At Welwyn Police Court, Horace Gamgee (17), and Thomas Lucas (14), both of Ayot St Peter, were charged with committing a rape, and William Meech, also of Ayot St Peter, was charged with indecent assault. All three defendants pleaded not guilty, and both the offences were heard together.
Doris Lines said that she lived with her parents at Handside, Hatfield, and was 11 years of age. At about 2:30pm on 4th August, she had gone with her sister, her brother, and another girl, aged about 10, for a walk. She saw the defendants; Gamgee spoke to her and asked her if she wanted some jig-jigs; she ran away and so did the others who were with her. She ran towards home across the railway line and the boys followed her. She identified the 3 defendants as being the ones that ran after her. She ran into a wood and then into a meadow and, when she got there, they overtook her. She was then alone as the others (her sister, brother, and the other girl) had run away. Gamgee got her down on the ground and put a coat over her face. She said she would scream, and Gamgee pressed the coat on her mouth. She could not struggle as she was not able to because someone was holding her hands. She thought Gamgee held her hands first and pushed Lucas onto her. Afterwards, Gamgee hurt her very much. The witness then gave an account of the assault by Gamgee upon her. The boy Lucas did not hurt her; he was holding her hands and Meech was sitting on the stump of a tree close by. Meech did not touch her at all. They all three went away and she got up. Three or four minutes later, Gamgee and Lucas came back. Gamgee threw her down again and Lucas was then standing beside a tree close by, laughing. She cried very much as he hurt her. They then went away. She told them she would tell her mother as soon as she got home.
Dr D.W. Thomas, of Welwyn, said that at 1:00pm on 5th August he examined Doris Lines at her parents’ home in the presence of her mother, and described in detail the result of his examination of the girl and the condition of her underclothing. Martha Lines, the mother of the girl, said that on Sunday, 4th August, between 4 and 5 o’clock, her daughter Doris came home crying and said some boys had been after her. In consequence of what her daughter told her, she examined her clothing. The daughter also complained of having been hurt. She was wearing a clean starched dress and that was very dirty, and her hair was much disordered. She communicated with the police on the Monday and was present when the doctor carried out his examination.
Arthur Pargarter (15) said that he lived with Mr White, at Lemsford House, and was employed as a groom. He saw Gamgee holding the girl, Doris Lines, against a tree, and she was trying to get away. The other children were not there then. Afterwards, he saw her going towards her home, and noticed that her clothes were dirty. In reply to a question from the defendant Gamgee, the witness admitted tampering with the girl’s clothes. After this admission, Pargarter was asked to leave the witness box and he was then placed with the three other defendants, and then charged with indecently assaulting Doris Lines who said that she saw Arthur Pargarter there but could not say what he had done to her.
Police Sergeant Wood, of Welwyn, said that on Monday, 5th August, at 11:00am, he had received a report from Martha Kate Lines, of Handside, Hatfield, to the effect that her daughter, Doris Lines, aged 11, had been assaulted by three boys. He cycled over to Handside and saw the girl, in the presence of her mother, and examined her clothing and, from what the girl told him, he then went to a field adjoining the Waggoners, and examined the place. He saw Meech and spoke to him respecting Doris Lines. Meech said he went to Dodnall Green with Horace Gamgee and another boy, for a walk. When they were coming back, they saw three girls and a little boy coming along the path after them. Gamgee knocked the girl down and put her clothes over her head. He then went home. The officer said he also saw Gamgee, who said “I know nothing whatever about it.” He afterwards said “I put a coat over her head, but did not do anything else to her. I came home with Tom and Meech.”
The witness then went and saw Lucas who volunteered a statement and said that on 4th August he went with Gamgee and Meech for a walk. Coming home, they had seen some girls. Gamgee had knocked the girl down and had picked her coat up and put it over her head and had held her down. Lucas said “Meech went off and I called Gamgee but he did not come. I then went after Meech and Gamgee caught us up about half way up the meadow.
On being asked if he had anything to say, Gamgee said “I put the coat over her head and that is all I did.”
This was all the evidence, and the Magistrates committed Gamgee for trial at the next Herts Assizes. The other three boys were severely reprimanded by the Chairman for their wicked conduct, the Chairman remarking “You lads did not try to help this little girl in her trouble in the least. In reality, you helped this lad to do what he did and therefore you are almost as bad as he. Taking into consideration your age, we are going to deal leniently with you. Lucas, you had a good character and the Rev. W.E. Nutman has spoken well of you and is willing to take you back to Dr Barnado’s home, and we give you into his charge. Pargarter, you will be put under probation for 2 years. Meech, you did a cowardly thing towards this little girl whilst she was being assaulted, but the charge against you will be dismissed.
At Herts Autumn Assizes, Horace Gamgee (17), labourer, pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting Doris Lines, an 11-year old child, at Welwyn on 4th August.
Mr St John Morrow, on behalf of the prosecution, said this was a very bad case of assault by 3 or 4 boys on a little girl 11 years old. The girl, accompanied by her brother and sister and a girl friend, were pursued by the prisoner and 3 or 4 other boys through a wood and into a meadow where she was very badly treated. Last Saturday, the girl died, but it was only fair to say that her death was in no way accelerated by the assault; she died from pneumonia following upon influenza. The other boys concerned in the affair had been dealt with by the local magistrates. One boy, named Lucas, was bound over because the evidence against him was very slight; another boy, named Carpenter, and another boy named Meech, were discharged.
Supt G. Pear said the prisoner Gamgee was born at Eckleton, in Cambridgeshire, and came to Ayot St Peter, Welwyn, with his parents 9 years ago. After leaving school he was employed for a year as a farm labourer by Mr William Barron, of Linches Farm, Welwyn, and left there in December 1916, since when he had been employed at Mr Balfour’s, at Sherrards, as a garden labourer. He bore a very good character in both places.
Mr Naldrett, on behalf of the defendant, said that Gamgee was not represented by an advocate when before the magistrates, but if he had been no doubt a different complexion would have been put on the matter. The prisoner before the Bench was very reticent, no doubt with a very good motive, and that was not to give others away. The evidence showed that the prisoner was not in any way responsible for the injuries to the girl, or in any way connected with the more serious offence alleged against him, and to which he had pleaded not guilty. But the prisoner had so far identified himself with the conduct of these other boys that he had rendered himself liable to a charge of indecent assault, to which he had pleaded guilty, although when the true facts came to be known he had not participated to the extent which would appear from the depositions, and his relations in the matter were very slight indeed.
The Judge said “I am rather thinking the boy was the ringleader”. Counsel said he thought not, the boy was certainly one of the party, but not the ringleader; nor did he take any active part, which the depositions seemed to suggest, but was rather a spectator. The character of the boy was a perfectly good one, and there was nothing known against him. He therefore asked His Lordship to deal as leniently as he could with the boy under the circumstances.
The Judge, addressing the prisoner, said he had pleaded guilty to an indecent assault upon a very little girl, which was worse than an assault upon a girl who was big enough to defend herself, and her story against the prisoner was a very bad one. Looking at the case in the best way he could he must send the prisoner to 6 months imprisonment with hard labour.