Serious Charge against a Conisborough Man – 2. Case for the Defence

May 1901

Outline of the Defence.

Mr Mellor addressed the jury in opening the case for the defence. He said the case was an extremely important one and with reference to both persons chiefly interested he submitted it was more important to the prisoner than it was to the unfortunate woman. No one who heard that respectable woman, give evidence could doubt for one moment that someone had used brutal violence to her.

“That woman,” declared Council, of course, has come to court with the sympathy of everybody was earlier, and I suggest you, working man as he is, probably with the sympathy of the very man whom she has accused, and whom she no doubt honestly believes to be the man who attacked her.”

Council after pointing out the seriousness of the position of the prisoner, proceeded to deal with what he described as a series of contradictions in the story of the prosecution. The brother of the prosecutrix, said he saw the prisoner come hurriedly into the dram shop. Witness after witness had been questioned by Mr Beverley to increase or decrease the flurry of the Manor come into the dram shop, but not one of those witnesses noticed the man come back in a hurry.

In the evidence for the defence, it would be denied that the prisoner said “Do you think I have been committing a rape?” And he (counsel) did not care whether he did or did not use those words. The brother was naturally indignant about his sister been attacked – would not be? – And he said his sister was in the room. When the conversation took place between him and the prisoner, but that was not borne out by the other witnesses.

It was suggested that the prisoner was a Welshman, and on this point, making allows for the man’s sister having been outrage over, he did not altogether like the manner in which the witness (Fred Lowe) answered his questions. “I think,” commented Mr Mellor, “he was considering whether the questions told on behalf of his sister or the man.”

They could all feel sympathy for the woman went been in the witness box, and they would like to catch the man who did the crime if they could, but they would all be sorry if they caught an innocent man on suspicion.

Council suggested that the manual did if I must have been waiting concealed in the garden, and that he must have entered the garden, not from the house, but from the outside. He pointed out the improbability of a man sitting in a public house, leaving his drink a few moments to commit an act of that kind and then returning to the public house, and staying there as if nothing had happened.

Next day. “This wicked man,” the prisoner, went back again to the public house. He did not run away, as he had time to do, but went back to see what they were charging him with.

Then came the story of the scratches on the greasy coat, which Council could not regard seriously as evidence.

In regard to the conversation in the dram shop, it was clear that the first witness, Fred Lowe, was mistaken. There were two conversations, and between them the prisoner went out, and came back again, and though Fred Lowe said he would send for a policeman the prisoner remained in the house until closing time.

Happily in this case the jury were spared that terrible alternative of finding the man not guilty at the expense of an honest, respectable woman, because it was no reflection on her to say she had made a mistake in identification, and no one could say that so far as the attack was concerned she had not told the truth.

Again commenting on the remarks which the prisoner was alleged to have made in reply to the question as to why he have been up the garden, Mr Mellor said he did not think the jury were going to try the case on that issue. “That is the sort of conversation that goes on in these places amongst these men,” he concluded, “it would not be heard in a drawing room.”

The Accused in the Box

William Thomas, the accused, said he was a Welshman, and been working at Cadeby colliery about 18 months. He was in the dram shop of the Station Hotel, Conisbrough, on the night of 26 March, with his brother and John Adams. Up to the time Fred Lowe spoke to him he never went out of the house. He afterwards, went out and came back again, and then Fred Lowe had some further conversation with him. He asked him to show his hands, and he (the accused) put his hands in his pockets, and said “I won´t show you.”

Mr Mellor: Tell the court in your own way what the first conversation was.

Nick used: I was in the dram shop, and Fred Lowe called me, and I went to him. He said: “What have you been doing up our back?” I replied “What me! I have not been out of the house.” Lowe said. “Oh yes, you have, that won’t do.” I replied, “I have not, you can ask anyone in the room.” Lowe said again. “Oh that won’t do,” and then some men in the room, got up and said I had not been out.

Mr Mellor: did you say in answer to a question “You seem to think I been committing a rape or something?” – No Sir, I never mentioned such a word.

In answer to further questions, the prisoner said: I did not commit an assault on anybody that night. I did not fear the police because I knew I had done nothing wrong. I went to the public out the next day.

Cross-examined by Mr Beverley, the prisoner said he did not know there was a garden at the back of the house, and he had never been in the garden. He did not know that there had been any quarrel between himself and Fred Lowe, Cook, Adams or Smith.

Mr Beverley: Can you suggest why they should come here and perjure themselves?

Mr Mellor: I don’t think you ought to put it that way. We do not suggest anything of the kind.

The question was not repeated. Continuing, the prisoner held to his previous statement that he did not leave the dram shop till after Lowe spoke to him the first time. When the other witnesses said he came in at the swing door at about 9:20 they were mistaken. He was accused of having been in the backyard, but he did not know what for.

Mr Beverley: if it was true that you had never left the room. It was impossible for you to have done anything wrong or anything at all in the yard. You knew that, and you felt you were perfectly innocent? – The prisoner: I do now.

Then why did you refuse to show your hands?

I thought he had shown me up enough.

In what way, had he shown you up?

He accused me of having been in the backyard.

Is it true your coat was very greasy about the sleeves?

In reply to this question, the prisoner call the attention of the court to the coat he was wearing. It was a dark class, and appeared to have been used for some time as a working, and, as the backs of the sleeves were covered with a layer of shiny grease.

Is it true that when that court was shown to Sgt Brown it was scratched?

Yes, I believe it was. There are some scratches on it now.

Mr Mellor, in re examination took up the story of the greasy jacket. He obtained from the prisoner a statement that the coat was taken of him when arrested and another coat lent to him. The greasy coat was produced at the police court, and certain scratch marks on the sleeves pointed out by Sgt Brown to the magistrates. Afterwards, Sgt Brown gave him is own coat back again, and he had worn it ever since.

Counsel for the defence treated this part of the case very lightly indeed. “I should think,” he said with a laugh, “there are even more scratches on it now than were before.” Then as the prisoner loyalties arms onto the edge of the witness box again, Mr Mellor said with mock seriousness, “take care you don´t scratch it again against the witness box,” a remark which caused some laughter.

Evidence of Alibi.

The remaining evidence of the defence was confined almost exclusively to 1 point, and that was in regard to whether or not the prisoner left the dram shop before Fred Lowe spoke to him afterwards.

Jacob Robson, filler, employed at Cadeby, said he saw the prisoner and his brother and John Adams come into the dram shop. The prisoner was close to him, and he never left the room until after Fred Lowe came and spoke to him.

John Thomas, brother of the prisoner, gave similar evidence, and was not cross examined.

David Lowe, who was in the dram shop, said the prisoner never left the room until after Fred Lowe spoke to him.

Mr Beverley: Could you see him all the time?

I could not help but see him, because he was facing me all the time.

You kept your eye on him? – I was forced to.

Mr Mellor: he’s a pretty big man, isn’t it; he’s no chicken? – No Sir.

John Adams gave similar evidence.