Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

24 articles on this Page

Neu Wreichion Oddiar yr Eingion






ABERSYCHAN MURDER Shocking Farm Outrage. TRIAL AT MONMOUTH ASSIZES. Death Sentence. NOTICE OF APPEAL GIVEN. The Eastern and Western Valleys poured a stream of visitors into the ancient borough of Monmouth on Monday, their objective being the sombre-walled Assize courts, whose frontage of stout, iron-spiked railings and massive iron gates are reminiscent of more stirring days than the sleepy borough now knows. The event which drew the crowd from the busy industrial valleys of Monmouthshire was the trial of John Edmunds (24). collier, for the alleged wilful murder "of Cecilia Harris at Aber- sychan. In addition to the wilful murder in- dictment, Edmunds was indicted for shooting Harris with a gun, cutting her throat with in- tent to kill her, and also with criminally assaulting her. Prisoner was brought from Usk Gaol in a packed train. He walked past the crowd assembled at Monmouth Station with a jaunty air. He is short of stature, and carries his shoulders and head well back. He was wearing a tweed suit and cap, both in a good state of preservation. The limited accommo- dation of the court was taken up irsunediately the doors opened and many had the disap- pointment of seeing themselves shut out for want of room. The trial was before Mr Justice Ridley and a jury. Mr H. Cranstoun and Mr A. J. David were for the prosecution, instructed by Mr H. S. Lyne, Newport, and Mr S. R. C. Bosan- qnet for the defence, instructed by Mr H. Sanders, Pontypool. Prisoner's face wa spale as he stood in the dock and heard the indictments redd, but his Not guilty in each case was pronounced in a clear, firm voice, and was accompanied in one instance with a shake of the head. JOHN EDMUNDS, the condemned man. I Juror Challenged. One of the jurors, William John Davies, was challenged on behalf of prisoner, and his place was taken by another juror. All the witnesses were, on application of counsel for the defence, ordered out of court. Mr Cranstoun. outlining the case for the pro- secution, said the victim was a defenceless woman. a widow aged 59. The prosecution alleged that such injuries were infliced upon her by prisoner on February 20th, that she died from them on May 5th. She resided at a farm known as Gamwen, about two miles from Abersychan and situated in a lonely place upon the side of a mountain. The farm belonged to Mr Rowland, deceased acting as caretaker. February 20th was a Saturday afternoon, and prisoner was seen in the loegjity of the farm then. He was in the habit of carrying a gun, and on the Friday he had gone about soliciting cartridges. A witness saw him in the locality of the house at 3 o'clock on the Saturday after- noon, and other witnesses saw him there later. Deceased war, attending to her household duties about 4 in the afternoon, and she saw prisoner coming up the lane that passed her house and went up the mountain. He passed the house, being seen by a boy named Evans. Shortly afterwards deceased saw prisoner close to the house, where he knelt down with the gun in his hand and pointed it at her. She told him to be off. Taking a paper she received from the boy Evans into the house, she began to read, but soon afterwards again saw prisoner kneeling in the garden. He was pointing the gun at her. Alarmed, she 'a.eked him to go away, and locked the door. Then she saw him standing upon a stone placed under the window. Appealed for Pity. Presently prisoner smashed the window, and thus entered the house. She escaped by the door, and, after getting a little way from the house, she turned round to see if he followed. As she looked he shot at her. her jaw being fractured. Prisoner then went after her, pushed her down, and outraged her. After asking to be allowed to do so, she got up and enquired. Is my face marked ?" Prisoner seemed then to exhibit that spark of humanity which everybody possessed, and replied, Yes. It's in a mess- You'd better come into the house and have it washed." She went into the house, and he accompanied her. In the house she asked him if it was money he wanted, and he replied Yes. Let me have it." She gave him what money she had. Amongst the coins was a five-shilling piece, and it wa-s important to remember that. Not content when he had got the money, said counsel, prisoner threw her upon some matting or sticks, and shook her head till she appealed to him for pity, to remember his own mother, and let her go. He. however, drew a knife across her throat, inflicting a serious gash. It was almost inconceivable, added counsel, that anyone human could be guilty of such conduct. Finally, Mrs Harris got away in a terrible state, and went to a neighbouring farm, where she made a complaint against prisoner. She was a strong woman, evidently, and it was remarkable that, notwithstanding her injuries, she was able on April 23rd to appear before the magistrates and give evidence. He should submit that he was entitled to read that evidence, but as Mr Bosanquet objected, he would postpone the reading till a later stage. After the police court proceedings she became ill and died on May 5th. Describing the arrest, Counsel said that prisoner, when charged, replied I know nothing about it." The clothing of prisoner and his victim were examined by the public analyst, who was surprised to find in both cases fibres of a peculiar nature. He did not know at the time that the assault had taken place upon sacks that wern on the floor. The analyst then examined the sacks, and found that the fibres were similar to those found upon the clothing of the man and woman. It would probably be set up in de- fence, said Mr Cranstoun, that the woman's death was due to natural causes, but he would show by medical evidence that it was acceler- ated by the injuries, and that but for the shock and loss of blood she had sustained the woman would have been alive to-day. Witnesses for the Crown were then called. The initial evidence of the Crown was directed to show that prisoner was seen in the neigh- bourhood of the farm during the Saturday afternoon. Victim's Depositions. A lengthy legal argument ensued as to whether the dece's depositions in the hos- pital and her evidence at the police court were admissable, Mr Bosanquet contending that he ought to have had notice that this evidence was to be used against prisoner. His lordship ruled to the contrary, adding that if such depositions were not to be ad- mitted a person would escape by the death of his victim, and it would be, a very serious thing if that were possible. Mr Cranston put in the depositions of the deceased at Pontypool Police Court. In her evidence the dead woman said that on the afternoon of February 20th she went into the meadow in front of the house to look for some sheep. She then saw John Edmunds, of Garn- diffaith, coming up the mountain road, carry- ing a gun. She had known him about eight years. She went into the house, and Edmunds proceeded up the lane. A boy named Evans and his sister then came with a paper, and she took it into the house, and the Evans children went away. While in the house she saw prisoner stooping in the garden pointing the gun at her. She went and asked him what he was doing, and he made no answer. She told him to clear off, and he opened the gate and went into the path and disappeared. After returning to the house she saw him again in the path lighting a cigarette. She again ordered him to clear off, or there would soon be someone there who could talk to him more forcibly than she could. He then went towards the mountain gate, but soon came back, and Presented the Gun at Her through the hedge. He pulled the trigger, but the gun did not go off. She said to him, What do you mean ? Don't act the oaf." She went into the house and locked the door and went upstairs. Looking through the win- dow, she saw him coming into the little yard. She ran downstairs and saw him on the stone slab under the window. She then heard the window go crash. Unlocking the door, she ran out and across the yard to the front meadow gate, and he came after her with the gun. As she tried to open the gate she turned, and he shot her on the face. He then caught her, threw her down, and criminally assaulted her. When she struggled to get up he tried to throttle her. At length she got up and held on to the gate, and asked if he bad marked her face much. Yes," he replied, it's in a devil of a mess. I am sorry. Come to the house, and let mo wash and bandage it up for you." She went into the house, and he followed. There she told him she would give him her money and her watch if he would let her go. Where is the money, then ?" he asked. She took a purse from the drawer, and gave it to him. There was a five-shilling piece an 1 a sixpence in the purse. After that he took a knife from the table, and standing behind her slashed it across her throat. She was kneeling upon sacks on the floor at th time, and,-opeal to him thus Don't give me any more, for the Lord's sake. You have given me enough. Think of your poor mother." He allowed her to get up, and she went to the door, where she saw the girl Kathleen Evans, who turned away. Deceased went after the girl to Nantymailor Farm, and saw prisoner going towards Treve- thin. Thprc being no one- at Nantymailor Farm, she went on to Penyrheol Farm, and told Mr and Mrs Rees what had occurred. Further Evidence. Other evidence was called to show prisoner had asked for cartridges on the Friday night, and on the following night tendered a 5s piece in payment for oranges. Sergeant Albert Jones (Abersychan) said after the receipt of the complaint he went to Penyrheol Farm and then to Garnwen, finding blood on the gates on the way there also on the pathway leading to the house, and or the floor of the house itself. The top drawer of a chest was open and appeared to have been ransacked. At 1 am. on Sunday morning wit- ness arrested prisdner at his house. When charged prisoner said, I know nothing about it." Superintendent James, Pontypool, said at 5.30 p.m. on February 21st he told prisoner he could if he liked say in whose company he had been between 4.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. the pre- vious day. On being told of Mrs Harris's statement, he said, Yes, I know she says so. hut it's not true. I was not nearer tu the house all day than the bottom of Abersychan. I had tea between 5 and 6. A little girl named Mary Ann Taylor was with me, and at 5.40 p.m. Will Morgan, who is living under us, cams in and asked if I was going to the theatre. I Slid Yes." I left the house about 7 p.m. Ben Hill was with me in the theatre. I went home from the theatre after 10 p.m. In cross-examination witness said the little girl Taylor was so small that the magistrates would not take her evidence. Wm. Henry Morgan, collier, Garndiffaith, said he called at prisoner's houie about six o'clock on the Saturday evening and prisoner was then washing his face and hands. Mr G. R. Thompson, public analyst, said prisoner's clothing was indescribably filthy, and there were blood stains upon it. He also found human hair some four to five inches long, gray to reddish brown in colour, and some fibres similar to those in sacks that were later brought to him by the police. The front of the woman's clothing was also considerably bloodstained, and contained hairs and fibres similar to those he had found on the man's clothing. Widow's Wounds. Dr Mulligan described the injuries of Mrs Harris when she had been admitted to Ponty- pool Hospital. Part of the jaw had been shot away, the lips shot to ribbons, and half the windpipe severed. Death took place at the hospital on May 5th. The postmortem revealed that the lung3 were congested, and that there were signs of general bronchitis and of fatty degeneration of the heart. Heart failure was the cause of death, and this was produced by the condition of the lungs which in turn was due to the Peptic state of the wounds in the throat and mouth. But for these wounds he saw no reason why the woman should not be alive' to-day. She must have been a very strong woman, but the loss of blood left her weak. Replying to Mr Bosanquet witness said the congeston of the lungs became acute two days the police court proceedings. Mr Bosanquet: Might that not have resulted from a chill ?—Yes, it might, but there was no chill. In reply to his Lordship the witness said he meant by the septic condition of the wounds, their poisonous condition, the air that passed through the mouth to the lungs being poisoned and bringing about, in the opinion of witness, the congestion. Dr, McCormack, Abersychan, agreed that injuries accelerated death. This concluded the case for the prosecution, and Mr Bosanquet. intimating be had no wit- nesses to call for the defence, counsel addressed the jury. Counsels' Addresses. Mr Cranstoun, for the prosecution, said the outrage that had been perpetrated was a most horrible one in the extreme. He laid emphasis upon the statement of the deceased woman to the effect that her attacker was the prisoner. The man who committed the murder must have been in a great passion, either for lust or money. He could not suggest any other motive. Prisoner had acted more like a brute or a beast than a human being. Mr Bosanquet, in defenee, submitted the prosecution had failed to prove that death was a result of the injuries the woman had received. He also contended the evidence of identity was not sufficiently strong to hang a man. His Lordship, in summing up, re-read to the jury the evidence given by the deceased, saying it was very important they should have this fresh in their minds. He went on to say that the outrage, whoever committed it, was that of a ruffian and possibly a madman. His Lordship then reviewed the evid ence connect- ing prisoner with the affair, and afterwards dealt with the medical evidence, emphasising particularly the statement of Dr. Mulligan .that the woman would be now alive but for wounds she had received. Verdict of Guilty. The jury retired at 5.45 to consider their verdict, and after an absence of 45 minutes re- turned with a verdict that they .found the out- rages upon Mrs Harris were committed by prisoner, and that her death was thereby accelerated. „ The Clerk That is a verdict of wilful murder. Prisoner, on being asked if he had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon him, nJhd^ no reply. Throughout the trial he had maintained a stolid demeanour, listening with great intentness to everything that was said. The only sign of emotion he ex- hibited was an occasional faint twitch of the upper lip and the nervous blinking of his eyes. He was permitted to remain seated except when formally charged at outset and again at the close when the jury brought in its verdict. Sir Edward Ridley, having assumed the black cap, pronounced the death sentence with great solemnity and in a voice that dropped occasionally to an almost inaudible whisper. He said, addressing the prisoner :— The jury have-convicted you-of the murder of Cecilia Harris. I must say for myself I con- cur in that verdict. I think it is made out, not only that you are the person who com- mitted the outrage, but that the outrage was the cause of her death. I therefore would re- commend you to make the best use of the time that remains to you by endeavouring to make your peace with Almightv God and to obtain from Him the pardon which He only can give." His Lordship then formally pro- nounced the capital sentence. Prisoner was half-turned towards the Judge as the sentence was being uttered, and at its close, as a warder gripped him by the hand to lead him below, a half smile crept into his face, lingered there a couple of seconds, and then vanished. Prisoner as he turned to descend to the cells kept his eyes fastened upon the floor. Mr Bosanquet, his counsel, then asked leave to appeal on the ground of the medical evi- dence. His Lordship, in granting leave to appeal, said it saved an intermediate applifcation, adding, I express no opinion beyond what I have said." A Pathetic Figure. Prisoner was later removed to Usk Prison, travelling in charge of a warder and police officers, by the special train run from Newport for the Assizes., The train was packed and prisoner had to run the gauntlet of a large crowd assembled at the station. He walked firmly, and as far as could be seen betrayed no weakness or emotion. A pathetic circumstance was that his mother travelled by the same train, though in a different compartment. She is a woman past 60 years of age, and was very much affected. She had a tearful interview with htr son before the commencement of the trial, and also spoke a few words to him from the window of the railway carriage before the train left Monmouth. She was accompanied by her daughter,who was also much distressed. Prisoner will remain in Usk Prison pending he result of the appeal.



------rA Visit to Old Tretower.

------------------ROMAN EXCAVATIONS…











Merthyr's Mansion. ---..