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Eliza Woods :1878 October 12th Bulford Wiltshire
THE SUSPECTED MURDER AT BULFORD
On the morning of Friday, the 4th inst., the police of Amesbury discovered the body of a gipsy woman, named Eliza Woods, on Bulford Down, where a small party of gipsies have been encamped for some time. A man named Henry White, with whom it was suggested she had been cohabiting, has been arrested on suspicion of having caused her death, and George Frankham and his wife for having been accessories. The case looks exceedingly ominous against White, the evidence directly proving that he kicked and struck her with a tent peg.
At the inquest on Friday, held by Mr R M Wilson, Sergeant Potto was the only witness examined, and he stated that on the previous Wednesday evening, about seven o’clock, he saw two men in the “New” Inn, at Amesbury, and two women, one of whom was leaning against the wall of the house apparently the worse for drink. They were all of one party. He said to Elizabeth Hughes, one of the party, “You had better take this woman,” alluding to the one the worse for drink, “out of the way.” Just at that time one of the men now in custody, who was stated to be Henry White, came out of the house and witness said to him, “You had better take that woman out of the way.” He replied, “What woman; she’s nothing to me.” Witness replied, “That’s all nonsense,” and the man said that he should have no hands with her. At this time Hughes walked away with her; and the man White and the other person went to the “King’s Arms.” He followed them and told the landlord not to draw any beer giving a similar caution to the landlord of the “New” Inn. The women remained sometime by the cross-roads, by Mr Self’s, where they had a cart, donkey, and a pair of trucks, and seven or eight children.
He saw the men join them, and after a little trouble they all went up the London-road. In the same evening about half-past ten he met the men, with Elizabeth Hughes, and some children, and missing the deceased from amongst them, he asked where she was. Hughes made answer that she would not or could not come on. He then on along the road for some little distance, and found the woman lying by the side of the road, with the infant by her side asleep. He told her to get up, but she said, “I can’t, I have such a pain in my side.” Witness replied, “It’s all nonsense, you are only suffering from drink.”
Eventually, she managed to get up on her knees, but she could get no further. She appeared to be in pain; and asked him to go back to the party and fetch a girl to take the child. Witness then went back to where the party were, and asked Hughes if White had been beating her. She said, “I don’t know.” He afterwards asked deceased the same question, and she replied in the negative. He then asked her how it was she had blood on her face, and she replied that was where she fell down. Elizabeth Hughes then went to the deceased and helped her on.
Witness afterwards said to White, “You have been beating this woman.” He replied, “I have not,” but on his rejoining, “I believe you have, and broken her ribs,” he said, “If I have she aggravated me to do it,” and then went on. The next day Frankham came to him, and said the woman had died the same evening at about six o’clock. Witness then went for Mr Pyle, surgeon, and accompanied him to the spot where he was informed the body lay. As they reached the spot they saw PC Phillips about to move the body to Bulford, but by Mr Pyle’s direction it was removed to Amesbury Workhouse. He then charged White with having caused the death, and he denied it.
The inquest was then adjourned, and on Wednesday was resumed at the Amesbury Workhouse by the same Coroner. The following was the evidence then adduced,
PC Phillips, who is stationed at Bulford, stated : I first saw these persons on Wednesday night. The first I heard of them was at Ratfin. I heard someone swearing and I went to Sergeant Potto and told him there were some gipsies up in the road. He replied, “Yes, they have been in at Amesbury, and we will go up and see them.” We did so. This was about ten o’clock. On reaching them we found that Eliza Woods was not there. Sergt Potto inquired where she was, and we eventually found her about 200 yards from them towards Amesbury. She was lying by the side of the road, with the child by her side. She appeared to be in pain, and complained of pains in her ribs, but accused no one of ill-treating her. Sergt Potto and myself both asked her how she came by the blood on her face, and she said that was where she fell down. It was I believe asked specifically if White had been ill-treating her. Ultimately the other party came back after her, and with the assistance of Elizabeth Hughes, the woman walked. Sergt Potto told the prisoner that he believed he had been beating her, and broken her ribs, and White replied, “If I did, she aggravated me to it.” They all then went on.
On the following evening I was in the street at Bulford immediately adjoining Amesbury at about a quarter to eight, when George Frankham, Elizabeth Hughes, and Henry White came to me and told me that the woman had dropped down dead. They gave her no name, and I asked what woman, and Hughes said, “The woman we shifted last night.” I asked them where, and they replied up by Mr Melsome’s “pennings” on the old Marlborough-road. I asked them how it was she had dropped down dead, and someone replied she had just died; and Hughes, in answer to another question, said she had been very poorly and complained of a lump or something in her bowels.
I asked White about her death and he said he didn’t ill-treat her or “anything.” The woman said before she died she asked her to sit her up on the bank and they then gave her some corn beer. She (Hughes) then took and baby and walked up and down with it and on returning to where deceased lay, and finding she did not breathe, exclaimed, “Oh Lord Lord, she is dead.” I asked her (Hughes) if she were quite sure the deceased was dead and she said, “Yes, I have seen so much of death; I have had two or three of my own children die.” I asked Hughes if she knew what caused her death, and she said, “No. We didn’t touch her.” Previous to asking that question I —- (sent) Frankham for Sergt Potto, and we afterwards went on to the “pennings” where the body lay.
I was give to understand by Hughes that the woman had died about half past seven, so that they must have come in search of me directly. When I got to the “pennings” I saw something under a hedge close by the old Marlborough-road covered over with some clothes, which when removed revealed the body of Eliza Woods. It was lying on the right side with a cloak underneath. I remained there for some time, and the Sergt not coming I had the body placed in a cart, and was removing in the direction of Bulford, when Mr Pyle and Sergt Potto came up, and authorised me to remove it to the place where it now lies. On Friday morning I found a bonnet, which I believe can be identified as having belonged to deceased and which I now produce, on the road nearer Amesbury leading to Ratfin farm, and about a 100 yards from where the woman lay.
Mr F Fawson Lee said, in conjunction with Mr Pyle, he made a post mortem examination of the body of a woman named Eliza Woods on Friday evening. It was apparently the body of a woman about 27 years of age. It was not emaciated and fairly nourished. She had had a child, he understood, three months previously, which she had been suckling. The only external signs of injury were slight bruises in the front of the right leg, and behind the right elbow. There was blood in the left ear, which also appeared to be very slightly bruised. There was internally extravasation of blood upon the right side of the head; the brain and its membranes were full of blood vessels, but the structure of the brain was healthy.
The pericardium contained about an ounce of blood-stained serum. The heart and lungs were healthy, except slight congestion on the apex of one of the lungs. On opening the abdominal cavity some gas escaped. There was a large quantity of dark torpid fluid in the cavity of the abdomen, and a large quantity of what appeared to be matter gravitated into the cavity of the pilex. The intestines were glued together by inflammation. About twelve inches from the commencement of the small intestine there was a perforation of the bowel, about an inch in extent. The edges were turned outwards and the mucus membrane or the inner lining protruded through the opening. The stomach contained a small quantity of thick light-coloured fluid. He did not detect any odour of any form of stimulant. The liver was pale and fatty-looking. The other organs were empty. He attributed the death of deceased to the perforation of the bowel.
The Coroner : What would be likely to cause perforation? Some cause of external violence in the absence of disease.
The Coroner : Did you see any evidence of disease in the bowel? The bowel appeared healthy; no evidence of disease. I omitted to mention that there was a small dark spot about the size of a three-penny piece, extending through the coates of the bowel, and about an inch from the perforation.
The Coroner : Would a kick be likely to cause such a perforation? Yes. I have also omitted to say that there was a bruising of the mesentery – the part that binds the intestines to the spine, and a cellular tissue over the three lower lumbar vertebrae was blood-stained; and there was also a patch about the size of half-a-crown at the posterior surface of the transverse colon. I have no further description to give of the appearance of injury, but the perforation of the bowel might have been caused by a violent kick, and the other particulars I have mentioned would lead to the conclusion that these patches of inflammation were the effects of external violence. The bruising of the mesentrey and the cellular tissue all pointed in the same direction.
The Coroner : Might these symptoms have resulted from a fall. Taking the matter as a whole? It is quite possible that a person might fall upon some projecting substance that might lead to the same injury.
The Coroner : Do you think that a drunken person falling about, unless this projection is a great substance, would receive such an injury? I should not think so, unless she fell by great force or violence upon a large substance.
The Coroner : Would any ordinary large stone cause it? If she fell by violence.
The Coroner after reading the evidence : Would all those things result from one fall; suppose one fell violently against a large stone, would these symptoms arise from one fall? Quite possible.
The Coroner : Should I be straining it if I were to say you should not attribute these injuries to an accidental fall? I should not think it probable that such a fall would lead to the results I have given in my evidence, though it is possible.
The Coroner : Would not the perforation cause extreme pain? Intense agonising pain with symptoms of shock, and would probably cause death in a few hours.
The Coroner : You said that in the perforation the edges were turned outwards and the inner lining protruded through the opening – would that lead you to any opinion? It would lead me to the opinion that it was caused by rupture and not by disease. There was no fracture of the ribs or skull.
Mr Pyle, member of the Royal College of Surgeons, said that he first saw the body of deceased on Thursday evening. It was in a cart which was leading from Marlborough-road to Bulford parish. He stopped it to see if the woman were dead, and then told the policeman to take it to the Amesbury Workhouse. When they got there he examined it, and found a bruise and abrasion on the elbow, and a bruise on the other side of the right leg. Blood was coming from the left ear, which was also discoloured. She appeared to have recently died, in fact the body was not cold. He locked the body up and gave the key to some man. He assisted Mr Lee at the post mortem examination on Friday, and having heard his evidence he might say that he entirely concurred in the accuracy of his statement as regards the appearance of the body externally and internally.
The Mayor : Did you see anything likely to cause the death of deceased except perforation of the bowel? No, sir.
The Coroner : And you attribute it to that cause? I do.
The Coroner : Do you think that that perforation was caused by violence or disease? By violence certainly. There was no indication of disease in the bowel.
The Coroner : Do you agree with Mr Lee in thinking that it was possible that these results might have been caused by accidentally falling against some hard substance? It might have been possible.
The Coroner : But do you think it probable? No.
The Coroner : An ordinary flint or stone on the down would not have caused it? No, it must have been a much larger mass. A fall in the road from an ordinary stone would not have caused it.
The Coroner : There are in this house two children, 12 and 14 years of age. I think it would be desirable to hear what they have to say, and when their evidence has been given then I think – there is no necessity for it – it would be well to have this man White, who is in custody, here, and read over the evidence. It is not absolutely necessary that the man should be present. I think it is expedient we should take the evidence of the children in the absence of the man, as we are more likely to get at the truth.
George Frankham said : My father’s name is George Frankham. I remember seeing Sergt Potto when he sent us out of Amesbury on Wednesday night. Eliza Woods had had a drop of beer, and my mother took the child out of her arms so that she should not fall and hurt it. They had had a drop of beer all together. The deceased was jealous of White and Mary Ann Frankham, because he had bought a wheel from her (Mary Ann Frankham); and she kept on twitting him about this as we went on up the road. She had continued this for two nights before. White hit her with a “great long ashen stick.” He hit her with his fist first on the ear, and knocked her down, and then my mother went and got her up, and then he struck my mother also. He only knocked my mother down once. He hit her four times with a stick – a hoe handle (now produced, in two pieces).
He hit her once on the back of the head, and then kicked her four times whilst she was down. Once he kicked her behind the head, and I also believe in the side. He also struck her with a tent peg. He struck her with the peg first, and followed this up with the hoe-handle attack. He struck her with the peg four times. I tried to prevent his getting the tent peg out of the cart, and he then hit me once severely across the back of the neck. My father then kept me back so that he should not hit me again. The deceased after he kicked her, called out, “you can do it again if you like,” and my mother said, “My dear, Henry, don’t do it again for the poor woman is nearly dad already.”
After he had beaten her White threw deceased’s things out of the cart, and said, “You can go your way and I’ll go mine.” My mother then tied the things up in a bundle, and put them up in her cart. After White flung out the things, he went a few yards and lit a fire, and endeavoured to break his cart to pieces to make another fire. We all then went on and left Eliza Woods in the road, but shortly after they went and led her to the cart. We then went on for about a mile, where we stopped for the night.
White did not attempt to beat her again, but in the morning appeared very sorry for it. My mother wanted to go for the doctor, but the deceased would not let her. My sister Sarah remained with her next day, but the rest of us went into Bulford and Durrington, with sand and clothes-pegs for sale; and in the evening returned home. I was there when she died, which occurred between six and seven. My father, White, my mother and the others were also present, and my mother finding that she was dead, exclaimed, “Oh poor dear; poor Eliza’s dead,” and shortly after went for the policeman. My sister told me that during the day the deceased stood up twice.
Sarah Frankham, 12 years of age, was next examined, and said : I remember the police sending us out of Amesbury on Wednesday night. Eliza Woods had been drinking, and my mother took the baby out of her arms lest she should fall with it. Deceased had been twitting White about Mary Ann Frankham, and he appeared very angry at it. She had twitted him about it before, and he had struck her but not so hard as on the present occasion. He first struck her with his fist, and then with the tent peg. He struck her four times and kicked her a similar number of times. I did not see him strike her with a hoe-handle. He struck no one else but my mother, who in trying to protect the deceased received a blow on the face. He also threatened to knock my brother down, and would have done so had he not got out of the way. He struck deceased on the back, legs and everywhere.
My mother returned the baby to her but when White struck her took it out of her arms again. When she fell down White kicked her four times, once on the side of the head, and then about the body and legs. She was left lying by the roadside, and my mother tried to get her up several times; but she could not. When the policeman came up my mother sent for me to take care of the child, and placed me and the child into our cart. After he had done beating her White went down the road and lit a fire, burning the tent pegs and a portion of his cart. We got her up in the cart, and when we got to a place by a barn the deceased said she could no further it jolted her so, and we stopped there all night under a hedge.
On the following morning we moved again, but could not go far, in consequence of the deceased again complaining that it jolted her; and eventually the rest left us, going into Bulford, leaving me and some other children with deceased. They returned home in the evening. Whilst they were away we gave her nothing to eat, and in fact she never put anything, with the exception of three-penny worth of brandy, into her lips from the time the man beat her until she died. She was not sure whether it was five or six o’clock that she died. During the day deceased slept.
James White, labourer, Amesbury, stated that on Wednesday night, at about nine o’clock he was in the London “turnpike” just out of Amesbury. As he was walking up the road he heard a scream – that of a woman. Some children were also screaming. A young man named Weston was a few yards behind him. They went in the direction whence the noise proceeded, and on arriving at the spot, saw the man White kick a woman three or four times. There were a man and a woman also there. They saw White kick the woman, and then strike her to the ground, following up this attack by kicking her three or four times severely whilst she was on the ground. After he had kicked her, the other woman exclaimed, “Now you have done for her.”
Then White walked across the road after a stick, and came back with the stick in his hand. The other woman got between them, and succeeded in preventing the blow being struck, and White was proceeding back with the stick, when the other man called out that he should serve the other woman as he had serve deceased. White then returned and told deceased she was not fit to travel with him, and should leave her; and if he met her in the town of Salisbury or any other place in Wiltshire he would kill her. He didn’t see prisoner strike the woman with a stick.
She screamed out, “Oh, dear me.” He didn’t attempt to prevent it as he thought it wasn’t safe. (The Coroner : Still it’s a good principle when a man sees a woman struck to help her.) They all went off and left her on the ground; and he then went up to where the woman and the baby were, and after endeavouring to raise her, left her and went to Amesbury for the police, but not finding Sergt Potto he went home. He afterwards went up again with his wife and found the woman in the same state as before.
On being asked if he had any questions to ask prisoner said, he had not – witness had spoken a lot of lies.
Philip Weston, of Amesbury, said that on the evening of Wednesday he was with White on the London-road. It was after 8 o’clock. He heard screaming from a women and children, and followed in the direction of the place whence the screams proceeded. He saw two men, two women, and some children. One of the men was lying against the bank and prisoner was standing up. One of the women was lying on the ground saying that she should die, or something of that sort. He saw the prisoner kick the woman lying on the ground three or four times. She had a child in her arms. He could not see in what part of the body prisoner kicked her. The other woman interfered and tried to keep him away. Prisoner went and got a stick out of the cart but he did not see him strike her with it, although he had threatened to.
The other man told him to serve the other woman the same. He eventually saw the men and the other woman go off and leave the deceased on the ground, and he and the last witness then went up to her and endeavoured to raise her up. She said she couldn’t, exclaiming that she was dying. They then left her, not thinking she was so much hurt as she professed to be, as she was drunk. They had seen her before that evening and she was then the worse for liquor. He heard White say that he would kill he if he met her in Salisbury or any other town.
Supt Stephens gave evidence to the effect that on Saturday morning he went with George Frankham and Sergt Potto on the London-road in the direction of Beacon-hill. George Frankham pointed out a place where a fire had been lit by the roadside. He also gave him the description of the stick, with which he saw the accused assault the deceased on the Wednesday night previous. He made search for the stick, and found that now produced, in its present state, in a turnip field, about ten yards from where the fire had been lit. He examined the stick, and found at one end a small spot of blood. The stick had been identified by Frankham.
Prisoner denied that he struck deceased with the stick. He never used the stick except to endeavour to break up his cart with. Frankham took the stick away from him and threw it in the field of turnips where it was found.
The evidence of the two children was then read over to the prisoner, and he was asked if he had any questions to ask them. He gave an inaudible reply, but did not question them.
The Coroner then summed up the evidence and pointed out that according to the medical evidence this woman’s death was caused by perforation of the bowel, and although it was possible that the injury would have been caused by the person falling with violence against some hard prominent substance, yet they both said it was very much more probable it was caused by some external violence such as a kick would produce. They had the evidence of the children, of White and Weston, who spoke as to the kicks, whilst the children spoke in addition as to the beating; and as the beating with the stick took place before the kicking there was no inconsistency in the evidence.
He then directed their attention to how remarkably the evidence of the children had been corroborated by the men, and pointed out that the children since their admittance to the workhouse had been kept in different wards. Then if they were certain that the perforation was caused by this man White the question arose as whether it was manslaughter or murder. He then pointed out the difference between manslaughter and murder, showing that manslaughter was the crime of murder reduced when there had been a great amount of provocation. Here they found there was a feeling of jealousy existing, but if they believed the continuous evidence of this kicking or beating, it seemed to him that they would not at all be exceeding their duty in bringing in a verdict of murder. He concluded by remarking that he could not see, if they believed this evidence, such an amount of provocation as would really reduce this charge to that on manslaughter.
The jury then retired and after a brief deliberation, returned a verdict of “Manslaughter” ; and the prisoner was formally committed for trial.
Magistrates Hearing 1878 October 12th
Yesterday, before Mr Hussey, the accused was brought up at the office to the clerk of the county magistrates, and charged with the crime of murder. George Frankham and Elizabeth Hughes were charged as accessories, but owing to the evidence against them being insufficient to convict, they were discharged.
Frankham, however, was again apprehended on the charge of having been guilty of poaching at Marlborough two years ago, where he will be conveyed for trial.
The same evidence as was taken at the inquest was given, and the prisoner was committed for trial at the Assizes at Winchester on the charge of manslaughter, it being remarked that there was not sufficient motive shown to commit for the capital charge.
The prisoner is a tall, strong man, of very unprepossessing appearance. He was dressed in clothes in a very disarranged condition, and altogether presented by no means a pleasant spectacle. We are told that since the inquest he has been very depressed, and the slightest sound in his cell attracts his attention – in fact, frightens him.