Alleged brutal assault on servant girl

Hertfordshire Mercury, 3rd April 1915


At Hatfield Petty Sessions Charles Matthews, a labourer of Hatfield, was charged on remand with assaulting Dorothy Neale, a maidservant, with intent to cause her grievous bodily harm, at Hatfield, on Sunday, 21 March, and further with assaulting two police constables on the same day.  The latter charge was heard first.  The case was partly reported in our last issue.  Mr A Clark, solicitor, of St Albans, appeared to prosecute on behalf of the police.

PC Arthur Smith stated that on Sunday week he went with other officers to arrest the prisoner at 11 p.m. at a house in Union Lane, Hatfield, where the prisoner slept.  He found him there, told him their suspicions in reference to the other charge, and asked him to go to the police station.  He used filthy language, and they had to push him along the road.  On the way the prisoner started kicking and biting.  The third kick fetched the witness down.  They had to handcuff the prisoner, strap his legs together, and carry him to the police station.  The prisoner also attempted to bite PCs Hagger and Lovell.

In answer to the prisoner the witness denied knocking him about.

PC Hagger said he saw the prisoner kick PC Smith three times and tried to bite the witness and the other constable.

PC Lovell also corroborated as to the assault, and said the prisoner used the foulest language he had ever heard.  In the cell he was very violent and said he would smash all the windows.

In reply to the prisoner as to whether there were not six of them to arrest him the witness said there were Supt. Sullivan, three constables, and two special constables.

The prisoner said the police used him roughly, and Supt. Sullivan tried to choke him.

The magistrates convicted the prisoner, and reserved sentence until the other charge had been heard.

Mr Clark, in opening the other case, said that the complainant was housemaid in the employ of Dr Lovell Drage and on the Sunday afternoon in question she was walking along the Hertford Road, and when near a house called ‘Burnside’ she saw a man standing in the road.  He spoke to her as she was passing but she did not understand what he said.  Shortly afterwards she returned  and found the man was still there, and as she approached him he again said something.  He raised his stick in a threatening attitude, and she ran away terrified in the direction of Hatfield.  The man ran after her and caught her by the belt of the jacket with the hook of the stick.  He then caught hold of her by the shoulder with one hand and struck her several blows with the stick on the back and face, and forced her to the ground on her hands and knees.  She screamed out and managed to get away.  Shortly afterwards another young man, who was coming to her rescue, caught her up and handed her the umbrella she had dropped when assaulted.  She told the young man what had happened, and he returned to look for her assailant.  The girl was so terrified and her nerves so much upset that when confronted with the prisoner next day, she was unable to identify him, that probably being due to the fact that the prisoner was then dressed differently.  Two other witnesses, however, who saw the prisoner immediately before and after the assault at once picked him out from amongst a number of other men.  They saw the prisoner at the spot before the assault, they heard the girl scream, and saw the prisoner running away across the field directly after.  Subsequently the prisoner was seen to arrive at Hatfield through the park and out at the Station Lodge.  He then went home and changed his Sunday clothes and put on some corduroy working clothes.

Miss Dorothy Neale corroborated counsel’s opening statement.  She was so frightened that she could not identify the man.  He was dressed in a dark suit, with a light coloured cap.  She could not say positively that the prisoner was the man who assaulted her.

Dr Upcott Gill stated that he examined Miss Neale on March 23, about 42 hours after the assault, and found swelling and bruising on the left side of the face, considerable bruising of the left shoulder and upper arm, and the right forearm, and in addition the nervous system was much upset.  He was shown by Mrs Drage, who was present at the examination, the skirt the girl was wearing at the time.  It was dusty, and had a large ragged tear.

Thomas Starkey, of Mill Green, Hatfield, said he was walking along the Hertford Road in company with Walter Russell on the Sunday afternoon, when he saw the defendant sitting on the side of the road just beyond ‘Burnside’.  When he returned about hafway between ‘Burnside’ and Saw Mill Lane, he heard a woman scream, and at once ran in the direction of the sound.  As he ran he could see over the hedge a man holding a stick over his head.  When he got near to him the man jumped over the hedge into a field on the left.  As he turned round the next bend he came in full view of the man who was sitting down by the hedge, apparently hiding.  As soon as the man saw him approaching he ran across the fields on the right hand side into a plantation.  The witness then saw the girl’s umbrella lying in the road, and she was running as hard as she could go along the road to Hatfield.  Her ran after her and asked her what was the matter.  She said she had been assaulted, and he advised her to go to the police station.  Her face was very much swollen and bruised, and her hand was bleeding, and her skirt torn and dirty.  On Monday, March 22, the witness saw the prisoner amongst other men at the police station and identified him, although he was dressed in different clothes.

The prisoner: ‘Was I this side or the other side of ‘Burnside’?  The witness: ‘This side’.  ‘Didn’t I peep from behind a tree when you came along’?  ‘No’. ‘You ought to know me for you see me every day of your life’.  ‘I do know you’.

Walter Russell, of Mill Green, corroborated the last witness.  Having heard the girl scream, and seeing the man run away he took particular notice of him as he crossed the field.  He recognized him as the prisoner, although he did not know him before.  He identified the prisoner next day.

PC Smith stated that he saw the prisoner at Essendon on the Sunday in question at 2.50, and he was wearing a dark suit.  That was an hour and a half before the assault, and the prisoner was then going in the direction of Hatfield.

Joseph Welch, of Mill Green, Essendon, a labourer, said he knew the prisoner well, and saw him on Sunday, March 21, coming from the direction of Essendon towards Hatfield, at 3.30.

Thomas Titmus, lodge keeper at Hatfield Park, said he knew the prisoner quite well.  He saw him at a quarter to six on March 21.  He came down the carriage drive out of the park walking very hurriedly.  He was wearing a dark suit of clothes and a white wrapper round his neck.

Mrs Maria Matthews, widow, of Ground Lane, Hatfield, mother of the prisoner, said he had his meals at her house and slept at the house of Mrs Andrews in Union Lane.  He had breakfast at home on the Sunday morning in question, and then changed his clothes and went out between 10 and 11.  She did not see him again until late in the afternoon, when he came back and changed into his working clothes.

The Bench committed the prisoner  for trial at the next Hertfordshire Quarter Sessions.









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