Welcome back to Random Scottish History’s true crime project, Glasgow’s Square Mile Murders. This is part 4 of the case against Dr Edward William Pritchard, part 3 of his trial, for the murder of his mother-in-law, and her daughter, his wife. We’re concluding his trial in this episode and it’s not really gone very well for him. The prosecution seem to be making a pretty strong case against him, so far, at least. We’ll see, just now, how it ends. Let’s get into it.
Falkirk Herald, Thursday 6th July, 1865, p.5.
THIRD DAY – WEDNESDAY, July 5.
The Court met again this morning, and resumed the trial of Dr Pritchard.
At five minutes past ten the prisoner took his seat in the dock, and immediately after his brother entered and took his seat by his side.
The first witness called was,
Alexander McCall, Superintendent of Central District of Glasgow Police, who gave evidence as to the apprehension of the prisoner, and to visiting his house at Clarence Place and taking possession of a number of bottles, phials, and letters, which he identified.
John Murray, sheriff-officer, gave corroborative evidence, and also deponed to purchasing a packet of tapioca at Messrs Burton & Henderson’s.
John Campbell, examined by Mr GIFFORD – I am manager of the Western Branch of the Glasgow Apothecaries’ Company, 251 Sauchiehall Street. I have known the prisoner by sight for four years. He has not been in the habit of making purchases at our establishment till within the last eight or nine months. I have my books here, and the purchases he made are entered therein. He had a running account with us. [Shown No. 58.] That is an excerpt from our books of Dr Pritchard’s account. That account contained the following entries:- 1864. December 19. 10 grs. strychnine; November 4. ½ oz. tincture conii.; November 16. 1 oz. laudanum; 1 oz. tartar emetic; 1 oz. tincture aconite. Dec. 8, 1 oz. Fleming’s tincture aconite. Dec. 9, 1 oz. tincture conii. Feb. 7, 1 oz. tartarised antimony; 1 oz. tincture aconite. Feb. 9, 1 oz. tincture aconite. Feb. 11, 2 oz. tincture digitalis. I have my books here from which this was excerpted… Dr Pritchard invariably got most of the articles mentioned here himself. He came to the shop and ordered them himself. Some he took away with him, and some were sent home… I am satisfied that the whole of these articles, not only those ordered from myself but from the assistant, were furnished from our establishment. All the articles that I have read are all poisonous.
Look at entry under date November 16 – 1 oz. tartar emetic. Is that a large quantity? – Yes.
What is the ordinary dose when used as an emetic? – Two grains.
How many grains are there in an oz? – 435½ avoirdupois. An oz. is not a usual quantity for me to sell. I never sold an oz. to any medical man in Glasgow before. On February 7th, I sold another oz. of tartarised antimony. The quantity of antimony which I sold the prisoner struck me.
How much tartarised antimony may you have sold during a year to the medical profession in Glasgow and the whole public? – I think two oz. would serve us for twelve months.
For the whole of your trade? – Yes; for the whole of our trade.
Have you a very large trade? – A very large dispensing business. Under November 24th, I observe an entry – “One ounce tincture of aconite.” That is a large quantity – an unusual quantity to sell to one individual. There are other two entries of an ounce each also. The quantity I sold to the prisoner struck me as very unusual. It was Fleming’s tincture of aconite I sold to him. The difference between that and the other kind is, according to the new British pharmacœpeia, the Fleming’s is six times stronger than the ordinary tincture of aconite. I believe an ounce or two ounces would cover the whole of my other business – including my dispensing business – during a twelvemonth… (Q.) What are the other articles in the account which I have not asked you to read – what is the principle article? (A.) Chloroform. The quantity of chloroform sold to the prisoner from July 13 to December 9, 1864, was very large, 132 oz. That is a very unusual quantity. (Q.) How much chloroform do you sell to the general public or to other medical men? (A.) I could give you no idea, but it has no relation at all to what the prisoner got, nothing like it in quantity. (Q.) Do you mean that the prisoner got more than all your other customers put together? (A.) Yes. We supply medicines to a great many medical practitioners in Glasgow. I have been a dispensing apothecary for twenty-three years. In all my experience I never furnished so much poison to any medical man…
John Currie, chemist, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, spoke to selling poisons to the prisoner in the months of February and March in unusual quantities. The list included solution of atropine and tincture of aconite.
Dr Douglas Maclagan, Professor of Medical Jurisprudence in the University of Edinburgh, after portions of his reports had been verified by Drs Littlejohn and Gamgee, read first a report of the post mortem examination of the body of Mrs Pritchard, which was described as that of a healthy woman… The witness next read a report of the post mortem examination of the body of Mrs Taylor. It concluded as follows:- “We have to report that we have not been able to discover in the body of Mrs Taylor any morbid appearance capable of accounting for her death, and are of opinion that the cause of her death cannot be determined without chemical analysis. We have therefore secured, for this purpose, the alimentary canal and its contents, the heart and some of the blood, the liver, the spleen, the kidneys, the bladder and uterus, and a portion of the brain, which have been left in the custody of Dr Maclagan.” Dr Maclagan read the report of the chemical analysis of the organs of Mrs Pritchard, which led him to the following conclusions:-
1st, That Mrs Pritchard had taken a large quantity of antimony in the form of tartar emetic.
2d, That having regard to the absence in her case of any morbid appearances sufficient to account for death, and to the presence in it of a large quantity of a substance known to be capable of destroying life, her death must be ascribed to the action of antimony.
3d, That it is most unlikely that this poison was taken in a single large dose. Had this been the case I should have expected to have found some more decided evidence or irritant action in the mouth, throat, or alimentary canal.
4th, That from the extent to which the whole organs and fluids of the body were impregnated with it, it must have been taken in repeated doses, the aggregate of which must have amounted to a large quantity.
5th, That from the large amount found in the liver, from its ready detection in the blood, and from its being found passing so copiously out of the body by the bile and urine, it is probable that some of the poison had been taken at no greater interval than a period of a few days previous to death.
6th, That I am inclined to believe that it had not been administered, at all events in any great quantity within a few hours of her death. Had this been the case, I would have expected to have found at least some traces of it in the contents of the stomach, and more in the contents of the intestines; whereas none was found in the former, and the amount found in the latter seems to be amply accounted for by the bile impregnated with the poison discharged into them from the liver.
7th, That the period over which the administration had extended cannot be determined by mere chemical investigation, but must be deduced from the history of the case, with which I am unacquainted.
The report of the chemical analysis of the body of Mrs Taylor concludes as follows:-
1. That Mrs Taylor had taken a considerable quantity of antimony in the form of tartar emetic.
2. That, having regard to the absence of any morbid appearance sufficient to account for death, and to the presence in the body of a considerable quantity of a substance known to be capable of destroying life, her death must be ascribed to the action of antimony.
3. That it is most likely that this was not taken in a single large dose. Had this been the case, I should have expected to have found some morbid appearances indicative of the irritant nature of the drug. It appears to me more probable, from the amount found in the body, that it must have been taken in a succession of doses, not great enough individually to produce local irritant effects, but amounting in the aggregate to a large quantity. It is right, however, to add that a single copious dose, not large enough to produce marked local effects, might give rise to fatal depression of the system in a woman aged seventy-one, whose heart was enlarged and somewhat dilated.
4. That from the fact that antimony was found copiously in the liver, was readily detected in the blood, and existed to the amount of a quarter of a grain in the stomach, some at least of the tartar emetic had been taken, probably within a few hours before death.
5. That, from mere chemical investigations, I am unable to say over what length of time the administration of the antimony had extended, supposing it, as I believe, to have been taken in a succession of doses. This can be learned only from a consideration of the history of the case, with which I am unacquainted.
Dr Frederick Penny, Professor of Chemistry in the Andersonian University of Glasgow, was next examined, and read a report of a chemical analysis of certain articles taken from the body of Mrs Pritchard, with the following conclusions:-
1st, That all the parts of the body examined by me contained antimony.
2d, That in the dried contents of the intestines the antimony was partly in a form soluble in water, and most likely in the state of tartar emetic or tartarised antimony. In the liver, kidney, and the other viscera, the antimony was deposited in a state insoluble in water.
3d, That the contents of the intestines contained the largest proportion of antimony, next the heart, then the liver, kidney, and spleen; less in the stomach; and the smallest quantity in the rectum, brain, and blood. Not knowing the total weight either of the contents of the intestines, or of the several organs here enumerated, I was unable to calculate the total quantity of antimony in those matters, either separately or conjoined.
4th, That the contents of the intestines, the spleen, the heart, the blood, and the kidney contained mercury; but that none of this metal was present in the liver, stomach, rectum, and brain. That, in all these matters, the mercury was in a state of insoluble in water; and this result is quite consistent with the known property of mercury to form insoluble combinations with animal substances, even though it had been taken or administered in a soluble form during life.
5th That the largest quantity of mercury was contained in the contents of the intestines, next in the spleen and heart, and extremely minute traces in the blood and kidney.
6th, That the presence of antimony and mercury in the contents of the intestines indicates that these metals were being passed from the deceased up to the time of death.
7th, That no other metallic poison was contained in the matter examined.
8th, That no aconite, morphia, or other vegetable poison, discoverable by chemical processes, was contained either in the contents of the intestines or in the stomach.
9th, Not having detected any organic poison, either in the said contents of the intestines or in the stomach, it was not necessary to examine the other articles for such poisons, and more especially as the quantities of these matters received for analysis were too small to hold out any prospect of a successful result.
The following were the conclusions at which the witness arrived in the case of Mrs Taylor:-
1st, That all the articles subjected to analysis contained antimony.
2d, That the dried contents of the intestines contained the largest proportion of antimony; next, the liver and stomach; then the blood, and in less quantity in the heart, kidney, and rectum.
3d, That part of the antimony in the contents of the intestines is in a form soluble in water.
4th, That the kidney was the only article in which mercury was detected.
5th, That neither the stomach nor the contents of the intestines contained aconite or morphia in quantity sufficient to be detected by known chemical processes.
6th, That the articles subjected to analysis contained no other metallic poison than antimony and mercury as reported above.
Dr Penny had also analysed the contents of various vials, bottles, and other articles delivered to him by Superintendent of Police. In the paper package of tapioca handed to Captain McCall by Dr Pritchard’s servants, the presence of antimony was unequivocally detected, but not the least trace of it in the package bought from Burton and Henderson. The bottle containing Battley’s solution of opium found in Mrs Taylor’s pocket after her death, contained an appreciable quantity of antimony in a soluble form, and also aconite. These vials contained tincture of conium. Tartarised antimony was found in a green pasteboard box.
In the course of his examination by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL, Dr Penny deponed that he had detected aconite in the bottle containing Battley’s solution, and described the processes by which he had arrived at this result…. Tried upon rabbits the 50 grains of genuine Battley did not kill them, but 40 grain drops of the contents of the bottle did so. He then very minutely described its effect upon the rabbits. After a lengthened cross-examination, he added:- … I was present at the experiments made in the University here on the rabbits by Professor Maclagan, and in the presence of Professor Christison, Dr Arthur Gamgee, and Dr Littlejohn. These experiments of mine were repeated here, and attended with precisely similar results, except that death was more speedy, from the larger doses that were then given.
Dr Maclagan was then recalled, and read the concluding portion of his chemical report, dated 11th April.
By the SOLICITOR-GENERAL – … I heard the account given in this place of the illness of Mrs Pritchard on her return from Edinburgh to Glasgow at Christmas to the time of her death. – Does that account of the history of her illness suggest to you as a medical man the cause of her death? – It suggests a confirmation of the opinion I had formed from my chemical post-mortem examination. I think the symptoms suggest the administration of antimony at an early period of the illness. – Is antimony a poison which passes pretty rapidly out of the system? – A good part of it passes rapidly out of the system. – In vomiting and purging? – In vomiting and purging, and by the urine. – In that way the patient is weakened and ultimately destroyed? – Yes. Would the administration of opium at the same time in any way interfere with the action of antimony, or rather with the symptoms exhibited by the person who had taken it? – So far that it might make the tendency to vomit less. – And might also interfere with its effect on the pulse? – Yes. – Would it, even in conjunction with opium, exercise a pernicious effect on the patient? Yes; a pernicious effect on the muscular tissue would remain.
Dr Littlejohn, Surgeon to the Edinburgh police, deponed that he had acted with Dr Maclagan in the post-mortem examinations of Mrs Taylor and Mrs Pritchard,.. There was nothing in the case of Mrs Taylor to show that she had died from apoplexy, but it seemed that she might possibly have died from a dose of antimony, administered shortly before her death, or else from some of the sedative narcotic poisons. The effects produced by the cheese and egg flip were quite consistent with antimonial poisons. Antimony could be dusted over lump sugar in such a manner as to cause death. It was a white powder, and much resembled sugar…
Dr Paterson was recalled, and stated that after hearing the other evidence his opinion as to poisoning by antimony had been very well confirmed. His decided impression was that Mrs Pritchard had undergone chronic poisoning by antimony. A combination of aconite and opium would account for the symptoms of Mrs Taylor.
Evidence was given by Hugh Orr, bank agent, City of Glasgow Bank, and Michael Balmain, assistant manager, to show that the prisoner’s accounts had been considerably overdrawn; by Wm. Finlay, secretary to the Scottish Equitable Life Assurance Society, as to a policy on the life of the panel; and by D[avid] J[ohnston] Macbriar, S.S.C., Edinburgh, and D[avid] T[aylor] Alexander, writer, Glasgow, as to funds advanced by Mrs Taylor’s trustees to purchase a house for Dr Pritchard.
The declarations of the prisoner were then read. Regarding his deceased wife, he said, after a lengthened statement about her illness:- During the whole course of her illness I never gave her any antimony nor any medicine in which there was any preparation of antimony. Antimony is a poison, but it is used occasionally to subdue inflammation, and I applied it to her neck in October last, when she was plagued with a swelling of a gland in the neck. I rubbed externally on that occasion, and I have never given her any antimony since. On that occasion I recommended a change of air, and I gave her a little bottle of antimony with her for the same purpose of rubbing behind the ear. She went to Edinburgh at that time, and she returned to Glasgow very much better, and I have never seen the bottle of antimony since she got it away with her. There was a considerable quantity of antimony in my repositories at the time of my wife’s last illness, as I used it extensively in my practice, and the antimony was kept in a cupboard, of which I have the key, but which was not always locked. I did not see any of it brought out, or lying about during her illness. In his declaration regarding Mrs Taylor, he expressed his belief that she had died from paralysis or apoplexy, and declared that he was entirely innocent of the crime with which he was charged.
The case for the Crown being concluded, Mr Clark, in reply to a question, said he thought the evidence for the defence would be finished by one o’clock to-morrow (Thursday).
The Court rose at 5.40.
Caledonian Mercury, Friday 7th July, 1865, pp.3 & 4.
TRIAL OF DR PRITCHARD
MURDER OF HIS WIFE AND MOTHER-IN-LAW.
The Court resumed this morning shortly after ten o’clock. There was as crowded an attendance as before, and the proceedings increase daily in interest. A much larger number were desirous of obtaining admittance. It was, however, only a favoured and limited company who were allowed admission into the Court; and frequently throughout the day were lawyers in wig and gown seen trying in vain to persuade the policemen to let their friends pass within the coveted precincts. The prisoner had a much more depressed appearance than on the preceding days of the trial, and sat with his eyes towards the floor. Occasionally he closed his eyes and wet his lips with his tongue, like a man suffering from thirst. To-day the prisoner’s brother Charles sat with him in the dock.
Witnesses were then examined for
John Simpson, druggist, examined by Mr WATSON – I am one of the partners of Duncan, Flockhart, & Co… I recollect seeing the prisoner Dr Pritchard in Glasgow. That was about four years ago. Shortly after that time there were some purchases made in our shop in Dr Pritchard’s name. The purchase was a bottle of Battley’s sedative solution. A person came to our shop, and said he wanted to make a purchase for Dr Pritchard. (Shown No. 85, bottle containing a dark-coloured liquid, with label affixed thereto.)… That bottle was very often brought back to our premises. I was not personally known to Dr Pritchard at that time – the gentleman I now see. Mr James Thomson is the person who came with the bottle…
Can you give us any idea of how often it came back? – I cannot.
Might it be once in the two months or once a month? – I cannot say…
How much may you make up in that prescription. Just give about the largest quantity? – I very frequently make up prescriptions of half an ounce in a mixture.
Would you consider it at all an unusual thing were a medical man to get an ounce from you at a time? – Not at all.
By the SOLICITOR-GENERAL – Where did you get your Battley’s solution? – From Battley’s – direct from the manufacturer.
I need scarcely ask you, is there any antimony in what you sell? – There is none.
Nor aconite? – Neither of these stuffs.
I want to ask you is it reasonably possible these stuffs may get into the solution accidentally? – No; it is quite impossible. We keep such drugs in separate places. I know the Glasgow Apothecaries Company. It is a very large and well-known establishment in Glasgow,..
By the LORD JUSTICE-CLERK – You say you have made up as much as half an ounce of aconite in a mixture. You mean for medicine? – Yes.
What portion would ½ an oz. bear to the entire mixture? – About one fourth.
Do you know how such a mixture is used? – Chiefly for heart diseases I believe.
Thomas Fairgrieve, druggist, examined by Mr WATSON – You carry on business as a chemist and druggist at 46 Clerk Street, Edinburgh? – I do.
You knew the late Mrs Taylor? – I did.
Was she in the habit of making purchases in your shop? – Yes.
Did she purchase Battley’s solution? – She did.
For how long before her death? – For some years; I could not condescend upon the exact number of years.
Did she make the purchases in person? – Very frequently, but she occasionally sent for it.
You are acquainted with Fleming’s tincture of aconite? – I am.
How much of Fleming’s tincture of aconite may you sell within the year? – I am within the mark when I say about fifty ounces.
What amount of the tincture may you make up in one prescription at one time? – It is generally prescribed in the form of liniment, mixed with other forms. I have put up as much as two fluid ounces.
Would you feel at all surprised at the purchase of one ounce of Fleming’s tincture at a time? – Not at all.
By the SOLICITOR-GENERAL – The medical gentlemen are in the habit of sending prescriptions to my shop for Fleming’s tincture. In my experience I have known medical men buy aconite.
The LORD JUSTICE-CLERK – Unmixed? – Yes.
By the SOLICITOR-GENERAL – That is not a very common thing. I should say it is rather uncommon. I should say when persons bought it that they bought it only for that occasion. I do not know that it was bought for experiments.
A medical man has got as much as half an ounce, and even a whole ounce. I do not now sell much antimony. There has been a change since croton oil came into use. This last year or two there has been less antimony sold; but I am in the habit of disposing of a good deal of antimony to veterinary surgeons… I send it in a liquid state, but it is a very common thing to have two or three grains undissolved. I cannot say how much tartar emetic I may dispense in the course of a year. The quantity of tartar emetic in a medical prescription is very small. It is measured in grains.
Do you know any medical purpose for which Fleming’s tincture of aconite, unmixed, is used externally? – It is largely used unmixed in cases of tic-doloreaux.
Is there any other external application of it that you know? – I have found it a specific in toothache at times.
James Thomson, examined by Mr WATSON – I knew the late Mrs Taylor. I am a clothier’s traveller and commission agent. I was sometime in the employment of Mr Michael Taylor… I executed small commissions for Mrs Taylor. I went for her to Duncan & Flockhart’s, Edinburgh. It was, I believe, for opium… I took the bottle oftener since I left Mr Taylor’s service than before. I did not intend to do small commissions of that sort for Mrs Taylor after I left her husband’s employment… I went last for it the night before she set out for Glasgow. This was in February, a little before her death. The bottle was filled upon that occasion. I took it next morning, and gave it to Mrs Taylor. I got the bottle filled every two or three weeks latterly. I would say that this was for a year before her death.
By the SOLICITOR-GENERAL – I went every two or three weeks for the last year; but before that, it was once every two or three months… I used Dr Pritchard’s name as well as hers. When I went with the bottle without the line she told me that if they asked me who it was for to say that it was for Dr Pritchard. She said that she got it half a crown cheaper by using his name. Although I had left Mrs Taylor’s service I was still employed to go messages of the kind.
James Fowler, corkcutter, examined by Mr WATSON – I am a corkcutter in Carrick Street, Glasgow. I consulted the prisoner, Dr Pritchard, about an affection of my ears… On my visits the doctor generally painted my ears inside and out, and very often dropped some liquid into them… I cannot say what he painted my ears with, but I know that it coloured the ear behind and inside… I did not feel any sensation until afterwards, and then there was a smarting sensation.
He gave me several small phials. The first two or three were white with a thickish kind of matter. He gave me one larger than the rest. – It was labelled poison? – Poison.
… Tincture of iodine was what he told me to get to paint. It produces the same yellow colour as the painting had done.
Alexander Machattie, examined by Mr WATSON – I am a doctor of philosophy and a chemist – that is, a lecturer on chemistry and analytical chemist, in Glasgow. After the apprehension of the prisoner I went with Superintendent McCall, Glasgow, to the prisoner’s house. Detective Audley Thomson was with us. It was the 30th of March. I examined by eye the general appearance of the medicines which we found in the consulting-room that day. My instructions from Mr McCall were to select whatever was of a poisonous nature…
I believe you rejected some small bottles found there containing samples? – I did reject thirty-five such. These were left in the consulting-room.
Was there anything in the contents of the thirty-five bottles you have spoken of from which that prescription could be made up? – I believe not.
No conium or chlorodine? – I believe not.
Edward Charles Pritchard, the son of the prisoner, was here called upon and got into the witness-box. He was dressed in deep mourning, and had a pleasant smile upon his face. On entering the witness-box he was told by Lord Jerviswoode to hold up his right hand, which the boy did.
You know that you must speak the truth? – Yes.
The oath was then administered in the usual form.
You were there when your mamma died? – Yes.
You lived very happily together until your mamma died? – We did.
Your papa and mamma were very fond of each other, were they not? – They were.
The boy then left the witness-box.
Jane Frances Pritchard was next called upon. She was also dressed in deep mourning.
Examined by Mr CLARK – I am the daughter of the prisoner. I used to live with my grandmother in Lauder Road, Edinburgh. My father was often there with my grandmother. They were very much attached to each other, and they used to speak very kindly of one another.
[While the last two witnesses were being examined Dr Pritchard’s quietness of demeanour completely deserted him; and as the children answered the questions put to them he wept like a child. The scene in Court was very affecting.]
This concluded the evidence for the defence, and the Court rose for a short time.
After a short interval the Court reassembled, and
The SOLICITOR-GENERAL proceeded to address the jury on behalf of the Crown. He spoke as follows:- Gentlemen, we have now arrived at that stage of this important case at which it becomes my duty on the part of the Crown to address you in such observations as appear to me to be important and worthy of your consideration. A more aggravated and serious case I need hardly say never occupied the attention of a court of justice. The crime with which the prisoner at the bar is charged is in its nature the highest one of all, both with respect to the persons upon whom that crime is alleged to have been committed and the manner of its perpetration. I feel it to be my duty to press against the prisoner two acts of wilful murder, committed in his own house deliberately, in cold blood, with much cruelty, upon two defenceless women – one his own wife, the other his wife’s mother. I say further – and if I make it good it is indeed an appalling feature of this terrible case – that the mother was sacrificed by him when in the very act of watching with a mother’s tenderness over her child, upon whom he was practising his nefarious and subtle arts to urge her slowly but surely to the grave. Gentlemen, the prisoner is well enabled to say that such a charge ought not to be brought forward upon slight grounds, and to say, further, that if the evidence upon which this rests be such as to leave you any reasonable alternative, it is your duty, and you will gladly avail yourself of it, rather than convict any one bearing the form of man of anything so atrocious… I accept it and commend it to you as, in my opinion, sound and just; and, indeed, I make these observations to you not to excite prejudice, but for the fairer purpose of assuring you that I quite appreciate the gravity of the charge which I make… There is no protection against murder by secret poison except the reasonable certainty of detection and punishment. Against open violence we may defend ourselves – we may avoid our enemy – we may protect ourselves against him; but against the secret poisoner there is absolutely no protection except in the fear of detection and punishment. It is therefore for the best interests of society that the prisoner, if he be guilty, and be proved to be so by convincing evidence, should not escape; but it is not for the interests of society that any man should be convicted upon insufficient evidence, and it is not according to my usage to press the case, or any part of it, or any view of it, against the prisoner beyond what justice and truth, according to the evidence, and legitimate and convincing arguments exactly warrant. The interests and the rights of the person to be acquitted, if he is not satisfactorily proved to be guilty, are as important and sacred in the estimation of the law, and will be in yours and the interests of society, as that if he be proved to be guilty he shall not escape. I rejoice, therefore, to say that his interests have been committed to hands so able and experienced as those of my learned friends who appear for him. Gentlemen, I have told you that the prisoner is charged with two acts of wilful murder – the one committed upon his wife, and the other upon her mother. What you have to say is – and it is a solemn and important duty for men in this country to be engaged in – whether these or either of these charges is proved to your satisfaction. Upon these the burden of proof lies. The prisoner is entitled to every presumption of innocence; and if there be any doubt he is entitled to an acquittal… The first matter for consideration in this, and in every similar case, consists of what lawyers are accustomed to call the corpus dilecti. That is the question, whether or not the crimes charged were both, or either of them, committed by anybody. Were these ladies murdered by poison, or was either of them murdered by poison by any one. It is for me to establish by convincing evidence the affirmation of the proposition that each of them was so murdered. If I fail, of course there is no other question of any moment in the case… I shall immediately advert, that not one only but both of the women were murdered by poison. The only question which remains – I say only, not because it is not vitally important – indeed the vitally important question in the case – but it is the only question – was that murder perpetrated, or were these murders perpetrated by the prisoner at the bar? Let me begin, as naturally I ought to do, with the first question – Were the murders charged, or was either of them committed by any one? That, of course, is this question stated in another form, not taken wilfully with a view to suicide or accidentally either through negligence on their own part or somebody else. The conclusion is inevitable in the first instance – they were foully murdered. Did, then, both or other of the ladies die from the effects of poison? And let me here take the cases separately, in so far as it is possible to make a separation between them; and I begin with the case of Mrs Pritchard, because, although she died last – about three weeks after the death of her mother – she was, if there be truth in the case for the prosecution, the first victim of the foul arts with which the prisoner is charged. Her poisoning commenced before her mother came to nurse her on the 10th of February, which, I believe, was the true date, although the poison did not terminate fatally till the 18th of March, the mother herself having died upon the 25th of February… The first question on which you must make up your minds is what was the cause of her death and of what she died. The prisoner said to those who asked him during her life, and to the registrar after her death, that she had been ill, and had died of gastric fever. Now the public prosecutor says, she died of poison. It is for you to determine which of these two assertions is the true one. Gentlemen, it is painful to be obliged to say that that question admits of only one answer. If I could see any reasonable view for a different answer from the one confirming the assertion of the prosecutor, I should not fail to point it out to you. But I can find none, and you will judge whether you can see anything in the whole of the evidence which has been led before you to justify even doubt or hesitation on my part in asserting that Mrs Pritchard died on the 18th March from the effects of poison. The evidence on this subject is singularly clear and conclusive – I say singularly, as cases of this description are a rare occurrence in my own experience. Then as to my first point, relating to how far the medical evidence bore upon the question whether death was to be ascribed to poison, here the testimony is all one way, and you see distinctly how no doubt could have been thrown upon it. The poor woman’s body was opened after death. It presented upon the examination of the doctors nothing to account for death. There was no appearance of natural disease… There was nothing to indicate gastric fever, and therefore these gentlemen thought the cause of death was to be ascertained by a chemical analysis of the portions of the body and the contents of the intestines here specified… Poison was found diffused through the whole of the parts of the body, through its fluids. It was found in the stomach, in the liver, in the spleen, kidneys, heart, brain, blood, and the rectum. The body was also impregnated with it generally, and notwithstanding the copious discharges that had occurred, so long as the patient had strength to make them, the large quantities of poison mentioned by the doctors in the report were found in these various parts of the body, showing that the poison had diffused itself through the whole system, and satisfying them that the case was one of chronic poisoning – that is, that the poison had been administered in small doses, insufficient to kill each of them, but administered with a fatal result over a long course of time. That was the conclusion at which they arrived, though being unacquainted with the history of the case, they were unable to condescend upon the time… Dr Maclagan did not experiment upon the whole of the various portions of the body. He dwelt only upon a portion, leaving another portion in order that additional security might be obtained through submitting the other portions to another chemist in order to see whether the results he arrived at were the same or different. You know from his report the result of his investigation. He found the article antimony diffused over the whole body, as I have said to you; and so diffused as to satisfy him, he being a person well able to judge upon such matters, that the administration had been chronic, extending over a period of time… [Professor Penny] found the same poison in the same parts of the body, diffused in the same manner, and he arrives at the same conclusion… [Mrs Prichard] went on a visit to her parents at the end of November. She went away when she got a little better, with a view to her permanent recovery. She did recover. She was not visited with sickness in Edinburgh. We have her own testimony to that effect. She went away an invalid, and returned comparatively well. She had been free from those symptoms which her illness indicated while she was at home. She could not account for it in any way, and it was painful to hear the remarks of the poor woman in the presence of her husband – that it was strange she was always well when away from home, and ill when at home. She could not account for these circumstances. Nobody in the house could, except the author. Well, she returns from her father’s house, two or three days before Christmas. Her mother is with her and her eldest child, and she is comparatively well, but only for a few days. The sickness and vomiting return within a few days, and in as unaccountable a manner as ever. They continue with more or less frequency every day. She is subject to sickness and cramp. She at last goes to bed and keeps it for some time. The sickness and vomiting thus produced, leading to this general debility, which it is the very nature of this particular poison to cause, goes on; and as her poor mother said, she was one day a little better and two days worse. She is pretty well before breakfast, but gets worse after dinner, and nothing can account for it. These are the symptoms down to the day of her death. These symptoms are not those of gastric fever. They are the symptoms produced by that poison which was found in her body after death, and was found in such a manner as to lead inevitably to the conclusion that it had been administered in small doses over a considerable period of time. The history of the case, therefore, confirms what the chemists by their chemical analysis were made to understand, that the poisoning of this poor woman was going on for some time before she went to Edinburgh, and was continued almost day by day down to the day of her death. Gentlemen, the symptoms during life indicate the action of antimony so conclusively, and antimony was found so diffused through the body after death, that the conclusion is so irresistible that it is not wonderful that there should be no dispute that the poor woman, however she came by it, had antimony administered to her, and she died in consequence. Gentlemen, if you cannot resist the conclusion, then with respect to Mrs Pritchard the part of the case is established. She did not die of gastric fever, but of poison. Now, attend for a moment to the case of Mrs Taylor. This murder, occurring as an episode in the perpetration of another… Mrs Taylor came upon the 10th February. She does not appear to have been sick until she came to take some tapioca. I think that was on the 13th February, three days after she came, but she was sick then; and so far as I know from the evidence she was not sick after that until Friday the 24th, which was the last day of her life. That old lady of seventy-one, according to Dr Paterson, had a very healthy appearance, and did not look as if she had anything the matter with her. On Friday, the 24th, she is going about the house that day quite well as usual. between six and seven o’clock, according to the evidence, she speaks to Mary McLeod, and says that she had a tendency to be sick, and that she wanted to be sick, and she thought from what she had seen that she was going to have the same complaint which her daughter had. However, the sickness seems to have passed off, and she apparently became quite well. She is writing sometime after… in the consulting-room, and she goes up from there to her own and her daughter’s bedroom… She walked up nothing much the matter with her. In about half an hour the bell was rung and the servant upon going up found her in the chair, wanting to be sick and trying to vomit. She asked for some hot water to make her vomit. The servant comes down and gets the hot water, and afterwards gets some more. The poor old lady gets worse, and then gets into a state of semi-insensibility. The servant girl is sent for Dr Pritchard, who, so far as she knew, had not up to that time seen the old lady at all. He was in his consulting-room when she came down, engaged with a patient. The servant told him that Mrs Taylor was ill and he went up to the bedroom. He sends for Dr Paterson and you have the description which Dr Paterson gave of her very distinctly. Dr Paterson did not doubt that opium was the cause. That was not the account that was given by the prisoner in his consulting room; but, in the meantime, I merely want to see the symptoms. She had all the symptoms of poison from a strong narcotic. Opium would produce it, and the effects of opium would be increased by the still stronger poison – aconite. There was a debility, prostration, and weakness, such as antimony would produce. A post-mortem examination of the body is made. Antimony is found there. It must have been administered by some one. How did, then, it get there? There is no other cause of death than from its action. She did not die of apoplexy, nor of gastric fever, as was alleged by the prisoner, as respects one of the ladies. She died of poison. The symptoms were these of a narcotic poison, aconite along with antimony, the one obscuring the action of the other… You have those symptoms. They are not the symptoms of any known disease… Apoplexy has been mentioned, as the cause of death; but there is no room for such a theory, for it has been shown that the death was caused by aconite and antimony. Well, these ladies died of poison. How did they get it? It does not follow in this case that poison had been self or accidentally administered. But now consider these points; though it is not suggested in the case it will be thrown aside at once. Neither gave the slightest occasion of any desire to quit life. The learned counsel here affirmed that the idea that the ladies had committed suicide, or that poison had been accidentally administered, was out of the question, observing that no one would commit suicide in such a painful manner, and take, as in the case of Mrs Pritchard, from Christmas to the 18th of March to commit self-destruction. He also said it was difficult to conceive, nay, it was perfectly impossible for antimony to have got in by accident into the old lady’s mixture. It is not the case that antimony was accidentally administered, and her only illness from the action of antimony was not caused by antimony being administered medicinally. Now, the prisoner says so in his declaration, and he was her medical attendant, and never gave her antimony in her life. Therefore you have the suicide out of the case, and you have the accident out of the case, and that the antimony was administered medicinally for a time, you have that out of the case. The prisoner, as her medical attendant, was constrained to say that he never gave her antimony. Take the case of Mrs Pritchard. If it is conclusive that the poison was administered to her in small doses after a very long course of time, beginning soon after Christmas and terminating on the 18th of March – if the idea of suicide is out of the question, if the idea of accident is not to be entertained, if it is clear and convincing that the poison which killed the woman was administered wilfully, by the hand of some person in the house of the prisoner, out of which she does not appear to have been from the time she first became ill in the end of December or beginning of January till she was carried away to her grave – gentlemen, this conclusion you must come to – there was a murder. Or there was a murderer in that house – deliberate, cold-blooded. We know the inmates. There were two students of medicine. I suppose we may lay them aside as having nothing to do with it, nothing to throw suspicion upon them, neither had they opportunity. Catherine Latimer was there till the 16th February. The poisoning went on after she left. She was not the poisoner, and we have no reason for throwing suspicion upon her. Mary Paterson comes upon the 16th of February. The poisoning in that case goes on after she comes; but it was commenced long before – six weeks before. You will therefore lay her aside. There was Mary McLeod, the only grown person, and she a girl not seventeen, in the house during the whole course of the administration of poison. I need take no notice of the children, who are the only other inmates of the house. See, then, to what we have come. There was a murderer in the house practising the dreadful art of slow poisoning from the end of December till past the middle of March. The only two grown-up persons except the boarders who were in the house were the prisoner at the bar and Mary McLeod. Gentlemen, this is reducing the case to a very short question… Pray consider, upon the question of the wife, whether or no the prisoner is not a man clearly proved by irresistible evidence to be so? What was the nature of the murder? It was a murder in which you almost detect a doctor’s finger. Gradual poisoning was not to kill but to weaken by one dose, and exhaust day by day, leaving off for a day and then resuming – one day better, two days worse – no symptoms at all during the whole time except vomiting, and purging, and cramp – the action of antimony… Do you think a girl of seventeen cold have done that; but did she know anything about antimony? If she did not the prisoner at the bar must have done it, and what is his case – his case respecting his own wife, to whom he was thus administering poison – “I think it was gastric fever.” I say in that there was nothing like gastric fever; it was not like anything except what it was – slow, cruel poisoning, which brought, in the course of two or three months, this poor woman to her grave with such an amount of the poison in her body. And how does he speak even of the prescription of Dr Paterson? He writes to her father or mother – I forget which – among other things, “Dr Paterson had ordered her Dublin stout” – the last thing he should have ordered to a person in her position. Something was said in the course of the cross-examination of Dr Paterson which I must advert to. He was very much struck when called in to attend Mrs Taylor with the appearance of Mrs Pritchard. He was not called to visit her professionally. He was called to visit her mother. He was so struck with her appearance that the idea rests upon him with the force of conviction, and of which he could not get rid, that she was under the administration of antimony. Could Dr Paterson have volunteered the statement to a professional brother in his house – “Your wife there is under antimony. I have great suspicion about you that you are practising on Mrs Taylor and this woman.” What a position such a statement or insinuation would have put Dr Paterson in! He would have been a very bold man – bold to rashness – to have ventured on that. It might have scared the murderer from his victim for the moment, but he would never have been in the house again, and never could have done anything more in the case… The suspicions so formed at the time were confirmed to a certain extent by what he subsequently learned… Dr Paterson reasonably regarded this [second] visit more in the light of a mark of respect and sympathy to the daughter upon the death of the mother, which event he himself had almost witnessed, than as a professional visit. But he did prescribe for her. She was better. His suspicions were not removed – that is to say, he did not see from her appearance that day that he was entirely wrong in anything he had suspected before. But should he even then have denounced the husband, I don’t know that he did, but he might have thought of securing something in the room, and having it chemically analysed, whether there was antimony there or not. Exposing any man on such grounds may have appeared to be extremely imprudent, and I for one will not take it upon me to censure his being silent… But, gentlemen, I shall be asked what motive had Dr Pritchard for killing his wife. This question of motive is a very delicate one. The importance of it is apt to be much exaggerated – I think is commonly exaggerated – and the very nature of it as evidence is to a great extent misunderstood… I say there are hundreds, perhaps millions, in this world who would be benefitted in a worldly point of view by the death of relatives, who would shrink with absolute horror from the idea of hastening their death by a moment. Motive, therefore, is of no weight whatever, unless you have convincing evidence that the act was committed by the man; and if you have that the supposed motive is altogether secondary, almost an unimportant consideration. No doubt in cases of murder proceeding from feelings of revenge, and where the passions are stirred, you have motive generally strongly indicated, as the person under such passions and feelings of revenge manifests it, sometimes expresses it. You have then motive in actual operation proved. But in a case of murder such as this, pray consider how the matter of motive stands with the question of evidence. There was here a cool, deliberate, protracted murder committed; that is the fact with which you have to deal. The person who committed it must have been dead to all the ordinary feelings of humanity. It is difficult to enter upon the feelings – to consider what the feelings may be of any person, man or woman, capable of committing such a murder; for I am assuming that I have convinced you and brought you to the conclusion upon grounds which are satisfactory to your minds that a murder was committed by somebody. Whoever committed it was dead to all the ordinary feelings which actuated a man. No kindness, no sympathy had he for his victim, for months able to repress all his and her feelings to conceal his design, proceeding in a cool and calculating way, producing and keeping up her sickness, attending upon her sickness down to the fatal moment – I say a person capable of doing that is not demonstrative, is not apt to express his or her feelings, is able to conceal them and to act without expression. I do not know his feeling towards his wife. I know, indeed, he was not a virtuous, affectionate, and loving husband, for you know upon what footing he was living in this house with that poor girl, whom he seduced at almost the age of fifteen years. I say I do not know his feelings towards his wife; but the person who could commit that crime is not in the habit of being demonstrative. He is apt to be an excellent actor, and able to repress everything; I do not know that if such strong feeling exists in such a man as that he has anything but a cool, calculating determination to carry out his purpose… Whoever committed the murder was one who apparently affectionately sat at the bedside of the patient. With such apparent kindness did he attend upon her, that she took food from his hands. But, gentlemen, I have more than what I have yet stated against the prisoner. He had every opportunity of poisoning. No poisoner could have a better opportunity than he had. He had the opportunity of putting poison in to almost any food that she took, and he had abundant materials. He bought antimony; he had abundance – an unusual quantity of a deadly drug – an unprecedented quantity, so far as the experience of the manager of a Glasgow Apothecaries’ Company goes; and another druggist called for the prisoner, deponed that between the 16th November and 18th February he had two ounces of that drug – a quantity which served the medical customers of the Apothecaries’ Hall in Glasgow. With that antimony he produced gradual effects. He desired to do so without killing her at once… I, however, cannot pass over the egg-flip, for that is a substance I trace from the hands of the man whom I charge with the murder to the lips of the victim. The egg-flip was prepared by Mary Paterson. The learned gentleman here narrated the evidence on this point, observing that they passed from his consulting room, where the aconite was kept, and then dropped two bits of sugar into the mixture. The cook tasted it and was ill, manifesting all the effects of antimonial poisoning. These are strong circumstances. I submit them as conclusive. You cannot fix the murder upon anybody else. You must fix your suspicion upon him who had the means and opportunities of administering the poison… And now, gentlemen, we will come to the case of Mrs Taylor, for that case throws some light upon the other. It is really part of the same tragic story. I say, again, that I cannot enter into the mind of a man who is capable of committing such a murder as was certainly committed here by some one, and we can only conjecture what motives would be sufficient to set him upon the practice of this terrible act, for it is a terrible act, that of slow poison. It appears, however, that Dr Pritchard was in very poor circumstances; indeed, he does not seem to have been possessed of a farthing. On the contrary, he was to some extent, although not to a very great extent, so far as I know, in debt. His bank accounts were overdrawn, and had been for some time. The house which he had recently bought was not paid for, except to the extent of £100, which he had taken out of the £500 given by the poor old lady… Living in a house of the value of £2000, unpaid for, with a practice of the extent of which I have no means of judging, and with no money, with an account overdrawn, even without applying the £100 of the £500 to some other purpose than the purchase of the house, the old lady, he knew, was possessed of money, for he had got £500 from her. She was very fond of him, and apparently proud of him. She was also possessed of £2500, and according to her will, if he knew of it, his wife, and failing her he himself, was to have a life-rent of two-thirds of it. If there was no will his wife, and if she were dead, her children, as coming in her place, were entitled apparently to one-half of her whole fortune. That is to say, his wife was to have the one half and Dr Taylor and family the other, so that there was a pecuniary advantage to this moneyless man immediately upon their death. Supposing that it is inhuman to believe that a man should kill the mother of his wife who had been kind to him, for such a paltry motive as that, gentlemen, I would remind you that she was killed by poison from some motive or other. There can be no motive, none conceivable, which will satisfactorily account to an ordinarily well-constituted mind for the perpetration of an act so foul as was unquestionably perpetrated by somebody devoid of ordinary feeling. That is the necessary condition of whoever perpetrated this murder. If there was a murder committed, the condition of the perpetrator was that of a most heartless, feelingless wretch, into whose feelings I cannot enter. Let us consider Dr Pritchard’s conduct with respect to the old lady. He is watching over the death of his destined victim. The lady was sent for, Dr Cowan being the messenger, upon his recommendation that she should be sent for, and he had procured the consent of the prisoner. I do not insinuate that this consent was reluctantly given on the part of the prisoner… In the bottle of Battley which was found in her pocket, I suppose you will have no doubt in your minds as to the identity of the bottle, for it was the only bottle in the house that had Battley in it. It was taken possession of after the prisoner’s apprehension, subjected to chemical analysis, and in it was found aconite, the presence of it being ascertained otherwise. Aconite is known to produce a peculiar tingling and benumbing sensation when applied to the tongue, so that chemists and medical men of experience recognise it at once by its effects. When the contents of the bottle which had been taken from the old lady’s pocket were so applied to the lips and tongue, it produced a tingling and numbing sensation of a greater degree than the addition of five per cent. of Fleming’s tincture or pure Battley, although to a less extent than the addition of 10 per cent. Aconite, therefore, had been added to the mixture to the extent of from five to ten per cent… But the presence of aconite in the mixture is otherwise conclusively ascertained by the fact that the contents of the bottle killed small animals in precisely the same way as Battley, with from five to ten per cent. of Fleming’s tincture of aconite added;.. It was ascertained that there was antimony in it also by the chemical analysis. Who put antimony, who put aconite into the bottle? Here, again, you probably trace the finger of a medical man, not like a servant-girl between sixteen and seventeen. It seems to have been skilfully done, but it is done, and it must have been done before the old lady’s death, for it entirely accounts for the death, and there is no other account of it… Now let us see how the prisoner behaves with reference to her illness… it is not until the bell is rung for a third time that the servant goes down to the consulting-room and finds the doctor engaged with the patient. Dr Paterson is sent for, and the account he gives is very striking and very important, so much so that I must take the liberty of reading a portion of it to you.
At this stage the Court adjourned for a short time,
On the Judges again taking their seats, the SOLICITOR-GENERAL resumed – … The speaker proceeded to quote from the evidence given by Dr Paterson regarding his visit on that occasion, stating that he wished particular attention to be called to this point, because he wished to make a remark upon it – namely, that the prisoner told him (Dr Paterson) that Mrs Taylor “was in the habit of regularly using Battley’s sedative solution, and that she had a few days before purchased not less than a half pound bottle of the medicine, and that he had no doubt that it was very likely that she might have taken a good ‘swig’ of it.”… I think you will be satisfied that there is no truth in the statement which he made to Dr Paterson that she was in the habit of taking a drop occasionally – meaning that she was in the habit of taking spirits. It is certainly unfortunate for this, in every respect the most unfortunate man, if the charge against him be not a true one, that he should have stumbled into the terrible error of making these false statements – one of them when the old lady was still alive, and the doctor whom he had sent for had come to see her; and the other after her death to the washerwoman who was in attendance in the room. But the first statement of all he makes to Dr Paterson is a very strange one. He had told the young man Connell that it was apoplexy. He also said that half an hour before, when writing some letters in the consulting room, after partaking of some bitter beer, the bitterness of which he had remarked upon, she had tumbled off the chair on to the floor, and had to be taken to the bedroom. That is not according to the proof, for she walked from the consulting room up to the bedroom about nine o’clock, passing the servant upon the stair. She had had no tumble, in fact. The doctor knew nothing of her having the attack until after the bell had been rung three times, and after hot water had been taken twice to make her vomit, and then after he did know, he was prevented from going for some time by a patient being in the consulting room. It was a strange statement he made as to the Battley solution, and it has been contradicted by Mary McLeod, and it will be remembered that while he said he had accidentally found that medicine in the old lady’s pocket, he had previously told Dr Paterson that she had purchased half a pound of it, and that probably her illness was to be accounted for by her having taken a good swig of it. That she was in the habit of taking this solution of opium is clear enough. She had taken it for years, and an ordinary dose would have little effect upon her. He knew she used it, and availed himself of that knowledge, and got at the bottle which the old lady had to allay her neuralgic headache, or ease the excessive perspiration from which she suffered. He had availed himself of that knowledge, had got hold of that bottle, and into it had introduced – what he alone had the power of introducing – these two deadly medicines. That is very striking indeed. Gentlemen, how are you to account for these falsehoods? Then, gentlemen, we take him to the registrar. He sends old Mr Taylor to Dr Paterson, as if he would grant the certificate. This Dr Paterson refused on the grounds which he has stated. Then in it (the certificate) he says that for twelve hours before her death she had been suffering from paralysis, and that apoplexy supervened one hour before death. He states – “Primary disease, paralysis – duration of that twelve hours; secondary disease, apoplexy – duration of that one hour.” Dr Paterson refused to certify this; but the prisoner certifies, and certifies falsely; for she was not suffering from paralysis for twelve hours before her death; and he certifies again falsely – for she had not apoplexy an hour before her death. She died by poison… Who had poisoned her if he did not?.. I suppose it is clear to you that poison was put – that antimony, for that was the poison used – into the tapioca, which had been got to be given to Mrs Pritchard, and that that antimony was put into the parcel, the contents of which was purchased for her use… I would have you particularly to keep in view as essential, in order to understand and appreciate the evidence rightly, that the method of poisoning alleged against the prisoner is not the giving of one doze that would kill, but the introducing of poison into the food given in such quantities, that were it continued to be taken, it would cause sickness for some months, the fatal termination then to supervene. The poisoner, in this way practising the dreadful art successfully, needed not to be very apprehensive of even himself accidentally taking some of the food, or of anybody else taking it. He knew that would make them sick, and do no more, and that in order to produce death it would require to be taken for a long time. But Mrs Pritchard does not get it – does not want it after it is made – and it is taken by Mrs Taylor, who is immediately seized with all the symptoms of poisoning by antimony, is sick, and all the rest of it in the same way, as she herself, I think, expressed it, as her daughter was. The cause was the same, and the effects were the same… But who could have introduced antimony into the tapioca except the master of the house? Who had it and knew about it, and was in the habit, according to the case which I have founded against him, and which I think I have proved against him, but the prisoner?.. I have now stated to you, I think, all the points of this case. I have stated to you the question to the consideration of which your judgment must extend. These questions are, to resume them very briefly? Did both or either of them fall by the poisoner? If so, was that poison taken wilfully? – Did both or either commit suicide? Was it taken accidentally by the mistake of the persons themselves or some other person. If you answer the first of these questions in the affirmative, the second and third in the negative, you are then shut up to this other question, Who committed the murder, if murder was committed? It is quite competent to find the prisoner guilty of the one charge, and to acquit him of the other. But I submit to you as the truth of the case that he did commit them both. By pronouncing the case to you as I have done, maintaining the charge in the evidence as it was stated to you, I have discharged my public duty to the best of my judgment, and, you will believe, I am sure, conscientiously. It is for you now, after you have heard the powerful and becoming defence that will be stated on the prisoner’s behalf, to consider how you are to discharge your duty…
The Solicitor-General resumed his seat at 2.35. There was an intense quiet prevailing in Court during his address, particularly towards the close.
ADDRESS FOR THE DEFENCE.
After a few minutes of anxious suspense,
Mr CLARK rose to address the jury for the defence. He said – Gentlemen of the jury, in this indictment the prisoner is charged with the committing of two murders – the one the murder of his mother-in-law, Mrs Taylor; the other the murder of his wife. The annals of human crime are indeed well filled with black deeds; but if he is guilty of the charges which are made thus against him, I do not hesitate to say that he is the foulest of criminals that ever lived. Gentlemen, he is a worthy member of an honourable profession, whose duty and whose pleasure it is to assuage suffering and ward off the attacks of disease, and to do their best to prolong human life; and we all know how nobly, how generously, how unselfishly that duty is discharged. But here it is said that the physician became the destroyer, and that he used his art of healing to sap the foundations of life. That, indeed would be a crime for which the capital charge would in no degree indicate the measure of the prisoner’s guilt, if he indeed be guilty. He is charged with having murdered two defenceless, trusting, devoted women, to the one of whom, to use the expressive language of Dr Cowan, he was the idol, and to the other of whom he was united by the most tender of human ties, who was the mother of his children, and who loved him with all a wife’s trusting, devoted heart. He cannot plead that it was passion, or that reason for a time left its seat, and led him on to the commission of the foul deed. Palliation cannot even be pleaded. No, for if he were truly the author of the crime, we would have to accept the words of the Solicitor-General, and say he is indeed guilty. The crime with which he is charged is the cold-blooded, deliberate poisoning of two loving, trusting women. If he be guilty, his cruelty knew no compassion; for if it be true that he poisoned these women, he did not resort to the use of drugs that in a few hours or minutes would have put them beyond the reach of pain, but chose to practise his devilish art by slow degrees, administering poison that gradually sapped the life’s blood of his wife – poison which, if the charge against him be true, was administered day by day, and week after week, and yet during the two or three months that elapsed from the commencement of her illness he is represented as watching over the tortures and agonies of his wife, but as endeavouring to soothe those tortures and those agonies, and as holding lovingly in his arms, and as sleeping calmly by the side of that woman whom we are told his infernal practices had doomed to her death. This is the crime which is charged… But I think that at least I am well entitled to say that before you can hold him guilty you must have overwhelming evidence of his guilt. I say this, for I think it hardly conceivable that any being made at the hands of the great God above, unless a person utterly devoid of human sentiment and human feeling, could practice atrocities so frightful as those which are charged in the present instance. I make these remarks simply for the purpose of pointing out to you the character of the charge, because, unless you have before you the character of the charge which is named you cannot well appreciate the endeavour which the Crown is seeking to establish. In regard to that evidence, I have to say that if there be any reasonable doubt in your mind as to the proof which has already been led by the prosecutor, the prisoner is entitled to the benefit of that doubt. But, gentlemen, I have yet to proceed to the consideration of that evidence by which it is said so fearful a crime has been proved against the prisoner, and I beg again to say, you must consider that the public prosecutor has not been able to assign or suggest any motive for the commission of such a crime… All the Crown have been able to suggest is, I think, those trifles arising from the alleged connection he had with Mary McLeod, and the expectation of some succession to be derived through the death of the mother-in-law, Mrs Taylor. Gentlemen, if Mary McLeod is to be believed, if without corroboration whatever her statement is to be taken for truth, if in the absence of proof, if any familiarity whatever observed in that household between the prisoner and her – and I cannot think there is a motive which could influence the prisoner to the commission of these crimes – the motive seems to be, if I understand it, a desire to marry that girl, Mary McLeod; to marry a girl whose person he previously possessed; and to carry out that intention he should tread over the dead bodies of these two defenceless women. That may have been a motive to some one to commit the crime; but it is impossible to conceive it to be a motive to him. In the case of Mrs Taylor, surely the motive is less. It appears the Crown have been at pains to show that this unhappy man had his bank account overdrawn to the extent of £360; and that he had borrowed upon two policies of insurance effected in 1851, and they tell you that though he was the idol of Mrs Taylor, and was able, I daresay, to receive anything that she could give him, notwithstanding he obtained some chance of a succession of the will in connection with which he had no idea of the existence, this was a succession the benefit of which he only had when his children obtained their majority. It is not in human nature to believe that these motives assigned, as suggested by the Crown, could in the least degree have actuated any human being to the commission of offences so hideous as these. Now, therefore, you must approach the consideration of the evidence in this case, keeping full before you the fearful crimes which are charged against the prisoner, and also keeping before you that there is no assignable motive that can be suggested to impel him to the commission of these crimes… You heard in evidence that antimony was a poison that could be traced in the body. Being a medical man, the prisoner would not have used such a poison if he had desired to hide his crime; he would have resorted to occult poisons. The Crown said that he had opportunity of committing this crime, and that he was in possession of the means. It is quite true that opportunity is a great point in this case; but it could scarcely be brought to bear in this case; for the place of a husband was the bedside of his wife. If opportunity be pressed against the prisoner, facts much more strong than exist in this case should be found. Was it remarkable he was possessed of the means of killing by being in possession of these poisons? Why he was by profession a doctor. No doubt he was in possession of a large quantity; but see how little you can trust to the evidence of the Crown upon that point; for witnesses were in the boxs to-day who said they sold less than half an ounce at a time, and were in the habit of selling large quantities of that strong tincture in the course of the year. No doubt, however, he was in the possession of these substances to the extent shown, and the Crown were entitled to make use of that fact. But how far is it possible to show he had obtained poisons for the purpose of committing murder? I can hardly conceive of the prisoner being the poisoner… I think I shall be able to show that all the articles of poisoned food in question could not have reached the lips of Mrs Taylor or Mrs Pritchard without passing at least through other hands than those of the prisoner’s, and it is odd enough that, in regard to each of these three articles of poisoned food, the person who administered or carried away this food was the girl Mary McLeod. These are preliminary observations which I think it right to make. It will not do, I repeat, to proceed upon conjecture, suspicion, and probabilities. You can only proceed upon proof as distinct from conjecture, suspicion, and probability. It will not do for the Solicitor-General, in conducting this case, to say, “I have established that one of two persons must have committed this crime, and you can probably have the finger of a medical man in the commission of this crime.” Probability will never establish a conviction… He must not only prove that it was one of two persons who had committed the crime. It is only by proving to demonstration that it was not Mary McLeod that he can bring this charge home against the prisoner… By an omission – an intentional omission, I believe, on their part, for no such omission could be unintentional – an important question was not put to Mary McLeod. One of the witnesses – Catherine Latimer – was asked whether she had put anything into the tapioca which she had prepared that would injure any one; but it was astonishing that the Solicitor-General, in the dilemma in which he was placed, of fastening the crime upon either the prisoner or Mary McLeod, never asked the girl, “Did you put anything into the articles which were carried to the lips of these two victims?” This was a singular omission on the part of the Crown. I think I shall be able to show that the prisoner had nothing to do with any of the poisoned food. Let us take the two cases separately. Mrs Taylor was taken ill on the 24th, and died on the Saturday following. Her illness was not long. There were certain symptoms of vomiting and purging, but it is quite certain that she did not die by the administration of antimony. It has been proved that she died by a more subtle poison – aconite… I consider it is out of the question that the Crown have anything like established the case on which they rest that aconite was the agent which led to these ladies’ death. I am assuming, though I don’t like to enter into the question, that that lady did not die a natural death; but I only ask you to consider whether there is any evidence of the administration of aconite. An observer at the time, and one who I may say is by no means in favour of the prisoner, was of opinion both then and now that opium was the agent which caused death. Assuming for a moment that opium was the cause of death, I am bound to put it in the least degree higher, and say that it was quite possible that this death could have occurred without the agency of the prisoner… What was more likely than that this old lady may have taken a great dose of opium as was suggested at the time. She was suffering from vomiting on that day, and what more likely than that to relieve her from that pain, she may have overdosed herself with that drug which she had in her possession. I don’t say that the old lady intended to commit suicide – far from it; but a person having such dangerous drugs in her possession may kill herself by her own hands, especially if it be true, as the prosecution alleges, that her system had been reduced by the operation of antimony previously administered. Gentlemen, I now come to the question as to the connection of the prisoner with the poison. I think I can show you that as regards this there is no proof whatever of his having administered any poison. The only evidence bearing on that is that of the tapioca which was bought on the 13th for Mrs Pritchard’s use… The case of the Crown is that this tapioca, which no doubt contained antimony, put in by some one – I am not going to suggest that it was in it when taken from the shop – was tampered with by the prisoner… It appears that on the Monday following the 9th October it was suggested, apparently through Mrs Taylor, that Mrs Pritchard would like some tapioca… A little boy, one of the sons, is sent out to buy it. Mary McLeod says it is placed for some short time on the lobby table – she says not half an hour – and then, after it has lain a very short time, according to Catherine Latimer, she (Mary McLeod) takes down the tapioca to Catherine Latimer. According to Mary’s statement, she takes it down to Mrs Taylor herself. The Crown suggests that the prisoner put in this antimony into the tapioca, nicely measured, nicely adjusted to the amount of the tapioca bought so as to produce sickness leading to death, but not to produce death itself. That is what the Solicitor-General alleges. It would have been certainly of some importance to have shown that he had any opportunity whatever of administering, of putting in that poison, seeing that it passed through other hands; but it is not even proved, not a shadow of it, that he had any opportunity. The tapioca was received by Mary McLeod, and taken down to the kitchen, after having remained for a short time on the lobby table, and there is not the slightest vestige of evidence to show that the prisoner was in the house at the time. He was a man accustomed to exercise an active profession, and, of course, naturally would be out at that period of the day; but at all events it is not even shown that he was really in the house at the time his wife desired tapioca or his mother-in-law had ordered it, and it has not been shown that he introduced antimony into the bag. The antimony must have been in the bag before it was taken down to Catherine Latimer, because Catherine prepared the tapioca from it, and that tapioca is said to have been poisoned. It is taken by Mrs Taylor, who, according to the statement of Connell, one of the students, became ill… Are you to hold that [Dr Pritchard] was the person that put in that antimony for the purpose of killing his wife, so adjusted as to take care that not too much poison was put in – an operation that would require much more time. On the contrary, I suggest to you that it is almost inconceivable he could have done it. The Crown gives the whole probability in favour of another person; the murder was not committed by the prisoner; is it not likely Mary McLeod could have done it? Is there any other proof of administration of poison in this case? Not the slightest… But there is another thing – the Battley’s solution which she has in her hand, and which she has in her pocket and carries with her. It is suggested that the prisoner may have put that aconite and that antimony which were found in it into that bottle. He knew, no doubt, that she was taking it; but it does not in the least degree prove that he knew where it was, in what bottle it was… Is it possible to suppose that he had means to get at that bottle? It is carried about on her person, and there is not the slightest suggestion to show that he had any access to it; and yet you are asked to convict the prisoner, on the suggestion of the Solicitor-General, that “You may see the finger of a medical man in this.” Probabilities are not in this case matter of consideration. It is proof and proof alone that you are to consider. What is the proof?.. Well, after the bottle is found, it is examined by Dr Penny, and he then finds there exists in it some aconite, perhaps some antimony. But where is the shadow of proof that the prisoner put it there? The bottle was not locked up in any way. It was lying open… Now, any person in the house might have access to it, and yet all that can be suggested to prove that the prisoner put in that antimony and that aconite before her death was that they could, they thought, probably trace in the work the finger of a medical man. It is a frightful suggestion to ask the jury to act upon such probabilities. Well, gentlemen, the considerations on which the Crown, through the Solicitor-General, founded so much, was that he gave a certificate or account to the registrar that Mrs Taylor had died of paralysis and apoplexy, which proved not to be true, and that they ask you to hold to be a proof of guilt in the utter absence of any additional proof. What did he say to the two women who found the bottle? He was much surprised, and said, “Good heavens, what a quantity she has taken;” and was that expression not natural?.. Then he apparently told Dr Paterson that in his opinion she had died of poisoning by opium; and was it very unnatural for a son-in-law to ascribe the death to natural disease, though he might have an idea it was to be ascribed to the taking of opium? It may be wrong; it was quite wrong to send an improper return to the registrar. I am not justifying that by itself; I am only considering the question whether you could infer guilt from this circumstance. It would have been unpleasant to speak to the husband that death was attributable to opium. He tells the father-in-law to go to Dr Paterson; but Dr Paterson refers the poor old father-in-law to the son-in-law to be informed as to the cause of death. But if Dr Pritchard wished to prevent a knowledge of the matter, would he have sent the father-in-law to Dr Paterson? Would he not himself have certified to the death, as he afterwards did certify it… But, gentlemen, there are some other accounts – accounts that he gave – some false accounts which the Solicitor-General founded so much upon, and which all depended upon the evidence of Dr Paterson. Now, gentlemen, I think in a case of this kind, evidence, such as that of Dr Paterson, is not just entitled to all the consideration with which it was spoken of by the Solicitor-General, for I venture to say that no witness in a case of murder ever exhibited so great an animus as that gentleman did exhibit when being examined; and in connection with this I call your attention to two curious facts. He calculated the exact distance between his house and that in which the prisoner lived, and a criminal detective could not have gone about ascertaining the distance – which was, by-the-bye, some 135 yards – with more precision, or have given it out with a better air. But still there was something more suggested by them which he had no right and no reason to suggest; and that was, when speaking of his meeting with Dr Pritchard accidentally, as he remarked, in the street, and asking him to come and see his suffering wife? Dr Paterson added with something which I confess I thought like enough a sneer, that he would not have been asked to go to the house on that occasion had it not been for that accidental meeting with Pritchard. How does Dr Paterson know? I hope Dr Paterson has regretted making such an observation from the box where he was sworn. I would believe that it was a conjecture proceeding from animus, or from a prejudiced mind against the prisoner. He had no right to draw such a conclusion as he did. It might have been an accidental meeting or it might not… Look what he states in speaking of Mrs Pritchard, when he was called in to see Mrs Taylor on the 29th February, when she died. He did not speak to Mrs Pritchard, but only saw her; and seeing her, formed the conviction she was foully poisoned in her own house by some person to him unknown. That was the statement he made; that was the conviction he formed. Well, gentlemen, he was asked why he did not tell Dr Pritchard. It was said this would be an unsafe thing. Was it unsafe to tell the prisoner further, to suggest to him, when he came to ascertain the cause of his wife’s death, that he should take some steps to save the daughter-in-law from being murdered, as Dr Paterson, a medical man, strongly suspected? Though there was no danger whatever, nothing like a suggestion was made, or the woman might have probably been saved by the belief and conviction that Dr Paterson had formed as to her ailment. Nay more, gentlemen, even a more dreadful thing was stated by him in that witness-box. He was asked by the husband of the deceased Mrs Pritchard to visit his wife on the 2d. And so believing that woman was being murdered by someone to him unknown, and retaining that conviction when he saw her on the 2d, Dr Paterson, either on account of his etiquette or dignity, and other minor causes, gave no hint to that unhappy lady, as he and she sat alone, of that murder which he was convinced was being practiced on her… I leave you to judge of the conduct of that medical man who was afraid from motives of his own, fearful of his purse, fearful of his person, of his own conduct, and of his etiquette to take any steps to resist the progress of a murder, which he had strong convictions was being committed in that house… He must have acted like any other medical man, unselfishly, generously, nobly in the matter, and in keeping with the honourable conduct of the profession to which he belongs. I ask you to disbelieve so much of the statements which he made. You cannot rely on the statements made with bias, for he tells you what is only creditable at the risk of his own honour, which he would strive, I think, most sedulously to guard. I can quite understand how it should be that, if there is proof of administration, you might support the proof by evidence of a falsehood which the prisoner may tell about the cause of death; but the one without the other I hold to be incomplete… Gentlemen, that is the examination which I make of the evidence as to the facts and cause of Mrs Taylor’s death… There is no point whatever to connect the prisoner with any administration of the poison except by suspicion, and suspicion arising from the fact of his being a medical man. Let us see whether it stands differently in the case of Mrs Pritchard. No doubt he attended her bedside, as he was bound to do as her husband, as a physician, and no doubt he ascribes her death to gastric fever, to which gastric fever that death undoubtedly was not due. But it is very clear that this case, which indicated itself in the manner that is described, might have been mistaken even by a skilful medical man for gastric fever at the time. On that matter, indeed, if I am not mistaken, we have no evidence, even in the course of the trial, that the symptoms were unlike those of gastric fever. Mr Clark afterwards briefly pointed out that it was on account of Mrs Pritchard’s own expressed desire that Dr Gairdner did not return to attend her, or that she had no nurse, though Dr Pritchard often urged this. He then continued by referring to the agencies through which Mrs Pritchard is alleged to have met her death, and said – The first thing is cheese, and it is said that the cheese was poisoned by antimony or white powder which the prisoner had in his possession. I have to ask, is this possible, and I say no. When Dr Pritchard gave the cheese he was sitting at the table with other members of the family and it is perfectly obvious that it must have been cut from the cheese sent up for the use of the family; and if it was poisoned by him, it was poisoned in presence of all the persons there. The piece of cheese, too, was yellow cheese – a substance which would have very soon indicated the presence of the white powder or tartarised antimony, if any such stuff had been placed in it. When Dr Littlejohn suggested the possibility of putting tartarised antimony into the egg-flip, he was asked if it were possible for the prisoner to have put this stuff into the cheese while he was sitting at supper, and I leave you to judge whether it was possible. The egg-flip was taken up, strangely enough – one cannot help noticing the coincidence – by Mary McLeod. The egg-flip was prepared in this way. The doctor comes and tells his servant to prepare more egg-flip – a thing not unusual to be taken by a person with irritability of stomach, from which undoubtedly Mrs Pritchard was suffering – and a thing not unnatural for any medical man to prescribe. This is the flip in which the Solicitor-General says Dr Pritchard put in his medicated drugs; and in connection with which the Solicitor-General adds, with a sort of sneer, that Dr Pritchard said it was to be kept very smooth, as if for the purpose of more easily administering the drug. But what is the evidence regarding the administration of the drug? We are told that he went into the dining-room [then the consulting-room] to get some sugar, and returned and dropped a piece of sugar into the egg-flip; and we have a doubt on the part of the Crown as to whether the prisoner could have put in as much antimony with the piece of sugar as would be likely to induce the effects which the servant girl exhibited. The Solicitor-General doubted it, and asked Dr Littlejohn on the matter, and Dr Littlejohn says – “I think it is possible.” Then I ask Dr Littlejohn, “Did you ever make an experiment?” and he says, “Not a direct experiment.” “Nor an indirect experiment?” and he again says “No.” Then I say, “You have made no experiment at all?” “No,” he replies, “I did not; but from my medical knowledge I think it quite possible.” Now, dear me, is that the kind of evidence on which you are asked to rely regarding the administration of poison in this frightful crime; and yet, according to such a statement, it was a bare possibility she could have put in the drug. If the prisoner had really this nefarious design in mind I submit he would have prepared some pounded sugar, which he could have found ready in the dining-room, and in which he could have put the antimony without going near the consulting-room at all. With regard to every other case, I have to submit that there is no proof whatever that the prisoner put any poison into any food administered to his wife, and the whole charge is consequently based upon mere suspicions. There is not one case where poison is said to have been administered in which Mary McLeod was not concerned; and we find with regard to the tapioca that it is impossible to conceive that the prisoner was concerned, and in the case of the cheese such a supposition is almost equally impossible. The moment it comes to be one of two persons having committed the crime, then assuredly the duty devolving upon the Crown is to exclude from view the possibility of anybody else having committed the crime. The Crown could never establish their case by saying that it was unlikely that a girl of seventeen should have committed the crime, because that likelihood does not prove the charge against the prisoner. Therefore, gentlemen, I ask you to consider whether in the whole of this case, from the evidence that has been submitted to you, there is proof beyond reasonable doubt that the prisoner committed this crime; or whether, rather, to put the best of the case, it is merely a serious suspicion, a conjecture, a probability which will not warrant you in consigning this prisoner to an ignominious death? Consider that he was held in high estimation by Mrs Taylor, that he was her idol, and that although he might have been unfaithful to his marriage vow, yet they were living, as all their friends will tell you, in happiness. Down to her death, when she was away from him, she wrote to him in affectionate terms, and he does the same to her. Upon evidence of mere conjecture alone the Crown found upon that there is proof, and that the prisoner should be held guilty of a crime of such hideous atrocity. The Solicitor-General spoke of the prisoner’s nerve, as well he might, if he has committed a crime like that. I cannot conceive a man guilty of such acts, of such intentions, when not only did he sleep with his wife and hold her in his arms when she was suffering from these poisons, but also you will remember when the body of the deceased woman was taken to her father’s house he had it opened, and this foul murderer, if the allegation of the Crown be true – this foul murderer showed the body of his murdered wife to her friends – and had the courage, in the face of God, to kneel down and kiss again those lips for the last time which his own hand had slain. More cold-blooded, more awful, more dreadful atrocity could not be shown, and I think it is impossible that the evidence upon which the whole case for the Crown hang can even justify you in believing that he was capable, in the first place, of committing such a crime, and in the second place of acting in the manner I have described. I have asked a verdict of acquittal against him. In your hands alone – rests the decision whether or not he is responsible for the crime. I ask you to return the prisoner by that verdict to his youthful family and sorrowing relatives.
The LORD JUSTICE-CLERK (it being now twenty minutes past four o’clock) asked the jury whether it was their pleasure to finish the case that day or adjourn it till to-morrow morning…
The jury elected to adjourn till to-morrow at ten o’clock, and the Court then rose.
I’m not sure what your thoughts might be with regards the defence of our Dr Pritchard, but I know I was surprised at how little time, in comparison to the prosecution’s case, was spent on it. The summing up of the defence’s position, too, seemed based on the idea the jury shouldn’t believe those perceived to have an animosity towards the prisoner, although I felt they were right to question Mary McLeod’s participation. I have, myself, the sense that it would take her complicity in a number of occasions to have introduced poisonous material into some of the drinks and food. We don’t have an opportunity to decide on this case, however, that’s now left to the jury and we’ll find out what conclusion they came to in the next, final, episode, the Verdict and Aftermath of this case. We may see you for it. Take care.
Narration by Jenny
Art by Alex
Intro-Outro by Tony ‘Lucky Dog’ Wilson
Greysteil by Paul Burns.