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Our Library => J. S. Fletcher - Murder in Four Degrees (1931) => Topic started by: Admin on August 23, 2023, 09:17:19 am

Title: 4 - 2
Post by: Admin on August 23, 2023, 09:17:19 am
4 - 2

THE evidence of the police-surgeon was highly important, because of the fact just mentioned: that he had been called in on discovery of the murder of Mrs. Clayton, or Crowther. He testified that the injuries which resulted in almost instantaneous death in the case of Mrs. Clayton were precisely similar to those inflicted on Mrs. Goodge and Mr. Mehta. In this view he was supported by the other medical men who had seen Mrs. Clayton’s dead body and also those of the last victims. And in addition to that came the evidence of the doctors who had been summoned to Cheverdale Lodge to see Hannington’s dead body: the police had fetched them to Little Custom Street to examine the bodies of the caretaker and the Hindu student: they upheld the opinion of their fellow practitioners. There was no doubt, it appeared, that in all four cases the injuries resulting in death were absolutely similar. One of the medical witnesses went so far as to say that in his opinion any one of the blows was of a sufficient force to cause practically instantaneous death.

The next stage of these proceedings was concerned with the result of such enquiries as the police had been able to make up to the time of the opening of the inquest. The police had two or three important witnesses, and these were questioned by Mr. Tankersley.

Albert John Stead, a young man of twenty-eight, said he lived at Bayton Street, Camden Town, and was employed as a barman at the Marquis of Manby tavern, at the corner of Little Custom Street and White Horse Street. He had been employed there, in that capacity, for nearly four years.

‘Did you know the dead woman, Mrs. Goodge?’ asked Mr. Tankersley.

‘Yes, sir, quite well.’

‘How did you come to know her?’

‘As a customer, sir.’

‘Regular customer?’

‘She’d be in five nights out of the seven, sir.’

‘What did she come for?’

‘Always the same thing, sir---regular. Drop of gin to drink there, and a half-quartern to take home with her.’

‘Did she confine herself to the drop you speak of?---I mean while she was in your bar?’

‘Never knew her to have another, sir! Just the usual fourpen’worth, and the half-quartern in her little bottle. Always the same, sir.’

‘Not what you’d call a drinking woman? Didn’t come in every now and then during the day?’

‘Never came in during the day, sir. Came regular as clock-work at night.’

‘Same time every night?’

‘Just about, sir.’

‘What time would that be?’

‘A bit before closing time, sir---eleven o’clock.’

‘Did she come in---in the usual way---last Thursday night?’

‘She did, sir.’

‘You’re certain of the night?’

‘I am, sir.’

‘Any reason for being certain?’

‘Several reasons, sir. For one thing, I heard of the murders first thing next morning, and that was Friday: for another, Thursday was the night of the snowstorm: everybody who came into our bar that night was covered with snow.’

‘Mrs. Goodge, too?’

‘Pretty well powdered, sir---but she hadn’t to come far.’

‘Well---I suppose she had her usual drop, eh? Anything else?’

‘Nothing except the half-quartern in the bottle, sir.’

‘But something happened that attracted your attention, I believe?’

‘Well, there was something I noticed, sir, nothing much. A gentleman came in to our saloon bar---that’s at the end of the counter, opposite to where Mrs. Goodge was standing. I just happened, after serving him, to see Mrs. Goodge staring at him, and I heard her mutter something to herself.’

‘What did she mutter?’

‘She said, as near as I can recollect, sir, “I’ll lay anything it is!” ’

‘I’ll repeat that. “I’ll lay anything it is!” Was that it?’

‘It was either “lay” or “bet” sir. I’m not sure which word. The rest of it’s right.’

‘She was looking at the gentleman in the saloon bar when she said this?’

‘Yes, sir. Straight at him.’

‘As if she knew him?’

‘She was looking very hard at him, sir.’

‘Well, now, Stead, here is a plan of your premises: the ground-floor. Just show us exactly where Mrs. Goodge stood and where the gentleman you speak of stood. Your ground floor is divided into three parts, I see---a saloon bar at one end; a public bar at the other; a bottle-and-jug department in the centre. The counter of the public bar, I also see, faces the counter of the saloon bar. Now which bar was Mrs. Goodge in?’

‘Public bar, sir.’

‘Show us where she stood.’

‘Just there, sir.’

‘And the gentleman?’

‘He stood there, sir---in the saloon bar.’

‘So she was directly facing him, with nothing but the space inside the counter---set down here as fifteen-and a-half feet---separating them?’

‘That’s right, sir.’

‘Who was inside that space?’

‘Just then, only myself, sir.’

‘Well, this gentleman who came in: did you know him?’

‘No, sir.’

‘Absolute stranger?’

‘To me, sir.’

‘You can’t remember having ever seen him before?’

‘No, sir. Sure on that point. Not known to me at all, sir.’

‘Can you describe him?’

‘Not particularly, sir. I didn’t take any great notice of him. I thought he was somebody who happened to be passing and wanted a drink before closing-time.’

‘What drink did he have?’

‘Double whisky, sir.’

‘Did he stay long?’

‘Scarcely a minute, sir. Drank it straight off and went.’

‘Still, you saw him, and saw Mrs. Goodge staring at him as if she knew him. Can’t you give us some idea of his appearance?’

‘Only that he was a man of about middle height, sir. Struck me as a foreigner. He was wearing a black overcoat, black hat---one of those big slouch hats like foreigners wear---and was very much muffled up about his neck and face. I can’t remember his face at all. I thought he looked like a musician---or an actor, or something of that sort.’

‘Well, but you heard him speak. Did he speak like a foreigner?’

‘He only said two words, sir. Double Scotch. I can’t remember that he spoke like a foreigner.’

‘Well, you say he drank off his whisky and went out. What did Mrs. Goodge do?’

‘Nipped out of the place, sir, quick!’

‘As if to follow him?’

‘I thought so, sir.’

‘Did you see anything more of them, either of them, after that?’

‘No, sir, nothing---of either.’

‘You felt sure that Mrs. Goodge hurried out to speak to or follow the man?’

‘Yes, sir---for a simple reason. She forgot her bottle---into which I’d put the half-quartern of gin.’

‘Left it on the counter?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Did she come back for it?’

‘No, sir. I put it aside. It’s there now---where I put it, sir.’

No further questions were put to Stead, and his place in the witness-box was presently taken by an elderly man named Frederick Tapster, who said he was a day labourer in the employ of the Holbern Borough Council and lived in Stafford’s Mews, back of Oxford Street. Mr. Tankersley questioned him.

‘Were you standing just outside the Marquis of Manby a little before eleven o’clock last Thursday night?’ he asked.

‘I was, guv’nor!’ replied Tapster.

‘What were you doing there?’

‘Waiting for a pal o’ mine to come out. I was wanting to go home, like, and he was stopping inside, arguing with another chap. I thought if I went, he’d follow, see?’

‘And he didn’t?’

‘Not immediate he didn’t. I waited for him.’

‘Did you see a man in black clothes, with a big white muffler round his neck and face, come along and turn into the Marquis of Manby?’

‘I did! Leastways, I see him turn into the Marquis. I didn’t see where he come from. When I see him he was just a-letting down of his umbrella and turning into the saloon bar.’

‘Did you get any view of his face?’

‘Not particular, guv’nor. Muffled up to his eyes he was, with a big white choker or handkercher.’

‘Did you see him come out again?’

‘I did. Not three minutes afterwards. Come out and put up his umbrella again.’

‘And then? What did he do?’

‘Do? Sets off across the street---that’s what he done.’

‘Well, now, did anything happen then?’

‘Yes, guv’nor. A woman come out o’ the Marquis---t’other bar entrance---looked round her, caught sight o’ this here bloke in the black clothes, and made after him. She collared him by the arm just as he got t’other side o’ the street.’

‘Seized him, eh?’

‘She got him right enough, guv’nor.’

‘What did he do?’

‘ ’S far as I could see, guv’nor, he just turned and looked at her. She said something, and they walked round the corner.’

‘Which corner? Into which street?’

‘Can’t say, guv’nor. I ain’t familiar with that part. I’d on’y gone there with that pal o’ mine, as lives thereabouts.’

‘Look at this plan, then, Tapster. You were standing there. Now, there are two corners those people could have gone round. Which was the one---left corner or right corner?’

‘That there corner, guv’nor---to the left.’

‘That’s into Little Custom Street. That was the last you saw of them?’

‘The very last, guv’nor. My pal, he come out just then, and we went off. When I hears about this here murder I sees the police about what I saw.’

‘And you say the man didn’t do anything particular when the woman seized his arm?---didn’t shake her off or anything?’

‘I see nothing partik’lar, guv’nor. He just turned and looked at her, quiet, like. Then she says something---I dunno what, of course---and they walks off, peaceful, round the corner.’

‘Do you think you’d be able to identify that man if you saw him again, Tapster?’

‘Can’t say as to that, guv’nor. I never see his dial---not to get a clear look at it---he was that wrapped up about his neck and chin. Might rekernize his gen’ral appearances, guv’nor.’

Tapster stood down, and another witness appeared in the person of Mrs. Callaway, a middle-aged woman who stated in answer to Mr. Tankersley that she lived at Number 19, Little Custom Street, a few doors away from the house of which Mrs. Goodge was caretaker.

‘Did you know the late Mrs. Goodge, Mrs. Callaway?’

‘Very well indeed by sight, sir---not so well otherwise, though I have spoken to her time and again.’

‘You knew her intimately enough not to be mistaken when you did see her?’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t be mistaken in seeing Mrs. Goodge, sir. I’d been familiar with Mrs. Goodge’s personal appearance for many years. And see her pretty nearly every day, sir, in the shops and elsewhere.’

‘Ever see her in the Marquis of Manby?’

‘Indeed not, sir, never entering such myself!’

‘Well, where did you see Mrs. Goodge last, now?’

‘Last Thursday night, sir, when it was snowing so hard.’

‘Where did you see her?’

‘Coming along the street, sir---Little Custom Street---from the direction of the establishment you’ve just mentioned.’

‘What time was that, Mrs. Callaway?’

‘Just about eleven o’clock, sir---when they closes the publics.’

‘Where were you?’

‘Like Mrs. Goodge, sir, I’m caretaker of the place I live in---flats, sir. My orders are to close our street-door at eleven o’clock every night, and I keeps to orders, strict. I was just about to close the door, and looks out before I done so, and I see Mrs. Goodge, coming down the street.’

‘You could see her---at that time of night---and it snowing?’

‘Which there’s a very good lamp, sir, right opposite our door, and its light fell full on Mrs. Goodge---that’s how, sir.’

‘I see! Was Mrs. Goodge alone?’

‘No, sir: There was a man with her.’

‘Did you see his face?’

‘No, sir. Which he was looking down at the pavement. He was all in black, sir---with one of them big hats what musicians fancies. Looked to me, sir, like one of them fellows which you see going about carrying fiddles in cases.’

‘Did you see where they went---Mrs. Goodge and this man?’

‘I did not, sir. I come in, and closed our door. ‘Twasn’t no concern of mine, sir.’

‘Had you ever seen Mrs. Goodge and the man together before?’

‘Not as I’m aware of, sir.’

‘Very well, Mrs. Callaway, just one more question. When you saw them, in which direction were these two walking in Little Custom Street? East or west?’

Mrs. Callaway looked a little puzzled.

‘They was walking, sir, towards Minerva House---where Mrs. Goodge lived.’