur from drowning without any water being found in the stomach. As to the time sufficient to produce death, where there is complete submersion, if the efforts to breathe are continuous in other words, if consciousness is not lost from some independent cause one minute and a half will suffice. In one case there was complete insensibility within a minute. Where a girl fell into the water in a state of syncope, she recovered after six minutes' immersion; and trained divers, who, of course, do not attempt to breathe under the water, can remain submerged for two or more minutes, but of two divers going under water with apparatus whose air supply was cut off, one who was brought to the surface within a minute and a half survived, while the other, who was not brought to the surface under two minutes, did not survive.
As to the degree of violence necessary to overcome the resistance of an adult who is being murdered in this manner, Taylor says in the Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science, 1853: "It is the result of twenty years' experience of these cases that the resistance which a healthy and vigorous person can offer to the assault of a murderer intent upon drowning . . . her, is in general such as to lead to the infliction of a greater amount of violence than is necessary to ensure the death of the victim." Apart from the mysterious blood in the Mundy case, there was no evidence of violence in any of the three cases, except slight bruising of an arm in the Lofty case.
But this authority, high as it is, needs to be profoundly modified where the struggles of the victim are confined by the sides of a bath. There being no example of a similar murder to those alleged against Smith to be found in any works on forensic medicine, one of the detectives engaged on the case persuaded a young lady of his acquaintance, who was a practised swimmer, to sit in a bath, in a swimming costume, which was filled to the same height as the Herne Bay bath. She was aware that the experimenter was about to submerge her if he could; she was aware that his intentions were not felonious, and she was accustomed to having her head under water; yet with all these circumstances in her favour as compared With Smith's victims, she was unable to get her head above water, after it was once submerged, and consequently unable to cry out, and she almost instantaneously ceased to struggle, whereupon the experiment was at once discontinued; but not before the experimenter had satisfied himself not merely of the possibility, but of the ease, with which an ordinarily vigorous man could destroy life in the manner in which Drs. Spilsbury and Willcox opined Smith might have murdered Miss Mundy.
Other experiments carried out in empty baths satisfied several detectives that, using certain means, a woman might be held under water without inflicting any bruises upon her.
I will now proceed to a separate consideration of the three cases. The Herne Bay bath was five feet long, inside, at the top; three feet eight inches along the flat bottom; the width at the sloping end was two feet at the top and one foot six inches at the bottom; at the other end it was one foot seven inches and one foot one and a half inches. Its depth was one foot four inches at the sloping end, and a quarter-inch more at the other end. The deceased was five feet nine inches high, and this was the position in which Dr. French found her "The face was upwards, the trunk at the sloping end, the feet out of the water resting on the side of the bath a little below the edge. The position of the body kept the legs from slipping down. The head was submerged and the trunk partially so. The mouth was under water; her arms rested by her side. The right hand contained a piece of soap. The bath was just over three-parts full. (In other words there was at least twelve inches of water in the bath.) The legs were out straight straight from the trunk."
As to the theory of epilepsy, which was accepted by the jury, I will let Dr. French speak for himself "Further than his saying that she had temporarily lost consciousness, he could not get anything very definite out of him." Although the grounds for regarding it as an epileptic fit were very slight, he prescribed bromide of potassium (not only a specific in epilepsy but a general sedative). The probability of a woman having her first epileptic fit at thirty-five appears to be over twelve to one. Quain stated that only 6 per cent of cases first occur after thirty years of age. The probability of a person having a fit of this sort and not giving the warning scream, which is so characteristic as once heard never to be forgotten, is about three to one.
The probability of a person having such a fit and getting into the position described, the lay as well as the medical reader can judge for himself.
Mr. Mowll and his jury did not see the bath nor ascertain the position of the body in it; they had no, measurements, and they never tested, as Inspector Neil did, the possibility of the bath being filled by the deceased woman in the half-hour that Smith said he was out of the house.
The theory of epilepsy finds little support, again, from the post-mortem appearances; the face was dusky blue all over and much congested with blood; there was froth, which flowed out of the mouth, and on pressing the chest water flowed out of the mouth, facts indicating continued efforts at respiration after the face was submerged, and negativing the notion of a fit.
The piece of soap clutched in the right hand was a matter of some comment. Counsel spoke of the expression that "drowning men clutch at a straw" as figurative. In a sense it is; but the figure of speech rests on a well-known truth of forensic medicine. There is unusual unanimity among the authorities on this point: Professor Glaister refers to "the presence of objects in the firmly clenched hand as weeds, grass, sticks, or other objects", as a safe indication that death was due to drowning.
"It is certain," says Poore, "that a man who is drowning does clutch at anything with which his hands come in contact." "The presence of substances clutched in the fingers due, in the first instance, to a vital act subsequently rendered permanent by instantaneous cadaveric rigidity is evidence of submersion during life" (Dixon Mann). "Vain clutchings are made at whatsoever comes within reach. The indications of such instinctive efforts form the most important evidence of submersion during life" (Ferrier). It is also generally stated by the authorities that instant rigor mortis, lasting until putrefaction, is more common in drowning than in any other form of violent death met with in civil life.
Re-examined as to the soap, Dr. French said that if a person died suddenly with a piece of soap in her hand the grasp would be continued after death; and Dr. Spilsbury, recalled, said, "If only consciousness is lost, the soap would probably drop out of the hand by the relaxation, but if death occurred immediately, then the object might be retained owing to this condition of instantaneous death stiffening," and the body would retain its ante-mortem position. Taylor has stated that some of the bodies after the Regent's Park disaster of 1867 were "stiffened in the attitude of active exertion, the hands and arms being thrown forward as if sliding or skating". In that case, however, the cold may have produced stiffening by solidification of subcutaneous fat, which may have been confounded with true rigor mortis.
A difficulty that remains as to the piece of soap is that if Dr. French's memory was to be trusted after three years, cadaveric rigidity had not set in when he saw the soap in the hand. "I do not think it was stiff . . . It was limp." "Any part of it was not stiff?" "No."4 ***
4. The firm clutching in the hand after death of articles retained by it in articulo mortis is common to all cases of asphyxia. Mary Patterson, Burke and Hare's beautiful victim, had twopence halfpenny, which she held fast in her hand. Mrs. Hostler, another victim, had ninepence halfpenny in her hand, which they could scarcely get out of it after she was dead, so firmly was it grasped. Burke's Courant Confession, Appendix I, Trial of Burke and Hare, Notable British Trials series. ***
A word as to the blood seen by Mrs. Millgate about the waist of the body. As Mr. Marshall Hall seems to have suggested that each fatal seizure occurred during a period a suggestion that renders Smith's conduct in each case still more astounding and revolting it may, with diffidence, be suggested that this blood, the nature of which was never explained, may have been due to post-mortem bleeding from the vagina. In the case of the "Ireland's eye" murder, Mrs. Kirwan was found to be bleeding from the ears and private parts. After the conviction of Kirwan, Dr. Alfred Taylor contributed a paper and Dr. Thomas Geoghegan another on the medico-legal aspects of the ease. Dr. Taylor wrote: "It is a rare condition of asphyxia and not a constant accompaniment or sign of the suffocation or strangulation of females." And he adds, "I have not known it to occur in drowning." Dr. Geoghegan, from the experience of colleagues, found it quite common in the strangulation of women in judicial and suicidal hanging. "Vaginal bleeding has been frequently noticed in hanging and strangulation," he says, but while admitting that the "subject appears not to have sufficiently attracted the attention of medical jurists," he seems to regard it as peculiar to death from strangulation, as apart from other forms of asphyxia.
It will probably suggest itself to medical readers that the great venous congestion in all cases of asphyxia may render such post-mortem bleeding no less likely in asphyxia from drowning as from other causes of death of the like sort. In the few cases in our reported criminal trials there were other things to account for the bleeding that was observed, and authority is very scanty in the treatises on legal medicine.
The cutis anserina, which Dr. Spilsbury found, was of little importance in determining the cause of death. It is a sign of exposure to water at the time of death, and not of death from the immersion in water. Dr. Spilsbury agreed that it was found in sudden deaths, other than from drowning, but the weight of authority seems to be that cutis anserina has no value bearing as on the cause of death occurring in water.
A last word on the Mundy case. Smith, it will have been noted, informed the relatives that "Bessie died of a fit in a bath." That is not what Dr. French said he was always clear that death was due to drowning but the appearances in the case of a body of a man of thirty who died of an epileptic seizure in a bath and not from drowning have been recorded by Taylor. Much congestion of the brain was noted, in the right ventricle only a small clot of blood, otherwise the cavities of the heart were quite empty. The body of Miss Mundy was so decomposed when Dr. Spilsbury examined it that he could say little as to either heart or brain.
In the case of Alice Burnham, very little water was found in the body by Dr. Billing so little that he even doubted that death was due to drowning. As we have seen, the absence of water is not inconsistent with death from drowning. The Blackpool bath measured five feet three inches long; the width at the sloping end was two feet three inches at the top and one foot two inches at the bottom; at the tap end the width was one foot three and a half inches, and one foot at the top and the bottom respectively. The depth at the centre was eighteen inches; and the bath was full to within one and a half inches of the top, even after the head was raised out of the water: The body was quite limp when Dr. Billing saw it; he opined that death was due to drowning, but we are without any description of the post-mortem appearances in this case. From the absence of anything about the colour of the face or of a bloody froth about the mouth and lungs, and from the small quantity of water found, it is a legitimate inference that death in this case was not brought about solely by asphyxiation, but that there may have been an early loss of consciousness before the efforts to breathe had become very distressing.
As to the theory of epilepsy in this case and it was hardly maintained by Mr. Marshall Hall not only was there no suggestion of the monitory scream, but a history of an alleged fit at nine years of age, followed by no more at the critical period of puberty, and only succeeded by one after a will just made in favour of an impecunious husband about seventeen years later, may justly be dismissed as of no importance, as Dr. Bertram Stone dismissed it, "because the history is so indefinite".
The post-mortem appearances in Margaret Lofty's case point to asphyxiation as the main cause of death. The lips were blue and swollen, the whole of the face was congested and the eyelids swollen, and there was froth exuding from the mouth and nostrils. Of violence the only traces were one externally visible bruise above the left elbow on the outer side, and other bruises, recent, beneath the surface. Dr. Bates perceived no blood near or about the body; some bloodstains on an undergarment were susceptible of a very obvious explanation, and indicated neither violence nor the existence of a period at the time of death. Evidence of old pleurisy and peritonitis was noticed by Dr. Bates, but no suggestion was made that either disease had any bearing on the death. There was no evidence as to the position of this body in the bath. When first seen after the murder by Miss Blatch the corpse was being held up by Smith over the bath, the legs being still in the bath, and whether she had faced the sloping or the narrow end was not made clear. The bath was five feet six inches long at the top, four feet two inches along the flat bottom; at the top of the sloping end it was two feet one and a half inches, narrowing down to one foot six inches. At the tap end the width was one foot six inches, narrowing down to eleven and a half inches. There was no evidence as to the height of the water in the bath.
A view remains to be examined, which may serve to explain the extraordinary sexual familiarity which established itself so early and so easily in the relations of Smith with his brides the last in particular. It was brought to my notice by a correspondent that hypnotic suggestions might have played a part in causing these three women, not only to place themselves in the very singular situations in which they did, but even, without physical effort on the part of Smith, to drown themselves! Sir Edward Marshall Hall, whom his conspicuous and my more modest public engagements prevented my conferring with until a late stage in the preparation of this essay, in a letter states: "I am convinced he [Smith] was a hypnotist. Once accept this theory, and the whole thing -including the unbolted doors is to my mind satisfactorily explained." Little is known to professors of legal medicine in England of the power of hypnotic suggestion to cause a person to do an act morally or otherwise repugnant to him or her.
Arbert Moll, as quoted by Georges du Bor, states that hypnotic suggestion plays no part in the seduction by a man of a woman. That woman would have given herself to that man anyhow. A. E. Davis, Professor of Psychotherapy to Liverpool Hospital, in his Hypnotism, after ridiculing the sexual psychology of Trilby, in which Svengali, by mesmeric art, compels the surrender of the heroine to his revolting person, she being all the while in love with little Billie, proceeds to state that, in his experience, it is quite impossible, by hypnotic suggestion, to compel persons to do an act which is morally, aesthetically, or on grounds of religious or similar scruple repugnant to them.
Such, too, was the effect of the evidence of Dr. K, now a member of the Bar, in a case in which he was plaintiff in a contested probate action, and in which he was alleged to have induced his lady patient to make a will in his favour. His defence succeeded. On the other hand, the authorities collected by Wingfield in his Introduction of the Study of Hypnotism, are far more guarded. Moll thinks that, by repeated hypnotic suggestions a person could be "willed" to commit a crime. Forel proved this by compelling a subject to fire twice at a man with a pistol, loaded, but not to his knowledge, with blank cartridge. Von Eulenberg, von Schrenck-Notzing, and other eminent German and Austrian psychotherapists seem to agree. I think I am correct in stating that in Russia once, and in France twice, a woman has successfully put forward as a defence in homicide hypnotic compulsion by a man. Lord Justice Scrutton informs me that he accepts neither the hypnotic theory nor the theory that poisonous vapour was put in the bath water. Digital pressure per rectum on the spinal column is an alternative based on a doctor's personal experience with a violent lunatic.
In my view the simple explanation that the unhappy women were in love with Smith explains all. The respondent, in one of the two famous political divorces of the mid-eighties, said of the co-respondent, "If Charles had asked me to stand on my head in the middle of Piccadilly, I would have done it."
Certain definite evidence, moreover, indicates the use of some physical violence by Smith, the hair at the sloping end of the Blackpool bath, the overflowing of water from it, the sound of the wet arms and the sighing, as of one struggling to get breath, at Highgate. Smith's own autograph note to Mr. Shearman, which that learned counsel gave to me, to my mind, went strongly to show that he an ex-gymnasium instructor knew how to accomplish such murders without bruising the victim. And the experiments of Mr. Neil confirm the possibility.
Studies in Psychology (I.) The Psychology of Sex.
A popular and prolific French author (M. Paul Bourget) has in a work marked by all the vigour of youth and all the enthusiasm for his subject of a good Frenchman, endeavoured to analyse the constituents of a "lady's man". Looks count for little. Education for nothing. "Mais le tact de l'homme à femmes est quelque chose de tout particulier presque un organe comme les antennes chez les insectes presque un instinct, car l'éducation n'y ajoute guère. Cet homme, par exemple, du premier coup d'il, juge exactement quel degré de chance il a auprès d'une femme a laquelle il est presenté. Il dira mentalement Celle-ci est pour moi, celle-là, non."?? And after a consideration of typical men he concludes, "Mais ils avaient tous ce fond de tempérament où gît la force vitale." *** "La Psychologie de l'Amour Moderne" ***
Smith's protective antennae seem to have guided him well enough in the search for likely victims; where they failed him was in the inability to warn him of the women in whom his pronounced sexuality aroused an instant and an enduring antagonism. On men, on the other hand, he produced no impression, but one of insignificance and commonness "Just like any butcher," was Mr. Neil's appreciation.
It has long been recognized that two radically different types of men favourably impress women; the type possessing a marked femininity of character enabling its possessor to understand women from their own point of view, and those of a very pronounced masculinity, who succeed by riding rough-shod over the finer feelings of women, and whose success is due to the arousing of woman's primitive desire to be mastered a desire which is normal within limits, but when abnormal is styled by the professors of sexual psychology masochism, to distinguish it from its counterpart, the abnormal desire to inflict pain (within limits psychological in the male at least), which is known as sadism, each term being derived from the man of letters who stands' as a type of the abnormally submissive, and the abnormally masterful and cruel.
George Joseph Smith was undoubtedly a male whose love for mastery over women, including the infliction on them of humiliation (witness the letter to Bessie Mundy of September 13, 1910, the circumstances of each desertion of a robbed bride, and the invariable exposure of the nude corpse of a murdered bride to the gaze of strangers of either sex) approached the pathological limit where the normal masculine desire merges into sadism; but, unlike Neill Cream, Chapman or Jack the Ripper, Smith was not driven to murder through an overmastering impulse of sadism, the pecuniary motive being the all-powerful one, murder being only undertaken where robbery could not be accomplished without it. In Cream's case the motive of pecuniary advantage through blackmail was very unsubstantial, and there is little doubt that the half-crazy doctor was a victim of the most dangerous of sexual perversions, one which accounts for a great deal of what is most unsavoury in the divorce court. As to the physical attractions of Smith, he had, it seems, a certain magnetism about his eyes. A woman writer in a popular morning paper has told of the "irresistible feline luminosity in the eyes," of the sexually attractive man; and Smith's first bigamously married bride has described him thus "He had an extraordinary power over women. This power lay in his eyes. When he looked at you for a minute or two you had the feeling that you were being magnetized. They were little eyes that seemed to rob you of your will." He was accustomed to indulge in such practices as wife-beating. "Often," says the authority quoted, "he has beaten me black and blue. Once he locked me in a cabinet folding-bed."
Smith made no pretence of fidelity to this bride; indeed, the occasion of one flogging arose out of an amour. I will give the story in the woman's own words. "Often he used to brag to me about his numerous women acquaintances. Once I met one of his victims with him and warned her to her face about him. She was greatly shocked, and said she had always regarded him as a good, religious man. That night he came home and thrashed me till I was nearly dead." Whether or not his various "victims" were so simple as to believe in his whole-hearted devotion, it remains an everlasting truth that women are not much attracted by want of enterprise in the male. To a wife, at least, to have a roué for a husband is an indirect compliment to herself. As Valera says, "Even the most moral and religious young woman likes to marry a man who has loved many women; it gives a greater value to his choice of her." Professor Hans Gross well says, "Only the very young, pure, and inexperienced girl feels an instinctive revulsion from the real roué, but other women, according to Rochebrune, love a man in proportion to the number of other women who love or have loved him. This is difficult to understand; but it is a fact that a man has an easy task with women if he has the reputation of being a great hand with them. Perhaps this is only an expression of the conceit and envy of women, who cannot bear the idea that a man is interested in so many others and not in themselves. As Balzac says, 'Women prefer most to win a man who already belongs to another.' The inconceivable ease with which certain types of men seduce women, and at whose heads women throw themselves in spite of the fact that these men have no praiseworthy qualities whatever, can only be so explained. Perhaps it is true, as is sometimes said, that here is a case of sexuality expressing itself in an inexplicable manner." Johnson's famous dictum falls naturally alongside the Austrian jurist's. "Ladies set no value on the moral character of men who pay their addresses to them; the greatest profligate will be as well received as the man of greatest virtue, and this by a woman who says her prayers three times a day." Our ladies endeavour to defend their sex from this charge, but he roared them down: "No, no; a lady will take Jonathan Wild as readily as St. Austin, if he has threepence more . . . Women have a perpetual envy of our vices; they are less vicious than we, not from choice, but because we restrict them."
Havelock Ellis has observed that, "There is no such instinctive demand on woman's part for innocence in a man," but he adds by way of qualification, "This is not always or altogether true of the experienced woman."6 ***
6. Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vi, 44. ***
But while, as we have seen, Smith without money, manners, education or even appearance to recommend him, produced invariably an effect on women, though that effect was at times the reverse of favourable, men carried away no distinct impression of him. Mr. Burnham did, indeed, dislike him, but so faint was the personal impression that he was unable to pick him out at Bow Street. One witness alone, Mr. J. R. Robbins, is shocked by Smith's greed after money when he claims half-commission on the murdered Blackpool bride's policy; but for the most part the quiet professional men, with whom he comes in contact, see nothing to notice about him. The solicitors, the doctors, the bankers, house-agents, insurance agents even the coroners, those men of more than ordinary perspicacity to each and all he appears in no wise out of the ordinary; indeed, upon the bank managers he must have produced a mildly favourable impression, for he opens account after account in false names, without references, and in one case to the manager's knowledge has only an accommodation address, "where they call themselves confectioners. It is a sort of small mixture of milk and groceries." P.C. Heath, who, as having had a good opportunity to notice him at Bismarck Road, was asked by Inspector Neil to keep watch for him outside Mr. Davies's office, was unable to identify him. His eyes with their suggestion of mesmeric powers apart, there was nothing in his appearance or manner that struck Mr. Shearman, who had constant opportunities for studying him at Bow Street and at the Central Criminal Court. His main endeavour seemed to Mr. Shearman to be to pass for a gentleman of independent means and of culture. To produce such an impression, he went so far as to wear a frock-coat and tall hat at Herne Bay in August, where such raiment would certainly arouse remark.
Yet he had only to be in physical propinquity to a woman, and she at once became aware that she was in the presence of a man of some mysterious powers over her sex. To the wife of a high legal functionary he appeared an attractive man; that acute criminologist, the late H.B. Irving, during the trial was seated next two fashionably attired ladies of pleasure, and these vied with one another in praise of the prisoner's charms. At the police court the eagerness with which women thronged round him in the dock was the subject of indignant comment in the papers; and at the Old Bailey the police had special instructions to make it as difficult as possible for women to be present. On the other hand, even in cold print, the dislike of the man that instantly possessed such witnesses as Mrs. Tuckett and Miss Rapley appears unmistakably.
There is one masculine failing which women find it peculiarly difficult to overlook in a man; yet Smith possessed this failing in a marked degree petty meanness in the matter of money. To Edith Pegler he sends only the smallest sums, and his ideas of a honeymoon jaunt stop short at places which are either free to the public or are to be entered for a modest expenditure; it is Brockwell Park, the National Gallery or a shillingsworth of the White City; and he leaves Alice Reavil to pay for the food!
"In all the transactions of his infamous life," wrote Mr. Sims in Bluebeard of the Bath, "whether he was Jekyll or whether he was Hyde, he was abominably mean. He never squandered a farthing of his ill-gotten gains. He rarely, when absent from his Bristol wife, sent her any money. When he decided to murder Miss Mundy he bargained for the bath, did not pay for it and when he had committed in it the murder for which he had obtained it, he sent it back again, not even paying a small amount for the hire of it, although by using,it he had obtained between two and three thousand pounds. He never wasted a farthing on any of the young women whose money he was going to get by murdering them. When arrested, although he had made many thousands of pounds by the most economical form of murder possible, he was wearing a suit of clothes for which he had not paid. They had not been paid for when he was hanged."
He sells Bessie Mundy's clothing before it has come back from the laundry and does not settle the laundry bill, which Mrs. Millgate has paid: He disposes of Alice Burnham's wardrobe and rings, and grudges her remains a pitch-pine coffin when deal would do as well. He takes Miss Mundy away from Weston-super-Mare, and does not settle with Mrs. Tuckett the £2 10s. owing. He takes Mr. Crabbe, a working man, away from his work to witness his marriage and does not pay him a penny. He promises to remunerate Mrs. Crossley for her trouble, and gives her nothing but his address for her to forward him the local papers. And he tries to get out of paying Mr. Annesley's bill.
Though he claims half-commission from Mr. Pleasance over Alice Burnham's policy, he leaves her mother and brother to pay for their modest lunch at the "Company House" where he has choked the life out of their dear one. But when he is in danger himself, no considerations of expense restrain him from securing what he deems he best professional aid.
How it came about that such a man was able to impose his will absolutely on three different women, each coming from a home superior to his, and each boasting a greater degree of education, and to leave on each an impression of kindness, truthfulness and genuineness so absolute that, forsaking the natural ties of the flesh, they surrendered all, to them, that they had in the world their bodies and their belongings with equal abandon can best be treated in a study of the criminal himself in some detail.
Studies in Psychology (II.) L'Uomo Delinquente.
The fascination which very depraved men exercise over women has long stimulated criminologists to discover hitherto with little success what common attribute bad men possess which makes them so ingratiating to the sex. "Duval, the ladies' pride, Duval, the ladies' joy", in common with the other highwaymen, doubtless owed his success to the false romanticism with which the Beggar's Opera and less enduring literary tributes contrived to invest the lives of the knights of the road. But the uncomely Sheppard, the hideous Peace, the commonplace Palmer, those "two singularly common and ordinary persons," Pranzini and Prado, and many another whose crimes are unsung, were equally, in their day, the objects of passionate adoration, in some cases on the part of women much above them in station, and their shameful and well-deserved ends a fruitful cause of tears and heartaches.
"This former conductor of Pullman cars," observed M. Bourget of Pranzini, "is mourned in many a lady's bed." Smith, however, like Dougal, the Moat Farm murderer, belongs specifically to that small band of criminals, of whom Vitalis is an exemplar, who thrived on the exploitation of feminine weakness, and, so far as is known, avoided forms of crime in which the ability to deceive women would not have availed.
The resemblances between Dougal and Smith are more than superficial. The Moat Farm murderer had also been in the army, and his known relationships with women included (1) Miss Griffiths, whom he married, and who died in Canada under suspicious circumstances, being hastily buried without a death certificate; (2) a second wife, a young woman of means whom he married on August 14, 1885. She died in a few weeks in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was buried beside the first wife in a neglected grave; (3) a Halifax girl, with whom he lived and by whom he had a child. He several times threatened to murder her, and abandoned her; (4) a widow, by whom he had two children, and whom he then left to take small positions in clubs at Stroud Green and Southend; (5) a young unmarried woman of means, with whom he got in touch through a matrimonial agency. He induced her to live with him and to sell her property and give him the proceeds; (6) the third Mrs. Dougal, a good-looking woman, whom he married against her parents' wishes in August, 1892; (7) an elderly lady, with money, who took a public-house for him at Ware. He was suspected of arson here, and was convicted of forgery; (8) his last victim, Miss Camille Holland, an elderly lady of means, whom he met after serving his sentence. She was very musical, artistic, and literary, and also very religious: in point of education and status she was far above Dougal. Yet she lived with him as his wife without scruple.
At the time of the murder of Miss Holland, Dougal was endeavouring to seduce if that word be not too mild to cover what went to the verge of an attempted crime their maid, and he was industriously running after several other young women in comparatively humble life. In all cases the women's property was at his disposal equally with their persons. He had the education of an N.C.O. of the old-time Army, but was far from being a man of polish. Educationally, however, he was the superior of Smith. "Mr. Philip Curtin" and others, having represented Smith as a man who affected belles-lettres and who could turn out a pretty sonnet or billet-doux to a lady, let me here say, once and for all, that a man with smaller pretensions to literary skill one could not come across. He was utterly incapable of writing a grammatical sentence or of spelling the commonest words. In a note before me now he writes "wader" repeatedly for "warder," and "difficulity," "voilence," and "brusies" for the familiar words they are meant to represent. In a letter to the secretary of a West End club he writes, "dissadvantage," "attatched," "obivious," and "conserned"; and in a letter to Mr. Davies he writes "in fain," "attemt," and "solomn". Like some better educated people, he never could distinguish "principal" from "principle". Though we had been at war with Germany for nearly a year when he was tried, the acquaintance of Mr. Smith with public affairs and with history was well evinced by the note in which he speaks of "several jerman or foreign women". As for his grammar it was nearly as bad as his heart, and sufficiently appears from his letters put in as exhibits.
What, then, is the explanation of the fascination of Dougal and of Smith? Readers of Havelock Ellis will remember that that shrewd observer has remarked that nowhere does the trained observer meet with more sensual women than are to be found in quiet homes and country vicarages. What to the common eye seems a demure young woman of the middle-class is to the eye of le vrai homme à femmes a woman who may worship at the chapel or in her father's church, but in secret she is also a worshipper of the pagan divinity Priapus. "Those cunning little eyes", which "blinked uneasily" while Mr. Justice Scrutton was lashing their possessor with his tongue, could read very well the mind of a woman, and could see whether in the depth of her eyes could be traced the smouldering fires of passion, all the more ready to burst into flame from the constant repression of desire forced on her by the daily round and common task, be it governess or lady's companion or young lady in business.
And having once gained the sexual mastery, how absolute is the villain's control! He writes to Bessie Mundy "I have caught from you the bad disorder; for you to be in such a state proves you could not have kept yourself morally clean." He decamps with Bessie's money, and apparently with most of her clothes, and when they next meet, at Weston-super-Mare, "there he was looking over the sea," and despite the remonstrances of Mrs. Tuckett, she goes off with him in her shift, not troubling to come back to pack a bag with a nightdress! He takes her to the solicitors, and there, before her, concocts the most unblushing lies it is he who, through some indiscretion, had supposed himself infected. The man of law writes as instructed. Smith writes to the brother in stilted style reminiscent of poor Aram's compositions "I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to you, nor how you will censure me for using so strong a prop to support so grave a burden" and Bessie adds, "My dear Howard I trust you will try and forget the past as I have done" (she who had written, "The man came across my path . . . I am very sorry . . . I feel it is a mercy I am rid of him. I do hope my husband will be caught. I feel I have disgraced my myself for life.") "I know my husband now better than ever before. You will be pleased to know I am perfectly happy." Perfectly well, according to Dr. French when he last saw her alive about 3 p.m. on Friday, she sits down to write that letter, which arrived with the telegram announcing her death. "I have made out my will and left all to my husband." What art has the monster practised that deep-rooted loathing and deserved contempt are banished and confiding submission rules this poor creature on whom Death is so soon to lay his icy grasp?
Alice Burnham, though younger in years than either of the other murdered brides, was more accustomed to the ways of men. She had contracted a malady, which was not named in Court, though it was discussed in the evidence of Dr. Bertram Stone, under reëxamination, and again in the cross-examination of Dr. Spilsbury when recalled. It had set up septic peritonitis, and, without lifting the veil, which the Court suffered to remain drawn, it may be added that it was thus alluded to in a letter from Dr. Stone to the North British & Mercantile Insurance Company, "I have obtained leave both from Mrs. George Smith and her husband to give full details of the unfortunate episode in her life. Mr. George Smith is aware of all that occurred."
The knowledge so obtained by Smith may account in a measure for the influence wielded by him over the least weak-willed of the victims. How absolute that influence was appears from the correspondence. Alice writes to her father on November 22, giving him until the first post on November 25 to pay her the £100; but on the 24th of that month she had already instructed solicitors "to take extreme measures". It has taken only some two months for Smith to root out all her natural affection and sense of filial duty, and to plant in their stead a boundless belief in himself "I have the best husband in the world," wrote the deluded, doomed bride, a few short hours before she was robbed of life.
If, in reviewing the ghastly sequence of events during the few days at Blackpool, one may permit oneself to indulge in the whimsical method of De Qnincey and to recognize that, "murders have their little differences in their shades of merits, as well as statues, pictures, oratorios, cameos, intaglios, or what not," then the murderer will be seen to have advanced in his dreadful art since the Herne Bay affair. So certain is he of accomplishing his object that he carries out the crime in a room directly over one he knows to be in occupation; having fulfilled it, he descends to that room, and, struggling to appear unconcerned, engages in talk about a fire engine! He must have learned something, too, about the possibility of resuscitating the apparently drowned; alone, at 80 High Street, he can leave his victim submerged for as long as he pleases, but in the Company House every moment is precious. The murderer returns with his bride just before eight; about 8.15 the water is observed to be dripping through the ceiling; at 8.35 Joseph Crossley is summoned back from his work to fetch the doctor to what Smith knows to be a corpse. Immediately Dr. Billing sees Alice Burnham he exclaims, "She is dead."
Tidy has recorded a case, which must surely be exceptional, of recovery after twenty minutes' immersion. Smith on each occasion was present when artificial respiration was tried. It would need the pen of De Qnincey or Edgar Allan Poe to conjure up the scene, if at Regent Road, Blackpool, or Bismarck Road, Highgate, Smith had watched the return of animation and had beheld the awful physical traces of his crime one by one disappear under the doctor's art the congested blood leave the cheeks, the lips resume their normal hue, the eyes, "staring full ghastly," take on again the tender look they wore when conscious life was suspended, and then, as comprehension came back, had seen the "bride" lift her accusing finger, from which he had already snatched the rings, fond emblems as she supposed of hallowed love, to denounce the cold-blooded assassin, who but a few short hours before had held her in his arms and caressed her with all the tenderness with which devotion can mask the impetuous desires of the lover!
When we dwell on the commonplace incidents the fatal Friday, the tapioca pudding, the inquiry if it had been relished, the evening stroll, the appalling deed while the homely north-country family are enjoying their late tea below, the casual entry of the murderer "full of agitation" withal and realize that every detail of this seemingly insignificant winter's day was part of a well-laid scheme thought out many weeks before, and that the sinewy arms, while they hold the bride in the transports of love are cunningly measuring her powers of resistance to a very different description of attack, we realize how utterly apart from normal men, even from criminal men of other types, the cold-blooded mercenary murderer stands. One would have thought that Nature would have stamped on the lineaments of such fiends some warning of their dreadful characters; yet it has not been found so. De Quincey says of Williams: "The concurrent testimony of many witnesses, and also the silent testimony of facts showed that the oiliness and snaky insinuation of his demeanour counteracted the repulsiveness of his ghastly face, and amongst inexperienced young women won for him a very favourable reception."
A correspondent of mine whose father had once travelled with Palmer in a railway carriage, tells me that the father was very favourably impressed by the all-persuasive bonhomie of the poisoner. Hideous as Peace was, he was yet ingratiating. Nature seems to have endowed murderers with an extraordinary plausibility; they have a popular facility in lying, which Sir James Stephen noted a generation ago.
Nemo repente venit turpissimus, sang the Roman satirist, and Smith, in his last crime, was destined to transcend even his own performances. From the time Margaret Lofty left Bath (after those untruthful missives to her relations about the mythical old lady) to the time when P.C. Heath was summoned to her dead body at Bismarck Road, was but some thirty hours. The bridegroom, his dreadful purpose locked in his bosom, comes at three in the afternoon of December 17, to the house in Orchard Row, and is repulsed from the door. There was "a bath that a person might lie in," in that house, and the man fears he will be baulked of his prey. His rage finds free vent in the street. He drags off his feverish bride to other apartments, then to the doctor's, where she is naturally silent. Next day and by what endearments he charmed away the vexations and anxieties of that Thursday and smiled away her maiden shame, murder all the while in his heart, my pen shall not essay to set forth in words, our language has no vocabulary in which to record such infamy as man never yet had descended to next day, any suspicion Margaret might have entertained has vanished. It is nothing to her that he has been afraid to meet her relations; that he has compelled her not only to conceal the approaching marriage, but to lie about it, and to lie to the insurance company. It is nothing to her that at the cheap apartment-house, where he has booked rooms for the honeymoon at 16s. a week, a detective in plain clothes has refused him admittance. Overnight she has written from the second lodging-house, where she was so soon to meet her death: "He was a thorough Christian man, whom I have known since June. He has been honourable and kept his word to me in everything ... I am perfectly happy."
In the whole rogues' gallery there surely was never a knave so plausible as this, never one who, until detection came and his self-control suddenly gave way, could so completely mask his feelings.
Any man who reads carefully as to what happened at Bismarck Road, about which, as the learned judge observed, it is difficult to comment, must be aghast at the psychological puzzle this amazing criminal presents. The passionate lover of a single day's wedded life, just a week after the murder, sits down and pens the very bald and businesslike statement. It reads: "Certificate of birth, certificate of marriage, certificate of death, wife's will, policy, receipt for premium paid, official acceptance, receipt for burial."
One recalls that page in Palmer's diary, where under the date 21st, Wednesday, is recorded, ". .. Cook died at ten o'clock this morning. Jere and William Saunders dined. Sent Bright a 3 mos. Bill," and under the date 25th, Sunday 25 after Trin. "At Church Hamilton preached dined Yard."
And yet superior persons wonder why, since bad people do not take any interest in the lives of good people, good people perversely wish to read about bad people!
But what elevates Smith to the highest pinnacle of infamy is that he played upon the very tenderest and most sacred of all our feelings to accomplish his crimes. Of bigamists and seducers and betrayers of women there have been and will continue to be many notable examples; but, complex as our human nature is, Smith provided the first, as his Judge believed he would also furnish the last, instance of a man caressing in his closest embraces of marital love a woman, the exact moment and manner of whose death at his hands he had in his mind, while his lying lips were uttering to her words of the purest passion. He is wholly apart, from the point of view of sexual psychology, from the lust-murderer or mutilator, whose sexual erethism discharges itself in the commission of an act of homicide, or maiming, or in some form of infliction of pain. Smith plays with every success the part of an uxorious and devoted husband, and all the time the exact cash value of his bride to him as a corpse is present in his mind. The tender words and sighs of passion, fondly believed to be reciprocated, are breathed into ears which will hear unmoved in a few hours' time those same lips sighing and panting for life as the cruel water closes over them and for ever puts them to silence.
It would need more than De Quincey's pen, even, to call up before the shuddering reader that scene in the bathroom at Bismarck Road. The poor bride, her whole being throbbing, with a temperature of 101, the tiring winter's afternoon in which there has been so much to do, a will to make here, money to withdraw there, closed by the fall of night, returns to their modest rooms; at once he soothes her; Miss Blatch enters, and there she is on her knees by the fire and he reading the paper a picture of domesticity! She would like a warm bath; there are reasons; she would feel more comfortable. Utterly confiding, the bride of a day lets her bridegroom come in and invade her privacy. The natural shame of a woman before a man is gone already. She has given herself to this honourable Christian man, and thenceforth she is his.
It is not decent to speculate save in the privacy of the individual mind as to what exactly happened in those few fatal moments round about eight o'clock on the night of December 18. It is barely possible to hold the pen and in the mind's eye try to visualize the scene.
The muscular arms, that could rend a chair asunder, are wrapped around the yielding body, his eyes look into her eyes, the melting, liquid light of passion shining in each. A last tender kiss seals eternally those words of love. The strong hands grip the unresisting body; a fierce, feline look steals into the cunning eyes that a moment ago beamed so kindly. As her head plunges under the water what thoughts flood the mind of Margaret Lofty? Drowning people, we are told, in the brief space of consciousness left them, pass in review every incident of their lives. What recollections and reflections must have raced through her brain! Each caress, every tender word, those letters, in which were revealed the harmony of their souls all rushed back to her in that crowded last moment of consciousness. And he?
He is looking with professional concern for the signs, which are the heralds of death. The eyeballs are beginning to project good! The face is blackening excellent! She did get her head above water for a second and gave a little sigh; that was disconcerting, but it will pass for nothing, and he has locked the door. All will be over before he unlocks it. He can lift her head out of the water now, and judge the progress of the case. A bloody froth streams from mouth and nostrils it is finished! Now to steal to the parlour downstairs and play as unconcernedly as he can upon the organ. What notes did it peal forth? Some dirge? Some marche funèbre? Then out into the bleak night on an errand to buy tomatoes. And when he comes back there is that knocking on the door which, as in Macbeth, transfers our sympathy ("of comprehension by which we enter into his feelings and are made to understand them not a sympathy of pity or approbation") to the murderer. "In the murdered person all strife of thought, all flux and reflux of passion and of purpose, are crushed by one overwhelming panic. The fear of instant death smites him with its 'petrific maze'. But in the murderer . . . there must be raging some great storm of passion, jealousy, ambition, vengeance, hatred which will create a hell within him; and into this hell we are to look." Thus wrote De Qnincey in Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.
Smith, not being "such a murderer as poet will condescend to," the hell within him provided no material for sublime tragedy; merely materials for one of the longest and costliest murder trials these islands have ever known.
And if we could look into that hell within him, after he heard the fatal words, "this appeal is dismissed," the only torments we should find him suffering from would be "chagrin at the mistake in not securing immunity." The mercenary murderer, without exception, can find no contrition. The learned Judge in passing sentence must have realized this. "An exhortation to repentance would be wasted on you." And in the two last letters from Maidstone, the one to his solicitor, the other to Edith Pegler, the usual canting and hypocritical expressions are mingled with the usual invectives against his judges and the unjust world which has consigned an innocent man to his doom.
The history of crime, like other history, "With all her volumes vast, hath but one tale." His end was like the end of all others, except that he met it abjectly.
"The world contains," wrote Sir James Stephen, "an appreciable number of wretches who ought to be exterminated without mercy when an opportunity occurs."
"Fate will use a running noose
I do not think the most ardent advocate of the abolition of capital punishment will deny that fate, through the instrumentality of Messrs Pierpont and Ellis, made a most proper use of her running noose on August 13, 1915.