Does bigamy pay ?

Hertfordshire Mercury, 23rd November 1918


At Herts Autumn Assizes, Emily Fitch Lees Cook (45), munition worker, and Thomas Harrison (43), soldier, pleaded guilty to a charge of committing bigamy at Hitchin on December 29th last.

Mr St John Morrow, on behalf of the prosecution, said the female prisoner was married to Alfred Edmund Cook, who was an engraver holding a respectable position, on August 3rd 1895, at St Stephen’s, South Lambeth.  There were six children of the marriage, and the man and his wife lived together until about a year and a half ago when she, with her husband’s consent, left him owing to the air raids and went to live at Hitchin.

In December of last year, she went through a form of marriage with the prisoner Harrison at the Hitchin Registry Office, describing herself as a widow.  She returned to her husband, but he agreed to her leaving him again,and she stayed at Missenden for a certain time, returning to him again last June.  Ultimately, on August 10th., she left him altogether.

According to a voluntary statement made to Supt Reed at Hitchin, the object of the bigamous marriage was to get the male prisoner’s Army separation allowance.  She had been receiving some support from Harrison, but not sufficient to carry her along.

An officer in Harrison’s regiment stated that whilst he had been in the Army his behaviour was very satisfactory.

The female prisoner, in reply to the Judge, said she would like to call her daughter.  She said she was compelled to leave her husband on account of his cruelty towards her, and her daughter had to leave for the same reason.  Ivy Cook (19), the daughter, said her mother’s statement about her father was quite true.  She had to run away from him because he was so cruel to her.  She and her brother stayed up all one night, walked to London, a distance of five miles, and took the first train in the morning to Hitchin to join their mother.

Mrs Cook said her husband had threatened to murder them all, and the children were afraid to stay in the house with him.  She left him, and took the three little ones with her, and the eldest boy and girl followed later.  She had the separation allowance from Harrison for the three, and the other two worked to maintain themselves.

Harrison said that all he had to say was that he married Mrs Cook in order to get the government separation allowance to prevent her and her children going into the workhouse.  He could not stand by and see them starve themselves because Mrs Cook had a cruel husband.

His Lordship took a lenient view of the case having regard to all the circumstances, and sentenced the woman to 4 months, and the man to 6 months, imprisonment, both in the second division.

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