A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

ASSAULT. Three young men named T. Sharpe. W Watson and C Chalkley (see below) were charged with assaulting Thomas and Henry Sharp, two brothers. Chalkley did not appear, his mother said the summons had not been served on him. Thomas Sharpe said on the night of the 23rd of December, he and his brother were in the Bull public house at Gosmore. They left shortly after eleven and when they got outside they were followed by the three prisoners and were knocked down and very much ill-used. Police-constable Farr bore testimony to the injuries they received and said that one had both eyes blackened and the other was covered with blood and mud. Fined 30s each or one month’s imprisonment.  (March 1872)

 

MANSLAUGHTER AT HITCHIN. William Winch (aged 33, born at Preston and living at Preston Green in 1861) was charged with the manslaughter of Christopher Chalkley ( aged 23, born at Ippollitts, a servant at Hitchin Hill in 1861) of Ippollitts.

Mr Taylor and Mr Walker appeared for the prosecution and Mr Ludlow for the prisoner.

Hannah Ephgrave examined: I live at the Bull public house, Gosmore. On the night of June 15th, the prisoner was in my house. Police-constable Anderson came in while he was there, and as the prisoner was quarreling, I asked the constable to remove him. The prisoner resisted and said he did not care for the policeman. I saw him leave the house with the policeman and cross the road towards his house. In five or ten minutes afterwards I saw him returning. He was in the street with a gun in his hand. He had the gun in his left hand and was ramming the ramrod down. I shut the door which was afterwards opened by the constable who looked out and said he saw Winch turn his head. The policeman then rushed out and clasped the prisoner round. Then I heard Anderson call out, “Young man, aid and assist.” Then I saw R, the deceased, go towards the policeman, heard the gun go off, and saw R fall. After that he was brought into my house. He was dead.

Cross-examined by Mr Ludlow: The prisoner was drunk and made use of very violent language.

Elizabeth Fossey (aged  63, living in Preston in 1841 - would have known Winch’s family) examined: On the evening of June 15th, I saw Winch come out of his house with his gun. he said he would shoot the first one that came out to interfere with him. he then went round to the Bull and I saw the policeman come out and catch hold of him. I did not see the shooting.

Cross-examined: The prisoner appeared to be very intoxicated and reeled as he went along.

Police-constable John Anderson examined: On the evening of the 15th of June, I went to the Bull public house and was requested to turn out the prisoner who was noisy. I saw him to his own house and then went back to the Bull. In five minutes afterwards, I saw the prisoner in the street with a gun which he was ramming down. He said, “Let the---------come out.” I went out, put my arm round him and pulled him backwards. I went on my knee. He had his right hand on the lock of the gun and his left hand on the barrel. I asked Chalkley to assist me. The prisoner then said,”Yes, you -------, you do”. He then slewed the gun round and pointed it at Chalkley and I put my hand up and seized the barrel. At that moment the gun went off and Chalkley fell.

Cross-examined: While I was in the act of seizing the prisoner, the ramrod fell or was thrown down. I did not see the prisoner touch the trigger. The gun was cocked when I first seized the prisoner. when the gun went off, the prisoner was sitting down and the butt of the gun was under his elbow. The barrel of the gun was inclined upwards. I tried to push it upwards but I was too late. Chalkley fell. I felt the barrel warm when I seized it.

Inspector Young examined: I received the prisoner into custody on the night of the 15th of June. I found a box of caps on his person and a box of caps and cartridges in his house. I told him the charge and he made no answer, but went and laid down on the bed. After that he said it was all through drink. On Sunday he asked if the man was dead. I said, “Yes, there was not much chance for him if it was one of those cartridges I found in your house”. He said it was not cartridge, but shot.

Mr R. R. Shillitoe, surgeon, examined: I went to the Bull public house between 9 and 10 o’clock on the night of the 15th of June to see the deceased. He had been dead about half an hour, the cause of death being a gunshot wound in his chest. The gun must have been within a yard or a yard and a half of the deceased as the clothes were burnt.

Cross examined: The charges entered between the third and fourth ribs and made its exit behind the shoulder.

By the JUDGE: I found no shot in the body. It had passed through.

Mr Ludlow addressed the jury in a very able address, urging that the whole transaction was the affair of a moment, that the prisoner was in a state of great excitement from the drink and that the shooting occurred almost at the instant when the constable seized the prisoner. It was improbable that the prisoner, who was used to firearms, would ram down a gun at full cock and if the gun went off while it was not at full cock, it could scarcely be said that the prisoner was accountable. It appeared from the policeman’s description of the position of the gun when he seized the prisoner, that it was not sufficiently raised to inflict the wound described by Mr Shillitoe. The probability was that when the constable touched the gun, he raised it so as to give it a direction which would have caused the deceased to be struck; and that it was also probable that the gun being at half-cock was put on full-cock during the struggle. There was nothing to show there was any malicious animus and that the evidence went to show that the gun went off by accident.

Mr Justice BLACKBURN said that there could be no doubt that if the prisoner under the excitement of drink or drink and anger discharged the gun at the deceased, he was guilty of manslaughter. If the policeman had a reasonable belief that the prisoner intended to harm someone, it was his duty to endeavour to disarm him and if the gun went off in the struggle through the prisoner’s fault, though not by his voluntary act, he was guilty of manslaughter, though of a less aggravated form. On the other hand, if the jury were of the opinion that the gun went off by accident and not by the prisoner’s fault, then he was not guilty.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty.

Mr Justice BLACKBURN: Do you think the gun was discharged by the prisoner’s own act or that it merely went off in the struggle?

A juror: By his own voluntary act.

The JUDGE: That is my impression. (To the prisoner): Had you been under no excitement by drink, the crime would have that been of murder. As it is, the case is one of very aggravated manslaughter; and taking into account the dangerous nature of the weapon used, I cannot pass on you a less sentence than ten years penal servitude. (July 1867)

 

These articles reproduced by kind permission of the Hertfordshire Mercury.

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