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The Star. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 1897. THE PENGE MYSTERY.

.•■ ; ; TWENTY YEARS AGO. A CRIMINAL STORY EETOLD. AN INTERESTING EMIGRANT. [From Our Cobbf.spondp.nt.] LONDON, Sept. 20. The announcement of Lewis Staunton's release aud departure for Australia carries one back twenty years, to the clays when the Penge mystery was the topic par excellence, of the hour. You will find the story told fully in Montague Williams'* •' Leaves of a Life." Suffice it to say here, Lewi? Staunton was accused of deliberately starving his wife to death, with the assistance and connivance of his brother, Patrick Stauuton, of his sister -in - law , Mrs Patrick Staunton, aud of his paramour, Alice Ehodes. At the Police Court the evidence for the prosecution =eemed overwhelming. Such a tale of cold passionless, cruelty has seldom been heard even at Bow Street, and ' if the people could have got at the prisoners they would have torn them limb from limb. Poor Harriett Staunton was hidden away in a Barret of a cottage at Cndham aud lyin"- on straw and covered with "vermin slowly done*o death by her family. The process was deliberately and systematically carried out. On some days they gave her no food, on others just a little, and then they made A TATAL MISTAKE — f.n- themselves. Fearing trouble at Cudham, they hit upon the expedient ot taking lodgings at Penge, under the pretext of seeking advice for their victim. r,od«-in.--3 were obtained, medical advice w.ipfoTtueoining, and so, later, was a post mortem. It was after this that the Pengo doctor withdrew his certificate of death, and communicated with the coroner, lor a moment lie had accepted the statements ot the Stations, but on turning matters over in his mind he came to the conclusion that the neglected and verminous state 01 the woman's body pointed to something more than the explanation of meningitis oiiered. Then came THE TRIAL. It was the first criminal case ever taken by Sir Henry Hawkins (just translated from the Solicitor-Generalship to the .Bench), and he displayed strong bias asrainst the Stauntons. Mr Clarke (now Sir Edward) appeared for Patrick Stauu-

ton, and became famous through bis eloquent and ingenious defence. His theory was that the deceased succumbed to a then but indifferently understood disease, meningitis, and he elaborated and backed it up with extraOrdinary skill. Harriet Staunton was admittedly almost imbecile, and her habits were filthy. None of the Stauntons were too particular about soap and water. She might not have been properly looked after, might even have been carelessly neglected ; but between that and deliberately starving her there was a wide difference. The medical evidence was conflicting, as usual, but the leading doctors nearly all said Harriett Staunton died of meningitis. Mr Clarke made a great impression both on the jury and the public, but Judge Hawkins summed up for a conviction, and all the accused were found guilty and sentenced to death. Montague Williams was counsel for Lewis Staunton, of whose guilt ho seems to have felt little doubt. Nevertheless THE FINAL SCENE IN COURT touched him nearly. He says:— "l was watching the prisoners as the jurymen took their places, and the scene was, indeed, a moving one. Lewis Staunton stands at the corner of the dock to all appearances dazed. In the centre sit Patrick Staunton and his wife, hand in hand, and apparently locked together. Alice Ehodes is in the further corner, and like her paramour, is stricken motionless with terror. The foreman gives out the verdict in a voice choked with emotion. Moaning piteously, Alice Ehodes falls into the arms of the female gaoler and is gently placed in a chair. Patrick Staunton sustains the body of his wife and implores her to be calm, to which she answers 'I will, I will." Lewis still gazes into vacancy, with neither word nor look for Alice Ehodes." Though the verdict of the jury was generally approved, Mr Clarke had succeeded in raising uncomfortable doubts both in the minds of the public and the authorities. The more the latter enquired into the evidence, the less certain about the murder they became. Ultimately all THE I'RISONERB WERE REPRIEVED, and their sentences commuted to penal servitude for life. The Home Secretary very soon released Alice Ehodes, whose complicity was exceedingly doubtful. She became a waitress at a city restaurant, and made pots of money for her "enterprising" employer. Patriok Staunton died in prison two years later, his wife survivinghim eight years. Lewis Staunton served his full term, les3 remissions for good conduct. He proved a model prisoner, never having been punished once. Tho man is now forty-six years of age and in robust health. I do not know to what part of Australia Lewis Staunton is going, nor when he starts. If I did I should not tell. The ex-convict adheres to the statement that though extremely culpable in the treatment of his weak-minded wife, he had no idea of starving or actually ill-treating her. Furthermore, Sir Edward Clarke's theory finds far more medical support now than it did in 1877. In view of the terrible possibility that Staunton may be a man appallingly punished for nothing worse than marital infidelity, ono hopes that should any old acquaintance come across him at your "end of the world, he will hold his tongue and extend a helping hand.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TS18971111.2.17

Bibliographic details

The Star. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 1897. THE PENGE MYSTERY., Star, Issue 6025, 11 November 1897

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889

The Star. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 1897. THE PENGE MYSTERY. Star, Issue 6025, 11 November 1897

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