In 1867 The Illustrated Police News published a full account of proceedings. In February 2000 I obtained a copy from The British Library. In March 2001 I requested clearance to reproduce a transcript on my website. Details of the correspondence between The British Library and myself can be viewed here on my main website. I am always grateful to them for their assistance on this and other projects.
The life and trial of the child murderess, Charlotte Winsor: containing her correct portrait as she appeared at the dock, sketch of the cottage in which the murders took place, trial at the Devon Assizes, full account of her low and dissolute habits, account of her three marriages, supposed number of her victims, fearful revelation of infanticide in England.
Office of The Illustrated Police News, 275, Strand.
THE LIFE AND TRIAL OF CHARLOTTE WINSOR.
ON the 5th of February last some persons found near their house a parcel lying by the side of the road, which on being opened was discovered to consist of the body of an infant wrapped up in a newspaper. The child was recognised as that of Mary Harris, who was accordingly arrested, together with Mrs. Winsor, on a charge of murder. The evidence at the trial went to show that they wore probably equally guilty, but the jury were dismissed without agreeing to a verdict. At the next assizes Mrs. Winsor was again put upon her trial for the same offence and found guilty, Mary Harris being accepted as principal witness for the prosecution.
Mary Ann Harris, 23, servant, and Charlotte Winsor, 45, were placed in the dock charged with the wilful murder of Thomas Edwin Gibson Harris, the infant child of the former. As before, Mr. Carter and Mr. Bere appeared for the prosecution; Mr. Prideaux and Mr. Turner for Harris, and Mr. Folkard for Winsor.
Mr. Carter made an application to have Harris admitted Queen’s evidence. He said the prosecution had bad the circumstances of the case under grave consideration. His lordship was aware of what had taken place at the last assizes; and, taking that into consideration, with the other circumstances, be was now instructed on behalf of the prosecution to apply to his lordship to have the younger prisoner called as a witness on the part of the Crown.
His lordship replied that if the prosecution had carefully considered the matter, and thought it necessary for the ends of justice that the younger prisoner should be admitted as Queen’s evidence, he, being aware of what had taken place at the late assizes, and having carefully read over the depositions, could see no objection to the adoption of such a course. It must, however, be pursued in the ordinary way, and the elder prisoner would therefore have to take her trial alone.
Mr. Prideaux asked that Harris might be acquitted before giving evidence.
His lordship, however, saw no reason why that should be done.
Mr. Folkard then took an objection to the whole proceedings, arguing that as Winsor had been arraigned at the last assizes, and the jury discharged without coming to a verdict, she could not be again put upon her trial. He fortified this opinion by sundry legal citations.
After some argument, His Lordship said he had no doubt whatever upon the subject; but still, as be bad a learned brother sitting in the other court, and as the point was of the greatest possible importance to the prisoner, he thought it would be but right that he should consult with Mr. Justice Willes.
Mr. Folkard stated that he should like to refer to some more authorities upon the point, but His Lordship said that all the authorities had been present to the mind of the court upon fliers than one occasion.
The learned judge then retired for a few minutes.
On his return he said that Mr. Folkard had very properly suggested that the jury on the former occasion having been discharged without coming to a verdict, Winsor could not now he arraigned. He was clearly of opinion that that was no objection in point of law; and his brother Willes entirely concurred with him in that view. He had no materials before him for entering upon an inquiry as to whether the judge at the last assizes hart done right or wrong in discharging the jury—whether lie had or had not properly exercised the discretion which appertained to him. He should, however, certainly require very strong facts before he should come to an opposite conclusion, seeing that the judge referred to was not only one of the most learned, but one of the most cautious, on the judicial beach.
The jury were then sworn, those jurymen who came from the neighbourhood of Torquay being challenged by Mr. Folkard.
Mr. Carter detailed the facts of the case at considerable length, and called the following witnesses:
Thomas Millman deposed to finding, on the 15th of February, the body of a child, wrapped up in a bundle, by the side of the Paignton—road, between the Torre and Torquay stations, not far frons the Torre Abbey toll gate, and opposite Curtis’s rosary.
P. C. William Ford stated that Millman brought the parcel containing the body to the Torquay police—station. The child was wrapped up in a newspaper, end covered on the outside with a piece of coarse wrapper, sewn up with bins worsted. The paper was The Western Times of May 6th, 1864. On the following day he went with Sergt. Edwards to the prisoner’s house, which was a lone cottage situated in fields. They saw her, and in reply to their questions she said she had been keeping a child for Harris, but that it was not there then, having been taken away by the aunt of the mother somewhere out on the Moor, about three weeks before. It was a month old when it came there, and she had kept it a month. They then left; but on the Thursday after, the 23rd, they again went to the cottage. They saw Winsor, and the sergeant asked how long the child she had been keeping had been gone. Her reply was, “Just a month today;”and that she could not road, but that she had made a mark on the almanack of the day the child had come to her . After looking at the almanack she said that date was Monday, December 12th; and answered a further question by saying that she had not made any mark of the day the child was taken away. The aunt she described as a tall woman, with a red face and dark complexion, who wore a dark bonnet, an alpaca dress, and a coloured shawl, and was about forty years of age. The child she said was rather plumpish, with a long thinish nose, light complexion, and between light and dark hair. She had last seen the mother on the previous Sunday night, between eight and nine o’clock, when she and her husband had gone over the “bank” to Shiphay Bridge with her, because she was afraid. Winsor saying that she had no objection to the house being searched, a search was then made. Witness found in a bedroom, on a chair, some newspapers The Western Times, of May 13th, 1864, and The Devon Weekly Times, of April 1st, 8th, and 29th, 1864. No paper for May 6th was discovered. They then left, and he afterwards took the prisoner’s granddaughter, Selina Pratt, to the station, and showed her the body, and she at once said, “That’s Tommy.” The next day Winsor was apprehended and taken to the station, where Harris was sitting. As she entered, Winsor put her hand to her neck and gave her neckerchief a jerk, seeing which Harris almost fainted. On Friday, the 24th, Pratt pointed out to him a place by the roadside at Torre Abbey turnpike—gate, on the Paignton road, the same place which had been previously shown to him by Millman as that where the body was found.
Cross-examined; Had not been able to find any of the child’s clothes. Sergeant Edwards corroborated a great part of the evidence of the previous witness, and said that the description given by Winsor of Harris’s aunt did not correspond with the aunt’s appearance. Winsor told him that the aunt took the child away between three and four, and added, “I hope nothing has happened to it, pretty dear. In the course of the search he found two halls of worsted. He had previously asked her if she had any, to which she had answered “No.” In a cradle in a bedroom he found a child’s heed, and asked the prisoner whose it was. She replied, My child’s,’’ or “My baby’s.” He asked where the baby was, and she directed him to a box, in which he found a doll. In another box he found a pair of socks, which Winsor said also belonged to the doll. When he said he would take the hood and socks away, she said, “Don’t; my child will be in a fine way about it.” They were afterwards shown to Pratt.
Cross-examined: The description given of the child did not agree with the appearance of the body, except that it was plumpish. Harris implored him to let her see the body of the child, but was never allowed to do so. Did not search anywhere but at Winsor’s and the servant’s room where Harris lived and had not found any baby’s clothes.
P. C. Thomas Vercoe said that on the 22nd of February Harris was brought to the Torquay police-station. Subsequently, about five in the evening, Winsor came there, and was taken by witness into the magistrate’s court room. Winsor said to him, “They tell me she’s here for murdering her child. She has not murdered it. I don’t believe she has. Her aunt took the child away from me a month ago last Tuesday.” Winsor described the aunt in similar terms to those previously used, and said she had a private mark upon the child by which she should know it among ten thousand. It had a large wart on its right foot close behind the great toe-nail; but not a seedy wart, so that anything could be tied around it to fret it off. It was a large flat wart, such as was not often seen on a child’s foot. She added that the child was a fine one, and had a lot of hair on the top of its head, but none hardly behind. Witness then took her into the cell where the child was lying. She took its right leg in her hand, looked at its great toe, and said, “No, that’s not the child, is it? It’s get no wart there.” The officer replied, “It’s got no wart there” and she said, ‘”Let’s see the head of it.’’ When she looked at the head she said, “Na, it’s not her child – her child had a lot of hair behind, and none hardly in front.” Afterwards she said, “I am very glad the child is gene from me, as I only had 2s. a week for keeping it, and did not get any money until Mary’s quarter was up. I had been up to see Marys’ mistress before I came here, and told her the mark on the child’s foot, and said I would go to the police—station and see if it was the child, and then come and let her know.” She also said she had told her husband of the mark and that she was going to the police—station. She then left, but was brought back in custody the next day. On Friday, the 24th, he had charge of the two prisoners in the magistrates’ private room. Harris said to Winsor, “Have you seen my child?” Winsor replied, “Yes.’’ Harris then said, “Is it mine?” And Winsor, after a pause, said, “I can hardly tell so long after the child is dead; “and added, “You will not hang me nor transport me.”
Lucy Bridgman, late Gibson, in whose house the child was born, described it as having a fair complexion, a round face, and rather a short nose. There was no mark or wart upon its feet. Mrs. Winsor took the child at 3s. a week when Harris obtained a situation. The socks found at Winsor’s were like these which Harris had bought for the child, and the hood was one which Winsor said she had altered from a doll’s for the deceased. The body found was that of Harris’s child.
Cross-examined: Had never said to Harris that she did not think the child would live. Had said that it would be a good job for her if it did not. Would not swear there was no mole upon the child, but there was none to be noticed. Harris had tried other people, but they would not take it, and Winsor was at first reluctant to do so.
Re—examined: There was no mole on the child’s great toe.
Charlotte Selina Pratt, the granddaughter of the prisoner, who is seven years of age, said that she lived with her grandfather and grandmother in February last. She knew Mary Jane Harris, and remembered her bringing a little baby to her grandmother after Christmas. The baby was called Thomas Edwin Gibson Harris, and used to sleep in the bed with her grandmother. While “Tommy” was there she looked after him. He used to wear the hood and socks produced. There was a wart on his toe—on his left foot, Remembered little Tommy being taken away from her grandmother’s. She thought it was on a Saturday night. Harris came there that day, and when she came home she found her there. It was getting dark at the time. Harris, her grandmother, and Tommy were in the kitchen. Her grandmother sent her to Mr. Johns’s shop, to get tea, sugar, and candles. Tommy was then at home, and Harris was there with her grandmother. Whilst she was away she called at her aunt’s, and when she came back Harris and her grandmother were in the kitchen, and she did not see Tommy. Her grandmother sent her out again to Mr. Knight’s for some buns, Harris giving her the money. She got the buns, and on her return found Harris and her grandmother still together. Little Tommy was gone away. Harris stopped about half an hour after that. Next saw little Tommy in the kitchen. Went with Police constable Ford to Torquay to the police—station, and there saw Tommy dead. The day after Harris had been there she went out for a walk with her grandmother past Torre Abbey turnpike-gate. Her grandmother had a carpetbag with her, in which there were two chemises and two bellybands of Tommy’s. They were clean—her grandmother had washed them. They went to the Castle Inn, where there was a cart and a man with it. The man spoke to her grandmother. The bag with the things in it was carried to Harris’s house. Did not remember going out with her grandmother a day or two afterwards. Remembered showing Ford a place to which she had been once before with a little girl—Jane Bright —no one else. That was the reason why she showed the place to Ford.
[The testimony now given by this witness varied very greatly from her former evidence; in fact in some respects was quite contradictory, and suggested the conclusion that she had been tampered with.]
Mr. Carter, in consequence, asked that the third section of the new statute might be applied.
Mr. Folkard contended that the section bad no bearing, except in the discretion of the judge.
His lordship, however, said that he had seen a report of the former trial which the learned judge who heard it had certified to be correct. In that there certainly was nothing whatever said by Pratt about the little girl. The witness might be questioned.
Examination resumed: She had been up that road with her grandmother, before she went to the Castle Inn, the same day. Her grandmother said nothing to her about the road after they passed the gate. Saw the bag in the kitchen the next day; but it had nothing in it then. The child’s things had been taken out at Harris’s house. When she came home on the night that Harris and her grandmother were together, she asked where Tommy was; and Harris said he was taken away by his aunt to the other side of Exeter. Since the last assizes witness had lived with her mother at Plymouth, and had not seen her grandfather.
Cross-examined ‘At her former examination she said that it was Harris who sent her out she second time, and that was true. Did not say that at that time her grandmother was not at home. She was.
His Lordship referring to the record of the former hearing, said that Pratt upon this point then stated the same as in her examination in chief new.
Cross-examination continued Ford pointed out a place and asked if that was the place where she went with her grandmother. She had said that she would like to see “Hundred Steps” and her grandmother had said she would take her there. She did not say that just before they left with the bag; but she did the day before, and when they came to a road that evening her grandmother stopped and said that was not the way to the “Hundred Steps,’’ which they then went to see. Whilst they were at the Castle Inn her grandmother left her a few minutes, and then came back. The socks did not belong to the doll, and her grandmother had not got them before Tommy came. The hood belonged to the doll. Her grandmother was always very fond of the baby. When she came back with the candles Harris said she had been to the station with Tommy.
Mary Jane Harris: In February last I was a servant at Mrs. Wansey’s living at Tamar Villas, Torquay. I went to her on the 12th of December. She was then living at Lymington villas. Before I went there I had been living with Mrs. Gibson, where I had been thirteen weeks. I came there on the 1st of September for the purpose of being confined, and I was confined of a male child on the 6th of October; and I had it registered as Thomas Edward Gibson Harris. Whilst I was at Mrs. Gibson’s she took care of it for the first fortnight, and I afterwards. There was no particular mark on its foot. It was a fine child. On the 12th of December I took the child to Mrs. Winsor’s. She was then living near Shiphay Bridge. I had known her first time in September at Marychurch. I made an arrangement with her to take care of the child on the 10th of December. I had asked two other people to take care of it—Mrs. Kellard, Portland place, and a woman whose name I don’t remember. Myself and Mrs. Winsor and Pratt went to Mrs. Gibson’s together, and then the child was taken to Winsor’s. This was on the 12th. The child had get three short frocks, two long ones, two white petticoats, two flannels, and one pair of white socks, like those produced. It had nothing for its head. I saw is four times whilst I was with Mrs. Wansey. As I was going so Mrs. Winsor’s with the child we had some conversation. I said, “There has been one child picked up in the country.” She said,” I wonder I had not got myself into it once before” and that she had put away one of a girl who was confined at her house. The girl had promised to give her £3 but she did not. I as asked her how she did it. She said she put her finger on the jugular vein. She also said she had stifled one three weeks old for Elizabeth Sharland, and thrown it into Torbay, and when it was picked up it was nearly washed all to pieces. She said she bad put away one for her sister Porry; that her sister said she would give her £4; and that her sister was staying at her house, and sent a letter directed so he left at the Jolly Sailor, to the father of her child, and by return of post received a letter wish a £5 note enclosed. Her sister had only given her £2, but said that when her husband returned from sea she would make her a handsome present. She said her sister did not do it, and had scarcely spoken to her since. That was all said on the way to the house. We had tea at her house. I asked her if she was not afraid. She sad, “No; hell with you, it’s doing good!” and that she would help any one that would never split upon her. I stayed with her half an hour; and as I was coming away she said, “I will do whatever lays in my power for your child.” I said, “All right,” and went away. I next saw the child a fortnight after at Mrs. Wansey’s kitchen. Mrs. Winsor brought it. She asked me whether I would give her £5 if she would do away with the child. I said I had not get £5 with me. She said I could give her a note, and she could go to the father of the child. I said I could not do that; and she said, “Get it anyhow else I’ll put them all by for thee if thee hast forty.” I said I should not do any such thing. She said she did, and I could do the same. Mrs. Winsor was there then better than half an hour; and that was all that passed. I next saw the baby on Sunday, the 5th of February. Mrs. Wansey then had two servants ; before that she had three. We went out alternately on Sundays, and I generally used to say, “I suppose, ma’am, I can go now.” We had to come back at nine. I said that to Mrs. Wansey on the 5th of February, and then I went to Mrs. Winsor’s, getting there at half—past seven. They were in bed. I knocked at the bedroom window, and she said, “Is that Mary?” I said, “Yes, I want to come in and see my child.” She said, “I can’t come out to let you in my husband’s here.” The husband let me in, and I went into the bedroom, where the child was in bed with Mrs. Winsor. She said, “I have made it all right with my husband. I have told him I shan’t keep the child after the quarter.” Pratt was in her own bedroom. She said if I would give her the £5 she would do away with it. She asked me if I would come out one day for the week and take away the child with her? I said, “You may if you like.” I asked her how she could do it? She said she could get something at the chemist’s. On the 8th of February I asked leave of Mrs. Wansey to go out, and I went out on the 6th.
Mrs. Wansey asked me where I was going, and I told her. I went to Mrs. Winsor’s, and got there at half—past three. I found the baby tied in the chair, and the girl Pratt playing with it. It was tied in to prevent its falling out. Mrs. Winsor was sitting on a stool. I stayed talking some little time, but I did not take the baby. She said to Pratt, “Will you go and get some candles?” and she went, leaving myself, Mrs. Winsor, and the baby in the kitchen. It was not then quite dark. Mrs. Winsor gave Pratt a basket.
After she went Winsor said she did not do it before I came out, “because if you tell on me you must tell on yourself, for one is as bad as the other.” She said if I would never tell we would never be found out. She asked me then if she should do it. I asked how she could do it. She said, “Put it between the bedties.” I don’t remember she said anymore ; but she took the child into the girl Pratt’s bedroom. I did not then go in, nor could I see what she did. She stayed there ten minutes, and then came back into the room without the baby. She said would I look in, and that it soon died. I looked in and saw the bed made up, but no child. During the time she was in the room the child did not cry. I saw the child’s body afterwards. ‘The little girl was still away. Mrs. Winsor’s husband came in, and asked Winsor where the boy was. She said, “Oh, his aunt has been here and took it away.” He said, “Oh!” She brought him a pail and asked him to fasten the handle. I asked him where lie was going, and he said he was going to Torre Wood after some pigswash. After he was gone Mrs. Winsor said, ‘‘Did you hear the child?’’ I said, “No.” She said, “I did, and I was afraid my husband would hear it.” That was all she said then. Some little time after the girl Pratt came back. She did not stay long, Mrs. Winsor saying, “You must go and fetch two penny buns for Mary,” and she gave her the money. I did not give Mrs Winsor any money. When she went away Winsor said, “I must make haste, the girl will soon be back.” She then went into the bedroom, and brought out the child, which was dead. She undressed it. It was wearing short clothes. We went to the box, and I took out some things of Pratt’s and some newspapers. She wrapped the child tip in some newspapers, and she put it into the box and shut down the cover, and she locked it and put the key in her pocket. I don’t think any more was said until Pratt came home, and then Winsor said, “Mary’s aunt has been and taken away Tommy, and put it on red socks.” I know the piece of carpet in the carpet—bag. I gave it to Mr. Winsor, having got it out of Mrs. Wansey’s wash—house. That was when we were changing houses after Christmas. Mrs. Winsor told me she had made up a bag. On the 6th of February made an engagement to meet Mrs. Winsor on the 14th, at the Clarence Hotel, near Torre station. That is the first house in Torre from where Mrs. Winsor lived. We were to go over round Paignton with the child. I did not meet her on the 14th, but saw her on the 15th at Mrs. Wansey’s. Pratt came with her. She came to the door. She had a basket with her – not the carpet bag. She said, “You did not come out last night.” I said, “No.” She said, “Never mind; will you let me have four shillings, and I will go to Exeter with it and bring it up round Heavitree.” I said I had not got the 4s. She said, “You could draw from your mistress.” I went first and asked the nurse, but she could not give me any. I then went to Mrs. Wansey, and she gave me Is. 6d., which I gave to Winsor. I said, “Mrs. Wansey has not got any more change in silver.” Winsor said she would send over in the morning for the other half—a—crown, and sent the little girl Pratt, but I had not got it. On the next Sunday I got leave to go out, and went to Mrs. Gibson’s. I had some conversation with her, and then afterwards went on to Mrs. Winsor’s. I found Mr. and Mrs. Winsor sitting by the fire. She said, “Oh, it’s you, Mary; we’ve just come home from Mrs. Rice’s.” I said, “There has been a child picked up at Torquay between three and four months old.” She said, “Yes, and they tell me that Government will now take it in hand.” I said, “So they ought.” She then went into her bedroom and I followed, and she said, “I have got yours under the rabbit—box.” I said, “Have you really?” The rabbit—box was at the right hand side of the door, Sloe said, “Yes, I have.” I said, “Mrs. Gibson has dreamt that at was mine that was picked up at Torquay, and that you had killed at, and that I was going to be hung for it.” She said, “Oh, nonsense, don’t let her get anything out of you.” I asked her again if she had it, and she said, “Yes, ‘pon my soul.” She said, “I was going away to-morrow morning if you had not come out. I have received a letter from a girl at Plymouth, enclosing an order for £3; a girl that I did it for before— asking me if I would take her in again for £4. She is looking to be confined the latter end of this month or the next,” She said she had sent back to say she would not; if she had been honest she would have payed in the first place. She said she could not go in the train with it (my child) because there was such an air with it, and that she was going to take it out on the Moor. That was all that passed, and the Wednesday after that I was apprehended, On the Friday when Mrs. Winsor was brought in to the police—station she put her finger to her throat. I remember what conversation passed between me and Winsor in Vercoe’s presence. I asked her if it was my child, and she said she could hardly tell, it had been dead so long, and added, “but you won’t transport me or hang me.” Coming up in the train, I asked her, “Is it my child?” and she said, “I rather think it is.” I said, “Did you carry the child there?” She said, “I did not.” I said, “Who could have done it?” She said, “That’s a mystery.” I said, “You know you was there; the little girl said you was.” She said, “Yes, so I was, I went that way to show her where you lived. Don’t you remember coming up one day when it was wet?” I said, “Yes, that was the 16th.” When we arrived at the gaol I saw her again, and I asked her if she did carry my child there, and she said, “I did.” This is the last time I have seen her to speak to.
Cross-examined; I have taken my trial for this offence myself. Q. On your solemn oath before your God have you not attempted to poison that child? Indeed I have not. I have not mixed rats and mice poison with its food. Indeed I always wished the child to live. Q. And yet stood by, according to your own statement, and sanctioned a barbarous murder? A. Yes. I did not put my child with Winsor that it might be made away with, though she told me she had made away with several children. Farmer Nicholls allowed me for the child, but up to the time I placed it with Winsor I had not seen him. I do not remember my Uncle Cleve slapping Nicholls’s face because he would not pay. It is not true. Nicholls did not tell me if I swore the child on him that he would leave the country. I used to have 3s. 6d. a week from him. I paid 2s. 6d. a week for it. myself. He did not sign a paper agreeing to pay me 2s. 6d. a week. The illicit intercourse between me and Nicholls has been going on many years not quite seven. I never had but the two children. I never had a miscarriage, nor took anything to procure abortion. I knew nothing of Winsor until this conversation, except that I had seen her twice before—once at Mr. Osmond’s, at Marychurch, and the second time’ at her own house. In other respects I was a perfect stranger to her until then. I used to see Gibson once a week. I knew that the ladies of the village used to call upon Mrs. Winsor. I stayed one night at Winsor’s after my child was there when I had my holiday. I did not ask her to allow my baby to sleep with me. She did not refuse to allow the baby to sleep with me. She said nothing about it and I slept with the girl Pratt. I always found the child well cared for at Winsor’s. I never asked anyone to put away my child.—Q. But why did you not rush into the bedroom when you knew Mrs. Winsor was going to hurt it?—A. Because she fooled my mind up.—Q. Why did you not tell the police when a woman, as you say, confessed that she was a wholesale murderess? —A. I don’t know.— Q. But why did you trust your child with such a woman. A. I did not till the other refused to take it, I had no conversation with Mrs. Gibson or anyone else about making away children. I was frightened when Mrs. Gibson told me her dream. Mrs. Winsor did not tell me that I must take away the child because I had not kept the payments up. I agreed to pay her once a quarter. I never asked her to put away the child; and never such a thing crossed my mind. I said nothing when she took it into the bed- room — And yet you are the mother of two children. A. I am — Q. Do you ever go to church? A. I went two or three times while I was with Mrs. Wansey. Q. Did you laugh or cry when you saw the dead body? A. I did not laugh, you may be sure. When Mrs. Gibson told me her dream of course I felt it. I made these statements to my attorney. Nothing was said to me that I should be pardoned. Indeed I do not expect to be pardoned. I don’t know what will become of me. I did not make this statement because I hoped for pardon, but because my conscience made me.
Mrs. Wansev, Harris’s mistress, made a statement which corroborated in some particulars as to dates, &c., the evidence of Harris.
William Stabb, surgeon, of Torquay, deposed that he had examined the body of the child. The wrapper was opened for him, and there was no particular marks about the child except from the gnawing of a rat or something of that sort on the cheek. The day after lie made a post-mortem examination he first examined the stomach, which was half to three—parts full of food. The heart, lungs, and all the viscera were very much congested. Part of the food had beets digested, and it had probably been taken from an hour to an hour and a half before the child died. One side of the heart was full of blood, and the lungs were congested. There was no evidence of any poison, and the coats of the stomach were all healthy. He had come to the conclusion then that the child had died from exposure to cold, snow being then on the ground but titers was nothing in the appearance of the body that did not agile with the statement made by horns. The symptoms of death by suffocation and by exposure would be very much the same. The body was not decomposed, and he should not think the child had been dead long before it was found. Frosty weather, however, would retard decomposition.
Cross examination: there was no wart on the foot of the child. Should not necessarily have expected to find any external marks front death as suggested by Harris. The brain was congested. The symptoms were consistent with death having taken place within 12 hours before the body was found. In the absence of decomposition it was possible for him to say how long before he saw the body the child had died.
Richard Charles at Southwell Stocker, late house surgeon of the Torquay infirmary, now of Exmouth, stated he was present at the post mortem examination, and that he agreed with the conclusions drawn by Mr. Stabb. He was not under the impression at the time, but the appearances were quite consistent with death from suffocation.
Cross examined: if a body were shut up in a box in a room where there was a fire he thought decomposition would commence in three days, and that it would be advanced in a week.
RE examined: he knew, however, that cold weather retarded decomposition.
Betsy Stephens, the only one of Harris is three aunts who lives in the direction of the moor, proved that she had never taken away a child from Winsor’s house.
Robert Johns, grocer, of Torr, corroborated the statement that Pratt had come to him for candles one evening in the manner indicated.
This was the last witness calls for the prosecution, and Mr. Carter briefly summed up the case, concluding about five o’clock.
Mr. Folkard, who announced but he did not intend to call any witness for the defence, then applied for an adjournment until the next morning, or at least for a short period that night. He had not had time, under the circumstances, to make himself well acquainted with the case as he desired; and moreover, having been in court all day, he did not feel physically competent to address the jury in the manner he should desire.
His lordship was evidently taken by surprise by this application, having apparently shared the general opinion that the trial could easily be concluded that day; and he complained that Mr. Folkard had not treated the court as he thought to have done. The learned counsel knew perfectly well that in a matter of life and death no judge could resist such an application; but that whatever his own feelings were he would be compelled to accede to.
Mr. Carter pointed out that the jury we’ll have to be locked up all night.
His lordship said he knew that, but as the application had been made it must be granted. He knew the jury would not object to be inconvenienced slightly for the sake of a fellow creature on trial for her life. Mr. Folkard said he was not prepared to take up the defence then in the manner he could wish; and having sat in the court since nine o’clock he was too fatigued to discharge his duty in the manner he desired to do. The proceedings would therefore be adjourned until nine o’clock on the following morning.
Winsor, who has a very forbidding countenance, took the proceedings at the late assizes very coolly, whilst Harris was much affected. Yesterday when placed in the dock Winsor seemed equally unconcerned, until the statement was made that her fellow prisoner would be a admitted as Queens evidence. Then she began to look rather anxious, and her nervousness increased until Mr. Carter, in his opening remarks, stated so the court the nature of Harris is confession of the way in which the poor infant was murdered. Then, directly the learned counsel mentioned that the infant had been smothered under a bed, Winsor burst into a violent paroxysm of tears, from which she did not recover for between two and 3 hours; afterwards, however seemingly tolerably composed. Harris gave her evidence in a straightforward and seemingly penitent manner; to all appearance with a desire to tell the whole truth, and not to exculpate herself at the expense of Winsor. She answered the home questions put in cross examination directly and firmly; but it was clear the firmness was not attained without great effort; and she left the witness box trembling with the emotions which she had found it impossible wholly to overcome . The court was crowded whilst she was under examination; and her statements caused great sensation.
Mr. Folkard, counsel for the defence, then addressed the jury. He observed that if the jury at all believed the story of Harris they must stand aghast at the horrible Revelations, and almost doubt whether such a wretch as the prisoner was described by Harris to be, could ever have existed. He would for a few moments venture to go over some points of the evidence, and let them not forget that the woman Harris came from beneath the very shadow of the gallows, and, therefore, let them receive with great caution any statements she would make against the prisoner in order to save her own life. The fact that Harris was charged at the last assizes by the side of the prisoner was alone sufficient to induce them to be extremely cautious how they received her extraordinary statements. The more be had thought over the evidence given by Harris, the more incredible it seemed to be. He reminded the jury that the prisoner was not being tried for all those atrocities said by Harris to have been committed; but the plain question for them to decide was whether she murdered Harris’ child. The evidence relate to the conversation between the prisoner, a shrewd woman, with Harris, an inexperienced girl, placed her in Harris is power, and that it should have occurred was most improbable. If such bad been the case, it was likely that a mother who wished her child well would have placed it under the care of such a wretch as the prisoner was represented to be? The atrocious history described was an inconsistent end improbable story and looked like an invention on the part of Harris against the prisoner merely concocted to save her own life. In a case of murder it was a most important point to look into the motive that the prisoner would have to commit the act. What motive could the prisoner have to get rid of the infant? The motive was in the reverse direction, for it was to the interest of prisoner to keep the child alive, and the evidence went to show that the child was always treated well by the prisoner. The learned counsel then proceeded to intimate that the child had been taken away by Harris from prisoner’s house on the night in question under the pretext of its being taken to the aunt’s on the moor. (the prisoner here sobbed loudly, and continued to do so throughout the trial, with her head very much bent, and appearing to listen with great interest to the proceedings.) If the tale were true as told by Harris, what a miscreant and wretch she must be, that she wished the child well to stand by while her own child was murdered! The next noticeable point was the question as to what the prisoner would gain by committing the horrible deed and placing herself in Harris is power? Prisoner had only received a one Shilling and sixpence, and was it probable that any human being would commit so horrible a crime as described for that paltry sum? Another noticeable point was the nervous manner always exhibited by Harris, and her fear of being hanged; while the demeanour of the prisoner was calm and collected until the dreadful charge was brought against her by Harris. The whole question for the jury was whether Harris’ child was the one found, and if it were, did the prisoner murder it? He would remind them that in cases of murder they must have clear proof of the identity of the body, whereas the evidence in this case was most contradictory relative to certain marks on the child. The child found had no mark on its toe, while Harris’s is child had a mole or a wart. When the prisoner was asked to describe the child she did so at once, and mentioned the wart, and it was not probable that such a story could be invented on the spur of the moment; but on the contrary was confirmed by the little girl Pratt. The length of time between the day on which the child was taken from the prisoners house and the time that the body was found, was too long to allow of its having been kept without some signs of decomposition having taken place; yet the evidence showed that the body was without smell or decomposition when found, and the surgeon had said that the signs when found were consistent with death even within 24 hours. Another point upon which the counsel for the prosecution had laid much stress, was the discovery of certain newspapers in the prisoners house –the newspaper in which the body was found being of a date previous to the one of four found in the house. That part of the evidence, however, was worth nothing for in the present day newspapers found their way into nearly every house and the one wrapped round the body was not taken from a series that had been found in the house. If he’d had been part of a paper, and the piece found in the house would match with the part round the child, the fact would tell for something against the prisoner. Another point pressed by the prosecution was the worsted found in the prisoner is house, but he denied that it did match, and even if it did there was nothing very wonderful for the wife of a laboring man to have a ball of worsted of the ordinary kind in her possession. The police constable too had stated something about a sign made by the prisoner to Harris when they were taken into custody, as signifying by a twitch at her neck that they should be hanged. He looked upon such a construction as fanciful, for it was unlikely the prisoner would so act under those circumstances; besides if she did not place her hands up to her neck it might have been done for an adjustment of her collar or some other purpose than that suggested by the prosecution. There were two mysteries surrounding the case. One was as to what became of the child’s clothes. They had only been told of a little hood and a pair of socks belonging to the little girls doll, that had been produced; and where was the child between February 8th, the day when it was taken away from the prisoners by the aunt up to the time it was found? He would draw their attention to the friendship between Mrs. Gibson and Harris as a fact tending to throw suspicion upon Harris the evidence all pointed to the conclusion that the child was removed, if they shut out the evidence of Harrison: and all other witnesses stated that it was Harris’s intention to take the child to her aunt’s, and where now were the child and the clothes? He again called their attention to the nature of the evidence given by Harris and reminded them that by giving the evidence, she would receive benefit, and she no doubt knew it. Such evidence should be cautiously received. Could they place evidence in such a woman as Harris, and allow it to weigh against the life of a fellow creature? He entreated them to advance with caution how they arrived at their conclusion, and to duly weigh the consequences that depended upon it. Until Harris was put into the witness box the theory was always different from what it was then, and let them look into the character of the prisoner, who was the wife of an industrious labourer who had sufficient means to live upon. Was it likely such a woman would place herself in the power of another by committing so dreadful a crime for one Shilling and sixpence? As one of the great maxims of the law was that no polluted hands should touch the pure foundations of justice, it was most important that they should carefully weigh the evidence brought before them. He felt confidence in them that they should arrive, after strict deliberation, at what they considered a verdict compatible with truth and justice.
His lordship carefully summed up, occupying about 2 hours. He recapitulated the previous history of the case, when Harris was charged by the side of the prisoner at the previous assizes. Harris since then had been admitted as Queen’s evidence, or as an approver of an accomplice in the deed, and he would remind them that a jury should be entirely satisfied that the statements made by the witness in the position of Harris were corroborated in every particular by untainted evidence. The view the law took on that point was that the evidence must be materially corroborated in some respects. If the tale of Harris were correct, it was beyond doubt that the prisoner had been guilty of the murder of the child, and seldom had any court heard more dreadful Revelations than they had from the witness box on the previous day. Did they credit her testimony? Did the woman Harris appear in giving her evidence to be giving it fairly? It was probable that although she might not fully know what would be done with her, she gave her evidence under the impression that the mercy of the crown would be extended to her. His lordship said he did not place much weight upon the question of the newspapers, nor the worsted, nor the sign made by the prisoner to Harris at the police station, which had been said to signify they should be hanged, as of any weight against her. If they did not, they must take into consideration those facts which they believed would materially connect the prisoner with the crime. It had been suggested that Harris, under fear, stated what she had done in order to shield herself and throw the crime upon the prisoner, and it was them to place what value they considered right upon her evidence. If they had any reasonable doubt in the case they should give the benefit of that to the prisoner, and especially as it was a matter of life and death to a; but if the evidence clearly pointed the prisoner out as the murderer of the child, it would be their duty to find the prisoner guilty. His lordship then asked the jury to consider their verdict.
The jury then retired, and in the course of one hour and twenty minutes returned into court and stated that they were agreed in a verdict of GUILTY against the prisoner.
The clerk of Arraigns then called upon the prisoner to state whether she had anything to say why she should not die in accordance with the law.
The prisoner made no answer, but sobbed of more loudly then she had done at throughout the trial. Amid breathless silence the judge put on the black cap.
His lordship then, addressing the prisoner, said: Charlotte Winsor, you have been found guilty of the crime of murder – of murdering this poor little child which you had under your care. It is true, quite true, that you were assisted in that murder by the mother of the child; but that can be no justification or afford the slightest excuse for the act which you have committed. If the statement of Mary Ann Harris be true – and the jury, to whom is entrusted the province of deciding on the credit to be given to every witness, have believed her –your case is one of most serious aggravation. It is to be feared that you have upon various occasions acted in the same nefarious manner that you have done in the present instance. I have no wish to harrow your feelings or to aggravate the horror of your present position by dwelling upon your crime; but it is my duty to advert it for the purpose of warning you to banish all hope of mercy or commiseration. You showed no mercy to the unfortunate child, and you can expect to meet with none at the hands of others. I would treat you, therefore, to use that time that yet remains to you in endeavouring to seek for mercy where alone it can be found; and I Trust you may obtain that hereafter which you cannot hope for here. The duty only remains – that duty which is imposed on me by the law –of pronouncing upon you its sentence, and that sentence is that you be taken from the place where you are now are to the place from whence you came, and thence to a place of execution, where you shall hang by the neck until you are dead; that your body be buried within the precincts of the prison where you shall last be confined, and the Lord have mercy upon your soul. The prisoner, who had wept most bitterly then exhorted to abandon all hope of life, on hearing the conclusion of her dreadful sentence turned and walked firmly from the dock. Not the slightest emotion of sympathy was exhibited by anyone in the crowded court.
The learned counsel in the case subsequently rose to ask the court whether it was intended that anything further should be done with reference to the case that day.
His lordship said if by that it wore intended to ask him whether he should discharge the woman Harris, he would say that he should certainly do nothing of the kind.
Memoir of Charlotte Winsor.
Charlotte Winsor, the subject of this present memoir first breathed the breath of life in the quiet parish of Haberton, about 2 miles and ½ from the town of Totnes in Devonshire. She was the second of seven children, six daughters and a son, of William and Elizabeth Shepperd: who were commonly known in the village and neighbourhood as old ‘Will and Betsy Shepperd’. Her father was a labourer, being employed sometimes on farm work, at others in land draining. He was a little bald headed man, and was much addicted to drinking cider, which is a favourite beverage in Devon. The mother was accustomed to go about from house to house around the neighbourhood, extorting money from the servants by pretending to tell their fortunes. It may be seen from what has been said of the Shepperds, that her daughter, as well as their other children, had but a very indifferent example set them to begin life with, and the after career of the family has fully verified what might have been expected. Their only son was transported, and the character and fate of their second daughter, we are already fully acquainted with. We will now, however return to the early life of Winsor. She was brought up in a very uncouth rough way, and at an early age was put to work on the farm of Mr. Robert Bourne, at east Leigh, in Haberton parish. She was particularly fond of outdoor occupation, field labour, &c., And had a great predilection for mixing and being in the company of men. She lived in East Leigh for some years, but ultimately removed and went to Mr. Lear at Cotton farm near the town of Dartmouth. How long she remained there we cannot with certainty ascertain, but it is probable that she left that place to be married to her first husband, (as she had three), John Caseley, who was one of the parish of Rattery, near Totnes. He was farm labourer and served his time with Mr. Elliott, of Hatchland of the same parish. He was killed while employed in cutting of Marley tunnel, belonging to the South Devon Railway between Brent and Totnes. She next married William Reynolds, belonging to the small fishing town of Brixham. He was a labouring quarry man. He died from the effects of cold and chill which he caught while working in a well. Her present and last husband is Winsor who is of the same occupation as her first husband namely a farm labourer. Charlotte Winsor, if report speaks true of her, has been in a criminal point of view the wife of many more husbands then those already enumerated. She has always led a low, disreputable life, visiting all the fairs and routs in the neighbourhood, seeking the hunts and society of the most dissolute, and it is said that even children were not free from her machinations. Her onward progress in crime may be gathered from the evidence of the woman, Mary Harris, whose child she murdered.
Torquay having become notorious for infanticide or child murder as several children have been found one after another without any discovery of the guilty parties taking place, although the police had been most vigilant in the discharge of their duties to endeavour to get to the bottom of these dark deeds of horror. Although a great deal of praise has been lavished on Sergeant Edwards for the discovery of the murder of Thomas Edwin Gibson Harris, by Charlotte Winsor, yet it was not through this means it was discovered for he had the leading strings put into his hands and only drove on after having reins. The credit of the discovery most certainly belongs to Mr. Baird, superintendent of the F division of the Devon constabulary. He told the sergeant (as the surgeon from examination was able to give nearly the age of the child) to go to the registrar of birth and get a list of the children born about that time and search them all up and see if any were missing. That was done and the child of Mary Ann Harris was found missing; further enquiries instituted and ultimately the guilty were brought to justice. Great praise is most certainly due to Sergeant Edwards and PC William Ford for the vigilance they displayed in working out the case after the discovery was made.
Charlotte Winsor’s Cottage
This engraving which was sketched on the spot, by a gentleman of the town expressly for The Illustrated Police News is an exact and true representation of Winsor’s cottage, where the fearful deed was committed. The house stands quite by itself, in an open field, removed from all other dwellings, about a mile out of the town and separated from the high road by the South Devon Railway. It is situated in a very lonely retired spot and is just the place as a murderer would choose to carry out his frightful and horrid purposes.
Court Of Queen’s Bench, November 27th
(Sittings in Banco, before the Lord Chief Justice And Justices Mellor, Shee and Lush)
The Queen V: Charlotte Winsor
The prisoner Charlotte Winsor, who was convicted and left for execution at the last Summer Assize in Devonshire, for the murder at Torquay, of the illegitimate child of a person named Davis, but respited until Monday next, to enable this court to consider the point raised at her trial, was this morning brought up on habeas corpus, in the custody of Mr. Rose, the governor of Exeter gaol, in order to assign error on the record. The convict when brought into court appeared perfectly cool and collected, and did not betray any emotion or feeling of the critical position in which she is placed. Even when Mr. Norton (The Queen’s Attorney and Coroner) read the return which set forth her crime and sentence, and that was she to be hanged by the neck till she was dead, and her body buried within the precincts of the gaol she had perfect control over her feelings, and stood firm and unmoved, and with little expression of indifference on her face.
The Solicitor General appeared for the Crown, and Mr. Folkard for the convict.
Mr. Norton then read the writ of habeas corpus and the return to it.
Mr. Folkard then said that he appeared for the convict, the plaintiff in error, and as she was present, he moved on her behalf, and prayed over the record.
The record, which was an exceedingly long one, was taken as read.
Mr. Folkard then handed in the assignment of errors, which he prayed to have put on the files of the court.
That was done, and the court then assigned Mr. Folkard and Mr. Collins for Counsel for the convict.
The Solicitor General, on the part of the Crown, asked the Court, if they should see fit, to appoint the concillium for the arguments within eight days from this date?
The Lord Chief Justice –that cannot be done because of the interference of the Winter Circuit.
The Solicitor General said, then it must stand over until the next term.
The convict was then removed in custody and lodged in Newgate.
[A second edition of this pamphlet will be published immediately after the decision of the judges next term.]
Note: to date in research and second edition of this has so far not been found.