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The Round Green Murder Trial - Closing Statements

The report on the trial of William Worsley in the Bedfordshire Mercury of 31st March 1868 describes the closing statements thus:

Serjeant Tozer said he would make a few observations upon the case. There had been no cross-examination upon that part of the evidence which spoke to the absence of strangers from the road upon which the murder took place. And it was an important thing to prove that nobody was seen lurking about. There was one part of the evidence which he was extremely careful in his opening address not to dwell upon - that of the man Welch, when he (the learned serjeant) was not sure he had done his duty in withdrawing from the case. He was only going to use that evidence now as a mode of explaining the circumstances of the case. He would say that Welch had showed himself to be a most abandoned criminal, and he should only ask the gentlemen of the jury to credit his statement so far as it was corroborated by other witnesses. He would recall to their minds what the evidence was. It was remarkable for its cogency. He had showed them by witnesses whose evidence could not be disputed that the unfortunate Bradberry was passing along the road where Worsley and Welch were. The man Kilby and others had been called to prove that, and the jury would have no doubt that the man Kilby heard first go past him was Bradberry, who was followed by the prisoners Worsley and Welch. He had called Scrivener and Lawrence who had passed along the road just before, and they said nobody was upon the road at that time. He had called Read, who said he met nothing upon the road, on his way towards Luton. Therefore he (the learned serjeant) had proved to demonstration that the murder must have been committed by one or both of the men, Worsley and Welch. If the jury were to say that both men were guilty of the crime that would not justify them in saying that Worsley should be discharged. It was impossible to doubt that Worsley had a winch from the house of his sister-in-law, and that it was restored to her afterwards by somebody, for it was found lying upon the floor of the kitchen. He was at her house an hour or two before the crime was committed, he had previously stated his intention of borrowing it, and it was missed after he left the house. In fact, he said himself that he had the winch. He (the learned serjeant) would waive the question of Welch's part in the occurrence, and come to Day, who was an ignorant youth, and did not seem to know much of what had taken place. He had foolishly linked himself with the other men, and it was to be hoped he would not continue in pursuit of the evil practices which he had commenced. But his evidence was entitled to credit, and he said that Worsley had the winch in his possession not long after the murder. It might perhaps be asked - where was the motive? But it was not necessary to show that he armed himself with a weapon for the purpose of committing the crime, it was necessary only to show that, being armed with a weapon, he did commit the murder. If he committed a felony, and in the course of it was led also to commit murder, then he must be answerable for it, and he was a murderer. It was a dictum of law that a man was a murderer if he in pursuit of a felonious object caused death. They were not blows which a man could strike in defending himself from attack, but they were blows dealt by ruffianly hands in order that the unfortunate man could be robbed more effectually; and one of the blows they must remember produced a fracture of the skull. No doubt his learned friend would say a good deal about the winch, borrowed by Welch, but then such injuries as were inflicted upon Bradberry could not have been done by such an instrument. No doubt both Welch and Worsley had a winch that night but the smaller one was of no use to commit a murder with. His Lordship had called a witness, who proved that the winch was too small to inflict such serious injuries. No. They were the result of determined violence, as was shown by the fact that the muscles at the back of the neck were smashed, and the murderer was responsible for what he did. If Worsley were not the guilty man, why did he conceal the winch and take it back secretly? He (the learned serjeant) had a right to say that it was Worsley's hand, and not Welch's, that did the deed. There were other parts of the case which it was necessary for him to comment upon. Welch made a statement to the police concerning the concealment of the clothing belonging to the deceased, and upon that information the things were found. The effect of that was to make it probable that Welch's statement about the murder was a truthful narrative, which, when compared with other evidence, showed what did actually take place. One trifling observation he might make, but he did not intend to make his address long, as it would be a breach of privilege of prosecuting counsel, given by a recent Act, in summing up the evidence, and would be a bad precedent. The observation he wished to make was this. As soon as Worsley heard somebody coming up to the spot where the body laid, he took precautions for his own safety, and shouted to Layton, "Here, I've kicked against a man who is drunk", or something of that sort. That was a strong confirmation that he inflicted the blows. Worsley was the person who found the man, that hid the winch, that shouted out that he had kicked a man, and all through was the principal party in the occurrence. He it was that said, "I should not care a d - about your charge if I got out of Bradberry's job", and this when no charge of murder or robbery had been brought against him. But he knew he was in special danger, and that he was the most likely person to be called on to answer for the crime.

Mr. Metcalfe then rose to address the jury for the defence. He commenced by saying that he hoped to be able to satisfy the jury that the prisoner at the bar neither took a part in the commission of the crime nor was the only actor in it. He should satisfy them that he did not rob the deceased Bradberry, nor assault him in any way. Now, first to clear the way, he would acknowledge that the evidence showed that the unfortunate man was murdered. He ws suddenly found upon the road with the wounds upon his body, and they were not caused by any suspicious strangers in ambush, and therefore he (the learned counsel) would not take up the time of the court in disputing it, but would start by saying that he was killed by violence. The only question that remained for them to consider  was - Did the prisoner commit it? It might be, as Serjeant Tozer had said, either the prisoner, or Welch, or both; and the learned serjeant appeared to be labouring under considerable doubt even now that Welch was not the guilty man. He (the learned counsel) thought the jury would before long come to a clear conclusion that Welch or Day committed the offence. He did not like to implicate any person in the crime, but he could not do otherwise. Welch was evidently a great villain, and there was no doubt in his (the learned counsel's) mind that he was the guilty man. The three men, Welch, Worsley and Day went out of the public-house together; Welch went on in advance - that was clearly established in evidence. Balls said that he saw Worsley and Day together, and it was clear that Welch had gone on first, out of sight of the others. The probability was, believing the evidence of the witnesses, that Day stayed behind to look for his sixpence, and Worsley went on in the direction of where Welch had gone - what distance they did not know. Welch - than whom a greater scoundrel never stood in that dock - said the utmost distance between him and Worsley was two or three yards; but it was in his interest to say so. Welch's present account was, "I passed by a man standing on the left side of the road". It was rather a remarkable thing that nobody but Welch had seen him standing there - so many others having gone by. The first man who saw him was Welch, and it was necessary that the jury should look carefully to such a point. He said, "I had got 50 yards further from the chapel corner, and I passed by a man standing by the left side of the road; I was looking at him to see the way he was going". That was the man who was so ready with his gun barrel to knock down the keeper in the dead of the night! That was the man who had suffered for crime on so many occasions. He had told them about his conflict with the keeper, Revells, whom he had struck with the gun barrel - where? Actually on the same spot where Bradberry had received the fatal blow - on the side of the neck! Was not that very ominous? No doubt coming up from behind - as cowards always did - he dealt the fatal blow with the winch that he had acknowledged was in his possession. Then of course he made a frivolous excuse - that as he was passing by he looked to see which way the man was going. Just think of that excuse. That villain who hit men so readily turned round and said, "I saw Worsley strike him". Did not the jury believe that Welch was the man who struck that blow? - perhaps not with the intention of murdering him ; only the Supreme Being could know that. He had acknowledged being possessed of a winch of which Serjeant Tozer knew nothing, of which he (the learned counsel) knew nothing, of which those who had instructed him knew nothing. Then let them say whether Welch were not the man who did it. He had a winch which was rather smaller than the other; he struck the unfortunate man at the back of the head, down he tumbled and his head fell upon the path. Worsley, in walking along the left side of the road, kicked against the man whom he though to be drunk, and immediately called out. Serjeant Tozer had not given the prisoner the full effect of the fact that he called out, in stating that he did so to clear himself of the crime. He called out as soon as he stumbled over the man, and went and told Day about it, who had not the slightest idea of casting any imputation upon him. He (the learned counsel) submitted to the jury that Welch, after knocking the man down, started off to leave him, when he was called back by Worsley, who had just stumbled over the body. Worsley then went back, and Day told Welch what had been found. When Day first went to the spot, Welch had gone on to conceal the things he had stolen. Welch said that he and Worsley together rifled the pockets; but Welch robbed him without doubt, and very likely kicked him too, for he would not be backward in giving him an extra kicking for the reason that he should tell no tales. He was not afraid of violence - they all knew that; and he had perhaps suffered through his victims being left alive to expose him; so in this instance he killed the man outright to prevent a recurrence of it. Welch was the first who saw the man standing on the spot, and he was the party who knocked him down with a blow on the head with the winch. Serjeant Tozer had said, "Is it not a strong piece of evidence that Worsley hid his winch?" But the jury must remember that Welch also had a winch, and no one knew anything of it until this morning; those by whom he had been instructed were not aware of it and he was quite sure that in a matter of life and death nothing would have been kept from him that was known. He had cheated the police and would have cheated the jury if he (the learned counsel) had not put the question to him. They had heard that the feet of Bradberry were upon the road, and his head towards the path where Worsley was walking; he called out at once to his companions. "Here's a man lying here drunk; come here and see". Serjeant Tozer said the case against Worsley was a clear one, but he would put it to the jury, Was there one tittle of evidence to show that he took part in the murder? Welch alone said so. Would Worsley have left 4s. 6d. in the man's pockets if he had robbed him? No. It was Welch who cut both pockets out and hid the things; and there was no evidence to show that Worsley took any part in it whatever. Welch began confessing about it, and when asked where he got a knife from he said, "I don't know but I think I got it from the dead man". Towards the end of his statement he said as he was laying upon the straw that he got it from the murdered man. Why should Worsley ask anything about the knife? If he had committed the robbery, he would have known all about it. By the advice of Worsley, Welch threw it away. He was then asked where he had put the other things, and Welch told him. Just because Welch told the police where he had put them, everything he stated was fully believed. It was clear that Welch did steal them, and afterwards informed Worsley of it; so that there was the motive for accusing the prisoner at the bar, as it would naturally be supposed that if Welch knew all about the robbery he would also know who did the murder. Of course Worsley said he was not going to suffer for what other people had done; he thought he had been run over. Welch had admitted that he did not say before the coroner anything about his stealing or robbing; but, on the contrary, stated that Worsley nearly fell over the man. The Welch stated that what he stated there was untrue, after damaging statements respecting himself had been made. He knew he would be the first man taken into custody, being the first one who knew anything about the murder, and that was a strong reason why he should reduce Bradberry to the state in which he could be robbed easily, and possibly die - by that violence which he always used against those who opposed him. Why did he not say anything about his winch before to-day? Why did he not say, "I had a small winch with me - here it is"? Why did he not bring forward the man from whom he borrowed it? Serjeant Tozer said Worsley hid his winch - why did he? It was very likely that any man who happened to get into a mess like that would seek to hide it, as it might be suspicious to have it found in his possession. Each of the two men had a winch, and both were concealed. Welch said that Worsley took his winch back to his brother's on the Sunday week, while the brother's wife said it was found in the house on the Monday after the murder, so that proved Welch was unworthy of belief. Mr. Gazeley, of whom Welch said he borrowed a winch, said he knew nothing about it; and, though Mrs. Gazeley was outside the court, she had not been called to say she lent it. The reason why Worsley wanted to borrow his brother's winch was probably that he had a bedstead to unscrew, as a grate winch would sometimes do for that purpose. Was it not a likely circumstance? But Welch asked nobody about lending him a winch: he put it in his pocket without saying a word about it - concealing it in the hedge, concealing it ever since, and which he had tried to conceal from them to-day. He (the learned counsel) was not particularly struck with the activity of the police in finding the winch; if they did not deserve blame, it was a proof of the cleverness of Welch. When Layton and Burgess came up to where the deceased was laying, Welch was not there; he might have gone away for the double purpose of hiding the things and of being absent from the spot when the men came up. Welch at first said Worsley only struck Bradberry once, but when he found the surgeon's evidence did not tally with it he now said he jolted his head on the ground and kicked him. (His Lordship: he made his statement after he surgeon had given evidence).well, he did not know at that time that he should be called as a witness for the prosecution; but now he resolved to put a finishing stroke upon it by giving additional evidence. He (the learned counsel) thought the surgeon did not appear to be quite certain that the smaller instrument would not be more likely to produce the injuries than the larger one.

Mr. Palmer: He said that he smaller winch was more likely to cause them with several blows.

His Lordship looked at his notes, but said he could not find any such statement. He had an impression to the contrary.

Mr. Tomson was questioned by his Lordship upon the point, and he said the injuries could have been inflicted by a smaller instrument, but there must have been a great many blows.

Mr. Metcalfe continued at some length, and argued that it was very wrong of the party to whom the small winch belonged not to have forwarded it to the police, when the life of the wrong man might be taken through keeping it back. They would not expect to find the murderer stick close by his victim, and Worsley had done this - raising him up from the ground, and attending to him; while Welch made off, and had to be called back. There was one little matter he would explain. Bradberry was dragged across the road. Well, it was extremely likely that he was taken to the footpath to be out of danger: it was very probable. The gentlemen of the jury had to decide the broad question - was Welch or Worsley guilty? - they could not get away from it. Whatever they might say about it, Welch was safe, because he was acquitted. But Worsley was anything but safe. He had at once admitted: "I never murdered or robbed him; I had a winch, but I concealed it: I did take it from my sister's house, and I did restore it". They had to decide between the two. They could not possibly damage the character of Welch; his conscience must be left to trouble him, although he (the learned counsel) feared it would but little. But the man at the bar was on his trial, and the very serious nature of the crime demanded special consideration. One of them was guilty, Was it the man who had told the truth all along, or the man who had contradicted his statements continually to screen himself and save his own neck - the man who said he stumbled over Bradberry, and stayed with him, or the man who skulked away to hide the stolen property after he had knocked his victim down. He (the learned counsel) need not ask them to give the matter their careful attention: no gentleman on an enquiry like the present could do otherwise. Into their hands was committed the life or death of the man for whom he pleaded. He was sure they would give it their most anxious consideration, and he prayed that God would direct them to a right conclusion.

Mr. Tomson, recalled by his Lordship, said he should not have known the deceased had been kicked had he not been told.