Welcome back to Random Scottish History’s True Crime Project, Glasgow’s Square Mile Murders. This episode is part 5 of Jessie McLachlan’s case for the murder of her best friend Jessie McPherson, part 3, the final round-up, of her Trial. We now hear from her defence, Andrew Rutherford Clark, who is set on laying out the evidence to show that it was, in fact, old Mr Fleming, and not Jessie, who committed this horrific act of butchery. Shall we see how it goes? Let’s get into it.
Caledonian Mercury, Saturday 20th September, 1862, pp.5-7.
The following evidence was then led in behalf of the prisoner:-
George Paton, examined by Mr CLARK – I am a milkman, and was in the habit of supplying the Flemings, who live in Sandyford Place, with milk. I supplied milk to that house in July last. I remember of hearing of the death of the servant in that house. I heard of it on Tuesday morning the 8th of July. I remember of being at Mr Fleming’s house on the previous Saturday with a milk cart. Donald McQuarrie, the boy, was with me. I got to Mr Fleming’s house between half-past seven and a quarter to eight in the morning. I am quite sure of the morning. I came off the cart, but I did not go up to the house. Donald went up to the house, and rung the bell. It was answered immediately. I did not see who answered it. The door was opened a small bit, but I could not see who opened it. There was not much delay in opening the door. I could not say whether or not the bell was rung twice. There was no milk taken. I went again on the Sunday and Monday, and no milk was taken…
By the ADVOCATE-DEPUTE – I had a good many customers in Sandyford Place – I can’t tell how many.
The ADVOCATE-DEPUTE – Give us an idea? – Fifteen or sixteen. I called upon them all on Saturday morning, and every morning. There were a good many families out of town at that time. My customers who are at home get milk always; but at that season some of my customers sometimes don’t take milk.
By Mr CLARK – I don’t know of any instance except these three mornings in which milk was not taken in.
Donald McQuarrie, a young boy, thirteen years of age, examined by Mr CLARK – I was with George Paton helping to take round the milk in July last… I remember the Saturday before that Tuesday morning. We went there with milk. I went to Fleming’s door and rung the bell. I just rung once. I had not to wait any time before the bell was answered. The door was shut when I rung. Before Mr Fleming opened the door I did not hear anything. The first thing I heard after ringing the bell was the chain coming off the door; and after the chain came off the door it was opened by Mr Fleming. He was dressed in black clothes. He said he wasna for nae milk. He did not say anything more. This would be about twenty minutes to eight. This was the ordinary time of getting to Sandyford Place. I am quite sure of all I have told you.
By Mr GIFFORD – I don’t recollect of any day on which the door was not opened at Mr Fleming’s house. I always got an answer. Fleming never answered the door before.
Mary Fullarton or Smith, Richard Street, examined by Mr MACLEAN, deponed – I knew Jessie McPherson for between four and five years. I knew her perfectly well. I have seen the prisoner with Jessie McPherson in [Grace] Street, where she had a shop. I have heard her speak of the prisoner many a time. She spoke of her very kindly and friendly. I last saw Jessie McPherson on the 28th of June in Sauchiehall Street. I spoke with her on the street. I had not seen her for two years and two months before. When walking along the road she came [forward] to me, and I expressed my astonishment at seeing her, and asked her where she had been. She said, “You know it is a good while since [I] went to London.” I said, “Why did you not come to see me? You are looking ill. How are you in Fleming’s family?” She said, “I don’t feel very happy or comfortable, for Fleming is just an old wretch and an old devil.” Did she say that seriously? – Yes; and I was astonished at it, because she had formerly been very comfortable there. Did she answer you? – She said that she was very unhappy and very uncomfortable. She said that she would come down that day fortnight and get her tea with us, as she had something to tell me, which she said she could not tell me as Sandy (the witness’s husband) was walking with me. What did you understand the something to refer to? – I could not say. Did she tell you what it was? – She never was in life to tell me. When she said that she would come down and tell you, was it in answer to the question “What was the cause of the disagreement?” –
Lord DEAS – No, no; she did not ask “What is the cause of the disagreement?” – I said to her, “You are looking ill;” and she said, “I cannot tell you what is the cause, because Sandy is with you.”
Lord DEAS – You thought she did not like to speak to you before him? – Yes; that was what I understood. You said you had seen Jessie McPherson and the prisoner together? – Yes; many a time. On these occasions did they seem kind and affectionate? – Very much so. You knew they were great friends? – Yes.
Lord DEAS – Did you ever understand Jessie McPherson to say that she was thinking of going abroad? – No, sir, she never said so to me.
Mary McPherson, examined by Mr MACLEAN – I am a foster sister of the late Jessie McPherson. I know the prisoner, Mrs McLachlan, and have seen her with Jessie. They were good friends, and very affectionate. When did you last see Jessie McPherson? – About a month before the murder. Did she say anything to you on that occasion about old Mr Fleming? – On the day I called upon her she opened the door, and I said to her, “It’s very strange, Jessie, that you never come to see me now;” to which she replied that it was very easy for me to speak; that she had got very much to do in the house with some servant going away; that her heart was broken by the old man. He was so inquisitive that the door bell never could ring but he had to know what it was.
Martha McIntyre – I was in the service of Mr Fleming, and went on 11th November last, and left on 5th of January last. I saw a good deal of old Mr Fleming. Did you see anything peculiar about him? – He was very inquisitive. How was he inquisitive? – By inquiring who was in the house. When the servants went out did he make inquiries after them? – Yes.
Lord DEAS – Where they had been, and what they did, and why they were out? – Yes. Jessie McPherson was living in the house at the time? – Yes. Was he special in his inquiries about her if she was out? – Yes.
Lord DEAS – What do you call special?
Mr MACLEAN – Was he more particular in his inquiries about Jessie than the others? – He always inquired about her. Have you known him to get out of bed to see who was at the door if the bell rang? – Yes.
Lord DEAS – At night or in the morning? – It was in the morning.
Mr MACLEAN – Was Jessie McPherson a strong woman or wiry? – She was a wiry woman.
Alexander Cameron, examined by Mr CLARK – I am a policeman in Glasgow, and I went to Mr Fleming’s house on the afternoon of Monday. Dr Fleming came shortly after. I went about five o’clock. I saw Mr John Fleming there. I heard him say that when he went down stairs he found the bedroom door locked. He went into the pantry with the intention of going out at the window to look into the room window. On returning he looked at the key hole of the room, and saw a key inside. Then he took the pantry key, and shoved the key inside out of the door. He then opened the door with the pantry key. Did he say he heard a key fall on the inside? – A considerable time after that I got a candle; but when I understood it was a murder I remarked to Mr Fleming and Mr Chrystal that I could get no key there. Mr Fleming remarked that he thought he heard a key fall, but that he was confused.
Mr MACLEAN – In consequence of what he said at first you looked for the key? – Yes, sir, when I understood it was murder.
Lord DEAS – When you understood it was a murder; when you heard what was said to you, that he had shoved out the key? – Yes; when it came into my mind that it was a murder.
[Defendant’s sister, Ann McIntosh, testifies to knowledge that her sister’s husband, John McLachlan, gave his earnings over to his wife to manage and that their brother, John McIntosh, a sailor, also gifted, sometimes large, amounts of money to his sister. As well as the prisoner’s weak health, generally.]
Robert Jeffrey, criminal officer – I was engaged in searching Mr Fleming’s house in Sandyford Place on the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th of July last. In old Mr Fleming’s bedroom I found a bag, on which there was blood. I found it either on the 8th or the 9th. The bag is here.
[Discussion as to whether it’s actually blood, and how old it might be. The jury is given it to have a look at.]
Lord DEAS – It is very small, is it not? – It is mixed. I did not see traces of blood on Mr Fleming’s clothes.
Lord DEAS – Was old Mr Fleming in custody at this time? – He was in custody at the time we made our search.
Lord DEAS – Was he in custody all the time your search continued? – He was.
Lord DEAS – You made a search of his house for the purpose of obtaining evidence against him, if such existed? – Yes, my Lord, Campbell and I made the search.
Lord DEAS – If there had been any evidence of guilt against Mr Fleming, are you sure that Campbell and you would have found it? – I think so.
Captain McCall was then recalled, and deponed – A canvas bag was brought to me in old Mr Fleming’s house. I think it was brought me by Jeffrey on Tuesday the 8th. Was there any mark upon it? – There appeared to be marks of blood upon it. Old Mr Fleming told me that he found the wicket opened on Saturday morning. He said the window was stiff in the inside, as if it was fastened. It was so fastened when I saw it on the Monday night.
[More discussion with regards the bag found, where and what time. Witness answer is based on when he wrote & sent a letter to his father.]
The Counsel for the defence asked leave of the Court to retire for a few minutes’ consultation, and, when they returned,
Colin Campbell examined – I am a police-constable, and on July last Sandyford Place was in my beat. I was on that beat on Saturday, 7th July. I go on my beat at eight o’clock at night, and remain on duty till six in the morning. Did you see any person there that morning? – I saw two women coming out of 17 Sandyford Place. Did you see them well? – Yes; I was just standing outside the railing fornent them. Did they go away, or what became of them? – They stood about five minutes, and one went away and the other turned back.
Lord DEAS – What door did they come out of? Was it the front door? – Yes. What time of the day was it? – About half-past eight or a quarter to nine. Look at that woman there. – The prisoner is not the woman; she is neither of the women. Are you quite sure? – Quite sure.
Lord DEAS – Did you ever think of what you had seen till you heard of the murder? – No.
[This concluded the evidence for the defence.]
Mr GIFFORD began to address the jury on behalf of the Crown at five minutes before five o’clock. He said – At the close of this most important, protracted, and somewhat complicated inquiry, it becomes my duty to address you on the part of the Crown, and in doing so I think I need not hesitate to express the deep feeling of anxiety and responsibility under which I lie. It will be my duty to point out to you, as shortly as I can… the mode and nature in which the different items of evidence which have been laid before you during the past three days bear upon the question which you have to try… I feel it will be my duty to ask from you a verdict against the prisoner. I will set a guard upon my lips, as I have done all through, or endeavoured to do all through this trial, that I may say nothing and do nothing that is not fair to the prisoner. God forbid that I should do anything unfair, but that I shall say nothing which is not only not warranted, but not demanded by the public duty which is laid upon me. A deed has been done which has startled us – which has made the ears of the public tingle – and it is necessary for the safety of society, and for millions in this civilised country, that the perpetrators of such deeds should be tracked and punished; and, gentlemen, while our hearts may bleed, still our hands must do justice… I ask you to look at the indictment which is placed before you. The prisoner at the bar is accused of two distinct crimes – murder and theft. She stands arraigned for both of these crimes. I am to ask a verdict against her finding her guilty of them both; but you will see at once that they are not exclusively in all cases, or even in cases proximating to the present, connected. A murder may be committed with theft, and theft may be committed when there is no higher crime; and, accordingly, you must consider separately the evidence which is applicable to each of the charges which are brought against this woman. That evidence unquestionably is mixed up. It blends together, and it is impossible, and will be impossible in disposing of the case, for you altogether to separate the evidence, as if there were witnesses or proof that spoke to me of the charges, and witnesses and proof that spoke to the other. Still it is not the less true that you will consider on that evidence that it proves the murder and that it proves the theft… I propose, in the first place, to take the crime of theft, and I will do little more than mention the evidence upon which this charge rests. I take that first, because I think it will clear the ground, and enable you to approach with less confusion to the consideration of the graver charge of murder. On turning to this indictment you will see that the prisoner is charged with having, on the 4th or 5th of July 1862 – a Friday or Saturday – stolen from the house in Sandyford Place – the house of Mr Fleming – first, a series of silver and plated articles, which you have seen, and which are now before you, the property, and in the possession of, the said John Fleming; and secondly, with having at the same place, and at the same time, stolen another list of articles, consisting of dresses and articles, the property of, and in the lawful possession of, Jessie McPherson. This is the first charge. It is the second charge in the indictment, but it is the one to which I wish to direct your attention first. Now, these silver and plated articles are the property of Mr Fleming, accountant, &c., who was put into the box, and proved them to be his property… His father, old Mr Fleming, did the same, and proved them to have been in the house in Sandyford Place up to Friday, the 4th of July, when they are used; and within a day or two – at the beginning of next week – they are searched for, and not found. We cannot doubt the fact that these were his articles – that these were in his possession up to that time, and that in the beginning of the week, Monday or Tuesday, they were amissing. Where were they found? In Lundie, the pawnbroker’s. You have them found there, and given up by Lundie to the police. Who took them there? The prisoner at the bar. When did she this? On Saturday the 5th of July. She is identified by young Lundie, the person to whom the goods were given when they were pledged; and then there was the conversation, and he had the opportunities which you have of seeing her, of making sure of her person, and there can be no doubt on the subject… You have the prisoner’s declaration admitted that these articles were pledged by her, giving what in an ordinary case, in the common run of cases which you have occasion to try here, would be called an incredible and a false story… This being a mere question of theft, I ask you if these articles were stolen, and stolen by the prisoner. But then the second set of articles is in a somewhat different position from this; but under the charge of theft, suppose there had been no murder, would be much the same as it is in regard to the silver-plated articles… I may go on to say in regard to this charge of theft, that if you are satisfied that these dresses came into the possession of the prisoner, were recently found in her possession, and found her disposing of them, or any part of them, then you will have no difficulty whatever in finding her guilty of theft; and therefore, gentlemen, I dismiss this part of the case with these very few observations, very confidently asking a verdict from you; and I confess I cannot conceive a door of escape by which you can avoid finding the prisoner guilty of the crime of theft. Oh, but there is something far greater than this, and I pass now to what is really the crime for which you have been summoned together here, and it will be your duty to return a verdict for the murder of Jessie McPherson. Gentlemen, this case stands, perhaps, unprecedented in reference to this charge of murder among the many crimes that have ever taken place. It is encompassed with mystery – which is not uncommon; but this crime is encompassed with a mystery of a darker kind and deeper phase than any other… The special defence which you heard read upon Wednesday morning is that, besides the plea of not guilty, the panel alleges that Jessie McPherson was murdered by Mr James Fleming… This is not a trial in which the question of his guilt or of his innocence has been the matter of investigation brought before you upon the indictment. The question is not whether James Fleming is guilty or innocent, but whether the prisoner at the bar is guilty or innocent of the charge made against her… If the prisoner at the bar can show that she did not commit the crime with which she stands charged, because she could not commit it, being absent; because she had no opportunity, or because it was perpetrated by some one else, known or unknown… Apart from the investigation as to her guilt, all questions of the guilt or supposed guilt of any other party are irrelevant and improper; and, therefore, while you will consider – while you will anxiously weigh every suggestion which has been made as to the possibility of the murder being perpetrated by somebody else than the prisoner – whether that other person be James Fleming or some other party unknown – you will inquire into these matters solely with the view, and only to the effect, of ascertaining whether or not the prisoner is guilty of the charge which has been imputed… I think every facility has been given to inquire in the fullest to the bottom of this dark matter, and if proof exists – if proof has been laid before you – if circumstances amounting to proof have been brought out in evidence before you to lead you to suppose that the deed was done, not by the prisoner, but by some one else, on reasonable probabilities you will unquestionably give her the benefit, and acquit her of the charge which has been imputed to her; but the guilt of James Fleming is not the subject of inquiry at all… If there were more murderers than one, if the prisoner was one of them, you must find a verdict of guilty against her. For the question always is, and the only question is – Is the prisoner guilty or is she not guilty? – not had she confederates, nor was she alone. These are not the questions, and your verdict will not find anybody else concerned in the crime… Was Jessie McPherson murdered? You heard a great number of witnesses tell the appearance that room in Mr Fleming’s house presented on the Monday afternoon. You heard the description of the room, and you heard the description of the body; you have heard with extreme minuteness an account of the wounds and injuries which had been inflicted upon the deceased… Here is the result which the two medical men who made the most marked examination – Dr Fleming and Dr Macleod – came to:- “The reporters consider themselves justified in concluding, from the above examination, and the condition in which the body was found – 1st, that this woman was murdered with extreme ferocity; 2d, that her death had probably taken place within three days; 3dly, that a struggle had preceded death; 4thly, that a semi-blunt instrument, such as a cleaver for cutting meat, was that with which the injuries had been inflicted before or immediately after death; 6thly, that, except those upon the hands and forehead, it is most likely that the wounds were inflicted by a right-handed person, standing over the deceased as she lay prostrate on her face; 7thly, from the degree of force evinced by the wounds, it appears probable that it was a female, or at least not a strong man, who inflicted them; and, 8thly, that the body had been drawn along the lobby to the room in which it had been found by the head, the face being downward, and the feet and legs dragging along the ground.” In answer to questions the medical men had no difficulty in saying that the wounds upon the body caused death – the death of Jessie McPherson… You heard a good deal of evidence as to whether there might not or was not – for if they did not mean that, I do not know what they did mean – whether there was not a key in the inside of Jessie McPherson’s bedroom, by which that bedroom had been locked from the inside. The windows of the room are stanchioned, and no one can get out or in by these windows of the bedroom; and if the door was locked from the inside, then it follows that the party who inflicted the injuries must be herself. It would come to suicide. It is very common for those who commit suicide to lock the door and then do the thing. Surely, gentlemen, there can be little difficulty about that. There was no key in the inside of that door. Mr Fleming himself was perfectly distinct upon that… I think, from all inquiry as to the question whether the murder was committed; and I address you only on that question – it is not who was the murderer, but whether the prisoner was or was not the murderer. You are not a roving commission, asking who did the deed. You are only asked – Did that person – did she do it? Gentlemen, in approaching this question I think it right to make a single observation in reference to what I am sure will be said about circumstantial evidence. It will be said – This is a pure case of circumstantial evidence; there is nothing but circumstantial evidence against the accused, and it is a dangerous thing to convict upon circumstantial evidence. Gentlemen, this is an observation in which I think you will not be able to concur. It depends upon the kind of circumstantial evidence; it depends upon the nature of circumstantial evidence; for very, very, often, gentlemen, circumstantial evidence is far more satisfactory than what is called direct evidence. It is less liable to corruption… It is more safe to go upon; and accordingly you will consider whether these circumstances are sufficient to warrant you to give the verdict which is asked from you… Now, gentlemen, in inquiring into the guilt of the panel to what I now assume to have been a murder, the first question which meets us is what is called the locus delicti – the place where the murder was committed – which was at No. 17 Sandyford Place. You have had a description of that house from various people, but there has been prepared, and, at your request you will remember, the gentleman who prepared it has been called here, and has proved the plans and the pictures, which may be called the kinds of views of the plans, which you will have an opportunity of looking at if you choose before you give your verdict. Generally, there is no doubt about where the deed was committed. You sometimes hear of a dead body being washed ashore, but a question arises how did it meet its death; but no doubt of that kind can exist here… You heard to-day from Dr Macleod, with very great clearness and distinctness – he explained it to you with very great clearness – what he meant when he stated in his report that evidence of a severe struggle was obtained as having taken place in the kitchen. You heard him describe the marks on the floor, and the turning of the heels, as if people had struggled. You heard him trace the struggle between the kitchen and the bedroom, and then you heard him describe the room itself, and the position of the body as it lay there… The wrists are wounded – the hands, the face, the forehead; and you heard Dr Watson telling you that these three wounds might produce insensibility. The rest of the wounds are inflicted upon a prostrate woman… Who was in the house that night? We have got the locus. Now, it is an extraordinary circumstance connected with this case – it is one of the circumstances of the case which distinguish it almost over all others – that in the house that night there was a person sleeping, as he tells you, in the flat immediately above the kitchen – sleeping in his usual apartment. And the extraordinary circumstance does not stop there; he was there next day, Saturday, and a part – the greater part – of Sunday, and Monday; for it was not till the Monday that the murder was discovered. And you will see, gentlemen, that the greatest possible suspicion is attached to such a person so acting. That was James Fleming. He slept in his usual room that night. All the other members of the family were away that night at the coast. As to how his sleep that night was disturbed we have no evidence but what we heard from himself… [Old Mr Fleming’s] statement, extraordinary as it is, is made more extraordinary when it was found according to the evidence, and the statement which the person now makes, that he is wrong in the statement that he called on that Saturday; for the servant Brownlie called for the spade, and before that the milkman called, and he answered the milkman, and said he did not require any milk; and before these circumstances an accusation – a serious accusation – an accusation directed to the exculpation of the prisoner, and that quite relevant, is made against James Fleming. It is said, because you gave a wrong account of the first person who called, therefore you, James Fleming, are to be considered the murderer, and all other evidence is to be laid aside which attaches guilt to the accused, the prisoner now at the bar. Gentlemen, consider the whole circumstances. James Fleming is a very old man… His faculties, however, are entire, his mind is entire, and his bodily powers are comparatively active. But, then, you will consider – and you cannot lose sight of this – how far a man of that age can be expected to act and remember with that precision and that exactness which is to be expected in a younger man, or a man in the prime of life. It was most extraordinary of him not to inquire for Jessie McPherson. I think that is the wonderful thing about this matter; for I confess I am not very much surprised that he forgot about the milkman calling in the morning. I am not surprised at that at all; not surprised in comparison to the surprise I feel at his general conduct in reference to the disappearance of this girl. For observe how he acted. He had missed her for some time. He had gone down stairs. He had found that the servant was not in the kitchen. He had tried the door of her room and found it locked, and he came to the conclusion, it might be rashly and hastily, that she had gone from the house… That he forgot the milkboy is of little consequence. He forgot that until it was put to him in five or six different ways in the witness-box. At length he said, “I might have done that; I do not recollect of seeing the milkboy.” But the circumstance that he forgot is of little consequence, if you are not satisfied of this, that he opened the door himself at the first ring, without delay; and that, I submit to you, cannot be proved; but there are other elements in the case, other circumstances which had to bear upon this part of the case. You hear that he was a man of peculiar habits – great animosity, inquisitive to the annoyance and distress apparently of his family, who got out of all patience with him. He was constantly in the kitchen about the affairs there, looking who went out; the bell could not ring without his going to see who it was. All that goes to show his actions in a particular way. You cannot found the same observations on them as you would draw from similar actings in another man; but, gentlemen, that question about James Fleming sinks into comparative insignificance when we call upon you, as I now do, to accompany me very briefly while I point out the evidence upon which this accusation rests against the prisoner; and the first thing which I start with – … I ask you to look at what I say is a far more important question – the evidence of guilt affecting the prisoner. And the first observation which I make here is that the accused is an intimate friend of the deceased, the murdered woman… more than that, she knew Sandyford Place well – all its entrances and exits – all its rooms and localities… You start with this, that the person who is accused is a person who had intimate knowledge of the deceased – of her habits, and of all the places where the crime was committed… You have, in the prisoner’s declaration, a history of that connection – the intimacy kept up, and all that… There is one statement in the declaration, and that is as to the access by the back door… This door seems to have been an access for coals, for leaving goods, and the servant’s door; and when we take into account the character that has been proved regarding old Mr Fleming, I daresay it is a door that will be used pretty freely… [With regards the prisoner’s house] there were no check keys by which a person outside the door can let themselves in when the latch has fallen. There never were two such keys, although the prisoner was often speaking of getting them. The washerwoman tells you the same. She had told Mrs Adams to send a smith to sort the lock, but she forgot to do so. She took possession of all the keys of the house. They have all been tried. Not one of them opens the lock; and Mrs Campbell’s evidence is that they had to let in one another when the door was shut. They had no other means of getting in… At eleven o’clock the lodger, Donald McArthur, a sea-faring man, came in. Mrs Campbell opened the door. The prisoner’s account is that he came in with her, then went out again, then went back again, and she heard a ring at his door. But Mrs Campbell’s account is that Donald came in and went direct to his bed… And what is she awakened by? The cry of the prisoner’s child in the prisoner’s room. She goes there, and she finds the prisoner’s child alone. Mrs McLachlan is not there – she takes the child to her own room, there dresses him, and she does not go to bed again; and the door bell rings. When? At nine o’clock. I think that was the hour when Mrs McLachlan, the prisoner, returned and was let in by Mrs Campbell. Now, gentlemen, the prisoner was not in her house on that eventful night. Wherever she was she was not at home that night. There can be no mistake about the hours. Mrs Campbell sees from her windows a public clock,.. She is not only out that night from her own house, but she is out advisedly and professedly. She had intended either to be out late or to be out for some part of the night… she makes preparations for a late visit, and to the question put to her, Why are you going so late? the only inquiry of Mrs Adams, the explanation which she received is entirely in accordance with the evidence, “That fashious and troublesome old man, I will let him be in bed first before I go to see Jessie.”.. Are there any circumstances of evidence which point out the guilt of the accused? We can do nothing but what leaves its impress behind for good or evil, to bless or curse us. Our footprints are left wherever we go and whatever we do. Our acting, whether good or evil, ever lives, and those which are evil will testify against us. And crime has always its footprints. In Jessie McPherson’s bedroom there are bloody prints. Whose are they? I have heard it said it is a poetical fancy that the eye of a murdered person retains upon its retina the picture of the murderer. It is no poetic fancy, however, but a truth. The neighbourhood of the murdered body retains the impress of the murderer. The bloody footprints are there. They are not the footprints of the deceased… It is impossible to think the footprints were those of James Fleming, as his foot is much longer, much broader, and much larger in every way; and, in addition to all this, his foot is flat. It could not have made the in-press left on the floor of Sandyford Place. The prisoner – the party who had all the bloody clothes in her possession – the party who had the plate in her possession – the party who came away that Saturday morning wearing Jessie McPherson’s gown – it must have been her foot that made these impressions. It is circumstantial evidence, gentlemen, but you see through this when you put several circumstances together… These circumstances are trifling in themselves, but they come to have great weight when they are laid together along with others. Motive for murder is, perhaps, the next point which I shall take up. We have plenty of evidence of the poverty of the prisoner. On the [4th] of July we find that she cannot go out without pawning an article for the purpose of lifting a cloak… Forty-one pawn-tickets are found in her house, in the name of Fraser, Main Street, the name she always instructed those who went to use. She says to Mrs Adams – “Money I must have, somehow; I need it.” She has no cloak without lifting it from the pawn on Friday, and on Saturday she has fine new articles, and a new bonnet… I have to say that it is very unlikely that Jessie McPherson, a saving, industrious woman, should not have some money in her trunk. The prisoner is not charged with the theft of any money, but you are quite entitled, if you think proper, to take that into account, although I have not charged her with the theft of deceased’s money, as well as her property. Gentlemen, I have sketched briefly the history of this case… I will not dwell upon the contradictions in the declarations. You have the story told by the things, by the facts, by the articles produced, which needs not the lies of the prisoner to enforce. I ask you for a verdict of guilty, and this verdict I ask from you on the evidence, which is amply sufficient to convict the prisoner of murder. I say nothing of the peculiar manner in which this murder has been attempted to be explained. You will weigh everything from evidence, and leave nothing to be determined by your conviction. I make no appeal to your feelings. May the Omniscient and Almighty God give you grace and wisdom to return a verdict according to your true belief. [Mr Gifford then resumed his seat, after a speech of two hours’ and a half duration.]
Mr CLARK then commenced his address for the prisoner,..
[This newspaper doesn’t do justice to the address from the defence, summarising it into just a few words.]
The Court then adjourned till ten o’clock to-day (Saturday).
Dundee Advertiser, Monday 22nd September, 1862, pp.2-4.
THE GLASGOW MURDER.
TRIAL OF MRS McLACHLAN.
(By our own Reporter.)
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19.
In order that we may lay before our readers as complete a report as possible of the proceedings in this extraordinary case, we now give, in a much more extended form than we were able to do on Saturday, the speeches for the prosecution and defence which were made before the close of the Court on Friday night:-
ADDRESS FOR THE PRISONER.
Mr CLARK rose and spoke as follows:- May it please your lordship, gentlemen of the jury, – My learned friend the Advocate-Depute complained that he laboured under a sense of great responsibility and a feeling of deep anxiety in stating to you the case on behalf of the prosecution; and if in the discharge of that duty he felt under that responsibility and that anxiety, I daresay you will be able, in some degree, to measure out the much greater anxiety, the much deeper responsibility, that I must necessarily feel in endeavouring to discharge, to the best of my feeble ability, the most responsible duty – the most anxious task – that can be devolved on any member of the profession to which I have the honour to belong. Gentlemen, it now falls to me to state to you what has occurred to my mind on behalf of the prisoner who is arraigned on this charge of murder. I have to state to you, on her behalf, those observations on the evidence submitted to you, which occur to me as likely to lead you to the conclusion that this charge has not been proven… I trust to your careful consideration to compensate in a large degree for the defects – numerous and great – that must necessarily exist in my statement. I feel the difficulty of my task greatly enhanced, apart from that which springs out of the case itself, by its peculiar history – by the manner in which the facts and circumstances connected with it have been spread abroad through the press. From day to day, from week to week, all the details of this tragedy that could be got at were printed in the newspapers and were circulated all over the country in a way that could scarcely fail to create an impression prejudicial to the prisoner, even if it did not lead to the case being positively prejudged. I have to request you, gentlemen – for it is scarcely possible that the impression should not have reached you, at least to some extent – I have to ask you to endeavour to throw aside any such prejudice. I know how difficult it is; but in the zealous and honest discharge of your duty – and I am persuaded it will be zealous and honest – you are bound to do it… With these observations I now proceed to notice the evidence, formally and directly submitted to you during the last three days, and upon which you are asked to pronounce your verdict in relation to this charge – a charge which, as the Advocate-Depute admitted in his speech, is one hardly credible – which, in his own language, was described as referring to an event that was a mystery. I hope to convince you that that event remains a mystery still – that all the evidence which you have heard during this protracted inquiry has not cleared it up – that though it may be adequate to beget a suspicion bearing, more or less, against somebody – though the prisoner may be suspected, or, it may be, another person may be suspected – it is yet very far from being adequate to lead to that positive certainty of guilt which all and each of you ought to feel before a verdict of guilty can be returned against her. Consider, I pray you, the charge laid in the indictment. It does not describe a blow dealt in the heat of passion. It is not the issue of a struggle between two persons that were hostile to each other before. This is very far from being the case. The Advocate-Depute’s own statement is that the prisoner and the deceased were friends. Jessie McPherson is brought before you as the most intimate, the most trusted, the kind and dear friend of this woman, and you are asked to say she was her murderess. It is sought of you that you should believe and declare that on that Friday night or Saturday morning, this weak, delicate woman, who has for long years been ailing, who, as you have heard, has scarcely ever been well since her confinement, stood over her friend wielding that weapon which has been shown you as the instrument of her death, and dealing blows with it upon her prostrate body, till she perished there. Is it possible you should believe that? Is it possible that upon the strength of such evidence as you have heard, you can credit that fearful story – that you should believe that without a motive in the least degree adequate, without any absolute need or pressure – for the sake of getting a few old dresses to pawn, and a few pieces of old plate upon which she could raise some £6 – she should have forgot all claims of gratitude and affection, and with no other object than that, should have inflicted on her friend those fearful wounds – should have stood over her, it must have been for a long time, mangling and hewing her dearest and fondest friend? That is the story you are asked to believe in this case. I scarcely think you will deem that credible… Circumstantial evidence may in some cases be important, and may even by itself be considered sufficient to warrant a verdict against the accused; but it is only on the occasion of this trial that I have ever heard circumstantial evidence reasoned on as conclusive of guilt, when it failed to develop, when it failed to explain, the mystery which hung over the subject of investigation, as it still does hang over the tragedy which was completed in Sandyford Place. Gentlemen, it is not easy to reach the conclusion that the panel is guilty of the crime which is imputed to her – a crime of this horrible atrocity, and one so unlikely to have been committed by her – demonstrated without mystery, and on the clearest evidence. By my friend the Advocate-Depute tells you how he accounts for her committing this crime. She was pressed by poverty, and he proved her poverty – her husband being a man who was in receipt of 30s a week, and giving her his wages, her brother also giving her his wages when he happened to be in the country – he proved her poverty by some circumstance on which he relied, and the intention was to show that she had raised the money which paid her rent by the pawning of that plate. Gentlemen, – are the circumstances under which this crime was committed in the least degree likely, in the least degree consistent, with the idea that the prisoner was the murderess of her own friend? Just consider what the circumstances are which we certainly have traced in the course of our long inquiry, and which you must keep in view in deciding upon this question.
The murder is committed undoubtedly in Mr Fleming’s house while he is present, and when, according to the prosecutor’s case, the prisoner must have known that he was in his house. The murder is committed when he is present, and in such a way as to show, according to the statements of the doctors who have been examined, that there had been a severe conflict between the person who committed the murder and the deceased. The doctors tell you there were evidences of severe conflict; and what my learned friend says is this, that the person who had stood over the body of her friend, mangling it with that weapon, having committed the bloody deed by the infliction of upwards of 40 wounds, no sooner had done so in a house in which she knew a person was living, and, after a severe conflict between herself and the deceased, instead of going away from the house as fast as she could, that there might be fewer traces of the bloody deed which she had committed, stayed apparently in the house till a little before nine o’clock in the morning, washing up the floor and the dead body. All these circumstances are said to be consistent with the prisoner’s guilt. Is it a conceivable supposition that a person having committed, after a great and severe conflict, a murder in this house, would have remained for hours, it may be – for according to the prosecutor’s theory she did not return home until after nine o’clock in the morning – washing out the traces of crime from the kitchen, rubbing out or washing out the traces from the lobby – ay, and washing out some of the traces of blood, a considerable portion even of the blood in the bed-room? All these things are brought to the prosecutor’s case, and I want you to consider whether it is possible that this could be consistent with the prisoner being the person who committed that crime, and committed that crime, according to the prosecutor’s theory, as he had explained it to you, unaided and unseen. He does not assert that Mr Fleming was in any other position than in his bed, as he says, during that night, and, therefore, the account which he gives of the case is such as I have represented, and that is the case which he wishes you to believe… I think it is incredible to say that a person who contemplated murder, whose only motive for murder was the obtaining of plunder, would have acted in the way in which the prisoner is said to have acted – would have remained in this house washing out the trace of that crime, and at the same time have contented herself with the few articles which she is charged with having taken… But, gentlemen, let us see some of the other facts upon which my friend relies for establishing that she was present in the house, for that is the way he puts it. I am speaking now of the plate. The only proof that she was in the house and took the plate that Friday night just consists in this, that she is contradicted in this matter by Mr James Fleming; and unless you read Mr James Fleming’s evidence, and, trusting to every particular of that evidence, can build up the story in which he told, and which I shall comment upon again, there is nothing whatever to imply that in pawning that plate the prisoner was even guilty of theft, or evidence to show that she was in Mr Fleming’s house on Friday night. She says she got it from old Fleming; and, even accused as she is, and questioned by the authorities together, I think I would believe her word sooner than the word of that witness you have examined, and whose evidence was not of that character which would command your respect. And what are the other things by which the prisoner is said to have been in that house? They were these – That she is in possession of some of Jessie McPherson’s clothes. You are not to presume that, because she may have been proved to have been in possession of those articles on Saturday morning, she necessarily got them on that Friday night in Sandyford Place. That is a great inference to draw. She may have got them on the Friday, but she may have got them without being present in Sandyford Place at the time the murder was committed, and she says she did… Evidence like this is not evidence fit to be laid before a jury in such an important case, such a fact as this should be beyond all reasonable doubt… But now, gentlemen, without looking at all the other circumstances which must be noticed in this case, I in the meantime pass over these pieces of evidence which are directed against the prisoner, for the purpose of bringing under your notice certain matters which I think throw a still greater light upon this mystery than anything we have yet heard. Gentlemen, the prisoner is not the only person who was, according to the Crown, in suspicious circumstances connected with this matter. The case of the Crown is that James Fleming was in the house during the night of the murder, but that he was wholly unconnected with it. It won’t do for my learned friend to say that he may be an accomplice. His case is that James Fleming was wholly unconnected with that murder, and he relies upon the evidence of James Fleming, who at one time was in custody upon this charge, but was afterwards liberated. We will see under what circumstances. What is Fleming’s account? Fleming is said to be an old man of 87. It might have been better if we had had more conclusive evidence upon that point than even his own statement. It is true he did come out in a very natural way with the statement of his age being eighty-seven when he accounted for his want of memory – a want, however, I must say, he did not seem to be labouring under. But he is a gentleman of seventy-eight with his faculties entire; and we know that while the prisoner was on the most intimate terms, on terms of the kindest friendship, with the deceased, he and the deceased were not in that friendship – and Jessie McPherson complains to Mrs Smith that his conduct towards her had made her life insufferable, and that she promised to tell her when her husband was away. There is something really extraordinary in the part which James Fleming plays in this tragedy. He tells you that at four o’clock on that morning he heard three squeals. His memory is not defective, for he recollects that he took the precaution of looking at his watch, which he keeps beside him, and that it was punctually at four o’clock that he heard the squeals of a person apparently in great distress. He jumped out of bed, looked at his watch, went in again, and fell asleep. He slept till about eight o’clock, and he says he lay in his bed awake till about nine o’clock, when he rose… The next statement he made was that he was in the kitchen after being dressed, after nine o’clock – found no one there – saw nothing to attract his attention, except that a screen, upon which some clothes had been hung, had fallen upon some press or closet in the kitchen – that he found the servant absent, and the house in this condition – that the back-door was locked in the inside – that he could not tell now whether the wicket which opens into the area was snibbed or not, nor what was the condition of the window, though he said to the witness McCall, I think on the Monday, that it had been snibbed on the inside; and then he said that the upper door by which he could obtain access to the street was just upon the chain… Now, gentlemen, you must observe that it is all important for Mr James Fleming to make such statements as to lead to the belief that the party whom he says was in the house, and committed that crime, could get out without putting the door in such condition as to show that there must have been some person remaining inside; and, therefore, while he bars the back door in the inside, and states to McCall that the window was fastened – although I think no woman could have got up that six feet and a half of area, and three and half feet of rail upon the top of it while carrying a bundle – while thus he bars these places, the only exit is by the upper door, and he says that the first person that he spoke to upon that morning – not that he let in, but the first person he spoke to, for I put the question most plainly to him at the outset – was, and I hope you will remember this, the girl Brownlie, who, he says, came about 11 o’clock for a spade, although she came about 2. Now, this is an important matter. It is important because he says she was the first person he spoke to, and that was, of course, after the prisoner was known to have been away from the house; and his getting up, too, was after the time when the prisoner went away from it. But was Brownlie the first person James Fleming spoke to? Mr Fleming asserted that 9 o’clock was always the time he got out of bed and dressed. Then when the milk boy came to the door there was no delay – the bell is not twice rung – Mr Fleming, who had never done this before, answers that bell, and the boy, who knew him, saw him at the door, and he hears the chain taken off the inside of that door. Every means of access to the house was secured inside after every person was out of the house except Mr James Fleming. Such is the prisoner’s statement, and that is all proved, I think, to demonstration. I presume these facts were not known to the Crown when Fleming was liberated, or they would not assuredly, in a case of life and death, have kept back such material witnesses as Paton and McQuarrie; and, therefore, these facts appear to have been brought to light by those engaged in defence of the prisoner, and for consideration. Mr Fleming comes down and notices nothing remarkable in the kitchen, though there must have been stains of blood on the floor, and stains of blood which Dr Fleming says were obvious and distinct in several places in the house, and remains three days in the house without having his attention directed to any of these things. He knocks at Jessie’s door, and then he conceives she has gone out; and after three days expects her instantly to return. He tells us that there was not one circumstance in the kitchen he saw which made him think there was anything unusual to tell a policeman or a private friend, though he tells us he was walking the streets of Glasgow on Saturday, on Sunday, and on Monday, when he must have passed many policemen and many friends. Everything was concealed from every person he comes in contact with. The kitchen was washed. It was unnecessary it should be redd up. The kitchen must be put in that order that the bloody streaks from the kitchen to the room must be obliterated. But the manner in which it was washed must be totally inconsistent with the guilt of the prisoner. And it was washed up when?.. Three days earlier, before these marks were seen, who washed that blood? We don’t know. We have no person who saw it. Mr Fleming tells us he was, during the whole of that period, alone in the house, unsuspecting anything wrong whatever. Is that a story which you can take from him? That man, old as he says he is, whose faculties are entire, so as to be able to see the condition in which things are, who can read without glasses, and can see people in the neighbouring garden, must have seen these obvious and distinct blood-marks in the kitchen. It is said that all that is consistent with innocence. I think it only shows, from Mr Fleming’s own statements, coupled with the statements I have produced, that he was shut in with the murdered woman, and knew of her murder when the milk-boy came to the door that morning. And that is proved by his coming at that hour and taking off the chain of the door. These matters cannot be explained, I think, consistently with his innocence; and surely that would be sufficient of itself to show that there is cause for far greater suspicion attaching to him than to the unfortunate woman at the bar… Suppose the prosecutor had proved that the prisoner was with Fleming in the house, would that be enough to prove her guilt with these circumstances against Fleming? He was with the deceased alone from six o’clock at night, and the prisoner could not have come to the house much before half-past ten or thereabouts. Suppose she did come to the house – which I am far from assuming – suppose she did come at half-past ten, what an awful deed may have then been committed? She came there alone, according to the prosecutor’s theory; and she found herself alone in the presence of that crime. But are you to assume that though she did so, she was the guilty person, the murderer of her friend, and between whom and Fleming there had been a considerable quarrel?.. And yet all that the Crown at best can show is this, that the prisoner was in the house, and, calling upon you to show which of the two is guilty, asks you to select the prisoner at the bar, the woman as the infuriated person who could destroy her friend in that savage manner which has been spoken of. But, accepting the theory that she may have found the deed done, and been in terror from seeing it, and that these articles may have been taken away after the deed was done, that, I think, would militate against Fleming. If the washing of the signs indicates assistance, I think it must have been rendered by the woman, and not the man. And while such a cloud of mystery involves this case, are you prepared to say that this woman is proved to be guilty of one of the most foul crimes that ever was committed?.. I am aware how inadequately I have discharged the duty put upon me. I trust that you will consider that you, and you alone, are the judges in this case – that you, and you alone, form an opinion of this case, and act upon no recommendation, from whatever quarter it may come, except so far as it is consistent with the evidence… Weigh well the case, and see if every link in the chain is sufficiently completed, to warrant the certainty of conviction… You must see whether the evidence leads you to a clear and satisfactory conclusion of the prisoner’s guilt, and an explanation on my part is not necessary, as the case has been laid before you… You may think that the blood of the unfortunate woman cries aloud for vengeance. I only hope you will leave that vengeance to Him who has claimed it as His own, and who can direct its stroke with an unerring hand, and in comparison with which human law and justice must acknowledge its error. Better that a thousand guilty should escape, than that one innocent person should perish from an unjust verdict. (Loud and continued cheers.)
Lord DEAS – So far as I am concerned personally I am quite prepared to go on, and bring the evidence under your notice, but I rather think you will agree with me that at this hour of night, and seeing that it will be more satisfactory to the ends of justice to delay. I am quite ready to hear what you may have to suggest upon the subject.
The FOREMAN – The jury are inclined to wait till to-morrow, and wish to be allowed to take the plans with them.
Lord DEAS – I think it would be better not. It is impossible to take these home without forming an opinion, and they will be shown to you before you return your verdict.
The Court then adjourned at nine o’clock till Saturday morning.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20.
To-day, which it was known would be the last day of this famous trial, the excitement caused by it was if anything increased. It was expected that the summing up would be finished by about midday, and that immediately after the Jury would give their verdict, and, if it was unfavourable, the Court would proceed to sentence. The greatest diversity of opinion existed as to what that verdict would be, and ought to be; for many persons were convinced that the prisoner was not by any means the guiltiest party in the case, and it was thought that in the face of the contradictory theories which had been laid before them, accounting for the crime, and the want of any direct and satisfactory testimony of the prisoner’s complicity, the Jury would not find themselves entitled to return an extreme verdict, but they would content themselves with one of “not proven.” Speculation on the head was rife throughout the day; and not until the Jury actually returned their verdict had it ceased.
THE CHARGE TO THE JURY.
Lord DEAS began his summing up. He spoke as follows:-
Gentlemen of the Jury, – In the indictment before you, the prisoner Jessie McLachlan is charged with the crime of murder, and with the crime of theft. The murder is said to have been committed upon the person of Jessie McPherson, a domestic servant in the service of Mr Fleming, accountant, Glasgow. The place where the murder is said to have been committed is the house of Mr Fleming in Sandyford Place. The time at which the murder is said to have been committed is the night of Friday the 4th or the morning of Saturday the 5th July last, and the instrument with which the murder is said to have been committed is that cleaver which you have seen, or some other equally deadly instrument of that description. The theft is said to have been a theft of certain articles of silver plate belonging to Mr Fleming, which are enumerated in the indictment, and certain articles of dress belonging to the deceased Jessie McPherson, which are also enumerated in the indictment, and the place from which and the time at which these articles are said to have been stolen is the same with the place, and the time when and where the murder is said to have been committed. Now, gentlemen, the first thing you have to inquire into is whether there was a murder, and if there was theft, then you have to inquire who was the person who committed the murder, and who was the person who committed the theft. As regards the question whether there was a murder, I am afraid that none of us have much doubt about that…
… And, to begin with the smaller charge, namely, that of theft, which is said on the part of the Crown is this – I am not saying that it is proved,.. Now, I don’t wish to go into the particulars of this just now, because we must look at all this again when we further consider the case. I am merely indicating what the Crown presents to you as the charge against the prisoner for theft – that she was immediately found in the possession of the articles, and that the account she gives of them is not to be credited. If you are satisfied that she was immediately in the possession of these things, and that she is unable to give a satisfactory account of that possession, it is quite sufficient to prove the theft. Then, as to the murder – the substance of the case which the Crown says has been proved against the prisoner in reference to the murder is this, that she had been a servant in the house; that she knew all the silver articles and the other articles in question; that she was intimate with the deceased, and frequented the house as a friend of hers, and had access at any time she chose to go; that about that Friday, the 4th of July, she was very much in want of money; that she was behind with her rent; that she had great many articles in pawn – that almost all her husband’s clothing was in pawn, and that there were in that small house of one apartment which they occupied, at one time no less than forty-one pawn tickets;.. It may be very important in the question whether there had been a woman there that night with the deceased, or it might be very important in the question whether the murder was committed by a man; but, standing by itself, it would not be safe evidence to proceed against the prisoner… She was examined on declaration, as every prisoner is in this country who is apprehended on a criminal charge. One great object of this is to allow the prisoner an opportunity, if the prisoner thinks proper, to make some explanation of the circumstances which may seem to weigh against her. The length of her declarations have been complained of, but you will judge whether the very eloquent speech you have heard on behalf of the prisoner was not founded a good deal on the explanations that were offered by the prisoner in these declarations, and which otherwise we would have had very little traces to go upon. The prisoner, when so examined, may decline to answer all questions, but to an innocent person it may, and must be, a very valuable privilege to be allowed to give explanations, and to have the circumstances which look dark and suspicious against him or her cleared away. I rather think, gentleman, if any of you were accused of a crime, you would be very anxious to use that privilege… The statements made by the accused person are not according to the laws of this country evidence against the accused person further than the inquiry bears them out. But they are not properly speaking evidence in favour of the party, still it is not evidence against any person else. It would be a very alarming state of matters if the statement of a person accused of a capital crime, it may be, was to be regarded as against some third party who had no opportunity of defending himself or herself. That is not the law. The statements of the prisoner, therefore, are of themselves no evidence against anybody else, unless they are supported by evidence; and it would never do for you come to the conclusion that the explanations of the prisoner themselves showed that these crimes were committed by somebody else, unless they were satisfactorily proved to you by the evidence… It was stated, no doubt, that one person may be less guilty of murder than another person; but even if there were more than one person connected with the murder, it is no reason for letting one of them escape because we cannot find them both. But then, it is said by the Crown that there is no evidence of two persons being connected with the murder; and it is said farther that there is no evidence to uphold the allegation that old Fleming had anything to do with it… Now, what are the circumstances which are founded upon the part of the prisoner in order to show that the old man Fleming was the guilty party? You heard him examined at great length. He seems to be a person of great age – eighty-seven I think he himself says – and he must be of a considerable age, because one old gentleman said he had known him from youth upwards, and that old Mr Fleming then had children older than him. His physical appearance indicated that he was not, so far as mere strength was concerned, unable to have committed this murder if he had been so inclined. He is a vigorous man for that time of life. He employs himself, under his son, in collecting rents and transacting business – all of which he seems to do sufficiently well. There is certainly nothing about him which would incapacitate him from doing that. It cannot be contended on the part of the Crown that there was any incapacity on his part, or that there was any incapacity on the prisoner’s part. Considering the instruments we had had here in Court, it is pretty evident that there was no incapacity on the part of the one nor on the part of the other to commit the murder if they had been so inclined… It is most creditable to any gentleman who may have assisted in that matter – who may have given their money or their professional assistance – that is most creditable to the persons be they who they may. By whom that was done we do not know, but we know this – we have evidence that the prisoner’s defence is very well and thoroughly attended to. And there has been brought for the defence counsel than whom no more able counsel could be found at the bar of this country, and their duty has been done in a very satisfactory manner…We cannot lay out the view that – although [old Mr Fleming] is a man still in the possession of his faculties, as much as he could be, perhaps, at his age, and perhaps more so – he is a man of extreme age, and it is for you to judge how far the observation – the senses and observation – had or had not got blunted at that very uncommon time of life. He seems to have been a man of peculiar habits. According to his own account of himself, he was not dependant upon servants, and he was a person who had no pride to prevent him doing the acts that were necessary for his own comfort. He told you himself that he would sometimes go into the kitchen to warm his feet – a very natural thing for him to do, seeing that, at that time of year, there might be no fire in such a house except the one in the kitchen. He told us that he read the papers there, and said, I think, that he took tea along with the servants… It is for you to judge whether there is any reason to think that he did see them. If he did not see them, and if he had no suspicion, it would be very little for the purpose of this case that it founded an observation that he had very little capacity, or was very stupid. The stupidity or strange conduct of any man in these circumstances is no reason in the world why we should throw overboard all proof of guilt against another party. So that, looking to all that, you will just consider whether it is or is not more probable – much more probable – that this old gentleman did stupidly it may be – very stupidly it may be – take for granted that the woman had merely gone out and gone away, and would come back again in a short time – whether that was very probable – or whether he saw traces so distinct before his eyes as to lead him to suppose that a murder had been committed, and yet gave no alarm, and made no investigation… A stronger observation made upon that was, how did it happen that he did not couple these screams with the disappearance of the servant? That is just a question depending upon the state of the man’s mind; but what weight you will give to that, to his age, and to his want of observation – how far you will think that strange or not – bears upon the question of the proof of the guilt or innocence of the prisoner… It is for you to say whether, in the course of that night, the prisoner did not leave her own house, as she herself says; that she did not go out with one gown and did not come in with another; that her clothes were covered with blood, and she was in possession of all the articles stolen from that house that night. What does that lead to? Does it lead to nothing? You will ask yourselves to what it must lead. It is necessary for you to couple all that as to the old man’s guilt, with attention to the weight of the statement which the prisoner makes against him… I mean that it is not suggested that in place of a quarrel or feeling of revenge, there was anything improper between him and the deceased, or between him and the prisoner, or anybody else, whatever that might have led to… it is my duty on my oath of office, and it is your duty on the oath you have taken, to proceed here on the evidence you have heard, and on nothing else, and I feel quite sure you will proceed on that evidence you have heard, and on nothing else… The case has been most fully brought before you, and most ably treated on both sides. It has received from you as great attention as ever I saw paid by any jury, and I have no doubt you will perform that duty conscientiously, whatever that duty may be.
[His Lordship’s charge lasted almost exactly four hours.]
With that final summing up by the trial judge, Lord Deas, we come to the end of the trial to determine the guilt of Jessie McLachlan with regards the murder of her dear friend Jessie McPherson. I don’t know about you but I’m more inclined towards maintaining that the remaining unanswered questions, as detailed by the defence, would have me struggling to give a definitive guilty verdict. We can only wait to see what comes from the deliberations of the jury of the time. We may see you back for the last episode, the Verdict & Aftermath, of this convoluted & strange case. Take care.
Narration by Jenny
Art by Alex
Intro-Outro by Tony ‘Lucky Dog’ Wilson
Greysteil by Paul Burns.