Saturday, July 31, 2010

Trials from the Old Bailey, 1674-1913

British historians recently presented to the public a compilation of the full transcripts of trials conducted at The Old Bailey over the course of 239 years.

This enormous task provides a wealth of historical details for court buffs and trial aficionados to peruse and savor.

Notable Trials will from time to time present the transcripts of selected trials -- the famous, the infamous and the occasionally petty -- upon which many of our best legal traditions are ultimately based.

From the introduction:

These Proceedings contain accounts of trials which took place at the Old Bailey. The first published collection of trials at the Old Bailey dates from 1674, and from 1678 accounts of the trials at each sessions (meeting of the Court) were regularly published. Inexpensive, and targeted initially at a popular audience, the Proceedings were produced shortly after the conclusion of each sessions and were initially a commercial success. But with the growth of newspapers and increasing publication costs the audience narrowed by the nineteenth century to a combination of lawyers and public officials. With few exceptions, this periodical was regularly published each time the sessions met (eight times a year until 1834, and then ten to twelve times a year) for 239 years, when publication came to a sudden halt in April 1913.

Origins, history, Crippen and Le Neve ...

Accounts of the lives and exploits of notorious criminals were published as ballads, chap-books, and broadsides from the sixteenth century. These inexpensive publications were designed to entertain, and they reached a wide market. In the 1670s, perhaps as a result of growing concern about crime, there was an explosion of crime literature, including criminal biographies, the last dying speeches of executed criminals, Ordinary of Newgate's Accounts of the lives of criminals, and trial accounts.

The first surviving published account of a group of trials which occurred at the Old Bailey (as opposed to accounts of notable single trials) was from the April sessions of 1674. Entitled News from Newgate: or an exact and true accompt of the most remarkable tryals of several notorious malefactors... in the Old Baily, this pamphlet, like many early editions of the Proceedings, described only some of the trials which took place at that sessions. As this pamphlet concluded, in addition to those reported there were also "divers other tryals which would be too tedious to insert".

Editions survive for most sessions in the late 1670s, but were produced by a number of different publishers. On occasion, as in January 1676, two competing accounts were published of the same session. These early Proceedings were similar to the earlier chapbooks with their sensationalist and judgemental approach, and they were very selective in the trials they chose to publish.

The passage of the Criminal Appeal Act in 1907 fundamentally undermined the Proceedings. The taking of full shorthand notes of trials now became a statutory requirement, with the appointment of the shorthand writer made by the Lord Chancellor, and their fees paid by the Treasury. Now that the cost of taking the notes was paid for by the Treasury, the City only had to pay for the publication of the Proceedings, and accordingly it reduced its annual payment to George Walpole to 200 [pounds]. However, there was no longer any compelling reason to publish the Proceedings in any form.

Walpole subsequently found that he was losing about 200 [pounds] a year publishing the Proceedings, and in October 1912 he gave formal notice to the City that he would terminate his existing contract, unless they would agree to publication in a more abridged form. Given that shorthand notes of all trials were now paid for by the government, and full transcripts of any trial could be obtained whenever they were required, the City decided that the abridged version would be of no use. As the Recorder opined, “now that an official shorthand note is taken of the evidence in all criminal cases we can do without the sessions papers”. Following months of ultimately unsuccessful negotiations with Walpole it was decided in April that publication should cease.

At the conclusion of the April 1913 issue of the Proceedings, readers found a simple statement, "the publication of the C.C.C. Sessions Papers is now discontinued", thus bringing to an end the 239 year history of this extraordinary periodical.

Note: Among trials contained in the Old Bailey are the proceedings of some of the most famous trials of the most infamous criminals ever recorded in the English language, including Burke and Hare, who together robbed graves and murdered others to obtain the cadavers they sold to doctors and medical schools to practice autopsies on and H.H. Crippen who killed his wife to take up with a younger woman Ethel Clara Le Neve, who was also charged in the crime.

Notable Trials intends to excerpt some of the more interesting trials. The excerpts come from the original entries, just as they were transcribed by the court reporter.

Let’s start with Crippen.

CRIPPEN, Hawley Harvey (48, dentist) was indicted for and charged on coroner's inquisition with the wilful murder of Cora Crippen, otherwise[called] Belle Elmore. Case # t19101011-74; charge, murder; verdict, guilty; punishment, death.
Transcript of proceedings of Old Bailey proceedings that began Oct. 11, 1910.

An excerpt:
(Wednesday, October 19.)
Chief Inspector WALTER DEW. On June 30 a Mr. Nash called at Scotland Yard and made a statement, and I was instructed to make inquiries with reference to the disappearance of Mrs. Crippen. On July 8 I went to 39, Hilldrop Crescent and there saw Le Neve; prisoner was not in the house. Le Neve accompanied me to Albion House and I there saw prisoner; he was then wearing a heavy moustache. On telling him that his wife's friends were not satisfied with what he had told them as to his wife's disappearance, and that after making inquiries I also was not satisfied, he said, "I suppose I had better tell the truth. The stories I have told them about her death are untrue; as far as I know she is still alive." He then made a statement, which was taken down by Sergeant Mitchell and signed by prisoner.

(The statement was read. In it prisoner said that he was a doctor, that he took the degree of M.D. at the Hospital College at Cleveland, United States, that he came over to England in 1883, that he was married in New York to a lady named Bell, who died in 1890 or 1891, and that in 1893 he met Belle Elmore, whose name at the time was Cora Turner, and who at that time was only 17 years of age and was living under the protection of a man. Prisoner said that he found her very attractive, that she told him she was going to run away from the man under whose protection she was living, and that rather than she should do that he married her in Jersey City in 1893. Prisoner then gave a description of various places in which he and his wife lived, and said that eventually, about 1900, he came to England alone, his wife coming shortly afterwards and taking up her residence with him. She used to go in for music hall sketches, although he objected to her doing so. He went to America from November to June, and when he came back he found that an American music-hall artist named Bruce Miller had been a frequent visitor to her at their house. She told him that this man had taken her about, that he was very fond of her, and she of him. Prisoner said that he had seen letters to his wife from Bruce Miller ending "With love and kisses to Brown Eyes." When his wife came to England from America her manner towards him had entirely changed; she had developed a most ungovernable temper, and seemed to think he was not good enough for her. She boasted of a man in a good position who had made a fuss of her. He never saw the man Bruce Miller, but Miller called when he was out and took her out in the evening. She and prisoner continued to live together apparently happily, but there were frequent occasions on which she got into violent tempers, and threatened to leave him, saying she had a man she could go to. Some time after this he ceased to cohabit with her, but never interfered with her movements. They were of no interest to him. On January 31, the day before he wrote the letter resigning her position from the Guild, Mr. and Mrs. Martinetti came to their place to dinner, and after they had left his wife abused him and said she would not stand it any longer; she would leave him next day and he would not hear of her again, and he might cover up the scandal with their mutual friends and the Guild the best way he could. On returning home from business on the evening of February 1 he found she was gone. He sat down to think how to cover up the scandal, and wrote a letter to the Guild saying she had gone away. He afterwards told people that she was ill with bronchitis and pneumonia, and had died in California. What-ever he had said to other people regarding her death was wrong, and he was giving this as an explanation. It was not true that she went away on legal business or to see relatives in America. He did not receive any cables to say she was ill, and it was not true that she was cremated in San Francisco, or that the ashes were sent to him. Prisoner further stated that when his wife went away she took some of her jewellery, but left four rings behind. He had never sold or pawned anything belonging to her. Le Neve was then living with him as his wife at Hilldrop Crescent. He had been intimate with her for three years. After he had told people that his wife was dead he and Le Neve went to Dieppe for five days and stayed at a hotel there in the name of Mr. and Mrs. Crippen. His belief was that his wife had gone to Chicago to join Bruce Miller.)

After taking this statement from prisoner and also a written statement from the Neve I suggested to prisoner that I should accompany him back to 39, Hilldrop Crescent and go over the house; he agreed readily. We went back, and he showed me into every room in the house, and the cellar. I asked to see the jewellery his wife had left behind her, and he showed me Exhibits 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. I fold him, "Of course, I shall have to find Mrs. Crippen to clear this matter up" He said, "Yes; I will do anything I can; would an advertisement be any good?" I said I thought it an excellent idea; he wrote out the draft advertisement (Exhibit 41), and said he would insert it in various American newspapers; I left the draft advertisement with him. I continued my inquiries, and on July 11 (having first found that prisoner was not at Albion House) I went to 39, Hilldrop Crescent; there was no one in the house. I found on a table Exhibit 41. I searched the house and the cellar, and dug up portions of the garden. That day I circulated a description of prisoner and Le Neve to various ports in England and abroad. On July 12 and 13 I further examined the house; on the 13th I determined to closely examine the cellar. It had a brick floor: I probed about with a poker; at one place I found that the poker went rather easily in between the crevices, and I got a few bricks up. I then got a spade and dug the clay immediately beneath the bricks. After digging about four spadesfull down, that is, about nine inches below, I came across what appeared to be human remains. I sent for Dr. Marshall, the Divisional Surgeon, and for Sir Melville Macnaghten, the chief of the Criminal.

We now move on to Le Neve.

LE NEVE, Ethel Clara (27, typist) was indicted , "That, on February 1, 1910, Hawley Harvey Crippen having feloniously and unlawfully and of his malice aforethought murdered Cora Crippen, she, Ethel Clara Le Neve, well knowing the said Hawley Harvey Crippen to have committed the said felony, did on that day and on divers days there-after feloniously receive, comfort, harbour, assist, and maintain him." Case # t19101011-75; defendant presented no evidence; verdict, not guilty. Transcript of Old Bailey proceedings that began Oct. 11, 1910.

An excerpt:

Chief Inspector WALTER DEW repeated certain portions of his evidence. On July 8, after taking a statement from Crippen, he took a statement from Le Neve (Exhibit 40), Crippen not being present. In this statement prisoner said that she was a single woman, 27 years of age, and a shorthand-typist. Since the latter end of February she had been living at Hilldrop-crescent with Crippen as his wife. Before then she lived at Hampstead. She had been on intimate terms with Crippen for between two and three years, and had known him for ten years. She knew Mrs. Crippen, and had visited Hilldrop-crescent. Mrs. Crippen treated her as a friend. "In the early part of February, the statement continued, "I received a note from Crippen saving Mrs. Crippen had gone to America and asking me to hand over a packet he enclosed to Miss May, an official of the Music Hall Ladies' Guild. About 4 p.m. on the same day he came to our business place, Albion House, and told me his wife had gone to America. He said she had packed up and gone. I had been in the habit for the past two or three years of going about with him, and continued to do so. About a week after he told me she had gone to America I went to Hilldropcrescent, put the place straight, as there were no servants, but at night I went to my lodgings, and I did this for about a fortnight. The place appeared to be all right; quite as usual. He took me to the Benevolent Fund dinner, and lent me a diamond brooch to wear, and later he told me I could keep it. After this he told me she had caught a chill on board the ship and had got pneumonia, and afterwards he told me she was dead. He told me he could not go to the funeral as it was too far, and she would be buried before he could get there. Before he ever told me this I had been away with him for five or six days at Dieppe, and stayed at an hotel with him as Mr. and Mrs. Crippen, but cannot remember the name of the place. When we came back he took me to Hilldrop-crescent, and I remained there with, him, occupying the same bedroom. The same night, or the night before, he told me that Belle was dead. That would be about March 30. I was very much astonished, but I do not think I said anything to him about it. I have not had any conversation with him about it since. He gave me some furs of his wife's to wear, and I have been living with him ever since as his wife. I have given up my lodgings and taken up my abode at Hilldrop-crescent. My father and mother do not know what I am doing, and think I am housekeeper at Hilldropcrescent. When Crippen told me his wife had gone to America I do not remember if he told me that she was coming back or not. I cannot remember if he went into mourning."

Chief Inspector Dew continued. On July 16 a warrant was placed in my hands for the arrest of Crippen and Le Neve on the charge of murdering Cora Crippen, and immediately afterwards there were particulars in the Press of the discovery of the remains, and descriptions and portraits of the two accused. On July 31 I boarded the "Montrose" at Father Point. I first arrested Crippen; he had then no moustache and was not wearing glasses (when I had seen him in London he had a moustache and wore gold-rimmed glasses). I then went into a cabin where I saw Le Neve; she was dressed in a brown suit of boy's clothes (suit produced and identified as that bought by Long at Crippen's directions; see page 723). Her hair was cut short I said, "Miss Le Neve"; she said, "Yes." I said, "I am Chief Inspector Dew, and you will be arrested for being concerned with Dr. Crippen in the murder and mutilation of Mrs. Crippen in London on or about February 2 last." She made no reply, but became agitated and faint. The cabin she was in was the one also occupied by Crippen. (Witness spoke to finding on Crippen the cards, Exhibits 2 and 3, and various articles of jewellery.) Later I was present when the captain of the "Montrose" asked her if she had not seen in the papers a letter from her father; she said, "No, I have not seen any papers since I left London, and know nothing about it; if I had seen anything in the papers I should have communicated at once." Later she said, "I assure you, Mr. Dew, I know nothing about it; I intended to write to my sister when I got to Quebec." On the voyage back to England I read the warrant to her (setting out the charge in the present indictment); she said, "Yes." On the formal charge at Bow Street she made no reply.


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