Serious Charge against a Conisborough Man – 1. Case for the Prosecution

May 1901

Mexborough and South Yorkshire Times, May 17

Serious Charge against a Conisborough Man. 

An Extraordinary Case. 

Trial at the Assizes.

A case possessing many curious and extraordinary features was heard at the Spring Assizes for the county of Yorkshire, held at Leeds on Monday before Mr Justice Grantham and a common jury.

The accused was a Welshman, named William Thomas, who lives at Conisborough. For the last 18 months Thomas had been employed as a filler at the Cadeby Main Colliery. He is 29 years of age, tall, and well built .He originally came from Cardiff. He was indicted for having by violence committed a most serious crime against a married woman, named Frances Allison, the wife of Mr Frank Allison, and daughter of Mr John Lowe, who keeps the Station Hotel at Conisborough.

The attack was made on Mrs Allison in a garden at the rear of the Station Hotel on Tuesday, 26 March of this year, and was of a revolting character. Thomas was arrested on Wednesday the 27th, and after a long hearing at the Doncaster West Riding Police Court, before Mr Godfrey Walker (in the chair) Mr Charles Schorah, on Tuesday, April 2 he was committed to take his trial at the Assizes.

He was bailed from prison two days later. The witnesses on both sides were in attendance at the Leeds Town Hall 12 days in last week, but the case was not reached until Monday, when it was the first on the list.

The prosecution was undertaken by Mr W.Beverley (instructed by Mr W Baddiley, solicitor, Doncaster) and for the defence Mr C. Mellor appeared, instructed by Mr R.A.H.Tovey, solicitor, Doncaster.

A Slight Hitch

at the opening of the court on Monday morning, a number of prisoners were placed in the dock in order to give them the opportunity of challenging all or anyone of the jury empanelled to try their cases. Amongst other names that of Mr William Thomas was called, but the accused was not forthcoming. Council for the defence was in attendance, and in reply to His Lordship, said: I don’t know where he is my Lord.

The Associate (Mr Wade): Has he come?

Mr Mellor: They told me he was seen at Doncaster.

The name of Thomas was again called, but there was no response, and Mr Wade proceeded to swear the jury. This formality was not half completed when Thomas made his appearance, surrendered to his bail, and was placed in the dock along with the other prisoners. The swearing of the jury was re commenced. The Conisborough case was taken first, and when called upon to plead Thomas replied” Not guilty,” quietly, but firmly.

Case for the Prosecution.

Mr W. Beverley at once addressed the court, opening the case for the prosecution. After explaining the position of the prosecutrix at the Station Hotel, he said that before she went out to the garden on the night in question she was engaged in cooking.

Council, described in detail the nature of the attack, which took place shortly after 9:30 p.m., the night been very dark and frosty. He said the prosecutrix was so overcome by the man who attacked her that she was unable to scream or call out until the man got away. When she did call, her husband and brother Fred went into the garden to her assistance, and found her lying on the ground.

She did not tell them actually what had taken place, but she said the man had a cap on. “I may tell you are ones,” continued Mr Beverley, “she only identified him by his voice. I think you will hear he is a Welshman. He gave evidence at the police court, and will probably be called here. You must judge for yourself with regard to the voice.”

Proceeding Council detailed what followed. Fred Lowe, the brother of the prosecutrix, had seen a man entered the dram shop. That man was the prisoner. Fred low asked him what he had been doing in the garden. At that time Fred Lowe did not know an outrage have been committed; all the new was that his sister had been knocked down. What the prisoner said in reply to Fred Lowe was “Do you think I’ve been committing a rape?” It was the prisoner, who first suggested that such a crime being committed. His remark, to say the least of it, was very significant.

Miss Allison’s evidence.

Frances Allison, the prosecutrix, described the manner in which she was attacked in the garden shortly after 9.30 p.m. on 26 March. She did not know who the man was, but he twice made use of a brutal expression, and she heard his voice. He committed the crime mentioned in the indictment. She could not scream, because the man put a handkerchief in her mouth. After the attack, the man ran up the garden, and she screamed. Her brother Fred and her husband came to her assistance. She was still on the ground. It was a frosty night, and the ground was hard. She told her brother, a man had knocked her down.

They went into the house, and she went into the kitchen, while Fred and her husband went to the business parts of the house. Fred called for her to go into the dram shop in a few minutes afterwards to identify the man who had assaulted her. She heard a conversation between her brother and the prisoner. The man in the garden was wearing a dark cap , similar to that worn by the prisoner. Her brother said; “What have you been doing up that garden?” And the prisoner replied, “do you think I’ve been committing a rape up the garden? She did not hear any further conversation. She identified the prisoner by his voice.

The Judge: What was the size of the man?

The witness: He was tall.

The Judge: You saw sufficient of him in the garden to enable you to tell his height?

The witness: Yes

Continuing, the witness said she did not tell her husband what had actually happened until 11 o’clock, but before then her brother Fred had communicated with the police as to an assault. The police were informed as to the actual offence. Next morning. The prisoner came to the hotel next day, and was arrested by police Sgt Brown. As a result of the tax year since suffered very much. Her arms were blues by coming in contact with the frozen ground. She was examined as to her injuries on Thursday morning – 2 days afterwards – by Dr Craik.

Mr Mellor did not cross examine closely as to the assault, but more on the point of identification.

He asked: When your brother first asked the question, did he say to you “Now are you quite sure it is him?” And did you say “I cannot quite say?”

The witness: I said it was him.

Did you also say “I cannot say?” – No.

You have seen the prisoner there several times?

No I’ve never seen him before, I do not wait in the dram shop.

Are you quite sure you’ve heard the man say “Do you think I’ve been committing a rape,” and was it the word “rape” that caused you to recognise him?

No, it was not that; it was his voice.

You did not call out after the man had disappeared altogether? – No.

In answer to the questions, the witness said the man who attacked her seem to come to the place in the garden for the purpose of dragging her out.

The Judge: Anyone in the dram shop could not see you go out? – No.

Can they see from the dram shop into the kitchen? – No.

Dr Craik, of Conisborough, gave evidence as to the nature of the injuries received by the prosecutrix.

What Happened in the Dram Shop.

Fred Lowe, brother of the prosecutrix, said he lived and was employed at the Hotel. He had never seen a prisoner before that night, but had since learned that the prisoner had been engaged as a filler for some time at Cadeby Colliery. He saw the prisoner enter the dram shop by the front door, with two other men, his brother and John Adams. That was about 8:30.

The Judge: What is this shop? You speak of it as a dram shop. Is it where dram´s are sold?

The witness explained the different rooms, and their names, stating that the particular place was known as the low dram shop

The Judge: What do people drink there?

The witness: Most of it is beer, and we sell spirits as well.

The Judge: Although it is called a dram shop, it is really an ordinary bar?

The witness: Yes. He added that he filled two or 3 pints for the prisoner and his friends. The prisoner left the dram shop, but the witness did not see him go. The prisoner returned between 20 min and a quarter to ten. The hotel was closed at 10.

Mr Beverley: was there anything in particular that call your attention to him, or not?

The witness: They began shouting “Fred.” When there is any bother in the place they shout Fred and we have another man, and we go to see what is the matter. I saw the prisoner rushing at the door as I left the dram shop see what was the matter.

Then the first use all was him rushing into the dram shop?

Yes, I thought there had been a fight outside when they shouted.

The witness further explained that he went from the dram shop through the tap room and bar into the kitchen and when he got there he heard his sister calling “Fred” from the garden. He went outside and saw her on the ground in the garden. She said “Fred, a man has knocked me down.”

On his return he saw the prisoner sat in the dram shop. There were about 10 or 15 other people in the dram shop at the time. He went back to the kitchen and said something to his sister, who return with him to the dram shop. As soon as they got into the dram shop she said “Fred, that´s him.”

The Judge: Was that before anything was said?

The witness: Before anything was said, your Lordship. So I went round to him, and I said “What have you been doing up that garden?” He did not reply just then, but a second or two afterwards he said, “Do you think I have been committing a rape?” I did not know anything then, except that my sister had been knocked down.

When he said that, I judged something, and I said, “Let me have a look at your hands and your clothes.” My sister was still there. The prisoner replied, “I shan’t,” and he put his hands in his pockets and sat down. I said, “If you want. Let me. I will go and fetch a policeman,” and I went to find a policeman. The house was closed at 10 o’clock, and a policeman had not come up to that time.

Something about Welshman.

Mr Mellor, in cross-examination, asked: your suspicions were naturally drawn to the man you say you saw come in hurriedly? – The witness: No

Did you think it was an extraordinary thing that the man who knocked your sister down should come into the house? You will admit it is rather remarkable?

Well, when I fetched her out of the kitchen. She said “That’s him.”

Do you think it is remarkable? – I cannot say.

May I take it that your sister was there all the time you were speaking to him?

Not all the time. When I went round the bar she was there. I never spoke to him any more until I called 10 o’clock.

He stayed until 10, although you said you would go for a policeman? – Yes.

The Judge: What time did you send for a policeman?

About a quarter or 10 minutes to ten.

Mr Mellor pressed the witness to explain how it was that he said at the police court, “I went into the dram shop twice to speak to the prisoner about this affair,” and he now said he had only one conversation with him.

The witness replied that he first asked the prisoner about having been at the garden, and then asked him to show his hands.

Mr Mellor then pointed out that at the police, the witness said the prisoner and his hands in pockets, when he refused to show them, and the judge asked which, of the two statements was the more correct.

The witness replied: he put them his pocket when I asked him, and said he would not let me look at them.

Mr Mellor: I believe there are several Welshman at these collieries? – I do not know.

“Perhaps you don’t know a Welshman when you see him? Was Mr Mellor’s last question “You never met a gentleman named `Taffy´ for instance?”

“I don’t know that,” replied the witness, amidst laughter, and stepped down.

Welshman and Beer Drinking.

John Cook, who is employed as a waiter at the hotel, was the next witness. He said he was working in the tap room, and could see the door of the dram shop. He had seen the prisoner only once before that night. His own first at night. About 9:40; he came into the dram shop at that time.

Mr Beverley: Was there anything particular about him to attract your attention?

The witness: Not exactly.

The witness and that he saw Fred Lowe go to the prisoner and speak to him about the garden, and heard the prisoner replied, “Do you think I have been committing a rape?) Fred Lowe replied. I have not charged you with committing a rape.”

Mr Mellor caused some amusement in cross-examination by asking: Do you know a Welshman when you see him?

The witness: I see all sorts of chaps (laughter.)

“Even in this court we have all sorts of chaps, was Mr Mellor’s comment, and then he asked, “I daresay you have. Welshmen, Irishmen and Scotchmen who come to drink your bar?

The witness: Yes

Which do you have most of – Welshmen or Scotchmen? – Mostly Welshmen.

Are they pretty good hands at the beer – pretty good customers? (Laughter.) The reply of the witness was thoroughly impartial to all nations. He said: They seem to like it, same as the others.

In reply to Mr Beverley, the witness said the prosecutrix was present when Fred Lowe spoke to the prisoner about being in the garden.

Some Contradictions.

Edward Adams, a miner, said he went to the hotel about seven o’clock, and was in the dram shop, when the prisoner came in with his brother, James Thomas, and another man named Adams, cousin to the witness. He saw the prisoner leave the dram shop, and come back again between 25 and 20 minutes to ten, he was away about a quarter of an hour.

Mr Beverley: Did you notice anything about him to attract your attention?

The witness: No, Sir, I didn’t.

He added that when Fred Lowe asked a prisoner if he had been up in the garden the prisoner replied, “What if I have? Do you think I have been committing a rape?”

Do you know Fred Lowe sister? – Yes.

Was she there when this observation was made? – No.

In reply to the questions, the witness said. The prosecutrix came to the dram shop about a 9:45. Fred Lowe then asked a prisoner to let him look at his Adams, and the prisoner said “I shall not.” Fred Lowe then said he would fetch a policeman.

Mr Beverley: where were the prisoner’s hands when Fred Lowe said, “let me look at your hand?”

They were in his pocket.

The judge: when he came in before Lowe spoke to him were his hands in his pockets, or did he put them in afterwards? – No, they were in his pockets when he came in.

“A Bit Mixed”

Mr Mellor began his cross-examination with a somewhat unexpected question: Are you a Welshman?

“I am not Irish,” replied the witness, evidently thinking Council was joking with him.

“Oh, you are Irish?” Queried Mr Mellor, apparently having misheard the answer.

“I think you are Irish,” retorted the witness.

“I think I must be Irish Welsh,” said Mr Mellor, “because I don’t seem to understand you.”

“You are a bit mixed, I think,” replied the witness somewhat hastily, causing a laugh. After a few further questions, mainly as to a slight discrepancy in the statement of the witness in the box, and that made by him at the police court, Mr Mellor released him from further cross examination with the remark, “You are too clever for me.”

A Fresh Point.

Thomas Edward Smith said he was a filler employed at Cadeby colliery. He was in the dram shop, and saw the prisoner come in with John Adams’s about 9:50. He did not see him leave. He heard the president say to Fred low, “Do you think I have been committing a rate? When Fred Law wanted to look at the Sands the prisoner refused.

Mr Mellor: did the prisoners say “Fetched a policeman and then I will show my hand?”

The witness: yes

Mr Beverley: Was the conversation between Lowe and the prisoner before the prisoner went out with John Adams at ten minutes to ten or afterwards?

After he had been out again Lowe asked him to let him look at his hands.

A Greasy Coat

Police Sgt Thomas Brown, stationed at Conisborough, was the last witness called for the prosecution. He said he received a full complaint on what had happened on Wednesday morning, 27 March.

While he was speaking the Mrs Allison at the Station Hotel, the prisoner came into the house. He afterwards arrested the prisoner in the hotel, and when charged with a crime his reply was “I know nothing about it; I was in the Station Inn. I did not go out until after spoken to by the landlord.” The witness explained that by “the landlord” the prisoner meant Fred Lowe.

Council for the prosecution did not ask any questions as to the scratches on the prisoners coat sleeves, a point which was mentioned at the police court.

The Judge question the witness as to the marks, and in reply Sgt Brown said he had examine the prisoners coat and found grease on the sleeves, and traces of scratches on the grease. He asked the prisoner to account for the scratches and he said they were done by leaning his arms on the table.

The Judge: Did they look like scratches that could be done by a smooth table?

The witness: I thought there had been done by something rough.

Resuming a story, the witness said he saw the prisoner at the Station Inn on the Wednesday morning. He had some conversation with him in a passage, and the prosecutrix was standing close by. He spoke to the prisoner about is, and when he had been before, and the prisoner told him he had come from Cardiff, and had been working in Derbyshire before coming to Denaby. When the prosecutrix heard the prisoner speak she said. “That is the voice of the man who assaulted me.”