Edalji's Own Story
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Edalji's Own Story: The Narrative of Eighteen Years' Persecution is a series of articles written by George Edalji himself, serialized in 18 issues of the Pearson's Weekly between 7 february and 6 june 1907.
In the first issue the title was "My Own Story: The Narrative of Eighteen Years' Persecution".
- 1 INTRODUCTION
- 2 EDALJI'S OWN STORY
- 2.1 THE FIRST SERIES OF OFFENSIVE LETTERS.
- 2.2 SECOND SERIES OF LETTERS.
- 2.3 HOAXES AND FORGERIES.
- 2.4 LICHFIELD BREWERY INCIDENT.
- 2.5 THE "KEY" AND "LEAFLET" INCIDENT.
- 2.6 "A DOSE OF PENAL SERVITUDE."
- 2.7 OUTRAGES BEFORE MY ARREST.
- 2.8 THE THIRD SERIES OF LETTERS.
- 2.9 EDALJI'S CHALLENGE.
- 2.10 THE POLICE AND THE PUBLIC.
- 2.11 SCARED POLICEMEN.
- 2.12 WATCHERS AMONG THE TOMBS.
- 2.13 A FALSE REPORT.
- 2.14 THE OLD ENVELOPE INCIDENT.
- 2.15 FIRST SUSPICIONS OF A CONSPIRACY.
- 2.16 CESSATION OF THE LETTERS.
- 2.17 "PISTOLS," "DAGGERS," AND "INTERNAL MACHINES."
- 2.18 IN BIRMINGHAM POLICE CELLS.
- 2.19 A DISMAL CELL.
- 2.20 PUTTING THE HORSE THROUGH IT.
- 2.21 STRICTNESS OF THE POLICE.
- 2.22 WASHING WATER PROHIBITED.
- 2.23 THE PRELIMINARY HEARING.
- 2.24 STRIPPED NAKED.
- 2.25 THE PRISON GOVERNOR.
- 2.26 SOME OTHER PRISONERS.
- 2.27 AT CANNOCK POLICE-COURT AGAIN.
- 2.28 WHY I REFUSED BAIL.
- 2.29 COMMENTS ON MY ARREST.
- 2.30 A SINISTER INCIDENT.
- 2.31 "IDENTIFYING" A PRISONER.
- 2.32 REFUSAL TO INVESTIGATE MY INNOCENCE.
- 2.33 ALLEGED THREAT TO MURDER.
- 2.34 REPORTERS EXCLUDED.
- 2.35 I RETURN TO PRISON.
- 2.36 FOURTH APPEARANCE BEFORE THE MAGISTRATES.
- 2.37 I RESERVE MY DEFENCE.
- 2.38 A LINK WITH THE PAST.
- 2.39 AN OMINOUS REMARK.
- 2.40 ANOTHER OUTRAGE.
- 2.41 A YOUNG HOUSEMAID'S LETTER.
- 2.42 POLICE INQUISITION.
- 2.43 HOSTILE RESIDENTS.
- 2.44 A REASONABLE REQUEST REFUSED.
- 2.45 SHAVING REFUSED.
- 2.46 AT QUARTER SESSIONS.
- 2.47 TRIED IN THE SECOND COURT.
- 2.48 IRREGULAR PROCEEDINGS.
- 2.49 A CONTRAST.
- 2.50 THE CASE OPENED.
- 2.51 NO MOTIVE ALLEGED.
- 2.52 A JUROR'S MISTAKE.
- 2.53 THE EVIDENCE ANALYSED.
- 2.54 BLOOD AND SALIVA.
- 2.55 EVIDENCE AT THE TRIAL.
- 2.56 HORSE'S BLOOD OR NOT?
- 2.57 WAS THE BLOOD FRESH?
- 2.58 VETERINARY TESTIMONY.
- 2.59 EVIDENCE SUBSEQUENT TO TRIAL.
- 2.60 SEARCHING MY HOME.
- 2.61 THE RAZOR THEORY.
- 2.62 ALLEGED MUDDY TROUSERS.
- 2.63 ALLEGED HORSEHAIRS.
- 2.64 FOOTMARKS.
- 2.65 MEASURED WITH BITS OF STICK AND STRAW.
- 2.66 NO CRITICISM ALLOWED.
- 2.67 REMARKABLE POLICE THEORY.
- 2.68 WATCHING THE FIELD.
- 2.69 NO NOTEBOOKS.
- 2.70 CONUNDRUMS.
- 2.71 WITNESSES TO MY MOVEMENTS.
- 2.72 ALLEGED EXTRAORDINARY CONDUCT.
- 2.73 CONCERNING HARRY GREEN.
- 2.74 TWO WRITTEN CONFESSIONS.
- 2.75 ANONYMOUS LETTERS AS EVIDENCE.
- 2.76 A DISGRACEFUL POSTCARD.
- 2.77 POLICE AND LETTER-WRITER.
- 2.78 AN EXTRAORDINARY ALLEGATION.
- 2.79 "GOOD-MORNING."
- 2.80 "EXPERT" EVIDENCE.
- 2.81 WHY I CALLED NO "EXPERT."
- 2.82 THE EYESIGHT QUESTION.
- 2.83 SUMMING UP AND VERDICT.
- 2.84 OUTRAGES AFTER MY CONVICTION.
- 2.85 DISGRACEFUL SLANDERS.
- 2.86 THEORIES ABOUT THE OUTRAGES.
- 2.87 A "PARDON."
- 2.88 ANNEXE
Early in 1903 was perpetrated a long series of cattle-maiming outrages of the most revolting and hideous nature in the neighbourhood of Great Wyrley, Staffordshire. This crime was soon followed by others of a similar kind, and it was only too apparent from the nature of the wounds inflicted that all were the work of the same person. The police attempted to fathom the mystery, but failed.
On August 17th, 1903, came the outrage on a pony belonging to the Great Wyrley Colliery Company, and for this deed the police arrested George Edalji, the son of the Vicar of Great Wyrley. He was tried on evidence of the most unsatisfactory character, and finally sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. In spite of his arrest and imprisonment, however, the outrages continued for a time.
Many of George Edalji's friends used every effort to arrive at the truth, and chief amongst these was Mr. R. D. Yelverton (late Chief Justice of the Bahamas). The result is that after serving three years of his sentence he has now been released on ticket of leave. Sir A. Conan Doyle, who is firmly convinced of Edalji's innocence, is using his powerful pen on the young man's behalf.
Now for the first time Mr. George Edalji has put his pen to paper with the object of telling the whole history of his persecution. We publish this story in the sincere belief that the wide publicity it will naturally obtain throughout the British Empire will arouse further sympathy for the unfortunate victim of a cruel plot, and will result in the truth being discovered and proper compensation awarded to Mr. Edalji.
Note.— The correct way to pronounce Mr. Edalji's name is Ee—dl—gee, with the accent on the first syllable.
EDALJI'S OWN STORY
THE FIRST SERIES OF OFFENSIVE LETTERS.
In order to enable the reader to understand the peculiar circumstances which led up to my arrest and conviction, I must make reference to events which happened over eighteen years ago. In the summer of 1888 my father received a letter which ran as follows:
- "Sir, EVENING STAR, every evening, 3d. a week. Will be very pleased with an order. Publisher, 50 and 51, Queen-street, Wolverhampton."
Letters of this sort were received for months, and it was ascertained that they did not emanate from the office of the paper in question. No notice being taken of these missives, the writer, who had so far appeared to have no name, suddenly became abusive, and ultimately, under the nom-de-plume of "Thomas Hitchings," threatened to watch my father and "shoot him dead."
About this time a window at the vicarage was mysteriously broken, and the letter-writer threatened to break more.
One day the words, "MOST OF THE EDALJIS ARE WICKED," was found written on an outhouse wall. The matter was placed in the hands of the police, who, after getting all the inmates of the house to write from dictation, arrested a girl named Elizabeth Foster (who died in 1905) employed as a general servant at my home.
On searching her box the police found some papers on which was writing similar to that in the letters. Before her arrest she burnt a number of documents, but what they contained is not known, and she gave no explanation.
When apprehended she threatened to have her revenge some day. Before the magistrates she at first pleaded not guilty, but subsequently agreed to be bound over to keep the peace for six months and to pay the costs, her solicitor stating that it was a mere foolish joke on her part.
This series of anonymous letters was, I believe, the first which had occurred in a district soon to obtain an unenviable notoriety for offensive communications of the most amazing kind.
SECOND SERIES OF LETTERS.
In 1892 a fresh series of letters began to be received both at my home and by other people in the parish. There was a general election in the summer of that year, and the first of this lot of letters came to hand two days after my father had lent his schoolroom for, and presided at, a Liberal political meeting in support of Sir John Swinburne.
Most people connect this set of letters with that meeting, and I may add that the only occasions when any local feeling was aroused against my father were during election contests.
This series of letters (unlike the 1888 lot) were believed by those competent to judge to be the work of an educated person who apparently made no attempt to disguise his handwriting, and who was evidently either a lunatic or suffering from some religious mania. Hundreds of these letters, most of which ran to an extraordinary length, were received. The following extracts are taken at random from various communications:
- In case the course we now purpose adopting acts upon your nerves and temper to too great an extent, pray rest assured that we have already communicated with the authorities at a certain lunatic asylum not a hundred miles distant from your thrice-accursed house, and thither you will be forcibly removed in case you give way to any strong expressions of opinion, or enter too warmly into any debate.
- Revenge... on you and — and — (here follow the names of certain persons in the parish), on whom to have vengeance I have sent a notice in his name to the COURIER that he will not be responsible for his wife's debts! I have sent Mrs. B—— such a letter as will make her wish her husband in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. I have to-day posted in your name three packets of post-cards of a most nature, and also some in that grocer's name. I expect, therefore, there will be no need for the lunacy authorities to take you in charge, as some of those persons are sure to have you arrested, and more especially as because I have added in a postscript that if they write to as their letters will only be scribbled on and returned.
- I am lost. God have mercy! Christ help! We are going to order 30 lbs. of sausages to be sent to Mr. B——.
- Every day, every hour, my hatred is growing against George Edalji and F—— B—— in particular. ... I would despatch them to hell in five minutes.
- Do you think that when we want we cannot copy your kid's and that grocer's kid's writing? Our only reason for not forging their signatures and yours is that you all write such a vulgar hand that no manager of newspapers would suppose it was written by a parson.
- May the Lord strike me dead if I don't murder George Edalji, your d——d wife, your horrid little girl. I will descend into the infernal regions showering curses on you all.
As in the 1888 letters, the writer at first appeared to be nameless, but afterwards he assumed various titles, sometimes declaring himself to be the Almighty and at other times the Prince of Darkness.
The above extract will give my readers some idea of the general nature of the letters, but I have only reproduced the least offensive samples, as most of the missives are unfit for publication.
In 1892, when these letters commenced, I was sixteen years of age, and attending Mason College (now the University), Birmingham. The editor of TRUTH (February 16th, 1905), after studying one of these documents, remarks:
- The handwriting, although it presents certain strongly marked features, is in general character of a very ordinary type, such as one sees every day written by clergymen, lawyers, or other educated men who write freely and hurriedly. If it is a disguised hand, it could only have been written by someone who had cultivated the art of disguising his handwriting very carefully.
These letters were not (as in the case of the previous series) always posted in the district, but came from places all over the country. Several illiterate letters, in a totally different hand, were received at the same time.
As in 1888, police assistance was called in by my father, but they wholly failed to detect the writer.
Up to this time the letters had always come by post, but it is a curious fact that shortly after the police took matters in hand the nuisance, instead of diminishing, became more acute, and other forms of annoyance of all kinds were resorted to.
Some letters were now pushed under the doors after dark, and on one occasion the writer (or the deliverer it would be more correct to say, for it is doubtful if the actual writer ever came on the premises) got very nearly caught under the following circumstances: About eleven o'clock one night my mother was looking round according to her usual custom to see that everything was all right and the doors securely fastened. Just as she reached the back door she heard a sound outside, and was astonished to see a letter thrust under the door, and immediately after heard the feet of the unwelcome messenger beating a hasty retreat over the brickwork in the yard.
She shouted out, but, unfortunately, everyone else had retired, so he made good his escape.
However, the incident gave him such a fright that he did not pay us another visit for some time.
That he was a daring character, however, is evident from the fact that twice he left a letter on a snowy night, his footprints being clearly visible in the morning, but it was not possible to trace them beyond the premises owing to the number of other footmarks of colliers going to work and other passers-by.
The police professed great eagerness to discover the culprit, and asserted that they had a clue and would arrest the offender in a few days.
My home is surrounded by trees and shrubberies, and a considerable portion of the house, and also of the church, which is just opposite, is covered with ivy, in which scores of sparrows roost at night.
This circumstance has induced certain persons to come upon the premises after dark, in order to catch the birds in nets for shooting matches, which are common in the district. The inmates of the house have often been startled at night by a lantern suddenly appearing at a bedroom window, accompanied by a great commotion among the birds.
One night the police arrested two men whom they bad discovered with dark lanterns skulking under some shrubs on the premises, and brought them to my father with the suggestion that they were the authors of the annoyances.
As, however, they had nothing about them to connect them with the letters, but, on the other hand, had nets and implements for catching birds, it is unlikely they came with any other object than that of finding sparrows. Nothing further was done in the matter, and this was the only arrest the police ever made.
HOAXES AND FORGERIES.
To go fully into the endless hoaxes and forgeries which made Wyrley notorious from 1892-5 would occupy a dozen pages or more, but I reproduce part of a letter my father inserted in the TIMES, which certainly does not exaggerate the serious condition of affairs.
After stating that for three years some miscreant had been sending letters in his (my father's) name to clergymen, detectives, newspapers, solicitors, and others, he proceeds as follows:
- He has forged my signature and his handwriting and style of composition, are such as to make one believe that his communications must be genuine. Clergymen are asked to come and take funerals for me, or visit some person who it is alleged is dying. Detectives are asked to call here when they would be commissioned by me to undertake some secret and delicate business... Tradesmen of almost every description are asked to send to my house wines, spirits, medicines, books, furniture, clothes, musical instruments, and a host of other things.
The letter-writer also evinced a special predilection for imposing on undertakers, chimney-sweepers, and brass bands, and scarcely a day passed without hoaxes of some kind.
Many tradesmen suffered heavy loss through sending perishable goods, and the writer by no means confined his attentions to Staffordshire, but even imposed on numerous people in Scotland and Ireland.
Among the heaps of forged advertisements inserted in the newspapers were "public apologies," both in my name and in the names of other persons, addressed to the girl who wrote the 1888 letters. On this page appears a facsimile of one which appeared in the MIDLAND WEEKLY HERALD. Similar notices had appeared in several other papers in 1892.
LICHFIELD BREWERY INCIDENT.
A rather curious incident occurred in connection with a similar notice in the LICHFIELD MERCURY. My father sent a telegram to the paper in question informing them that they had published a forgery and requiring its immediate withdrawal and a full apology.
It appears that somebody else handed in a wire at the same time addressed to a gentleman at the Lichfield Brewery, and these two messages got mixed up by the Post Office authorities, with the result that next day, instead of an apology, my father received a letter from the brewery gentleman's solicitors, demanding substantial damages for libel, and threatening to present him with the Queen's greetings in default, and it was a long time before they could be made to understand who was to blame.
The Post Office while frankly admitting their mistake wholly repudiated any liability, and the unfortunate gentleman got no redress, though the cost of the telegram was refunded to my father.
The following is a sample of other advertisements:
- YOUNG LADY (24), handsome, agreeable, and thoroughly domesticated, with freehold property yielding £600 or so net profits per annum and £2040 in bank, is desirous of meeting with young gentleman, view early matrimony. — Address, in first instance, in strictest confidence, stating age, occupation, means, etc., to Rev. Edalji, Gt. Wyrley, nr. Wednesbury. N.B. — No agent need intervene.
The following letter was sent to a Lincolnshire gentleman, and he came to Wyrley in great haste:
- A woman, who refuses to give her name, was found in my garden yesterday week in a dying condition. She has only this morning recovered consciousness, and keeps on asking for you by name the whole time. From what I can gather, she has wronged you in some way and desires to make amends. She had on her £55 in bank-notes, 11s. 6½d. in cash, part of a P.O. Savings Bank book, name and number gone, and a pocket-handkerchief marked simply "S." She is tall, aged about sixty-two, has black hair, the front teeth projecting. Doctor says the only thing is to get you over. I promised I would write and you would come on Tuesday. This seemed to pacify her, and she is now gone to sleep. Could you manage to get here on Monday evening about six? I should be most happy to accommodate with a bed. Kindly address in reply to this to Walsall P.O. to reply to be called for, so as I can get it on Monday. Letters do not get here till very late. — Believe me, yours sincerely, S. EDALJI.
Similar letters were sent to scores of other persons. So cleverly did the writer do his work that he not only imposed on practically all the London and provincial papers (including the TIMES, DAILY NEWS, DAILY CHRONICLE, MORNING POST, STANDARD, etc.), but actually duped many of them several times. We never sued any paper in respect of these libels, nor had any damages from them. For very gross libels the journals apologised, but advertisements were of such daily occurrence that most of them were never even contradicted.
THE "KEY" AND "LEAFLET" INCIDENT.
One of the most curious features of this affair was that after the police had come upon the scene, the letter-writer took to leaving all sorts of small articles on the premises, these things being generally thrown over some wall or fence during the night.
Stamps and coins were sometimes inclosed in the letters, and it was usually observed that they were marked. On one occasion about twenty pence were picked up off the lawn. On the night of December 12th, 1892, a large key was discovered lying on the kitchen doorstep, and handed to the police.
This is a reproduction from the "Midland Weekly Herald" of one of the many forged "public apologies" inserted by some unknown person or persons.
A few days later an extraordinary incident occurred. My father and mother were at supper one evening about 9.15, when a sergeant and constable knocked violently at the side door. The sergeant asked for my father, and asserted that while watching the front door from outside he had heard someone come down the carpeted staircase in "stockinged-feet," and he requested my father to come with him and see if he could find anything.
My father did so, and found, not a letter, but a leaflet on thought reading, discussing telepathic powers similar to those which have recently made Julius and Agnes Zancig so famous at the Alhambra.
Now it happened that my parents were sitting with the dining-room door open, because the servant in the adjoining kitchen was nervous, owing to the annoyances, and did not like being alone. The stairs come down immediately opposite the dining-room door, and my father pointed out that neither I nor my brother and sister, who were upstairs in bed, could have come down and returned without him or my mother seeing or hearing it, especially if so much noise was heard outside in the garden.
The servant in the kitchen declared she heard no sound of anyone coming down, but certainly would have heard if there had been any noise.
My father then said, "You can go upstairs and ask my children." The sergeant did go up, but asked no questions. My father then carefully questioned the sergeant, who asserted that he not only heard "stockinged-feet" coming down the stairs, but also heard "breathing."
Asked to explain how it would be possible for anyone in the garden to hear somebody coming down a carpeted staircase in his stockings, the sergeant said, daresay he stamped his feet."
It was then pointed out that not only was the outer door a thick one and a dozen feet from the bottom of the stairs, but there was also an inner door between the stairs and the outer door, that the inner door was shut; and, moreover, that owing to the stone flags having bulged upwards, it could not be opened without, making a noise.
At this the police were completely dumfounded, as they had evidently overlooked this matter on being asked how it was they both went all round the house to another door when they would have a better chance of detecting the offender if they had immediately raised an alarm at the front door, they were unable to answer. My father then told the sergeant he suspected him of putting the paper under the door, to which he replied there was not sufficient space to do so.
Thereupon my father went outside, shut the door, and pushed the identical document to precisely the same place where it was found.
The police were then informed they would be reported to the chief constable, who was then, and still is, Captain the Hon. G. A. Anson. This was done next day.
Meanwhile the police spread a report all over the district that they had "detected use putting letters by the door." How they came to decide that I was the culprit instead of anyone else in the house was never explained, though perhaps they imagined the thought-reading tract had indued them with some magic power of discernment. However this may be, I ask the reader to carefully bear it in mind when considering subsequent events.
On December 20th, 1892, Captain Anson replied to my father as follows:
- I do not think we need seriously discuss the possibility of Sergeant — having himself placed anything under your door, with a view to axing blame on some other person.
Now, when the key to which I have referred was handed to the sergeant, he said he could "soon find where that came from," also making the significant observation that it "resembled a school key," and, despite the ignominious failures of the police to detect the author of the letters and forgeries, they were singularly successful in ascertaining that this mysterious key had been stolen from Walsall Grammar School.
Captain Anson then wrote to my father as follows:
- Will you please ask your son George from whom the key was obtained which was found on your doorstep on December 12th. The key was stolen, but if it can be shown the whole thing was due to some idle freak or practical joke I should not be inclined to allow any police proceedings to be taken in regard to it. If, however, the persons concerned in the removal of the key refuse to make any explanation on the object, I must necessarily treat the matter in all seriousness as a theft. I may say at once I shall not pretend to believe any protestations of ignorance which your son may make about this key. My information on this subject does not come from the police. I am most anxious to have an answer on this subject at once, and am instructing the police constable at Wyrley to call for your answer about noon to-morrow, unless you should find it convenient to send by post sooner.
As I was not a pupil at Walsall Grammar School, and have never been on the school premises, I suppose few persons will connect me with the theft, especially when I add that despite Captain Anson's threats to "treat the matter in all seriousness as a theft," if I made no explanation (and, of course, as I knew nothing about the key, I could give no explanation and never did give any), he found it convenient to abstain from taking proceedings at all, either against me or anyone else. On my father pressing him to state how he came to suspect me, and making allusions both to the failures of the police to bring matters to a crisis and to certain suspicions which were entertained regarding them, Captain Anson, who had placed himself in an awkward dilemma, replied that he "did not see any necessary connection between the key matter and the written and other annoyances to which you have been subject," and that was the last we heard of it.
What on earth caused him to connect me with the key was never ascertained, but let it be noted it was "not from the police" Captain Anson received his information. From whom then did he receive it? From whom more likely than from the actual thief, who, despite Captain Anson's opinion to the contrary, was, I submit, undoubtedly connected with the offensive letter-writer, who caused disgraceful advertisements about myself and other people to be inserted in the newspapers.
The key incident thus ended in smoke, but the annoyances continued unabated, and a thermometer and other articles were left on the premises in the same manner as the key; but it was thought worse than useless to hand them to the police after the former unpleasantness, as there was little doubt they were all stolen property, and that the thief would invent further stories to implicate innocent persons, which might be again believed by Captain Anson. This particular form of annoyance ceased when no notice was taken of the articles left, but the letters and advertisements went on as usual, the police being completely baffled.
"A DOSE OF PENAL SERVITUDE."
Two and a half years after the "key incident" my father was informed that Captain Anson had stated he knew the offender's name, and immediately wrote to ask who it was. The chief constable's reply was as follows:
- I did not tell Mr Perry that I knew the name of the offender, though I told him I had my suspicions. I prefer to keep my suspicions to myself until I am able to prove them, and I trust to obtain a dose of penal servitude for the offender, as although great care has apparently been taken to avoid anything which would constitute any serious offence in law, the person who writes the letters has over-reached himself in two or three instances in such a manner as to render him liable to the most serious punishment. I have no doubt the offender will be detected.
Some points in this letter are very striking. (1) Captain Anson had at last got some "suspicions" as to the offender's identity; but (2) although the annoyances had continued uninterruptedly for three years, he was still unable to prove anything at all!
It is probable Captain Anson's "suspicions" were, as in the key incident, directed to myself, and, if so, I have no doubt the real letter-writer was also responsible for such suspicions, though how Captain Anson expected to get the offender into a convict prison, instead of a lunatic asylum, he can perhaps best explain for himself.
In reference to this letter, I cannot do better than quote Sir A. Conan Doyle's comments:
- "Now, it must be admitted that this is a rather sinister letter. It follows after eighteen months upon the previous one in which he accuses George Edalji by name. The letter was drawn from him by the father's complaint of gossip in the neighbourhood, and the allusion to the skill of the offender in keeping within the law has a special meaning, in view of the fact that young Edalji was already a law student.
- "Without mentioning a name, he assures Edalji's father that the culprit may get a dose of penal servitude. No doubt, the chief constable honestly meant every word he said, and thought that he had excellent reasons for his conclusions; but the point is that if the Staffordshire police took this attitude towards young Edalji in 1895, what chance of impartiality had he in 1903, when a culprit was wanted for an entirely new set of crimes? It is evident that their minds were steeped in prejudice against him, and that they were in the mood to view his actions in the darkest light."
In December, 1895, this second series of letters came to an end. About that time the sergeant to whom I have made reference left the district.
Commenting on these annoyances, the editor of TRUTH (February 9th, 1905), in the course of an admirably lucid article on my case, says:
- I do not suggest that his (the sergeant's) departure was in any way connected with the cessation of the annoyances; neither do I suggest that there was any foundation for the suspicion which Mr. Edalji entertained respecting him. Whatever suspicions may have been entertained on one side or the other, there is, as I have said, no evidence in existence as to this identity of the author of these annoyances, and I have merely mentioned Sergeant ————'s name as a necessary part of the history of the case.
Whether the girl who wrote the 1888 letters was also concerned in the second series is very doubtful — certain it is she was not the actual writer, and I think we may dismiss her threat to have revenge as a mere reckless assertion without meaning anything. The fact of her being named in the forged "apologies" is not, however, easily explained, unless it was introduced as a ruse, and it is a remarkable fact that no attempt is made in these advertisements to exonerate her from writing the first lot of letters, nor was any reference made to that series in the 1892-5 letters, except that the name "Thomas Hitchings" was once introduced.
I have not, therefore, discussed these two series of letters with a view to showing any necessary connection between them, but for other reasons, which will presently appear.
OUTRAGES BEFORE MY ARREST.
From the end of 1895 to the end of 1902 there was a seven years' truce at Wyrley. Letters, hoaxes, and forgeries came to an abrupt termination, and after a few years my father destroyed most of the amazing documents he had received and consigned the whole matter to oblivion.
But if the years 1892-5 had been astonishing ones for the neighbourhood, the years 1903-4 were destined to place them very far in the background for developments of so sensational a nature as probably no English village has ever before experienced.
It was early in 1903 that the first of the long series of cattle-maiming outrages — outrages of the most revolting and hideous character, and soon to create a reign of terror in the district and an almost unparalleled sensation throughout the country — was perpetrated.
The crime was quickly followed by others of a like nature, and from the fact of all the wounds being inflicted in precisely the same manner, the opinion became general that, as in the case of the Whitechapel horrors of 1888-9 (to which these atrocities bear a striking resemblance, the only difference being that animals were substituted for women), the whole of the outrages were the work of the same person, who was believed to be a maniac.
The crimes were all committed at night, and the darker the night, the better it seemed to suit the purposes of the assailant.
The plan adopted by the perpetrator was to rip open the animal with some sharp instrument, and with such ferocity did he do his ghastly work that in several instances almost the whole of the victims' internal organs were deposited on the ground.
Prior to February 2nd, 1903, no serious outrage had occurred, but it appears that some time earlier sheep had been found mutilated, though it was thought, at first, that barbed wire fencing sufficiently accounted for it.
On the date mentioned a horse belonging to Mr. Holmes was shockingly injured. Had this been an isolated case, or the owner an unpopular man, it might have been assumed the crime was committed out of spite; but it appears he had no enemies in the neighbourhood. On April 2nd, a cob, the property of Mr. Thomas, was so badly mutilated that it had to be immediately destroyed. The same method appeared to be adopted in both cases, and a similar weapon used.
A month later a cow of Mrs. Bungay's was killed in a like manner. On May 14th a horse of Mr. Badger's was the victim, it being frightfully mutilated. On the same day some sheep belonging to Mr. Green were also destroyed.
On June 6th, two cows, the property of Messrs. Harrison and Co., suffered the same fate, and three weeks later two valuable horses belonging to the Quinton Colliery Co. (Blewitt's) were killed. Next (August 17th), came the outrage on a pony of the Great Wyrley Colliery Company's, for which I was arrested, and about which I will say more hereafter.
THE THIRD SERIES OF LETTERS.
In connection with the outrages, there have been a large number of anonymous letters of a sensational nature, and which may be divided into three sub-series.
The first of these sub-series commenced on July 1st, 1903, and ended on August 4th, just a fortnight before my arrest. The second sub-series were received between the dates of my arrest and trial, and the third lot came to hand after my conviction.
The first of these sub-series are of great importance, as they were alleged to be in my writing, and were wrongfully used as evidence against me at the trial. I shall not, however, discuss them till a later stage; but it is necessary to draw attention to them in order to explain the following passages in a letter, dated November 8th, 1903, and sent by the chief constable to the Hon. R. D. Yelverton of 3 Pump Court, Temple, who is the late Chief Justice of the Bahamas, and who was then preparing a petition to the Home Office on my behalf:
- I beg to acknowledge your further letter enclosing some more testimonials to George Edalji's general good character. It is right to tell you that you will find it a simple waste of time to attempt to prove that George Edalji could not, owing to his position and alleged good character, have been guilty of writing offensive and abominable letters. His father is as well aware as I am of his proclivities in the direction of anonymous writing, and several other people have personal knowledge on the same subject.
This letter was written only sixteen days after my conviction, at a time when another outrage had just occurred, and when the whole district was being inundated with threatening letters of all kinds.
Mr. Yelverton promptly wrote to the chief constable for further particulars of his allegations, and for the names of the "several other people," but to this letter the captain did not reply.
The reason for this silence is easy to understand when I say that allegations about my previous performances in anonymous writing were entirely without foundation, that I, not having written any such letters, my father had no knowledge of my "proclivities" in that direction; that the police could have had no knowledge of such proclivities, but only "suspicions," which, of course, they were "not able to prove"; and, lastly, that the "several other people" were undoubtedly identical with the person or persons from whom the police received their information about the stolen key — in other words, the actual letter-writer or writers.
Never in my life have I written any anonymous letters, and it was a cruel blow to my family to have it alleged my dear father knew I was addicted to such base practices.
In commenting on this letter, the editor of TRUTH, in the article to which I have already referred, says:
- It is scarcely necessary to point out what a flood of light it throws upon the spirit in which the police act to work to make out their case against this young man in 1903, or its bearing on the various fragments of circumstantial evidence, all depending upon the impartiality and credibility of policemen, which, in conjunction with Mr. Gurrin's "expert" evidence, procured his conviction. ... When the chief police officer of the county is capable of writing in this strain to a gentleman investigating the case for the purpose of a petition to the Home Secretary, it is not likely that his subordinates will fail to play up to him.
I may mention here that the anonymous letters given in evidence at my trial did not commence till after the police had begun to watch my home. In other words, it was not that the receipt of anonymous letters in 1903 reminded the police of those suspicions, of which they had no proof in 1895; but that, without having had such letters at all, the police began to watch its home, and that after this watching had begun, some person, who was apparently aware of the movements of the police, commenced fabricating evidence to connect me with the outrages, his method being to inclose anonymous letters in envelopes purporting to be addressed to me.
I am aware it has been repeatedly said by apologists for the police that they were not to blame in suspecting me because they had received these incriminating letters, and I call upon them and their supporters to now justify their actions as far as possible by producing some letter implicating me, and shown by the post-mark to have been posted before the police, on their own evidence, commenced to watch the vicarage — that is before June 30th, 1903. No such letter was produced at the trial, and the inference is there were none to produce.
If, on the other hand, the police set a watch on my home, owing to information received verbally or from some person who was not afraid to write in his own name, then I call upon them to state the name of this individual, when I shall not be surprised to find that my secret defamer is none other than the actual writer of the 1903 series of letters, and possibly of the 1892-5 series also.
I know some people will raise the objection that it is not customary to divulge the channels whereby information has been conveyed to the police. In ordinary cases I agree that there are good reasons for this non-disclosure; but as mine is not an ordinary case, but one of the most remarkable that has ever been brought to the public notice, I insist that not only in my own interests and in the interests of justice, but also in the interests of the Staffordshire constabulary, whose honour and reputation are at stake, it is of paramount importance that they should brush aside all red tapeism and technicalities, and plainly state, without further delay, how it was they came to set a watch upon my home on June 30th, 1903.
I feel confident, however, that they have simply been hoodwinked and imposed upon by the rascal who gave him the information about the stolen key, and who was concerned in the hoaxes and forgeries, and I shall hope to learn that, even at this eleventh hour, the police are not so wholly lost to every sense of justice as to refuse such information as must, in my opinion, inevitably lead to the elucidation of the mystery attaching to the various offensive letters.
THE POLICE AND THE PUBLIC.
As, in my opinion, the police were, to say the least, unfavourably disposed towards me from the beginning, the next point to consider is their position and standing in the district at the time of my arrest. Did they possess the entire confidence of the community? Unfortunately not.
When the outrage preceding that for which I was convicted was perpetrated, and, as usual, no arrest followed, public indignation knew no bonds, and the feeling became general that the police were either wholly incompetent or, in any case, not adopting proper methods to detect the offender. Their failures were severely criticised at parish council meetings and elsewhere.
Let us now see if there were any reasonable grounds for this feeling, and I think I shall satisfy my readers that there were. Outrages of the most atrocious nature had been perpetrated with impunity for months; the crimes were all (except in the case of sheep) committed in precisely the same manner; they were all carried out in the parish of Wyrley, the scenes of the respective tragedies were not far apart, and, moreover, were confined to an area supposed to be well watched by the police.
Numbers of "detectives" — in other words, constables, not in uniform — had been drafted into the village from the outlying districts, and like the old gentleman, of whom we read in the first chapter of the "Book of Job," they appear to have spent most of their time in going to and fro in the parish, and walking up and down in it.
Further, they were above considering any sensible suggestions made to them, and those who had the temerity to approach them with a friendly hint were roughly told to mind their own business.
A scheme suggested by the principal farmers was as follows: First night all cattle owners but one were to shut up their animals. The remaining one was to let his roam in certain fields, which were to be carefully guarded. Next night the "trap" was to be set on another farmer's land, and so on. But because the police did not think of this scheme themselves they ignored it altogether.
A suggestion of my own that they should employ bloodhounds was also scouted as "impracticable," and I was informed that the police "didn't take kindly" to such suggestions, and were also "very much put about" at my making some remarks reflecting on their conduct under the following circumstances: A man who had missed the last train was walking home along the road from Walsall, when three constables in plain clothes pounced upon him from behind a hedge, and in an abusive manner ordered him to stop. The man happened to have his week's earnings on him, and from the appearance and manner of the police he thought they were highway robbers, and promptly took to his heels, making for the nearest house. While calling for assistance, the constables came up, and instead of apologising were very insolent, told him he had no business to be out at night, and threatened to take him into custody. It was some time before he was allowed to proceed.
The "disguises" adopted by the police were of a very primitive description and utterly useless. The DAILY MAIL said, in reference to this matter:
- A walk through the lanes when night has fallen reveals everywhere the presence of watchers. Voices are heard several yards ahead, but not a soul can be found when the spot is reached. Sometimes out of the darkness await loom the absurdly palpable forms of three detectives, betrayed by their very gait.
Further, the police do not appear to have been of a particularly courageous disposition, but to have gone in mortal dread of the mysterious man or fiend who continued to do his evil deeds with impunity.
I will give an example of what I mean: At the police court hearing of my case, a sergeant who had a number of constables under his charge, admitted he was so greatly alarmed at receiving a letter threatening to "shoot him through his thick head," that he dared not go to Wyrley again till he had got a revolver.
One can imagine the terror with which men frightened by mere threats of this sort would keep their lonely vigils at dead of night.
So much then to show:
(1) That the police had, at the time of my arrest, a preconceived and long-standing prejudice against me (a) in respect of the 1892-5 letters, and particularly regarding the "key" and "leaflet" incidents; (b) on account of some allegations I had made about their incompetence, and because I had said they were going the wrong way to find the criminal, and ought to try bloodhounds. (2) That the police were in bad odour in the district owing to their continued failures, and so were naturally anxious to effect an arrest at any cost, in order to divert public attention from themselves.
WATCHERS AMONG THE TOMBS.
I have pointed out that it was not until after the outrage preceding my arrest that my name came to be connected with these scandals. Blewitt's horses having been killed on June 29th, 1903, the police, according to their own evidence, began to watch my home the very next night.
The house and garden are situated well off the road, and surrounded by the churchyard, the school, and school-house, etc. (at which nobody resides), a tramway leading from Great Wyrley Colliery to Churchbridge, and a large field and garden.
It appears from the evidence that the watching principally carried on from the churchyard, the police hiding among the graves; and the house is one which could be easily kept under observation without attracting the attention of the inmates or anyone else, and I had no knowledge of the watching whatever.
A FALSE REPORT.
On July 2nd, a rather startling thing happened. A report was spread all over the district that I had been apprehended at my Birmingham office in connection with the Wyrley sensations, and brought to Cannock in custody. Curiously enough, this was precisely what did happen to me seven weeks later. A great deal of trouble had been taken to publish this slander, which was simultaneously circulated, not only in the Wyrley neighbourhood, but also at Stafford and various places at a distance.
I was inclined to treat the whole thing with contempt as the work of some silly hoaxer, but at the request of my friends I offered a reward for information about the matter, but nothing came of it.
At my trial it was insinuated that I myself had induced persons to publish this report, and then offered the reward to put the police off the scent!
On the very day after the police began to watch my home, the first of this third series of letters was received. It was addressed to a constable. Another was sent to Messrs. Blewitt and Co. (whose horses had just been killed) a day or two later. I was in no way referred to in these communications, and at my trial, Mr. Gurrin (the Treasury "expert") said they were not in my writing, though at the police court hearing he thought they were.
THE OLD ENVELOPE INCIDENT.
On July 8th a letter was received by the police partly written on an envelope, on which my name and address were inscribed in pencil. Next day an inspector and a constable called on me. They professed great solicitude on my behalf, and pretended to be very anxious to ascertain who had circulated the false report of my arrest. After a little conversation, the inspector said:
"Oh! by the way, I had an envelope I want you to see," and, producing it, he asked if I could throw any light on the matter.
I remarked it bore neither stamp nor postmark, and said I had no recollection of having received it. Before he left, the inspector specially requested me to mention the envelope to no one, pointing out that undoubtedly it had been sent by the person who published the slander, and that to enable him to trace the writer it was essential for the matter to be kept quiet.
He added "You'll probably get a letter yourself just now. If so, let me know."
FIRST SUSPICIONS OF A CONSPIRACY.
After this interview the question certainly did occur to me as to whether there was a conspiracy formed to connect me with the outrages, as seemed likely from the inclosure of the envelope. I scouted the idea at first, but when other letters of a similar nature were received I thought there was something in it. A fortnight later I received a letter myself as the inspector had predicted, and let him know as requested. He called on me at once. This letter was in a hand very like the 1892-5 series, but evidently composed less hurriedly. Certainly no ignorant person was the writer. Later on I will give a facsimile of a portion of it as well as of various other letters connected with the case. This letter, which was signed "A Lover of Justice," contained the following extracts:
- I do not know you. ... I do not expect I would like you much if I did know you, as I do not like natives. ... The police got watching you, but they could not see anything, and now they are watching someone else. ... I know one of the policemen, and they say there was something addressed to you in one of the letters to the inspector, and it is sure you would not have done such a silly thing as that. ... Be away when the next case happens. ... Go away before that and you will not be suspected.
It will be observed the writer knew something of the police movements. The inspector said the letter was clearly written by the person who sent the envelope, to which I have referred, and he gave the following reasons:
(1) In his opinion my name and address were in similar writing in the two documents. (2) He had told nobody about the envelope, and only one other officer knew of it, and he had said nothing.
As I had told nobody myself, it follows that either these two letters were by the same hand, or, what seems more probable from the style of the writing, there were two persons acting in consort. It will be noticed the writer advised me to go away. What was his object in this he himself can best explain.
A well-known K.C. makes the following suggestion: "The envelope, etc., were sent to incriminate you in the eyes of the police and to afford them a pretext for calling on you. But as the time approached when another outrage might be expected, it was feared you would leave the district, which would have been distinctly embarrassing for your enemies. So in order to calm your fears, the fact of the envelope being inclosed is put forward in the 'Lover of Justice' letter as a circumstance in your favour. The writer (who I fancy knows more of you than he pretends) very probably thought from his knowledge of your character that if he told you to go away you would be more likely to remain at home."
But in, any case what was I to do? Was I to run away because some person had published a false report about me, and was sending letters which any reasonable being ought to know I should certainly not write?
Further, to have gone away for a time only would have been useless, because my enemies had evidently foreseen the possibility of my doing this, and also how extremely awkward it would be for the police if the outrages continued (as they did) after my arrest. So to prevent my benefiting from one of the crimes occurring when I was not in the neighbourhood, the letter-writer, with that diabolical cunning and ingenuity which characterised the 1892-5 annoyances, represented me as one of a "gang" of midnight marauders, so that if there was any maiming when I was away on my holidays it could be attributed to another member of the "gang," thus leaving the police free to arrest me for anything might happen after my return; while if another crime were when I was in prison the "gang theory" would give the Home Office a pretext for keeping me there. How correctly my enemies gauged the probable course of events is now only too obvious.
It was, indeed, a clever ruse and a most convenient one for the police — for if no further outrages occurred then all they had today was, "Here is the rascal who has done all the mischief, put him out of sight for a long term"; while if, on the other hand, the crimes still continued, the police could say (as they actually did), "Here is a most dangerous character, who has not only committed a horrible outrage himself, but is deep in conspiracy with others. It is necessary to send him away for a long time as an example to his confederates."
Even had the police actually written the letters themselves (which is not suggested), they could scarcely have hit upon a scheme better calculated to serve their purpose.
CESSATION OF THE LETTERS.
These particular letters, after coming every two or three days from July 1st to August 4th, ceased entirely on the latter date. As I was not arrested till August 18th, it seems scarcely necessary to remark that my arrest had nothing whatever to do with their cessation.
MY ARREST AFTER AN OUTRAGE.
After the outrage of June 29th, most owners of animals feared to leave them out at night, save in a few instances, where the fields were not easily accessible and could be properly watched by the police. In such a field as this the Great Wyrley Company allowed a pony to remain on the night of August 17th, 1908. This field adjoins the railway on the Wyrley side of the colliery, and is in a most secluded and inaccessible position. On the night in question three detectives were appointed to watch this particular field, which it was admitted at my trial could be easily guarded.
About twenty constables were also patrolling the surrounding district.
Despite these precautions, the pony was discovered shockingly mutilated at 5.40 next morning by a boy going that way to his work. The police were sent for, and found a clean cut fourteen or fifteen inches long under the animal's body, well up the near side and exposing the entrails to view.
The police had evidently long ago decided to arrest me on the occurrence of another outrage, for directly the inspector heard of it, and before even seeing the pony, he sent a constable to Wyrley Station to ask me not to go to Birmingham, and I shall have to refer to this incident later on. After making a formal examination of the animal, the police went direct to my home, and first interviewed the servant, asking her what coloured clothes I wore the previous night. She told them she had been out, and did not know, but that I usually wore the same as I went to business in. They then asked for my mother, and at first were anxious to know whether anybody had given information regarding the circulation of the false report of my arrest. On receiving a reply in the negative, they seemed greatly relieved, and after explaining that the pony had been mutilated, asked to see all my clothing, which my mother readily showed them. My father and sister were also present.
They seized an old coat and vest, and then went to my Birmingham office on the pretext of making inquiries and to obtain an "explanation" about what they wrongly thought was on the clothing, which they found it convenient not to bring with them, giving the lame excuse that they "couldn't carry it so far." After a long conversation, in which they resorted to various tricks and devices to make me incriminate myself if possible, and threatened me with immediate arrest unless I gave a detailed account of my movements the previous night, and a "satisfactory explanation" about the clothing, they took me into custody on a charge of maiming the pony in question. In discussing the case for the prosecution, I will deal more fully with what took place at this interview and with the police visit to my home.
"PISTOLS," "DAGGERS," AND "INTERNAL MACHINES."
Before actually arresting me the inspector said, "We don't want to search you here, but you must let me have your pistol." I replied, "I have no pistol." A sergeant then pointed to my railway carriage-door key on the table, and said, "What's that? That's a pistol, isn't it?" On my explaining its nature the inspector said they were only "joking."
But whatever may be thought of this mirth, there was no pretence of any idle jesting when the police solemnly demanded from my mother a "dagger," which they alleged my sister carried about with her! Whether they wanted to connect my sister with the outrages I don't know, but they all looked very foolish on discovering that this imaginary weapon was nothing more terrible than a small trowel in a sheath, which she, being a botanist, was accustomed to use in pursuit of her hobby. A tin box or vasculum, which she used in this connection, was mistaken by one constable for an infernal machine!
Though I had never had these two latter articles in my possession, it seems that some ignorant constable had for several weeks been watching my sister take them about, and from this circumstance alone had decided that I must be the criminal. "Whether you're guilty or not," said a constable to me at the cells, "it serves you well to be suspected, when you have such odd-looking things about your place. Why —— (mentioning the name of a constable) has been wearing a cuirass round his waist for six weeks for fear you should rip him up like the horses."
My readers can better imagine than I can describe my feelings at being arrested on such a horrible charge. The whole affair seemed more like a dream than a reality. Never in my life have I committed the slightest act of cruelty to any living creature, and though thoughts of a conspiracy had crossed my mind in connection with the letters, I never dreamt I was in such imminent danger, or that the conspirators had laid their plans so cunningly and so deeply.
If a few weeks previously there had been laid before me a list of all the crimes on the statute book, and I had been told I should be rightly or wrongly convicted of one of them ere the year was out, and asked to guess which it would be, I think this particularly atrocious and utterly useless offence would have been almost the last I should have hit upon, with such abhorrence have I always held any act of brutal and wanton cruelty.
IN BIRMINGHAM POLICE CELLS.
On my arrest I was conducted to the Birmingham Police Station. Everything that I had about me — money, watch, knife, etc. — was taken away from me.
The police most minutely scrutinised the knife to see if there was any blood on it, although it was only a small pocket-knife, which could not have inflicted the wound. Somebody wanted to deprive me of my handkerchief lest I should strangle myself with it, but on giving an assurance that I had no intention of committing suicide I was allowed to retain it. I was then placed in a cell for the first time in my life. It was light and clean. After about an hour and a-half there, I was taken to Cannock by train. The police were not in uniform and did nothing to indicate that I was in custody, and I don't think anyone in the streets or train ever imagined it. Arrived at Cannock, I was quickly driven in a trap to the police-station.
The news of my arrest had not then got about, and there were but few people in the streets. In the police office sat some official of higher rank.
"Good-morning, sir; good-morning," said the inspector with great effusiveness to this official. "I've copped one of them this time — ran away to Birmingham soon as he knew we were after him, but I followed him up and arrested him at his office."
My height was then measured, and other particulars were noted. I then asked to be shown the clothing. The inspector seemed quite willing I should see it, but with an oath the higher official sprang to his feet, and, declaring I had already occupied too much time, ordered one of the Wyrley policemen, who was standing in the office looking very sheepish, to "put me out of sight for the devil's sake" — then going close up to the constable he shook his fist in his face, saying, "And you understand, you old hedgehog, eh?" As I retired with the officer the inspector shouted after me, "I will show you that coat later on, Mr. Edalji."
A DISMAL CELL.
I was then placed in one of the two small cells provided for the accommodation of prisoners at that station.
In my experience of over three years this was by far the worst cell I have ever seen or heard of. It was almost dark, and there was no gas or other artificial light. I was told I could not have a lamp or candle lest I should set fire to myself. There was no bell, and the only means of attracting attention when I wanted anything was to thump or kick the door. On one occasion, after kicking for some time, I was told I had made such a row as had interrupted P.C. somebody in wing his prayers before going on duty.
The only furniture the cell contained was a fixed bench, which did duty for chair, table, and bed. The place had a very evil-smelling odour about it, which, however, was remedied on my making a complaint.
Before I had been there many minutes a sergeant requested me to come into the passage, and very closely examined the clothing I was then wearing, in the hope of finding blood stains, but without success. He then got me to remove my cuffs, and after inspecting my wrist bands, said, "Did you wear this shirt in the field last night! You must have changed it, there's no blood here. I told him I had been in no field that night, and that he had no right to question me; but, as a fact, I had not changed it since Sunday (this was Tuesday), whereupon he put me back into the cell and said no more. During the afternoon I was allowed to see my father, and also my solicitor; a letter from the latter was opened and read by the police, as also one from my mother.
PUTTING THE HORSE THROUGH IT.
Later on, a constable tried to make me incriminate myself. "Well, Mr. Edalji," said he, "I'm sorry to see you here, but how did you manage to slip by all your chaps? What time did you put the horse through it?" He also advised me to "give the show away," remarking that if I did not, somebody else would. Finding I would not talk he went away, after offering to get me some whisky, which I declined, being an abstainer.
STRICTNESS OF THE POLICE.
In the evening I was allowed to write some letters in the office (writing or anything else was out of the question in the cell) and to see a client; but the police insisted on the letters, and on being proven at the interview, as also they were when I saw my father and solicitor. The police were generally civil enough, but very much afraid of my attempting suicide and most anxious for me to commit myself.
From 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. an officer came every hour with a lantern, professedly to see if I was all right, but really, I believe, to make me talk of the crime. On his sixth appearance with the usual query, "Are you all right, Mr. Edalji?" I told him not to come again, after which he troubled me no more.
WASHING WATER PROHIBITED.
I was not allowed any water in my cell overnight, a constable explaining that it was prohibited because sometimes prisoners tried to drown themselves by holding their heads under water in the bucket, which was very inconvenient (I don't know if he meant inconvenient for the police or the prisoner). Next morning I did get a bucket of water as well as a lump of mottled soap and a bit of rag in lieu of a towel. Breakfast was sent me from home, and was examined to see if anything else was inclosed with it.
THE PRELIMINARY HEARING.
The day after arrest I was brought before the magistrates, and for 150 yards or so had to thread my way through so dense a crowd of sightseers that it was with difficulty I could make headway. The spectators were in no way hostile, except one grizzled old hag, who followed me with a shower of abuse, but she was soon silenced by the police.
Before the magistrates the inspector related what he alleged transpired at his interview with my parents and with me at my office. My father swore I was at home and in bed the whole night and that I slept in the same room with him. The magistrates refused my application for bail, as the police objected, and I was remanded till Monday. I then had to return to the cell after having a brief conversation with my parents, and an hour later I was taken in a cab to the station, and thence by rail to Stafford.
Crowds of people surrounded Cannock Station, but they were not allowed on the platform. "What's on here? Is it the exhibition," asked a stranger, as we entered a compartment. "Yes," promptly replied the inspector, and with that answer he was satisfied.
At Hednesford Station I bought an evening paper containing an account of my case. A crowd of inquisitive little boys quickly surrounded the compartment. "That's 'im as killed the oss," said one urchin pointing at me with his finger, "and lor' help me if he ain't a reading about 'imself."
At Stafford Station a large crowd of railway official, awaited my arrival. I was rapidly driven in a cab to the prison, and everywhere small groups of people loitered anxious to get a glimpse of me. The church clocks were just striking seven, as on this memorable evening of August 19th, 1903, I reached the entrance to Stafford Prison. After a momentary delay the outer gate was opened and the cab suffered to proceed inside.
This was my first view of the inside of a prison, and everything was still and quiet as most prisons are at that time of day — all the men being in their cell, and many probably gone to bed, and most officers having left for the night. Little did I imagine that it would be over three years before I should again be clear of prison walls. I was first taken to the "reception room," where a number of formalities had to be gone through and various particulars entered in a book. Among other things I was asked if I could read and write, whether I had been in prison before, and what my religion was.
I was then required to strip stark naked to see that I had nothing concealed. The officers apologised for subjecting me to this indignity, explaining that one of the prison rules directed it to be done in the case of every new arrival. Seeing that convicts actually serving their sentences never now remove their shirts on being searched, is it not high time this disgraceful practice was discontinued in the case of prisoners merely on remand? I hope the Home Secretary will look into the matter.
THE PRISON GOVERNOR.
I was next sent to the hospital (but not because I was ill), and spent my first night in one of the large wards. The governor came there to see me that evening. The impression I got then was that he was a particularly nice man, and I never had any reason to alter my opinion. A more competent prison governor it would certainly be difficult to obtain. I can say the same of the doctor, whom I also saw soon afterwards.
SOME OTHER PRISONERS.
That night I had some conversation with several other prisoners, who were awaiting trial at the assizes, which would not commence for over three months. One man said he had been in nearly every prison in the country, as well as Broadmoor criminal lunatic asylum, and was then on ticket-of-leave. The charge against him was one of wounding a policeman. His "ticket" was to expire on December 1st, so that if the assizes commenced before that day he would, in case he was again sentenced to penal servitude, also have to do the full term (twenty-one months, I think) for which his "ticket" was issued. Naturally, he was anxious to know the date of the assizes, which was not then exactly fixed, and for several weeks he used to ask me at exercise time if I had found out about it. Subsequently, I heard the assizes were to begin on December 3rd, so that if convicted he would just escape the twenty-one months.
On the morning after my reception at Stafford I was transferred to a separate cell, and only saw the other prisoners at exercise time. Being in hospital, I could not have my meals from outside (as prisoners on remand or awaiting trial, as well as first-class misdemeanants, are allowed), but the doctor let me have what sort of food I asked for.
AT CANNOCK POLICE-COURT AGAIN.
On the Monday I was again brought to Cannock. The was wet but crowds lined the streets notwithstanding. The CANNOCK CHASE COURIER says:
- So great had the crowd become that at about, ten o'clock vehicular traffic was difficult, and the cab that contained the seemed found some difficulty in reaching the kerb opposite the Public Rooms, and so great was the pressure that the door of the cab gave way and came off. There was no demonstration, however, and the people were good-humoured.
The Wolverhampton EXPRESS AND STAR thus graphically describes the scene outside the court:
- Since nine o'clock there had been a crowd outside the court-house, and as each minute added units to the mass there was soon a turbulent sea of humanity, which ebbed and flowed in various directions, but eventually dashed against the front door of the little building which represents law and order in Cannock. When the door was opened there was a rush that resembled nothing so much as the struggle for seats on a "first night" at a popular theatre. Men were cursing, women were shrieking, and all were fighting, struggling, and pushing, making a veritable pandemonium. The police, as a result, lost their heads and tempers. The order went forth that no more were to be allowed in court and witnesses and Pressmen were barred out with the rest. The EXPRESS AND STAR representative, finding it impossible to get in by the public entrance, proceeded to the magistrates' door, but as he was about to enter the court he was informed such a thing was unheard of. How dare he use the magistrates' entrance? The Pressman attempted to expostulate, but the clerk banged the door in his face, highly indignant at the "insult" to the magisterial dignity. This officious assumption was not confined to the clerk, for an attempt to get a note passed to the chairman of the Bench met with similar treatment at the hands of a constable guarding the door. The officer, after reading the note, contemptuously flung it into the street. Meanwhile, the cries and struggles were still going on outside the main entrance. "—— you," said a policeman, whose face was like a beetroot owing to the unwonted excitement, "you will have somebody yet." "Murder!" shrieked a woman who was on the verge of being trampled underfoot. ... Seeing there was nothing for it but to struggle with the crowd, our representative plunged into the swirling human sea, and he might have been there for hours, only he was unfortunate enough to meet with an intelligent constable, and after a lot of elbow work and strong language he contrived to squeeze through.
I had to wait while a few trivial cases were disposed of, the hearing of which occupied a most unconscionable time owing to the police shutting out witnesses with the crowd. At last it was suggested that to take my case at once would be the easiest solution of the difficulty, as its conclusion would disperse the sightseers. The police evidence was then repeated, and I was remanded for a week to Penkridge.
WHY I REFUSED BAIL.
Bail was offered; myself in £200, and three sureties in £100 each. The reader will recollect that when I applied for bail a few days previously it was refused, and I was not now particularly anxious for it, nor prepared with it to that amount and though many friends offered to stand for me, I thought it better to decline for the following reasons :
(1) Knowing I was perfectly innocent, I thought another outrage occurred it would go a long way towards clearing me.
(2) The impossibility of my going about my business in the district with such a charge hanging over me.
(3) The few lest my enemies should fabricate some fresh charge to support the ridiculous case against me.
As my refusing bail was, at my trial, alleged to be proof of my guilt, I considered it in best to explain my reasons at once, and I think any unbiased person will readily admit that, under the circumstances, I acted quite naturally in declining it, especially in view of the general excitement occasioned by my arrest.
COMMENTS ON MY ARREST.
Commenting on my arrest, the BIRMINGHAM EVENING DESPATCH said:
- The horror and indignation caused by the series of outrages has given place to one of surprise and even consternation at the arrest which the police have made, for though there have been rumours in the past, coupling the name of young Edalji with the diabolical offence of cattle mutilation, very few persons could be found willing to entertain even a suspicion against him. His family is a most respected one.
The BIRMINGHAM DAILY MAIL remarked:
- The ... arrest of Mr. Edalji created a painful sensation in local legal circles, where the accused is well known.
The EXPRESS AND STAR (Wolverhampton) said:
- Previous to the arrest the whole of the Midlands in general and Cannock Chase in particular were startled by a series of cases of shocking mutilation of cattle. The outrages were usually perpetrated during the "silent hours." All valuable cattle were secured by owners in the locality. Although the best detective from neighbouring towns were employed, no arrest was made. When an arrest was eventually made, the sensation was intensified, for the law laid its hand on one of the most influential gentlemen in the district. Mr. Edalji was brought up at Cannock and gave an emphatic denial to the charge.
The CANNOCK ADVERTISER said:
- He is well known in legal circles and his arrest in connection with such a series of crime has created a painful sensation.
A SINISTER INCIDENT.
While my family and the servant were at the police-court on the morning just referred to, two women who were doing some washing at the vicarage noticed a man on the premises acting in a very strange manner and peering in at the windows. One of them went to investigate, whereupon he made off in great haste, cut across the churchyard over the graves, and thence into the road.
The CANNOCK CHASE COURIER thus refers to the matter:
- A pedestrian who was walking on the road observed an individual cross the churchyard and vault the wall, followed by a female, who shouted "Stop him!" and who also crossed over the wall. A graveyard — especially so full as that of Wyrley — is a rather awkward place for a running track. The female stated that the individual was observed peering in at the windows of the vicarage, and when she saw him he bolted.
The fugitive was not overtaken. With what object he came on the premises was never ascertained.
"IDENTIFYING" A PRISONER.
After another week at Stafford I made my third appearance before the magistrates, this time at Penkridge. I was sent from the prison to Stafford Station in the "Black Maria." The whole district appeared to have turned out to witness my arrival at Penkridge. I had to wait a long time in the cells. While there a constable told me they wanted to "identify" a prisoner charged with indecent assault, and I was asked to be one of those from among whom, he was to be picked out by the prosecutrix. The whole thing was absolutely farcial, as, of course I and probably also the two policemen (in plain clothes), who were the only other persons among whom she had to select her assailant, were well known to her. I have no doubt the man was guilty, but the manner of identifying accused persons at police-stations certainly requires looking into.
REFUSAL TO INVESTIGATE MY INNOCENCE.
Later, a stranger from a distance came to the police-station. He wanted to look at me to see if he could identify me as the man whom he believed had committed all the outrages, and he was allowed to see me and found I was not the man. He then, as I recently ascertained, gave most important information to the police, if it had been promptly followed up, might have to the discovery of the criminal, but the police apparently made no investigation. A friendly policeman at Penkridge told me that the inspector knew he had very weak evidence against me, but that having formed a theory of my guilt he dared not inquire in other quarters.
ALLEGED THREAT TO MURDER.
In court it was announced that another serious charge was now to be preferred against me. This turned out to be one of threatening to murder a Hednesford police-sergeant, the allegation being that I had sent him a letter containing the following edifying passage:
- You bloated blackguard, I will shoot you with father's gun through your thick head if you come in my way or go sneaking to any of my pals, who pinched those eggs on Wednesday night, why you did or your man, but I will murder you if I get a thick bit of rope round my neck for it, but I don't think they would hang me but send me to sea. I don't remember writing this letter, but I may have. I forgot you were only a common sergeant till you said so, it was a mistake my addressing you Inspector.
Far from knowing that this officer was troubled with any abnormal thickness of his cranium (either in its literal or in a figurative and less pleasant sense), I had not, till that moment, even heard of his existence, and he afterwards admitted he had not been long in the district.
The BIRMINGHAM EVENING DESPATCH complained that reporters from that city were "bluntly and rudely" refused admission to the court in the first instance; and when through the intervention of a higher authority they at last got it, they were not allowed to send any telegrams out nor even to come out themselves till higher authority again intervened, "and," continues the journal, "officiousness reached the height of absurdity when the door was closed, not only on the reporter, but on the officer who had come to the rescue, and the constables in charge refused to open it to either. The result was that both had to obtain readmittance through the magistrate's door."
I RETURN TO PRISON.
I returned to Stafford in the afternoon. There was no abatement in the general excitement as my cab passed down the streets of the little town on its way to the station, where a crowd had assembled to see me off. In the train a constable said: "Well, if you aren't a clever 'un," and then, turning to a Stafford constable, he remarked: "This one here's the local De Wet; went and did the horse under with six men watching for him to come out. Tell us how you managed it, Mr. Edalji."
I declined to converse with them, knowing by this time only too well that anything I said would in all probability be so moulded as to appear to strengthen the trumpery case against me.
On many other occasions similar questions were put to me by the police — both before my arrest and after it, and this although it is allegal to interrogate a person under such circumstances at all. I don't think I ever said anything which, if it had been fairly repeated by the police, would not have been entirely in my favour, nor do I think that even the garbled accounts of the few remarks which I did make materially contributed to the case against me; but at the same time I am convinced that had I stubbornly declined to open my mouth when the police called on me on the day of my arrest, it would have been all the better for me.
I read every week of persons being convicted (in many cases, no doubt, quite justly) solely on the evidence of so-called incriminating statements made by themselves just before or after their arrest. I fully realise the great inducement to an accused person to make statements which he thinks will clear him in the eyes of the police and save him the odium of having to appear in a police-court to answer charges of which he may be perfectly innocent. But what I desire to impress upon the reader is this (and I am now addressing myself to young people, but little accustomed to the ways of the police), that if his statement is distorted he will in the vast majority of cases have the evidence of two or three constables against his own bare word.
Always, therefore, refuse to make any statement except in the presence of some independent persons, or, better still, reserve it to be made in court or to your legal advisers; and those who live in Staffordshire (where the police seem to have very pronounced ideas as to their rights of cross-examining accused persons) should be specially on their guard.
Few constables would fabricate a statement when the prisoners says nothing, but I believe many a zealous policeman, in his desire to make out a strong case against the accused, often magnifies some perfectly innocent statement to such an extent as the unfortunate prisoner would never in his wildest dreams have imagined possible. In the interests of justice I hope every newspaper in Staffordshire will reproduce my remarks.
FOURTH APPEARANCE BEFORE THE MAGISTRATES.
On September 2nd a special court sat to hear my case. The DAILY NEWS said:
- The court was packed with people, many of whom had taken their stand outside at an early hour. There were many hundreds of people standing outside the court, for the story has inflamed the popular imagination more than anything that has transpired in the district for half a century at least. Edalji, who looked quite neat and trim, and apparently bore no signs of dejection, although the ordeal through which he had gone has been no slight one, was cordially greeted by his father and mother.
I shall not now discuss the evidence for the prosecution, as it was substantially the same as that afterwards given at my trial, and I shall carefully analyse it when I reach that stage. I may mention, however, that it consisted of nothing but the flimsiest apology for circumstantial evidence, and it is not surprising that my advisers, after carefully considering it, arrived at the conclusion that I had no case to answer.
I RESERVE MY DEFENCE.
The magistrates having intimated they considered there was a primâ facie case, counsel advised me not to call any witnesses, but to reserve my defence, which I did. Even this was urged at the trial as being proof of my guilt, to such straits were the prosecution reduced for any tangible evidence.
A LINK WITH THE PAST.
During the whole of the time my case was being heard at the police-court, the writer of the 1888 letters was seated among the witnesses for the prosecution. Commenting on this circumstance, TRUTH (March 23rd, 1905) says:
- She (Foster) was not called as a witness. ... But was she at first summoned as a witness? If so, she must have made some statement to the police tending to incriminate Edalji, which for some reason was not used in evidence. What was this statement, and why was it not used? These questions may possibly throw further light on her proceedings. It is impossible to understand how she could have thrown any light on the charges against George Edalji from her own knowledge. Even if she was among the witnesses without having been summoned, her presence there might not be without significance.
I regret that in stating the case against Foster in my first article (which I prepared rather hurriedly, it being required for immediate publication) I failed to mention an important point, and this seems the best place to introduce the incident inadvertently omitted. A few days prior to Foster's arrest I noticed what appeared to be a man outside the glass door leading from the hall to the garden. My father was in the hall at the time, and I drew his attention to it. My mother immediately ran round the back way with a view to intercepting the intruder, and almost collided with Foster running in the opposite direction through the door leading from the garden to the yard, and my father and I came up behind her. As she had no business in the garden, but was supposed to be at work in the back kitchen, she was requested to explain her presence there, but could not do so, and although the letter had evidently only just been left on the step, there was no sign of anybody else.
As I was the indirect cause of suspicion attaching to her in connection with this matter, it is quite possible she may have nursed a bitter hatred against me for all these years, and that she had therefore given some information to the police about the 1903 series of letters with which she may have been connected, and this would fully account for her ominous presence amongst the witnesses, though probably the police thought it would damage their case to call her.
It seems inconceivable that if she had merely come to court out of idle curiosity or to gloat over my unfortunate predicament (which she may have been instrumental in bringing about), she would have contented herself in remaining for two days in the witnesses' room, when she might just as well have been in court; while, on the other hand, if there was the slightest chance of her giving evidence, of course, she would not be admitted to the court.
As the mere examination of the witnesses for the prosecution occupied the whole of Thursday and Friday, I had to spend two nights in the commodious apartments at Cannock Police-station. I complained of the cell being so dark, whereupon I was put into the other, which was lighter. A constable said this cell was where they kept the "judies," adding that I was fortunate in being the only prisoner, as sometimes they had both cells full, especially on Saturday nights, and everyone very drunk! In the morning I found it would even be possible to read if I get close against the aperture in the door used for passing things in and out. But on asking for a paper, I was informed that since these outrages started the police had been too busy to read anything but the Bible, and "knew nothing about newspapers." After a while, however, one was found for me.
AN OMINOUS REMARK.
Before going back to Stafford I was strongly urged by the police to have bail, and told that if I did not care for my own friends to stand for me, I could have "three of the most honourable gentlemen in Cannock" within an hour if I would pledge my word to remain at home till the trial. I said I should not have bail, whereupon the sergeant remarked, "It will be the worse for you. The inspectors will see to that."
From the date of my committal to the day after conviction, I occupied the best cell in hospital. I wore my own clothes, had exercise daily, could write as many letters as I desired, and have newspapers, magazines, and books. I also had a visit every week. All letters were read by the authorities, and an officer was present at each visit. In about a month the chief constable sent word that he wanted my photo taken. Being perfectly innocent, and having nothing to conceal, I raised no objection to satisfying his curiosity, especially as I had a friendly hint from an officer that if I refused the police would probably make capital out of it at my trial. But seeing that I was unconvicted, that I might have been on bail had I desired, and that my identity was not in dispute, I fail to see what right the chief constable had to make this demand at all.
Just five weeks after my arrest the next outrage occurred. I extract the following details from the Midland EVENING NEWS of September 23rd, 1903:
- Between 5 and 6 a.m. yesterday a miner was proceeding to work along a short by-lane which communicates with the main Walsall road and St. Mark's Road, Great Wyrley, when he saw portions of the entrails of an animal near a gate abutting on the by-road. He at ease gave information at the next house. A well-bred horse, six years old, was found further in the field dead, completely disembowelled. The animal is the property of Mr. Barry Green. ... Hundreds of people flocked to the scene of the night's ghastly work, many driving from the neighbouring town of Cannock. So high did the feeling run that the groups of spectators which the police kept at bay at the gate of the field included well-dressed ladies in their carriages and hordes of cyclists of both sexes. ...
- The sight all round the body was of a sickening description. From a frightful gash nearly two feet long in the burst's abdomen part of the entrails, were protruding, while other portions of the animal lay scattered about the field in all directions. The stomach and liver had been detached, and were found, the one organ on a tuft of grass some hundreds of yards from the horse, and the other on another tuft some distance beyond. A thick semi-circular line of blood-smeared turf, littered with torn portions of entrails, suggested the awful death agonies of the animal. From the top gate near where the stains begin it appeared to have galloped 100 yards before falling in a lifeless heap. From the width of the area covered it would seem that the perpetrator of the fiendish deed himself assisted in spreading its evidences, but this can only be a matter of conjecture. ... The whole uncanny occurrence is mystifying and baffling to a degree. Though some seventy police officials scoured the district, the day's work produced no promise of them being any nearer finding the author of the crime. Naturally, a large section of the community considered the occurrence a proof of Mr. Edalji's innocence.
The MORNING LEADER, two days later, said:
- All round the district one continually meets people who declare emphatically that Mr. Edalji is absolutely innocent. ... The police get small thanks for their efforts, and are told to their faces that they have failed miserably. ... There are over fifty men on special night duty around Wyrley. ... Their disguises are so thin and their methods so obvious that even the school children know them. One gentleman said it was almost incredible that nobody had been caught red-handed, considering that the whole of the outrages were committed within a radius of half a mile of Wyrley, and that there were enough police in hiding to arrest the whole parish.
The CANNOCK ADVERTISER remarked:
- Anyone who saw the wound which had been inflicted on the horse could not help but feel that the horrible work had been carried out with even greater determination than any of the others. There was no suspicion of blundering or bungling.
Later on I will deal with the remarkable confession (afterwards retracted), which the police obtained respecting this outrage.
A YOUNG HOUSEMAID'S LETTER.
On October 1st, 1903, the police received the following letter, posted at Southend-on-Sea:
- Seeing in yesterday's issue of DAILY MAIL, concerning the cattle-maiming case, you refer to the Vicar receiving anonymous letters some years back, and someone sending out goods from various tradesmen for jokes, I think I could inform you who the party was, as I have heard from his own lips that he helped to play the joke upon the Vicar. He has been a writer of several annoying letters. Not only has he wrote them himself, but he had got other people. If you think this could help you in any way I will send you address as to where you may find him. — Yours truly, A Young Housemaid.
- P.S. — Please answer through DAILY MAIL.
Not only did the police make no inquiries regarding this letter, which, if immediately investigated, might have been the means of clearing up the mystery attaching to the various offensive communications which have played so prominent a part in my case, but they did not even inform me or my friends that they had received it, and it was only a few weeks ago that I accidentally heard of its existence.
It should be remembered that when this letter was sent I was in Stafford Prison awaiting trial on two grave charges, one of which was sending a letter to a constable threatening to murder him, and it is not unlikely that had I been able to prove who wrote the 1892-5 series of letters, this might have led to the discovery of the writer of the more recent documents also.
By the inertia of the police I was deprived of this opportunity, and by it Captain Anson was also deprived of the opportunity of substantiating those suspicions which he could not prove in 1892 and 1895, and of procuring for the offender that "dose of penal servitude" which he himself trusted to obtain for him so long ago.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, though admitting the possibility of a hoax, considers there is some internal evidence that this letter was genuine, and really I cannot see what possible object "A Young Housemaid" would have in writing such a letter to the police unless she really had some information to impart. Every effort has recently been made to trace her by means of advertisement, and if this should meet her eye, I trust she will kindly communicate with me at the address of this journal, and her information shall be treated in strict confidence.
The BIRMINGHAM EVENING DESPATCH of October 3rd, 1903, in a capital article under the above heading, passes some well-deserved strictures upon the extraordinary methods adopted by the police in their vain endeavours to allay the redoubled outburst of indignation against them which the outrage after my arrest occasioned. The journal referred to says:
- The methods adopted by the police in their investigations into the Wyrley outrages are, to put it mildly, exceptional. It is only right and proper that persons who are thought likely to be in a position to furnish information should be requested to tell what they know, if anything, but that they should be treated much as suspects is unwarrantable. The two instances of this strange treatment which have been made public are sufficient to show the crude, if not illegal fashion in which these examinations are carried through.
- With Mr. ——, the chairman of the —— Liberal Unionist Association, and well known throughout the district, sympathy will especially be felt. His statement is that he was driven in a cart, escorted by two officers, to the police station. One can well understand that his journey in such circumstances placed him in a more undignified position than he had ever before occupied, and that to all appearance he was under arrest.
- At the police station he was detained some time and submitted to a species of inquisition, eventually being allowed to depart and walk home.
- As to the manner in which these modern inquisitors conduct their business, another victim tells a remarkable story of what happened at Cannock. The officers appear to have adopted a bullying attitude, which in the case of a nervous individual might have most disastrous results ... that the police should seek to ... emulate the conduct of some officers in the Russian interior is an ambition which should speedily be damped. ... We do not for a moment think the chief constable ... can be aware of the manner in which his subordinates are acting, but it is necessary that he should be made acquainted with the proceedings, in order that he may instil into the minds of these men an elementary knowledge of duty and justice, of which they seem to stand in great need.
From the same paper I extract the following reference to the experiences of another resident:
- Without any notice he was driven to Cannock and brought before three police officers, where a number of very direct questions were put to him. He solemnly avows that he was not only asked questions about "the gang," and whether he knew who had killed any of the horses, but he was also asked point blank whether he had done any of the maiming. His reply was in the negative. "Have you killed anything?" he was asked by an impetuous officer. When he replied "Yes," the police became intensely interested. "I once killed a sparrow," he added.
- He was told they intended to keep him there all night, if he did not disclose what he knew. Then he states: "I was given three-quarters of an hour to think it over. After I had remained silent for this time, the police scrutinising me closely, I said that if they kept me there a week I could tell them nothing more. They then told me I might go." On leaving, the young man states, some such words were used as, "you are very deep in the rain."
Another day (October 2nd) the same journal, in referring to the police, said:
- Their action is likened to a drowning man clutching at a straw. Their policy of bringing forward young men, examining them, and then releasing them, is not only giving rise to a feeling of indignation, but is considered a proof of the desperate corner into which they have been driven.
Referring to one case, the paper remarks:
- He was requested to call at the station at Cannock at two o'clock, but, acting upon advice, did not present himself. After the police had given him a little grace, the deputy chief constable of the county drove up and fetched him. He had no alternative, he said, but to go. The "little informal conversation" consisted in being severely questioned for an hour and a half by three experienced police officers, no one else being in the room, and the questions and answers being taken down in writing.
Many other persons were subjected to this sort of inquisition at Cannock Police Station, and such indignation did these proceedings occasion that the police had at last to abandon them. Instead of apologising, however, they only increased the general feeding of irritation by issuing a manifesto to the Press under the heading of "Hostile Residents," and I give a sample of one of these notices extracted from the DAILY MAIL of November 21st, 1903 (the italics are mine):
- Inspector Campbell stated this morning that the attitude of the people of Great Wyrley and Cheslyn Hay was greatly increasing the difficulties of the police. He was aware that there were people who knew something about the outrages, but they would not give any information. The police had tried to be as lenient as possible, and if anything could be done to remove the hostile attitude it would be doing the police a great service.
I think all who have read my story so far will be satisfied that the inhabitants had certainly not cultivated any premature or unfounded dislike of or hostility to the police; but that, on the contrary, they had tolerated too long such a system of bullying and petty tyranny as probably no English parish has ever before experienced at the hands of those who, while being in reality nothing more than the servants of the public, have in Staffordshire apparently imagined themselves to be their masters and vested with absolute and unlimited authority over them.
But perhaps the most remarkable passage in the extract I have just quoted is the assertion that the police had "tried to be as lenient as possible." If the proceedings just described constitute "leniency" in the eyes of the Staffordshire constabulary, one may well ask to what lengths they would not go in order to secure the arrest and conviction of any person whom they might rightly or wrongly suspect having actually committed some serious offence.
A REASONABLE REQUEST REFUSED.
Before trial I asked permission to chance my clothing, as the suit I was arrested in was a light summer one, and I had used it every day since. The request was refused, because prisoners are required to be tried in the clothes worn when apprehended. I was informed that a man who occupied a cell in the hospital close to me, and who was charged with murder, would have to appear in court in clothes which were saturated with the blood of his alleged victim. I can well understand a man who for some reason is not allowed bail, and whose identity is likely to be disputed, being refused leave to change his attire; but, surely, in my case, as I might have had bail and worn what I chose, there was no more ground for denying me this request than for taking my photo.
The absurdity of the rule becomes more apparent when I add I was not allowed to change my boots, nor even my straw hat for one more adapted to the season. This rule seems to be one likely to prejudice a prisoner in the eyes of a jury ignorant of the true facts, though I do not allege it was so in my case.
The day before my trial I asked to be shaved, but was told such a thing was unheard of at Stafford, and that there was no razor in the prison. I offered to pay for a barber to attend, but was informed it would not be allowed, but that I could only be clipped with the "nippers," which was done; but I got no further "clip" during my trial, there bring no opportunity for it, the court commencing early and sitting late each day. On the fourth day I don't expect my appearance favourably impressed the jury.
It appears, however, that in a few prisons the luxury of shaving is allowed to those unconvicted prisoners who care to pay an extortionate price for the privilege. At the Salford Hundred Quarter Sessions, early this year, a magistrate elicited the information that 1s. 6d. was the fee at Strangeways Gaol, Manchester, the chief warder saying that no barber would come for less. However, I can scarcely credit this, seeing that most barbers shave for 2d. or 1½d.
The prison authorities ought not to debar any man from appearing in court with a clean face, and at sessions and assizes times there would be plenty of prisoners ready to pay a reasonable sum — say 6d. — for the privilege, and this would amply repay somebody's attendance at the gaol, especially if he had the work regularly. TRUTH remarks:
- A magistrate observed that a man's appearance in the dock unshaven might help to give the jury a bad impression of him, and though this is scarcely flattering to the intelligence of jurymen, it is not at all unlikely.
I should think, however, he would be an ignorant person indeed who would let such irrelevant matters influence the verdict.
AT QUARTER SESSIONS.
On the morning of October 20th, 1903, I was removed in the "Black Maria" to the Shire Hall. This van was not like the other in which I had once been, but was partitioned off into very small compartments, so narrow indeed that a fat person might find it impossible to get out again even if successful in squeezing himself in. There was barely room for a prisoner to sit in each. Fortunately, the journey was a short one, but I had to make it to and fro on each of the four days of my trial.
Arrived at the Shire Hall, I was put in a big room by myself where I had to remain an hour or so. That hour of waiting had for me none of the painful suspense which might be expected. In the first place, I never doubted that my innocence would be declared, and this circumstance, coupled with my legal training, no doubt gave me confidence and comfort. I passed the time looking over some papers in connection with the trial.
I had to make my way to the court through a labyrinth of underground passages dimly lighted by occasional gas jets, which seemed to make the gloom all the more apparent, and then up a flight of steps into court. Some little time was spent in swearing the jury in the usual form to "well and truly try, and true deliverance make between our Sovereign Lord the King and the prisoner at the bar whom you shall have in charge, and a true verdict give according to the evidence, so help you, God." This formula having been repeated to each juryman in turn with due solemnity, the indictments were read over, and I pleaded "not guilty" to both charges.
The general public interest in my case had been well maintained since my committal. Three days before the trial the BIRMINGHAM EVENING DESPATCH remarked:
- The Interest in the trial has been stimulated to an extraordinary extent. The court will be, it is safe to say, crowded with Wyrley folk, who mean to hear the dramatic statements which the chief constable of the county (who has shown more success in keeping some of his secrets than in some of his attempts at organising the investigation) will have to make.
This prediction was certainly fulfilled, but only a very small proportion of the public could find room in the court, the remainder having to content themselves with standing outside.
The STAFFORDSHIRE CHRONICLE said:
- The widespread interest manifested in the case against the son of the Vicar of Great Wyrley for maiming cattle was seen in the crowded appearance of the Staffordshire Quarter Sessions Court, when the charges were investigated. ... The bench, as well as the small gallery set apart for the public, was crowded, the latter, singularly enough, being principally occupied by ladies, who sat the case out from the beginning to the end of the day's proceedings.
- True bills having been returned by the grand jury, preparations were made for beginning the trial. The prisoner ... is described in the calendar as a solicitor with a superior education. He was smartly dressed, and evidently had paid considerable attention to his toilet. The charges against him were two, to both of which he pleaded not guilty, namely, that he "on or about August 17th, 1903, at Great Wyrley, wounded a horse, the property of the Great Wyrley Colliery Company Ltd.," and with "having on or about July 11, 1903, at Cannock, sent a letter to Charles Robinson, a sergeant in the County Constabulary, threatening to murder him."
The DAILY NEWS remarked:
- The prisoner, who was neatly attired in a light lounge suit, betrayed no emotion when he took his place in the dock, and he pleaded "Not guilty" in a firm voice when the indictment was read.
The MIDLAND EVENING NEWS adds that:
- Several of the ladies brought fancy baskets containing food.
This was certainly a wise precaution, because those who left the court to seek refreshments during the brief interval for luncheon found to their chagrin that other persons had possessed themselves of the vacant places during their absence, and that it was impossible to obtain readmission.
Many ladies were accommodated with seats on the bench, and seemed to find great amusement in listening to the various offensive letters being read.
As I find there are still a great many people who think that I was charged with maiming several animals, and also that I was convicted of threatening to murder Sergeant Robinson, it seems best to remove this misapprehension by pointing out that the only maiming charge made against me was in respect of the pony injured on August 17th, 1903, and, further, that though the letter containing the threat to murder was wrongfully admitted as evidence against me on the mutilation charge (together with various other letters, and even a copy of a letter, the original of which the handwriting expert had never even seen), the charge itself was ultimately abandoned.
A case of such importance and intricacy as mine ought never to have been sent to Quarter Sessions at all; but the Cannock magistrates in their wisdom, decided that at sessions it should be tried. Had I known as much then as I do now of the mode of administering justice (save the mark!) in Staffordshire. I should have endeavoured to get it tried out of the county altogether.
"It was a case that ought never to have been left to Quarter Sessions," remarked the DAILY MAIL (October 23rd, 1903), and I may mention, that this is not only the view of the most eminent members of the Bar, but also, I believe, of everybody else who has followed my case, except, of course, the police and those responsible for having it tried at sessions. It is not true that I wished it heard there.
TRIED IN THE SECOND COURT.
It is customary for two courts to be constituted at Staffordshire Sessions. The first court is presided over by the chairman of the sessions, and to this court cases of a complicated or serious nature are assigned; while the second court, over which the assistant chairman reigns supreme, deals with cases of less gravity. Now, knowing that my case was by far the most important in the calendar, and that it had excited a keener interest throughout Staffordshire than any case ever before tried at the sessions or even probably at assizes, I naturally expected it to be taken in the first court.
I was surprised, however, to find that somehow it had found its way into the lower court, presided over by Sir Reginald Hardy and other county justices. The STAFFORDSHIRE ADVERTISER remarked that I was tried in the inferior court, "at the request of Lord Hatherton (chairman), his lordship being personally known to the accused against whom the charge was brought."
Under these circumstances, it seems scarcely necessary to point out that the proper course would have been to transfer the case to assizes.
It was thought necessary for the Clerk of the Peace to sit in the first court, and as Sir R. Hardy had had no experience in such complicated cases as mine, he got a practising member of the sessions "by request and special arrangement" to assist him to try the case. Now it may be said there was nothing much to complain of in this, assuming that the assisting barrister heard the whole of the evidence. It happens, however, that he had to leave the court several times to attend to his own business in the first court, and in a letter to the Hon. R. D. Yelverton he admits that part of the case he never heard.
Here, then, is a pretty sample of Staffordshire "justice"; first my case, which ought to have gone to assizes, is sent to sessions; next, it is unceremoniously hustled into the second court, although admittedly the most important case for trial; the chairman of such court wants someone to help him to try the case; the Clerk of the Peace either can't or won't come to his assistance (what became of the deputy Clerk of the Peace I don't know), accordingly, a gentleman, who is not an official of the court, appears on the scene, and he is allowed to absent himself while the case is being heard.
Commenting on this matter in the DAILY CHRONICLE (December 21st, 1903), Mr. Yelverton remarks:
- Such an absurd position requires no demonstrations. The gentleman who was called in to sit was a professional barrister of the sessions, not an official in any shapely form. Outside the court at Stafford, or off the stages of the Savoy, I never heard of such a suggestion that practising barrister ... could assume the rôle of a quick-change artiste, and I desire to point out that this is a matter affecting integrally the administration or justice, and that a verdict obtained under such circumstances ought not to be allowed to stand.
I have searched in vain for any authority whatever for the employment of a practising barrister in an advisory sense at Quarter Sessions. A judge at assizes might just as well ask some famous counsel to share the Bench with him and advise him how to sum up and what sentence to give. Assuming for the moment that my case was properly assigned to the second court, the persons to try me were the assistant chairman and the jury, but nobody else. If Sir R. Hardy felt unequal to the task, he should have said so, and declined to undertake it. The employment of a barrister to assist him was merely illegal, or, anyway, unusual and irregular, but his being allowed to absent himself while the case was proceeding was grossly unfair.
In a recent case where a basket-maker was charged with horse maiming and horse stealing, he was tried at Stafford Assizes; but yet this inferior and irregularly constituted court of Quarter Sessions was considered good enough for me, a solicitor, to take my trial on the charge of horse maiming and threatening to commit a murder. The other magistrates who sat with Sir R. Hardy were Rear-Admiral the Hon. A. C. Littleton, Captain the Hon. H. T. Allsepp, and two others. As regards the jury, I regret I do not know who they were or I would certainly give them a short gratuitous advertisement in the shape of their names and addresses. As, however, all efforts to trace them have failed, it may be that modesty compels them to remain in obscurity.
THE CASE OPENED.
Mr. W. J. Disturnal, who, with Mr. H. A. Harrison (instructed by Mr. Barnes of Lichfield), prosecuted, remarked that I was a solicitor of great merit and distinction, and that, though the investigation the court had to undertake was no ordinary one, he trusted I should have a fair trial. (It seems obvious he was in doubt whether the second court of Quarter Sessions was the proper place to try the case in.)
After drawing attention to the finding of the pony at 5.40 a.m. by the boy Garrett, he remarked that the animal was uninjured at nine o'clock the previous evening, that the scene of the tragedy was only about half a mile from my home, that I was noticed by several people in the village after nine that night, that I did not give a full and true account of my movements when the police demanded it, and also that I asserted I got home at 9.30, whereas it was ten minutes later.
Counsel further said that as soon as the police heard of the outrage a constable was sent to the railway station at Wyrley to tell me the inspector wanted to see me, but that I would not wait, alleging I had a business engagement in Birmingham; and, moreover, that while I was conversing with the constable, that officer's uncle happened to come to the station and remarked that another horse had been killed, at which I smiled.
Counsel submitted that I went to Birmingham to avoid arrest. He then stated that the police visited my home soon afterwards, and asked to see all my clothes, which my parents produced, among which were a coat, vest, and trousers which were damp, and that though it appeared there was not any quantity of blood on my clothing, a little had been found which conformed to the mammalian character; but the most convincing testimony against me, said counsel, was the presence of a number of short horse-hairs on the jacket and vest which corresponded exactly in colour, length, and structure with the hair on a bit of skin cut from the animal's abdomen.
Counsel then stated that I was arrested at my Birmingham office owing to my failure to give a satisfactory explanation to the police about the clothing. Mr. Disturnal next referred to the police having found footmarks near the scene of the outrage, which they alleged were similar to prints which they themselves made with a pair of boots of mine, which were worn down at the heels.
Another feature of the case to which counsel said considerable importance was attached was the fact that a number of anonymous letters had come into the possession of the police, most of which Mr. Gurrin, an eminent handwriting expert, who had last figured in the celebrated Moat Farm murder trial (and who, let me here remind the reader, also "figured" under less auspicious circumstances before the Beck Commission), considered were written by me, but in a disguised hand.
After mentioning that the offence was one of a long series of similar crimes, counsel explained that it was not alleged I had committed all the previous outrages, but that without knowing of the earlier offences the jury could not understand the references to them in the letters, some of which were sent to me in order, he submitted, that I might get in touch with the police and find out from them where they were watching, so as to be able to elude their vigilance.
Counsel insinuated that it was untrue that I had offered a reward with the bonâ fide intention of ascertaining who had published the slanders about me, and suggested that I had myself caused the false report to be circulated in order to give me the opportunity of contradicting it, and thereby bring the police in contact with me and ascertain all about their movements.
Referring to the outrage while I was in prison, Mr. Disturnal observed the defence could fairly say it was not committed by me, but the letters would show that I was not acting alone, but in conjunction with other persons, and what, therefore, was more likely than for one of my confederates to commit another crime in order to fabricate evidence in my favour?
Next counsel stated that when the police had called upon me with reference to the letter they had very carefully scrutinised me, and that I had shown myself more than ordinarily interested in the outrages. Also that I had told the police they ought to employ bloodhounds to track down the criminal, and said I believed the crimes were the work of some deranged person, and that the police were not adopting the best methods to discover the culprit.
Further, said counsel, it would be proved that I knew some of the people who were mentioned in the anonymous letters; and, also, that after the discovery of a previous outrage, I had been heard to state in public that I believed they were Blewitt's which was really the case. In conclusion, counsel said I refused to let several of my friends stand bail for me, and also that in reply to a question put to me by a constable when in the cells at Cannock, I made use of a significant observation. This remark would be sworn to by the officer to whom it was addressed, and counsel suggested that it proved I knew what was about to happen when I refused bail.
NO MOTIVE ALLEGED.
It will be noticed counsel alleged no motive on my part for this atrocity in his speech; and though throughout the hearing of the case every circumstance which would be likely to influence the jury against me was ostentatiously paraded before them, and though everything which my friends or I had said or done or omitted to say or do with reference to the charge was brought forward by the prosecution, yet it was never even insinuated that I had any motive for this offence. Now, for every crime there must be some motive, and usually the greater the crime the more apparent the motive becomes, the only exception being where the offender is insane or possessed by some mania. But the prosecution never hinted that I was in any way mentally deranged or subject to any lust for bloodshed, or that I was of a cruel disposition. And if any further proof of my sanity is needed, I have only to refer to the fact that far from being consigned to a criminal lunatic asylum or even to Parkhurst, I was sent direct from Lewes Prison to Portland, where I remained till within two days of my discharge. In commenting on this failure of the prosecution to suggest any motive, TRUTH (January 12th, 1905) says:
- In considering the general effect of the evidence given at the trial and the facts that have transpired since, the first point to which I would call attention is the gross improbability, amounting almost to incredibility, of the charge. This consideration must be placed first, because the greater the antecedent improbability, the more definite and conclusive must be the evidence required to rebut it. We are asked to believe — or the jury were asked to believe — that a young man, a gentleman by birth and education, who has been brought up in a country vicarage, has entered with distinction on the study of the law, and is just making a start in his profession, has for months amused himself, while at home at night in the intervals of his professional work, by going about the country committing a series of the most brutal and revolting outrages upon dumb animals, and inflicting at the same time heavy loss upon his neighbours, his father's parishioners, many of the owners of the animals being very poor people. It is true that Edalji was only charged with one specific offence in the series. But, as in the case of Mr Beck, all the circumstances suggest that the same hand was concerned in all the crimes, or at least that they were the work of a gang of confederates. The prosecution expressly accepted this view of the matter. They were forced at the same time to accept a further hypothesis, which adds to the improbability of their case — namely, that for the purpose of his motiveless and brutal amusement this young solicitor had allied himself with a gang of ruffians in the neighbourhood, presumably of much lower station in life than himself.
A JUROR'S MISTAKE.
After the speech for the prosecution the court adjourned for luncheon. I had to return to the big room I have already mentioned, where I was left to eat my dinner (sent from the prison) alone while the two warders who had charge of me went to have theirs. On the reassembling of the court a little delay was occasioned by the non-arrival of one of the jurors. After a few minutes he appeared, and in reply to a question from the Bench explained that he had gone to the first court by mistake, whereupon the chairman told him he was very stupid and had kept the court waiting five minutes, for which he ought to be fined £5, though he would be let off that time. Probably most people will think the juryman less stupid than those responsible for consigning my case to the second court or to Quarter Sessions at all.
THE EVIDENCE ANALYSED.
I now come to the evidence against me, which — to use the words of the editor of TRUTH - "is throughout of the flimsiest and most unconvincing character, contradicted at every material point, or exposed on other grounds to the gravest suspicion." I know that some people will here say that I am a prejudiced person and unable to take an impartial view of the case. Quite so, but let me remind such people that it can make no difference how prejudiced I may be if my readers are satisfied that my arguments are the true and convincing ones. I ask the public to carefully read all I have to say and then decide for themselves whether I have not been the victim of something worse even than an unfortunate mistake.
BLOOD AND SALIVA.
When the police asked to be allowed to examine all my clothing on the morning of the discovery of the outrage four suits were handed to them by my mother "with a frankness," remarks the editor of TRUTH, "which is entirely inconsistent with the duplicity subsequently insinuated against the family." The constables selected an old coat and vest which had been used for gardening or any odd jobs. The following is the inspector's evidence given before the magistrates the day after my arrest:
- I found on the inner side of both cuffs of the jacket a dark reddish stain. The one on the right cuff was four inches long by half an inch wide, and had the appearance of partly-dried blood. On the left cuff was a similar stain not quite so bad. On both sleeves there were numerous stains of a whitish colour which had the appearance of saliva. On the vest there was a greyish patch about the size of a penny, looking like saliva. These marks I indicated to accused's parents in the presence of the sergeant and constable. ... In the jacket pocket I found a handkerchief on which was a brownish stain, which looked like blood.
Here, then, was the damning evidence against me; not only was the gore plainly visible on my clothing, but I was even bespattered by the froth emitted by the poor animal in its death struggles!
Now, the reader is aware of the mistakes which the police had made regarding the railway-key and botany-spud, so he will probably not be surprised to learn that these active and intelligent officers were also grievously in error about several other matters, and I ask him to very carefully note what the inspector thought was on my clothing when he gave the evidence just referred to. Next let him compare this evidence with what was subsequently proved to be on the clothing at the trial, which I will state directly. This done, let him judge how much weight should attach to the testimony of a man capable of making such mistakes or to that of the sergeant and constable who were similarly mistaken, who generally corroborated all the inspector said throughout the case, and who were the chief witnesses for the prosecution.
EVIDENCE AT THE TRIAL.
We will now see what this evidence was reduced to at the trial by Dr. Butter, the police-surgeon. He found:
"Two small spots of blood of the size of a three-penny bit in the centre of the right cuff," but,
"No more blood at all."
How, then, does this tally with the inspector's allegation of a stain four inches long by half an inch wide on the right cuff, and a similar stain not so bad on the other one? There was not a particle of blood on the left cuff nor on any other part of the clothing. The alleged stain on the handkerchief was not blood.
Now, as to the "saliva," which told such a tale of guilt and unfolded such a story of hideous midnight crime to the inspector and his subordinates. What was the evidence about this at the trial? Dr. Butter said "the whitish and greyish stains were starch, most probably from bread and milk!"
Having thus wholly disposed of the "saliva" and reduced the terrible bloodstains by about 90 per cent. of their alleged superficial area, they are still a subject for careful consideration, though as to their ever having existed at all I am relying solely on Dr. Butter's evidence, because they were invisible, bolt at the magisterial inquiry and at the trial. While I fully accept Dr. Butter's testimony, it was as highly improper for the police to instruct a doctor in their own service instead of an independent person to make the analysis as it was for them to refuse my repeated requests to be shown the clothes and to be present or represented at such analysis.
It was proved that Dr. Butter first saw the clothing thirteen hours after it was seized by the police. It appeared that owing to his position as police-surgeon at Cannock he very properly thought it preferable for an independent gentleman to make the analysis. Accordingly, the police took the clothing to Birmingham by the first train next morning for the express purpose of having it examined by some medical man of that city.
It will be recollected that the excuse given by the inspector for not bringing the clothing for me to see when he called upon me at my Birmingham office for an explanation about it on the day of my arrest was that he could not carry it so far. Whether the police accomplished this herculean task the very next day unaided, or whether they had a donkey to assist them, was not proved. What was proved was that, without going to the length of raising an actual hue and cry through the streets, the police did everything in decency to ferret out a medical man, but met with ignominious failure, and their efforts in every other direction having also been of no avail, they were obliged, as a last resort, to get their own doctor to examine the clothing two days later. Now, I have mentioned that I do not for one moment doubt Dr. Butter's veracity, and I only refer to this circumstance because it appears to indicate a strong desire on the part of the police to keep the case as far as possible entirely in their own hands, or, at any rate, in the hands of those whom they imagined, from the positions which such persons occupied, might be indisposed to adopt an unfavourable attitude towards them.
But there is another matter on which the search for independent doctors has a very direct bearing, and that is the decision of the police not to let one see the clothing. On the morning after my arrest, on applying for the fourth time to be allowed to see it and stating I desired to be represented at the analysis, I was informed it was too late, as the clothing was "being examined by a gentleman in Birmingham" that day. And yet, when after an abortive hunt from door to door through the streets of the great Midland capital (whether with or without the aid of the city police was not stated) they returned to Cannock as completely baffled by the doctors as by the horse-maimer himself, they never mentioned this failure to me nor gave me the opportunity thus conveniently afforded of being represented at the analysis yet to be made!
HORSE'S BLOOD OR NOT?
Let us now see if there were any evidence to show that the blood was that of a horse at all. We all know how easy it is to get a spot of blood on one's clothing from a cut finger or even from raw or underdone meat, and the way in which counsel for the Crown pressed me to state the exact dates when I scratched my fingers, etc., was ludicrous in the extreme. Dr. Butter swore there was no test whereby an animal's blood could be distinguished from that of a human being, but that the two spots which the prosecuting counsel in his opening speech (with an air of impressive solemnity intended to convey to the jury that there at least was proof of my guilt) declared had been found on analysis to "conform to the character of mammalian blood," simply meant that the stains might be the blood of a human being or of any animal which suckles its young. So far from showing these microscopical spots were the blood of the outraged pony, there was not one iota of evidence to prove they were horse's blood at all! Indeed, they might have been anything from the blood of some member of the Staffordshire constabulary to the blood of a donkey or a mouse. All that was proved was that the blood was not from a bird, fish, or reptile.
WAS THE BLOOD FRESH?
Next, let us see what proof there was that the blood had come on the coat within (to take the extreme limit) ten hours of the police seizing it. Here Dr. Butter's testimony is again of importance, and he said it was impossible to tell definitely whether the spots were recent or old; but he added that fresh bloodstains are bright-red and go dark-red or brown in time. He also remarked that the stains were brownish-red when he saw them on the day of my arrest, and the same colour three days later when he made the analysis.
Now, the police examined the coat at 7.45 a.m. — thirteen hours before Dr. Butter saw it — and they also referred to the stains as "dark red" or "brownish" in colour.
All this, therefore, tends to show the blood was old. But there is another fact which proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was not recent. The police swore the coat was "damp" (later on in the case, owing to some extraordinary phenomenon, it suddenly became "wet"); if, then, this was so, the dampness would prevent any fresh blood which might have fallen on the garment from drying, so that the spots would have been bright red and not dark.
I have heard it said that possibly the "inner side" cuff where the stains were alleged to be found had not got wet, and that assuming I had maimed the pony, as the police first alleged, before 9.30, the blood might have had time to dry and go brown.
The answer to this is that the police expressly referred to the stains on the cuffs as "partly" dried, and it was in the centre of the right cuff that Dr. Butter found the two spots of which so much fuss was made. Further, the police had to admit in cross-examination that, although they made out the blood was still wet, none of it came off when touched. Sir A. Conan Doyle, in his splendid articles in the DAILY TELEGRAPH, says, with reference to this matter:
- Now the police try to make two points here: That the coat was damp, and that there were stains which might have been the traces of the crime upon it. Each point is good in itself; but, unfortunately, they are incompatible and mutually destructive. If the coat were damp, and if those marks were bloodstains contracted during the night, then those stains were damp also, and the inspector had only to touch them and then to raise his crimson finger in the air to silence all criticism. But since he could not do so it is clear that the stains were not fresh. They fell twelve hours later into the capable hands of the police-surgeon, and the sanguinary smears conjured up by the evidence of the constable diminished with absurd swiftness until they became "two stains in the centre of the right cuff, each about the area of a threepenny-bit." This was declared by Dr. Butter to be mammalian blood. He found no more blood at all. How these small stains came there it is difficult to trace — as difficult as to trace a stain which I see now upon the sleeve of my own house jacket as I look down. A splash from the gravy of underdone meat might well produce it. At any rate, it may most safely be said that the most adept operator who ever lived would not rip up a horse with a razor upon a dark night and have only two threepenny-bit spots of blood to show for it. The idea is beyond argument.
Mr. R. N. Lewis (M.R.C.V.S.), of Malpas, Cheshire (a veterinary surgeon who happened to be at Cannock at the time of the outrage as locum tenens for another gentleman), who examined the pony on behalf of the owners at 8.30 on the morning of the crime, and whom the police did not call, although they had taken his statement, his testimony being wholly against them, but who was called for my defence (the police being reduced to the extremity of calling a horse-slaughterer on their behalf), said the wound was quite fresh and had been inflicted within six hours at the uttermost (that is after 2.30 a.m.). Hence had I got any of the animal's blood on my clothing it would have looked quite fresh at 7.45 a.m. In this connection it must be remembered that the pony's bowels were protruding six inches, and the wound, which was still bleeding freely when noticed by the boy Garrett, was of so grave a nature that according to the evidence of Mr. Wootton (the owner's servant), who shot the animal, "the weight of the fall forced the bowels out through the cut."
EVIDENCE SUBSEQUENT TO TRIAL.
The above evidence raised the further important question as to whether it would be possible to inflict a wound fourteen or fifteen inches long across a horse's abdomen without the perpetrator getting more blood on his clothing than the two insignificant spots found on mine. This question has been put to Mr. Edward Sewell (M.R.C.V.S.), of the Veterinary Infirmary, Thurloe Place, South Kensington, who is one of the best-known men in his profession, having had twenty-four years' experience in dealing with horses. He has sworn a declaration expressing his opinion on this and other points in my case. Mr. Sewell, after stating that he has made himself thoroughly conversant with the evidence so as to be able to form a definite opinion on any question put to him regarding the wound, goes on to say:
- His clothes would have been considerably stained with blood, and this would have applied not only to his coat, but also to his other garments and especially his trousers. It is well known in our profession that veterinary surgeons performing an operation of this nature, that is to say, cutting open for surgical purposes the part of the animal as described in this case, would clothe themselves in an outer garment, so as to protect their clothes from the dispersion of blood.
Mr. Lewis and all other veterinary surgeons and medical men to whom this question has been submitted entirely agree with Mr. Sewell, and TRUTH (January 12th, 1905) remarks:
- We are confronted with the astonishing fact that although, according to the theory of the prosecution, the prisoner had been engaged for months in a systematic course of midnight butchery, which must have resulted in his clothing being drenched with blood, the only trace discoverable on his garments was these two minute spots of uncertain date.
SEARCHING MY HOME.
The reader is aware that the police originally thought the pony was mutilated with my sister's botany trowel, but had to abandon this theory on discovering that the instrument was so blunt that it would scarcely cut cheese. It thus having become necessary to look for another weapon, about fifteen constables invaded the vicarage and commenced a most vigorous search without so much as asking anyone's permission. On my parents inquiring if they had a warrant they said they "never thought of that." As, however, there was nothing to conceal they were permitted to continue the search, which they certainly seem to have conducted with such a degree of energy and thoroughness as showed their determination to leave no stone unturned to find something tangible against me.
They searched the vicarage, and outbuildings, garden, school-house, and premises; even the churchyard was turned into a hunting-ground. Great annoyance was occasioned to the friends of those buried there by the manner in which the police ran over the graves (the churchyard being quite full), and the violence with which they hammered the tombs in the vain endeavour to dislodge some hidden weapon.
My father, in his pamphlet, entitled "A Miscarriage of Justice. The Case of George Edalji," in referring to the mistake of the police about the "dagger," and their subsequent fruitless searches, says (page 35):
- Inspector Campbell examined the trowel and returned it to Miss Edalji, and said nothing more about the dagger or weapon.
- It is evident that P.C. Cooper had been eyeing with suspicion the trowel whenever Miss Edalji went out in search of flowers. ... The police came again in the afternoon, with twelve other men. Inspector Campbell asked to be allowed to see any razors that might be in the house, and accordingly I showed him all the razors that were in my possession, four of which he took away. In the meanwhile the twelve men were let loose all over the vicarage grounds, the churchyard, and the school-yard, in search of a weapon.
- They asked that the schoolroom should he opened that they might search for a weapon there also. I unlocked it at once, and they examined every room and every cupboard. One of the school cupboards, however, was found to be locked, and I had no key belonging to it; so I gave them permission to break it open with an iron bar. This they did, and the only thing they found in it was a piece of brown paper. (The police never paid for this break nor for a lot of other damage done, let me here interpose.) A large crowd of people stood at the churchyard wall, observing several of the men whom the police had brought, running from place to place is the churchyard and beating with clubs on the sides of the graves in the hope of finding a weapon. Some other of the men went through the same process in all parts of the vicarage grounds; but no weapon was found.
After searching my home the police made a thorough search of my Birmingham office, but without result. Here, they searched without a warrant, and asked nobody's permission. It was not, however, for a weapon alone that they sought, but for anything else which could possibly implicate me in the crime. Such zeal did they show in their quest after paper or envelopes which might connect me with the anonymous letters that on a note being brought to the house for my father, and handed to the servant to be given to him, some officious constable tried to snatch it from her and was very insolent when she ran away from him. Evidently he thought the girl was in possession of an incriminating document, and must have felt rather small on discovering it was only a tradesman's bill! Anyway, after several hours searching, the police had at length to retire without discovering so much as a scrap of paper to connect me with the outrage or the letters.
THE RAZOR THEORY.
It will be seen from my father's remarks, which I have already quoted, that as soon, apparently, as the police were convinced of their ludicrous mistake about the botany trowel, they decided that a razor was the next most likely weapon wherewith the wound could have been inflicted. Now I must admit this was a very great advance upon the former theory of the police, but if there is any person unconnected with the Staffordshire constabulary who imagines that a man intending to cut open a horse in the dark would select such an awkward and loose-handled instrument as a razor for the purpose, I should like to know who that person is.
Everyone who understands anything about razors will be aware that in order to inflict a cut fourteen or fifteen inches long through a horse's hide in such a manner as to cause the bowels to protrude, or, indeed, to inflict any cut at all, the operator would have to hold the razor by the blade. I should also imagine that it would be necessary to bring considerable force to bear upon the razor, so as to make such a gash as I have referred to.
In any case, the mode of using the instrument would be entirely different from that adopted in shaving, which I take it is the only purpose for which a razor is intended. Assuming even that the perpetrator was such an adept at his work as to avoid badly cutting his fingers, he could not possibly help being covered with blood.
These razors were not mine, but my father's, and as for the four which the police took away, I did not even know of their existence; for, although they were in a box in our joint bedroom, they were old ones and had not been used for some time. I had no razor of my own, as I always go to a barber. The police evidence was as follows:
- In a box on a shelf in prisoner's bedroom I found four razors, all more or less stained as if by blood, the one marked "J. C. 6" specially so. This was wet, as if recently washed. This I indicated to prisoner's father, who began to rub it off with his thumb. I took possession of it again.
Note carefully that the police thought all the razors were stained by blood. Now let us take Dr. Butter's evidence, which is as follows, and is of great importance:
- On Friday, August 21st (N.B. — the razors were seized on Tuesday) I examined the razors and found no blood on them. One of the razors (J. C. 6) was wet; there was no blood on it.
Note the razor J. C. 6 was the same one as the police alleged was wet three days earlier.
It would be absurd for me to dispute the accuracy of Dr. Butter's assertion that this razor was wet, in view of the fact that his testimony throughout has been so greatly in my favour; but perhaps the police can best explain how the razor managed to remain wet in summer time from Tuesday to Friday, despite the fact of my father having "rubbed it off with his thumb!" If they maintain that the wetness remained for three days after it had been rubbed off, all I can say is that meteorological conditions in Staffordshire must be as curious as the methods of the police. But my father, mother, and sister, who were present when the police examined the razors, all declared that none of them were wet, and my father most emphatically denied rubbing the razor as alleged. One constable even swore he saw "two horse hairs" on this same "wet" razor, but as nobody else noticed them, and as he could not produce them, the prosecution had to admit that in his zeal he must have mistaken some other hairs for horse hairs.
In the pamphlet to which I have already referred my father says:
- The police alleged the razor was wet. This was an absolutely untrue statement. It was not wet when I examined it on August 18th — the day on which they took it from my house. But Dr. Butter says that when he examined it on August 21st it was wet... It is, however, a fact that when it left the vicarage it was not wet; how then came it to be wet? Unless the police allowed it in some way to become wet, it could not possibly have been wet at the time Dr. Butter examined it on August 21st. I solemnly and emphatically declare that the razor was perfectly dry on August 18th, when the police took it away from my house. George Edalji never had anything to do with my razors.
TRUTH (January 12th, 1905) remarks:
- The police evidence in regard to the razors as it stands proves nothing against the prisoner; rather the contrary. ... The suggestion apparently is that it had been washed after the commission of the crime. It is almost incredible that the prisoner, who ... must, according to the theory of the prosecution, have been in the habit of taking the most careful precautions against detection, would, after taking care to wash his bloodstained weapon, have neglected the simple precaution of drying it, and have left it wet in his room for examination by the first policeman who walked in. ... The conflict of evidence between the inspector and the father is not immaterial when weighing the value of the police evidence as to the wet condition of the razor when found. It is quite inconsistent with the frankness shown in the production of the clothing that the father should have resorted, as alleged, to the worse than useless attempt to destroy this evidence, such as it was, and his denial that he did so is therefore credible. But, apart from this, and apart from the fact that no trace of blood was, on analysis, found on any of the razors, it seems to me that a razor is one of the most unlikely and unsuitable instruments that could be selected by a man who was going out in the dark to attack horses and cattle.
This ridiculous theory that the deed was done with such an unsuitable instrument as a razor, because the said razor was alleged to be wet, because there were stains on it which were not bloodstains, and hairs which were not horse hairs, was only supported in a half-hearted fashion by the horse-slaughterer whom the police called as their "expert" on the matter, his convincing scientific testimony being simply that "the wound could have been done with a knife or a razor." As, however, he had to admit in cross-examination that he had "never seen a horse cut like that before," the reader will probably not attach much weight to this opinion, and will dismiss it as utterly valueless when he reads the following evidence of Mr. Lewis, the veterinary-surgeon, to whom I have already referred as being called for my defence:
- The instrument used was probably a sharp concave knife with the edge on the concave border, and with a large handle to afford a firm grip. Cross-examined: Such a wound could not have been inflicted with a razor.
I should remind the reader that the prosecution would not call this witness themselves.
Next, for Mr. Sewell's opinion, expressed after my conviction:
- In my judgment such a wound was inflicted by some sharp instrument having a firm handle, so as — I believe I am now using the words of Mr. R. N. Lewis — "to afford a firm grip"; with this view I concur.
Mr. Sewell also says:
- It seems to me a most singular circumstance that Mr. R. N. Lewis, having been called in to see this pony immediately on the discovery of the injury, was not called by the prosecution as a witness. That, in itself, in my judgment, is a reflection upon the manner in which the prosecution conducted their case.
And indeed, what would be thought of a murder trial if the only doctor who examined the deceased were not summoned to give evidence for the Crown, but his place taken by some unskilled person, such as a horse-slaughterer! And to show to what straits the prosecution were reduced, I give the horse-slaughterer's choice bit of "expert" testimony in full:
- The cut could have been done with a knife or razor. It may have been done some hours. I cannot say exactly. Cross-examined: I have never seen a horse cut like that before. I have no actual experience how long the pony would bleed. It is only my supposition that the wound had been done some hours.
And this is the evidence of one whom the police thought fit to bring in place of a skilled veterinary-surgeon!
ALLEGED MUDDY TROUSERS.
The police examined some trousers at the time they seized the coat and vest. They attached so little importance to them, however, that they did not take them away then, and gave this as their reason for not doing so. But seven hours later the police thought that these trousers might also be made to serve as evidence against me, and accordingly, three constables called for them. The trousers were immediately handed to them. The inspector's evidence regarding them was as follows:
- About 2.30 I received the trousers produced. They were not in the same condition as in the morning. They had been carefully cleaned. They were not so wet as in the morning. They were not wringing wet in the morning, but there was mud and dirt on the bottoms then. It was slate-coloured mud.
The sergeant's evidence was:
- Trousers had been cleaned when I saw them the second time. The first time there was clay on bottoms. We did not take them in the morning because little importance was attached to them.
A constable swore:
- I examined the trousers which I had seen in the morning, which prisoner's mother produced. They were not so wet as in the morning. They had been well cleaned. I attached no importance to trousers in the morning.
Some points call for notice in the evidence of these three officers. (1) It is obvious there was nothing incriminating on the trousers in the morning or the police would have taken them away. Their asking for them at 2.30 was a mere afterthought. (2) The inspector swore the alleged mud was "slate-coloured," while the sergeant referred to it as "clay." (3) If the trousers were wet at 7.45 it would only be natural for them to be drier at 2.30. (4) As the police did not want the trousers in the morning, there would be nothing remarkable even had they been cleaned as alleged. But, as a matter of fact, I did not wear those trousers that night; and further, I had not been out in them for months, and the police could not bring a single witness to prove that I had. They were certainly neither wet nor muddy.
My mother's evidence as to the trousers was as follows:
- The trousers which the inspector alleged had been cleaned were not brushed or cleaned by me. They were in exactly the same condition in the afternoon as in the morning. I saw them on both occasions. The police did not call attention to any difference in their condition.
My sister's evidence was:
- The trousers were in the same condition as they were in the morning. They had neither been brushed nor cleaned.
It was urged for the prosecution that this alleged cleaning of the trousers and allegation that they were drier in the afternoon was strong evidence of my guilt. Whether this was so I will leave the public to judge.
I come now to the most serious part of the whole case — the allegation of the police that they found a number of horsehairs on my coat and vest. Sir A. Conan Doyle, who carefully discussed this question, says:
- But now, having exhausted the white stains and the dark stains, we come to the most damning portion of the whole indictment, though a careful consideration may change one's view as to who it is who is damned by it.
The police evidence was that on the coat and vest they found a number of brownish coloured hairs which looked like horsehair. Some constable had charge of these garments, and subsequently took them to Cannock Police Station. In the afternoon a constable went to the horse-slaughterer, to whom I have already referred, in order to get a bit of the animal's hide. His statement was:
- I saw body of the horse which I had seen previously in the field, and saw the piece of skin (produced) cut off from underneath the animal close to the gash. I gave it to the inspector in the evening.
My father's evidence regarding the alleged hair was:
- In the study I saw my wife, daughter, and three police officers. The inspector said a horse had been maimed, and said they had come to see my son's clothes. I said, "What do you want to see my son's clothes for?" He replied, "You know a report was spread that he had been arrested some time ago, and we thought it would be proper first to examine his things." I said, "Is this the first house you have come to?" He replied, "Yes." I remarked, "It is a strange thing you should have come here in this way." My wife said, "They are taking some of George's things." I said, "I can't allow you to take them till I have seen them." A parcel containing the coat and vest was then opened and the coat thrown upon the desk. The inspector said, "There is some horsehair there." I asked him to point to the place where the hairs were to be seen. He pointed out a lower part of the coat and said, "There's a horsehair there." I examined the place and said, "There is no hair here at all." Some further conversation followed, and then suddenly he put his finger upon another place on the coat nearer to where I was standing, and, drawing two straight lines with his finger, he said, "Look here, Mr. Edalji, there's horsehair here." I looked at the place for a moment, and in order to have more light upon it I took the coat with both my hands and drew nearer to the window, and, after carefully examining it, I said to him, "There is, to be sure, no hair here; it is a clear surface." He then said that be wanted to take the coat with him, and I said, "You can take the coat. I am satisfied there is no horsehair upon it."
My mother's evidence was:
- The inspector only called our attention to one hair as being on the coat, and was most particular that my husband should not shake it off. I examined what he said was a hair and found it was a dark thread, and told him so.
My sister's account of the matter was:
- I was present when the inspector pointed out what he thought was a hair on my brother's coat. I looked at it and found it was a piece of roving.
Incidentally, I might mention in connection with this statement that Miss Foxley, formerly of Newnham College, and then headmistress of Queen Mary's High School, Walsall, wrote shortly after my trial that my sister was an exceedingly competent scientific observer, and adds:
- Wilful mis-statement on her part is as impossible in itself as it is inconsistent with her high principles and frank, straightforward character.
So much, then, for the evidence as to what was on the coat when the police took it away. Next, for Dr. Butter's testimony; and here it will be noticed at once that though the doctor's evidence regarding the blood, saliva, and razor was altogether in my favour, his evidence as to the hairs is just as much against me. Dr. Butter's statement was as follows:
- Principally on left breast of jacket and on the sleeves, more especially towards the cuffs, were numerous brownish or reddish-coloured short hairs about half an inch long. I picked off the jacket twenty-nine of this class and five off the vest.
I fully accept the doctor's statement that these hairs were on the coat when he examined it, and I also admit that the hairs were those belonging to the unfortunate pony.
The question I have to consider is how the hairs came to be on the coat, and there is certainly no point in connection with my case which has excited so much comment as the finding of these hairs. The police took the clothes before nine in the morning. Whether they let any other person have access to them before Dr. Butter saw them at 9 p.m. is not known, and whether the clothing was actually at Cannock Police Station when I was brought there in custody at about 1.30 on the day of my arrest, I cannot say. I have already mentioned that some official of higher rank refused to let me see the things when I arrived at the police-station, and not-withstanding my repeated requests during that afternoon to be allowed to examine them, my applications were always refused.
It has frequently been pointed out to me that it was an extraordinary thing that the police going direct from my home to the railway station (just opposite the vicarage) en route for Birmingham, professedly to obtain an explanation about the alleged hairs and the general condition of the clothing, should yet have neglected to bring with them the very garments they required me to give the explanation about. I submit, however, that their subsequent conduct in absolutely refusing to let me see the things at Cannock is more remarkable still. Surely if so much hair was on the coat when the police seized it they could have had no possible objection to allowing me to inspect it after my arrest.
I have no doubt in my own mind that the hairs got on the clothing through its somehow coming into contact with the piece of skin cut from underneath the pony. I know it was denied that this was the case, but probably the police were mistaken. In any case, surely the testimony of my father, mother, and sister, that there was no hair on the clothing when it was taken away, is entitled to as much weight as that of three policemen. When it is remembered what absurd mistakes these same constables made about the railway key, the botany spud, the razors, the alleged blood and saliva, and the tradesman's bill, is it not likely that they also made some mistake about this other matter, and actually mistook a thread or "roving" for horsehair?
It was alleged against me that when the police insisted on my giving some explanation about the hair I tried to bluff them with representations that as my home adjoined a field in which horses were kept, I must have got the hairs on my clothing by coming in contact with the fence and trees on which the animals continually rubbed. I do not now suppose that this was the true explanation, seeing that Dr. Butter subsequently found that the hairs were "similar in length, colour, and structure" to the hairs on the bit of skin cut from just near the wound on comparing there under the microscope both with a high and low power. I think, however, that most people will admit that what I said, while far from being an attempt at "bluff" was quite a natural explanation to offer, in view of the fact that I was not permitted to see the coat or any of the hairs, and that the coat had been used for gardening.
Of course, at that time I did not know that my parents had found no hair at all on the clothing. But there was an alternative explanation which I gave at the same time which was ridiculed by the prosecution as preposterous and utterly impossible, and one which showed, said counsel for the Crown, that I could make any idle excuse, however untenable. This damning remark was that the hair might be some which had been used in the making of the coat. For the reasons I have already given this was a quite feasible suggestion for me to make at that time, though it does not follow it was the correct one. Mr. W. T. Shapley writing in the DAILY TELEGRAPH, on January 15th last, says:
- Nearly all coats are lined to a certain extent with horse-hair cloth. Would this account for the finding of the horsehair (if any) before the coat was taken possession of by the police? Cases have been known when the horse-hair has worked from the inside to the outside of coats, especially in old garments.
Another correspondent of the DAILY TELEGRAPH, writing in that journal four days later, says:
- I have next to deal with the question of the hairs stated to have been found upon the coat. I was much impressed with the evidence of the parents, and firmly believe them to have been speaking nothing but what they believed true. How, then, about the presence of the hairs noticed by Dr. Butter? It may have been due to mere carelessness and to placing coat and skin in juxtaposition. It may have been due to the act of a single policeman. Remember the temptation was very great. The police had failed in their duty as protectors of society, and had earned, justly or unjustly, public contempt and even indignation. They certainly believed that Edalji was the criminal, and that if he escaped the ends of justice would be defeated and their own reputation damaged. Are we prepared to say that among the whole body of policemen there was not one who may not have done evil in order that what he thought good might be done? I am not bringing a wholesale accusation but those hairs were either due to the police, or to someone who had access to the coat, or to the accused. Against the latter supposition there is the evidence of the parents, which I that heard it am certainly prepared to accept. ... That an enemy did this I am convinced.
TRUTH (January 12th, 1905) says:
- As regards the hairs, the evidence depends primarily upon the statements of the police that they found hairs when they examined the coat, and this statement is flatly contradicted by the three members of the family, who could not see the hairs, while one says that an alleged hair was a piece of thread.
- Now we have it clearly proved by Dr. Butter that he found on the coat a "quality of hair," undoubtedly horsehair, and corresponding to that of the injured horse, which was of a chestnut colour. If there was this damning quantity of hair on the coat when first produced, it would have been absurd for the family to say that they could not see it when the police pointed it out. Between the time when the coat was produced and the time when it was handed to the analyst there was an interval of many hours, during which it had been in the possession of the police, and, moreover, it was sent to the analyst with a piece of skin cut from the horse for the purpose of comparison. There is quite enough here to expose the evidence in regard to the hair to serious suspicion.
I am informed by persons accustomed to dealing with horses that even if I had committed the outrage it is preposterous to suppose I should have got such a quantity of hair on the coat, and yet only two threepenny-bit spots of blood.
A well-known trainer of race-horses says:
- If the pony stood when lacerated its blood must have saturated the man's clothes. A few hairs only might stick to the coat cuffs. But suppose the man did his job so neatly and quickly as only to get two drops of blood on him (mind, I don't admit this possible), there would also be little, if any hair. I believe the wound slanted towards the head, coming up to the ribs, and I don't fancy it was done when the pony was lying down; but if so, while blood would spurt on the clothes, I don't think any hair would be found at all.
Sir A. Conan Doyle says:
- If one could for a moment conceive oneself performing this barbarity, one would not expect to find hairs upon one's coat. There is no necessary connection at all. Anxious to avoid the gush of blood, one would imagine that one would hold off the animal with the flat of one hand and attack it with the other. To lean one's coat against its side would be to bring one's trousers and boots in danger of being soaked in blood.
It has been urged that if any enemy of mine wanted to manufacture evidence against me by putting hair on the coat, how is it he did not complete his task by putting more blood on the coat; and why did he not stain the razors with blood, or put some saliva on the clothing? This is certainly a good point at first sight, seeing that the police did originally suppose there was a deal of blood and saliva on the clothes and razors. But if we examine it further it amounts to little or nothing; for while it would be simple enough to scatter a number of hairs over the coat, the putting of the saliva on would present a very great difficulty, and it would not be easy to put much blood on undetected. As for the razor, I have shown it did somehow become or remain wet three days after the police alleged it had been wiped.
I have before me a large amount of matter dealing with this important question of the hair. To reproduce it all would be impossible, but I think Sir A. Conan Doyle's remarks on the subject should be carefully studied by every reader. They will be found on pages 10 and 11 of his pamphlet on my case (published at one penny by Messrs. Blake and Co., 62, High Street, Putney, and which those who have not read it ought to get). He says:
- Now, here is a clear conflict of evidence between two groups of interested people — the constables on the one hand, eager to build up their case, the household on the other, eager to confute this terrible accusation. Let us suppose the two statements balance each other. But is it not evident that there was only one course open for the police now to establish their point, and that if they did not avail themselves of it they put themselves out of court? Their obvious course was then and there to send for a referee — the police doctor or any other doctor — and, picking samples of the hair from the coat, to have sealed them in an envelope, calling the newcomer to witness when and where they had been obtained. Such a proceeding must silence all doubt. But they did nothing of the kind.
- What they actually did was to carry off the coat, upon which three reputable witnesses have sworn there were no hairs. The coat then disappears from view for twelve hours. In the meantime the pony has been put out of its pain, and a portion of its hide was cut off with the hairs attached, and also secured by the police. The coat has been taken at eight in the morning. It was seen by Dr. Butter, the police surgeon, at nine in the evening. At that hour Dr. Butter picked twenty-nine undoubted obvious horsehair from its surface.
- The prosecution have here to break their way through two strong lines of defence, each within the other. On the one hand, if Edalji had done the crime the evening before, it was his blue serge coat and not his house coat that he wore, as is shown by the independent evidence of Mr. Hands. In the second line of defence is the oath of the family that there were no hairs in the morning, which is strengthened by the failure of the police to demonstrate there and then a fact which could have been so easily and completely demonstrated.
- But now we are faced by the undoubted fact that the hairs were there, upon the cuffs and the left breast, by evening. Why was the coat not taken straight to the surgeon? Why was a piece of the animal's hide sent for before the coat was shown to Dr. Butter? One need not fly to extreme conclusions. It is to be remembered that the mere carrying of hide and coat together may have caused the transference of hairs, of that the officers may themselves have gathered hairs on their clothes while examining the pony, and so unconsciously transferred them to the coat. But the fact that the hairs were found just on the cuffs and breast will still recur in the mind. It would be sad, indeed, to commit one injustice while trying to correct another, but when the inevitable inquiry comes this incident must form a salient point of it.
- There is one test which occurs to one's mind. Did the hairs all correspond with the type, colour, and texture of the hairs on the sample of hide? If they did, then they were beyond all question conveyed from that sample to the coat. The cut was down the belly, and the portion taken off was from the side of the cut. The under hair of a horse differs greatly from the longer, darker, harsher hair of the sides. A miscreant leaning against a horse would get the side hairs. If all the hairs on the coat were short belly hairs, then there is a suggestive fact for the inquiry. Dr. Butter must have compared their appearance.
- Since writing the above I have been able to get the words of Dr. Butter's evidence. They are quoted: "Numerous hairs on the jacket, which were similar in colour, length, and structure to those on the piece of skin cut from the horse." In that case I say confidently — and all reflection must confirm it — that these hairs could not possibly be from the general body of the pony, but must have been transferred, no doubt unconsciously, from that particular piece of skin. With all desire to be charitable, the incident leaves a most unpleasant impression upon the mind.
These scathing remarks led to a deal of correspondence in the DAILY TELEGRAPH. On January 15th Mr. A. H. Henderson-Livesey, of 5, The Avenue, Bedford Park, W., wrote:
- If the police went to the vicarage with the express object of making evidence to incriminate Edalji, why should they show the coat to the vicar at all? Why should they not have taken the coat without comment and put the hair on at the station? ... The fact that the police showed the vicar the coat is a distinct point in their favour.
Now, although Sir A. Conan Doyle did remark in his first article that "it was not on account of evidence, but in search of evidence," that the police visited my home, neither he nor I have asserted that the police actually went to the vicarage with the express object of fabricating evidence. On the contrary, I fully believe that the rascal who wrote the letters and circulated the false report of my arrest had so imposed upon the police that they did honestly think they would find something of an incriminating nature if they looked for it. Granting, then, that they expected to find these things, it is perhaps not altogether surprising that in their misdirected zeal and impetuosity they made the many mistakes they did, including probably one about the hair.
If the police will plainly state from whom they got the information which made them start watching me before any incriminating letter had been received and before any report had been spread of my arrest, it will not only, I feel confident, lead to the discovery of the letter-writer, but also serve to minimise any unpleasant suspicions to which Mr. Henderson-Livesey alludes, and which suspicions may be wholly dispelled by the police showing that, owing to their carelessness, the clothing may have somehow come in contact with the piece of skin. I have no doubt this is the real explanation, and that the police were mistaken when they so positively swore at my trial that it could not be so.
My father's reply (DAILY TELEGRAPH, January 17th) to Mr. Henderson-Livesey's letter was:
- It would seem ... he thinks the police first offered voluntarily to show me the coat in question, and that therefore it was a point in their favour. ... I found that they had already packed up the coat with a vest and were about to take it away, but I insisted upon it being seen by me before they took it away, and they then opened the parcel and allowed me to examine it. ... The garment was in possession of the police for twelve hours after it was taken from my home, and it was during those hours that my son asked them to show it to him, and they could have done so if they had any wish to be fair and straightforward.
My own reply to Mr. Henderson-Livesey was as follows:
- Your correspondent says, "Why should they not have taken the coat without comment, and put the hair on at the station?" My answer is that when they took the coat they did honestly think that two or three brownish threads which were on it were horsehair.
But there is a further part of Mr. Henderson-Livesey's letter, which is also deserving of notice. He says:
- How can it be confidently suggested that ... the hairs which adhered to the perpetrator's coat would necessarily be brittly hairs? (Mr. Livesey afterwards wrote that "brittly" was a misprint for "belly.") The author asks why the police cut off the animal's hide.
The above extracts plainly show how careless some people are in jumping at conclusions. If the reader refers back to Sir A. Conan Doyle's remarks, he will find that far from suggesting that the hairs would necessarily all be "belly" hairs, Sir Arthur was of the exactly contrary opinion, and his contention was that a man coming in close contact with a pony on a dark night would carry away with him an assorted lot of hairs (if any), and not a lot which exactly corresponded with the short hairs on one particular bit of skin. Consequently, the hairs found on my coat, as they all precisely corresponded with the hairs on that piece of skin, must have by some curious accident been transferred to the garment from the skin. Mr. Livesey, therefore, is really quite in agreement with Sir Arthur when he says that the hairs would not necessarily be from the abdomen.
It will also be noticed that Sir Arthur did not ask (as Mr. Livesey alleges) why the police cut off a piece of the animal's hide. The mere cutting off this piece of skin was a perfectly reasonable thing for them to do. The very pertinent questions which Sir Arthur put were: (1) Why was the coat not taken straight to the surgeon; and (2) Why did they not let Dr. Butter see it before they got the bit of skin?
Next I come to discuss what Sir A. Conan Doyle calls "the farce of the footprints."
In dealing with this important matter we must consider how and when did the police discover the existence of any footmarks, and what made them think they were like mine. Did they find them at the scene of the tragedy and trace them in true Sherlock Holmes fashion to my very door? Was it these footmarks which led them to suspect me? Nothing of the kind. The police searched for footmarks from 6.20 to after seven; but it is evident they found none of any importance, for this reason: Before leaving my home with the clothing they saw the boots I wore the night before. They left them, and went away. Five minutes later a constable returned for one of the boots. It is clear, therefore, neither any footmarks they had seen between 6.30 and 7, nor the appearance of the boots, were such as to arouse their suspicions then, and that the returning for the boots was a mere afterthought.
Is it likely they would have lost sight of the boots for one moment, if their condition had been in any way suspicious? Is it probable that if they had noticed any suspicious footprints before seven, they would not have left someone there to see to their preservation while they got the boot to compare? But they did nothing of the kind.
At 9.30 a constable (alone) began to look for footmarks to compare with mine. He says:
- I put the boot by the side of the print flat on the ground, pressed it down with both my hands, and then I eased the hand near the heel and pressed down with the hand nearest the toe.
I ask the reader to note his mode of comparison particularly, because this was the way in which the mud got on my boots, which was so strongly urged by the prosecution as damning evidence against me.
MEASURED WITH BITS OF STICK AND STRAW.
Now, the pony was found mutilated at 5.40 a.m., so it was nearly four hours later when the constable commenced his comparison, and though during that interval it was admitted that lots of people had been there and that there were many other footmarks, he appears to have found prints corresponding with mine without the slightest difficulty. He followed the trail over grass, clover, and stubble fields; so great was his zeal and so keen his perception, that, although the grass was long, this in no way put him off the scent. He pursued the track over a headland where only the day before the grain had been cut — where the reapers had been trampling. He traced the marks unerringly over the bridge across a brook, over hedges and ditches, over gates and stiles; losing the scent in one place, he promptly picked it up in another, ultimately losing it altogether in a field-path, or lane leading to the main road, which was not so near to my house as to several others.
In the afternoon the constable pointed out this important discovery to his superior officers. It was alleged that the footmarks were still quite plain, and the inspector and sergeant began to make impressions on their own account. It seems not unlikely that they accidentally compared the impressions, which they then made with those made by the constable in the morning. It never occurred to these officers to photograph the footmarks; they never thought of making a cast of them, nor did they think of covering them up or preserving them in any way; it did not occur to them that they could not accurately measure them with bits of stick and straw, and they never thought of using a rule or tape. They did not consider it desirable to point out the similarity in the footmarks to any independent person, nor did they think it proper to inform me or my friends, so that someone on my behalf should examine them.
Asked why they did not get up a clod of earth in the field, they said it was too soft. Asked next why they did not dig up a clod from the path, they declared there it was too hard. Although on account of its fleeting character, this evidence about the footprints was the most important thing to mention as soon as possible, the police said not so much as a word about it at the preliminary hearing the day after my arrest, and although they had two other opportunities of mentioning it, they found it convenient not to do so for more than a fortnight. And yet they had not failed to speak of the alleged blood, saliva, horsehair, stained razors, damp clothing, different condition of trousers, and, indeed, other things of the least importance, on the very day after my arrest.
The similarities alleged to exist between the footmarks were that they were of the same size and shape (when measured with the bits of stick and straw) as the prints made by my own boot, and that the left boot was very much "down at heel." There was no other similarity. On the night of the outrage I had been nowhere near where the footmarks were found. Until three days after my release from prison, when I went on purpose to see it, I had never been in the field where the crime was committed, nor in the fields where the footprints were traced, except the one with the path in, nearest to the main road. In this latter field I had not been for over a fortnight, and, then, not in the boots the police used to trace the footmarks, as they had not been worn for months, and it was only accidentally I came to wear them that night owing to my having to take the boots I usually wore in the country to be repaired.
A "down at heel" boot is common enough; and further, the boots were bought ready made at a large shop in Walsall, so that scores of people in the district would be wearing the same size and shape. But, as my counsel remarked at the trial, it would have been an odd footmark indeed which would have convinced the police it was not the one they were after.
NO CRITICISM ALLOWED.
A juryman who pointed out that the police could not have accurately compared the footmarks in the way they alleged was ordered by the chairman to keep quiet.
"You had better not make any remarks like this," said Sir Reginald Hardy; "you must not criticise."
A large number of people have pointed out through the Press and otherwise that footmarks are only of value (1) when promptly followed up and most minutely examined and accurately measured. (2) When there is a missing nail or some other distinctive mark both in the boot and the footprint.
In my case there was no distinctive mark, nor were the footprints immediately followed. Exception has also been taken to the manner in which the police pressed down my boot into the ground, the evidence of the constable who made the impressions being: "I put the boot by the side of the print. I put the boot flat on the ground, pressed it down with both hands, and then I eased the hand near the heel and pressed down with the hand nearest the toe."
It has been repeatedly pointed out that even assuming this was the proper way to compare the marks, it must, owing to the wet condition of the ground have inevitably covered the boots with mud, and that consequently it was most unfair to produce the muddy boots as evidence against me, and to point out that the mud was of the same kind as that in the field. Further, my parents swore that the uppers of the boots were quite clean and glossy when taken away; while, when produced in court, they were covered with mud.
A barrister says:
- As to the boots, the identification utterly fails. To begin with, a "down at heel" boot (and this was the "identification") is no uncommon thing. The path also, upon which rain had fallen during the night from midnight onward, was not examined till some time after the crime. P.C. Cooper's evidence was that "he made impressions in the morning with the left boot" — an impression of a boot "down at heel" would not be difficult either to impress or to match. The whole story is rather a stupid one, for there was not any idea of taking a plaster cast or doing anything but looking at the soft ground, sticking a boot "down at heel" into it, then taking the boot up and looking at the ground again, and this is called "identification." Further, the path itself, such as it is, is used constantly by miners going to and from the Great Wyrley Colliery. Footmarks only become important in a position not frequently trodden on, upon examination made at once, and where there is an absence of nails in a boot corresponding with the marks, or some malformation of the foot.
Commenting on the footmarks, TRUTH (January 12th, 1905) says:
- The field in which the wounded horse was found was visited, walked over, and trampled upon during the two or three hours succeeding the discovery by four or five witnesses who were called at the trial, and undoubtedly by a large crowd of curious sightseers. ... That they (the police) should have been able, under these circumstances, to trace the prisoner's footprints by comparing them with his bootmarks is on the face of it very singular. So is the fact that no photographs of the impressions should have been taken, or any independent evidence obtained, to corroborate the bare assertion of the police.
The constable who made the first comparison between my boot and the alleged footmarks said (in cross-examination):
- The heel made a peculiar impression. The peculiar impression on the ground was that the heel was short. The unworn part of the heel was the only part giving the impression, and the back part had missed.
The inspector, who subsequently examined the footmarks, said:
- The heel looked broad and short in consequence of being worn at the back. I measured the footprints with bits of stick and straw.
In connection with this evidence, several people have pointed out that while anybody wearing a "down-at-heel" boot would make a short impression of the heel, it does not necessarily follow that such an impression could not be made by an unworn heel, provided the person was running.
Sir A. Conan Doyle says:
- The outrage had occurred just outside a large colliery, and hundreds of miners going to their work had swarmed along every approach in order to see the pony. The soft, wet soil was trampled up by them from six o'clock onwards, yet at four o'clock of that afternoon, eight hours after the seizure of the boots, we have Inspector Campbell endeavouring to trace a similarity in tracks.
- The particular boot was worn at the heel — a fairly common condition — and some tracks among the multitude were down at the heel and why should not the one be caused by the other? No cast was taken of the tracks. They were not photographed. They were not cut out for the purpose of expert comparison. So little were they valued by Inspector Campbell that he did not even mention them to the magistrates on the 19th. But in retrospect they grew more valuable, and they bulked large at the trial.
"A Country J.P." writing in the DAILY TELEGRAPH on January 15th last, points out that my case bears a remarkable similarity to that of a man convicted many years ago for the murder of a policeman near Manchester. The evidence was entirely circumstantial, the main items being that the boots of the convicted man bore mud exactly similar to that found on the spot where the murdered constable's body was found, and that footprints were found corresponding to the impressions made by the prisoner's boots. The man was sentenced to death. A petition in his favour was presented to the Home Secretary. It was treated much in the same way as the many memorials on my behalf — that is to say, while in my case the Home Office released me on completion of three years, in the case I am referring to the death penalty was commuted to penal servitude for life. By this decision the Home Office, of course, placed itself in a most illogical position, because if the man was innocent he should have been at once set free while if guilty he deserved to be hanged. After eight years' incarceration it was conclusively proved that the notorious Charles Peace was the culprit, where-upon the unfortunate victim of this miscarriage of justice received the Queen's "pardon," together with the magnificent recompense of £800.
Mr. J. D. Barton, writing in the same journal, draws attention to the striking similarity between the evidence in my case and that in the Whalley Range murder trial. Referring to that case, Mr. Barton says:
- The facts were stains — said by police constables to be traces of blood — found on coat, wet, muddy boots, footprints, supposed to coincide with those made in a field, the scene of the murder. Conviction, miscarriage of justice, release after long penal servitude, compensation of £2,000 and farm in Ireland. A clear demonstration of the worthlessness of the evidence of village policemen.
I have now fully discussed the alleged stains, hairs, and footprints. In conclusion, I will reproduce some remarks from a memorial sent to the Home Office by the Personal Rights Association (32 Charing Cross, S.W.) two years ago and published in the INDIVIDUALIST for May, 1905:
- The razor relied on by the prosecution does not seem to be capable of causing such an injury as that inflicted on the horse in question; moreover, no traces of blood were found on it. ... It would have been impossible for a man to inflict such an injury on the horse without being more largely stained with blood on his coat sleeves, and also stained on other parts of his dress. The description given of the traces on the prisoner's coat sleeves, as seen on August 18th, do not indicate fresh bloodstains, and there was nothing to show that the blood was horse's blood.
As regards the footprints, this memorial pointed out that there were several sets of footmarks leading in the direction opposite front my home, "which were not followed by the police because they had suspected Edalji"; and, further, that had I been the criminal
- the police would have found a couple of sets of footprints, one leading from the vicarage to the place and the other from the place to the vicarage, whereas careful examination revealed but a single set of footprints made by the boot with the worn heel, and no steps appear to have been taken to ascertain whether these footprints could be traced approaching the scene of the outrage from the opposite side before they passed on towards the vicarage.
I may mention that in explanation of this last observation the police asserted that I must have gone to the field by a different route to that by which I returned from it, and that although the footmarks made on the return journey were still plainly visible (to the police eyes) at three o'clock in the afternoon of the day of my arrest, the marks made on my way to the field were not even discernible first thing in the morning.
REMARKABLE POLICE THEORY.
The pony was observed to be all right at 9 p.m. by the owners' servant. Cross-examined, he said it was quite light enough to see the animal was uninjured then, and he was perfectly sure about it. Precisely at nine o'clock I was seen by several people walking on the road quite a mile and a half from the field, and at 9.25 I was noticed entering the vicarage grounds. I shall say more about these times later on, but I ask the reader to bear them in mind. As, then, the pony was all right at 9 p.m., but was found shockingly mutilated at 5.40 next morning, it was obvious even to the rather limited intelligence of the Staffordshire police that it must have been injured between those hours, and it only remained for them to fix the time as nearly as possible.
Now, I suppose under such circumstances, a skilled veterinary surgeon would not presume to determine the exact minute of the tragedy, nor even probably the precise hour, and this being so, it will no doubt surprise the reader to learn that the police apparently found no difficulty in deciding that the pony must have been maimed between 9 and 10 p.m. This hypothesis was originally propounded by the prosecuting solicitor before the Cannock magistrates, and at my trial it was sworn to be still the theory of the police both by the inspector and constables, and upon it the whole case was built up.
But the prosecution appears to have come prepared to trim their sails to suit any breeze — to declare white was black, or if not black, then green, or any colour best suited to the moment; and so, when this theory was conclusively proved to be untenable and absolutely ridiculous on the face of it, in so much that counsel was unable to say one word in support of it in his closing speech, he promptly threw it over and coolly declared that, after all, the police were probably mistaken and that if I did not commit the crime during the time I was seen out I must have done it at some other hour of the night, and that, owing to the unusual darkness, I escaped detection. He brought not a tittle of evidence in support of this second theory, to which my counsel had no right of replying, and the chairman in his summing-up never so much as referred to this sudden change of front.
My father, in his pamphlet on my case, says (p. 20):
- Counsel therefore made light of the police theory (i.e., the theory that the crime was committed before 10 p.m.), and that suggested that George Edalji must have gone out at some other hour of the night to do the deed. This was nothing but reasoning in a circle, for the learned counsel assumed that George Edalji had actually done the deed, and then proceeded to assume that he must have gone out of his house at night to do it. But there was no evidence produced in support of either of these assumptions. That the deed was done by George Edalji was in itself merely an assumption on the part of the police, and to bolster it up the learned counsel resorted to the device of forming another assumption to the effect that George Edalji must have gone out at some hour of the night to do it.
A correspondent of the DAILY TELEGRAPH, who was present at the trial, says (January 19th), referring to this matter:
- What struck me next was the damage inflicted on the defence by the sudden change of front executed by the prosecution. Their first theory having completely broken down, they were permitted at a late date in the trial to start a new theory, viz., that the outrage took place after midnight. This new theory was sprung upon the defence. They were not prepared with evidence on the question of eyesight, which, of course, assumed an importance which it had not previously possessed. (N.B. — Up to 9.25 it was not particularly dark.) There was hardly time for it to be noted that the new theory postulated either an almost supernatural adroitness on the part of the accused, or an absolute incapacity on the part of the police, if he were able to run the gauntlet against police supervision both around the house and in the near neighbourhood of the place where the outrage was committed.
TRUTH (January 12th 1905), after remarking that the original theory of the police was that I committed the crime before 9.30, goes on to say:
- But after the evidence of the veterinary surgeon the prosecution shifted their ground, and in is concluding speech Mr. Disturnal impugned the evidence as to the prisoner's habit of sleeping in his father's room, and endeavoured to suggest to the jury that he might have gone out again in the night for the purpose of committing the crime. All that it is necessary to say about this is that it is a mere gratuitous suggestion, at variance with all the sworn evidence, and even if it were adopted I think no one will deny that the theory of this gentleman, after retiring to rest in the usual way, stealing out at three o'clock in the morning, with his father's razor in his hand, and roaming the fields in search of some animal to kill, necessarily involves the assumption of his complete insanity and irresponsibility for his actions.
Seeing that the whole case was originally based on the theory that the outrage was perpetrated between nine and ten o'clock, and that this hypothesis was not abandoned till the fourth day of my trial, it seems very desirable to ascertain what made the police think the pony must have been injured during that time, and stick to their theory until the eleventh hour. The most obvious reason that occurs to one's mind is that the person who discovered the unfortunate animal or the day of my arrest must have said something which led the police to suppose that this was the case. Let us, therefore, see what he did say. His evidence was as follows:
- I was walking through the Great Wyrley Colliery Company's field; I go that way to work every day. I knew the pony and it would come to me. It did so that morning. I noticed it was cut towards the left side. Blood was trickling down. There was a lump of fat hanging out of the cut. Cross-examined: I saw pony at 5.40. I saw something like fat protruding from wound. Blood was dropping pretty quickly.
Now I don't think there is anything in this very clear statement which could possibly have made the police suppose the animal had been mutilated between nine and ten the night before. In fact, I should have imagined that any person of even moderate intelligence would have been convinced that as the pony was able to move freely, and, moreover, as its blood was "dropping pretty quickly," it could not possibly have been injured so long ago, as the continued bleeding would have exhausted it. About twenty minutes later the animal was seen by a servant of the owners, who said:
- It did not bleed much after I saw it, but blood was still dropping.
The next people to visit the pony were the police. A constable reached the field at 6.20, and found the pony scarcely bleeding at all then. At my trial he said he thought the animal was injured before 9.30 p.m., but could give no reason for this supposition.
It was not till seven that the inspector reached the field. He found the wound had almost stopped bleeding, but "saw marks of blood in several places in the field," and "a large quantity of blood in a shed where the pony had evidently been standing." He added, "the bowels were protruding. The blood in the shed was partly dried." He also expressed an opinion at the trial that the pony was maimed between nine and ten, giving as his reason the fact of the blood being partly dried in the shed. The mere fact of partly dried blood does not, however, to my mind, necessarily show that the deed must have been done so early the previous night. "Partly dried" is rather a vague term, and it seems quite probable that if the crime had been committed even as late, say, as three in the morning, some of the blood might have yet been "partly dried" by 7 a.m. in the shed.
I think, therefore, that the inspector's evidence was certainly not such as to warrant the prosecution in setting up the theory they did, and I believe most people will agree with me as to this when they read the evidence of the sergeant who examined the pony at the same time as the last witness. It is as follows:
- There was very little blood dripping from the wound. I went into the shed and found blood. It was partly dried. It was a patch. Cross-examined: I am a country-man, and know something about horses. The blood in the shed was dry. The animal was bleeding little. The blood was not drying on wound, but it appeared that the crime had been done some time. It might have been done four or five hours.
Here, then, was direct evidence against the police theory. As the sergeant saw the pony at 7 a.m., the animal was probably injured between two and three. Unless we are to take it that the prosecution assumed the mere fact of this officer swearing that in his opinion the wound had been inflicted four or five hours was proof positive that it must have been done quite double that time, it is difficult to see how they arrived at the theory they did.
So far, then, there is nothing whatever to justify the police assumption that the crime was committed between nine and ten. The next person to examine the animal was the veterinary surgeon, Mr. Lewis. This gentleman was summoned by the owners of the pony, and he made a very careful examination of the wound and of the general condition of the animal at 8.30 on the eventful morning. Surely, exclaims the reader, here is the very man of all others who would be most likely from his professional knowledge and experience to be able to fix approximately the hour at which the pony met with this horrible attack.
True enough; nobody would be more competent to express an opinion on such a subject than one of the members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons; but yet, as the reader may recollect, the police, after taking his statement, unceremoniously cast him of in favour of a horse slaughterer, who did not even see the animal till after it was dead.
Mr. Lewis was however, called for my defence, and I have previously given his evidence showing that the wound could not have been inflicted with a razor, and it now remains for me to lay before the reader his statement as to the probable time at which the crime was committed. After saying that he first saw the pony at 8.30 a.m., he described the injury in technical terms, adding that the gash
- penetrated the abdominal wall completely, and a portion of the large intestine was protruding through. As there was not any hope of the pony being able to survive. I ordered its slaughter. In my opinion, the wound had been done within six hours at the uttermost, for the following reasons:
- 1. The pony was not stiff, and could move freely.
- 2. The wound appeared quite fresh, and was even then bleeding a little.
- 3. He had a good, strong, bounding pulse, which was only slightly above normal frequency.
- 4. The mucous membranes were not injected.
- 5. The general appearance of the animal was quite in accordance with a recent wound of that character.
It will be observed that as it was 8.30 when Mr. Lewis made this examination, the effect of his evidence is that the maiming occurred some time after 2.30 the same morning. Half an hour later Mr. Wootton, acting on instructions, shot the poor animal. His evidence was:
- I killed it at nine o'clock. I did not remain with carcass till the horse-slaughterer came about ten o'clock, when no one was with it. I shot the horse. It immediately fell.
And now, at ten o'clock, an hour after the pony had been dead, arrives the horse-slaughterer, the last actor on the scene of this tragedy. He finds that all is over, and that there is nothing for him to do but remove the victim's carcass. His evidence was as follows:
- About 10 a.m. I fetched from field opposite the Wyrley Colliery carcass of a light brown pony. There was a cut underneath it 15 inches long. The cut could have been made with a knife or razor. It may have been done some hours; I cannot say exactly. I took carcass to my place at Cannock. Cross-examined: I have never seen a horse cut like that before. I have no actual experience how long the pony would bleed. It is only my supposition that wound had been done some hours.
One looks in vain for even a single word in this statement, which could have made the police think the pony must have been maimed between nine and ten the previous night. Could anything be more inconclusive than the words: "It may have been done some hours?" The pony was actually found injured at 6.40, nearly four hours and a half before this witness saw its lifeless remains, so that under any circumstances he was perfectly safe in making the very guarded statement which he did. Of course, I in no way suggest that he was not a trustworthy witness in so far as his veracity was concerned, but his want of experience (on his own admission) made his testimony valueless as opposed to that of the veterinary surgeon. The Birmingham DAILY MAIL thus refers to this matter:
- The next witness, Wm. Cooper, horse-slaughterer, Cannock, deposed to the removing of the carcass of the horse to Cannock. Counsel was proceeding to ask witness if he formed any opinion as to the cut in the horse's stomach when Mr. Vachell objected, and said that if the prosecution wanted an expression of opinion they should call in skilled professional witnesses. Witness, who was no doubt a very worthy man, was not, he submitted, qualified by experience and study to express such an opinion. The Court overrulled the objection.
I have before mentioned that no criticisms were allowed by the judge in respect of any of the evidence given against me, and I may here add that the numerous objections and protests made by my counsel throughout the trial were almost invariably overridden or ignored by the court in the same manner as in the instance I have just referred to.
I need not again advert to the conflict of opinion between this horse-slaughterer and the veterinary surgeon regarding the possibility of the wound having been done with a razor, but I would remind the reader that the latter witness occupied a similar professional position in respect to the pony as a medical man would occupy regarding a human being, whom he attended immediately before his patient's decease, and of the words of Mr Sewell, the eminent London veterinary surgeon:
- It seems to me a most singular circumstance that Mr R. N. Lewis, having been called in to see the pony immediately on the discovery of the injury, was not called by the prosecution as a witness. That in itself, in my judgment, is a reflection upon the manner in which the prosecution conducted their case.
But there are other facts which make the conduct of the prosecution in calling a horse-slaughterer instead of a veterinary surgeon even more reprehensible than if they had called no witness at all, namely:
(1) The horse-slaughterer never saw the pony till an hour after it had been shot. Further, it was proved that when the animal fell the concussion altered the appearance of the wound so that, assuming that the horse-slaughterer carefully examined the wound, it must have appeared in a totally different condition then from what it did at 8.30 a.m. when the veterinary surgeon inspected it.
(2) It seems, both from the vague and guarded statements of the horse-slaughterer, and from other circumstances, that he did not carefully examine the wound. Certainly he does not state in his evidence that he did so, and, indeed, it appears his only duty was to remove the carcass. It was proved that the inspector and sergeant (who had charge of my case) had not received the veterinary surgeon's opinion at the time the horse-slaughterer removed the dead animal, and therefore it seems inconceivable that they should have asked the horse-slaughterer to make any particular examination of the nature of the wound. Further, it was proved that these officers were not present either when the veterinary surgeon or when the horse-slaughterer saw the pony, and that they knew nothing of the result of the examination till they returned from Birmingham in the afternoon having then arrested me. Moreover, the police did not cast off the veterinary surgeon in favour of the horse-slaughterer till several days after the tragedy.
Having then shown that the evidence of the person who discovered the animal, the evidence of the police constables, the veterinary surgeon, and the horse-slaughterer contained nothing to lead one to suppose the animal was mutilated between nine and ten; while, on the other hand, all their statements contained more or less striking testimony to the contrary, it becomes necessary to look elsewhere in order if possible to find out what on earth made the prosecution set up the theory they did and stick to it so pertinaciously till the last day of my trial.
It was certainly not because anybody ever saw me in the field or near it, or even on the way to or from it, for the nearest spot to it at which I was seen was exactly opposite my own home and fully half a mile away. Surely, if a man is noticed walking in the streets near Euston Station, and at some hour of the night a murder is committed somewhere in the neighbourhood of Regent's Park, these facts in themselves would be no evidence either that the particular man was the murderer or that the murder must have been committed within half an hour of the time he was seen.
Was it, then, that I was noticed acting in a suspicious manner or trying to avoid observation? Nothing of the sort; for I was only seen walking on the main road at an ordinary pace, and the various persons who saw me were themselves walking on the same road and said there were also many other persons about, so that there was no more ground for suspecting anyone else. Further, is it likely I should have thus shown myself in a populous part of the parish had I just committed or been about to commit such an atrocity?
I saw it stated recently that the prosecution decided the crime must have been committed before ten, because I was seen on the road wearing the clothes about which the police made such absurd mistakes. I must point out therefore, that I was certainly not out at all in those clothes; and, further, that none of the witnesses ever suggested I was wearing them. Moreover, Mr. Hand, at whose shop I called during the evening, swore positively that the coat which was shown to him at the trial "was not the one." True, a client of mine who saw me at my home earlier in the evening, and who was called for the prosecution, declared I was wearing the coat then. He professed to identify it by the colour and shape and by nothing else. As a matter of fact, it was not the one; but as it was almost the same colour and exactly the same shape, it is not surprising that he made a mistake, especially as there had been nothing particular to direct his attention to it at the interview. As, however, the question was not what I wore in the house, but what I wore outside, my counsel did not think it worth while to contradict him, and, of course, his evidence was wholly irrelevant.
Perhaps, then, it was the alleged "damp" clothing which led the police to conclude the crime was committed before ten? Certainly not, for they themselves swore there was not a drop of rain before 11.30.
Had, then, the footmarks anything to do with it? Nothing whatever, for two excellent reasons, namely, (1) Because no footprints were alleged to be found at any point where I was seen by the witnesses, nor were any marks found showing that I had turned off the main road in order to go to the field. (2) The heavy rain which commenced at 11.30, and according to the police continued till 5.30 a.m., would obliterate any marks made before 10 p.m. Further, the police admitted there was no trace of water at all in the alleged footmarks, although there were puddles all around, which seems conclusively to indicate that if there were any footprints at all they were of very recent origin.
WATCHING THE FIELD.
It was proved that the duty of the large body of police stationed at Wyrley on special night work was not confined to merely watching for the mutilator, but they were also required to visit all animals in the fields from time to time, in order that if any of them were found to be injured immediate steps might be taken to track down the criminal. The sergeant, to whom I have already referred in discussing the many mistakes which the police made about the clothing, etc., was watching the field, the scene of the outrage, during part of the night; but two constables were specially appointed to guard this field, and they were there all night, having gone on duty shortly after 9.30. Here, then, were the very men who should have been able to state positively whether or not the pony was all right when they commenced their vigils. If it was safe and sound at that time, then, of course, the whole bottom immediately drops out of the already shattered theory of the police that the crime was committed between nine and ten, and the prosecution are further confronted with another awkward fact, namely, that somehow or other this unfortunate pony was disembowelled while the police were there, and practically under their very noses without them seeing or hearing anything likely to arouse their suspicions.
The fact that the field is one of only about an acre and a half, that it is in a most secluded position, and without any tree or other things to obstruct the view, and that the approaches to it could be easily guarded, makes the possibility of the crime having been perpetrated under such circumstances leave a very unpleasant impression on the mind.
If, on the other hand, the constables found the animal mutilated, either when they went on duty, or at any other hour of the night, their conduct in not forthwith reporting the matter is more extraordinary still. Whichever way the prosecution looked at the matter, therefore, it was evidently a most embarrassing predicament; but, as I have already shown, the police had no hesitation about ousting a veterinary surgeon when his evidence didn't fit their case, so the reader will not be surprised to learn that these two constables who were watching the field met with the same fate and were never called to give evidence. Not a word did counsel for the Crown say about those men, and from the evidence-in-chief, as given for the prosecution, it appeared that nobody was watching the field at all, and this, no doubt, was just what the police wished people to suppose.
Fortunately, however, for the cause of justice, it is permissible to cross-examine witnesses touching points which have not been dwelt on in the examination-in-chief, and the inspector and sergeant were questioned about the watch kept on the field, and it was only by driblets that the truth, or so much of the truth as they deemed it expedient to divulge, was pumped out of them.
The inspector said he was responsible for all the men, but he only gave general directions where they were to go. He gave no written instructions, and there were no books or writings in existence showing where any men had been on any particular night. Two men were watching the field besides the sergeant who was there on and off. When he heard the pony had been maimed he asked his men which officers had been watching this field. He was not quite sure who they were, but believed Bradley and Weaver were the names given to him. He did not know that they would be called as witnesses, and believed it was not considered necessary. He did not know whether the men examined the pony when they went on duty, but believed not. He was told the sergeant saw it standing in the field at 11 p.m., and thought it was all right. He believed the other officers had examined it too during the night. It was their duty to satisfy themselves as far as possible that it was all right. He believed they had no matches or lanterns. He believed the night was too dark to see whether the animals were all right. He could not explain how it was the constables did not look at the pony before going home after five in the morning when it was light enough to see it, but he denied that their omission to do so was gross negligence on their part.
The sergeant said he had a number of men working for him under his directions. He told them where to watch. He gave verbal instructions only. He gave no instructions to use pocketbooks or take down directions. He kept no pocketbook himself, as he did not think it necessary. He believed there was no documentary evidence dealing with the watching. The men went on duty between 9.30 and 10. It was their duty to examine the animals from time to time during the night. He did not think they looked at the pony when they went on duty. It was an unusually dark night after 10.30 and impossible to see. He was in the field at 11 p.m., and went with a man named Weaver to look at the pony. They went as close to it as possible, but had some difficulty in finding it. They could not tell if it was a pony or not. They struck no lights. They came away not knowing whether it was injured or not. He did not think it advisable to immediately report to the inspector that he could not tell whether the pony was all right. It commenced raining about 11.30, and rained hard all that night.
It was raining when he went home after 5 a.m. He did not look at the pony when it was light in the morning, because it was not his duty. He had heard that a man named Bradley saw the pony during the night. As far as he could remember it was not the duty of anyone but Bradley and Weaver to examine the pony. He did not know why they were not called as witnesses. He did not know at what times they went to look at the pony during the night. It was not much use going at all, as it was too dark.
He could not explain why they left the animal unnoticed in the morning when it was light enough to see it. If they were not sure whether it was all right during the night it would have been well for them to have satisfied themselves at daybreak, but he did not consider them negligent in not doing so.
It appears to me a most extraordinary thing if the police really kept no memoranda of their doings in connection with the Wyrley sensations. I had hitherto always thought that every constable carried a notebook in which to record all matters of any importance in which he was concerned whilst on duty. Of course, I can see that the alleged absence of notebooks and the giving of only verbal instructions to the men was a very convenient arrangement for the police — quite as convenient for the prosecution, in fact, as was the receipt of the anonymous letters making me out to be member of a "gang," and so providing for the contingency of outrages after my arrest — but though it might have been very embarrassing for the police to have had to produce any notebooks or written instructions I can scarcely believe that no documentary evidence as to the work of the detectives and the watching of the field was ever in existence, though I dare say there was none at the time of my trial. Even making the fullest allowance for the very crude and peculiar methods apparently adopted by the Staffordshire constabulary in their attempts to put an end to the outrages, I cannot imagine that no notes were kept of their work.
In this connection I might incidentally refer to one of Mr. G. R. Sims' "Byways of Babylon" stories which appeared in No. 868 of this journal. In the course of a very interesting article on the night work of the police in London, Mr. Sims says:
- But if anything happens — a quarrel in the street, a disturbance in a public-house, a collision in the roadway, a slip on the pavement, or anything of that kind, you will notice that his interest becomes keen at once, and that his notebook and pencil are instantly produced.
- For the constable must keep a diary. In the day it is a diary of the day; in the dark hours it is a diary of the night. He will enter the particulars of every occurrence that is in the remotest way connected with the good order and safety of the streets. Every constable when he goes off duty reports from his diary to the inspector, and the inspector copies the reports out into a big ledger of daily events, which is kept in the most methodical manner possible at every police-station.
It is plain, therefore, that whatever lax methods may prevail in the county of Stafford, things appear to be different elsewhere.
The suppression of the evidence of the two constables who were watching the field raises a host of queries to which it is impossible even to hazard an answer. First comes the all-important question, why were they not called? That they were not kept back in order to further the interests of justice or with a view to eliciting the truth is abundantly clear. Was it, then, because the prosecution dreaded some disclosures which would inevitably blast their wonderful "theory" which in the end they had to throw overboard altogether? Did these constables or either of them report that when they went on duty or at some other hour of the night the animal was uninjured? If so, the public will readily understand why it was "not thought necessary" to call them, and will be able also to form a very good opinion of the "theory" that the crime was committed between nine and ten, as well as of the bonâ fides of a prosecution which advances such a theory. If the police did not visit the pony immediately they went on duty what explanation can they give of such a serious omission? Why did they wait till it got too dark to see anything?
Surely officers going on duty between 9.30 and 10 would promptly satisfy themselves that the animal which they had to look after was all right then. It seems inconceivable that they should have delayed doing so for nearly an hour and a half and waited till it was too dark to see anything owing to the heavy downfall of rain which was then imminent. If they really could not see whether the pony was uninjured it appears strange they failed to report the matter forthwith to the inspector and so get a light. It seems stranger still that they should not have looked at the animal at daybreak if they had not previously made sure that it was all right. Surely, if they had any doubts the last thing they would have done before leaving would have been to satisfy themselves about it.
One is forced to the conclusion, therefore, that the pony was undoubtedly found to be uninjured at some hour of the night by the men who were watching. If, as seems most likely, they did examine the animal and see that it was all right when they went on duty, and assuming also that they remained at their posts all night, one can perhaps understand them not going to look at it in the morning if they heard no suspicious sounds during the night. I should doubt, however, if the pony would submit to be so horribly mutilated without either making a noise or galloping away.
The whole affair is a most mysterious one, and the only point that is clear is that the pony could not have been injured between nine and ten, as the police tried to make out. As for the other queries raised, they are conundrums which the two constables alone can solve.
WITNESSES TO MY MOVEMENTS.
The police brought five witnesses to testify to my movements on the night of the crime. I gave evidence for myself, and besides my parents, sister, and Miss D. Earp (a servant at the vicarage), I called five wholly independent witnesses in support of my statements. As regards three of these latter witnesses it will, I am sure, not surprise the reader to learn that the police originally took statements from them, but unceremoniously cast them off on finding that this evidence did not fit in with what Sir A. Conan Doyle has described as "their pre-arranged campaign."
First, then, for the witnesses brought by the prosecution.
Mr. Danbury swore that at 9 p.m. he met me walking on the road at a spot 200 yards or more on the Bridgtown side of Benton's Farmhouse, and over three-quarters of a mile from the field, the scene of the tragedy. Cross-examined: He did not look at his watch. He remembered the time because the hooter of Hawkins' colliery near by blew nine as I passed. He could not say how I was dressed, except that I wore dark clothes and a straw hat.
The next witness was Mr. F. W. Gripton. He said he was in Station Street from 9 to 9.20 with Miss Biddle, and that I passed them at a spot about two minutes' walk from my home, and more than half a mile from the field. It was about 9.10. Cross-examined: Mr. Gripton said that he was engaged to be married to Miss Biddle and that their walk that evening was more or less of a lover's stroll. He would say I was walking at ordinary pace, but I followed behind him for some distance pace, overtaking him. He did not look at his watch, but guessed the time from having heard a colliery whistle blow nine a few minutes before. He did not see me turn aside off the main street to go in the direction of the field. He saw many people in the street. He could not say whether the clothing produced was what I was wearing that night.
Miss Biddle corroborated. Cross-examined: She first saw me coming from the road at another part of which Mr. Danbury saw me a few minutes earlier, and which road leads into Station Street. She heard me following behind for some distance before passing her. She could not identify the clothing produced to her as that worn by me. She did not see me turn aside off the main street.
The next witness was Mr. W. Thacker. He said:
- "I saw accused by the churchyard in Station Road" (N.B. — half a mile or more from the field and just opposite my own home) "about 9.40. He was going towards the vicarage and walking at a fair speed. I live about five minutes' walk from the place where I saw him." Cross-examined: "I did not look at my watch; there was no reason why I should, as I did not think anything about the time when I met him. I had looked at my watch when I left a political meeting at 9.20, and guessed the time from that. I cannot say whether he was dressed in dark clothes or light, but if he had worn light clothes I should have taken him for a ghost" (escaped from one of the adjoining tombs, I suppose).
Miss Mabel Thacker said: "Last witness is my brother. I let him in at 9.45 on the night of the outrage. I knew the time by the clock." Cross-examined: "My brother asked on Wednesday what time he got home the previous Monday." (Apparently he knew more about the ghosts than the time.) "I then remembered it was 9.45. I don't know if the clock was right. I don't know when it was right last."
It will be observed that this young lady was only called to corroborate her brother as to the time he saw me; but her evidence really only weakened the case for the prosecution, because she did not even know when the clock was right last, and the mere fact of the police calling her shows the straits to which they were reduced to get some sort of evidence against me.
As regards the other four witnesses, there is no doubt they did see me, and I quite think they believed every word they said. It will be noticed as regards all of them: (1) That they did not allege I was wearing the clothes seized by the police. (2) That they only saw me walking on the same road as they themselves were walking on, that they did not see me turn aside off the road, and that the nearest point to the field at which I was seen was fully half a mile distant from it; and, moreover, just opposite my own home. (3) None of them looked at their watches, but only guessed the time, and there was nothing particular to make them remember the time when they saw me.
Assuming, however, for the sake of argument, that these witnesses were perfectly correct about the question of time, it will be noticed there is at the utmost only half an hour unaccounted for, namely, from 9.10, when I was seen by the witnesses Gripton and Biddle, and 9.40, when Thacker saw me. It was alleged by the police that during this half hour I must have gone unseen by anybody along a colliery tramway with obstacles at every step; crossed the main line of the L. and N.-W. Railway Company, as well as many rows of metals and sidings intersected with numerous points, wires, and signalling contrivances of a varied description; then for some little distance along the line over dangerous projecting sleepers to a flight of steps, and then down the steps and under an archway into the field.
This done, the police assumed I must have found the pony, mutilated it with a razor, returned partly along the railway, and then over open country, finding my way over ditches and through gaps in hedges till I reached Station Road, where I was seen by Thacker.
In order to make out I could have committed the crime in the short time at my disposal a constable swore that he walked the whole distance from my house to the place where Thacker saw me in seventeen and a half minutes. Cross-examined: "He did not go after dark, but in broad daylight. It was very nearly dark at 9.10 on the night of the crime, and quite dark a few minutes later. He walked continuously and made no allowance of time for finding the pony and committing the crime. It was an awkward way after dark."
I think most people will agree with me that even in daylight I should not have had much time to catch the pony and disembowel it; but I will show that the time at my disposal was really very much less than the prosecution asserted. The point as to my eyesight I will deal with separately.
It will be remembered that counsel alleged in his opening speech that I did not give a true account of my movements when the police asked for it. In saying this he was, of course, only repeating what the police had asserted. I did, however, give a perfectly correct account of my movements to the police, and their statement that I did not is absolutely false.
I stated that I left home about 8.15 p.m., and went to Mr. Hand's shop at Bridgtown, taking some boots to be repaired. I left there about 8.35 or 8.40, and went along the Watling Street Road, and then turned up Walk Mill Road. In this latter road, and at a distance of about a mile and a quarter from Mr. Hand's, some youths overtook me. At that moment a whistle went at a colliery close by. One of the youths asked if it was nine o'clock. I looked at my watch, and replied it was a minute past. We walked together for a little distance, and then they bid me "good-night," and went to a house on the roadside, while I continued on my way to Wyrley, going by a road known as Coppice Lane, which leads in Station Street. I walked past my home, and went about 200 yards along Station Road when I turned back. It was this last bit of the journey which the police alleged I did not tell them about. I was inside the house before 9.30, and did not go out again till after 7.30 next morning.
Counsel for the prosecution remarked that it was a singular thing for a man engaged in an office all day to take what he called "such a long walk" in the evening, and insinuated that if I had not gone out with some sinister designs I should have returned by the direct route from Bridgtown. Indeed, had I gone for a twenty mile tramp he could scarcely have made more fuss about it, and yet I was only out for an hour and ten minutes including the time spent at Mr. Hand's shop, and the total distance covered was less than three miles.
Mr. Hand deposed that I left his shop about 8.35. He said I was wearing a blue serge suit, but he could not see the trousers as the counter was between us while we were talking. Cross-examined: The coat produced to him was not the one.
Mr. H. Loach said he saw me on the road at a point quite a mile and a half from the scene of the crime; that I walked with him and his companions for a short distance; that during that time the whistle blew at Hawkin's colliery and that in reply to a question I looked at my watch and said it was nine or a minute after. Next day he made a statement to the police about the time and place he had seen me, but they did not summon him as a witness. Mr. F. Cope corroborated.
Mr. W. Whitehouse said: "On the evening of August 17th I was standing near the drive gate of Wyrley vicarage at about 9.22. At that time Mr. C. Thacker passed me. Two minutes later I saw Mr. Edalji coming from the direction in which Thacker had gone. I wished him 'good-night,' and immediately after I saw him going up the drive to the vicarage. I gave this information to the police, but they did not summon me as a witness." Cross-examined: "I distinctly remember the time, because I looked at the station clock at 9.20. I am certain it was not later than 9.25 when Mr. Edalji passed me to go up the drive." Mr. J. Burton proved that the meeting which Thacker attended was over at 9.10, that the place was locked up by 9.20, and that in the ordinary course Thacker would have reached the spot where he saw me before 9.30.
As regards these witnesses for my defence, it should be noted:
(1) Loach, Cope, and Whitehouse had made statements to the police, but like the veterinary surgeon and others, they were cast off because their evidence did not suit the official plan of campaign.
(2) Mr. Hand swore positively that the coat seized by the police was not the one I was wearing.
(3) There was no mere guess-work about the time as with the witnesses for the prosecution. White-house's evidence is of special importance, because it not only shows that Thacker was fifteen minutes out in his reckoning of the time, but clearly states that I was on the vicarage premises at 9.25, which was according to the railway clock, let it be noted.
My parents and sister proved that I entered the house between 9.25 and 9.30. My father swore I had my supper directly I came in, and that I was talking to him from that time to about 9.50, when I went to a room upstairs, and my mother and sister proved I was with them till I went to bed at 10.45. My father swore he saw me in bed when he retired about ten minutes later, as I slept in the same room with him and had done so for seventeen years or more. He locked, the door of the room in accordance with his usual custom. The outer doors were also locked and bolted top and bottom, and the windows downstairs were closed and fastened and shutters up.
My father, who is generally a light sleeper, swore he had a touch of lumbago, from which he suffers, and got but little rest; that it would be impossible for me to leave the room and house and return to it without his being aware of the fact, and that he was certain I did not do so. He also said he got up for something at early dawn (probably 4.30), and noticed me asleep in bed, only three feet away, and that he did not sleep again.
All the inmates of the house declared they heard nobody moving during the night. Miss D. Earp, a servant at my home, swore she got up next morning at 6.15, and found all doors and windows properly fastened and noticed nothing unusual.
In his closing speech counsel for the prosecution remarked that probably the police were mistaken in supposing the crime was committed between nine and ten, and that if I had not done the deed then, I must have gone out in the dead of night and done it, but that, owing to the extraordinary darkness the constables who were watching in the field and all around it could not have noticed me. Counsel also said it was a significant circumstance that I had not called some independent person to prove that I did not leave the house between 9.30 p.m. and 7.30 a.m., and he insinuated that the evidence of my friends and servant was of little weight because they were interested parties.
I submit, however, that I called the best and only evidence that could be obtained, and that however "significant" my failure to call an independent person may have appeared in the eyes of the prosecution, it would have been twenty times more so had I procured a witness prepared to swear that for ten hours on a pitch dark night he stood in the pouring rain outside my home, and could swear positively that I had not come out!
In the letter signed "A Lover of Justice," sent to me on July 23rd, 1903 (the handwriting of which is remarkably like that of the 1892-5 series of letters, occur these words: "So the police got watching you, but now they are watching someone else." The natural inference one draws from this remark is that the police had been watching me for some time prior to July 23rd, but had discontinued doing so. It was found most difficult to find out definitely whether the police were or were not watching the vicarage on the night of the crime.
At the police-court hearing a sergeant swore: "The prisoner's house was under observation. I don't know how many men were observing it. I saw four men when I was there, and there was another, making six. I was not there on the night of the outrage. I don't know how many men were there that night. I watched from the churchyard when there. The inspector and a constable were also in the churchyard. The other three were round the far side. No one could get out the side I was watching without my seeing. I never saw anyone come out." From the words I have put in italics the inference is that the house was watched on the night of the crime. It will be observed that the watch was a very complete one — six men being on guard.
This witness was not questioned about the watching at the trial, when the evidence was as follows:
A constable swore the house "was not particularly watched on the night of the outrage." He was asked to produce his notebook showing details of the watching, but could not do so.
The inspector swore: "No men were watching the vicarage on August 17th at night. House was under observation from fourteen to twenty-one days after Blewitt's horses were killed. I cannot say when we stopped watching, because I kept no notes. We never say anyone come out."
Sergeant Parsons said: "My men kept vicarage, under observation from date Blewitt's horses were killed for about a fortnight continuously. I can't say when watching ceased, as I kept no written record of my men's doings. They were not watching house on night of crime. They did not see anyone go in or out when there. It was not considered necessary to watch the house."
Note that on June 29th Blewitt's horses are killed. The inspector and sergeant both swear my home was watched for from fourteen to twenty-one days after that crime, and that then the watching ceased. It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that the watching ended about July 20th, and only three days later the anonymous scribe writes to tell me about the watching and its cessation. Once more let me impress upon the police that these anonymous letters, while not necessarily showing that the writer was concerned in the outrages, do apparently indicate, as numerous people have pointed out, that he was well advised of many of the police movements. I shall have to refer to this matter again shortly, but meanwhile I suggest to Captain Anson that he exert himself to ascertain the names of any persons — there cannot surely be many — whom his subordinates took into their confidence at the time of the outrages.
I am firmly convinced that the person who gave the police the information which induced them to start watching my home before any letters were received is also the person who subsequently wrote the letters.
ALLEGED EXTRAORDINARY CONDUCT.
A matter on which the counsel for the prosecution laid particular stress was what he termed "the prisoner's extraordinary conduct at Wyrley Station." The evidence was as follows:
- P.C. Marklew said: "At 6.30 a.m. the inspector told me to go to Wyrley Station and wait till Mr. Edalji came. I was to tell him not to go to Birmingham till a later train. I saw the prisoner. He said: 'What does inspector want to see me about?' I replied: 'I don't know, but he wants you to go home, and he will call on you about eight.' He then said: 'I have a business engagement, and can't wait.' Just then my uncle came to the station and told me a horse had been killed. I noticed the prisoner smiled at hearing this." Cross-examined: "I was to wait at station. I did not know why the inspector wanted to see prisoner. I waited nearly half an hour at station. Prisoner's house is next door to station, but my orders were not to go to house, but wait till he came to station. This was inspector's order, but I don't know why. The first I heard of the crime was when my uncle told me."
The allegation that I smiled and the fact of my going to Birmingham instead of returning home constituted the "extraordinary conduct" alluded to. The smile, said counsel, was the outward and visible sign of a guilty conscience, and my going to Birmingham was in order to avoid arrest. Sir A. Conan Doyle thus refers to the "smile":
- Now, it is perfectly clear that a guilty man would have been much alarmed by the news that the police wished to see him, and that he would have done anything but smile on hearing of the outrage. Edalji account is that Marklew said "Can't you give yourself a holiday for one day?" on which Edalji smiled. Which is the more probable version I leave to the reader.
Not long after this interview I was arrested at my office — the very place of all others where I was always to be found during the day, the address being admitted by the police to be well known to them — and yet, had I fled to Kamtchatka, the prosecution could scarcely have made more fuss about it.
But I submit that the fact of my going to Birmingham, far from being proof of my guilt, was strong evidence of my innocence. Is it likely that, if, as the prosecution suggested. I was aware from the constable's remarks that I was about to be arrested, I should not have seized the opportunity so conveniently afforded me of returning home and making away with the clothing, boots, and razors? Should I, if I had been guilty, have coolly gone to business and left all those things to be seen by the inspector, who I was told would call at my house? Surely a moment's reflection must convince the least reflecting mind that my actions were perfectly consistent with those of an innocent man.
It has been frequently pointed out that it was a singular circumstance that on this particular morning when one would naturally assume that the services of every available constable would be enlisted in order to assist in tracking down the criminal, a policeman should have been allowed to waste half an hour at the railway station merely to inform me that the inspector desired me to return home, when it would have served the purpose equally well if he had gone to the vicarage just opposite as the police had done on previous occasions when they wanted to see me about the letters.
But certainly it was a convenient arrangement for the police — almost as convenient, indeed, as the "gang theory" — because if I went to Birmingham, then the police could allege, as they did, that I had fled from justice; while if, on the other hand, I had returned home, I should have been probably suspected of destroying something which might have incriminated me.
CONCERNING HARRY GREEN.
As the reader is aware, the theory of the police was that the outrages were not all the work of one man, but that there was a gang in existence, of which I was one of the most active members. It will also be recollected that another outrage was perpetrated on a horse belonging to Mr. Harry Green while I was awaiting trial, and counsel for the prosecution remarked that no doubt one of my confederates had committed the crime in order to manufacture evidence in my favour.
The following is a copy of the inspector's evidence about Green as reported in the STAFFORDSHIRE ADVERTISER:
- Another animal was killed on September 21st whilst prisoner was in gaol. Mr. Vachell: "Have you discovered who did that? Witness: "No, sir. Oh, I beg your pardon; we have an idea." Mr. Vachell: "Have you made an arrest?" Witness: "No, sir." Mr. Vachell: "Has anyone admitted to you that he did it?" Witness: "Yes." Mr. Vachell: "Is that person in court?" Witness: "He is here." Mr. Vachell: "Brought here by the police?" Witness: "Yes." Mr. Vachell: "What is his name?" Witness: "John Harry Green." Mr. Vachell: "He lives at, Green Farm?" Witness: "Yes — the farmer's son."
As it was inferred from this evidence that Green would be called for the prosecution, my counsel said no more at that time. Next day, however, Green, not then having been called, Mr. Vachell questioned Sergeant Parsons as reported in the EVENING EXPRESS AND STAR.
- Mr. Vachell: "Have you brought Mr. Green here this morning?" "I have not seen him this morning." "You saw him yesterday?" "Yes; I have not seen old Mr. Green." "Have you seen young Mr. Green?" "No." "You have subpoenaed him?" "Yes."
But evidently the police thought that Green's testimony would not suit their plan of campaign, and so, as in the case of so many other witnesses, they did not call him, although he was subpoenaed.
Now, Green was never mentioned in any way in the anonymous letters, and as he had not admitted that he belonged to any "gang" or was a confederate of mine, the police attempted to find some other mode of connecting him with me. A constable was called who swore that not long before the outrage with which I was charged, he (the constable) had said to me: "Woe betide the man who commits the next outrage, for the farmers are carrying guns and will shoot him if they can," and that I replied, "You don't mean that. Is Harry Green watched?"
This assertion is absolutely false, and I never mentioned Green's name at all. The constable admitted he had not given this evidence at the magisterial hearing. It appears he forgot all about it till nearly two months later.
Another constable (who also did not give his evidence at the police-court investigation) swore that in reply to a question which he asked me when I was in the cells at Cannock, I said, "I won't have bail, and when another horse is killed it won't be me." This was not an accurate account of what I said, my words being, "If another horse is killed nobody will suppose I did it." I have fully explained in No. 867  of this journal my reasons for declining to have bail after it had been refused me when I first applied for it, and, being perfectly innocent, it was only reasonable for me to suppose another outrage might occur.
But in his closing speech counsel for the prosecution alluded to these alleged remarks as raising a strong presumption that before committing the outrage I had arranged with Green to kill another animal, and he added that I had probably mentioned his name so as to allay suspicion. As, however, it was also alleged that I had omitted to mention Green in the anonymous letters with precisely the same object the reasoning seems rather involved.
It has been repeatedly pointed out in the papers that had there been any such arrangement with Green as the prosecution pretended it is most unlikely that I should have made a remark which would at once suggest to the police that I had some reason for supposing Green ought to be watched. And, further, that as I was originally refused bail when I applied for it, and after such refusal had no chance of communication with Green, counsel's remarks were most unfair.
In a kind of apology for not calling various witnesses who should have been called, counsel for the prosecution remarked that Green was not called because he would not be bound to answer the incriminating question as to whether he had killed a horse. I quote the following portion of counsel's speech from the CANNOCK ADVERTISER. It is important to bear it in mind because of subsequent events. (The italics are mine.)
- One could perfectly well understand Green doing what was a perfectly safe thing for him to do. He did not know that it was a crime for anyone to kill their own horse, though it might be a brutal thing to do. One, however, could understand Harry Green doing this act in the interests of somebody else.
I now ask the reader to turn back to No. 867  of this journal, and, after reading the details of the butchery of Green's horse, decide for himself whether or not he can endorse the above dictum. Of course, I know that the Staffordshire police still assert as their reason for not prosecuting Green that he committed no crime; but I don't think anyone who has read my narrative so far will attach the slightest importance to this extraordinary interpretation of the law. Assuming for the moment that for Green to completely disembowel his horse was really no crime, he could not have incriminated himself by admitting the fact; while if, on the other hand, it was a crime, then, seeing that he had already confessed to it, he could not have made matters worse by admitting the confession.
Of course, Green would not have bound to answer any questions tending to show that he perpetrated any other outrage; but, in the interests of justice, he ought to have been called, as it is probable that, assuming he did kill his own horse, and also was a member of the "gang," he might have given some most valuable information as to who the other members were or even have been able to state the name of the person who maimed the pony on the night before my arrest.
Further, my counsel would have been enabled to cross-examine Green in order to show that he was in no way connected with me. As it was, the case was thus put to the jury: "Green's horse was killed while Edalji was in prison, it is true, but Green has admitted killing it himself. Evidence has been given that Edalji asked the police whether Green was being watched, and the inference is obvious."
Having thus narrated so much of the Green episode, as the police considered it expedient to tell the court, I will next relate what was suppressed, and which only became known after my conviction.
TWO WRITTEN CONFESSIONS.
Immediately after the outrage on Green's horse, Green himself began to receive anonymous letters, which he handed to the police. Whether these letters were written by the person who wrote the letters used in evidence against me is not clear. Of course, the police said the writing was different, though probably they would have thought otherwise had I not been in custody. Anyway, seeing that the letters used against me were in various styles of writing, it is not unlikely that if the same person wrote all those he also wrote these letters under still another disguise.
It appears that, owing to these letters and to some information given by a person who saw Green near the field on the night of the crime, he was very closely questioned by the police on September 29th, with the result that on that day he signed a paper admitting that he himself killed his own horse. Exactly what was stated in this document the police, for some reason best known to themselves, have always refused to divulge, and the text of the confession has never been published. The natural inference, of course, is that it contained something which they did not wish to be noised abroad.
On October 5th Green signed his second confession. The following particulars were published in the CANNOCK CHASE COURIER on November 7th, 1903, a fortnight after my conviction, and, after Green had left for South Africa, which certainly seems rather unfair to Green:
- It was freely circulated that the lad Green, who, it is stated, has gone to South Africa, had not made the statement it is alleged he did, but the chief constable has ordered that the text be published, and this is as follows:
- "I, Harry Green, High House Farm, Great Wyrley state that on the night of September 21st, 1903, I had an aged horse in my father's field which had been injured in the Yeomanry training. Thinking that it would never recover, I killed it. No one else was with me. I passed Copestake when I was leaving the field. I am very sorry for what I did, and have been to Mr. Benton and told him. I would not have anything from the Yeomanry or any other source, the result of the accident. The horse was not valued at above £5. The horse was killed to keep the ball rolling. (Signed) H. Green. Cannock, October 5th, 1903. Witnesses: R. Longdon, D.C.C.; John Campbell, Inspector; L. T. Bishop, Superintendent."
- The Hon. A. G. Anson, Chief Constable of the county, was in the adjoining room and knew of this. He denies that Green was coerced into making the confession, and that the police paid him to make such a statement. Green volunteered at the station to make the statement if the police would refrain from prosecuting him.
It would be observed that, far from there being anything in this confession to suggest that Green had committed the outrage in my interests, as the prosecution alleged, there is not so much as a word to connect him with me in any way.
Nine days after signing this document Green retracted both it and the earlier confession which he had made; at the same time bringing the gravest charges against the police. TRUTH (January 12th, 1905), says:
- The man Green sailed for South Africa, leaving behind him a statement confirmed by statutory declaration of his father, mother, and sister, as to the circumstances under which he had made the confession referred to at the trial. In this statement he describes the confession as having been extorted from him by a mixture of threats, violence, and cajolery on the part of the police, and his statement reflects in the most damaging manner upon several high police functionaries.
Assuming for the moment that Green's first confession was improperly obtained (and the fact that it has never been published lends colour to this view) it seems to me almost inconceivable that nearly a week later he should have signed another confession. I can quite understand a young fellow of only nineteen (as Green was then) being bullied into making one confession, but that he should make a second confession after he had had six days to think the matter over passes my comprehension. It is a fact that at the time of my trial the police knew that Green had retracted his confessions, and, of course, they knew perfectly well that the alleged confessions were in writing and contained not a word to connect Green with me; but, notwithstanding this, they let the jury suppose the confession was a verbal one implicating me; and, further, that it had not been withdrawn.
Seeing that the confessions were in writing, they ought to have been produced to the court, and the prosecution should have stated that Green alleged they had been extorted from him. Of course, it is easy to see now the real reason why Green was kept out of the witness box, and also the causes which led the inspector to first deny that anyone had confessed, and then say that he "had an idea." I may add that fresh evidence has recently come to light showing that at the time of my trial the police knew perfectly well that I was in no way connected with Green. I should mention that Mr. Benton emphatically denies that Green ever told him he had killed the horse.
ANONYMOUS LETTERS AS EVIDENCE.
Though the first horse was killed on February 2nd, 1903, it was not till July 1st that letters were received. On June 29th two more horses were killed, and there was an outcry at the escape of the perpetrator. Next day the police, "on information received," began to watch my home, and it is generally believed that the "informant" subsequently wrote the letters. Were this not so it would be strange that the police, having begun watching on the night of June 30th, should next morning receive the first of this lot of letters. But what is more likely than if an enemy of mine gave information he should fabricate evidence at the earliest opportunity?
My name was not mentioned in the two first letters. At the police-court Mr. Gurrin considered they were in my writing, though the resemblances were not so many as in later letters, but he changed his opinion at the trial, and did not "identify" them. No doubt the writer had not then acquired the proficiency in imitating my handwriting he subsequently attained.
I would here remind the reader of that extract from one of the 1892 letters sent to my father, which said:
"Do you think that when we want we cannot copy your kid's and that grocer's kid's writing?" The words "your kid's" referred to me, and this sentence may well account for any similarities between my own handwriting and that of the anonymous letters which Mr. Gurrin discovered.
The first letter was postmarked "Walsall, 8.30 p.m., June 30th." As June 30th was the day after the outrage on Blewitt's horses, and as it was on this night the police began to watch my home, the inference is that as soon as they had received the information which made them suspect me the informer commenced writing to convince them they were on the right track.
This lot of letters was confined to a period of five weeks, and outrages had been going on for five months before the letters began, and continued for eight months after they ceased. "Don't you think it remarkable," said prosecuting counsel, "that these letters stopped directly you were arrested?" I replied that, had this been so, it would have been nothing extraordinary, as they were so obviously written to bring about my arrest that the writer would not spoil his work by continuing them after he had accomplished this. I added the last letter was posted on August 4th, whereas I was not arrested till the 18th, so that it was absurd to say they stopped directly after my arrest. Counsel retorted that the date was the 14th, and not the 4th, but ultimately had to admit I was right, and he dropped the matter for the time. Next day, however, in his closing speech he made the following statement (I quote from the DAILY TELEGRAPH):—
- Counsel remarked upon what he termed the significant fact that the anonymous letters in this particular handwriting stopped after Edalji's arrest. Did the jury think if someone was writing to fool the police the letters would not have been continued?
Now the letters were received every few days during the five weeks — there was never anything like a fortnight between the receipt of any two letters — so that, apart from its being a glaring misrepresentation to say my arrest on the 18th had anything to do with the stoppage of the letters on the 4th, it seems that on this date the writer concluded he had done enough to lead to my arrest and need send no more missives. Anyway, between August 4th and 18th none were posted — a far longer armistice than any previous one.
But even had they ceased on my apprehension, it would have been no evidence that I was the writer, for they were so against my interests, so obviously written to secure my arrest, and so cunningly concocted to prevent my benefiting by subsequent outrages, that it is preposterous to suppose my enemy would nullify his labours by writing while I was in prison!
A DISGRACEFUL POSTCARD.
The card sent to my office on August 4th is too scandalous to publish, but it accused me of immorality with a lady. I have never had any improper intercourse, and the reader can imagine my annoyance at its being stated that I had on a card handed to the housekeeper by a postman, and I ask if any reasonable being will suppose I wrote it. I do not know the lady. It was alleged I wrote the letters to get in contact with the police and ascertain their doings; but is it likely I should have sent a card, which could be read by anybody, when a closed letter would have served the purpose?
However, Mr. Gurrin professed to find some microscopical similarity between the writing on this card and my own handwriting, and it was used as evidence against me.
But it was proved that on the day this card was posted at Wolverhampton I went by excursion to Aberystwyth; that I left Wyrley at 5 a.m., and did not return till after one next morning; and that the train travelled neither way by Wolverhampton, but via Rugeley. It happened, however, that another excursion (for Blackpool) left Wyrley five minutes before the Aberystwyth train, and it was run by Wolverhampton, so probably the letter-writer, hearing I had gone by one train, somehow fixed on the wrong one. Perhaps he thought it a good idea to post the card at Wolverhampton, as it could be alleged I slipped it into a box on the platform had it been proved I travelled by that train, which would stop there. On the same day the writer posted a card at Walsall. But again he overreached himself, for while the Blackpool excursion ran via Walsall, the Aberystwyth train did not.
The prosecution had discovered this discrepancy, for no sooner was it proved that I could not have posted the cards on August 4th than they alleged that if I had put them in some out-of-the-way boxes, with only one collection a day, after clearance on August 3rd, the cards would not be stamped till the 4th. Now a postmark is prima facie evidence that the card was posted on the day, and at the place indicated. It was not my duty to show these cards were actually posted at the places and on the dates named, but for the prosecution to prove they were not. But they only proved that letters posted at certain outlying villages are stamped with Wolverhampton and Walsall postmarks respectively, which proved nothing regarding these particular cards.
The duty of the prosecution was to call post-office officials to disprove the correctness of the postmarks. They did not do so — the inference is obvious.
It will be noticed into what a wide field of surmises the prosecution ventured regarding this incident. They assume I wrote and sent to myself a scurrilous card. They decline to accept the evidence of the postmark itself showing when and where the card was posted, but allege that if I had gone to a certain place on a certain day, and if I had posted the card in a box having only one collection, and if that collection had already been made, then it might have borne the postmark it did!
But where was the testimony in support of these suppositions? There was not a particle of evidence that I went to any such place, or that the card was posted there, or that the postmark was not correct. Some remarks of the late Sir A. Cockburn's when prosecuting Palmer, the Rugeley poisoner, seem to exactly fit this incident. I quote them:—
- I cannot help saying that it is a scandal upon a learned, distinguished, and liberal profession that men should come forward with speculations and conjectures such as these, and that they should misinterpret facts, and extract from them sophistical and unwarrantable conclusions with the view of deceiving a jury.
POLICE AND LETTER-WRITER.
I showed that the letter-writer apparently knew the movements of the police, and wrote and told me when the watching began and ceased, and that his information was confirmed by the police. But it was not merely in this instance he proved himself aware of their actions, and if he did not get his information by being in their confidence, the only other explanation is that he must have dogged their footsteps and noted their doings; and, though this may not be flattering to the intelligence of the Staffordshire Constabulary, it is perhaps not impossible, when one recollects the horse-maimer did his work undetected, and in one case while they were watching the scene of the crime.
A letter of July 7th, 1903, says:
"O, sir, if you won't lock me up, but will call not till Thursday or Friday, after dark, I will tell you all about the secret gang. ... I don't want you to come till Thursday."
This was sent to the police, and purported to come from a lad named Greatorex; but he was certainly not the writer, as, apart from the improbability of his implicating himself with the "gang," it was proved that when another document in this writing was posted at Walsall he was elsewhere. The police visited him on Wednesday. On July 10th (three days after the previous letter) another missive was sent to the police. I quote the following passages:
- I told you how it would be if you did not wait to Thursday or Friday, and, as you couldn't trust me to then, you can know nothing; you must be regular soft to go to S—— and Q——, for if they know anything, they wouldn't tell, and they haven't touched any of the beasts nor watched. ... I would have told you everything if you had come on Thursday or Friday, as I asked you; but as you didn't do as I told you, nor come after dark, I just altered my mind ... you great coward, why couldn't you wait till Thursday, as I told you ... you dirty cad, to go about showing envelopes; you b—— monkey, you ought to be ashamed of getting me into a bother when I told you I would help you, and give them all away, if you wouldn't do nothing till Thursday. ... I suppose you were afraid to be seen except in your plain dress, both of you, you dirty sneaks. ...
- I guess you wouldn't get much out of F. W. ... we arn't going to answer any of your silly questions again; why, you fool, I told you I had altered my writing a bit, so, of course, they would none of they know it ... you've had a nice time calling on them, but what made you go to S—— and Q-—. I never said nothing about them, nor mentioned them to you, and I hear you have been to W——, and Edalji, and F——; you dirty swipe, what right have you to know whether I or any of them went to Wyrley? ... You did look a fool the other night by Kelsey's, in Uxbridge Street, but you looked a bigger fool, they say, near the Vicarage at Church Hill (Hednesford) on Wednesday evening. ... I forgot you were only a common sergeant till you said so; it was a mistake my addressing you Inspector.
The police admitted these extracts were practically correct, e.g., that the letter-writer asked them to call on Thursday after dark; but that they went on Wednesday before dark, and also visited persons mentioned in the extracts and showed them some envelopes, but such persons were unable to identify the writing. How, then, did the anonymous writer know all this immediately? Granting the possibility of his guessing the police would interview those whose names he had given three days before, he could not have hit on the exact day and time when the officers would visit them, for they did not see Greatorex on Thursday as requested, but went another day.
Even supposing the writer had guessed this, he could not have foreseen the police would call on persons whose names he had never given at all. Yet he knew immediately after the event that they had interviewed such people, and, as the reader will see, he remarks on it in his letter of July 10th: "What made you go to S—— and Q——? I never said nothing about them." It had been proved this statement is correct, and the police did call on them.
Now, in alleging I wrote the letters, the police impliedly allege I knew the facts mentioned therein that I knew not only that they had been watching my home, but even the date when it was discontinued, for the letter-writer was aware of that. But they go still further, and impliedly assert that the day after they had been making inquiries at Littleworth and Hednesford (four miles from Wyrley) I knew sufficient of their doings to write the letter from which I have given extracts. There are many similar references regarding the police, but these will suffice. Now, granting the intelligence of these constables was not such as to enable them to discover they were being shadowed by me — and owing to the state of my eyesight I should have had to get very close to carry out this espionage — is it likely that nobody else would have noticed my proceedings?
The police admitted I never came out while they were watching my home, and that without so doing I could not have known they were there. They called nobody to prove I was informed of the watching or of when it ceased. They brought no evidence to show I followed them to Littleworth; they called no one to swear he told me of their movements the inference is obvious, there was nobody to call, and it follows as a natural corollary that I could not have written about matters of which I was ignorant, and so was not the writer of the letters.
We must next consider the letter-writer's object in referring to his acquaintance with the police doings. I think it is plain enough — as clear as his reason for representing me as one of a "gang," which proved so convenient for the prosecution.
The reader knows that outrages were committed for months within an area supposed to be guarded by a large body of constables. Inclusive of the crime prior to the one I was charged with the police found no culprit, and apparently discovered no clue and indignation at their failures ran high. The baffled constables were at their wits' end, when, at the crucial moment, a letter-writer appears on the scene, points me out as the man, and alleges, I am one of a gang of ruffians, thus providing for outrages after my arrest. But this rascal knew I had no connection with the crimes, and that there was no chance of my being taken red-handed, so he devised the plan of ascertaining something of the police movements, and embodied these particulars in his voluminous documents.
I need scarcely remark how this helped the prosecution; it simply relieved them of the difficulty of explaining how I could commit the alleged atrocity without detection — obviously nobody could have gone over half a mile each way and dodged a score of detectives, unless acquainted with their movements. But, said the prosecution, the letters show prisoner knew a deal about the police, and so could elude their vigilance. In his closing speech prosecuting counsel asserted the letters were the most important evidence; for, said he, they point to the prisoner as the man, they show his connection with confederates deep in conspiracy with him, and whom he has instigated to further violence, and they prove he was so conversant with the doings of the police as to commit his crimes unmolested.
It must be obvious that were I committing such atrocities, I should not write letters directing attention to myself. Still less likely is it I should divulge the existence of a gang, or that if I meant to perpetrate an outrage, I should show I knew the movements of the police. A person about to commit a crime would carefully avoid all this, and I should imagine the last thing he would do would be to announce his association with a set of hooligans, which, besides depriving him of any benefit from outrages after his arrest, would lead to increased vigilance of the police and to additional night watchers, thus adding to his risk.
Part of a letter was written on an envelope of E. C. Osborne and Sons, purporting to have been sent to me. Certainly I never received it; it bore no postmark, and I had not corresponded with the firm. This incident was used as evidence of my guilt, yet so little did the police think of it that they made no inquiries of Osborne and Sons at all!
AN EXTRAORDINARY ALLEGATION.
Another thing urged against me was that I knew some people mentioned in the letters. This seems a remarkable allegation, because in a village one generally knows his neighbours. In his closing speech counsel said my admission that I knew them was a singular circumstance and strong proof that I wrote the letters. The police evidently ascertained which of the persons referred to I knew, for counsel omitted to question me regarding all with whom I was unacquainted. Of course, I knew those in the parish where I had lived all my life, but, as regards eight of the others, I had never heard of their existence.
So determined were the police to lose no scrap of "evidence," that they called a witness to prove he said "good-morning" to me several times! The WOLVERHAMPTON EXPRESS thus refers to this absurdity:
- A new witness was called in the person of Frederick George Wootton, a clerk in the post office at Cheslyn-Hay. He denied all knowledge of a letter which contained his name. Four years ago he used to travel to school at Walsall by train. He sometimes saw the prisoner, and said "Good-morning " to him. Cross-examined: "Did you sometimes see other persons?" "Yes." "And did you say 'Good-morning' to them?" "Yes."
- "Thank you. I think I can say 'Good-afternoon' to you."
- This sally was received with laughter, in which the prisoner heartily joined.
Some schoolboys were named in the letters, and the prosecution tried to show I was connected with them. The following is the evidence of the lad Greatorex, to whom I have referred:
- I have known accused by sight three or four years. He has travelled in the same compartment with me and my mates. This has occurred perhaps a dozen times in last twelve months. The last time was the morning after Blewitt's horses were killed. We were looking through the window at them. Mr. Edalji said "They are Blewitt's." He never had any other conversation with me about the mutilations.
In his closing speech counsel said: "The letter-writer knew the schoolboys' names. Who could know them? The prisoner was sometimes in their company, and so he is the most likely person." And yet there was nothing to show I knew more of them than anyone else. That I was with them on an average once a month was no oftener than might be expected, as I daily travelled by the same train. Seeing the trains contained only ten third-class compartments, it would be strange had I not travelled with them occasionally. Note the last time I did so was the day after Blewitt's horses were killed — seven weeks before my arrest.
Counsel asserted my remark about the horses being Blewitt's was significant, and insinuated that if I had not killed them myself I knew who had. "How on earth could the prisoner have known they were Blewitt's?" he added. The explanation was simple enough; it was a matter of general knowledge, and a tradesman who called at the vicarage had told the servant, and she had informed my mother, who had told me.
Mr. Gurrin deposed as to handwriting. He said he found the same "peculiarities" in certain alphabetical letters in my admitted writing as in the disguised writing. Cross-examined: He did not swear to the writing; he only gave an opinion. He compared the writings for a fortnight, and searched for "peculiarities." There were also dissimilarities, but he made no list of them. At first sight there was no resemblance between the writings. He knew of cases where experts were wrong. To throw suspicion on a person it would be a good idea to copy caligraphic characteristics of his writing, but he did not think it had been done in my case, because if so he would expect the general style of the disguised writing to be more like mine; whereas, looking at the two, one would not think them identical till peculiarities were singled out.
I am convinced the letter-writer endeavoured to imitate my writing, for it would be little use trying to criminate me by means of letters without also copying some characteristics of my writing. To do so does not appear difficult — it would be necessary to adopt Mr. Gurrin's method — namely, take my "admitted handwriting," pick out characteristics, and introduce them in the letters.
Possibly the writer was experienced in this work; he may have been an "expert" himself (there is no examination or apprenticeship required for this profession), or studied caligraphy, and knew that while if he closely imitated the general style of my writing it would arouse an expert's suspicions, he would better attain his object by introducing here and there, as if by accident, a few of its striking characteristics. Thus, Mr. Gurrin said the most apparent "peculiarity" was that in both writings "the letters 'lj' in Edalji looked like a capital G" — naturally, anyone searching for "peculiarities" would copy this. It has been pointed out, however, that three persons out of five write Edalji in this way.
I need not refer to Mr. Gurrin's performances in the case of Mr. Beck, who was twice wrongfully sentenced to penal servitude — the facts are too well known. Perhaps, however, Mr. Gurrin is not so much to blame for his errors as the system he adopts. The following paragraph from P.T.O. seems to show this:
- When the Beck case was under discussion the writer had a chat with Mr. Gurrin, who produced a sheet of foolscap paper, on which were some parallel columns of letters and groups of letters. First carefully turning down the top of the sheets, he asked me whether I saw any resemblance between the two columns of hieroglyphics. I thought, and I said they were obviously similar, and that one appeared to be a disguise of the other. Then he triumphantly declared that one column consisted of extracts from Beck's handwriting, and the other from his supposed double's handwriting!
And yet in Beck's case there was no suggestion that the letters were written in imitation of his handwriting so as to criminate him. It has now been proved he never wrote them, and Mr. Gurrin admits it. As, then, there was this similarity between Mr. Beck's writing and that of Smith, the real writer, when there was no attempt by Smith to implicate Beck, is it not far more likely Mr. Gurrin was mistaken in my case, where the letters were evidently written for the purpose of incriminating me!
WHY I CALLED NO "EXPERT."
I called no "expert," because counsel advised there was no need to call any witnesses at all — "expert" or otherwise, as he considered the statements of the prosecution too absurd to merit contradiction. As none of the evidence against me will stand criticism, I do not blame my advisers for thinking little of the case for the Crown. It was I myself who insisted on summoning such witnesses as appeared for me, but I omitted others (including a handwriting expert) being assured that to call them would be needless expense.
Apart from it being so absurd to suggest I wrote documents incriminating myself and about the doings of the police, which I could not have been familiar with, I was also advised (and this is the opinion of the most eminent member of the Bar) that the letters were inadmissible against me, because they never referred to the outrage I was accused of, but only to other outrages, and that the threat to murder did not amount to such in law.
Suppose A charges B with theft. Anonymous letters are produced accusing B of other thefts. According to my case they are evidence against B. It seems incredible that such is the law. If so, innocent persons may easily be convicted, for when the police can't find the perpetrator of a series of offences, they or someone else could write letters accusing somebody by name, and then when the next crime occurs arrest him, and the trick's done! It may be said, would not an expert have to depose to handwriting? Not in Staffordshire; for all the documents, whether "identified" or not, were used against me, and even a copy of a letter which Mr. Gurrin never saw.
This missive (signed "A Lover of Justice.") I handed to my counsel after my arrest. The trial was to begin on Tuesday. on Sunday the prosecuting solicitor posted notice to Stafford Prison requiring production of the letter. Next day I received this notice, which I sent to counsel at once. Unfortunately, he had mislaid the letter, and, being engaged all day at Stafford, could not go to Birmingham to find it.
In vain he gave this explanation and pointed out the grossly inadequate notice to produce it. Counsel for the Crown asserted it contained vital evidence against me, and asked for a copy to be used. The chairman said: "It will do just as well," so it was read, and a constable swore the writing on the original resembled that on the old envelope before mentioned.
And what was the "vital evidence" in this letter? It said I was likely to commit atrocities, and referred to the old envelope and to the dates when the police were watching my home. If such "evidence" was legally admissible a copy of any anonymous paper alleging a person is likely to commit crimes can, without proof of handwriting, be used to convict him!
After my trial the letter was found and sent to an expert who reported it was not written by me. The writing resembled that of one of the writers of 1892-5. I had a missive (posted in California) from one of these people last month. The change of air does not appear to have benefited him — he is as mad as ever, raves of his religion and eternal damnation as in 1893, and tells me I am entitled to "any and every punishment on this planet" for declaring my innocence. Recently I got photos taken of the 1903 letters, but there is no space to reproduce them here. After studying them, TRUTH says:
- The ground on which I should chiefly disregard the effect of Mr. Gurrin's evidence, and those resemblances in the formation of particular letters which he pointed out, is that the documents were admittedly in a disguised hand, and that the peculiarities are perfectly consistent with the writing, being that of a person who was imitating the prisoner's writing for the purpose of incriminating him.
A solicitor remarks that while I was justified in calling no "expert," counsel for the defence often seem lax in this respect. He cites instances where the omission of prisoners to call "expert" testimony was, as in the Beck case, urged as proof of guilt, but yet they were innocent. In a capital article in the LIVERPOOL POST a barrister discusses the letters, and after citing cases where "experts'" opinions were proved to be wrong, including one where a number of "experts" swore a card was written by defendant, which was afterwards confessed to by someone else, adds:
- Mr. Disturnal ... said the most important issue was: "Who was the writer of the anonymous letters?" Edalji, therefore, was convicted on that very proof by disguised handwriting that exercised no overwhelming an influence in the terrible calamities (to employ the language of the Royal Commission) that overtook Mr. Beck in 1896 and 1904.
I have such a heap of papers about the worthlessness of "experts" that it is impossible to notice a tenth of them.
A barrister says:
- Juries are generally imposed on by an "expert." The very name convinces them he is a being possessed of powers exceeding these of the clairvoyant, and almost, as infallible as the Almighty. So spellbound are they by his high-sounding phrases (usually quite unintelligible to them) that they disregard the judge's warning about the danger of acting on such evidence.
Thus, at Beck's first trial, Sir Forrest Fulton cautioned the jury against relying on the handwriting evidence, but they ignored the warning, with what terrible consequences everyone knows. Sir F. Fulton has since said:
- I regard expert evidence as to disguised handwriting at all times with the greatest suspicion. It is to my mind invariably inconclusive.
In my case the jury were not cautioned at all. Can it be wondered at that they came to a wrong conclusion?
In conclusion, let me add that, though the police searched me, my home, and office, not a scrap of paper was found to connect me with the letters. The report circulated after my conviction that one letter bore the same watermark as my own paper is absolutely false, and was promulgated to prevent people signing the petition for my release.
THE EYESIGHT QUESTION.
This point was so fully discussed in the DAILY TELEGRAPH that I need scarcely refer to it. It has been said I gave no information about my sight to those who defended me. This falsehood has been repeatedly contradicted, and I can produce counsel's brief showing I did fully give the information. Moreover, I stated the fact at my trial, and it would have been further gone into had I known prosecuting counsel meant to set up in his last speech that the crime was committed in the dead of night. I have described the impracticable route it was alleged I went to the field. Mr. H. L. Leatherdale recently got some glasses constructed to render his vision similar to mine, and, thus equipped, went the way it was said I did. I quote the following from the account of his adventure in the DAILY EXPRESS:
- Amid this confusion I stumbled in a tangle of signal wires, to find myself at the fringe of a gaping aperture. Below was a treacherous flight of stairs, and as I groped downward I felt — for I could not see my hand before me — the slimy walls of a tunnel.
Of course, Mr. Leatherdale had people to guide him on his perilous adventure.
SUMMING UP AND VERDICT.
On Friday, October 23rd, 1903, I was convicted. The STAFFORDSHIRE ADVERTISER describes the closing scenes of the trial as follows:
- The learned assistant chairman, in summing up, said it was difficult to over-estimate the importance of detecting the perpetrators of these outrages, which had created a reign of terror in Great Wyrley, and had disgraced the fair fame of the county. He thought it was very remarkable that no apparent motive had come out in the case.
- The jury retired to consider their verdict at two o'clock, and returned into court after an absence, of fifty minutes, when the Foreman, in answer to the usual questions, said the jury found the prisoner guilty, with a recommendation to mercy on account of his position.
- The magistrates retired for a few minutes, and on returning into court the assistant chairman said the jury had found the prisoner guilty of a serious offence, and the Court thought the verdict a right one. The jury had recommended the prisoner to mercy on account of his position, and the Court had on the one hand to consider this recommendation, and on the other hand the disgrace these outrages had inflicted on the county. The Court sentenced the prisoner to seven years' penal servitude.
- The prisoner received his sentence unmoved.
The verdict caused the greatest surprise in the district. The CANNOCK ADVERTISER said:
- The news was received with astonishment, for up to Friday morning the majority of the general public believed the accused would be acquitted.
Among the slanders circulated in order to stop people signing the petition was one that my "behaviour at the trial" was proof of my guilt. I therefore reproduce some remarks from well-known journals made during and after my trial:
- "The prisoner gave his evidence with remarkable clearness and ability." — MIDLAND EVENING NEWS.
- "The prisoner faced the crowded court with perfect composure." — BIRMINGHAM MAIL.
- "The accused again sat throughout the day without exhibiting the slightest sign of perturbation. — DAILY NEWS.
- "The only person in court yesterday who did not look sick and tired of the whole business was the prisoner himself. His quiet demeanour throughout the trial has assuredly not made an unfavourable impression." — DAILY MAIL.
- "One thing that impressed me strongly in the prisoner's favour was his bearing throughout the trial. I have seen many men called on to answer for their deeds in a court of justice, but I know of none who assumed the rôle of an innocent man so readily as George Edalji. Whether it was in the stuffy little court room at Cannock, with its petty officialism and weary routine, or in the more dramatic atmosphere of the Sessions' Court, the prisoner bore himself with the air of a man conscious of his innocence, and neither by word nor deed did he betray the workings of a guilty conscience. He was consistent in his statements, ready with his answers, and calm and collected in his manner." — EXPRESS and STAR.
OUTRAGES AFTER MY CONVICTION.
The next outrage was on November 3rd, when a mare was killed and a horse shockingly injured. The MORNING LEADER said:
- The outrages differ in no respect from their predecessors, unless it be that in certain circumstances they have a greater horror. ... The stiff carcase was not without a suggestion of its dying agonies, but the chief feature of horror was a hole in a diagonal direction in its breast wide enough to admit a man's head, and fully 18 inches long. ... Thirty yards away was practically the whole interior of the animal lying in a heap. ... The most terrible spectacle was pointed out by a woman, who said: 'Look, mister; her was in foal, and there's the foal lying by her."
A few days later, when there was another mutilation (which, however, being just outside Wyrley parish I have not included in the series), the same journal remarks:
- There is not the slightest doubt that the last two outrages were the work of individuals who have taken great care to acquaint themselves with every movement of the special police. ... Not a footmark has been found as a clue. ... The police are treated with ineffable scorn.
The DAILY MAIL said:
- Terror reigns amid the quiet lanes and meadows of Great Wyrley. ... At night the whole countryside is deserted. ... The entire neighbourhood agrees in thinking that Edalji was innocent.
No arrest was made, but for three months all animals were locked up at night. Another outrage occurred in February, but the miscreant was disturbed and the wound was not so serious. The concluding atrocity was on March 24th, 1904, the victims being three sheep. For this crime a collier was convicted, but the evidence against him was very weak, and he stoutly maintains his innocence.
For months after my conviction the letter-writers continued their work, the district being simply inundated with missives. The circumstances of the "Martin Moulton" letters sent to the Home Office and myself, and the encounter Mr. Yelverton and I had with detectives at the G.P.O., are too well known to need repetition.
The most scandalous slanders were systematically published to stop people signing the petition. Professor Churton Collins in a capital article in the DAILY EXPRESS of February 6th last, says:
- What was the source, or sources, of the abominable calumnies circulated against the young man's morals at the time of the trial and just afterwards, when Edalji's advocates were endeavouring to get the case re-opened? That there was no ground for them is incontestably established; that they scared off many from interesting themselves in his case is certain.
Personally, I believe they came from an official source, and were circulated to stifle public agitation.
THEORIES ABOUT THE OUTRAGES.
Many theories have been propounded to explain these crimes, but there is no space to mention all. One paper, referring to cases where for years the Home Office obstinately refused to grant justice to persons whom it was clearly proved had been wrongly convicted, adds:
- There is one, however, which so closely parallels many aspects of the Edalji case, and may even forecast the final development of it, that mention of it must on no account be omitted.
- It was known in Ireland at the time as the "Sheridan Scandal," and there is now no dispute as to the facts, Mr. Wyndham having admitted them. ... Sergeant Sheridan, of the Irish Constabulary, was employed on special duty ferreting out agrarian crimes. He ferreted out a good many; in fact, crimes of that kind seemed to dog his footsteps. Cattle were maimed, haystacks were fired, anonymous threatening notices were posted up, and anonymous threatening letters were written. For committing these various offences various people were arrested, convicted, and punished. Yet all the while the real author of them was — Sergeant Sheridan!
Since writing the above Mr. Gladstone has decided "to advise His Majesty, as an act of Royal clemency," to grant me a "free pardon" (for a crime I never committed). The words "clemency" and "pardon" seem strangely inappropriate. But when this tardy acknowledgment of my innocence is flung at me without a word of apology, with an insinuation that I wrote the letters, and with a refusal of compensation — I can only regard it as the grossest insult. I wrote none of the letters. It was not (as the Home Office ignorantly suppose) the letters which made the police suspect me, because they were written after detectives began to watch my home, my writing being imitated with the object of criminating me. However, thanks to the efforts of Sir Conan Doyle and others, and the publicity given to my story in this paper, I have got a big instalment of what is due to me — before long I hope to have the whole.
G. E. T. EDALJI.
[This chronology was first published in the 3rd instalment of the series (Pearson's Weekly, 21 february 1907) and in 5 other issues]
Some of the principal events in connection with Mr. Edalji's case from 1888 to the present date (1907):
- 1888 — July or August. — First series of letters commenced.
- 1889 — January. — First series ended.
- 1892 — June. — Second series of letters began.
- September. — Forgeries and all sorts at hoaxes began.
- December 12th. — "Key" incident.
- December 18th (about). — "Leaflet" incident.
- 1893-5. — Letters, hoaxes, forgeries of daily occurrence.
- 1895 — December. — Second series of letters ended.
- 1895-1902. — Seven years' truce.
- 1903 — January. — Sheep mutilated.
- February 2nd. — Horse of Mr. Holmes killed.
- April 2nd. — Horse of Mr. Thomas killed.
- May 2nd. — Cow of Mr. Bungay killed.
- May l4th. — Horse of Mr. Badger killed; sheep of Mr. Green killed.
- June 6th. — Two cows of Messrs. Harrison sad Co. killed.
- June 29th. — Two horses of Messrs. Blewitt and Co. killed.
- June 30th. — Police began to watch my home.
- July 1st. — Third series of letters (first sub-series) began.
- July 2nd. — False report of my arrest widely circulated.
- July 8th. — Envelope with my name on sent to police.
- August 4th. — Third series of letters (first sub-series) ended.
- August 17th. — Pony of Great Wyrley Colliery Company killed.
- August 18th. — My arrest.
- September. — Second sub-series of third series of letters began.
- September 21st. — Horse of Mr. H. Green killed.
- September 29th. — Green confesses to killing his horse.
- October 15 (about). — Second sub-series of third series of letters ended.
- October 16th. — Green retracts confessions, and alleges obtained by threats.
- October 20th to 23rd. — My trial. Seven years' penal servitude.
- October 25th (about). — Third sub-series of third series of letters began.
- November 3rd. — Two horses of Mr. Stanley killed.
- November 3rd to February 1st, 1904. — No further outrages, as all animals kept in at night. Many letters.
- 1904 — February 8th. — Horse of Mr. Rogers injured.
- March 24th. — Two sheep and lamb of Mr. Badger killed.
- March 25th. — Arrest of a collier for last outrage. He was convicted. Outrages and letters ceased.
- 1906 — October l9th. — I am released.
- 1907 — January. — Fourth series ("Martin Moulton") of letters sent to myself and the Home Office. Encounter with detectives at G.P.O.