Death of a Woman at St John's Wood 1881

Morning Post 4 January 1881

© British Newspaper Archives

Transcript of the article:

     Mr Hardwicke held an inquest yesterday at the Buffalo’s Head public house, in the Marylebone-road, as to the circumstances connected with the death of a woman who has gone by the name of Annie Harcourt, and who was shot at a house in South Bank,  St. John’s-wood early on Thursday morning last.  A young man named Robert Hume, described as a stockbroker, and residing in the Randolph-road, Maida-vale, who was with the deceased at the time of her death, has been remanded by the Marylebone police  magistrate, charged on suspicion with having wilfully murdered the woman The explanation given by the accused was that on deceased discovering that he carried a revolver she took it from him and commenced “fooling” with it,  the result being that the weapon went off and killed her.

    George William Sutton was the first witness called.  He said that he lived at Kingsdown, in Kent.  The deceased was his daughter.  Her name was Annie Elizabeth Sutton. She was 21 years of age. He had not seen her for three years.  The last he heard of her was in November last.  She left him three years ago to come to London.  He brought her to put her into a home. She had not been going on rightly, and he thought it well to place her in a home. He had nine other children living.   He had a letter from her stating that she had a sweetheart, and was going to be married; they would afterwards go to America.  He had identified the body as that of his daughter.  He had no idea as to how she had come by her death.

Mr George Sutton, son of the last witness and brother of the deceased, said that he had not seen his sister for three years.  He did not know that she was in London.  He had heard of the death through another sister of his, who was also in London in service

Susan Grigg said that she kept the house in which the  woman was shot.  She let rooms out.  Six weeks ago the deceased took two of the rooms.  Saw the person who has been charged about a fortnight ago.  He was not introduced to witness.  She was not aware that the young man was keeping company with the woman,  He remained with her Monday and Tuesday, and took her to Edinburgh on Wednesday.  She returned alone, and the following Sunday he returned.  He stayed on the Sunday a little while. On Monday he again called,  and on Tuesday he stayed all night. On the Wednesday witness left them together. He went away about 2.30 on that day. About 9.30 on Wednesday evening the deceased went out.  He came home with her that night and remained with her, Witness left them up at two o’clock.  She then left them for the night to go to the next room, where she slept. They were sober.  Witness was in bed about a quarter of an hour when she heard a crack and an exclamation, “Oh!” She knocked at the door, and cried “Annie, Annie, what is the matter?”  She got no answer.  The door was locked, and witness called her husband, who also knocked and got no answer. She could smell the powder at the time.  They gave the door two or three knocks, and it burst open.  They found the woman lying on the floor. The key was not in the door. Deceased was fully dressed.  The accused was dressed with the exception of his boots and overcoat.   The latter was hanging behind the door. The gas was alight.  They were apparently on the best of terms.  They behaved themselves well.  She did not know the deceased had had a quarrel with anybody. The deceased told her she was going to America with her young man.  She had heard since that the key was found in the pocket of the deceased She was not aware that the young man carried a revolver. She did not know that there was any particular  …….  existing between them.

Francis Grigg, husband of the last witness, corroborated his wife’s evidence.  When he entered the room the feet of the deceased were toward him.  In reply to a question of the witness, the accused said the deceased had shot herself.  Mr. Hume was at the time standing at the foot of the bed.  The woman was lying on her back. Witness asked, “Have you the pistol or revolver?” and the young man replied, “No: Annie has got it.”  Witness took him by the wrist, and he said, “Let me sit down.”  In a quarter of an hour after, a constable came. Witness slept with his wife in the adjoining room on the night in question.  His wife went for a policeman. The revolver was found next to the deceased, about two feet away from her.  He had not heard the accused say that the young woman was “fooling” or playing with the pistol.

Mrs Grigg, recalled, stated that Mr Hume had not said to her that the deceased had been playing with the pistol.

Police-constable Edwards said that he was called into the house about three o’clock on the morning in question.  Another constable went with him.  On entering the room he saw the body of a female. He had to step over the body.  It laid in his way as he entered.  The young man was seated on the chair.  Witness took charge of the accused.  The accused said that the woman had done it herself.  The revolver was found under the bed.  The revolver produced, was he believed, the one.

Inspector Buckingham said that the body was found between the door and the bedstead.  He found a five-barrel revolver under the bed.  One barrel had been discharged.  It was an American revolver. The bullets were also of American manufacture.  There was a mark on the door but he was not certain it was a ball mark. The accused said that the deceased was “fooling” with the pistol and that it was his.

Dr Brisbane, of Park-road, said that since he had been called in to see the deceased on the morning of the occurrence he had made a post-mortem examination. He explained to the jury the nature of the wound, which he said was caused by a shot from a pistol.  The bullet cut right through the body from the left side to the right.  Death must have been instantaneous.  All the organs of the deceased appeared to be in a healthy condition.  He did not detect any smell of drink.  The deceased could, he believed, have inflicted the wound upon herself by holding the pistol in her left hand.  He could not give a direct answer, however, as to who fired the pistol.  The woman’s clothes and the wound smelt of gunpowder.  This went to prove that the pistol must have gone off close to the deceased.  The young man said the deceased remarked what a fool he was to carry a revolver, and that she took it out of his pocket.  He was inclined to the belief that the wound was accidentally inflicted.

Dr. Clarke, who assisted at the post-mortem examination, gave evidence corroborative of that given by Dr. Brisbane.

John Newman, beadle and coroner’s officer, said that be found the bullet near the wardrobe and the key of the door in the dress pocket of the deceased.

George King, one of the Inspectors of the Detective Department, produced a plan of the room and a portion of the carpet with a blood stain.  He also produced a man’s boot, on which, he believed, was a blood mark. He had found a mark of blood on the wristband of the shirt the accused was wearing.  The explanation given by the accused was that he tried to catch the deceased and prevent her from falling, and that he had probably got the blood marks in that way.

The Coroner suggested that it would be perhaps well to have some evidence as to the young man who had been accused. Mr G Lyon, who appeared for the accused, said that there were several persons ready to come forward to speak as to the antecedents and the character of that gentleman.

Mr. A. C. Lewis, solicitor, said that he had known Mr. Hume for about three weeks, that was since his arrival from America.  Mr.  Hume had devoted himself to farming operations in Virginia, United States of America, and had been several times backwards and forwards from America to England.  He had been in America over six years.  He came to this country three weeks ago in consequence of the death of his father, who lived in Edinburgh.  Mr. Hume came to this country to make inquiries as to succession to property.  He was a married man, but his wife had left him.  So far as he knew, Mr. Hume was not addicted to drinking. He was not personally aware that Mr. Hume carried a revolver, but there was abundant evidence to prove that he was in the habit of doing so.  In his opinion Mr. Hume was as mild and inoffensive a young man as could be.  He was between 27 and 30 years of age. As to the deceased, Mr. Lewis stated that he had been told that she was known in the West-end as “Mad Annie”, so peculiar and reckless was her conduct, and that she was subject to drinking habits.

Dudley Mansfield, of 119A, Jermyn Street, said that he had had a knowledge of the deceased of some years standing.  She was a prostitute, and used to be known as “Mad Annie”.

Mr Grigg, recalled, said that the deceased had been making a wrapper for the accused.

The Coroner, having briefly summed up and explained to the jury the nature of their duties in such a case.  After a short consultation the jury returned an open verdict, viz., that the deceased had been shot dead, but that there was no evidence as to who fired the revolver.


This page was added on 31/03/2014.

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *