Saville’s Spinney Chapter 10 Standing Trial Part 4 ( First Draft)


Two new witnesses appeared briefly in the box. John Fox, a constable and John Freeman, father of Henry Freeman were sworn in and then both asked questions concerning the testimony of Henry Freeman. John Fox agreed that Henry Freeman had made disclosures to him on the way from the Police Office. John Freeman confirmed his son had written to him from Manchester about the same matter.

There was great interest in the next witness. Harriet Brownsword was sister to the wife of Saville. After being sworn in she explained she lived in Ramsay Huntingdonshire. She had travelled up to Nottingham to visit her sister on 18th May. She went to see her at the Union Workhouse. She had previously called in at Mr Barbers on Long Row and purchased two ounces of mixed tea and half a pound of brown sugar. She also gave her sister five shillings and sixpence in money. At this point the printed paper found in the prisoner’s box was held up by a court official and all in the jury looked at it intently

John Barber was another new witness at the trial. After being sworn in he explained he was a grocer with a shop on Long Row and deposed that on the 20th May articles in his shop were sold in such papers as the one just produced as evidence.

The final witness was William Barnes, High Constable of Nottingham. After being duly sworn in he outlined the events of Thursday 23rd May in the Police Office on Long Row. He explained that after the prisoner was received into his custody on 23rd May, information was received that his wife and three children had been found murdered at Colwick.He was taken to a room to be examined and was wearing a dark brown surtout coat and a careful examination of his trousers revealed three small spots of blood on the right thigh. On the left knee was some discolouration as made by kneeling in clayey soil.

Defence counsel Mr Flowers had some questions for this witness and began his cross examination. “Were you aware that the prisoner was subject to nose-bleeds, which could account for these spots?

The High Constable replied, “I did not know the prisoner’s nose was subject to bleeding.”

“Exactly what time was the information about the bodies received in the Police Office?”asked Mr Flowers.

William Barnes replied, “It was at a quarter to three when information was received of the bodies being found.”

William Barnes left the witness box and the court room and the two crown counsels standing before judge and jury announced the case was now closed for the prosecution. As they took their seats , Mr Flowers left the bench and walking across the court and past the judge he approached the jury, standing right before them. He would now address the jury on behalf of the prisoner. He began by summing up the key points with reference to various testimony from witnesses. He began with a confession and protested loudly at evidence being “bottled up”, witnesses being brought in at the last instant, and being taken completely by surprise by events. He feared the prisoner’s case would lose much for the want of an experienced advocate;

“I must confess that when I undertook this case, I had not the slightest notion of the difficulties there were to combat, difficulties which it was not possible to meet, or which could have been foreseen. There never was a case for which the counsel for the defence had a better right to complain about the counsel for the prosecution. Such gross attempts to entrap witnesses, the production of evidence never known until this day, although known to the prosecution by the confession of their own witnesses for three weeks, kept bottled up until it was too late to find the means of answer. If that were not sufficient, let them look at the manner in which the medical testimony had been that day given, to prove there were just grounds for complaint. Why was not the statement of Freeman, made at the time the prisoner was first before the magistrate, immediately looked into, and made the subject of instant investigation? The prisoner would then have time to rebut the pretended confession. I trust to show however that the statement of Freeman could not be true, and if so that  the prisoner was clearly entitled to a verdict of acquittal. If the prisoner had committed the murder, he must have been, from the medical evidence, covered in blood. Yet Boot and Savage met him with no stain upon him. If however Saville was innocent of this deed the question arose, who did it? The woman herself! By the evidence of Boot and Savage it appeared the prisoner was only ten minutes unobserved. Boot and Savage saw the man standing in the plantation with his arms folded, he then opened the gate and went away. If the murder had been committed by him some marks of violence or blood would surely have been perceptible by witnesses? I put it to the jury whether it would have been possible for the prisoner, in the short space of ten minutes to have done all that was necessary? He would have had to commit the act four separate times, then conceal and arrange the bodies in that short time. Let them look at him at the gate when the boy and girl came up. If he had committed the offence for which he was charged it would have been impossible that they should not have observed blood upon his person. It was true the prisoner had his hand in his pocket but there was nothing extraordinary in that. Would there not have been blood in his pocket if his hand had been bloody?”

Mr Flowers then concentrated on the nature of the relationship with his wife trying to demonstrate Saville had not put his wife into the workhouse out of a lack of affection but because she and the children were afflicted with the itch.

“For some time before he knew Elizabeth Tait, it seemed the prisoner intended to part from his wife, to which the state of her person contributed peradventure no small part in the case. From the master of the workhouse it appears she was covered in a loathsome disease – the itch!  When she came out and found he had made a connection with another, what was more likely to make an afflicted woman wish to destroy herself? If this was the case with herself there would be immediately perceptive the clue to the destruction of the children. She did not destroy them because she did not love them, but directly the reverse.

Mr Flowers then particularised a case or two in which children had been proven to be murdered by a parent for the purpose of saving then from some very real or imaginary trouble.

“There was a case the other day in Lambeth, London, concerning what was proved to be a loving tender parent¸who had destroyed his offspring to preserve them from misery.The woman would say  to herself if he loves another, he cannot love me, and therefore she had nothing to live for, and if she lost the care of her children, what would have become of them? Or if she continued to have them in her care¸how would she support them? She had said to one of the witnesses on the morning of her death she was very miserable.”

Mr Flowers then argued very ably to show that evidence concerning the tea paper and the hand print was far from convincing and made a withering comment about the medical testimony.

 “With regards to the bloody hand on the petticoat, it was quite as likely to belong to one of the men who put the bodies on the cart as the prisoner, which was afterwards acknowledged to fit the hand of other persons. As to the tea paper found in the prisoners box, if it was removed from the pocket of the dead woman why was there no blood found on it? With regard to the medical testimony, could the jury believe the evidence of the gentleman first examined who said the body could not move, or the second gentleman who swore positively that it could have moved? Every man, let his crimes be what they might, is entitled to a fair trial and I dare not trust myself to speak upon the abominable attempts to keep that gentleman out of the box.”

Mr Flowers completed the case for the defence by cautioning the jury of the difficulties of believing alleged conversations and concluded by imploring them that if they had any doubts of the offence being legally proved to give the verdict in favour of the prisoner. As Mr Flowers returned slowly to the benches opposite the jury, many spectators turned and conversed quietly with those nearby. Mr Flowers had provided a spirited defence of the prisoner and had given all much to think about, not least the jury. He had also provided another explanation for the murders, one which the newspapers had thought better of printing.

With cases closed for both prosecution and defence the Judge now delivered his summary. His Lordship summed up the evidence with the greatest perpescuity and acuteness, dwelling on all points for and against the prisoner with the utmost fairness. He cautioned the jury against entertaining any prejudices caused by what they had heard or read outside court.  He further reminded the jury that it was their duty to lay all passion aside and calmly and patiently consider the case. No motive at all commensurate with the crime had been elicited. He was afraid a degraded mind had principally contributed to it. The man, her husband had evidently no pleasure in social intercourse or conversation with her and a knowledge of this had induced her to commit suicide. In the course of summing up he expressed his surprise at the short time the prisoner had been unobserved in the wood. He said Freeman’s evidence was important but he acknowledged there had been great fault in not having taken him before magistrates at the time he made his statement. The objections of the learned counsel on this lead were well founded as the law intended that all evidence should be made known to an accused person previous to his trial. The statement of Freeman was a strange one respecting the bravado of the prisoner upon hearing the footsteps of the policeman coming, “I’ll meet them as bold as a lion.” But from the extraordinary firmness he had shown in court he believed he was capable of such bravado although placed in circumstances so desperate. His Lordship concluded by telling the jury well to consider whether the woman had done it herself and if no doubt of that appeared then it would be their duty to return a verdict against the prisoner.

At precisely twenty minutes to eight the jury retired to consider their verdict. At two minutes to eight, having been out only eighteen minutes in consideration, they returned. The Clerk of Arraigns having called over their names, asked if they were agreed in their verdict to which the Foreman replied and without asking for the second question, “Yes and we find him guilty!” A low buzzing noise was then heard throughout the court as the spectators received the long-awaited decision. The Clerk of the Court then repeated the usual proclamation previous to passing sentence of death upon a prisoner. His Lordship leaned forward, placed his arms across the bench and placed a black cap upon his head. He committed his address to the prisoner previous to passing sentence in a low tone of voice but in a very impressive manner;

“William Saville, you have been convicted of a dreadful murder on the clearest evidence. No person who has heard that evidence can entertain the slightest doubt of your guilt. You have destroyed the wife of your bosom who you had sworn to protect. I am afraid the state of your mind is such that you do not regard the crime with horror or with any feelings of compunction. It is not my intention to enlarge upon the subject. I am afraid it would be of little use when you are taken back to prison to prepare for the expiation of the crime you have committed. I hope the time will be diligently be employed by you in preparation to give effect to the explanation. No person has the right to take the life of another and the law provides that those who do so wilfully shall themselves suffer death. I therefore, as the minister of the law, must pass such a sentence on you and recommend you to reconcile yourself unto God; I earnestly entreat it as a fellow man not to let the opportunity to pass away. It is now your only duty to prepare to expiate the crime of which you have been convicted. It would be an idle hope in your part to indulge the expectations of mercy. The sentence of the court is for the murder and felony of which you have been convicted that you be taken to the place whence you came, from there to some place of execution where you shall be hanged by the neck till you are dead and may God almighty have mercy on your soul. After death your body must be buried within the precincts of one of her majesties gaols.

During the passing of the sentence the crowded court was very still, the intense silence was not broken until after the sentence was passed and the prisoner was about to be removed from the bar. The prisoner was keenly observed throughout the many hours of his trial, particularly by those in the upper gallery. He presented a very clean appearance having dressed in a black coat, waistcoat and stock. The hair on his head was rather short and scanty and combed with one sweep from left to right. He was noted to maintain his firmness throughout the trial, manifesting great coolness and self-possession, never showing the slightest sign of faltering. On receiving his final doom he turned away with the utmost composure. Some observed that he seemed to avoid the gaze of Mrs Brownsword when she gave evidence. Others thought they detected a lurking smile while Henry Freeman was being examined.

Saville was removed from the bar and walked a short distance to a flight of steps leading down into the bowels of Shire Hall. As he made his way below, the criminal proceedings of the assizes closed at exactly half past eight o’clock. The trial was over and Saville’s fate was now sealed.[i] / [ii]


[i] Nottingham Review Friday August 2nd 1844

[ii]  Nottingham Journal Friday August 2nd 1844

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About bakersfieldlad

July 2015...... I published my first book on Amazon - "Savilles Spinnney". On April 1st 2015 I published my second book - "Arsenic Sally". Christmas Day 2015 I published my third book " Murder Mystery and Mayhem on the Railways 1830-1899. That's 3 books in roughly 18 months. I enjoy researching and see no reason to stop writing. There will be many many more books and while I would love to be taken in by a publisher I am content to make my books available via Amazon. Keep checking my blogs for updates about my upcoming projects......
This entry was posted in 1844, assizes court, Crime in Nottingham in the 1800s, crime writer, Crime Writing, dead bodies, e-book, First book, Framework Knitter, graves, Harrogate, Historical crime, Ideas for writer, murder mystery, Murder stories, Nottingham, Nottingham gaol, old newspaper, public execution, Writer, Writing, writing ideas, writing process and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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