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The Round Green Murder Trial - Judges Summing Up

The former Royal Oak Round Green June 2010
The former Royal Oak Round Green June 2010

The Bedfordshire Mercury of 31st March 1868 described the judge's summing up in the trial for murder of William Worsley thus:

The learned Baron proceeded to sum up the case to the jury. He told them that the prisoner was charged before them with wilful murder of the deceased man, who no doubt met his death by violence. They might either find him not guilty at all, or guilty of manslaughter, or of murder. It depended upon the discretion of the jury, after a careful consideration of the facts laid before them. If they thought the prisoner were guilty of murder, they must say so; if they were of the opinion that the offence was one of manslaughter, they must say so; if not guilty at all, then acquit him. It was for the prosecution to make out a man's guilt, and not for the man to prove his innocence: there must be no doubt about it. He did not say they could be as absolutely certain as if they had seen the occurrence with their own eyes, and yet even the eye might be deceived. He meant that they must have a conscientious conviction that the man was guilty. They had to consider first what crime was done; and next, who did it. The counsel on both sides had laid all the facts before them, and it was his duty to address them impartially upon those facts. He was bound to show them what was murder and what was manslaughter. If a person took away life intentionally, no matter what means were used, it was murder, provided it was in the pursuit of a lawful object. In the case of a man who met with a gamekeeper while poaching, and shot him, it would not do for the offender to go free of murder, though not intending it. If a person caused another's death merely by blows from his fist he would not be so responsible for the results. In considering a charge of murder it would be necessary to look at the means used. The unfortunate man met his death by violence, as he could not have done it himself, as everything was taken from him. Worsley and Welch were not shown to have anything against him, nor seem to have made any preparations for committing the crime: therefore he should infer that there was no intention to take life, but to disable him as the best way of getting his property from him. But a man was guilty of murder if he caused death, although not intending it, in the pursuit of unlawful purpose. They had heard what Mr. Tomson said about the winch and the injuries he discovered upon the body of the deceased. It was impossible that those wounds and the mass of blood, and the smashed muscles looking like currant jelly, could be produced by any other means than by a violent blow. In considering whether the crime was one of murder or manslaughter they must consider what force was used; and if they thought that the offender, although not intending to produce death, took means to bring it about, they must call it murder. If they thought sufficient force had not been used, they must find for manslaughter. He was not saying one word on one side or the other; it might be they would say it was murder, and they might say on the other hand it was only manslaughter. So much for the crime. Was it brought home to the prisoner? The learned counsel on both sides had said that Worsley and Welch, or one of them, were guilty of murder. The jury must not act upon any assumption, but upon the evidence, and there was a strong body of evidence to show that one or both of them were guilty of this man's death. He was shown to have left the public-house at 25 minutes to twelve, which was about three-quarters of a mile from the spot, and as Welch and Worsley left the Royal Oak at five minutes to 12, a distance of about 150 yards from the spot, they would overtake Bradberry about that time. By the statements of Lawrence, Scrivener, Howe and Read, there was cogent evidence to show that nobody but Worsley and Welch were upon the road, with the deceased. Kilby said he heard someone pass by him, and then Worsley and Welch followed, in a few minutes after which he heard a scuffle. That was very strong and important evidence. Unless the jury were satisfied that the two men were upon the spot at that time the case was a weak one. Supposing they thought that one or both of them committed the crime, he wished to make a remark to them. If two people went out having designed to do any particular act, they were both responsible for it, no matter what followed or what means were used. If two men went to rob a house, and one went inside while the other remained outside, they were equally guilty. If two men went out poaching, and one of them gave a fatal blow, they were both guilty. There was here no evidence to show that Worsley and Welch had gone out together for the purpose of murder; if they had, he should have thought they would have had a better weapon. If he did not see any previous concert, he should himself hesitate to convict both men - he should be loth to make both liable for what one of them did. They were not proved to have been provided with any weapon except the gratewinch which was proved to be in the possession of the prisoner. The jury must bear that in mind. The winch was a formidable weapon and, having a good swing with it, it was capable of inflicting severe blows. Mr. Tomson had replied to his questions very cautiously, and he said it would take a great many blows from the smaller winch to cause the injuries found upon the body. They must consider the probability as well as the possibility of the matter - not what could have been done, but what was likely to have been done. They knew Worsley had the grate winch, which was capable of doing the mischief, and he hid it, and they had no other weapon but the small bed winch, which, except by a bare possibility, was not capable of inflicting the injuries. The man Welch was a very untrustworthy witness. He had been repeatedly convicted for offences under the game laws, and they must only trust him so far as he was corroborated by other testimony. He had been examined and cross-examined, but his evidence had not, as was often the case with such witnesses, crumbled to pieces under cross-examination; and if he had adhered to his story and they thought it bore the stamp of truth, they must take it for what it was worth. He had told two untruths certainly. He said that Worsley did not return his winch to his sister-in-law until the Sunday week, whereas she herself stated that she saw it on Monday, the 5th of August. Well, it did not answer his purpose in any way, and it might therefore be a mistake on his part. Then he had also told them about Worsley hitting the deceased's head upon the ground, which was an additional statement to that made before the Coroner, and threw some difficulty into the case. He also said that Worsley kicked the deceased man, but it appeared that there were no marks found to support the statement. They had to consider this. Here was a man confessing himself to be guilty of violence, robbery, and perjury, and that he left this bleeding corpse lying in the road and started forward. The court had had the great advantage of hearing and speaking to him, and the jury must consider whether they could place reliance in what he said. There was some importance in the statements made by the men. Worsley denied all knowledge of the crime, but Welch criminated himself respecting the robbery, and justice would be satisfied no doubt in his case. Many had been known to confess to part of the crime: it was not an uncommon occurrence. Worsley said, "I never struck him nor robbed him, nor knew he was robbed. I didn't know that till next morning". Welch said he had hid some of the things near an ash tree. One day since then, Worsley said "You did not knock him down, did you, Levi?" Welch said, "I did not, so help me God". Worley said he never saw Welch strike or rob the man. Now it was certain that the murder and robbery must have taken some time, and the men must have been pretty close together. From the corner where the chapel stood to the spot where the man was lying is only about 75 yards. Welch went on first, - but they could not be far apart, as Welch's voice was recognised by Day, who was the furthest off. Could all this be done and Worsley know nothing of it? He did not loiter about the road near Day: that was contrary to the evidence and to the prisoner's statement. The prisoner had made a singular remark, but Serjeant Tozer did not rely upon it as of much importance. When charged with some poaching offence, he remarked that he did not care about having two months for that , if he could get over old Bradberry's job: that was before he went before the coroner as a witness. Why need he have said anything? On the other hand, it might be said that the matter had been freely talked about, and he thought it was likely a charge might be brought against him. If the jury thought that of any value, they could add it to the other parts of the evidence. They must not say "This bit won't do" and "That bit won't do", but it was their duty to put them all together before they could arrive at any conclusion, and there would be a mass of important evidence. They must look at the crime committed. If they thought it was a justifiable homicide, they must say it was manslaughter; if not, they must say it was murder: he didn't invite either from them. After that they had to consider whether it was Worsley or Welch who committed it. He would repeat that the evidence was very cogent against one or both of them, but they must not say in their own minds that both were guilty unless they saw proof of joint action. If not they must decide between the two men - remembering that Worsley was in the possession of the winch, that he hid it beyond all doubt, that he made the statement about Bradberry's job, and that upon his oath he said he knew nothing about the murder or the robbery. This matter was in the hands of the jury, and they must consider whether they could say, as honest men, that the prisoner at the bar was guilty of the crime. It now rested with them; they would be good enough to consider their verdict.

The jury commenced their consultation at 3.45.

His Lordship said: Gentlemen, it is a case of some gravity. Would you like to retire to consider your verdict?

The jury at once left the box and were conducted to their private room in charge of the bailiff.