Liverpool Mercury
Friday, 1 August, 1890

The New Brighton Tragedy

Trial At Chester Assizes

Yesterday, at the Chester Assizes, before Mr. Justice Stephen, who presided in the Crown Court, Felix Spicer, rigger, 60 years of age, was brought up charged with having, at Liscard, on the 25th May, 1890. feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, killed and murdered William Spicer; further, with having, at Liscard , on the 25th May, 1890, killed and murdered Henry Spicer; and further, with having, at Liscard, on the 25th May, 1890, attempted to kill and murder Mary Ann Palin.

Mr D.L.V Colt Williams and Mr Malcolm Douglas prosecuted; and Mr Edmund Burke Wood, at the request of his lordship, defended the prisoner.

In his opening statement, Mr Colt Williams said that as the prisoner was arraigned before them on the serious charge of wilful murder he felt sure he might ask the most careful attention of the jury. He needed not to point out that the charge was a grave one, the most grave charge which could be found against any person, but what made it even worse than such cases sometimes were was that the prisoner was charged with murdering his two sons. He (learned counsel) would have to occupy their attention for some time in giving a short account of the family life of the prisoner implicated before going on to the facts of the case upon which the prosecution relied. There was no direct evidence, everything being circumstantial, and it would be his duty, aided by his friend, Mr Douglas, to connect the prisoner step by step with the murder. However averse they must be to find a father guilty of murdering his own child he believed that if the jury considered the case proved they would say so in their verdict. The prisoner was a man about 60 years of age, a seafaring man, be being described as a rigger, and having also gone to sea as a cook. He had lived at New Brighton for about 17 years, and there had lived with him, a woman named Mary Ann Palin, who had always been looked upon as his wife, but who had never really been married to him. They had seven children, the eldest boy, who was about 14, being away at the time of the murder; William, whom prisoner was charged with killing, two little girls, one aged eight and the other six; the little boy Henry, who was also murdered; and a little baby. One of the seven children died some years ago. Prisoner and Palin kept a refreshment room at 3, Bickley Parade, and some time ago, owing to prisoner pecuniary difficulties the tenancy was transferred to Palin at the prisoner's request, but before Easter this year he seemed to be put out about the arrangement. He went to the rooms and kicked up a disturbance, till Palin called in a constable, showed him the agreement, and had the prisoner warned not to interfere with the management. The rooms consisted of a one-storeyed place containing a restaurant and a kitchen. The house in Richmond Street was an ordinary one, containing a kitchen and bedroom, in which the children and servant slept.

Shortly after Easter week there seemed to have been some quarrel between the prisoner and Palin, as he went to the refreshment rooms during the absence of Mrs Palin in Liverpool, who had gone there to see a Mr Wright. Some money was taken during the absence of Palin, and when she returned words seemed to have taken place with regard to the taking of the money. Palin made use of words to the effect that one was enough to take the money, and then practically told him that he had no business in the place. That appeared to have made the prisoner very uncomfortable, and subsequently he wrote al letter to Mr Wright, agent of the landlord, telling him that Palin was not his wife. Correspondence ensued, in which Palin refused to sleep any longer at Richmond Street, and had her bed taken to the Restaurant, where she afterwards slept. The tenour of the correspondence was that prisoner wished her to return, but she replied upbraiding him for betraying her by saying she was no longer his wife, and for having disgraced her. The letter also mentioned about his promise to marry her before the first child was born. There was, undoubtedly, a desire on the part of the prisoner that they should make up the quarrel, but Palin, feeling that she had been so much injured by the prisoner telling Mr Wright that she was not his wife never went back, but continued to sleep at each night at the rooms. The children repeatedly went to the rooms, but returned to Richmond Street to sleep. Mrs Palin conducted the business of the restaurant, but on Saturday, the 24th, prisoner, suggested he should be allowed to help in the business which would be transacted in the course of the coming Whit Week. Palin sent a message to him saying that she did not require that assistance, and that she would not have him near the rooms. As there was an intimation made that four lodgers were going to Richmond Street, Palin said the children must not be disturbed as to their sleeping accommodation. Why the prisoner wanted all the children to sleep together the learned counsel did not know, and why he should have said that four lodgers were coming when they never did come was a matter of conjecture. As a matter of fact, there was an empty room in the house that night, and yet when a lodger came he was told there was no room to spare. It might be suggested that the stranger who stopped at the house of the neighbour, Mrs Myers, that night, and who had never been found, might by some chance have gone back into Richmond Street and murdered these children, but he (learned counsel) should show that that was perfectly impossible, for Mrs Myers would tell them distinctly that she heard this lodger go to bed, and after he had gone to bed there were two locks upon the door which she herself locked, and that it would be impossible for any one to go in or out without her knowing it. The prisoner never went to bed that night and he said that he was going to stop up in order to wait for this hypothetical lodger who never came. The person who saw him last that night was Mrs Fraser, with whom he had at first some words because she arrived from the prosecutrix's shop so late, but who afterwards at his request rubbed his back, as he complained of rheumatism. She would tell the jury that during the night at about daybreak she heard a cry coming from the little boy Harry, followed by a shuffling noise, as if somebody was going about in slippers. She did not pay much attention, because she knew that the prisoner was in the habit of going to the bedroom of the children and soothing them if they were disturbed. Again the little girl Gertrude, who was sleeping in another room, heard her little brother Harry cry out. She opened the door, and asked what was the matter, whereupon a voice which she supposed to be that of her father, said "go to sleep". The child cried out again, and she then heard the same voice exclaim, "shut up". A lamplighter who was passing heard the pitiful cry of the child proceeding from the house of the prisoner, and he heard a noise as of a man shuffling along the passage. The evidence would show that the accused was in the habit of wearing sandshoes down at the heels, and therefore if he was walking about he would so in a shuffling manner. Mrs Fraser heard someone go out, and shut the scullery door after him, and again she heard the same shuffling noise, as of some one going swiftly up the stairs then down again. It was suggested it was the prisoner. He had gone out of the house after having murdered these children, and having gone down to Bickley Parade, he came back through that scullery door, on the handles of which there were blood stains. It was also suggested that previous to the arrival of the police he drew down the blind in the kitchen.

The theory of the prosecution with regard to what took place after this was that having cut the throats of the children he went into the backyard and took from it a piece of wood which he had been shaping a handle to a day or two previously, and with that went down to the rooms and smashed the windows. Palin would say that she awakened by the hearing of a smash of glass. She then saw the prisoner putting his hand through the window and feeling for the key in the door. He must tell them, however, that prisoner had previously asked from Mrs Fraser how entrance was gained in the morning to the rooms where Palin slept, and Fraser told him that she went down in the mornings and Palin opened the door for her. On the window which prisoner put his hand through and where Palin saw him feeling for the latch there were found smears of blood, and this was material, because when examined immediately after his arrest prisoner's hands were perfectly free from all cuts and scratches. Counsel went on to speak of the assault on Palin, but said but he said he would not specify the particulars of that, as it was not before them, but he must tell them that Mrs Palin jumped out of the window into the street, and there Spicer attacked her. He had got her on the ground, he took a knife from his coat pocket, and the analyst would tell them that the pocket had bloodstains on it, thus bearing out the theory of the prosecution that there must of been blood on the knife before the attack on Palin. The knife he used was one which Palin had seen him handle previously, and he had told her that it would "cut the throats of all New Brighton". After the assault the prisoner went back into the rooms, and one of the witnesses would prove that while he was in there was the sound of running water. There was a lavatory in the rooms, and soon after prisoner's arrest it was noticed by the wash marks on the prisoner's hands and wrists that he had recently washed his hands.

After leaving his wife he went up to Richmond Street, where he was soon followed and arrested by the police for the assault on his wife. After his arrest one of the constables went up to the bedrooms, and in one of them found the two children with their throats cut, and their heads almost severed from their bodies. The learned counsel went on to describe the position in which the children were found, and of a pool of blood on the bed in which some one had evidently been kneeling. There was found on his knee immediately after his arrest wet blood marks, the knee of his trousers being soaked in blood. One of the little boys was lying where he had been sleeping and was dead. That would be shortly after four o'clock and the doctor was of the opinion that the two children had been dead about an hour, and that would coincide with what the prosecution said, that the prisoner, having murdered these children, went down to Bickley Parade. One of the witnesses would state that he remarked that Spicer had murdered his children. Spicer immediately replied "I know nothing at all about it". But he made no secret of the fact that he had made the attack on Palin. When at the Police Station, and charged with the murder, he denied having interfered with the children. There were also marks of blood on the prisoner's coat and shirt sleeves, and from that it would appear he was in his shirt sleeves before he left the house, and afterwards put on his coat. At the request of Spicer the lodger named Short went to see him at Walton Gaol, where he had related a story of what had taken place. He again denied murdering the children, confessed to attacking Palin, and said "I used my clasp knife to her". The prosecution would show that was untrue, because that knife was found upon the prisoner, and that there was no marks of blood on it. That was not the knife that Spicer had murdered the children with, and with which he attacked Palin, but the proper knife that had been used was discovered hidden in the flue of the kitchen range at Bickley Parade. Prisoner admitted having remained in the kitchen up to three o'clock in the morning, his excuse being that he was waiting for a lodger, who never came. Therefore, the only man about the house when the murder was committed was the prisoner. On the 23rd, or the day before the murder was committed, the prisoner was heard by his next door neighbour walking up and down the yard, and he was heard to exclaim in an angry voice, "they shall see they shall not have it all their own way". On the same evening someone was heard sharpening the knife upon the windowsill of the back window of Richmond House. The following morning there were marks upon the sill, and the knife, which would be produced, would show signs of having been recently sharpened but; whether it was sharpened that night or not the prosecution did not know. Those were the facts of the painful case, which would require the strictest proof by the prosecution. Prisoner seemed to have been fond of the children, and on the night of the murder assisted in putting them to bed. Therefore it might appear an extraordinary thing that he, being so attached to his children, should have murdered them in the cold blooded way in which it was alleged that he did.

Mary Ann Palin, after some formal evidence had been given, stated that she was 32 years of age, and had lived with the prisoner since she was 16. She had seven children, of whom four were still alive. On the 24th May last the eldest boy was from home. The next lad was nearly 13, the next was a girl of eight, another girl was six, and there was a boy aged three, and a baby. Witness had resided at Richmond Street with her children up to April last. She took in lodgers at the house, and carried on business as a refreshment house keeper at 3 Bickley Parade. The prisoner had not followed his occupation since she had lived with him. He went one voyage while they lived in Cardiff, and last year he went for a nine months' voyage. Up to September 1888, the tenancy of the Bickley Parade rooms was in the prisoner's name and it was retaken by her 1889 in the name of Mrs Spicer. He came back in September 1889, but did not disprove of her having taken over the rooms. Up to about Easter last she lived on good terms with him at the house at Richmond Street. She and the prisoner slept in the large front bedroom, and the children slept in a double-bedded back room - three in one bed room and two in the other. As a rule the children slept together. This continued till Easter, when the prisoner came down and assisted in the business. On Easter Monday prisoner was locked up for the non-payment of the poor rate which was owing. Witness paid the rate, and prisoner came back, and she agreed he should stay at the house, as he was owing more money, and was afraid there were more warrants out for him. He stayed a week at the house. She had no disagreement with before Easter. It was after that that the disagreement took place. He stayed away from the refreshment rooms for a week. He came to the rooms on the Monday following Easter week. Witness had been to Liverpool that day, and when she came home she found him a little worse for drink, and asked what money had been taken. He pointed to money lying on the shelf. Witness took a few shillings off the shelf. Prisoner asked her what she was doing, and she replied that she was taken the money. Prisoner said "leave it there; don't be in such a hurry". Witness said "oh, it does not take two to look after the few shillings here". Prisoner then began finding fault with the trades people she dealt with. Witness said she would deal with whom she liked. Prisoner said that he should let her know whether she should or not. Witness said that the prisoner had nothing to do with the business. Prisoner then went home. When witness was preparing the dinner next day, prisoner walked into the shop and took his coat off. He said, "you told me I had nothing to do with this place, but I must give you to understand there is no Mary Spicer". The girl Fraser was present at the time. Up to then she had been known as Mrs Spicer. She then said, "if there is no Mrs Spicer, so much the better for me". She gave him to understand that she would not have him coming there and conducting himself in an unpeaceable manner. In consequence of what she said he became violent, and kicked a chair across the floor. She sent for a constable, and when he arrived she showed him the agreement respecting the shop. She was quite agreeable for Spicer to come to the shop and be master of everything except the money. She had a bed taken down to Bickley Parade, where she slept until the 24th of May.

The children came down to the shop for their food, and she sent the prisoner's meals to Richmond Street, and also what money he sent for. Fraser was in her employ as a waitress, and slept at Richmond Street. Witness did not see Spicer for a week after the letter produced, which was in the prisoner's handwriting. She could not say when she received it. She did not think it would be in Easter week. The letter was as follows :- "Richmond Street, 15/5/90. My dear Polly - I trust you will take my lot into consideration and pity me, and by the great God forgive me and in nowise cast me out, with a broken heart. Do forgive me. Have mercy on me. I will make every amends in my power. Have mercy on me; have mercy on me: give me some hope of your friendship. May God turn your heart to forgive me. Yours forever, F.SPICER". On the back of that letter witness scribbled the following answer, and sent it to him :- "you are too late, and you need not try to see me. The door is locked, and once for all I will not be annoyed by you. I shall not see you". She also received the following letter from the prisoner :- 19/5/90, "my dear Polly - in the name of the heavens, have mercy and pity on me. If you will allow me to see and shake hands with you and make it up. Don't keep me in this desponding state. Forgive me, forgive me, for God's sake and my own. I have not slept these four nights thinking of you. Make it up with me. Let not our wrath go down with this day's sun. Have mercy on me. I will call tonight at nine. Don't refuse me a hand shake in the name of God. I beg you will not be cross with me. I am still for ever yours. F.SPICER". She also received a letter from him which he said - "my dear Polly - I will call down to-night. I hope you will consider my feelings and make it up and shake hands with me. I am a broken man. For God's sake, have pity on me. Your's for ever F.SPICER". In reply she sent the following letter - "Mr Spicer, this is in answer to yours. You dare to ask me to make it up. You must be mad to think I shall ever speak to you again, much less make it up. You told Mr Wright I was not your wife. You mean, contemptible scrub, did you think of my years when, before Felix was born, I asked you to marry me out of shame. You laughed at me, but I have waited, and the day has come, I can tell everyone my tale now. Don't think it was for a liking of you I waited for. I hated you ever since the day you laughed at me, but I don't regard my name now. Why should I, now everybody knows. There is one thing I want you to know, that is the gallows before another night under the same roof as yourself. I will neither see or be annoyed by you. If you force your presence on me I shall have you removed. You can remain in the house for as long as you keep from me. I will see the rent paid, but I will never change as long as I live" - POLLY.

Witness had taken the rooms from Mr Wright. It was in consequence of an interview with Mr Wright that she wrote the letter. The following letter was put in, and read by Mr Crompton. clerk of the assizes :- "18 Richmond Street, New Brighton, 8/5/90. Dear Sir, I am in receipt of your note, and am sorry, after the friendly advice you gave me, that you have thought fit to write as you have. It is a great trial to me, being the founder of the business, and your tenant so long, that you have not given me a more favourable consideration. I am afraid you have been misinformed about my affairs. I beg and trust you will reconsider your decision in my favour by getting Mrs Spicer to allow me to work in the rooms in an amicable way, in which I give you my honest word there shall be peace and love. I am near heart broken by this blow. I trust you will forgive me. With this appeal believe me to be, yours sincerely, F.SPICER. To A. Wright. Esq, 17 Water Street. Liverpool".

On the night of the 24th the prisoner sent the girl to her, saying he expected four lodgers that night, and the children were to be removed to the back room from the front room where they usually slept. She sent back word that they were not to be removed, and he was only to take the one lodger that she had sent up during the evening. She sent up the person she referred to to Richmond Street earlier in the evening, and he returned in half an hour saying he had taken a bed. She saw the prisoner at the restaurant windows the night before the murder, when he said, "Good night, Polly" or "Good night, girl" and then walked away. She made up her bed in the restaurant nightly, and removed it for the day time, when Fraser left the premises. She put out the lamps, and subsequently she was awakened by a great noise, caused by the smashing of glass. She afterwards saw prisoner make a desperate smash at the same pane of glass which was near the door. She fell through the window right into his arms, both prisoner and herself falling to the ground, witness being on her back. She shouted out "Murder!"and he said "You shout murder you - wretch. You won't shout that when I've done with you". Whilst she was on the ground he kept knocking her head down and making for her throat. He had nothing in his hands then, but she saw the handle of a knife sticking out of his breast pocket. He took this out of his pocket and attacked her with it. It was a knife he had shown her before, saying in a jocular way that "it would cut the throats of all New Brighton". The knife produced was the one in question, and with it prisoner had tried to cut her throat. When he attacked her her nose, forehead, and arms were cut, as was also her hand where she tried to hold the knife by grasping the blade. Finally she knocked the knife out of his hand and managed to run away behind the cabmen's shelter, and afterwards she got into the house of a Mr Bailey, just opposite. She thought prisoner had a long tweed overcoat on, and it was in one of the pockets that she saw the knife. She knew prisoner was in the habit of carrying a clasp knife, but the one that was produced was not that with which he attacked her.

In cross examination the witness said she first made the acquaintance of prisoner at Cardiff in 1873. He had made voyages, but did not know that he had ever been a voyage to Calcutta of that he had had a sunstroke while there. In one of the letters she wrote to the prisoner she meant she never had an opportunity of maintaining herself and the children, and "a day would come" when she would do so and have nothing more to do with him. After the manner in which he had treated her she had come to the conclusion she would not under any consideration live with him again. Witness, continuing, said "of course if he had offered to marry me I should have only been too glad". At this point the witness broke down.
Mr Wood : With respect to his appeals to you stating that he was broken hearted and that he was miserable and ruined, you treated those as nothing?
Witness: No sir. I have received those kind of messages before when I left him, and when I went and forgave him and went back to him, he even on the first night attempted to strangle me, and that was after he had pleaded as in this case.

Continuing, witness said she sent a man up to Richmond Street on the night before the murder as he wanted lodgings.

Re-examined by Mr Colt Williams : It was before the child Felix was born that prisoner promised to marry her. Had he ever promised to marry you?
Witness : Had he ever promised to marry me? Yes, he had repeatedly.

Continuing, witness said it was at Blackpool that prisoner tried to strangle her. She left him for some time after that, and went to live with her sister in London.
Mr Colt William : During the times you lived in New Brighton had you ever serious quarrels?
Witness : Yes. I left him several times, but he always implored me to go back.

John Bailey, grocer, Victoria Road, deposed to be awakened on the night in question by hearing of cries of "murder". He found prisoner and Mrs Spicer struggling on the ground, and told to her to run into his house. She did so, and he followed her and closed the door.

Francis Storey, another neighbour, and Joel Fitton, corroborated.

Police Constable Frederick Potts stated that his attention, and that of Police Constable Jones, was called to a disturbance in Victoria Road. They went to Richmond Street in search of the prisoner, when Police Constable Jones took him to the police office, whilst witness went upstairs and found the two children on the bed with their throats cut.

Police Constable Jones corroborated, and deposed to finding a knife which had been recently sharpened and was covered in blood and concealed in the kitchen range.

The medical evidence of Dr Forbes Ross, as to the nature of the injuries, was taken next. He said that one of the wounds to the throat of the younger victim appeared to have been an abortive attempt at cutting it. After this wound was inflicted, and before the fatal wound was given, the child might have shouted. He saw the prisoner after examining in the children. He wore a black coat, on the breast pocket of which were blood stains, his sandshoes being also spotted with blood. His trousers were saturated, and his hands had been washed, leaving a "watermark" of blood smears on the forearm. Both handles of the back door were stained with blood.

Annie Fraser, waitress at Mrs Spicer's restaurant, who slept at prisoner's house on the night of the murder, said she remembered hearing one of the children make a choking noise, followed by a shuffling of feet and the sound of doors being closed. Somebody then ran upstairs and down quickly. She thought nothing about it at the time
Cross examining by Mr Burke Wood : She had always found prisoner to be most affectionate towards his children.

Martha Fearon, another waitress, corroborated as to the prisoner's kindness to his children, when cross examined by Mr Burke Wood.

Alfred Short, Clerk, of 18 Richmond Street, said that on the 24th of May he went in at ten o'clock in the evening. Spicer, his son, and the waitress were in the house at the time. Witness did not hear anything during the night except an altercation between prisoner and Mrs Fraser at twelve o'clock. He had an interview with the prisoner at Walton Jail on the Saturday following the murder, when he said "I washed Willie and kissed him put him to bed, bless his little soul. I am as innocent as you are"
Cross Examined by Mr Burke Wood : When he said "bless his little soul" he was very much affected and wept.
Witness had never seen a more kind man to his children. He was like mother and father to them. He sent the message to his wife, "Tell her I forgive her all she had done for me, but she has been very cruel".

A lamplighter named Bannng stated that just before daybreak on the morning in question he was performing his duties in Richmond Street when he heard a "pitiful child's cry".

A woman residing next door to prisoner stated that between nine and ten o'clock on the night of 24th May she heard the prisoner say he would "let them know who is master here". Later in the night she heard him sharpening a knife on the window sill.

After consultation with the judge and defending counsel, Mr Colt Williams decided to spare the little girl Gertrude Spicer the painful ordeal of giving evidence against her father.

At this stage the court adjourned, the counsel for the prosecution indicating that their case could be finished that day. The court rose at ten minutes after four.

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Liverpool Mercury
Saturday, 2 August, 1890

The New Brighton Tragedy

Trial And Sentence

Yesterday, before Mr Justice Stephen, at the Chester Assizes, Felix Spicer appeared again in the dock charged with the murder, at Liscard, on the 25th May, of his illiegimate sons, William and Henry, and the attempted murder of Mary Ann Palin, their mother. Mr D.A.V Colt Williams and Mr Malcolm Douglas, in continuing their case for the Crown, called Police Sergeant Cooper, who gave lengthy evidence as to the examination of the Richmond Street and Victoria houses, the bloodstains and other inculpating traces he found there and on prisoner's clothes and hands. He said that when charged with the offence prisoner said "I know nothing about it. I have done no murder".

Mr William F Lowe, county analyst, was next called, and gave lengthy evidence as to the nature and position bloodstains upon the piece of timber used by prisoner to batter the windows of the Bickley Parade restaurant, upon his clothes, shoes, knife, and in various parts of the house.

Dr Theodore Fendell, medical officer at Knutsford Jail, was next called, and stated that the prisoner had been under his care since his admission to Knutsford Jail on the 11th June. During prisoner's incarceration witness had had constant opportunity of observing him, and had found that his health had been good, there being nothing at all wrong with him mentally.
Cross examined by Mr Burke Wood : Witness had heard that prisoner's sister had been in Colony Hatch, and prisoner had told him that he had had a sunstroke.
That would not modify his statement at all as to the mental condition of prisoner; he could only form an opinion from what he had noticed himself. the prisoner showed no sign of insanity, or even of mental aberration.

This was the case for the prosecution. Mr D.A.V Colt Williams, in summoning up for the Crown, gave a lengthy review of the incriminating evidence. He said he understood that Mr Burke Wood intended to call no witness on behalf of the prisoner, so it became his duty to address the jury in as few words as possible. As he had intimated in his opening address, that case was one of such great gravity that he was sure they would pardon him if he detained them for more then a few minutes in doing so. On that occasion he had also told them that it was a case of completely of circumstantial evidence, and that they would require at his hands a strict proof of every step in the case; he submitted to them with some confidence now that he had so proved the case that there could be no reasonable doubt in their minds that the prisoner at the bar was guilty of the terrible crime with which he is charged. It might be that some attempt should be set up to show that because a sister of prisoner's was said to have been at one time insane, and because it was suggested that prisoner himself had once had a sunstroke, that he was insane at the time he committed that act. On the other hand they had the evidence of Dr Fendell, who had observed prisoner since June the 11th, that he was not a man of unsound mind. Therefore his submission on behalf of the Crown was that this case was made out without any shadow of a doubt, and that he was justified in asking them, after weighing his friend's and his lordship's remarks, to find the man guilty of the offence with which he was now charged.

Mr Burke Wood then rose to address the jury for the defence. He said that in this case a great burden had been laid upon the shoulders of all connected with the trial, and upon no one in a greater degree than upon himself. He was bound to say that Mr Colt Williams had conducted the case for the Crown most fairly, and had not exaggerated in the least degree the importance and solemnity of the inquiry. A great responsibility rested on them, the jury had by their verdict, and he, perhaps, by his conduct of the case, the life of the prisoner at the bar upon their hands. He did not say this with a view to asking them to take a merciful view of the case, but simply to give their verdict according to their oaths and the evidence laid before them. He dared say they noticed that on the previous morning when they came into the box he took the precaution, and used the right he possessed, of challenging several gentlemen, and they went out of the box. He did so not from any doubt that they would not have displayed as great an amount of intelligence and fairness as any in the box, but simply because he thought it better to have twelve strangers than any who came from the neighbourhood where the tragedy occurred. It was hard for any person to divest his mind of impressions that he had formed. Perhaps the result of conversation - perhaps the result of reading newspaper reports, and there was no doubt that the press of Birkenhead and its more important neighbour, Liverpool, spread far and wide an account of the tragedy at New Brighton and it was impossible pretty nearly that people should talk about a thing of that kind without forming some impression on their minds as to the guilt or innocency of the prisoner. Therefore, he earnestly asked the jury to try to come with a clean sheet, as it were, of mind to consider the evidence of that day and the day before. His friend, Mr Colt Williams, in opening the case, had told them that the case he had to submit was one entirely of circumstantial evidence, and that he had no direct evidence at all, and that if they did not think this evidence sufficient to satisfy them, they should say so by their verdict. That was just what he should have expected them to do. He was sorry to have to go into particulars of the married life of the prisoner and Palin, but there was no doubt that he had wronged her, and had not done what he owed to her by marrying her. It was possible that he was not in a position to marry her at the time, because he had a wife already. However, they had lived together for a number of years, quarrels frequently occurring, but not with any serious result till in April last, when they finally separated. He must call their attention to the dreadful state of misery under which the prisoner laboured in consequences of this quarrel with his wife, who refused to live in the same house with him any longer. He wrote imploring letters requesting a reconciliation; but they were received with scorn. With regard to prisoner's statement that he could not receive a lodger on the night of the 24th because he had four men, and was full up, it had been stated that these four men were all a myth, and that this statement was only a part of his scheme to kill the children. Was it not possible that these men, whom prisoner said he had seen with women on the same night, had gone to some less respectable haunt for the night? At all events it seemed as likely as that the whole story was a myth invented by prisoner. Having pointed out that there was nothing peculiar in prisoner not retiring on the night in question, when he had a sofa prepared downstairs, he said that the testimony as to the prisoner being kind to his children was unanimous. Fearon appeared to have been a new arrival at prisoner's house, but even she had had time to how tenderly he brought them to be washed by her, and afterwards carried them upstairs and put them to bed. There appeared to have been the bright spot in that man's life - that was his love and affection for his children, and whatever Mary Ann Palin might have to say about his treatment of her, she had no occasion to make a single complaint of his treatment of her children. Annie Fraser said he was extremely kind to them; Maria Fearon described the way in which he performed those many little functions which a careless man might have relegated to the nursemaid, with the tenderness and kindness of a mother rather than the qualities of a father. The lodger also said he never saw anyone so kind in his life, and confirmed the opinion that he was like a mother rather than a father. He then referred to the evidence as to the discovery of blood stains in the house, and empahised the fact that though prisoner was said to have done downstairs with the clothes reeking with blood, only one small stain was found on the banister. It would be an insult to deny that prisoner went down to Bickley Parade - the evidence was too strong and unanimous on that point - but if an assault of the nature described was committed upon Palin by prisoner, it would be a fair and reasonable conclusion to draw that the blood found on his clothing had flowed from her hands as she was on the ground by prisoner. Again, evidence had been given to this effect that the blood stains on the handle of the piece of wood used by prisoner to batter in the windows in Bickley Parade were wet when it was examined after the assault. He contended that if the stains were imprinted at Richmond Street, by the time he had walked to Bickley Parade and assaulted Palin the stains would have had time to dry. At all events this was not improbable solution of the case. He strongly urged upon the jury the fact that the lodger, who came in at seven o'clock on the morning of the crime, had not been examined by the counsel for the prosecution, and said that in view of the widespread newspaper reports he could not have failed to hear about the occurrence. In reference to the interview in Walton Jail he said that sometimes when prisoners made statements there was something or other held out, or it might be supposed that there was something held out; but in that case it was entirely a voluntary statement to a man whom he had sent for, and therefore entitled to more respect at the hands of the jury than many communications of a similar character. He said, "I know nothing, so help me God. I washed little Harry; I put him to bed. I bid him 'Good night', and kissed him - bless his little heart. Willie went to bed afterwards; I wished him 'good night' and I didn't go upstairs afterwards. I am as innocent as you are". That was a statement made to an independent man, and he would ask them to attach some importance to it. These children appeared to have been the idols of his life almost - these children whom he was charged with killing. A great lawyer, Lord Cope, described murder as being when a man of sound memory and discretion killed a human being. Did they believe for one instant that that man "murdered" his children? He was obliged to say he dared not leave any stone unturned in the duty that he had to perform on behalf of the prisoner; and therefore, though he submitted that the evidence for the prosecution consisted of a chain of evidence that was faulty and undefendable, he must omit no point that told in prisoner's favour. He could not help saying that if that man - he said this under his lordship's direction - if this man went into the room where those children were sleeping, very likely when he had the intention of going down and attacking the mother, and breaking into her premises, knowing that he was going to do the mother grievous bodily harm or to murder her, and that it would be impossible to escape - if he went into their room to take a last look at them, he submitted that if he went back into the room with merely the innocent intention of seeing his children, they would say he was not guilty of the murder of those children if, when his mind was so clouded with the trouble he had been in and the contemptuous replies to his appeals by his wife, this man, maddened with the thought of it, had his mental faculties so obliterated that he put an end to the children by cutting their throats. He asked the jury to ask themselves whether he was at that time a man of sound memory and reasonable sense, and said that if they thought not, he would ask them to say that a verdict of manslaughter would be all that could revert against that man. He was under his lordship's direction when he summed up the case to them, and he had no more to add on behalf of the prisoner. He had done what he thought was his duty, and according to his advice what he could do, and he only asked them to remember one thing - that they were not trying prisoner for the attack on Mary Ann Palin, and the savage assault he made on her, but simply for the crime of murder.

His Lordship said it was now his duty to sum up the evidence in the case to which they had listened so long and so patiently, and, before he got to the evidence he would make one or two remarks upon some general topics which had been alluded to by the learned counsel. Mr Colt Williams had told them, and Mr Wood repeated, that that was entirely a case of circumstantial evidence. He (the Judge) totally denied that anything popularly called circumstantial evidence was evidence at all, or should be given in evidence, and he should be right at the proper time, and place to show, by going through the various rules of evidence established in that country, that what was generally called circumstantial evidence with no evidence according to the distinctive rules of the country. That, however, was not the place to deliver a lecture upon legal topics, and he would pass over the expression with this single remark that, whether they liked to call the evidence circumstantial or not, the question was simply whether it satisfied them beyond all reasonable doubt that the man was guilty of the crime charged against him or not. He had also one other general remark to make upon the suggestion with which Mr Wood concluded his evidence - for it was possible there might be a conviction for manslaughter in that case if they thought that at the time he entered the children's room he had not the intention of cutting their throats. He told them that they could not consistently with law give any such verdict - the whole of the evidence in the case either proved that the man voluntarily and wilfully put his children to death by cutting their throats - which was murder - or that he was not guilty of any crime at all. They would, however. observe that something was said about the phrase "malice aforethought". It was undoubtedly true that to constitute murder there must be malice aforethought; but those were most unlucky words and were almost always misunderstood. Unless one knew how they should be technically interpreted one could not know what they meant. It was generally said that there most be premeditation - that was not so; if a man decided upon a sudden temptation to kill a person and did kill that person without provocation, if he did that, it was as much murder as if he had meditated it for a year and made every preparation for it. With regard to the words "malice aforethought" they had been better defined by Lord Chief Justice Holt than any he had ever read, and he had read a great quantity - "he that doth a cruel act voluntarily doth it of malice prepense". If the act was a cruel one and it was done voluntarily, that was what was meant by malice aforethought. So the whole matter really came to this - whether they thought that this mean voluntarily did the cruel act of cutting the throats of those children. That was the one subject which they had to inquire into, and he should address his summing up entirely to matters which threw light upon it. They had heard the evidence of a day and a half, and he did not think anytime had been wasted upon it. It seemed to have been very fairly given and very properly put before them, and now he would consider how the matter stood. There was no doubt at all that the prisoner and his wife did lead a most unhappy life, and that unhappiness seemed to have lasted for a considerable time. Mr Wood went back as far as 1873, when he said that the prisoner led Palin astray. Mr Wood suggested that he might have been married before and that that was the reason why he did not marry Palin. That might be so, but he could not ask the jury to pay attention to such suggestion. It was entirely strange to the matter they were now trying, and it never could be that a man could excuse, or justify, or extenuate one crime because another hung upon it. He might just make this one remark, though it was more in the nature of a moral observation than anything else, that was, that if prisoner had done that justice to the woman which he certainly owed her, if he had married, she could not have testified against him, and the fact that he did not think proper to marry her had been strangely avenged, and he was there on his trial for his life because he did not do that justice to the woman which he certainly ought to have done. Referring to the evidence as to prisoner's general affection for his children, he said that love for children was in a great measure the reflection for love of wife, and that a loss of affection for the wife would naturally cause a loss of affection for the children. That kind of kindness was quite consistent with something entirely different if a violent passion interfered. The counsel for the defence had impressed very strongly upon the jury that it was a suspicious fact that the lodger who came to the house in Richmond Street early on the morning of the day on which the crime was committed, must have known all about the occurrence from the newspaper. That was quite possible : but, strange as it might appear to lawyers, people hated to be called as witnesses, and he was not quite sure that he should not himself. (A laugh). People would get in their own houses, and say it was the place of the police to find them out, which made it very difficult to procure them as witnesses. Alluding to the evidence with respect to the blood stains, his lordship said that with the exception of the wounds on the woman's arm there was absolutely no accords whatever to be given of the blood which stained every single garment worn by the prisoner. He was speaking in reference to the suggestion with regard to prisoner's insanity, and remarking that the evidence went directly in opposition to the theory that he was of unsound mind.

Mr Burke Wood said it was very late in the case, but he had just learned from Dr Ross that prisoner was a sufferer from insomnia. His Lordship said it was indeed very late in the day, but directed that Dr Ross should be recalled. Dr Ross then stated that Mrs Palin had mentioned to him on one occasion that prisoner could never go to sleep, and bitterly complained of it in the same night. Insomnia, he continued, was sometimes a form of melancholia.
His Lordship : Have you ever observed any signs of melancholia about prisoner?
Dr Ross : No; but I thought it only fair to mention this.
His Lordship, remarking that the evidence did not very materially bear on the prisoner's state of mind, concluded his summing up, and the jury retired at exactly a quarter to two.

At ten minutes to two they returned into court.
The Clerk of Arraigns - Gentlemen of the jury, do you find the prisoner, Felix Spicer, guilty or not guilty?
The Foreman (in a low voice) - Guilty.
The Clerk - You say that he is guilty of murder, and that is the verdict of you all?
The Foreman - It is.
The Clerk - Felix Spicer, you stand convicted of willful murder. What have you to say why the court should not give you judgment to die according to law?
Prisoner - I am not guilty of the murder of the children, my lord. If I had worked on my own evidence I could prove that. I gave Mr Wood some papers as you suggested. He has them now, and if you read them you would exonerate me. There is proof where lodgers have been to the house, and paid an amount on deposit, and every action I have done during the week. If you were to read these papers it would prove you, my lord.
The Judge, assuming the black cap, said - Felix Spicer
Prisoner - Yes, my lord
The Judge - You stand convicted of wilful murder, and that under circumstances as horrible as I ever knew a murder to be accompanied with. As to what you say about Mr Wood. I can only tell you this, that Mr Wood, at very great labour to himself and at the sacrifice of much valuable time, has defended you with admirable skill and judgment.
Prisoner - Yes, my lord, I will admit that; but if you had read these papers, or if I had defended myself, I think you would have given me a better verdict.
The Judge - I cannot believe that Mr Wood has not read your papers.
Prisoner - There is marks of blood on the stones where I cut my hand with the glass.
The Judge - That is exactly what Mr Wood tried to persuade the jury, but they did not agree.
Prisoner - There is the money the lodgers gave me on deposit to come into the house where I stopped after half-past twelve to let them in. When I went out in the morning, all the doors were open, and I did not wake until 20 minutes past three.
The Judge - You have had the opportunity of saying all that, and you have had a very careful counsel to say it for you. The jury have come to the conclusion that you are guilty of wilful murder, and for my part I entirely share the same opinion. The matter is no longer in my hands in any way. All that remains to me is to pass upon you the sentence of the law.

Sentence of death was then pronounced in the usual way.

The prisoner, who displayed some agitation, was removed from the dock.

Liverpool Mercury
Thursday, 14 August, 1890

The New Brighton Murderer

Interview With Spicer

Since the trial and conviction of Felix Spicer for the murder of his two children at New Brighton, circumstances have, it is stated, come to light bearing on the suggestion that the condemned man was insane at the time that he committed the deed. Spicer has a brother living in Birkenhead, and a half-brother, two sisters, and other relatives living in London. "Some of his London relatives," says a correspondent. "had expected to be called at the trial at Chester to give evidence as to the insanity which has from time to time manifested itself in the family, and the fact that they were not is said to be due to the late hour at which Mr Burke Wood was instructed, and that he was not then in possession of the information, which has now come to light. The important points bearing on the case are that one of Spicer's sisters has been confined in Colony Hatch Lunatic Asylum as a epileptic idiot, suffering from exalted delusions and impressions. She had been in the asylum two or three times. Her son has also been confined both in the Colony Hatch and Hanwell institutions as an epileptic subject to violent outbursts and delusions. Another sister's daughter has been in the asylum, and is at present being watched by Dr Dunlop, of St. Pancras' Workhouse. It is further stated that a half sister of Spicer's lived with him for some time at New Brighton, and was subject to attacks of violent passion. She was of weak intellect, and in that condition of mind generally described as "soft". Spicer's brother's son also lived with him some time ago at New Brighton, and while there he one morning took up the carpet, cut the fringes off all the fire rugs, and trimmed all the rugs in the houses. He subsequently joined the Salvation Army, and became subject to religious mania, his peculiar conduct being on one occasion brought to the notice of the Birkenhead police magistrate. He afterwards went to London, where he one day cut down all the trees in his mother's back garden, because, as he said, they blocked the way to heaven. Yet another sister of the condemned man attempted to hang herself behind a parlour door, and she was cut down only just in time to save her life. She was of weak intellect, being particularly subject to suicidal mania.

Yesterday afternoon the same correspondent had a conversation with Mrs Cannon, a niece of the prisoner, who lives at Kentish Town, London, and who on Tuesday, along with her husband, visited Spicer in the condemned cell at Knutsford. The interview took place in the presence of the governor of the jail and two warders. Her account is as follows : "I noticed, first of all, that he had aged very fast. He asked after every one belonging to him, particularly his eldest son, Felix, who is an apprentice in a newspaper printing office in Cardiff, and whom he expressed a desire to see. He was most pleased to see me, as I was the first to visit him since he was condemned. I did not speak to him about the trial or the murder. I only told him to pray and look to his Maker. His own family all say that he must have been a mad man at the time when did the deed". Asked whether anything in the nature of insanity had ever been noticed in Spicer himself, Mrs Cannon said - "There have been fits of aberration at times. While I was there he spoke about his wife, and in order to distinguish her called her by her own name, Mary Ann Palin. He told me to go to New Brighton and see her, and ask her to come and see him. I said I would do so. (Mrs Spicer, otherwise Palin, who was present during the narration, said she intended to see him.) He further said that he could get very sleep. His appetite was pretty fair, and he got all that he wanted. The 20 minutes allowed for the interview had then expired, and they left. Spicer crying bitterly. Mr Cannon confirms hi wife's story as to Spicer's changed appearance, and said he looks like an old man of about 90. He never saw a man alter so in his life.

The North-Eastern Daily Gazette
Friday, 22 August, 1890

The New Brighton Murderer

Execution Of Spicer

The final preparation for the execution of Felix Spicer (60), a rigger by trade, for the murder of his two children at New Brighton, were effected last night. Spicer, since he received sentence of death, had been confined in Knutsford Prison, the county gaol of Cheshire. Berry, the executioner, arrived at Knutsford from Bradford shortly after four o'clock yesterday afternoon, and immediately proceeded to the prison for the purpose of inspecting the necessary apparatus. The scaffold, which is the one used on the two previous occasions, was erected in a small building especially set apart for execution. Mr J. Cullimore, Under Sheriff, arrived at the prison last night in order to see that perfect arrangements had been carried out, and the executioner, in accordance with his instructions, took up his quarters for the night within the precincts of the prison, where he was supplied with sleeping accommodation. A last effort had been made to restrain the last dread sentence of the law from being carried into effect, but with no result. A telegram was received yesterday by the authorities of the gaol from the Home Office, stating that the Home Secretary, after carefully perusing the evidence, and consulting with the Learned Judge who heard the case, saw no reason for interfering in Spicer's case with the due execution of the sentence of the law. Spicer himself has not denied committing the crime, but asserted at the same time that if he had so he was mad at the time. Up to the last he was exceedingly penitent, and paid marked attention to the ministrations of the prison chaplain, the Rev. W.N Truss, who paid him a visit late last night. Spicer has hardly varied in weight during his incarceration.

On The Scaffold

The chaplain entered the condemned cell shortly after six this morning and administered the Holy Sacrament. Spicer appeared very penitent, though when breakfast was brought Spicer did not touch it, and as the hour of his execution approached he seemed in danger of collapsing altogether. Berry, the executioner, entered the cell shortly before eight, and completed the pinioning process, which was undergone by the doomed man in a somewhat mechanical manner. On the way to the scaffold, which was the same as that which Richard Davies, the Crewe parricide, was executed, Spicer appeared rather faltering, but when he got out of the cell he revived considerably. When he had taken his place on the scaffold and the cap was adjusted on him he said "Good morning" to those present, and added in feeble tones, "I was mad if I perpetrated the crime. My poor dear children, May God bless and keep me, a miserable sinner". The bolt was then pulled, the body disappeared, and death seemed instantaneous. Spicer was 11 stone, 11 lbs, in weight, and 5 feet 4 inches in height, and he received a drop of 5 feet 2 inches. Representatives of the Press were admitted to witness the execution. Instructions were issued for the destruction of the rope with which Spicer was hanged immediately after the execution. The mode in which the rope is now supplied is that the High Sheriff, who is responsible for the carrying out of the execution, purchases the necessary length from the governor of Newgate Prison, who is authorised by the Home Office to sell it. This relieves the hangman of any responsibility as to the rope being unsuited for the purpose.

In accordance with the wish expressed by Spicer during an interview with some of his relatives, Mary Ann Palin, otherwise known as Mrs Spicer. declared her attention to close her refreshment rooms at New Brighton today to show her respect for Spicer, even though he had so cruelly wronged her.

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