The woman, her daughter, the JP, and the Russian Count

Hertfordshire Mercury, 26th August 1916


Edwin Butcher, of Hoddesdon, was summoned at Cheshunt by his wife, Elsie Ann Butcher, of Lower Edmonton, for cruelty and desertion.  She also applied for a separation order.

The complainant said that she had married her husband on 24th September 1891 at Epping.  There were 7 children by the marriage, two of them under 16.  When she left her husband on 29th July 1916 on account of his bad language, they were living at Meadow Cottage, Hoddesdon.  For quite a long time, he had ill-treated her.  On 8th July, he had turned her daughter out of the house, and had thrown some water on her.  The complainant had taken her husband’s razor away from him as he had threatened to cut her throat on several occasions.  She had gone upstairs, but the defendant had followed her and had held her down on the bed.  The defendant had then said that he had a revolver and that this had frightened her very much.  On another occasion he had pushed her out of doors late at night in the pouring rain.  She had gone to the police station where she had seen a Special Constable who had accompanied her back to the house.  The defendant, however, had refused to open the door unless the Inspector was present.

On a later date, he had kicked her down the garden path.  On another occasion, when she and her daughters had been returning from Enfield, the defendant had met them at Broxbourne bridge where he had supposedly said “Don’t any of you come into the house tonight.  If you do, I will cut your throats.”

The wife admitted in cross-examination that she had had two Sergeant-Majors of the Yorkshire Hussars sleeping at her house when she had been living at Potter Street, Harlow, and that this had attracted the attention of the police.  She said that they had had musical evenings, and that in the mornings the soldiers would return to their camp.  She admitted that, as a consequence of the soldiers staying over at her house, it had been placed out of bounds!  She went to see Lord Lascelles about the matter and he confirmed that the police had complained.  Cyclists had stayed at the house.  One gentleman had been driven to her house by his chauffeur but she did not know he was a Justice of the Peace.

Her defending solicitor, Mr Macoum, asked “Did that gentleman take you and your daughter and your friend out for a ride in his motor-car to London?”  “Yes”, she replied.  “Did your husband ever threaten to put this man out of the house”, he asked.  “Yes, he did once”, she replied.  “Was one of your daughters ill afterwards, and what was she suffering from?” he asked.  “I refuse to answer”, she replied.

On further cross-examination, she said that she had had to sell the piano in order to pay the rent and to buy clothes for her children.  She confirmed that she had left her husband on two previous occasions due to his adultery and cruelty.

The defendant, on oath, said that he had not been cruel to his wife, had not pushed her out of the house, had not threatened to cut her throat, and had regularly sent her 20-25 shillings a week whilst he was away working.  He added that on one occasion when he had arrived home, he had found his wife and daughter in the parlour with this gentleman, together with another man who was described as a “Russian Count”.  There was laughter in court when Mr Macoum said “I see, one of the mysterious Russians who came over here some time ago”.

The defendant confirmed that he had found a bottle of whisky on the table, that the JP had been out to buy.  He had then ordered the man out of the house as he did not think the man to be a fit and proper person to be left with his wife.  The JP refused to leave at first, but relented on being told that the police would be fetched.  The defendant confirmed that he had continued the allowance to his wife until they had gone to live in Hoddesdon.

Inspector Moles from Hoddesdon said that he had heard complaints from both parties and that, in his opinion, both husband and wife were to blame.  He had never seen either of them the worse for drink.

The Bench made an order for 15 shillings a week, the wife to have the custody of the two children.

This page was added on 17/07/2014.

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