Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Extensive Evidence of the Credible Corroborators

                      At eight o’clock in the morning of Friday December 2nd 1831, the courtroom doors at the Old Bailey were opened and immediately the crush of spectators filled every available space. At nine o’clock, the Deputy Recorder, Mr Sergeant  Arabin sat at the bench and read the charge that on one count they had murdered one Carlo Ferrari, otherwise Charles Ferriar, and on another count, they had wilfully murdered an unknown male person. 

Newgate - Plan and Elevation

All three pleaded not guilty to the charges and were taken to sit below the dock whilst other cases were heard. At ten o’clock, Chief Justice Tindal, Mr. Justice Littledale, and Mr. Baron Vaughan took their seats at the bench, where they sat with the Lord Mayor and the sheriffs, and His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex (the sixth son of King George III). The Counsel engaged for the prosecution were Messrs. Adolphus, Clarkson, and Bodkin; for the prisoners, Messrs. Curwood and Barry. There were thirty-one witnesses subpoenaed for the prosecution, with twenty-two for the defence; one witness for the defence, a Mr Mortimer, cut his own throat prior to the trial. 

May, Williams and Bishop in the dock

The three prisoners were returned to the dock; John Bishop, 33, was dressed in a frock-smock, looking like an agricultural labourer, Thomas Williams, 26, wore a fustian jacket and a brown neckerchief and was a small, simple-looking man, James May, 30, also wore a fustian jacket with a yellow handkerchief, and was a wiry, athletic man. After the jury had been sworn in, Mr Bodkin addressed them by repeating the charges, and then the first witness, William Hill, porter at King’s College, took the stand. Hill told the court what had occurred on November 5th, when the four men had brought the hamper containing the body to his door. Mr Curwood for the defence, pointed out that only Bishop and May had been present in the dissecting room and that Williams had been in another room. 

Mr Partridge, the anatomy demonstrator, was called next and again described the scene, adding medical details of the injury to the spinal column caused, in his opinion, by a blow, a detail to which Mr Justice Tindall drew the jury’s attention. Other surgeons from King’s were called and gave their professional opinions, all concurring that the blow to the neck had been the cause of death. They were followed by the police officers who had made the arrests at King’s, with Superintendent Thomas telling the court how May had said,
“I have nothing at all to do with it; the subject is that gentleman's (pointing to Bishop.) I merely accompanied him to get the money for it.”
Thomas had asked Williams why he was there, only to be told that he was there to look at King’s College, which he had not seen before.
There followed more witnesses who all added, piece by piece, their fragments to the pitiful tale, from the waiters at the Fortune of War pub, through the London coachmen, porters and watermen, some of them living on the fringes of legality and bordering on the notorious realms of the capital’s Regency underworld.

Carlo Ferrari and his mouse cage

There followed the harrowing testimonies from those who had known the victim. Augustine Brun, an Italian speaking through an interpreter, said he had brought a fourteen-year-old boy, Carlo Ferrier, over from Italy two years previously, who had lived with him for six weeks. The boy's surname differs slightly in the various accounts, from Ferrier, Ferriar and Ferrari to Farrari or Farreri. He had been taken to Covent Garden and shown the body, which he had recognised from the hair and the size, but could not recognize the face as the teeth had been taken out. Another Italian, Joseph Paragelli, who played a barrel organ and the pandean pipes, had known Carlo Ferrier since May 22nd 1830, and had seen him on a daily basis. He had known that he had been in Brun’s service, and had last seen him on Regent Street, when he had a cage with two white mice around his neck. 

Two white mice

When taken to see the body, Paragalli ‘undoubtedly’ identified it as that of Carlo. When shown the hairy cap found by Thomas, he said he could not say for certain that it belonged to Ferrier, but the boy had always worn a cap. Mrs Mary Paragelli (his wife), testified that she knew the boy by sight and had seen him often, the last time being on November 1st, in Oxford Street, when he had a cage, like a squirrel cage that revolves, in which were two white mice, and was wearing his customary cap. 

On November 6th, she had been taken to identify the body, which she instantly recognized. Her eight-year-old son, who was with her, had played with Carlo and he also recognised his friend instantly. Andrew Collier, a bird-cage maker, also knew Ferrier well, had seen and spoken to him on Oxford Street, where he had been with his white mice and a tortoise, and wearing his cap, a blue jacket and grey trousers. He had seen the body at Covent Garden station-house and was certain it was the same person. When shown the clothes found in Bishop’s garden, he said that they were the same clothes that Carlo had been wearing the previous week – he recognised the patch on the leg of the trousers from the poor stitching and a tear in the cap. 

Ten-year-old John King spoke next, he lived less than a minute’s walk from Bishop’s house and on the afternoon before Guy Fawkes Day he had seen a foreign boy with a cage of white mice and wearing a hairy cap with a green lining on its peak standing close to the Bird Cage pub. He had watched him from the window. His eleven-year-old sister, Martha, confirmed this story, adding that she had not seen this boy since. More neighbours were sworn in and all confirmed that an Italian boy with a cage of white mice about his neck had been seen on the Wednesday or Thursday afternoon at or about Nova Scotia Gardens, wearing a cap and shabby clothes.

The position of Nova Scotia Gardens

The next witnesses were the residents of Nova Scotia Gardens and their landlord’s wife, who said Williams, then calling himself Head, had rented number two from her husband for six or seven weeks, but had then moved in to number three with Bishop, who was his father-in-law. William Woodcock, the new tenant of number two, said he had been digging in the garden on the Sunday afternoon once, when Williams had approached him and advised him to dig at a different spot, where he might find lilies. He was awakened during the night of November 5th, when he heard scuffling and men’s voices and someone running past his house. His son had seen Williams sitting in the garden, smoking his pipe.

Edward Ward, a boy of six-and-a-half who also lived at Nova Scotia Gardens said that on Guy Fawkes Day his mother had given him a half-holiday, which he had spent playing with Bishop’s three children. They had shown him a revolving cage and two white mice, and he said he had never seen them with mice or a cage before that day. His brother, John, had been with him and confirmed the story.

 Tomorrow - the verdict

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