This matter was first published in the Hertfordshire Mercury on Saturday, 4th June, 1910. It was a report on the Inquest of Miss Gertrude Allen, aged 24. The jury at the Inquest into the death of Gertrude Allen came back from deliberations with a verdict of Wilful Murder against Arthur Thrussell. At a later bail hearing he was committed for trial at Hertford Summer Assizes.
Hertfordshire Summer Assizes
The Hertfordshire Summer Assizes were opened by the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Alvestone. His Lordship arrived on Saturday evening at his lodgings, the residence of Mr O.A. Christie. On Sunday morning His Lordship, accompanied by the High Sheriff (Sir Alf Reynolds) the Under Sheriff (Mr C.E. Longmore) and the Sheriff’s Chaplain (Reverend Arthur Athill). They attended the service at All Saint’s Church, in State. Business of Assizes was opened at 11am on Monday, 20th June, 1910.
Arthur Thrussell, aged 22, a Carman, was indicted for the Wilful Murder of his sweetheart Gertrude Allen, aged 24. Mr Matthew and Mr Car were for the prosecution and Mr Warburton acted for the defence. Mr Matthew said in a sense the case would be a simple one as no one was in dispute over the facts.
Arthur Thrussell had moved into the Allen home on January 6th, 1910. He had taken up with the daughter of the owner of the house, Thomas Allen. Giving his evidence, Thomas Allen stated that his daughter and Arthur Thrussell were very fond of each other. On the day of his daughters’ murder, he had left for work at 6am, leaving his daughter Gertrude and Thrussell in the house alone. Thomas Allen said he had used the same knife that Thrussell had used to cut his daughter’s throat, that morning to cut up his packed lunch for work. Allen said his daughter had found the knife in the road outside a few days earlier.
Two neighbours appeared in the witness box to give evidence in the case, both stating they had seen the couple earlier in the kitchen together. Mrs Elizabeth Simmons was expecting to go with Gertrude that afternoon to see her mother, who was homed in the local asylum. Mrs Simmons called at the Allen house at about 2pm; Thrussell called downstairs that Gertrude would down in a minute. Arthur Thrussell then appeared in person, in a blood stained condition and stated that he had killed Gertrude.
Mrs Nellie Faulkener said she had heard Gertrude shouting, “Arthur, Arthur, don’t Arthur!” Thrussell came out of the house and asked Mrs Faulkener where the local village policeman lived. Mrs Faulkener said she did not reply to Thrussell’s question. He then said, “She is dead, quite dead, you know,” before calmly walking across the road to PC Heards’ house.
Giving evidence, PC Heard stated that when Arthur Thrussell came to his door, he was visibly trembling and covered in blood. At first PC Heard thought Thrussell was playing a practical joke on him. In reply to PC Heard’s questions about what had happened, Thrussell said, “I have killed her.” PC Heard said he went with the defendant into the Allen home and found Gertrude Allen lying on the bedroom floor, fully dressed, in a pool of blood, with her throat cut. The knife in court was the knife that was lying nearby in a pool of blood.
Dr R. B. Smythe stated that he was called to the house and found Gertrude Allen to be “quite dead,” with a large gash in her throat, extending from just below the ear on one side to the angle of the jaw on the other. All the structures of Gertrude’s spinal column were severed. Her death was instantaneous. The wound could have been caused by a single blow but great violence would have had to have been used. Dr Smythe answered questions as to what grounds a plea of insanity might be more likely. He sighted the great violence used and the state of shock Arthur Thrussell seemed to be in; the fact he made no effort to run away might also be an indication of his insanity.
PS Baker provided early forensic evidence of the murder scene; footprints in the pools of blood matched the footwear the accused was wearing at the time. Insp Brown gave evidence of Arthur Thrussell’s arrest. Inspector Brooks provided evidence of Arthur Thrussell’s past. Papers showed Thrussell had signed up and joined the Royal Marines in January, 1906; he was transferred to the Navy and was invalided out in 1907. A letter from the Surgeon on HMS Dido stated Arthur Thrussell had claimed he had tried to hang himself.
Sarah Thrussell, the mother of the prisoner, living at 31 Bardwell Road, St Albans, stated her eldest sister and her nephew had died in the Three Counties Asylum; her husband’s sister had also spent a long spell, eleven weeks, in Hill End Asylum. Sarah Thrussell said she had at times noticed, “a strangeness about her son.”
In answer to further questions, Sarah Thrussell said she had asked Dr Boys to attend to her son, after she had received a letter from the Admiralty on January 21st, 1907. The letter included details of Arthur’s hanging attempt and the Admiralty wanted to know if she would be willing to look after her son if he were sent home. Sarah Thrussell was asked if there had been any violent episodes with her son in the past and she stated Arthur would be violent if he didn’t get his own way; “he would put himself out and look wild.”
Dr Eustace Lipscomb, the Medical Officer at the prison, said he had formed the opinion the prisoner was not in his right mind at the time of committing the murder. He had “certain features” linked to insanity. Put the bits together and as a whole they were more telling. Dr Lipscomb was of the opinion that the earlier suicide attempt by the prisoner was contrived as a way of getting out of the navy.
Dr A.H. Boys was the last witness to take the stand. He examined Arthur Thrussell at the behest of his mother when he had been discharged from duty, suffering from “Melancholia”. Dr Boys had told Sarah Thrussell to look after her son; to feed him and not to leave him alone. Dr Boys believed Arthur Thrussell’s suicide attempt to be genuine. Dr Boys had also told the navy he thought Thrussell to be “peculiar and crafty.”
In his summing up, the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Alfreton, acknowledged that Arthur Thrussell had wanted to enter a plea of guilty to the murder of Gertrude Allen before the trial had begun but that plea would not have allowed for the insanity aspect of the case to be explored. His Lordship was inclined to believe Dr Boys opinion, as he had seen Arthur Thrussell three and a half years before the fatal attack occurred. Here, said the Lord Chief Justice, was a learned man who had foreseen future problems.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty of wilful murder but the prisoner was not of sound mind at the time of the attack.
His Lordship’s sentence was passed; Arthur Thrussell would remain in custody as a criminal lunatic until his Majesty’s pleasure was known.