Murder by the Book by Claire Harman

Murder by the Book by Claire Harman

Author:Claire Harman
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780241315231
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Published: 2018-08-14T16:00:00+00:00

And most strikingly, Carr was being called not as a character witness (as the Pethouds and Lady Julia Lockwood were the next day) but as a witness for the prosecution. One wonders why, since his testimony is solely about the recently arrived jacket that had been wrapping the stolen cutlery – and he wasn’t even able to identify that definitively.

There were two artists in court that day, making sketches of the prisoner. One was the official court artist, C. A. Rivers; the other had come from Madame Tussaud’s waxworks exhibition in Portman Square, which for some years had been producing a popular line in criminal effigies, arranged in dramatic tableaux. In order to produce a model of the most notorious contemporary criminals as soon as possible after conviction, Madame Tussaud liked to capture some images from life (what was left of it) and the courtroom was an ideal place for unofficial sittings. The ardent sketching going on could only have unnerved the prisoner in the dock. But not as much as the sight of his friend Henry just a few yards away, under the management of the prosecution. As the court broke up on the second day, he scribbled a note to his solicitor saying, ‘Tell Mr Phillips I consider my life is in his hands.’

The jury passed the night at the London Coffee House, and next morning had to push through the largest crowd yet of spectators wanting to get into the Central Criminal Court to watch the outcome of the trial. By 9.30 every seat was full ‘and the most intense anxiety was manifested to witness the appearance of the prisoner under the altered circumstances in which he stood’. More aristocrats were present, including, for the first time, the Dowager Duchess of Bedford (who had last seen Courvoisier when she went to view her brother-in-law’s corpse on 6 May), seven earls, eight lords, a baron, a general, several foreign ambassadors and ministers, and a large group of MPs.

Weighed down by his private knowledge of his client’s guilt, Phillips showed a certain overload of eloquence that day. In twenty years, he said, he had seldom had to address a jury under more painful circumstances, with the life of a prisoner dependent on so much conjecture and uncorroborated, last-minute evidence, all of which he considered far from conclusive. Given the rank of the deceased, the ghastly nature of the crime and the amount of sensational publicity which it had attracted, minds had been made up in advance against the prisoner, and the offer of the huge reward had ensured ‘his case had not been left to the ordinary instruments of justice’. And, lamentably, class prejudice was the only reason why the government had been induced to offer such a reward in the first place, ‘as if the grave knew any aristocracy’.

Phillips then harped on about Courvoisier’s pious upbringing and love of his country, slightly misquoting Oliver Goldsmith’s The Traveller to evoke the feelings of homesickness which had undoubtedly moved the valet to make his remark about Lord William’s wealth.


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