Henry McCabe, 21, a gardener pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with attempting to murder Annie Filtton by stabbing her with a pocket knife, at Bushey, on July 27th.
There was some question raised as to the prisoner’s sanity, and Mr E.H. Tindal Atkinson was instructed to defend him.
At 7.40 the prisoner appeared at the door. He was a man who the girl knew by sight, he having been employed at the house as a jobbing gardener
The next thing she knew she was being struck in the neck with a knife. There was a struggle, and prisoner dragged her down the garden, still stabbing her, and got her against the rockery. At that moment whilst prisoner had her on the ground and was still stabbing her, a neighbour, hearing the screams, came on the scene and rescued her. It was afterwards found that the girl had no less than 27 stabs about her neck and shoulders: and it was somewhat extraordinary that she escaped with no more serious injuries.
P.C. Ward stated that he was on duty in Bushey Grove Road on the night in question, when he was called to the assistance of the girl and found her in the house sitting on a chair, with her face, neck and shoulders covered with blood. He found the prisoner outside the house, being detained by two gentlemen. As soon as witness went up to him, prisoner said “Is she dead, constable?” and he told him she was not. Prisoner was peculiar in his manner, and seemed faint. Witness found the knife produced near the rockery.
The prosecutrix described how the assaults were committed. She said she was struck with a heavy instrument, as well as being stabbed. Prisoner had been engaged in the garden occasionally for the last four years.
In cross-examination she said she could not assign any motive for the prisoner’s conduct.
Dr J.D. Burnett, of Watford, described the 27 wounds which he found on the girl’s skull, ears, neck, forehead, throat shoulder, right side, left breast, and arms and hands. Some of the wounds were quite deep enough to have been very serious if they had been in vital parts, but fortunately they did not happen to be so.
Mr Tindal-Atkinson said he agreed that there was no disputing the facts, as they were perfectly clear. His defence was that the prisoner was not at the time of the attack upon the girl aware of his actions or their consequences.
A juror asked, if they returned a verdict of guilty, would it be a verdict of attempted murder; because the weapon was a small knife, and the places stabbed were not vital parts.
The Judge: But you would not like them to be tried on you.(Laughter.)
His Lordship then said he thought the jury might under the circumstances dismiss from their minds the question of wilful attempt to murder, and bring in a verdict of doing grievous bodily harm. As to the suggestion that prisoner was not responsible for his actions, he thought on the evidence of Dr Scott, the most experienced authority in England on the subject, they were not justified in saying the prisoner was not responsible for his actions.
The prisoner was found guilty.
Inspector Wallace then informed the Court that prisoner had made three attempts to get into a neighbouring house were a girl was alone but she succeeded in locking herself in.
The judge said that although prisoner was peculiar there was nothing to show he was insane or not responsible for his actions. He seemed only to be a morose man. It was a very serious offence, and he must punish him according to the nature of his crime. It was by mere chance that some wounds were not fatal.
The sentence of the court was one of three years’ penal servitude.