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Help and advice for Regina v. Hussell, Barnstaple 1877

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Regina v. Hussell, Barnstaple 1877

By Peter Heal and Jonathan Frayne

[This is a transcript of all the depositions taken from witnesses in the case of Regina v. Hussell in 1877. This is a case of a man accused of killing his wife. The statements make poignant reading, but may not be for the squeamish. They certainly are heart rending.
The statements were those of the prosecution case only. They would have been taken at the committal proceedings when the magistrates, or Justices of the Peace as they are called here, heard all the prosecution evidence from the witnesses in person. They were also cross-examined by the defence, and then the magistrates decided if there was a case to answer. If so, they sent the case to the Assize Court for trial. The statements formed the basis of the case against the accused. It would seem that a later statement by John Dyer was added as his statement is not contained in the list of those given at the committal. The statement by the accused towards the end would not now happen, but bear in mind that in capital cases then, the accused was not allowed to give evidence or even make a statement in court at the actual trial. The outcome of the trial is scrawled on the wrapper at the very end of the file.
Some information on what happened next appears at the end.
All emphases are ours. All capitalisation is by the Clerk to the Court at the time.
(c) All documents here are copyright of the Public Record Office.]

THE EXAMINATIONS OF Emily Dockerty, Eliza Giddy, Thomas Downing, George Longhurst, Andrew Fernie, Richard Eddy, John Kingdon, Mary Parr, Ann Cole and Elizabeth Sanders taken on oath this eleventh day of October in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and seventy seven at the borough aforesaid, before the undersigned three (sic) Her Majesty's justices of the Peace for the said Borough, in the Presence and Hearing of William Hussell who is charged on the fifth day of October instant at Barnstaple in the said Borough feloniously wilfully and of his malice aforethought did kill and murder Mary Hussell his Wife against the Peace of Our Lady the Queen her Crown and dignity

This Deponent Emily Dockerty on her oath saith as follows:

I am 14 years of Age and have been from the 4th day of September last to Saturday October 6th in the service of the Prisoner. He is a Butcher and has a Stall in Barnstaple Butchers' market. He resided at a Cottage, part of a row called Sanders' Cottages in Diamond Street Barnstaple. His family consisted of himself, his Wife (the deceased) and four young Children, two Boys and two Girls, the youngest, a Girl, being six weeks old. Prisoner left the house in Sanders' Court on Friday 5th October instant to go to the Shop in the Market about 8 I the morning. His wife left home to go to the Shop soon after him. He returned home between 8 and 9 that evening, he was not sober, my mistress was not at home.

When Prisoner came home two of the Children were in bed and the baby was in the Cradle. I then put the eldest Child to bed, and by Prisoners order went to the Market to fetch my Mistress leaving him in the kitchen. I did not find her at the Shop but on my return home I found her in the Court outside the front Door. Prisoner was inside where I had left him on a chair. The baby was crying and the deceased asked me to go and fetch it to her. I took it out into the Court to her. Prisoner came into the Court and asked her to come in, she replied "I am afraid to go in William as I fear you will hurt me." He said " I will not hurt you". He then pushed her into the kitchen, as he was pushing her in he said "You dirty [unclear] you shall never go outside this door again alive." She went through the kitchen into the back kitchen and sat on the stairs that lead to the bedroom and gave the baby the breast. Prisoner then asked me to make him some Tea, whilst I was doing so and he was sitting on the Chair at the table I heard him say "I will wait until the Clock strikes" he then took a knife (now produced) out of the pocket of his Coat. He held it up in his right hand and said to deceased who was still in the back kitchen "I have got it ready for you", at the time he said this he could see her from where he was sitting in the Chair. She said "You can't do it, my mother's prayers will be answered for me." I don't take any notice of what you say and when I look at the baby I feel happy." He then returned the knife to his pocket. A few minutes afterwards he took it out again and holding it up said to deceased "It is what I kill the Pigs with." He again put it into his pocket, almost immediately he took it out a third time and walked into the back kitchen towards deceased with the knife in his right hand. I heard her say "I will scream murder if you touch me." I then ran out being very much frightened and went to Mrs. Sanders's house which is four or five doors off. As I was running down the Court towards Mrs. Sanders's house I heard my Mistress scream "Murder." I returned to the house having been absent about a minute and a half, I met the prisoner walking down the Court he said "I have finished her." I went into the Prisoner's house, deceased was lying in the back kitchen on the floor on her face. I saw blood on the floor. The knife was lying on the floor beside her I heard the baby crying but could not see it. It was under her. I said to her "Mrs. Hussell can I do anything for you." She made no reply and did not move. I then went to tell Mrs. Sanders. While I was at Mrs. Sanders's Mrs. Giddy called to me. I went up the Court, and found her standing just outside Prisoner's Door. She asked me to fetch the Baby, I told her I could not do so. Mrs. Giddy then went in and brought it out to me. There was a quantity of blood on its Night dress and its Arms. During the time I lived with Prisoner and deceased, Prisoner drank a great deal and very often came home tipsy. I have very often heard him threaten to kill his Wife. On Monday night before her death (1st October) he came home to have his supper, he was very tipsy, he then began to abuse the deceased and said he would finish her. The Deceased used to find fault with the Prisoner for his intemperate habits and for not attending to his business. She was a hardworking industrious Woman and very temperate. The Prisoner was not in the habit of killing and Cattle at home and knives or butcher's tools were not kept there and none of the Butcher's work was done in Sander's Court. I never saw the knife now produced in the house in Sander's Court until the Prisoner took it out of his Pocket on Friday night. I know the handkerchief now produced. I saw the Prisoner bring it into the house a few days before, he said he had give 21/2d for it.

Emily Dockerty

This Deponent Eliza Giddy on her oath saith as follows:-

      I am the Wife of John Giddy and live in Sanders Court. Prisoner and deceased lived next Door to me. About half past Ten on Friday night October 5th I heard Emily Dockerty screaming as she ran down the Court. I opened the Door and asked What was the matter. She said she though Wm. Hussell had killed his Wife. Almost immediately Prisoner came into my house. He said "I have done it, send for a policeman." He sat down on a Chair and threw his head on a Table. He was not sober. I then went into the Prisoner's house where I found his Wife in the back kitchen lying on the floor on her face and hands. I did not hear her speak or make any noise, and I believe she was dead. I moved her body with one hand and took her baby from under her. It was crying bitterly and covered with blood. I sent a Girl for Dr. Cooke and gave the baby to the last witness. I went to live at my present house at Christmas 1876. Prisoner and his Wife were there living next door. I had often heard Prisoner abusing his Wife and never heard her speak angrily to him. After I had given the baby to Emily Dockerty I stood at my Door and heard Prisoner say several times "I have done it. I suppose I shall be hung."

The Mark of Eliza Giddy

This Deponent Thomas Downing on his oath saith as follows:-

      I am a Police constable at Barnstaple. On Friday evening 5th October instant I was on duty at the Police Station. About 10.40 P.M. I was called by a little Girl called Sanders. I went to the House of the Prisoner in Sanders' Court near Diamond Street in this Borough. I first went into John Giddy's house which is next Door to the Prisoner's.

The Prisoner was sitting on a Chair in Giddy's kitchen with his head resting on the Table. I said to him "What is the matter Bill?" he replied "I have done it" and this he repeated three times. I then went into Prisoner's House, which is next Door. There saw the deceased lying on her face on the floor. She was covered with blood. I lofted her head and slightly turned the body and then found that she was quite dead. I then went for Dr. Cooke but he was not at home, and then to the Station House and told the Superintendent what had happened. I returned with him to the Prisoner's House and then by his direction I went for Dr. Fernie. I then assisted Serjeant Eddy to take the Prisoner to the Station House. He was tipsy and we had to carry him. He said deveral times while we were taking him through the Street "I have done it" and he also said "I hope she is living". Whilst I went for the Doctor I requested that the front door to be closed.

Thomas Downing

This Deponent George Longhurst on his oath saith as follows:-

      I am Superintendent of Police for the Borough of Barnstaple. About Five minutes to Eleven o'clock on Friday night 5th October after a communication made to me by Police Constable Thomas Downing I went to the Prisoner's House accompanied by Serjeant Eddy. I found the Prisoner in the House of a Neighbour named John Giddy. He was sitting on a Chair in the kitchen with his head resting on the Table. I left him in charge of Serjeant Eddy and went into the Prisoner's House which is next Door. There I saw the deceased lying on the floor at the foot of the stairs. The head was just across the doorway leading to the front kitchen. She was partly on her left side. There was a quantity of blood near the body. I lifted her up and saw blood flowing from a wound on the left side of her face. She was quite dead. I went back to the Prisoner at Giddy's house and I found him very excited and hysterical. He said "What have I done What have I done". Mr Fernie soon after arrived, we went into the Prisoner's House and moved the deceased's body into the kitchen. On moving it I found the knife I now produce. There was blood on its handle. I saw one wound below and one above deceased's right breast and one on the left side of her face. When I returned to Giddy's house picked up at the Prisoner's feet the handkerchief which I now produce. Prisoner's hands appeared to be clean but there was blood on his Clothes. I visited the Prisoner in the Cell about half past Twelve when he appeared more calm. He was lying down when I entered but he raised himself and sat up, he then said "Is she dead" I said "Yes," I then charged him with the wilful murder of his Wife. He said several times "I am guilty". I produce the clothes of the deceased which were taken from her body on Saturday the sixth instant. In each of the garments there are cuts corresponding with the wounds on deceased's body.

George Longhurst

This Deponent Andrew Fernie on his oath saith as follows:-

      I am a Surgeon and live at Barnstaple. On Friday night 5th October instant I was called by Police Constable Thomas Downing at Eleven o'clock P.M. and proceeded with him to the Prisoner's house. Superintendent Longhurst was there when I arrived. I found the body of the deceased on the floor partly in the front and partly in the back kitchen. Her face was covered blood. She was quite dead, but warm. There was a great deal of blood in her mouth and throat, there was a large quantity of blood in the back kitchen. On Saturday the sixth instant by direction of the Coroner I made a post mortem examination of the body in which I was assisted by Mr. Jackson. I found the following incised wounds on the body. One on the upper part of the right breast which had penetrated very deeply into the flesh into a large blood vessel below the collar bone. A wound on the lower part of the same breast which had passed between the ribs and into the Chest, close to, but not wounding the lung and liver. A wound on the back of the left blade bone not very deep. A wound on the back of the left upper arm, and a wound on the left side of the face which passed very deeply down to the lower jaw, from hence across the mouth and through the palate on the right side, which had opened a large blood vessel there, and caused a great deal of hemorrhage (sic). I opened the body and found the organs all healthy. There were 2 bruises on the right breast and 2 on the right side of the face. The body looked blanched as if a great deal of blood had flown from it. I am of the opinion that the deceased's death was caused from loss of blood occasioned by the wounds which I have described. The wounds are of such a character as might be caused by such a knife which the Superintendent of Police has produced. The wound which was on the left cheek and which took a downward course was a fatal one. Having regard to the course of this wound I think the deceased was struck by some person standing at a higher level than she was.

A. Fernie

This Deponent Richard Eddy on his oath saith as follows:-

      I am a Serjeant of Police of the Borough of Barnstaple. In consequence of information I received I proceeded with the Superintendent of Police and Police Constable Downing on Friday night 5th October instant about Eleven o'clock to Sander's Court In Diamond Street. We entered the House of John Giddy there the Prisoner was sitting in a Chair in the kitchen with his head on the Table and his face buried in his hands and he was crying. I remained with the Prisoner, the Superintendent and Police Constable Downing leaving to go to the Prisoner's House. As soon as they had gone out the Prisoner began to move and I caught him by the Collar and one arm. He then looked at me and said "My God what have I done, I did not mean to do it, is she dead tell me." I said "Keep yourself quiet and I will let you know presently." He then said "I would do 60 years if only I could have her life." "I see her coming let me go." He then struggled violently to get out of my hands and afterwards became hysterical.

I then called the Superintendent of Police who came to me quickly and as soon as the Prisoner recovered we took him to the Police station. I searched him and found on him one halfpenny and a Black lead Pencil. I visited him about 12.30 in the Cell with the Superintendent of Police and on the latter charging him with Murder he replied "I am guilty."

Richd. Eddy

This Deponent John Kingdon on his oath saith as follows:-

      I live in Litchdon Street, Barnstaple and am a Ship's carpenter. I was at the "Town Arms" Inn in Anchor Lane Barnstaple on Friday afternoon 5th October instant about 4 o'clock in company with William Westacott of Chittlehampton, when the Prisoner came in and joined us. The Prisoner had a Glass of Ale and while he was drinking it he said "We must be off from here her will be after me." We then all left together (Prisoner having been in the House but a short time only) and went to the "Bee-hive" Public House in Green Lane, where we had another Glass of Ale each but did not remain ling. It was about half past five when we left there. We then went through the North Walk and Castle Street to the "Admiral Vernon" Public House in Meddon Street we reached there about 6 o'clock. There Westacott and I had three Glasses of Ale each and the Prisoner had two Glasses. Prisoner became quarrelsome and took off his Coat to fight a man but this I prevented his doing. Prisoner then had a bottle of Ginger Beer, and we all three went to the "Bristol Inn" in Litchdon Street. There we had some more Ale and some Spirit and cooked some fish that we all three ate. While we were there the Prisoner either said "I will do for the Bugger or I should like to do for the Bugger." I forget which. I left the Prisoner at the "Bristol Inn" about half past eight, and I went to the end of the Bridge. During the afternoon the Prisoner told me that he had had a quarrel with his wife about a week before.

John Kingdon

This Deponent Mary Parr on her oath saith as follows:-

I live in Diamond Street in Barnstaple and am the Wife of John Parr a Carpenter. I remember last Friday evening the 5th of October instant. I met the Prisoner between 8 and 9 o'clock P.M. in Diamond Street he was drunk he could not walk without rambling he caught hold of my hand and said "mother how are you." I said "Very well" I advised him to go home, he said he should have another Glass of Ale, he went into the Albert Inn.

Mary Parr

This Deponent Ann Cole on her oath saith as follows:-

I am the Wife of Elijah Cole who is an innkeeper and resides in Diamond Street Barnstaple. I recollect Friday last 5th of October instant. The Prisoner came into my Husband's House about half past nine o'clock P.M. The Prisoner was not then sober, he called for a Glass of Beer I supplied it to him, he drank a part of it the other part was upset, he was alone, he stopped about 10 minutes and then left. It was about ten minutes to Ten when the Prisoner left.

The mark of Ann Cole

This Deponent Elizabeth Sanders on her oath saith as follows:-

      I am the Wife of William Sanders, Painter and reside in Diamond Street Barnstaple. My Husband is the owner of Six Cottages which are built in a Court at the back of our House. Prisoner and the deceased occupied one of them. Prisoner frequently came home intoxicated, and on these occasions he would often abuse and beat his Wife. She was a very industrious and temperate Woman. They have loved in our house for about two years. On the Monday before her death (October 1st) about Four o'clock in the afternoon heard her screaming, I went in, she was nursing the baby by the fire and Prisoner then struck her a blow in the face. I begged him to be quiet. He said to me "I have been to Prison once and she laughed at me, I will go to Prison again and then she won't be able to laugh at me, for I will do something worth doing." About 9 or 10 o'clock the same evening (Monday) Mrs Hussell came to my House and I went to her house with her. I found Prisoner very violent. He first said to me "I won't hurt you, but I will her" I was there the whole night during that time he said to his Wife "I have made up my mind to kill you, you watch it, you haven't long to live." She replied "You can't do it, I have had a pious good Mother and her prayers have been offered for me." He was intoxicated at this time and was very violent the whole night. He was I know kind to her during her recent confinement and was usually so except when in drink.

Elizabeth Sanders

The above Depositions of Emily Dockerty, Eliza Giddy, Thomas Downing, George Longhurst, Andrew Fernie, Richard Eddy, John Kingdon, Mary Parr, Ann Cole and Elizabeth Sanders were severally taken and sworn before us the undermentioned Justices at Barnstaple in the said Borough on the day and year first within written Chris Milliken(?)
Wm. Henry Toller
Wm. Avery

This Deponent John Dyer on his oath saith as follows:-

I am a Butcher carrying on Business in the Shop adjoining the Prisoner's in the Butchers' market Barnstaple. On Friday the 5th of October instant I was engaged in my Shop the whole of the day. In the afternoon about 3 or 4 o'clock I heard quarrelling between the Prisoner and his Wife. I then looked into the Prisoner's Shop and saw him strike his Wife a blow and knock her down, and said "You b-----y bitch I don't care if I get Six Months for you." He then left his Shop and crossed over to the Vegetable Market and I do not believe he returned to his Shop again. I did not see him.

John Dyer

Statement of the Accused


Borough of Barnstaple in the County of Devon to wit

William Hussell stands charged before the undersigned three of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace in and for the Borough aforesaid, this eleventh Day of October In the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and seventy seven for that he the said William Hussell on the fifth day of October instant at Barnstaple in the said Borough feloniously, fillfully and of his malice aforethought did kill and murder Mary Hussell his Wife against the Peace of our Lady the Queen her Crown and dignity and the said charge being read to the said William Hussell and the Witnesses for the Prosecution Emily Dockerty, Eliza Giddy, Thomas Downing, George Longhurst, Andrew Fernie, Richard Eddy, John Kingdon, Mary Parr, Ann Cole and Elizabeth Sanders being severally examined in his presence the said William Hussell is now addressed by me as follows: " Having heard the evidence, do you wish to say anything in answer to the Charge? You are not obliged to say anything unless you desire to do so; but whatever you say will be taken down in Writing, and may be given in Evidence against you upon your Trial; and before the said accused person made the following Statement, I stated to him, and gave him clearly to understand that he had nothing to hope from any promise of favour and noting to fear from any threat that may have been holden out to him to induce him to make any admission or confession of his guilt, but that whatever he should then say might be given in evidence against him upon his trial, notwithstanding such promise or threat

Whereupon the said William Hussell saith as follows " I have nothing to say"

Taken before us at Barnstaple on the day and year first above mentioned:

Chris Milliken(?)
Wm. Henry Toller
Wm. Avery

Case Notes Wrapper

Hussell Murder
Regina v Hussell



Pleaded Guilty

Sentence. Death

PRO Reference: ASSI 26/13
Trial reference: ASSI 21/68


William's shop was at 5/6 Butchers Row.

The Devon Assizes were held at Exeter Castle. The trial was on Wednesday the 31st October

The four children were Mary, William, Thomas and Edith. Born 1873, 1875, 1876 and 1877 respectively. Edith was the baby at the breast. Thomas was taken in by his mother's sister and husband. The other three children went to an orphanage in Bristol.

William was hanged on 19 Nov 1877.