[Square Mile Murders Contents]
HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY.
SEVENTH DAY – TUESDAY.
The Court met to-day at 10 o’clock.
The LORD ADVOCATE then addressed the jury as follows:- Gentlemen of the jury, after an investigation which, for its length, has proved unexampled, I believe, in the criminal annals of this country, I have now to discharge perhaps the most painful public duty that ever fell to my lot. I am quite sure, gentlemen, that in the discharge of that duty I shall meet with that attention which the deep importance of this case requires, and which you have paid to its details from the commencement… It is now my duty, as fully and as clearly as I can, to draw these details together, and to present to you, if I can, in a connected shape, the links of that chain of evidence in which we have been engaged for the last week in preparing. Gentlemen, I should have wished that the result of the inquiry which it was our duty to make, and the laborious collections of every element of proof which we could find, would have justified us on the part of the Crown in resting content with the investigation into the facts, and withdrawing our charge against the prisoner. Gentlemen, I grieve to say, that so far is that from being the result to which we came, that if you give me your attention for I fear the somewhat lengthened trespass on your patience which I shall have to make, you will come to the conclusion that every link is so firmly fastened, that every loophole is so completely stopped, that there does not remain the possibility of escape for the unhappy prisoner from the net that she has woven for herself. Gentlemen, the indictment charges three separate crimes, or rather it charges two separate crimes, one of them having been committed twice, and the third once. It is an indictment which charges two separate acts of administering poison with intent to kill – viz., murder. They are charges to which, in some respects, different parts of the evidence applies. But they hang together; they throw light upon each other; they are not unconnected acts of crime. One case is that the administration with intent to poison was truly part of a design to kill; on the other hand, the facts of the death throw light on the previous acts of administration. Gentlemen, in stating to you the evidence on which we think that these charges must be found proved, I shall avoid, as far as possible, travelling into a region which this case affords too great materials for – I mean alluding to the almost incredible evidence that discovers a scene of degradation in the social picture which this case has revealed, the fearful domestic results which must invariably follow, those feelings of commiseration and horror which the age, the sex, and the condition of the prisoner must produce in every mind – all these are things into which I shall not travel. They might unnerve me for the discharge of my painful public duty. Besides, no language of mine, no language of my eloquent and learned friend, can paint to the mind one-tenth of the impression which the bare recital of the details of this case has already created throughout the whole of this country. I shall only say that these matters weigh in my mind as I am sure they do in yours, with a weight and an oppression which neither requires nor admits of expression. The only other remark of that kind which I shall make is, that while a prisoner in the position that the unfortunate lady is in is justly entitled to say that such a crime shall not be lightly presumed or proved against her; yet, gentlemen, if the charges in the indictment be true, if the tale which I have to tell and have told be a true one, you are trying a case of as cruel, premeditated, deliberate homicide as ever justly brought its perpetrator within the compass and penalty of the law. Gentlemen, the first fact in which I found is one into which it will not be necessary for me to go in any great detail. It is a very important fact in the inquiry, but it is one in which you can have no doubt whatever; this unfortunate man, Emile L’Angelier, died of arsenic: there can be no doubt about it. The symptoms which he exhibited on the night of the 22d and morning of the 23d March were in all respects the symptoms of poisoning by arsenic… His body was opened, and the stomach was analysed by Dr. Penny, who found an immense quantity of arsenic in it; the other parts of the body which were taken out at the exhumation were analysed by Dr. Christison, and he found traces of arsenic in every one of them; and, therefore, gentlemen, I think you will come to the conclusion – and it is not a conclusion on which it is necessary for me to dwell – that the inquiry starts with this ascertained and certain fact, that L’Angelier died on the morning of the 23d March in consequence of the administration of arsenic, whether given him by another or taken by himself – in whatever way he swallowed it, the cause of his death was unquestionably arsenic. The next question which comes is, by whom was that poison administered? That truly constitutes the inquiry which you have now to answer… I now proceed to inquire what is the evidence that connects the prisoner at the bar with the death of L’Angelier. And before I state to you the evidence on that point, which, after very serious consideration, appears to me conclusive of the guilt of the prisoner,.. On the death of L’Angelier a great quantity of documents were left by him in various of his repositories. His death was sudden and unexplained. Dr. Thomson and Dr. Steven made a post mortem examination; they could not state what the cause of death was. His employers, who took an interest in him, grew anxious. They examined his repositories, and they found that in his desk in the office and in his lodgings there were a variety of letters. The first examined were those that were in the desk in the office, which were examined by Stevenson and Kennedy; and by reading some of them it gave them a misgiving as to what the truth of this case might be. L’Angelier died on the 23d, and on the 25th Mr. Steven made a communication to the Procurator-Fiscal, not charging anybody with a crime, or implicating anybody in the death, but simply calling his attention to the fact that L’Angelier had died under these circumstances, and stating that there were letters left in the desk which might be of importance as throwing light upon the mystery of his disease… By the 30th December Dr. Penny made his medical report. A warrant was that day issued by the Procurator-Fiscal, not against Miss Smith, or in a criminal charge at all, but on the case of a sudden death, to search the repositories of the deceased. Gentlemen, that was done. The letters in the desk were sealed up in the presence of Kennedy and Stevenson. They were sent to the Procurator-Fiscal or to the Fiscal’s office… In the lodgings letters were found in the portmanteau, in the desk, and in the tourist’s bag… Now, it has been said this is a very loose and improper mode of conducting this business. It has been said that the letters should have been handed over to the Sheriff-Clerk, and that he was proper repository of these documents… I think it right to say that I know no excuse for an officer in the execution of a warrant when he recovers documents under the authority of that warrant, not identifying them completely at the time… It seemed to be said that the public prosecutor was in a position in which it depended entirely on his will and pleasure what facilities should be given to an accused party, to a party accused of a crime before the Court. I am happy to say, gentlemen, that no such law exists in this land. If documents were in the hands of the Procurator-Fiscal or of the public prosecutor, which the prisoner was entitled to have access to, the Courts of law were open, and an application to the Court of Justiciary would at once have prevented – if it had been the case – the public prosecutor from keeping back a single document to which the prisoner was entitled. And if they had had really wished to know what documents were recovered by the Procurator-Fiscal, and really thought that any documents were retained by him, why did they not before this trial, why did they not when the trial began, make an application to the Court to ascertain that fact in a proper and legitimate manner? Gentlemen, I will tell you. Because every scrap of paper that passed between the prisoner and the deceased L’Angelier has in one shape or other been produced in this process… There was a complaint made that we had refused access to the original documents. Gentlemen, I did so, we did so on our own responsibility; and that we did rightly there can be not a shadow of doubt; you have seen the mass of this correspondence, you have heard it explained in what state the repositories were. You have seen already, and you will know much more before this case is concluded, how vital every scrap that we have produced may be to the justice of the case. It was absolutely necessary that we should have the use of the documents to identify the hand-writing, to trace the letters, to ascertain their date, to ascertain their import, and it was necessary that we should take care that under no circumstances should these important elements of evidence run the slightest risk of being lost to justice. Gentlemen, the prisoner used the right which the law gives to a person accused in this country among the many other safeguards which this system above all others surrounds a person accused – I say she used the privilege of what is called running her letters immediately after the time when she was apprehended, and the effect of running letters is this, that it compels the public prosecutor to bring the accused to trial within a certain time, and accordingly it was absolutely necessary that within a limited time the case for the prosecution should be prepared; but the prisoner might have delayed the trial at any time. No doubt to a certain extent she would have lost the benefit of the haste with which the pursuer otherwise was compelled to complete his case. But if her advisers in such a case as this had really thought that there was injustice done, that there had been improper obstacles placed in the way of her defence, do you imagine that for a fortnight here or there they would have refrained from applying for a delay of the trial, which they would have got at once from the indulgence of the prosecutor; but which, if the prosecutor had been unwilling to grant, the Court, as a matter of course, would have given?.. I am glad to think that I speak in the presence of two of the learned judges having themselves been in the position, and they know well that I am in the right when I say that whatever may be the theory, it has not been the practise in any county in Scotland for the Sheriff-Clerk to be the custodier of documents under circumstances such as these;.. It is perfectly certain, gentlemen, that any such rule as that would in truth paralyse the whole machinery of justice, and this very case is an illustration of what would have been the result if every precognition in which there were important statements bearing on the case had only been taken in the presence of the Sheriff-Clerk? I venture to say that the result would have been that this case must have been delayed until it was impossible for the public prosecutor to bring the prisoner to trial, or that the important public interests which, in the vast community of Glasgow, are committed to these important and learned criminal officers, would have become unnecessarily restrained… I feel it is very unfortunate only to have a partial correspondence produced; but I have produced all the correspondence to which the prosecutor had access. For the most part there was only one side, and we had none of the other. We had nearly 200 letters, or more than 200 letters from the prisoner at the bar to deceased. We have only one copy of a letter from deceased to prisoner… How came that? You will see in the correspondence that the letters of L’Angelier were not destroyed at a very recent date. You could not have been much surprised if it had been otherwise. That a lady should not preserve a letter of that description would not be in the least degree remarkable, but there is evidence down to the 7th or 8th February last that correspondence was in existence, and we have heard no explanation of any kind as to what has become of it… The only matter in which the prisoner has a legitimate interest as regards this question is, no doubt, one of very great importance… After this somewhat long digression, I come back to the painful details of the case. My story is short. This young lady returned from a London boarding-school in the year 1853. She met L’Angelier somewhere I believe about the end of 1853. L’Angelier’s history has not been very clearly brought out. It is plain, unquestionably, that in 1851 he was in very poor and destitute circumstances. Of his character I say nothing at present but this, that it is quite clear that by energy and attention he had won his way up to a position that was at least respectable – a position in which those who came in contact with him plainly had for him a very considerable regard. It is no part of my case to maintain the character of the unhappy deceased. The facts in this case make it impossible to speak of him in any terms but those of very strong condemnation. But still it is plain that when Miss Smith became first acquainted with L’Angelier he was a man moving in a respectable position, bearing a respectable character, liked by all those who came in contact with him, spoken of by the three landladies with whom he lodged in the highest possible terms – a man of whom the Chancellor of the French Consulate spoke as respectable and steady, a man spoken of by his employers and by his fellow-clerks in Huggins’ warehouse also in the highest terms. I do not say anything of that at present, but such is the fact. These two persons met; they were introduced, I assume, clandestinely. After a time, it seems an attachment commenced, which was forbidden by her parents. It is only right to say that the letters of the prisoner at that time show good feeling, proper affection, and a proper sense of duty. This went on; the intercourse was again renewed, and in the course of 1856, as you must have found, it assumed a criminal aspect. From that time down to the end of the year, not once or twice, but I have evidence to show clearly that repeated acts of improper connection took place. It will be necessary for you to take into your consideration that she had so completely committed herself by the end of 1856 that she was, I will not say in L’Angelier’s power (he was in her power), but she belonged to him, and could with honour belong to no one else. But her affection began to cool; another suitor appeared; she endeavoured to break off her connection with L’Angelier by coldness, and asked him to return her letters. He refused, and threatened to put them in the hands of her father. There is much that is dishonourable in this case, but not that. It would have been honourable to have allowed the prisoner at the bar to become the wife of an honest man. It was then she saw the position she was in; she knew what letters she had written to L’Angelier; she knew what he could reveal; she knew that if those letters were sent to her father, not only would her marriage with Mr. Minnoch be broken off, but that she could not hold up her head again. She writes in despair to him to give her back her letters; he refuses. There is one incident – she attempts to buy prussic acid; there is another incident – she bought arsenic; there is a third incident – she bought arsenic again. Her letters, instead of demands for the recovery of her letters being contained in them, again assume all the warmth of affection they had the year before. On the 12th of March she has been with Mr. Minnoch making arrangements for her marriage. On the 21st she invites L’Angelier to come with all the ardour of passion to see her; she buys arsenic on the 18th; and L’Angelier dies of poison on the morning of the 23d. The story was strange – in its horrors almost incredible. No one can wonder that such a story had carried a thrill of horror into every family. The prisoner is entitled to the presumption which can be given her. If, as I am certainly bound, I bring before you such proof as to carry conviction to your minds that no reasonable man can doubt, that no reasonable ray of doubt can penetrate the judgment, then, incredible as the story is, and fearful as the result of your verdict must be, we have no alternative in the discharge of our public duty but myself to ask, and you to give, that verdict which the facts of the case, if proved, demand. In cases of this kind – in occult cases especially – the ends of justice would be perpetually defeated if you were to say you shall not convict a man unless you find some person who saw the crime committed. But in the case of administration of poison that remark applies with peculiar force. In truth, the fact of administering poison before witnesses is so far from affording, in the first instance, a presumption of guilt, that it sometimes is the strongest proof of innocence. I remember a case which attracted as much attention in a sister country as this has done in this. The culprit there sat by the bedside of his victim, surrounded by medical attendants; gave him the poison in their presence; sat and witnessed its effect; saw his dying agonies with a coolness which could hardly be believed. There could hardly be a stronger presumption of his innocence than that; and the result was that he very nearly had entirely escaped suspicion from the fact that the thing was done openly. And, therefore, in the case of the administration of poison, the fact of there being no eye-witness to the administration is not an element of much weight in the inquiry. You may assume that if it was done with a guilty intention, it was done secretly. The question is, whether we have evidence to trace the crime from the course of the circumstances. Now, having thus given you an outline of the nature of the evidence, I go on to consider that evidence in detail; and I shall endeavour to do that in a manner which shall bring clearly before you how these facts, in their order, bear upon the crime alleged. We have to take the links of different parts of this chain of evidence somewhat out of their order. I shall now proceed to look at them exactly in the order of time, beginning with the 29th of April, 1856… That letter of the 29th April, 1856, is one of the few letters which bear a date. It has also a postmark, “Helensburgh, April 30, ‘56.” In that letter she says – “Dearest, I must see you; it is fearful never to see you; but I am sure I don’t know when I shall see you. P. has not been a night in town for some time, but the first night he is off I shall see you. We shall spend an hour of bliss. There shall be no risk; only C. H. shall know.” – this C. H. being Catherine Haggart, who was made the confidante of this amour since its commencement, and the vehicle through whom the letters were transmitted… On Friday, a letter without a date is written, and enclosed in an envelope, which bears the postmark of Saturday, “May 3d, ‘56.” In this letter date Friday, the prisoner says:- “P. has been in bed two days. If he should not feel well and come down on Tuesday it shall make no difference. Just you come, only darling. I think if he is in the boat you should come to the gate – you know it – and wait till I come. And then, oh, happiness; won’t I kiss you, my love, my own beloved Emile, my husband dear? I don’t think there is any risk. Well, Tuesday, 6th May – the gate – half-past ten; you understand, darling.”… In this letter, dated Wednesday morning, five o’clock, and found in an envelope bearing the date 7th May, you have these words – “My own, my Beloved Husband, – I trust to God you got home safe, and were not much the worse of being out. Thank you, my love, for coming so far to see your Mimi. It is truly a pleasure to see my Emile. Beloved, if we did wrong last night, it was in the excitement of our love. Yes, beloved, I did truly love you with my soul.” Then she says further down – “Am I not your wife? And you may rest assured, after what has passed, that I cannot be the wife of any other but dear, dear Emile.” Then, after referring to a journey to Lima which L’Angelier had proposed making, she goes on to say – “I shall write dear Mary soon. What would she say if she knew we were so intimate. She would lose all her good opinion of us both – would she not?” That letter speaks language not to be mistaken. From that period dates the commencement of the criminal intimacy between the parties. The letters between the date in May and the end of the year are written in a strain that really I do not think I should comment upon. I can say this, that the expression in these letters – the language in which they are couched – the matters to which they refer – do so entirely overthrow the moral sense, the sense of moral delicacy and decency, as to create a picture which I do not know ever had its parallel in an inquiry of this sort… If my learned friend means to say that L’Angelier has his share in corrupting her moral sense, I shall not much dispute it. It does not matter to this inquiry whether that be so or not… I next refer to a letter dated “Friday night,” enclosed in an envelope bearing the postmark “Helensburgh, Friday, 27th May,” from which I take the following as a specimen of the letters which passed at this time. In that letter she says:- “I think I would be wishing you to love me, if I were with you, but I don’t suppose you would refuse me, for I know you will like to love your Mimi.” – three scores being made under love. In a letter, which has no date, she swears she will never marry any one else, and in another letter, enclosed in the same envelope, she says:- “Our intimacy has not been criminal, as I am your wife before God.”… My learned friend requested that the last passage in that letter should be read, for the purpose of showing that she had read article in Blackwood’s Magazine about arsenic. That shows plainly, at anyrate, that it was written in the month of September. At the bottom of the page is this passage – “I did tell you at one time that I did not like – (William is first written, but scored out) – Minnoch, but he was so pleasant that he quite raised himself in my estimation.” That must have been in September, 1856, and you will see that in the correspondence to the end of the year, there are constant allusions to Minnoch, by way of preparing L’Angelier for something in connection with that man. And it turns out, in point of fact, that L’Angelier did become extremely jealous of his attentions… In the next letter, written from Helensburgh on Tuesday – postmark illegible – she says, “I forgot to tell you last night that I shall not be able, of an evening, to let you in. My room is next to B., and on the same floor as the front door. (You will find by-and-by that she got over that difficulty.) I shall never be able to spend the happy hours we did last winter.”.. The next letter is dated Friday night, twelve o’clock, and is posted in Glasgow on the 18th November. In this letter, which says, “Sweet love, – You should use those brown envelopes, they would not be so much seen as white ones, put down into my window. You should just stoop down to tie your shoe, and then slip it in.” This is the first letter, then, in which instructions are given as to how the correspondence is to take place at the Blythswood Square house. I shall now wish you to look at the plan of the house…
His lordship, in again referring to the plan of the house, said – I make a remark to this part now for the purpose of stating that a person coming into the front-door could get into the dining-room without attracting any attention whatever from those occupying the bed room at the back of the house. It is also apparent from the plan that any one could go to the kitchen from Miss Madeleine’s bed-room on the sunk floor without attracting attention; and, what is more, a person going out from Miss Madeleine’s bed-room could go up the indoor staircase without attracting the attention of those occupying the bed rooms in the back of the house, or any of the other bed-rooms… In one letter she says – I don’t think I can take you in as I did in India Street,” plainly showing that she had taken him in there… I have told you, gentlemen, that she could perfectly well take him in at the front door. She could leave her own room, go upstairs, and she had only to open the hall-door sufficiently to enable L’Angelier to get into the dining-room, so as to prevent the possibility of being heard from any of the back rooms of the house. And this letter proves that it was not a mere theory, but what she proposed to do… Gentleman, it seems plain that there was at this time a serious intention on the part of these persons to make an elopement. You had it proved by many witnesses. You had it proved by the landlady, Mrs. Clark, as to the intention to have the banns proclaimed on Sunday, and the marriage to take place on Monday. There are, besides, various allusions in the letters to getting married by a Justice of the Peace… No. 75, which is the next of the series I have alluded, was plainly written after the last letter I read, and I mention this to show how the dates correspond, because in this letter she says she was going with Mr. Minnoch to a concert, and says – “You say you heard I took M. to the concert against his inclination, and forced him to go. I told you the right way when I wrote. But from your statement in your letter of to-night you did not believe my word. Emile, I would not have done this to you. Even now I would write and tell you. I would not believe every idle report. No, I would not. I would, my beloved Emile, believe my husband’s word before any other. But you always listen to reports about me if they are bad. You know I could not sit a whole evening without talking, but I have not flirted.” Gentlemen, there is evidence here, and which you have under the hand of the prisoner further on, that after the first paroxysms had subsided her affection towards L’Angelier had cooled. The reason of that it is not necessary that we should discern. He seems to have been rather exciting, but whatever the reason might be, it is quite plain that a change came over her affection about this time… Mr. Minnoch has told you that during the whole of this winter there was a tacit understanding between them that they were lovers. She alludes to this in her letter when she refers to the reports about her, and denies that there is any truth in them. On the next day she says – “For your sake I shall be very cold to everybody. I am rather more fond of C. H. She is very civil. I will trust her.” Gentlemen, there is in the rest of this letter what I will not read, but there is a plain and obvious reference to the possibility of her becoming a mother, which, under the circumstance, it is impossible not to see the force of… You will find a reference to a subsequent letter to M. and P. having gone to the pantomime. She says – “P. and M. thought of going to Edinburgh,” and then she continues – “If P. and M. go, you will not, sweet love, come to your Mimi? Do you think I would ask you if I saw danger in the house. No, love, I would not. I shall let you in; no one shall see you. We can make it late – twelve, if you please – You have no long walk. No, my own beloved. My sweet Emile. Emile, I see your sweet smile. I hear you say you will come and see your Mimi, clasp her to your bosom, and kiss her, and call her your pet, your wife. Emile will not refuse me…” This means that he shall come into the house as he had done before, and it speaks of his clasping her to his breast… And now, gentlemen, having traced the correspondence down to this date, and proving the greatest intimacy between the parties, proving the correspondence to be of such a character that no eye could see it without her character being utterly blasted, proving also vows over and over repeated, that after her intimacy with him she could be his wife and that of no other, as to be so would be a sin; having intimated in as strong language as she could that for Minnoch she had no affection whatever; that she had at no time whatever flirted with him or any one else, being his wife; having proved all this down to the end of 1856. We now come to the crisis, and I must ask you to keep the dates in mind from this time forth. The next act of this tragedy seems to have taken place on the 9th January, 1857… In this letter she says – “It is past eleven o’clock, and no letter from you, my own ever dear beloved husband. Why this, sweet one? I think I heard your stick this evening. Pray do not make any sounds whatever at my window. If it were possible, sweet one, would you not leave my notes at six as at ten o’clock? The moon up, and it is light. Sweet Emile, I am truly your fond love. You have all my heart and soul,” And then she goes on to say – “How do you keep yourself warm in bed. I have Janet beside me; but I often wish you were with me. Would you not put your arms around me, and keep me warm? Ah, yes, I know you would.” Then at p. 2 she has an observation which I think you will find of some consequence. She says – “I wish I could see you; but I must not look out of the window, so just leave your note and go away.” This was a general intimation, as much as to say, If you come to my window, and I don’t look out, you must assume there is some reason why I don’t see you, so just leave my note and go away.”.. Observe that the preceding day was January the 19th. In the next letter there is nothing material. She tells him that her father wished that they had a larger place than Row, and that they would not likely go back there again. Now, at this very time Mr. Minnoch has told you that a few days afterwards he asked the prisoner to be his wife, and yet she writes to L’Angelier on Monday night – “Sweet love, come if you can.” It seems that they had been in the habit of having interviews under the windows – in one instance it appears that he left a letter at the window, and got, I suppose, an answer to it in the same way. This letter was posted on the 14th, and I am not very sure if there is anything material in it, excepting that she says in a postscript that she does not hear of their going from home, that she is afraid there is no chance for them, and that she does not see how they could be married in Edinburgh. She also speaks of her Minnoch, and that if L’Angelier saw him she thinks he would like him, as she liked him better than she used to do… Now there is a letter, number 97, enclosed, bearing the date Glasgow, Jan. 27, and its written Friday;… It says – “Emile, my own beloved, you have just left me. Oh, sweet darling, at this moment my heart and soul burns with love for thee, my husband, my sweet one. Emile, what would I not give at this moment to be your fond wife. My night dress was on when you saw me; would to God you had been in the same attire.”.. Now, gentlemen, mark this – On the 28th of the month of January the prisoner accepts Minnoch… I now come to two letters of the deepest possible consequence… She had, as I have told you, accepted Mr. Minnoch on the 28th. Kennedy says that on a morning in February – he thinks a fortnight before the 23d – L’Angelier had come to the counting-house with tears in his eyes, and said that Miss Smith had written to him for her letters, and breaking off the engagement; that she said there was coolness on both sides; that he had got the letter that morning; and that she should not marry any one else while he lived… She says – “I feel truly astonished to have my last letter returned to me, but it will be the last you shall have an opportunity of returning.”.. There is a “2” on the postmark, and that it was written on the 2d is beyond all question; and, of course, it arrived on the 3d. L’Angelier says, “when you are not pleased with the letters I send you, then our correspondence shall be at an end; and as there is a coolness on both sides, our engagement had better be broken.” Now, these are the very words that Kennedy told you L’Angelier repeated to him on the morning when he entered the counting-house so much distressed. She says:- “You have more than once returned me my letters, and my mind was made up that I should not stand the same thing again. And you also annoyed me much on Saturday by your conduct in coming so near me; altogether, I think, owing to coolness and indifference (nothing else) that we had better for the future consider ourselves strangers. I trust to your honour as a gentleman that you will not reveal anything that may have passed between us. I shall feel obliged by your bringing me my letters and likeness on Sunday evening at seven. Be at the area gate, and C. H. (Catherine Haggart) will take the parcel from you. On Friday night I shall send you all your letters, likeness, &c…” On Thursday at seven o’clock she says that she had found coolness and indifference on both sides, and for that reason, and as she affirms for nothing else, the engagement had better be broken off. But remember, gentlemen, four days before that letter was written she had been engaged to Mr. Minnoch. She was to return L’Angelier’s letter to him, therefore she had them. On the 2d of February she had his letters; she was to return them on the Friday; and she was also to return L’Angelier’s likeness. It was found in her chamber. What became of these letters we have no explanation whatever. There is a postscript to this important letter. She says – “You may be astonished at this sudden change, but for sometime back you must have noticed a coolness in my notes. My love for you has ceased, and that is why I was cool. I did love you truly and fondly, but for some time back I have lost much of that love. There is no other reason for my conduct, and I think it but fair to let you know this. I might have gone on and become your wife, but I could not have loved you as I ought. My conduct you will condemn, but I did at one time love you with my heart and soul. It has cost me much to tell you – sleepless nights – but it was necessary that you should know. If you remain in Glasgow or go away, I hope you may succeed in all your endeavours. I know you will never injure the character of one you so fondly loved. No, Emile, I know you have honour, and are a gentleman. What has passed you will not mention. I know when I ask you that you will comply.” Gentlemen, what a labyrinth – what a wilderness this unhappy girl, first by her love, and then by her want of prudence, was drawing into. She tries to break off this engagement because she says there was coolness on both sides, which I dare say on her part was not affected. She says she has no other reason for her conduct but that she has lost her love for L’Angelier – she says this when she knows that the actual reason is that she has pledged her word to another. She tells L’Angelier that her affection was withdrawn in the hope that his indignant spirit would induce her to turn her off, when she would be free to form another engagement. But, gentlemen, she had the dreadful recollection of the existence of her correspondence. She did not know how much L’Angelier had, but she knew that she was completely in his power. Gentlemen, she did not hear from L’Angelier for more than a week. She accordingly wrote this second letter, which bears the postmark of the 9th February; and its contents prove that it was then written. “I attribute to your having cold that I had no answer to your last note. On Thursday evening you were, I suppose, afraid of the night air. I fear your cold is not better. I again appoint Thursday night first – same place; street gate; seven o’clock. – M.”.. She adds in the same letter:- “If you bring me the parcel on Thursday, please write a note saying when you shall bring it, and address it to C. H… Send it by post.” She had got no answer to the demand for her letters, and she writes this cold letter in the tone of the former, saying everything is broken off, and making a second appointment for the delivery of her letters. Gentlemen, L’Angelier refused to give up the letters. He refused to give them up to her. He told Miss Perry, and he told Mr. Kennedy, that he would not give up the letters, but that, on the contrary, he would show them to her father. Now, gentlemen, in other circumstances, and had matters not gone so far between these unfortunate persons, it might have been considered a dishonourable and ungenerous thing in a man in L’Angelier’s position. But whether it was or not is not material to the matter in hand. I must say, however, that in the position in which the prisoner and L’Angelier stood, I do not see how he, as a man of honour, could allow this marriage with Mr. Minnoch to take place and remain silent. It may be doubted whether or not they were man and wife by the law of the land. It is needless to discuss this question. There is materials in this correspondence that this view might be maintained by L’Angelier had he chosen to do it, and that he considered the prisoner his wife though they had not been married in a regular and respectable manner.
– Glasgow Herald, Wednesday 8th July, 1857, pp.4 & 5.
[The Lord Advocate’s address to the jury is continued from where the Herald leaves it.]
… He considered her his wife, and so thinking he had a right not to give up the letters… Gentlemen, I never in my life had so harrowing a task as raking and bringing before such a tribunal and audience as this the outpourings of such a despairing spirit, and in such a position as this miserable girl was. Such words as these paraded in public under any circumstances would be intolerable agony, but the circumstances of this case throw all these considerations utterly into the shade, and if for a moment they do obtrude themselves upon us they must be repelled, for our duty is a stern one and cannot yield to such considerations. L’Angelier refused to give up the letters. It was not revenge he wanted; he wanted his wife, and he plainly had told her that he would not permit their engagement to be broken off, and that he would put these letters into her father’s hands. Some extrication was inevitable if she hoped to save her character, and with a strength of will which I think she exhibited in some more passages in this case, she resolved she would not go back to L’Angelier; she had ceased to love him; she had determined to marry another. And throughout all this, while she is in utter despair, and tries to move him by her protestations, there is not the slightest indication of an intention to go back and love him, and be his wife. Quite the contrary; but on or about the 6th or 12th of February she gives her father’s house-boy a line for prussic acid. For what purpose? For what purpose on earth could she want it? and for what purpose did she say she wanted it? For her hands. This is the first indication we have that her mind is running in that way. She did not get the prussic acid [hydrogen cyanide], and she found that L’Angelier would not give up the letters. She did not go on to endeavour to induce him to do so by despairing protestations. She took another line, and that line was pretending – because it could not be real – pretending to adopt the old tone of love and affection; all this time keeping up the engagement with Mr. Minnoch, receiving the congratulations of her friends, receiving presents from him, and engaged in fixing the time of union. L’Angelier had an appointment with the prisoner on the night of the 19th of February, and in the middle of the night he was seized with a sudden illness. He lay on the floor all night; he was so ill that he could not call assistance for some time; and his landlady found him in the morning. At last he was relieved, but only after a great deal of suffering. These symptoms were the symptoms of arsenic. On the 21st the prisoner purchased arsenic in a druggist’s shop. L’Angelier saw her on the 22d, which was a Sunday, and on the night of the 22d and the morning of the 23d he was again seized with the very symptoms that he had had before – everything which you would expect in a case of arsenical poisoning. Now, that I have shown you how the matter stands up to Wednesday, the 25th February, what do you think of it? No doubt the illness of the 12th takes place when I cannot prove the prisoner had any arsenic in the house – that is perfectly true, but L’Angelier told Miss Perry that his two first illnesses had arisen immediately after receiving a cup of coffee one time and a cup of cocoa or chocolate the other from the prisoner, that she admits she did give him a cup of cocoa, that she had the means of making it in the house, that the illness the second time was the same as the first time, and that upon both these occasions these illnesses were symptomatic of arsenic. He now came down to the middle of March. when the prisoner found the coils coming closer around her – L’Angelier determined not to be put off – and she herself pledged to an absolute falsehood – viz., that the report of her marriage is not true – she purchases another dose of arsenic. Draw your own conclusion, gentlemen; I fear you will find but one at which it is possible for you to arrive. His lordship then traced L’Angelier to Bridge of Allan on Thursday, March 19, and from there to Glasgow on Saturday, the 22d of this month. L’Angelier came back to Glasgow in consequence of a letter from the prisoner with the postmark, “Glasgow, March 21,” and on the 18th of that month she bought her third packet of arsenic. L’Angelier came to his lodgings, stayed in the house, took some tea, and left the house in his usual health a little after or before nine o’clock. He is seen sauntering along in the direction of Blythswood Square about twenty minutes past nine. It is too early. He knows the ways of the house, and knows that they have prayers on Sunday night. He must beguile the time a little, and so he goes past Blythswood Square, down to the other side, and makes a call on his acquaintance, McAlester, in Terrace Street, but does not find him at home. The maid-servant recognised him, and says he was there about half-past nine. Here we lose sight of him for the period of two or three hours; but there is no attempt to show that any mortal man saw him anywhere else than the only place he was going to. He went out with the determination of seeing her; and believing that he had an appointment at that place, you cannot doubt that, after coming from the Bridge of Allan, post haste, to see her, walking first from Bridge of Allan to Stirling, then travelling from Stirling to Coatbridge to Glasgow, and then walking from his lodgings in the direction of Blythswood Square – you cannot believe that he would give up on his purpose within a hundred yards of the house. The thing is incredible, impossible. The prisoner denies she heard anything that night. Is that within the region of possibility? She writes him a letter. I know, she says, the appointment was for Saturday. But do you suppose that in the course of that correspondence, even if that were true, she would not have waited for him next night on the chance of his being out of town? The interview was long delayed, anxiously looked for – the interview at which everything was to be explained, in an explanation which she knew he was waiting for. Is it possible that she went to sleep that night, and never woke till the morning. Gentlemen, whatever else you may think, I think you will come to this inevitable conclusion, that L’Angelier did go to the house, did make his presence known; and if he did that, what means the denial in the prisoner’s declaration, that L’Angelier was there that night at all? It is utterly inconceivable and impossible. You have no other trace of him. The policeman, it is true, did not see him, but neither did he see him in many a midnight walk – for you know what a policeman’s beat is. But that he was there is certain. This was the critical night, when the question was to be decided of her fame and reputation for ever. After this L’Angelier went home and died. He was anxious to recover, which showed that his death did not proceed from suicide. Among the last things he said was, “Oh, if I could only get a little sleep, I think I should recover.” His Lordship then analysed the evidence for the defence. As to the idea of suicide, is it in the least likely, he asked, that a man in L’Angelier’s position would go out to Blythswood Square and swallow dry arsenic there, and then totter home and die? Gentlemen, that is a supposition that is entirely inconceivable. I can conceive of no possibility of it being a case of suicide that does not imply that they met, and if they met then the evidence of her guilt is overwhelming. The only chance of escape for the prisoner is to maintain the truth of her declaration that they did not meet that night; and if they did not, I cannot see how the case can be considered one of suicide. In conclusion he said – If I had thought that there were any elements of doubt or of disproof in the case that would have justified me in retiring from the painful task which I have now to discharge, believe me, gentlemen, there is not a man in this Court who would have rejoiced more at that result than myself; for of all the persons engaged in this trial, apart from the unfortunate object of it, I believe the task laid upon me is at once the most difficult and the most painful. I have now discharged my duty. I am quite certain that in the case which I have submitted to you I have not overstrained the evidence. I do not believe that in any instance I have strained the facts beyond what they would normally bear. If I have, you yourselves, my learned friend on the other side, and the Court, will correct me. And now, gentlemen, as I have said, I leave the case in your hands. I see no outlet for this unhappy prisoner, and if you come to the same result as I have done there is but one course open to you, and that is to return a verdict of guilty of this charge.
On the suggestion of the Lord Justice-Clerk, the Dean of Faculty delayed his address till to-morrow, and the Court adjourned at half-past three o’clock.
The Court was much crowded, and among those present were one or two artists making sketches for some of the illustrated journals. Miss Smith’s appearance was much the same as on the former days, with the exception that she seemed more absorbed in the proceedings.
– Perthshire Advertiser, Thursday 9th July, 1857, p.2.
HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY –
MISS SMITH’S TRIAL.
Wednesday, 8th July – Eighth Day.
The Court met again yesterday at ten o’clock.
The DEAN OF FACULTY addressed the jury for the prisoner. He said:- Gentlemen of the Jury – The charge against the prisoner is murder, and the punishment of murder is death; and that simple statement is sufficient to suggest to us the awful solemnity of the occasion which brings you and me face to face. But, gentlemen, there are peculiarities in the present case of so singular and strange a kind – there is such an air of romance and mystery invested in it from the beginning to the end – there is something so touching in the age, the sex, and the social position of the accused – ay, and I must add that public attention is so directed to this trial, that they watch our proceedings, and hang on our very accents with such anxiety and eagerness of expectation, that I feel almost bowed down and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task which is imposed on me. You are invited and encouraged by the prosecutor to snap the thread of this young life and to consign to an ignominious death on the scaffold one who within a few short months was known only as a gentle and confiding and affectionate girl – the ornament and pride of a happy family. Gentlemen, the tone in which my learned friend addressed you yesterday could not fail to strike you as most remarkable. It was characterised by great moderation – by such moderation as I think must have convinced you that he could hardly expect a verdict at your hands; and in the course of that address – for which I give him the highest credit – he could not resist the expression of his own deep feeling of commiseration for the position which the prisoner is placed in, which was but an involuntary homage that the official prosecutor pays to the kind and generous nature of the man. But, gentlemen, I am going to ask you for something different from commiseration. I am going to ask for that which I will not condescend to beg, but will loudly and importunely demand – that to which every prisoner is entitled, whether she be the lowest and vilest of her sex, or the maiden whose purity is of the unsullied snow. I ask you for justice, and if you will kindly lend me your attention for the requisite period, and if Heaven will give me patience and strength for the task, I shall tear to tatters that web of sophistry with which the prosecutor has striven to invest this poor girl and her sad, strange story… Somewhat less than two years ago accident brought her acquainted with the deceased L’Angelier, and yet I can hardly call it accident, for it was due unfortunately in a great measure to the indiscretion of a young man whom you saw before you the day before yesterday. He introduced her to L’Angelier on the open street in circumstances which plainly show that he could not procure an introduction otherwise or elsewhere. And what was he who thus introduced himself upon the society of this young lady, and then clandestinely introduced himself into her father’s house? He was an unknown adventurer: utterly unknown at that time, so far as we can see… We find him, according to the confession of all those who observed him then narrowly, vain, conceited, pretentious, with a great opinion of his own personal attractions, and a very silly expectation of admiration from the other sex… And accordingly once and again we find him engaged in attempts to get married to women of some station at least in society; we have heard of one disappointment which he met with in England, and another we heard a great deal of connected with a lady in the county of Fife; and the manner in which he bore his disappointment on those two occasions is perhaps the best indication and light we have as to the true character of the man. He was not a person of strong health, and it is extremely probable that this, among other things, had a very important effect in depressing his spirits, rendering him changeable and uncertain – now uplifted, as one of the witnesses said, and now most deeply depressed – of a mercurial temperament, as another described it, very variable, never to be depended on. Such was the individual whom the prisoner unfortunately became acquainted with in the manner that I have stated… The correspondence, in its commencement, shows that if L’Angelier had it in his mind originally to corrupt and seduce this poor girl, he entered upon the attempt with considerable ingenuity and skill; for the very first letter of the series which we have contains a passage in which she says, “I am trying to break myself of all my very bad habits; it is you I have to thank for this, which I do sincerely from my heart.” He had been finding fault with her, therefore, for her faults, whatever they were. He had been suggesting to her improvement in her conduct or in something else. He had thus been insinuating himself into her company. And she no doubt yielded a great deal too easily to the pleasures of this new acquaintance, but pleasures comparatively of a most innocent kind at the time to which I am now referring… she writes to him in these terms:- “I now perform the promise I made in writing to you soon. We are to be in Glasgow to-morrow, but as my time will not be at my own disposal, I cannot fix any time to see you; chance may throw you in my way. I think you will agree with me in what I intend proposing, that for the present the correspondence had better stop. I know your good feeling will not take this wrong. It was meant quite the reverse. By continuing the correspondence harm may arise; in discontinuing it nothing can be said.” And accordingly for a time, so far as appears, the correspondence did cease… Once more, in the spring of 1856, it would appear – the correspondence having in the interval been renewed, how, we do not know – but is it not fair to suppose, rather on the importunate entreaty of this gentleman than on the suggestion of the lady who wrote such a letter as that? The correspondence was discovered by the family of Miss Smith. On that occasion she wrote thus to her confidant Miss Perry:- [The letter beginning “Dearest Mary,” telling that the correspondence had been discovered, and that she would be firm.]… The correspondence was put an end to by the interference of Mr Smith, and for a time that interference had effect. But, alas! the next scene is the most painful of all. This which we have been speaking of is in the end of 1855. In the spring of 1856 the corrupting influence of the seducer was successful, and the prisoner fell. How corrupting that influence must have been, and how vile the arts were to which he resorted for his nefarious purpose, could never be known so well as by looking to the altered tone of this poor girl’s letters. She had lost not her virtue merely, but as my learned friend said, her sense of decency. Whose fault was that? Whose doing was it? Think you that without temptation, without vile teaching, a poor girl falls into those depths of degradation? No. Influence from without, most corrupting influence could alone account for such a fall. And yet, gentlemen, through the midst of this frightful correspondence, which I wish to God could have been concealed from your eyes and those of the public – and if it had not been, as my learned friend thought, absolutely necessary for the ends of justice that it should have been produced, I feel satisfied he would not have done so – but even through the midst of this frightful correspondence there breathes a spirit of devoted love towards the man who wronged her that strikes me as most remarkable. The Dean referred to the little evidence that existed that the parties had ever met in the house in Blythswood Square. From the 18th November till the death of L’Angelier, there were only two interviews proved to have taken place within the house – one occasion being that of which Christina Haggart spoke, and which, he believed, took place not on the 19th February but the 10th of January, in consequence of the letter of that day’s date. On the 28th January the prisoner accepted Mr Minnoch. My learned friend says the whole character of the prisoner’s mind was changed, and she set herself for the perpetration of one of the most cool and deliberate murders that ever was committed. I will not say that such a thing is absolutely impossible, but I do venture to say it is wellnigh incredible. He will be a bold man who will seek to set limits to the depths of human depravity, but on that subject all past experience teaches us that the perfection even of depravity is not rapidly attained. It is not by such short, easy stages as the prosecutor had been able to trace in the career of Madeleine Smith that a gentle, loving girl passes at once into the savage grandeur of a Medea, or the appalling wickedness of a Borgia. No, gentlemen, such things are not possible. There must be a certain progress in guilt. It is quite out of all human experience to suppose that from the tone of love in which the letters that had passed before were written, there should be a sudden transition, I will not say to the loss of affection for that particular object, but to that savage desire of removing, by any means, the obstruction to her wishes which the prosecutor imputes to the prisoner. Think for a moment how foul and unnatural a murder that is imputed to her: the murder of one who within a very short space was the object of her love – an unholy love; but yet while it lasted, and its endurance was not brief, it was deep, absorbing, unselfish, devoted passion, and it is the object of it she now conceives the purpose of murdering. Such is the theory you are asked to believe; but, gentlemen, before you believe it, you will ask for demonstration, you will not be contented with conjecture or suspicion, and it is not enough to say that the theory of the prosecutor is the most probable that is offered to us. Oh, gentlemen, is that the manner in which the jury are to deal with such a case? Is that the kind of proof on which you are to convict of a capital offence?.. Mrs Jenkins – than whom he never saw a more accurate and trustworthy witness – was able to fix a date for the second illness, namely, the 23d February; but she said that the first was eight or ten days previously to the second – which would bring them back to the 13th, or thereby; and that he was ill about the 13th, was proved by one of the letters, and by the testimony of Mr Miller. As to Miss Perry’s recollection of the 19th, she did not recollect it the first, the second, or even the third time she was precognosced, and it was only by the most improper interference of one of the Fiscal’s clerks, who read to her a date out of a book which has been rejected as worthless in fixing dates, that she fixed upon the 19th. But suppose the 19th was the date, notwithstanding that the prosecutor had searched all the druggists’ shops in Glasgow, they had been unable to find that the prisoner bought any arsenic at all till the 21st, when she went so openly into Murdoch’s, signed her name, and let it go to her father’s account… As to the second illness, there was no proof whatever that the parties met after this purchase at all. Mrs Jenkins said she did not think he was out of the house on Sunday night the 22d. She said she had not given him the latch-key that night, which she always did when he was to be out late; that she would have recollected it had he borrowed it that night; and M. Thuau said he certainly did not let him in that night, which was the only way he could get in if he left without the latch-key. The letter 107, however, was founded on to prove they met that night; a letter which had no date – and which, though it had been found in an envelope with the clearest date, it would be madness to convict upon; and with all the possibilities of such a letter finding its way into a wrong envelope, even in the hands of the deceased, and still more in the hands of those by whom it was recovered, and with the date quite illegible, and which the Crown witness said had an “r” in the month, which showed it could not be “Feb.” – so that even the Crown discarded their own witness to carry out their theory – he was entitled to say that there was not merely a conflict of evidence on the point, but an accumulation of evidence disproving the theory that they met that night at all; and the failure to prove that certainly put an end to the charge. If, then, deceased was ill from arsenical poison on that occasion, the inference he again drew was that he was in the way of receiving arsenic from some other hand. The Dean then proceeded to consider the third and last charge. He referred to the missing letter deceased received from the prisoner at the Bridge of Allan on Friday. That letter evidently contained an appointment for a certain night, and when he found he could not keep it, he knew it was useless to come without a special appointment. He then came to the second letter forwarded to the Bridge of Allan, bearing the postmark 21st March, and as he held, making the appointment for the Saturday evening. When was it she waited and waited? Thursday evening. The letter from the deceased to Miss Perry conclusively proved that… There is no appearance throughout the correspondence of any meeting having taken place without previous arrangements made, and she had constantly repeated her warning against his making any signal at the window, as it was sure to lead to discovery and risk of various kinds. On every occasion she watched and waited for him, he never came without preconcert. Having broken his appointment for the Thursday, he never supposed he could procure an appointment for the Friday. He waited till he got another letter, and when he broke his appointment on the Saturday, why should he expect to have one on the Sunday. On the Sunday night the family are at prayers, the servants come down stairs and go to bed one by one, the cook not retiring till eleven. The prisoner and her youngest sister descend to their bed-room between half-past ten and eleven. They take half an hour to undress. The prisoner goes to bed with her sister, and so far as human evidence goes, the house is undisturbed and unapproached up to the following morning. Do you think there could have been a meeting and no evidence of it? The policeman, who knew him, had not seen him that night either within the house or without the house. There is not the slightest vestige or ground of suspicion, that the meeting appointed for Saturday took place on Sunday… Who can tell that he received no other letters at Bridge of Allan, and for what purpose he came so unexpectedly home? There is considerable mystery thrown over his identity in the course of the journey. Ross did not describe a person like the prisoner, and Ross was not shown the photograph. The mail guard professed to identify him from it, and yet the Crown objected to our relying on the photograph when identified by the druggists. No one is called from the inn to identify L’Angelier; and what was the account the supposed L’Angelier gave of himself to Ross? why, that he had come from Alloa, and that he was going to Glasgow to cash a cheque, of which payment had been refused to him as a stranger – an account which, if given by L’Angelier, the Crown had taken no means to test. If L’Angelier was not with Ross, he gives no false account of himself, and the evidence of the druggists at Coatbridge, Baillieston, and Gallowgate, from whom he bought laudanum, who all identify the likeness, and one of them the purse out of which the money was paid, were consistent with each other. If these three witnesses were correct, he was ill; and finally in Miss Kirk’s shop he purchased a white powder, and Miss Kirk can’t tell you what this white powder was. He comes to his lodging – he goes out at nine – is seen in different streets, but not Blythswood Square – which proves nothing at all… From half-past nine to half-past two he is absolutely lost sight of, and the Lord Advocate admitted that the fact that prisoner and deceased met that night is founded on inference and conjecture. Good heavens, inference and conjecture! Inference and conjecture whether on the night he was poisoned he saw the prisoner who is charged with this murder! I never heard such expressions made use of in a capital case before as indicating or describing a link in the chain of a prosecutor’s case… for the prosecutor himself to describe such a part of his evidence as a piece of conjecture and hypothesis, is to me a most startling novelty. And yet my learned friend could not help himself. It was necessity he should so express himself; for if he intended to ask a verdict he did only on a series of unfounded and incredible suspicions and hypotheses. The Dean then referred to the statements as to L’Angelier having a suspicion on his mind that he had received poison from the prisoner, and said if that were true, they were asked to believe that he took the poisoned cup from the prisoner, in which there lurked so great a quantity of arsenic as was sufficient to leave on his stomach 88 grains, and from the hands of one whom he suspected had been practising on his life. It was a dose which, according to Dr Christison, might have amounted to 240 grains. It was a dose that, so far as experience went, never was before successfully administered by a murderer, and it was most difficult to conceive a vehicle in which so great a quantity could be administered, far less to one who had had his suspicions previously excited. Then the Crown had shown that the colouring matter of any arsenic could afterwards be found in the stomach, but their witnesses say their attention was not called to that circumstance. Whose fault was that? The Crown must have known the importance of this inquiry, and the prisoner had no means of being represented in this chemical analysis. Such was the evidence of the last charge. If the case is a failure on the first and second charges, it is a far more complete and radical failure in the last. In fact, I have demonstrated that it was absolutely impossible to bring guilt against the prisoner. It remains not only not proved, but the whole evidence connected with the proceedings of that day seems to go to negative such a supposition. I might stop there, for nothing can be more fallacious than to suppose that it is for me to explain how the prisoner came by his death. His Lordship will tell you a defender in this Court has no further duty but to stand on the defensive, and maintain that the case for the prosecution is not proved… The character of this man – his origin, his previous history, the nature of his conversation, the numerous occasions upon which he spoke of suicide – naturally suggest that as one mode by which he may have departed this life. I say, gentlemen, understand me – that I am not undertaking to prove that he died by his own hand. If I were doing anything so rash I should be imitating the rashness of the prosecutor, but I should not be stepping a hairs-breadth farther out of the beaten track of evidence and proof and demonstration. For I think there is more to be said for suicide than for the prisoner’s guilt… He speaks over and over again in Edinburgh, Dundee, and elsewhere – ay, and the prisoner’s letters show that he had made the same threat to her – that he would put himself out of existence. And is it half as violent a supposition as the supposition of this foul murder, that upon this evening – the 22d of March – in a fit of that kind of madness which he himself described came over him when he met with disappointment – finding, it may be, that he could not procure access to an interview which he desired – assuming that he came to Glasgow for the purpose – assuming, even, that he mistook the evening of the meeting, and expecting to see her on the Sunday – can anything be more probable than that in such a case, in the excited state in which he then was, that he should have committed the rash act which put an end to his existence? I can see no great improbability in that. But whether he met his death by suicide, or whether he met his death by accident, or in what way soever he met his death, the question for you is – Is this murder proved?.. Gentlemen, I have talked of the improbabilities which belong to this story – to this charge. But surely you cannot have omitted to observe how very unnatural and extraordinary a crime it is to impute to a person in the prisoner’s situation… I ask you to remember at what period we left this correspondence – at a period when she desired to break off with L’Angelier no doubt – at a period when she desired to obtain possession of her letters, the return of which was refused. I am most unwilling to intersperse my address with remarks upon the character of a man who is now no more. But picture to yourselves the moral temperament, the taste, the feeling of a human being who, having received such letters from a girl as you have heard read in this Court, would ever preserve them. He must have been dead to all feelings of humanity or he would never have refrained from burning those letters. But he not only preserves them, but he retains them as an engine of power and oppression in his hands. He keeps them that he may carry out his cold-blooded original design not merely of possessing himself of her person, but of raising himself in the social scale by a marriage with her. It was his object from the first, and that object he pursues constantly, unflinchingly, to the end. But he will expose her to her friends and to the world – he will drive her to destruction, or to suicide itself, rather than let her out of his power. It may be said that I am only describing the great provocation which she received, and therefore enhancing the probability of her taking this fearful mode of extricating herself from her embarrassment. I don’t fear that, gentlemen. I want you to look now at the picture which I have under her own hand of her own state of mind at this time – not for the purpose of vindicating her against this charge either of unchasteness or impropriety as regards Mr Minnoch, but for the purpose of showing you in what frame of mind the poor girl stood at the time – the very time at which she is said to have conceived and contrived this foul murder. There are two or three letters, but I select one for the purpose of illustrating what I now say. It is written on the 10th February, and it is written after she has asked for the return of her letters and been refused. The Dean then read in a very affecting manner the letter No. 107, in which the prisoner conjures the deceased by the most sacred names not to expose her shame to the world. Is that, he said, the mind of a murderess, or can any one affect that frame of mind? Will you, gentlemen, for one moment listen to the suggestion that that letter covers a piece of deceit? No, no. The finest actress that ever lived could not have written that letter unless she had felt it; and is that the condition in which a woman goes about to compass the death of him whom she has loved? Is that her frame of mind? Shame for past sin – burning shame – for the dread of exposure that leads a woman not to advance another step on the road to destruction, but to plunge at once into the deepest depths of human wretchedness. The thing is preposterous, and yet it is because of her despair, as my learned friend called it, exhibited in that and similar letters, that he says she had a motive to commit this murder. A motive – what motive? – a motive to destroy L’Angelier. What does that mean? It may mean, in a certain improper sense of the term, that it would have been an advantage to her that he should cease to live. That is not a motive in any proper sense of the term. That is not a motive, else how few of us are there that live who have not a motive to murder some one or other of our fellow creatures. If some advantage, resulting from the death of another, be a motive to the commission of a murder, a man’s eldest son must always have a motive to murder him that he may succeed to his estate; and I suppose the youngest officer in any regiment of her Majesty’s line has a motive to murder all the officers in his regiment; the younger he is, the further he ascends the scale, the more murders he has a motive to commit. Away with such nonsense. A motive to commit a crime must be something a great deal more than the mere fact that the result of that crime might be advantageous to the person committing it… But, gentlemen, even in the most improper and illegitimate sense of the term, let me ask you what possible motive there could be – I mean what possible advantage could she expect from L’Angelier ceasing to live so long as her letters remained in his possession? Without the return of his letters she gained nothing. Her object – her greatest desire – that for which she was yearning with her whole soul, was to prevent the exposure of her shame. But the death of L’Angelier, with these letters in his possession, instead of insuring that object, would have been perfectly certain to lead to the immediate exposure of everything that had passed between them. Shall I be told that she did not foresee that? I thought my learned friend had been giving the prisoner too much credit for talent in the course of his observations upon her conduct. But I should conceive her to be infinitely stupid if she could not foresee that the death of L’Angelier, with these documents in his possession, was the true and best means of frustrating the then great object of her life. So much for the motive. See what another startling defect that is in the case for the prosecution… It is of importance, too, that we should keep in mind the way in which her spirit was thus broken and bowed down with the expectation of an exposure of her conduct; for, when the death of L’Angelier was made known to her, can you for a single moment doubt that her apprehensions were keenly awakened – that she foresaw what must be the consequences of that event; and dreading to meet her father or her mother – feeling that in the condition of the family it was impossible she could remain among them – she left her father’s house on the Thursday morning the 27th March? I really don’t know whether my learned friend meant seriously to say that there was an absconding from justice by going to her father’s house at Row [Rhu]. Gentlemen, it is no flying from justice, but it is flying from that which she could just as little bear – the wrath of her father and the averted countenance of her mother. But she came back again without the slightest hesitation, and upon the Monday morning there occurred a scene as remarkable in the history of criminal jurisprudence as anything I ever heard of, by which that broken spirit was altogether changed. The moment she was met by a charge of being implicated in causing the death of L’Angelier, she at once assumed the courage of a heroine. She was bound sown and she fled while the charge of her own unchastity and shame was all that was brought against her. But she stood erect and proudly conscious of her innocence, when she was met by this astounding, monstrous charge of murder… After reading her declaration, and referring to various statements made in it, the Dean proceeded:- The possession of this arsenic is said to be unaccounted for, as far as the prisoner herself is concerned. It may be so, and yet that would not make a case for the prosecution. She says she used it as a cosmetic. This might be startling at first sight to many of us here, but after the evidence we have heard, it will not in the least amaze you. At school the statement, which has been so far borne out by evidence, shows that she had read of the Styrian peasants using arsenic for the strengthening of their wind and the improvement of their complexions. No doubt they used it internally and not externally as she did; but in the imperfect state of her knowledge that fact was of no significance. L’Angelier, too, was well aware of the same fact. He stated to more than one witness – and if he stated falsely, it is only one of a multitude of lies proved against him – that he used it himself. It is not surprising that if L’Angelier knew of this custom that he should have communicated it to the prisoner. It is not surprising that under these circumstances the prisoner should have used the arsenic externally, for an internal use is apparently a greater danger, which might have suggested it to her to try it externally, and there is no reason to suppose that, if used externally, as the prisoner says she did use it, it would be productive of any injurious effects; so that there was no reason to suspect on that ground the truth of the statement that the prisoner had made. No doubt we have medical gentlemen coming here and shaking their heads and looking wise, and saying that such a use of arsenic would be a dangerous procedure. Well, so should we all say that it is both a dangerous and foolish practice. But that is not the question. The question is, whether the prisoner could actually so use it without injurious effects; and that she could do so is demonstrated by the experiments of Dr Laurie and by the opinion of Dr Maclagan… Gentlemen, my learned friend, the Lord Advocate, said that great as was the courage that the unhappy prisoner displayed when charged with the crime, that demeanour was not inconsistent with the theory of her guilt. He said that a woman who had nerve to commit the murder would have nerve calmly to meet the accusation. I doubt that hypothesis. Gentlemen, I know of no case in which such undaunted courage has been displayed, from first to last, by so young a girl, confronted with such a charge, where that girl was guilty. But, gentlemen, our experience does furnish us with examples of as brave a bearing in so young a girl when innocent. Do you know the story of Eliza Fenwick? She was a servant-girl in London. She was tried on the charge of poisoning her master and family by putting arsenic into dumplings. When the charge was first made, she met it with a calm and indignant denial; she maintained the same demeanour throughout a long trial; and she received sentence of death without moving a muscle. According to the statement of a by-stander, when brought upon the scaffold to die, she looked serene as an angel, and she died as she had borne herself throughout the previous stages of her sad tragedy… But time brought the light which was wanting before; the true perpetrator of the murder confessed on his death-bed, but too late to avoid the enacting of a most bloody tragedy… it teaches us, by terrible example, to avoid confounding suspicion with proof, and to reject conjectures and hypotheses when they are tendered to us as demonstration… I pray God that neither you nor I may in any degree be guilty of adding another name to that black and bloody catalogue. I have now put before you what I conceive to be all the important branches of this inquiry separately, and as calmly and deliberately as I could; and I now ask your judgment on them. I ask you to bring the whole powers with which God has endowed you to the performance of this most solemn duty… Believe me, gentlemen, that whenever a jury seeks to deal with a case of this kind in the mere light of intellect or reason, and to throw aside and discard their own involuntary impressions, both of feeling and emotion, they are committing a sin against Almighty God; for they are refusing to call to their aid, in the performance of a most momentous duty, the noblest gift that God has planted in the breast of man. I tell you, you must bring to the consideration of this question not your reason only, but press into the service your hearts also, your fine moral instincts, and, above all, your guiding and overruling conscience; for thus, and thus only, can you possibly well discharge your duty either to God or to your neighbour in this great work. Gentlemen, think what it is for frail men like you to presume to say that you will deal with a question of this kind in the mere light of reason… I warn you that as regards that which is wrapt in mystery – and much of this case is still wrapt in mystery – it will be a fearful thing if you should uplift your rash and impotent hand to rend aside the veil in which it has pleased Providence to wrap the circumstances of this case. Surely that is neither the duty nor the province of any jury… It may be that the perpetrator of this murder, if it be one, may be brought before the bar of this court. I ask you to reflect for a moment upon what the feelings of any one of us would be on the occurrence of such an event – it may be your lot, the lot of any one of you, to be impanelled to try that guilty man. Would not your souls recoil with horror against the demand for more blood? I feel persuaded that you would refuse to discharge your duty in condemning the guilty because you had already doomed the innocent to die. I say, therefore, gentlemen, ponder well before, on anything short of clear evidence, you venture on such an awful verdict as is demanded of you. Does any man here – is there at this moment a man present who will dare to tell me on the evidence which is before us that he has a clear opinion against the prisoner?.. Picture to yourselves what may be the reflections – the tortures of your own consciences hereafter if it should turn out to be a mistake…
The LORD JUSTICE-CLERK then commenced to charge the jury. He said the crime of murder by poisoning was one almost always secretly committed, and two cases only, he believed, had been known in this country in which any one had seen the admixture or the administration of the poison. It was a crime which generally must be proved by circumstantial evidence alone, but they must on the other hand take care that the circumstantial evidence was such as excluded the possibility either of innocence on the one hand, or of unexplained mystery on the other, and they must not allow any defect in the evidence to be supplied by suspicion, still less by presumptions arising from any probabilities in the case. They must be satisfied that there was a purpose to administer poison, and that the accused had the poison in her possession, and further, that it was administered on the particular occasion, and in the circumstances set forth in the indictment. It was unnecessary for the prisoner’s counsel so solemnly to adjure them not to quench a doubt in order to arrive at a verdict of guilty; for he was sure that if the result of their deliberations should be to pronounce a verdict of guilty, it could only be wrung from them by the most powerful and satisfactory evidence. Though they might not be satisfied with any of the theories propounded in behalf of the prisoner, though they might not be inclined to adopt any of these notions as to the deceased taking laudanum twice in the course of the journey, as to his being in the habit of taking arsenic, or as to her using it as a cosmetic, though all these matters might fail in her defence, yet the case for the prosecution might still be radically defective on the evidence… He referred to the fact that the deceased had his first illness some days at least before the prisoner was proved to possess any arsenic, and said it would not do to infer from her having purchased arsenic afterwards that she possessed it before. That would be a serious and violent presumption against the prisoner indeed. In reference to Mrs Jenkins’s evidence, he referred to L’Angelier’s remark to the latter that it was “the letter you sent me that brought me home,” by which the supposition as to his having come to see a Mr Mitchell was excluded. In regard to the deceased’s second illness of the 22d February, he said that if there was no proof (and they would see what light the correspondence there was on that subject by-and-bye) that the prisoner had the opportunity of administering arsenic, there was much force in the remark that the foundations of this case were shaken. His Lordship then remarked that L’Angelier’s repeating, even in his last illness, that it was bile, was of importance as showing whether or not he had any suspicion of having received anything to injure him. They would consider whether if he had really taken anything from the prisoner that night, and if he had previously suspected her he would have concealed this feeling of suspicion in his last illness; and they would also have to consider whether, taking the whole statements of the deceased in his last illness, they afforded any evidence that anything had been given to the deceased by the prisoner to compass his death. His Lordship next adverted to the letter the deceased received at the Bridge of Allan, which said “Come, beloved, and clasp me to your heart,” plainly implying that the former and missing letter made arrangements for an interview within the house. As to whether the deceased had gone to seek the prisoner on the Sunday night, they would, perhaps, think the probability was that he had done so. Whether he succeeded in finding her was another question. Suppose that letter brought him to Glasgow, were they in a condition to say they were satisfied in their consciences, as an inevitable and just result from the evidence in the case, that they really met that night? That was the real point in the case. That they might have a strong moral suspicion in the matter – that they might believe he was well able after all their clandestine correspondence to obtain the means of an interview – that as she had complained of his not coming on the Thursday, she “waited and waited” for him not only on the Saturday but the Sunday evening. That might be all very true. Probably they all thought so, but they were trying a case of which the evidence must be satisfactory, complete, and distinct… If they merely felt in their own minds a strong suspicion they had met that night, and that the whole probabilities of the case were in favour of that view, that was not enough, for, if that was all they could derive from inference in that matter, then a link remained still awanting; the catastrophe and its alleged cause were not found together. And therefore they must be satisfied that they could here stand and rely on the firm foundations of just and sound, and he might add inevitable inference. That a jury was entitled to draw such inferences there could be no doubt of, and it was just because the jury was composed of that class of men to whom the Lord Advocate alluded – namely, men of common sense, capable of exercising their judgment upon a matter which is laid before them to consider – it was on that very account that they were to put to themselves the question, “Is this a satisfactory and just inference?” If they found it so, he could not tell them that they were not at liberty to act upon it, because most of those matters occurring in life must depend upon circumstantial evidence, and on such inferences as a jury may feel bound to draw. But it was an inference of a very serious character – it was an inference upon which the death of this party by the hand of the prisoner really must depend… If they did meet, and if the deceased was taken ill shortly after, it would be for them to say whether there was any doubt as to whose hand he had received the poison from. His Lordship then alluded to the circumstance that a most important letter was omitting, which might have thrown light on the nature of the appointment that was made with the deceased by the prisoner, as was believed, for the Saturday evening. That letter he must regard as a loss to the Crown rather than to the prisoner… His Lordship having put it to the counsel for the prisoner, and learned from them that there was no dispute as to the fact that L’Angelier died from arsenic, said that that saved him from a long and tedious analysis of the evidence on that point. He, however, commented on the evidence of Dr Penny, with regard to the possibility of separating the colouring matter from the arsenic, and which a skilful chemist only could be expected to accomplish. He then alluded to the statement of the prisoner that she used arsenic as a cosmetic. She must, he said, have known that the Styrian peasants, who used arsenic to improve their complexion and to give them plumpness of form, attained that object not by external application, but by the long-continued and internal use of very small quantities. On the other hand, he thought that the Lord Advocate, threatening Dr Lawrie with some future consequences arising from the simple experiment he had made, in washing his face with water into which arsenic had been put, was rather going beyond the mark… It seemed to him, however, that the prisoner’s pretence as to the use for which she got the arsenic was as frivolous a pretence as ever was made in any serious case… Coming to M. de Meau’s evidence, he referred to her denial that L’Angelier had ever been in the house in Blythswood Square, and said he thought the Dean had been somewhat exaggerating when he said that at this point this girl started into the position and character of a heroine, an exaggeration which he did not think would have entered into the mind of her ingenious and able counsel. His Lordship next, coming to Mr Minnoch’s evidence, alluded to the circumstances of her flight to Row, and suggested the probability of her having gone there, not certainly with the view of absconding from justice, but to meet the gardener, and in some way to make good her statement, that she had bought the arsenic for the purpose of killing rats, lest there should be any inquiry into the subject.
At this stage, and it being a quarter-past five, the LORD JUSTICE-CLERK said it would occupy them too long, and he himself felt unable to finish his resumé of the evidence that evening. The Court, therefore, adjourned, and, at the request of the jury, the meeting was appointed for nine o’clock this morning.
– Edinburgh Evening Courant, Thursday 9th July, 1857, p.2.