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The Opening of the Trial of William Worsley

The Bedfordshire Mercury began its coverage of William Worsley's trial for the murder of William Bradberry, at Bedford Crown Court on Monday 16th March 1868, as follows:

The court opened this morning at nine o'clock, and was speedily very crowded, the hall having been the scene of much confusion for an hour previous, and the large number of persons who sought admission wee almost uncontrollable, the barriers being of very little use in keeping the crowd away from the doorway for a considerable time. When his lordship took his seat the trial for murder was proceeded with.

William Worsley, 45, [hat] blocker, and Levi Welch, 40, blocker, were indicted for the wilful murder of William Bradberry, at Luton, on the 3rd of August, 1867. The prisoners were also charged upon the Coroner's warrant. (James Day, labourer, had been committed in conjunction with the other prisoners, but the grand jury threw out the bill).

The prisoners were also charged with committing robbery, with personal violence, and had pleaded Not Guilty to both indictments on Saturday morning.

The following gentlemen were sworn upon the jury, no resident of Luton being allowed to sit, according to an arrangement made by Mr. Metcalfe: -

  • Mr. W. Balls, Dean,
  • Mr. J. Dyer, Dunstable,
  • Mr. J. Elliott, Sundon,
  • Mr. J. Hallworth, Heath and Reach,
  • Mr. J. Horsford, Dean,
  • Mr. J. J. Joyce, Renhold,
  • Mr. C. Morris, Holcutt [Holcot],
  • Mr. J. P. Smith, Wilden,
  • Mr. J. Pell, Wilden,
  • Mr. T. Swannell, Bromham,
  • Mr. F. Swannell, Felmersham,
  • Mr. J. Turner, Houghton Regis.

Serjeant Tozer, with Mr. Abdy, instructed by Mr. C. A. Austin, of Luton, prosecuted; Mr. Metcalfe and Mr. Palmer instructed by Mr. G. Bailey, of Luton, defended Worsley. Mr. Palmer has held a brief in the defence of Day, and Mr. Cooper was engaged to defend Welch.

The Judge: Are the prisoners to be tried together?

Serjeant Tozer: I propose, with the sanction of your lordship, to take a verdict of acquittal in this charge for Welch. I don't propose to offer any evidence.

The Judge concurred.

The Clerk of the Arraigns; Gentlemen of the jury, you will say Levi Welch is not guilty, and that is the verdict of you all.

The Judge: You understand, gentlemen, you must say a man is not guilty against whom no evidence is offered.

A verdict of Not Guilty was then taken against Welch, and he retired to the cells.

Worsley was allowed to sit down in the dock. He is a man of wiry build, of full muscular development, rather above middle height, of sandy complexion with a sullen countenance.

The Old English Gentleman June 2010
The Old English Gentleman June 2010

Serjeant Tozer, in opening the case against Worsley, told the jury they had to consider a very grave charge. He should call a large number of witnesses, and their evidence would make the case very clear. Every important fact would be spoken to positively by them, and when these had been placed before them it would be the duty of the jury to say whether they believed the charge was well founded. In order to make the case perfectly clear he would first show where the deceased William Bradberry was on the night of the murder. At about half-past 11 o'clock he left a public-house in Luton - the Bell public-house. There was nothing particular in that, only it was desirable to know where he started from. He left there to go to his home in Lilley, and to get there he would have to pass Stopsley, which besides Luton, would be the only place mentioned in the trial. Having left the Bell, the deceased proceeded homewards towards Round Green, and on his way he would pass the Old English Gentleman, which was on the old Hitchin road. He went in there at 25 minutes to 12, and left at 5 minutes to 12; that was the last time he was seen before the injuries were inflicted upon him. Then, passing to the prisoner Worsley, it would be shown that he was at a house called the Royal Oak, 150 yards from the place where Bradberry was found dying; and, with Welch and Day left at 5 minutes to 12, the house having been cleared at that time. Both these men had been charged with Worsley, but no true bill was found against Day, and unless the evidence were looked into very carefully there could have been a great difficulty in distinguishing between the evidence relating to Worsley, and that concerning Welch; so that on the part of the prosecution it was deemed advisable to withdraw the charge against Welch. The three men left the Royal Oak together, and two men named Lawrence and Scrivener also went away, - all of them about the same time. They proceeded along the road which led from Luton to Hitchin. (The learned serjeant pointed out to the jury the houses and road on a map). Near the Royal Oak stood a chapel, and against this place there was standing at that time a man named Kilby, talking to a friend, a young woman. The evidence of this man was very material, because it brought the three men and Bradberry within a space of time not exceeding a quarter of an hour. Kilby was talking to his friend at the time the Royal Oak was being cleared; and within a few minutes of the time that Bradberry left the Old English Gentleman. He saw Scrivener and Lawrence pass by, and shortly after another person, whom (the learned serjeant) should ask the jury to imply was Bradberry. Then Worsley and Welch went by, leaving day behind some distance, looking for sixpence that he had dropped. Thus they had a complete history of the men as they left the public-house to go along the road. Scrivener and Lawrence would tell them that when they passed along the road no injured person was lying there. Bradberry went immediately after them, and he was followed by Worsley and Welch. Worsley had provided himself with an iron bar - what was called a winch, used for the purpose of contracting or enlarging a fire grate, by moving it backwards and forwards; and the jury would know such an instrument was capable of inflicting much injury. That fact was a material one, as a few days before the prisoner said he should borrow it from his sister-in-law, when he was at her house. She made a trivial objection, that she was always using it, or something to that effect. He (the learned serjeant) did not pretend to assert that the winch was taken away at that time, but he should prove that the prisoner was in possession of it at the time he met Bradberry on the road. He should prove that he talked about borrowing it, and that he admitted having had it; he should prove that he was at the house of his brother on Saturday, the 3rd of August, and that on the Monday morning after the murder it was found either upon the table or on the floor, having been discovered there by the landlady of the house. It would also be shown that the winch was hidden in a hedge after the murder. They had heard that Kilby, while standing near the chapel, had heard a man pass, whom it was inferred was Bradberry, and then Worsley and Welch, leaving day behind. Then followed a man named Layton, who passed within a few minutes of the others - it could not be mentioned how many minutes, because it was almost impossible in such cases to state the time correctly. After he passed Kilby he heard Worsley say something, to indicate that he had stumbled over a drunken man in the road. The prisoner had heard Layton coming towards him, he being then standing by the body of the deceased, and he used an expression to make Layton think that he had really stumbled across a man who was drunk. By this he was successful, for Layton had no suspicion; he found the man Bradberry lying in the road, with his skull fractured, for he had been knocked down with such violence that there were wounds upon the head. He did not die immediately, but was taken by Day and others to a public house called the Jolly Topers on Round Green, and after a few hours he died. There were a number of other witnesses to be called, and the case was one of extreme certainty - having nothing for the jury to suppose or imagine whatever. It had been shown to them that the road was perfectly clear at the time of the murder, but there were other witnesses, and it was right that the jury should have those persons before them to prove that the crime could not have been done by anyone else than Worsley or Welch. It would be proved that these two men robbed Bradberry, cut his pockets out, took his money away, and also his bundle. Undoubtedly these two men did this together. But Worsley had provided himself with a weapon, while there was no reason to suppose that Welch had anything to do with striking the blows from which resulted death. The jury would not, then, make him responsible for what Worsley did, further than the robbery, and it had been thought better not to proceed against him for the graver offence. It must be remembered that these two men were not going towards home - they lived at Luton, and it was said the three were going on a poaching expedition. However, Worsley and Welch robbed the man without doubt, and injuries were inflicted upon him sufficient to cause his death. The jury would find by their statements that they had everything, and the property was afterwards found by witnesses. It would be shown where the things were found, and that they were the things missed from Bradberry. He (the learned serjeant) thought that he had laid the facts clearly before them. Not one blow only was struck, but several. He was very happy that the prisoner would have the assistance of his learned friend, Mr. Metcalfe, who would say all he could on behalf of the defence. This arrangement would relieve the jury of the responsibility and anxiety or exercising any extreme thought on prisoner's behalf. It was very satisfactory to the counsel for the prosecution to have the machine, so to speak, of justice complete, and the jury, as he had said, were thus relieved from much difficulty and responsibility, their minds not being distracted by any other consideration than the facts which would be laid before them on either side.