Imágenes de páginas

he passively watched the approach of the fire to the Temples' rooms without giving them any alarm—without doing any thing to save them from being burnt to death ! That would amount to the guilt of designing not less than three needless murders! That cannot be Surely, it is morally impossible! If it were true, there never was such a fiend in the world. There never was such a case of coldblooded crime, if it could be supposed to be true that he never attempted to alarm the Temples. Then, as to the evidence of Ellis (as to seeing Mr. Wolley and Crozier out late that night), I am sure he was not suborned to swear an untruth. I cannot suppose that for a moment. He swears he saw them; he is contradicted, no doubt, by Mr. Wolley and Crozier (but they are accused parties), and by Mr. James, who swears he said he only saw their backs. This he denies. It is not likely he is telling a wilful untruth; yet, according to Mr. James's evidence, he is telling an untruth. How comes he to do so? I don't know; he may be mistaken. I should say in all human probability he thinks he saw them. And, as Clift says he admitted he was not sober, perhaps he cannot now remember whether he saw their backs or their faces. And if his statement, according to Mr. James, were correct, that he only saw their backs, then most likely he was mistaken in supposing that he saw them at all. There is this remarkable consideration, what had they been doing there? No doubt, if the fact were so, it would show that the evidence of Mr. Wolley and Crozier was false, and therefore, even although we might not be able to divine what they were doing there, the fact would be important, because it would show that their evidence was false. And it is certainly true that men only tell falsehoods because they cannot venture to tell the truth. There is another remarkable piece of evidence with which I cannot deal on the theory of any mistake. I allude to the evidence of the milkman, Woolhouse. He cannot have fancied that he stumbled against a bundle of clothes and took them up. And it is difficult to conceive why he should be swearing to a wilful untruth. He could have no interest in committing perjury in the matter. And if he were really telling the truth, it is a most remarkable circumstance; because, in no innocent way could those clothes have come there. And if you are satisfied that the things were there, it would be a most difficult fact to get over. Though, even then, you would have to take it with all the other circumstances. It is an awful thing to think that you can only disregard it by supposing this man to be wilfully inventing this whole story. You must consider his evidence carefully. He begins by saying that he was the first man there, and that the flames were coming out of the front windows, that he went a few steps into the kitchen, and that he then stumbled over a bundle, and scrambled something up—a pair of drawers and a pair of gentleman's boots, laced at the side. I took up, he says, a pair of linsey drawers and a pair of boots, laced at the side, such as gentlemen wear. The smoke came out, and I threw the boots on the ground. He afterwards said that he could see that the linsey drawers were coloured by the light of the fire.” After having carefully analyzed the evidence, the learned Judge went on—“He does not seem to have given different accounts of the matter in his evidence, unless there is any contradiction in this—that he says his master told him that what he had to say would hurt no one, which his master surely could not have said had he been told what the witness stated here. It is true the things were not found. But it is to be observed that Crozier was standing about, and, beyond all doubt, if the things were there, Crozier would have thrown them into the fire again. It is quite possible that the things may have been brought out and seen by Crozier, or Mr. Wolley, and then thrown back into the fire. The idea that they were covered in the ruins is not feasible. No one else saw the things. He says he was the first person there, but no one saw him, and it may be that he was gone before any one else arrived. But, if he was mistaken in that, then there is more difficulty in accounting for no one else seeing them. If he was there first, then he was wrong in saying he saw the fire in front. If he was right in saying that, then he could not have been the first there. And, if so, then it is less easy to account for other persons not seeing the things. If, however, he is right in saying that he saw them, I repeat it is a most weighty matter. It is not utterly impossible even then that the plaintiff may have rushed downstairs with them in his hands, and dropped them; but he did not suggest that. It is clear that the things were not there overnight, for neither Crozier nor Mr. Temple saw them. If you believe Woolhouse, though it does not necessarily follow, perhaps, that Mr. Wolley is guilty, yet it is a most weighty matter. And, undoubtedly, to disbelieve him, you must suppose that he is committing wilful perjury, without, so far as appears, any motive for doing so. I must again remind you that you must not in a case of this kind take any one matter by itself, but you must take the whole of the case together. It is purely a question for you to decide. The burden of proof is on the defendants; and if they have not satisfied you that the plaintiff wilfully set fire to the house, he is entitled to the verdict; and if they do satisfy you of that, then they must satisfy you that he is guilty of an attempt to commit the murder of three persons.” The jury almost immediately returned a verdict for the plaintiff.



The “Annual Register” for 1862 contained a condensed report of two trials, one a civil action, the other a criminal prosecution,--both arising out of the same extraordinary transactions,—a series of forgeries committed by William Roupell, late M.P. for the borough of Lambeth. The circumstances of the transactions thus laid open to the public view through the courts of justice were as singular, as startling, and as atrocious as any to be found in the annals of fraud; and few trials in modern days have excited a keener interest, or exhibited a more complicated tissue of iniquities. The civil suit, “Roupell and Others r. Waite,” it will be remembered, was tried at Guildford, in August, 1862, the object of the plaintiff, the eldest legitimate brother of the criminal, being to establish the forgery by the latter of his father's will, and also of a deed purporting to have been executed by the father to the same William Roupell. The action, after a protracted investigation, terminated in a compromise, the jury being unable to agree upon a verdict; whereupon a juryman was by consent of both parties withdrawn, the plaintiff and defendant agreeing to divide between them the property which was the subject of the suit. It was stated at the time that other property to a large amount was placed in the same state of jeopardy through the acts of William Roupell, and would probably give occasion to renewed litigation. In the mean time the author of all this mischief—being a principal witness in the action brought by his brother, and having openly charged himself with the commission of various acts of forgery and fraud—was committed for trial, under the direction of the learned judge who tried the suit, and was arraigned at the Central Criminal Court on the 24th of September, 1862, on the charges of forging his father's will and the deed of conveyance above referred to. To these charges he at once pleaded that he was guilty, and received sentence of penal servitude for life. From the place of punishment to which he was then consigned it was his singular fate to be again brought up in the face of day, again to be called upon to proclaim his own infamy, and to unravel the transactions to which no other person was competent to give a clue except the guilty author himself. The action of “Roupell and Another v. Haws and Others” was tried at the Chelmsford Assizes in July, 1863, before Mr. Baron Channell and a Special Jury, and for eight long days engaged the attention of the Court, and filled the columns of the newspapers. To give the evidence of this remarkable trial even in an abridged form would require a space much greater than our limits can afford. The proceedings in detail would demand a volume to themselves. We can attempt no more than to give a brief outline of the history of the suit, and of the principal facts disclosed by the witnesses, concluding with the summing up of the learned judge, in which the leading features of this marvellous tissue of crimes are clearly recapitulated. The action was brought to recover an estate at Great Warley, in Essex, consisting of two farms, the one, “Bury,” in the occupation of Haws; the other, “Bolens,” in the occupation of Springham. The real parties to the action were Richard Roupell, as son and heir, and also as devisee of his father, the late Richard Palmer Roupell, and certain persons, trustees, as was stated, for widows and children, who took a mortgage of the estate in July, 1857, from William IRoupell; and the real defendants were the mortgagees, who were let in to defend as landlords. The plaintiff gave sufficient proof that he was the lawful heir of his father. He also claimed as devisee of this estate under a will of his father made in October, 1850, and confirmed by a codicil of 30th of August, 1856; but of which the only evidence as to its contents was that of William Roupell, who swore that he had destroyed it, but stated from memory the dispositions which it made; and unfortunately the proctors had destroyed the draught when the later will was proved. That will, of the 2nd September, 1856, gave all the estates to the widow, and made her and William Roupell executors. The case for the defendants was founded on a deed of gift to William Roupell from his father, dated 9th January, 1856. The case for the plaintiff was that the deed and the will of 1856 were forgeries of William Roupell. Such being the case on each side, the evidence was in substance this. The main evidence for the plaintiff was of course that of William Roupell, who swore positively that he forged both deed and will. A great deal of evidence, however, was given on the part of the plaintiff, with a view to confirm his testimony; and on the other hand it was sought to contradict him, not by direct cross-examination of himself (for the counsel for the defendants treated him as unworthy of credit, and declined to cross-examine him), but by cross-examination of other witnesses for the plaintiff, and also by the evidence of some witnesses for the defendants. The most important witnesses, after William Roupell, were the two attesting witnesses to the deed of gift, Truman and Dove, and the two tenants, Haws and Springham. All these were called for the plaintiff, and the two former were subjected to a very severe and protracted cross-examination by the counsel for the defendants. To understand the nature of their testimony it is necessary to observe what the deed was, and how it purported to have been executed. It was a deed of grant or gift, which, as the learned judge observed, did not require to be executed by the grantee or donee, William Roupell, but only by the grantor or donor, R. P. Roupell; and again, it did not require that his signature should be attested, but only that he should sign and deliver it to the donee, William Roupell, or some one on his behalf taking it for him. Neither was it required, as in the case of a will, that the donor's execution should have been attested by two witnesses, but only that it should be signed, sealed, and delivered by the donor. The circumstances under which it was prepared and executed were stated by William Roupell, and his was the only direct evidence about it. In January, 1856, he stated that he was in great difficulties, owing Mr. Whitaker, who acted as his attorney, 12,000l., and being also largely indebted to his bankers. The nature of the transactions out of which this indebtedness arose were not entered into, though various facts were casually elicited on the subject. For example, it came out in his examination that he had borrowed 40,000l. from the Guardian Assurance Society on mortgage, and that he had been convicted of forgery. It further appeared that he had caused to be prepared at Mr. Whitaker's office a great number of deeds; and that Whitaker, to whom he had been introduced by Watts (a brother-in-law of Mrs. Roupell), had raised money for him. It also appeared, from the evidence of Truman, that in 1855 he had been in the confidence of his father, and was engaged in managing for him a great estate called the Roupell-park estate; which was laid out for building, and at which he engaged Truman to assist in managing a brickmaking business, at a salary of 300l. a year. Further he let fall a remarkable allusion to rent, which his father believed the Unity Banking Company “were paying for the Roupell-park property.” Further, it appeared that in June, 1855, his father had transferred to him the copyhold part of one of these farms—Bolens; though it was said that it was for the purpose of enfranchisement, or conversion of it into freehold; and in September, 1855, he was admitted owner; and in July, 1856 (after this deed), he enfranchised it, and became the owner in freehold of forty acres of that farm. The farm, however, was let by his father on one lease at one entire rent; and his father continued to receive the rents of both farms, and had the counterparts of the leases in his box along with the title-deeds. On the 3rd of January, 1856, he obtained from his father the leases and title-deeds, telling him, as he said, that it was necessary for the purpose of enfranchisement that he should have the deeds as to Bolens, and giving his father a receipt, which ran thus:—

“Received of R. P. Roupell the papers and deeds relating to the Havering property called Bolens.”

(“Havering" was his mistake for “Warley,” which the old man had corrected.) But he undoubtedly obtained the title-deeds of the entire estate and the counterparts of the leases of both farms. Between the 3rd and the 8th of January he got copies of the counterpart leases, altered them so as to make them draughts of leases by himself, at rentals nearly doubled—had them signed—sent the fair copies and the title-deeds (retaining the real counterpart leases) to Whitaker, his attorney, with instructions to prepare leases according to the draughts, and likewise to prepare a deed of grant to himself of the estate; handing him, as he said, on the 8th of January a letter, which ran thus, and purported to be signed by his father:

“Aspen House, Brixton-hill, Jan. 8, 1856.

“Dear Sir, My son has mentioned to me that it is considered desirable for conveyances from one member of the family to another to be drawn up by disinterested witnesses, and therefore I beg that you will attend to this matter for us, and prepare the conveyance to my son of the two farms at Havering-atteBower, in Essex, called Bolens and Herds. The forms of leases I have already given to him. “I am, dear Sir, yours truly, . “Thomas Whitaker, Esq.” - - “R. P. Rou PELL.

This letter he and Sarah Roupell (the sister) swore was in her handwriting, and had been copied by her, as he said, from a draught by her, or written by her, as she said, from his dictation. She did not remember, she said, whether she had shown it to or mentioned it to her father. She was not asked if it was signed by her father. But William Roupell swore that it was not, and that he wrote his father's name to it, and gave it to Whitaker. His evidence as to this was that his father knew nothing about it. The signature was, he said, like his father's. He gave the letter to Whitaker as the authority from his father for preparing the deed of conveyance to himself and the new leases to the tenants; and he told them that his father desired that he should execute leases to the tenants at the time he took a conveyance from his father. He further stated that both before and after the deed of conveyance was executed to him he told Whitaker to raise money upon it, as much as he could get. Mr. Whitaker, he said, prepared the deed of gift upon that letter. Having got it from Whitaker he took it away, he said, to get it executed, and then at Aspen House forged his father's signature to it. He said Mr. Whitaker gave it to him when engrossed, and before it was executed. It was given to him to get it executed, and he signed his father's name to the deed. The witness went on to say that he forged the signature to the deed at the end of February or beginning of March, 1856. It was dated the 9th of January. He put the signature to it after the date it bore. It was not, he said, stamped at the time. He forged his father's signature. But upon this the stamps were examined, and the date of one was the 18th of December, 1855, and of the other the 9th of January, 1856. He was not certain whether the stamps were on when he executed the forgery. The names of the two witnesses were Truman and Dove, and the signatures were really theirs, which he had obtained by asking them to attest his signature to a lease. He signed the deed in their presence, and turned the deed round, placing his hand upon the attestation clause while they signed. Upon the face of the deed their signatures appeared as attesting the father's signature. William Roupell explained this by saying he had covered the attestation clause. There was the signature of Mr. Whitaker, also, as a witness to the deed, attesting William Roupell's signature, and William Roupell said that was added soon afterwards. The execution by the donor purported to be attested by two witnesses, Truman and Dove, who, however, not only did not swear they saw him sign, but positively swore that they did not, and the main effort in cross-examination was to bring them into contradiction of William Roupell as to the manner in which he stated that he got them to attest, and to expose them to contradiction by a Mr. Covington, an attorney, who had seen them on the subject on the part of the defendants. The account which William Roupell gave was that he signed the deed, put blotting-paper over the attestation clause of his signature as donee, and got them to attest what they thought his signature, but what was, in fact, a signature he had forged for his father's. The deed itself had first the clause of execution by the donor, “signed, sealed, and delivered by the within-named R. P. Roupell, in the presence of" the witnesses Truman and Dove, whose signatures are beneath, the “h” of John running up into the “e" of Roupell. Then there was the

« AnteriorContinuar »