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Trial at the Old Bailey

Arthur Parker Hawkins

Trial for Murder - 1907

23rd of February 1907, My great grandfather John's younger brother Arthur P.Hawkins, murdered his older sister Mary Ann P.Alpe. Arthur was remanded in custody on the 26th of February, and put in a plea of "Not Guilty".

Feb 26th 1907, The Times Newspaper.

CHARGE OF MURDER IN WALWORTH.

At Lambeth, Arthur Parker Hawkins, 36, described as a labourer, of Great Suffolk-street, Borough, was charged before Mr.Hopkins with the murder of his married sister, Mary Ann Alpe, at South-street, Walworth. It is alleged that, after a quarrel over money matters, the prisoner on Saturday night stopped his sister in South-street, and stabbed her. The prisoner was arrested some hours later. It is stated that for some 12 years he had served in the Royal Field Artillery and had seen service in the south African war. Detective-sergeant Barrett proved the arrest. Mr.Hopkins. -Do you want to ask any questions at present, Hawkins? The prisoner.-No, Sir. I know nothing about this stabbing affair. I plead not guilty to it. Mr.Hopkins directed a remand.

The case is outlined below in a report in the The Times Newspaper. 25th March 1907. Or a fuller account of testimony given can be found at the Old Bailey Online.

CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT, March 23.

(Before the Lord Chief Justice of England.)

ARTHUR PARKER HAWKINS, 36 labourer, was indicted for the willful murder of Mary Ann Alpe. The prisoner pleaded "Not Guilty."

Mr. Bodkin and Mr.J.F.Tindal Atkinson prosecuted; Mr.S.Ingleby Oddie, at the request of the Lord Chief Justice, appeared for the prisoner.

Mary Ann Alpe, was 48 years of age, was the sister of the prisoner. She was the wife of John Alpe, a working man, and she and her husband resided with their daughter Louise in South-street, Walworth. The prisoner, who was living with a woman named Berry in Southwark, was not in regular employment. He applied several times to his brother-in-law, John Alpe, for assistance and received small sums of money from him to help him. It was stated that on February 23 the prisoner's condition was one of extreme poverty. He and Berry had no money either to pay their rent with or to buy food, and their landlady had given them notice to leave. On that same evening the prisoner went out saying he was going to see Mary to see if he could get 3s.for the rent and for some food. Shortly before 8 o'clock Mrs.Alpe and her daughter went to a publichouse. The prisoner, it was stated, put his head in at the door and said to Mrs.Alpe. "Mary, I want you." She did not answer him. Her daughter went to the prisoner, who said he wanted some money. Louisa Alpe told her mother. The prisoner put his head in at the door again and said, "Mary, I want you particularly," and added that he wanted some money. Mrs.Alpe said that she had none and that her husband had not given her any. The prisoner exclaimed, "That is the same tale every time I see you," and he said he would go and see her husband. Mrs.Alpe went with him to her house and told her husband that the prisoner had come for 1s. The prisoner remarked, "A 1s. is no good; I want 4s. or 5s." Mr.Alpe said, "You have come to the wrong place for I want money myself," and he told the prisoner "to clear out." The prisoner went away. Mrs.Alpe returned to the publichouse. It was alleged that the prisoner again put his head into the doorway and said, "You have soon found your pals" - a remark which the prosecution contended indicated that he resented the refusal of the Alpes to give him money. A witness named Pike left the publichouse and went home. He saw a man waiting about outside. Shortly afterwards Mrs.Alpe came out of the Publichouse. Mrs.Robinson, an acquaintance of hers, who had been in the publichouse and who was on the opposite side of the road, heard a scuffle and saw a man holding Mrs. Alpe and apparently striking her in the breast. Mrs.Robinson called out to the man, "You are vagabond." The man thereupon ran away - Mrs.Robinson went to Mrs.Alpe and found that she was in a fainting condition, and that she was bleeding. She collapsed and fell to the ground. A medical man was sent for, but she died. A post mortem examination was made and it was found that she had eight separate knife wounds in the arm, shoulder, neck, breast, finger, and chest, the last-named being the fatal injury, the blade of the knife having penetrated the aorta. The other seven wounds were slight. mrs.Robinson was positive that the man who struck Mrs.Alpe was the prisoner. While the man was striking her she was heard to say, "I have only got a farthing." The witness Pike identified the prisoner from among a number of other men as the man who put his head in at the door of the publichouse and whom he afterwards saw waiting outside. The woman Berry, with whom the prisoner was living, in her evidence before the magistrate, said that when the prisoner returned home that evening he stated that he had asked Mary for 1s. for food and 3s. for rent, but she refused to give it him and that he added, "I have paid her. I don't know whether she is dead or not." Berry now stated that she was very much upset at the time and she did not recollect his saying that, but what he did say was "I have no luck. I could not borrow any money off either of them. Never mind, Mill, the Lord pays all debts and I think He will pay her." When the prisoner was arrested he had a pocket knife upon him, but there were no blood stains upon it nor were there any marks of blood upon his clothing. He sad "I was there. I shall say what is right at the proper time."

The defence was an alibi.

The prisoner was called as a witness and said that after going to Mr.Alpe's house on the evening in question and being told by Mr.Alpe to "clear out," he did not go again to the publichouse but went tot he residence of his brother. That was about 20 minutes past8. His brother invited him and Berry to go there to supper, and they went. They returned home at midnight and he was arrested by a detective and told he would be charged with the murder of his sister. He said he knew nothing about it. He had been for 13 years in the Army and had served through the South African war and had two medals and six clasps.

John Hawkins, brother of the prisoner, corroborated the prisoner's statement as to his having called at his house on the evening in question and subsequently had supper there with Berry. He was not sure of the time when the prisoner first came as his clock was stopped, but he believed it was about a quarter to 9. The prisoner and Berry came to supper about an hour afterwards.

Mr.Oddie, in his address to the jury for the defence, pointed out that the case for the prosecution rested almost entirely on the evidence of one witness Mrs.Robinson, who was some distance away from Mrs.Alpe's assailant and did not have a good opportunity of seeing him. The witness's eyesight was, moreover, defective, and she had to wear spectacles. He urged that it was a case of mistaken identity. Although four persons saw the assault Mrs.Robinson was the only one who identified the prisoner, the other three being unable to identify the man.

The LORD CHIEF JUSTICE, in the course of his summing-up, expressed his thanks to Mr.Oddie for his conduct of the defence. The jury retired to consider their verdict, and after about 20 minutes' absence, they returned into Court finding the prisoner Guilty of wilful murder, but they said the crime was committed absolutely without premeditation, and they desired very strongly to recommend him to mercy.

The prisoner, being asked in the usual way whether he had anything to say, replied that he was innocent of the crime. The LORD CHIEF JUSTICE said he would take care that the recommendation was forwarded to the Home Secretary, and so far as he lawfully might he would say to the Home Secretary what he could in his favour, but the prisoner must not count upon it, for in his (the Lord Chief Justice's) judgement the jury could not rightfully have returned any other verdict. He passed sentence of death upon the prisoner.
So what happened next?

Arthur was sentenced to death. Another newspaper report, again in the Times, dated April 3rd, tells us that Arthur P. Hawkins was granted a reprieve.

EXECUTION. Edwin James Moore, 33,an ex-private of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was executed at Warwick Gaol Yesterday Morning, for the murder of his mother at Leamington.

REPRIEVE. Major Knox, governor of Wandsworth Prison, yesterday received a communication from the Home Secretary, stating that, after taking all the circumstances of the case into consideration, he had advised his Majesty to grant a reprieve to Albert Parker Hawkins, the ex-soldier, who was sentenced to death at the last session of the Central Criminal Court for the murder of his sister, Mary Ann Alpe, at Walworth. The jury recommended Hawkins to mercy, on the ground that the murder was unpremeditated. The sentence will be commuted to one of penal servitude for life.

Interestingly... The man mentioned above Arthur in the paper (Edwin James Moore), was roughly the same age, also ex-army, and also convicted of murdering a relative. Why would one man be hanged and the other shown mercy?

After looking for Edwin Moore on the net I found a very brief account of his crime. Apparently Edwin had come home one night after being out drinking and got into an argument with his mother. He threw a lamp at her. It missed, but set fire to other items in the room and Edwin's mother's blouse caught alight to. Edwin is said to have tried to put out the fire. His mother died of her injuries.

Arthur got his reprieve on the grounds that his crime was not premeditated. Was Edwin Moore's crime Premeditated? On the face of it, it doesn't appear to be. Unlike Arthur, Edwin's crime doesn't seem to be a "wilful" act of murder either.

I've only seen the briefest outline of Edwin's story so can't really come to any proper conclusions about him. I only mention his case to show how my curiosity was first sparked. I needed to know more about how & why reprieves were granted!

Reprieves

Around 49% of all those sentenced to death for murder from 1900 to 1957 (when the law was changed), were shown mercy and granted a reprieve. This figure really surprised me. It is not so surprising though when you realise that the mandatory punishment for murder was death & that no other sentence was allowed by law. Murder at the turn of the century was not divided into different catagories, as it is today. Murder, manslaughter, premeditated and non-premeditated murder all carried the same mandatory sentence. Hence the need for a review of each case, and the "high" number of reprieves.

The Home Secretary was responsible for this process. A Jury could recommend Mercy, but it was the Judges recommendation that carried the most weight and was rarely ignored. Arthur was lucky in that he knew fairly quickly after the trial (10 days) had finished that he was not going to hang. Some had to wait to within a few days of execution to know their fate. Anything up to three weeks.

Did life mean life?

Arthur's sentence was changed to life imprisonment. Surely when a walk to the gallows is substituted for life then my first thought was that it must of really meant "life". Or perhaps, at the very least, longer then what we think of as being a life term today. But this is not the case. None served over 20 years. Few over 15. And most served around 10 years.

It is not known when Arthur was released. In 1911, the census shows him to be at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.


A few notes for anyone reading the trial at the Old Bailey site.
• South Street is now named Dawes Street.
• Thornton Street (the street the attacker ran off in direction of), is now named Wooler Street.
• 73 South Street - Witness location and home, is still standing.
• Public house & the Alpe family home, in South Street, no longer exist. Replaced by flats.