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THE PENGE TRAGEDY.

As only very meagre accounts have been published in Wellington papers hitherto of the Penge murder, which has excited such intense public feeling in England, we give an outline of the facts, condensed from the charge of the presiding Judge, Sir James Stephen, to the Grand Jury, as reported in the (London) Times of 11th July. It will be remembered that the special telegram from our London correspondent, published in our issue of Saturday ovening, announced the reprieve at the last moment of the murderers, whose execution had been fixed for the 13th inst. :— It appears that the deceased woman, Harriet Staunton, was the wife of Lewis Staunton, one of the prisoners. She was 36 years of age, and of weak mind, so much so that her mother (Mrs Butterfield), three years ago, took proceedings in lunacy to have her declared a lunatic but failed, and a year later tho deceased was married to Lewis Staunton. She had property to the value

of £2500, which her husband received. Shortly after the marriage, both the husband and wife forbade Mrs. Butterfield their house on the ground of the late proceedings in lunacy. Subsequently Lewis Staunton formed a criminal intimacy with Alice Rhodes, the sister of Elisabeth Staunton (his brother Patrick Staunton's wife), and while living with her, sent his wife, the deceased, to stay with Patrick and Elizabeth Staunton, at Woodlands, a lonely place in Kent, alleging as his reason her intemperate habits. During this time Alice Rhodes passed as his wife, ana the evidence showed that his real wife was most rigidly guarded by his brother and Elizabeth Staunton. In April last the deceased was taken by the four prisoners — the two brothers and two sbters — to lodgings in Penge. She was then so weak thatshe had to be carried, and the landlady was so shocked at her appearance that she remarked she looked more like a corpse than a living woman. Next day a doctor and nurse were sent for, who at once pronounced her dying, and she died the same afternoon. There was no provision of any kind for her, and the nurse had to bring some linen to coyer the body, which was in a most filthy condition. Before even the body was laid out, the husband, Lewis Staunton, had given orders about tho funeral, and the undertaker was in the house in less than an hour after the death. The medical attendant gate a certificate of death from apoplexy, but subsequently withdrew it, and gave information to the Coroner, who ordered a post mortem examination and an inquest. Meanwhile the four prisoners had all gone away, leaving the body with the lodginghouse landlady, also orders for the funeral and money to pay for it. They had brought nothing but the woman herself, and they simply left her dead body behind. The post mortem examination clearly indicated that death was caused by starvation and neglect, and that the deceased had not been addicted, as alleged by her husband, to drinking. The evidence shewed most plainly that the unfortunate woman had been placed under restraint and deliberately starved to death by arrangement among the four prisoners, to get rid ot her in order that Lewis Staunton, having formed an adulterous connection with Alice Rhodes, might live with her undisturbed. The Grand Jury found a true bill against all four prisoners of conspiring together to starve the unhappy woman to death. They were tried accordingly, found guilt j', sentenced to death, and — as telegraphed on Saturday — reprieved almost on the very scaffold.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP18771022.2.14

Bibliographic details

THE PENGE TRAGEDY., Evening Post, Volume XV, Issue 248, 22 October 1877

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596

THE PENGE TRAGEDY. Evening Post, Volume XV, Issue 248, 22 October 1877

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