TUESDAY, JULY 28. CROWN COURT.
DANIEL STEER was charged with having, on the 3d of January, in the parish of Petworth, accused Mr Percy Burrell (eldest son of Sir C. M. Burrell, Bart., M.P.,) of an infamous crime, with the intent to extort and gain, from the said Percy Burrell, money; a second count charged him in like manner with the intent to extort and gain a valuable security, namely, a bill of exchange; two other counts charged himwith having threatened to accuse Percy Burrell of a crime with the like intent; and in another set of counts he was charged with having threatened to accuse and accused him of having attempted to commit the offence.
Attempt to Blackmail the Son of a Baronet, 1846
NOTE: It is fairly clear that the following detailed account involved a case of opportunistic extortion rather than a conspiracy by professional extortioners. For example, the lawyer Coppard who sees through it finds it strange that the alleged victim admits to the completed act, whereas most extortioners would complain only of the attempted act. In the original trial against Steer, it is made clear that Steer complained to a friend as early as April 1845 that Percy Burrell had committed sex with him; as the Judge pointed out, this would be cause for slander, not for extortion in fact it is extraordinary that Steer would make the slanderous revelation if he himself had planned all along to extort money by threatening to reveal something he had already revealed! So it would seem to be true either that Steer was completely incompetent (which may well be true!) or that the plan for extortion was introduced by the solicitor Bowyer, but unfortunately for him, Steer was a loose cannon. As to the charge against the solicitor Mr Bowyer, it is amazing that he should have been involved in initiating this very elaborate fraud built up over a period of more than a year. Steer was clearly a fantasist and desperately in need of money, but Bowyer, though "a needy man" was not "desperately" needy, and if he had planned the case from the outset it would have been done with far fewer opportunities for detection. It is astonishing that Bowyer sent Steer over to Paris to lay a foundation for the charge that Percy Burrell made a proposition to Steer it is hard to believe that this whole plan was concocted without any prior basis or any reason for thinking it might succeed. It seems true to me that Bowyer believed the stories concocted by Steer, not that he concocted stories for Steer to follow. It seems likely that Steer's confession was an effort to pass off most of the blame upon Bowyer and to mitigate the guilt to himself. It may (or may not) be relevant that Percy Burrell was unmarried at the time the accusations were made against him. (Incidentally, it is interesting that the accusers apparently used the phrase "he was a sodomite", which of course suggests a person rather than just an act. And later the term "catamite" or something similar meaning habitual partner in the act, perhaps "pathic" was also used.)
Thursday 30 July 1846
Mr Clarkson, Mr Bodkin, and Mr Johnson were for the prosecution. The prisoner was undefended.
Prisoner, who was arraigned on the previous day, on being called upon to plead, said "I am not guilty of the act I have done; for what I have done, I have done upon the oath of Mr Bowyer, of Petworth; I earnestly believe what he told me to be the truth."
Judge You will plead not guilty then?
Mr Clarkson having stated the case at great length to the jury, called the following witnesses:
Rev. Thomas Wall Landshaw, chaplain of the Petworth House of Correction, examined by Mr. Bodkin. It is my duty to attend upon the prisoners in gaol. I remember Steer coming to the House of Correction as a prisoner. Before the 17th of June, he had frequently made communications to me. About the 17th of June he made this statement to me (statement produced.) He signed it; but before he did so, I read it to him. Upon his coming into the prison; I visited the cell,, and in the course of conveersation the subject of the charge for which he was in prison was brought up, when he said he was innocent. The present subject was then brought up, and the statement (produced) was a voluntary one. I certainly made him no promise whatever, but, on the contrary, pointed out to him the serious consequences. (The letter which was a very long one, was then read; and prisoner distinctly admitted that the charge he had made against Mr. Burrell was totally without foundation, and that he had been induced to bring the charge by Mr Bowyer, solicitor, of Petworth. He described his travels on the continent according, as he said, to the direction of Mr.. Bowyer; but the major portion of the contents of the letter were unfit for publication. In one part of the statement, the prisoner said Mr. Bowyer had desired him to charge a nobleman with an offence similar to that with which he charged Mr. Burrell, but that he declined.)
Mr Thomas Coppard, attorney at Horsham, examined by Mr Johnson I am the local solicitor for Sir Charles Burrell. On the 3d January, 1845, I had occasion to be at Petworth Sessions, and I there saw Mr Bowyer on some professional business. He said "I have a private communication to make to you." He then asked me if I knew sufficient of Colonel Wyndham to seek an interview with him. I said I did not. He then, after some hesitation, asked me if I knew Mr P. Burrell. I said I did, but not intimately. He said it was a charge affecting that gentleman, and in confirmation of it he showed me two letters (produced by Mr Bowyer). These letters witness believed to be the same.
Mr Landshaw re-called I have seen prisoner's handwriting; these letters are in his handwriting.
The letter, which was written in Paris, and dated 23d December, 1844, was addressed to Mr Bowyer, and was to the following effect: That Mr Percy Burrell had promised him (prisoner) money month after month, and week after week; that he was the cause of his getting into debt, as he should not have thought of such a thing, had it not been for him. Now (continued the writer) "I beg to inform you that he would not let me have a farthing of money; therefore I won't lay under the scandal of being accused of things that I am innocent of; therefore, if Sir Charles Burrell or Colonel Whyndham will not give you the money to pay off my respective debts at Petworth, I am determined to open the whole affair against Percy Burrell, let the consequence be what it may. Here we are in Paris, without a farthing of money or a friend; it is all Percy Burrell's fault." The writer then proceeded to accuse Mr Percy Burrell of an abominable offence.
Mr Coppard I communicated with Mr Walter Burrell, who was attended the Sessions at Petworth. Shortly afterwards Sir Charles Burrell sent for me; and at his request I returned to Mr Bowyer for the letters, and obtained them (one signed Smith, and the other containing the charge.)
By the Judge I do not know of my own knowledge where Mr Percy Burrell was at this time.
Examination continued On returning the lettes to Mr Bowyer, he (Bowyer) said it was a matter of great importance, and the sooner it was hushed up the better; and he suggested the propriety of his being sent to Paris to see Mr P. Burrell, and endeavour to arrange with him to hush up the matter. He said Sir Charles had better entrust him with a sum of money, and I believe the sum mentioned was £1000, so that when he saw Mr Burrell, if he was not prepared with the money, he could propose to advance it to him out of his own pocket; and that he could take Mr Burrell's promissory note, or note of hand, payable to order, when, on his return to England, he could endorse it over to Sir Charles, to be held by him as a security against Mr Burrell. I told Bowyer that I could not venture to mention the proposition to Sir Charles, as I conceived it would be most offensive to him. I afterwards saw Sir Charles Burrell, and communicated to him the suggestion of Mr Bowyer, that he should go to Paris; but I did not mention the suggestion as to the sum of money being advanced. Sir Charles denied that the letter signed Smith, but which was said to be from Mr Burrell, bore any resemblance to his son's handwriting, and at once repudiated the suggestion of Mr. Bowyer; and, after expressing his total disbelief of the truth of the charge, said he would not advance the tenth part of a farthing to hush the matter up; that he was determined to investigate it most thoroughly, and that he would do nothing to defeat the ends of justice. Mr. Bowyer represented to me that the letter signed John Smith had been written by Mr. Percy Burrell. I have some letters I got from a person named Deudney, purporting to have been written by prisoner.
The learned judge here said that Mr Bowyer was the party who had attempted to obtain the money. You have a case (said the learned judge) against Bowyer, becuase he delivers these letters up, and solicits to be sent to Paris with a thousand pounds to stifle this enquiry. He is guilty of making this accusation against Mr Percy Burrell; and the prisoner is an accessary [sic] before the fact, and not the principal.
Mr Clarkson We will go on with another point.
Judge As far as the evidence has gone, the charge cannot be sustained against the prisoner; but you have sufficient to indict him as an accessory before the fact.
Mr Clarkson We have demanded these letters before, but could not obtain them; and now they come upon us suddenly. I must pray that these letters may be impounded.
Judge The letters must be impounded, and become the subject of another enquiry, if necessary.
James Brooker, police officer of Westgrinstead I have known prisoner for some years. In the month of April, 1845, he called at my house. It was about two o'clock in the afternoon. I was then in bed, having been on duty the night before. I got up, when I saw the prisoner. He asked me what sort of a man Sir Charles Burrell was. I told him I thought he was a good sort of man. He asked me where Percy Burrell was, and if they were friends together. I asked [sic] I did not know. He said where is Percy Burrell now, is he in France? I said, "I believe he is in France or Italy." He then stated that Percy Burrell wanted to commit an offence. I said what offence? He then told me. I said, "I can't give credence to it." He told me Percy Burrell wanted to commit the offence upon him. I thought prisoner a very bad man, and I wished to change the conversation. He said, "It's done, so help me God, and sooner than I would allow that to be done, I would beg my bread, and I will make him pay dearly for it. I have lawyers at work, Bowyer was mentioned, and lawyers in London. He did not direct me to take any proceeding as an officer."
Judge This evidence is of no use; to prove the charge, it must be a personal threat to Mr. Percy Burrell. This conversation with the policeman is matter for an action for slander, and not the offence for which the prisoner is indicted.
His lordship then left the court for the purpose of consulting with Mr. Baron Coltman, and on his return said that his learned brother entirely concurred in the opinion he held, that Bowyer was the principal, and that the prisoner was an accessory before the fact. The statement made by the prisoner to the constable could not fall within the meaning of the act; the threat must have been communicted to Mr. Percy Burrell, in order to prove the present charge. There was no communication at all to Mr. Percy Burrell. The only course was to acquit the prisoner; but he should order him to be detained, and meet the charge at thee next Assizes as an accessory before the fact. (Turning to the jury) his lordship said The result is, that the case cannot be made out in point of law; therefore you must acquit him of this offence.
The jury then returned a verdict of Not guilty.
The prisoner was then charged with having entered into a conspiracy with John Bowyer and James Steer [his father], for the purpose of extorting money from Mr Percy Burrell by charging him with an unnatural crime.
The prisoner Bowyer was then called on to plead; and he pleaded Not Guilty. Daniel Steer pleaded Not Guilty, but that he had done it under the direction of Mr. John Bowyer, solicitor, Petworth.
Mr Bodkin With reference to these two bills, they will not be tried until the next Assizes.
Judge Bowyer and James Steer will be admitted to bail, themselves in £200 each, and two sureties in £100 each.
Clerk (to Mr Bowyer) Are you prepared with bail?
Mr Bowyer No, I am not.
Judge Then you must be committed.
Mr Bowyer was accordingly committed.
The prisoner Daniel Steer (who is now under sentence in Petworth gaol) was brought up again into the dock, when
The Judge said It will be my order that you remain in prison after expiration of the six months, unless you produce sureties, £100 each, and yourself in £200.
The whole of the prisoners then left the dock for Lewes gaol. (Brighton Gazette)
Thursday 7 January 1847
The Epiphany Quarter Sessions commence to-day. There are about 25 prisoners for trial. . . .
Daniel Steer (formerly lodge porter to Colonel Wyndham) who was committed for six months at the last Chichester Sessions, was apprehended by Pannell the policeman, before leaving the gaol, and taken before Mr Ladbroke, to be recommitted (for want of sureties) on a charge preferred against him at the last Assizes, for conspiracy with John Bowyer and James Steer, to extort money from Sir Charles Merrick Burrell, and also from Mr Percy Burrell. The prisoner will be tried, with others, at the Lewes Assizes, in March. (Brighton Gazette)
Monday 29 March 1847
LEWES, MARCH 27.
(Before Lord Chief Justice DENMAN.)
John Bowyer, 55, a person of gentlemanly appearance, and who has for upwards of 30 years practised as a solicitor in the town of Peetworth, was indicted as a principal in feloniously demanding money from Sir Charles Burrell, under a threat of accusing his son, Mr. Percy Burrell, of an abominable offence; and Daniel Steer, 29, was charged as an accessory in feloniously inciting the other prisoner to make the charge.
The charge of extortion was most clearly and satisfactorily established against the prisoners, who were immediately found guilty, and sentenced to be transported for life.
The prisoner Bowyer appeared quite astounded at the sentence. (London Evening Standard)
Thursday 1 April 1847
SUSSEX SPRING ASSIZES.
SECOND DAY FRIDAY, MARCH 26.
JOHN BOWYER, attorney, aged 55, was arraigned for having, at Petworth, on the 3d January, 1845, feloniously accused Percy Burrell, Esq., of an infamous crime committed on Daniel Steer, with the view and intent thereby to extort money. In a second count, the intent was charged to be to extort a valuable security, that is to say, a bill of exchange. A third count varied thee intent to the extortion of a promissory note. Three other counts charged Bowyer with "threatening to accuse" Percy Burrell, with a view to extort money, a bill of exchange, or a promissory note. DANIEL STEER, turner [maker of axles for coaches and waggons], aged 29, was arraigned on the same indictment for feloniously and maliciously inciting, aiding, abetting, procuring, counselling, and hiring the said John Bowyer to make the said charge.
Both prisoners pleaded Not Guilty.
Bowyer was agained arraigned for having, at Petworth, on the 23d March, feloniously sent to Percy Burrell, Esq., a certain letter demanding money from him by menaces, without any probable cause; and Steer for being an accessory before the fact.
They again pleaded Not Guilty.
Counsel for the prosecution were Mr Clarkson, Mr Bodkin, and Mr Johnson; Mr Serjeant Jones and Mr Cobbett defended Bowyer.
The prisoners having been charged on the first indictment,
Mr Clarkson stated the case. A crime was imputed to the prisoners, which, if the jury should think them guilty, must necessarily, and for the purposes of common justice, be visited with a very severe punishment. It would be for the jury to investigate the case with great care, and if as reasonable men, exercising ordinary and common sense, they could say that the case was not brought home, they would return a verdict of acquittal; on the other hand, if they should see reason to conclude that each prisoner had taken his share in this crime, in this most infamous and abominable accusation, he asked them to disregard the consequences, and, as Englishmen, fearlessly return a verdict of guilty. The jury were aware that this indictment imputed to Bowyer that he had accused a gentleman of having been guilty of an infamous crime, and that he made the accusation with intent to extort money or valuable securities; the other prisoner was charged with having been what in law was called an accessory before the fact to the commission of the crime, by inciting and procuring Bowyer to do that which he afterwards did. It would be idle to occupy more than a passing moment on the misery and wretchedness that must be occasioned to all connected with a respectable family by such a charge as the one alluded to being made against one of its members. Every well constituted mind must hold in detestation the man who could cause misery to so many persons by falsely imputing the crommission of such a crime, in order to extort money. He therefore asked them to discard all feelings and prejudices against the prisoners, to watch carefully and, if they pleased, jealously the evidence which would be offered, and not return a verdict of guilty, unless the indictment was established to their thorough satisrfaction. Mr Bowyer who, as the jury might perceive, was beyond the maturity of life, had practised as an attorney at petworth for a considerable time, and was practising there at the time of the commission of the offence charged. Daniel Steer was the son of James Steer, who had been for many years a servant occupying one of the lodges in Petworth Park, the seat of the late Earl of Egremont, and now of Colonel Wyndham; and it appears that he became acquainted by that means with the person of Mr Percy Burrell, the eldest son of Sir Charles Burrell, who had married one of the noble earl's daughters. It was so long ago as the 3d January, 1845, that Mr Coppard, an attorney in the habit of transacting some of the affairs of Sir Charles Burrell, was in attendance at Petworth, at the Sessions; and it became necessary for him to call upon Mr Bowyer, on professional business. After talking on these matters, Mr Bowyer said he had something of a very important and serious nature to communicate to Mr Coppard. Was he acquainted with Colonel Wyndham (the uncle of Mr Percy Burrell)? Mr Coppard said he was not. Bowyer then asked Mr Coppard if he knew Mr Percy Burrell? Mr Coppard said he had seen him at Knepp Castle, the residence of Sir Charles, but that he had no particular acquaintance with him. "Then," said Mr Bowyer, "Percy Burrell is a [presumably "sodomite" indicating a type of person];, he has been guilty of [sodomy] with Daniel Steer," (explaining who Daniel Steer was), and that it was committed in Paris. Mr Coppard expressed all the surprise and abhorrence that he felt; and Mr Bowyer said, "I can assure you it is perfectly true; there is not the least doubt about it; I can prove it most distinctly; and I can prove that no only did he commit the offence with him in Paris, but that he has been travelling through the country with him from Paris to Antwerp, and that he has been his constant [perhaps "catamite"]." He added, "I wish this to be communicted to Colonel Wyndham and Sir Charles, in order that the matter may be hushed up, and that no exposure may take place." Mr Coppard said, "I dare not make such a communication to Sir Charels Burrell or to Colonel Wyndham." Bowyer then proceeded to explain to Mr Coppard that Percy burrell met Daniel Steer in Paris; that he had taken him to his dwelling there; that he had taken him into his bed-room, the door of which he locked, and there committed the offence. Mr Coppard made use of some expression of surprise that this connection should possibly exist with a person who was almost a stranger to Mr Percy Burrell. Mr Bowyer repeated that he was perfectly able to prove it, and then suggested that Mr Coppard should see one of the above two gentlemen. Mr Coppard declined; but it occured to him that Mr Walter Burrell, the second son of Sir Charles Burrell (a gentleman whom they had the honour of having among them as a member of the bar, and whom they all respected) was at Petworth in the discharge of his professional duties, and whether it would not be desirable to communicate with Sir Charles Burrell through Mr Walter Burrell. He proposed this to Mr Bowyer, who caught at it and said, "Do so," suggesting, in order to provent any exposure, the following course: That the affair shoudl be hushed up; that he (Bowyer) should be sent to Paris with £1,000; that he should go and make the communication to Mr Percy Burrell; that he should shew him, as he was in a condition to do, that he (Mr Burrell) had promised £1,000 for the purpose of paying the debts of Daniel Steer and his father; that he should be armed with the money, in case Percy Burrell should not have so large a sum by him; and then, under pretence of lending him the money, which he should represent as his own, that he should take from him a note for the amount of money advanced, and then, when he returned, endorse that note to Sir Charles Burrell. Mr Coppard immediatedly saw Mr Walter Burrell, who as immediately communicated with his father; and a message was sent to Mr Coppard, who went to Sir Charles at petworth House, and communicated to him all he had heard from Mr Bowyer. But, before this, Bowyer had showed to Mr Coppard two, if not three letters, which he (the learned counsel) would now read to them. Bowyer said he had had a letter himself from Mr Percy Burrell under the name of Smith, in which he had promised to give to Steer £1,000 to pay his own and his father's debts; that he (Mr Burrell) had written tohim (Bowyer) to postpone the payment of the money until after New Year's Day, promising that it should be forthcoming after that day. This letter purported to be dated "37, St. Martin's Lane, Charing Cross, London," at the house of a Mr Rice, whom the jury would find to be a most material witness. The learned counsel read it as follows:
37, St. Martin's Lane,
October 14, 1844.
Mr John Bowyer.
Sir, Having had an interview with Daniel Steer respecting his debts, I authorise you to enquire of his creditors if they will stop till New Year's Day; they shall receive interest from this time to that day, and will then certainly be paid. I shall be much obliged by an answer, by return of post, saying what arrangement you may have made, and please to address me as under
John Smith, Esq., at Mr T. Rice's, 37, St. Martin's Lane, Charing Cross.
He (Mr Clarkson) would show that, at the very time Mr Bowyer represented himself to have received this letter from Mr Percy Burrell under the name of Smith, he knew that the person who wrote it was Steer, who passed by the name of Smith at Mr Rice's in St. Martin's Lane. Bowyer had another letter, which purported to be addressed to him from Paris by Daniel Steer. It was dated 23d December, 1844:
Dear Sir, I write these few lines to inform you how I have been treated by Percy Burrell.
Now that necessarily showed that this letter was in answer to some previous communication, or, indeed, that there had been an abundance of communication between Bowyer and Steer before the latter went abroad; and in the result the jury, among other things, would have to make up their mind, whether the object with which Steer went to Paris in December, 1844, was not for the express purpose of sending this letter. The letter proceeded:
In the first place he promised me money from time to time week after week month after month, and even was the cause of my coming over to this country and, likewise the cause of my getting into debt at Petworth, as I should not have thought of such a thing if it had not been for him; and now I regret to inform you that he won't let me have a farthing of money. Therefore, I won't lay under the scandal of being accused of things I am innocent of any longer. Therefore, if Sir Charles Burrell or Colonel George Wyndham will not give you the money to pay off my respective debts at Petworth if they won't do it, I am determined to open the whole affair against Percy Burrell, let the consequence be whatever it will. Here we are in Paris me and my wife without a farthing of money or a friend. It is all through Percy Burrell that we are as we are, and also my poor father and mother, which he has almost ruined. Now, sir, I wish you to show this letter to Sir Charles Burrell and Colonel George Wyndham, and if they don't give you the money to pay my respective debts, I am determined to open the whole afffair to all England, let the consequence end where it will; for I assure you I am almost out of my mind respecting my poor father and mother. As respecting the charge that has been made against me, I am innocent of, for I should not have got into debt, if it had not been for Percy Burrell; therefore, sir, be sure and send me an answer by return of post, and let me know what they have to say. Be sure and write directly. Give our love to father and mother.
I remain yours truly,
Direct to me 'Daniel Steer, M. Molins, Rue de Grenelle, St. Germains, Paris,'
There was a third letter, and that third letter looked very much as though there had been some arranged scheme that an enquiry should be made of Daniel Steer into particulars, and then a letter follows in reply:
Paris, 29th December, 1844.
Sir, Having received your letter this morning, you request me to send you the particulars between me and Percy Burrell, which are as follows: me and my wife was a walking in the streets in Paris on the 19th December, and we met Percy Burrell, and he asked me to come to his lodging on the 21st December, 1844, which I did, at a quarter past nine o'clock in the morning. * * * * * *
This (said the learned counsel) is a letter from the same man who says he won't suffer the rumours to exist against him of what he is perfectly innocent.
This was the last time I have seen him there. He told me to send my wife to England, and stop in Paris and live with him, which I told him I would not do any such thing; and that is the reason he will not give me any money because I will not send my wife to England and life with him in Paris. I assure you I have been with him five times in different places, and he promised me at different times £1000 on the New Year's Day. What I have stated is the reason he will not give me any money. I further assure you that what I have done he always told me to do it. With respect to the bill of exchange, he told me that he had sent it to you, and whenever I have written to you he has told me what to say. In respect to the letter sent to London, he told me he had sent it to you, and also, at Raggett's hotel, he told me to leave my things behind, and he would send money and get them out, which he never did. He also told me to engage some goods, which I did. He also told me to write and tell you that he would give you £1000 at Christmas. I am only speaking to you the heads of every thing which I will be on my oath is as true as there is a God in Heaven and you may rely upon it. Sir, I am as innocent as a child unborn of every thing I am accused of. Mr Percy Burrell lives at 33, Rue de Grenelle, St. Germains, Paris. Sir, little did I think he was going to treat me so, and you and my father and mother. Be sure and write by return of post to me, and let me know every thing. I fyou do not like to state to Col. Wyndham how I have been treated by Percy burrell, I shall get a gentleman to write to Col. Wyndham how I have been treated by him. Therefore please to write by return of post, and let me know what he says. Give my love to my dear father and mother, and direct to me 'Molina's Estaminet, Rue de Grenelle.'
And then in a corner
"Be sure and keep this letter."
Now these letters were shown by Mr Bowyer to Mr Coppard, who, however, was not entrusted with them at the time he went to Mr Walter Burrell. Sir Charles, on being informed of the accusation, said "I will not give one tenth part of a farthing to prevent any exposure or enquiry upon such a subject as this. I should like to see the letters you have spoken of, if Mr Bowyer will permit you to show them to me." Mr Coppard went back to Bowyer, and disclosed to him what Sir Charles had said; and then Bowyer, finding that Sir Charles would not listen to his suggestion of being sent to Paris with money to Mr Percy burrell, consented to allow Sir Charles to see these letters, on condition that he should return them without taking copies. As soon as the letter bearing the name of Smith, and which Mr Bowyer alleged had been written by Mr Percy Burrell, was seen by Sir Charles, he perceived that the whole was a fraud and a villainous fogery, and stated that fact to Mr Coppard; but, in order to give every opportunity for examination and explanation, it was agreed, at the suggestion of Mr Coppard, that Bowyer should address a letter to Mr Percy Burrell at Paris, in which he should refer to so much of the circumstances which had transpired as were consistent with the slightest belief of his guilt, in order that they might see what he would reply. This letter was accordingly sent, under the signature of Mr Bowyer, to Mr Burrell at Paris, and was as follows:
Petworth, January 4th, 1845.
Sir, A mysterious communnication was lately made by a person of the name of Daniel Steer to his father, at this place, arising from the circumstance of his father having become surety with him for the payment of a debt, upon the representation made by Dr. Steer that he would shortly come into possession of a sum of money. The creditor being tired of waiting has instituted proceedings at law against the father, which brought the matter into my hands, and which led to an application to the son as to the truth of his statement in reference to money matters, to which the father received in answer the above mysterious communication, and which was placed in my hands, but in which no names were mentioned. Finding that no defence could be made to the action brought against the father, and which might lead to his discharge from his situation, I wrote to D. Steer to elicit from him if there was any truth in his statement, if he had any expectation of money, and from what source; to this I received a letter from D. Steer, detailing circumstances too horible to commit to paper. Now, under these circumstances, and with the assurance that not a single syllable shall escape my lips in reference to this matter, beyond a strict and confidential communication I felt bound to make (not knowing sufficiently your father) to a confidential agent of his, who happened to be here, you must excuse my addressing you to request the favour of you to state if there be any truth in the statement made by D. Steer that money is coming from you to him; for something must immediately be done to protect the father, or I fear the son, D. Steer, will carry out his threeat of a public expposure, which, believe me, I am most anxious should be avoided. I implore you not to neglect giving me an answer by return of post. You must be perfectly aware my only object in thus addressing you is to prevent the possibility of a sentence being breathed against your character; and you must be equally aware how difficult it is to remove public impressions, when once made.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
Percy Burrell, Esq.
At the bottom of the letter was written
[A civil law maxim which means "no one shall be heard, who invokes his own guilt".]
"Nemo auditur turpitudinem suam allegans."
Mr Burrell's answer was as follows:
Paris, Jan. 8, 1845.
SIR, Allow me to thank you for the trouble you have been good enough to take in writing me a letter, the subject of which causes me the utmost astonishment, and at its audacity, as well as disgust at his baseness, combined with unmingled contempt for such mad absurdity. I remember Steer the father, at Lord Egremont's lodge. The man you write about, his son, after accosting me in the streets of Paris, called at my residence the next morning, and obtained from me fifteen francs (about twelve shillings) to assist him and his wife to return to England; but the wife returning again, was not admitted. This is all I know if them, except the grateful return these harping adventurers make for one's charity. I will just add that the whole story about my pretended promise of payment to him of a thousand pounds, my pretended journey to Antwerp with him, is an utter fiction. I have not been in any part of Holland or Belgium since 1828; and as last year is the time supposed for this audaciously intended journey, observe that I have not left Paris since October, 1843, the details to which are brought to my knowledge by a letter from Sir Charles. This is evidently a speculation to try and get money, being one of the numerous branches of sharping, but more likely to procure transportation than any other reward. Renewing my thanks to you, sir, from your obliging and discreet zeal,
Your obedient servant,
To Mr Bower, solicitor, Petworth.
This scheme to get money (continued the learned counsel) having failed by the refusal of Sir Charles Burrell to listen to it, they would now go to the circumstances on which this charge had been got up. On the 19th December, 1844, as Mr Percy Burrell was walking in the neighbourhood of the Palais Royal, in Paris, he was met by a man who turned out to be Daniel Steer, who, touching his hat, said, "You don't know me, Sir, but I am the son of Steer, who keeps the lodge gate at Petworth; I came here on business, but am without the means of getting home." After an enquiry as to the health of the father, Mr Burrell parted from him. The next morning Steer came to Mr Burrell's lodgings, and asked to see him. Mr Burrell asked him what he wanted? He replied that he and his wife were without the means of getting home. Mr Burrell said, "How did you know where I lived?" He said, "I found it out at the British Embassy," so that for some object he had ascertained this fact. Mr Burrell gave him 15 francs; he expressed his gratitude, and went away; and that was the whole of the communication between Mr Percy Burrell and Steer, from that time until Mr Burrell saw the man in custody at the last Assizes. Nevertheless, the Jury would see how important this circumstance was, upon which to hang any charge to be concocted afterwards. It would appear that Mr Bowyer was in the habit of frequenting the house of Steer's father, drinking tea and smoking with him night after night; he (Mr C.) would show them that the circumstances of Bowyer were desperate; he would show them that he was in immediately person communication with Daniel Steer before he left England to go to Paris; and that he got his creditors to postone their demands until he could get a large sum of money, which he stated to one creditor he expected to get from a disgraceful charge that was to be made against Mmr Burrell; and that while Bowyer was in daily communication with the Steers, with this Daniel Steer, his wife, father, and mother, and reading letters and speaking of Mr Percy Burrell, they were warned by George Steer (brother of Daniel) and the only respectable person in the family, that the letters which they alleged to have come from Mr Percy Burrell were falsehoods and frauds, and they would get themselves transported, and that the letter which they stated to be written by Mr Burrell, and which contained a request to Mr Bowyer to send his reply to John Smith, Esq., was a fabrication. He would, moreover, prove that Bowyer, long before he showed the letters to Mr Coppard in January, 1845, was aware that the letter signed Smith was not in the handwriting of Mr Burrell, and that letters addressed by John Smith, at Mr Rice's, had been received by Steer. Yet, nowing these things, he had pleded himself over and over again that the letter was written by Mr Percy Burrell, and that he was guilty of an abominable crime. The learned counsel then explained that this subject was investigated to a certain extent at the last Assizes, in the shape of a charge of a principal nature against Daniel Steer. The letters were at that time in the hands of Bowyer; and it was believed at the time that he was not the originator of the plot. They had no copies of the letters; they knew nothing of the communications between Steer and Bowyer; nothing of John Smith being Steer; nothing to show what share Bowyer had taken in the transaction. He was merely summoned to produce the letters, which were ordered to be impounded by the learned Judge; and then, as Steer was out of the country at the time the accusation was made by Bowyer, the Judge stopped the case, declaring that Steer was an accessory before the fact, and that the person who made the communication to Mr Coppard was the principal, namely, Bowyer. He had now given an outline of the circumstances of the case, and invited the jury to consider whether there had not been a deliberately arranged scheme between these two persons to send Steer to Paris to give him an opportunity to lay the foundation, by an interview, of making a charge with the view of extorting money. The learned counsel further explained, at considerable length, that Steer, being driven by destitution to commit a theft, had been committed to Petworth gaol, and there made a statement to the Rev. Mr Langshaw, the chaplain, in which, to excullpate himself, he laid the whole crime on Bowyer. Though this would be read, Mr Clarkson warned them not to give it any weight, but be led to a decision by the facts which he had stated. They would have to say whether or not those facts satisfied their minds that this was a wicked proceeding on the part of these two persons against a gentleman for the purpose of obtaining money. That gentleman would be placed in the witness-box; he would on his oath deny the imputation; and he was open to any questions which his learned friend, (Mr Serjeant Jones) in his discretion might think proper to put. He owed an apology to Mr Burrell for suggesting to the jury that, in point of law, whether the crime had been committed or not made no difference whatever in this prosecution. The object of the Act under which the indictment was framed, was to prevent wicked men from gettng money by imputing the offence. The evidence would be produced; and the jury would then havd to say whether in common charity they could come to any other conclusion than that the prisoners were guilty of the offence with which they were charged.
Mr Thomas Coppard, examined by Mr Bodkin I am a solicitor at Horsham, and am employed by Sir Charles Burrell. I know Mr Bowyer, he has practised many years as an attorney at Petworth. On the 3d January, 1845, I was at Petworth Quarter Sessions. I had occasion to see Mr Bowyer, and I called at his office. He called me into his private room, and said he had a communication to make of a painful or shocking nature. He then asked whether I knew Sir Charles Burrell or Colonel Wyndham sufficiently to seen an interview with them. I said, "No." Colonel Wyndham is uncle of the prosecutor, Mr Percy Burrell. He then asked me if I knew Mr Percy Burrell? I said I knew him, but not intimately. He then said that the communication he was about to make was affecting that gentleman's character that he was a . I expressed great surprise at it, and disbelief. He assured me it was perfectly true; that he was in a condition to prove it; and produced, in confirmation of his statement, two letters.
(The letters signed Daniel Steer, given above, were handed to witness, who stated that those were the letters shown to him by Mr Bowyer.)
Examination continued He said that Mr Burrell had been guilty of the act with Daniel Steer, and that these letters came from him. I told him I could not take upon myself to make the communciation to Sir Charles Brurell. He said it was all true, that Steer had travelled with Mr Percy Burrell from Paris to Antwerp, and had been his constant . He did not tell me how he knew that fact. He asked me if I knew Mr Percy Burrell's handwriting? I said I did not. He then produced this letter (signed "John Smith"), which he said had come to him from Mr Percy Burrell. Mr Bowyer urged me to make the communication, adding that Steer and his father were involved in debt, that Percy Burrell had promised Steer £1000 before New Year's Day, and how desirable it was to stop the execution against the father's goods. Recollecting that Mr Walter Burrell was at the Sessions, I said that possibly I might make it known to him; in which he concurred. I ten went and saw Mr Walter Burrell, and afterwards to Sir Charles, and, at the request of the latter, returned to Mr Bowyer's to borrow the letters, adding that Sir Charles had said he did not believe one word of the matter, and would not compromise it in any way, but was determined to investigate it most fully. After some hesitation he allowed me to have the letters, on a pledge that I would return them and not take copies. I took them to Sir Charles, and afterwards returned them to Mr Bowyer, telling him that Sir Charles, on seeing the letter purporting to be written by his son, said it was not his son's handwriting, and bore no resemblance to it, nor would he give one-tenth part of a farthing for what was usually called in these matters "hush-money." Mr Bowyer then proposed that he should be sent to Paris for the purpose of hushing it up; that unless this money was forthcoming, and Steer relieved from his difficulties, a dreadful exposure would be the consequence; that Sir Charles should entrust him with £11,000, and he would offer to lend it as out of his own pocket to Mr Percy Burrell, taking his note of hand, which, on his return home, he could endorse to Sir Charles. I said I would not venture to make such a proposition to Sir Charles, and suggested that a letter should be addressed by him to Mr Burrell. He objected at first, but ultimately assented; and we framed a letter, on the completion of which Mr Bowyer rubbed his hands and said, "Some people, you know, would make a thousand or two of a thing of this kind." He said, "I will write to Daniel Steer by this night's posts to keep him quiet." I showed the letter to Sir Charles, and afterwards returned it to Bowyer.
(The letter in question from Bowyer to Mr Burrell, as read by Mr Clarkson, was produced.)
Examination resumed On the 7th January, I received from Mr Bowyer the letter produced:
Petworth, 5th January, 1845.
Dear Coppard. I forwarded the two letters to Paris last night, as arranged between us. The father of D. Steer received a letter from his son yesterday, which I enclosed (unknown to anyone) for your perusal, and which probably you will forward to me, after you have read it, by return of post. I have thought it proper, under all circumstances, that you should see all the correspondence which passes. The letter appears to me to confirm every thing he, D. S., stated in his letter to me. My letter, which I wrote to him last Wednesday evening, would reach him yesterday, so that I have no doubt but that will cause him to REMAIN QUIET FOR THE PRESENT. Should, however, he unfortunately arrive with the Italian , I shall be sure to hear of it within three minutes after his arrival. I will take care to prevent any thing occurring prejudicial. I am afraid, from circumstances, that it will appear that D. S. has been most egregiously imposed on by P. B. It is quite certain he left his situation through him.
Thomas Coppard, Esq.
Examination resumed On the 16th January I received another letter from Mr Bowyer, enclosing the answer of Mr Percy Burrell to to Bowyer's letter to him:
Petworth, January 14h, 1845.
Dear Coppard, I enclose you Mr Percy Burrell's answer to my letter, which certainly is a compleat denial as to the promise of payment of £1,000 on New Year's Day, besides which the writer observed he has not left Paris since October, 1843. I make no observations in regard to the letter; at the same time, it is broadly asserted that in June, July, or August OF LAST YEAR, the above gent. met D. S. at Horsham, and proceeded with him in a post chase to Bognor, for the purpose of, I am told, purchasing a house there. I am bound to make enquiry to ascertain who wrote me a letter on the 15th October, 1844, wherein it was stated that having had an interview with D. S. respecting his debits, he (the writer) authorized me to enquire of his creditors if they would stop till New Year's Day, and they should receive interest to that time from that day, whicih would certainly then be paid; and that he should feel much obliged by an answer by return of post, saying what arrangements I might have made, and directing me to address him as John Smith, Esq., &c.
I admit I made no particular arrangement in consequence of this letter; but I replied to it by stating I had no doubt the creditors would remain quet, if any respectable person would guarantee the payment, but some of the creditors were satisfied on my telling them the purport of Mr Smith's letter.
Please to return the enclosed to me at your earliest convenience. I again repeat this matter will ever remain a secret within my own bosom; but you must be aware I cannot be supposed to have any further control over D. S.
I am, dear Coppard,
Yours very truly,
Thos. Coppard, Esq.
I wrote to Mr Bowyer, returning the letter of Mr Burrell:
Dear Bowyer, I return you the letter from Mr B., which I have brought twice to this place, and omitted from pressure of business to forward to you. I think from what I can learn, but I do not speak positively, that the statement about the Bognor journey is entirely a fabrication; if so, and the circumstances of Mr B.'s flat denial as to the £1000, and of the pretended journey to Antwerp, coupled with the fact that he indignantly refuses all assistance to D. S. (which, give me leave to say, I do not think he would do if a taint of guilt rested on his mind), must bring me to the conviction that the whole affair is a villainous attempt to extort money. There are many other circumstances which would weigh with any considerate minded person such, for instance, the read admission on the part of D. S. of his own guilt, because he explicitly charges the very commission of the offence, and not an attempt to commit, as most of these base extortioners do. His needy circumstances, and his apparent greedy desire to have it communicated to Sir Charles Burrell and Colonel Wyndham without the knowledge of Mr B., or even first charging him personally with the offence, and this (according to my view of it), under the supposition that either Sir Charles or the Colonel would readily put a stop to so disgraceful a report by the advance of a sum of money; but in this, if I have taken a right view of it, D. S. and all his Italian friends will be woefully disappointed.
I remain, dear Bowyer,
Yours very truly,
Horsham, 18th January, 1845.
This was replied to on the 19th January, by Bowyer:
Petworth, 19th January, 1845.
Dear Coppard, I received your letter, with Mr P. B.'s, this morning. D. S.'s enclosed reached me yesterday, and the wife's this morning. As you have given an opinion with respect to the statement about the Bognor journey which you seem to view in the light of a fabrication, &c., and deducing therefrom that the whole affair is a villainous attempt to extort money I request you to read the enclosed letters; and, in addition thereto, I will undertake to identify Mr P. B. being in company with D. S. at Horsham, Arundel, and Bognor in June, July or August last; that they proceeded together in a post chaise from Horsham to Bognor, and returned from thence to Horsham on the same day (the wife remaining at the inn at Horsham during the interval). Were I not in a situation to prove this, I should consider D. S. to be an infamous liar. As to the offence itself, I consider both parties equally criminal; but that does not exonerate Mr P. B. He promised D. S. and £1000 on New Year's Day, and a great deal more, and induced him to leave his situation under Colonel W., and prevailed on him to marry. I assure you I am in possession of many other facts which, unless D. S. be the veriest villain that ever existed, I can do no other than believe. Having been innocently drawn into this nasty business, I am most anxious to wipe my hands of it altogether. I did, out of compassion to the feelings of the honourable baronet (whom I have frequently heard you eulogise in glowing terms), endeavour to place matters in that position to save a disclosure which must inevitably tend to ruin the subject of it in the eyes of the world; and I had confidently anticipated my original suggestion to you would have been attended to. Still I am free to admit that both parties are completely at issue, which I am afraid can be established to the prejudice of the former; I saw this upon the honour of a man, and, as you have known me for some years, I leave you to believe me or not. I shall, on receiving your answer with the enclosures, let the matter rest as far [as] I am concerned, as the parties who propose to return to England next week will (without my advice) follow their own course, except that in justification of myself, and partly as to the communication I received from John Smith, Esq., as to the creditors being paid their respective debts with interest on the 1st January instant, I shall obtain his declaration of all the circumstances relating thereto. In conclusion, I cannot but observe that it is a most serious matter, and one deserving of immediate attention; having said thus much, I take leave of it.
I am, dear Coppard,
In haste, yours truly,
Thops. Coppard, Esql.
N.B. D. S.'s father received the letter from his wife this morning, which I have (unknown to him) enclosed to you for your perusal.
(The letter from Daniel Steer, in Paris, in reply to Mr Bowyer, was read, repeating the allegations of the former letter, only more in detail, and also that from Steer's wife, supporting them.)
Examination resumed To this communication I replied:
Lanehurst Lodge, Albourne,
27th January, 1845.
Dear Bowyer, Your letter having been addressed to me at Horsham, I did not get it until Wednesday, and, being obliged to go to Brighton on Thursday, and not returning until Friday evening, I could not give it my earlier attention.
When a charge of so serious and revolting a nature as that which has given rise to our correspondence is made, I think it must occur to you, as it does to myself, that the extremest caution should be observed, particularly when the relative stations of the parties concerned are considered, ere the slightest credence is given to a charge of so horrible a nature as that made by D. S. You enclose me three letters, requesting my perusal of them; and then you go on to state that you will undertake to identify Mr P. B. being in company with D. S. at Horsham, Arundel, and Bognor, in June, July, or August last; that they proceeded together, &c., to Bognor and back to Horsham, the wife of D. S. remaining at Horsham during the interval. You doubtless say this from the statement of D. S. or hif ather, and not from any personal knowledge of your own; and you imagine, I take it, that the various letters are corroborative of this statement. And you then, notwithstanding the emphatic denial of Mr Burrell, speak of the promise f £1000 on New Year's Day as if virtually made, thereby crediting the tale. Nay, I will characterize it as a wicked invention of an atrociously bad fellow and a consummate lair the former, by his own act and shewing, first in getting into debt without the remotest prospect of ever being enabled to pay, and secndly by the admission of his participation, and consequently his own guilt, in the crime which he seeks to fix on another; and the latter by incurring a debt at an hotel by representations wholly at variance with truth. And yet this is the man desired to be credited in preference to a gentleman of high standing in society, and who, be it remembered, at the risque of having his character tained, if not for ever blasted, had the moral courage to refuse to perform the alleged promise, or to render the least pecuniary assistance to the man D. S., his accuser. Would, let me ask, a man guilty of so heinous an offence venture to do this? Now, with these preliminary observations, which I do not intend, and you must not receive them, as offensive to yourself for I claim pardon for expressing myself somewhat harshly in a matter of this kind I will proceed to remark on the improbability that the statements made to you have truth for their foundation. In the first place, does it not appear to you somewhat extraordinary that, in a statement of the kind, the party did not fix on a month, or even the day of the month, instead of representing it to have occurred within one of three months; and that, therefore, it is a mere invention (upon the supposition that if Mr B. did visit England it would be in one of those months) to give a colourable appearance of truth to the statements in the various letters and to the accusation, in order the more readily to induce Sir Charles or Colonel W. to hush the matter up? Now it so happens that both Sir Charles and Lady Burrell received letters from Mr B. at various periods of each of those months, and all dated at and bearing the Paris post-marks. The great interest Mr B. takes, too, in the gardens and pleasure-grounds at Knepp Castle forbids one to believe that he would ever visit Horsham or the neighbourhood of Knepp, or even England, without going there; in addition to this, Mr B. is, comparatively speaking, as well known in Horsham as myself, having constantly attended at the Bench as a Magistrate, and no one has heard of his being there in either of the months spoken of; so that, if a proceeding of the kind you mention really took place, my firm conviction is that some one personated Mr B., in order to carry out by letter this wicked scheme to extort money. I say by letter, because I cannot believe it will be attempted by any other means; and that I an correct in my view of it is apparent indeed, most clearly shewn by the letters addressed to yourself and the father, all of which exhibit the strongest desire that they should be shewn either to Sir Charles or Col. W., under the notion that either the one or the other would readily, to avoid so disgraceful an affair becoming public (for you will observe that no threat is personally or by letter made to Mr B.), hand out something handsome in the shape of hush-money. Now, to nip this fond hope in the bud, and to prevent the possibility of the parties entertaining the remotest hope of such an advance, I at once (for the strictest inquiry is sought after), by the authority of Sir Charles, state to you most positively that neither the Colonel or Sir Charles will do any thing of the kind, or in any manner attempt to defeat the ends of justice. I must surely be as apparent to yourself, on due consideration, as it is to me, that this is a wicked, butr a clumsy, scheme on the part of D. S. and others connected with him to raise the means to relieve himself from his pecuniary difficulties; for why, let me ask, does he not come to England? In one of his former letters he states his intention of being here in a few days, with a budget of wicked lies for the ear of Colonel Wyndham; in another letter, some time afterwards, that he and a gentleman (an Italian), who was to state the whole affair to the Colonel, were to be here in three days; but neither himsef nor the Italian makes his appearance, and the latter is, in the subsequent letters, entirely lost sight of. And now it seems to be quite uncertain when England may boast of such a character, for he says "when he comes to England." Again, he speaks of the dreadful state his wife is thrown into by your unfavourable communication, and cannot predict the consequences; yet we have the wife the following day writing two letters, and using pretty much the same language as himself. Now, really, can you imagine that a man with a mind so vile, so base, so ill-formed, and so entirely perverted as to communicate to his wife (it is evident he has done so) so horribly filthy and unnatural (and himself, too, particeps criminis) a crime, and yet think him worthy of belief; and can you imagine a woman, a wife too, to whom such a communication has been made by her guilty husband, if she believed it, would, if she possessed a particle of decency or the feelings of a woman, continue to live one hour with such a beast, and characterize him as her poor dear husband, unless (as I believe the case to be) she is as base as himself, and lost to every virtue and sense of propriety, and determined to aid in this most diabolical act to extort money. Away with it; I will not, I cannot entertain it for one moment. Hence, I will say no more than that I am perfectly aware, in giving you my sentiments, it enables these filthy extortioners to manufacture fresh statements and fresh inventions to meet what I have said; but I do hope and trust that you will not make any communication to them of my sentiments, but plainly that neither Sir Charles Burrell nor Col. W. will do an act to defeat the course of justice, be the consequences what they may. I beg to return you the letters, for the perusal of which I thank you.
Yours veryu truly,
J. Bowyer, Esq.
Witness To this I received no answer.
Mr Serjeant Jones I have a letter here dated January 29th, in answer to this letter of the 27th.
Lord Denman (to witness) Did you receive such letter?
Witness I have no recollection of it.
Mr Serjeant Jones handed from the prisoner Bowyer to the witness a draft letter.
Witness I have no recollectionn of ever seeing such a letter as this. Indeed, no such letter could have been written, since in the postscript of a letter received from Mr Bowyer, on the 15th March, on other matters, he says "You must excuse my answering your two last notes on the subject of P. B.;" and then he states that he still adhered to his original statement, and that he had since come into possession of much more positive information on all points.
Cross-examined by Mr Serjeant Jones I have known Mr Bowyer 35 years; he has been in practice round Petworth for 30 years. I believe he carried on business respectably. We have always been good friends. In my first interview with him he mentioned a sum of £1,000, which Mr Burrell had promised to Daniel Steer on New Year's Day to pay his debts. I was aware that Sir Charles intended to prosecute, but did not intimate this to Mr Bowyer, except by telling him that Sir Charles would fully investigate the matter.
Look at this draft letter, and tell me whether you did not, two days after your last letter, receive a letter of which this is the draft? I have no recollection of the letter; and from the substance of it I should say that I never received it.
Judge Daniel Steer, do you wish to put any questions to Mr Coppard? No.
Thomas Rice, examined by Mr Johnson I am a lodging-house keeper at 37, St. Martin's Lane. Daniel Steer came to my house in October, 1844, with his wife. Letters came to him addressed "John Smith, Esq." and where given to him. I afterwards ascertained, in conversation with him, that his name was Steer. They remained at my house a little more than a fortnight. After they left, I received this letter:
Petworth, 24th Nov., 1844.
Sir, James Steer, the father of Daniel Steer, has desired me to reply to your letter to him. Daniel Steer is at present on the continent, but is expected home daily; immediately on his return I will write to you again on the subject of your letter. I addressed a letter to John Smith, Esq., at your house, about four or five weeks ago; I will thank you to write to me BY RETURN OF POST, whether any gentleman had the letter, or whether Daniel Steer himself took it. I make this last application to you in confidence, and trust you will receive it confidentially.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
Mr Thomas Rice.
Direct to me Mr John Bowyer, solicitor, Petworth, Sussex.
Witness I wrote this letter in reply:
November 25, 1844.
Sir, In answer to yours of to-day, I beg to say there was a letter sent here directed to John Smith, Esq., and it was given into Mr Daniel Steer's hands, as he told me it was for a friend of his, and he would convey it to him. I think you for your very kind promise in letting me know when the Steers arrive, as it is of some consequence to me.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
To John Bowyer, Esq.
John Knight, examined by Mr Clarkson I am a farmer at Pulborough. In the spring of 1845 Mr Bowyer was in my debt, and I was pressing him for money.
Lord Denman Unless the particulars go to support the charge, we need not hear them.
Mr Clarkson They do, my lord.
Examination resumed He asked for time, saying that he was in expectation of receiving a considerable sum of money from Sir Charles Burrell; that it was a matter of a very serious nature, which he did not wish the public to know any thing of; but that Daniel Steer expected some money from Mr Percy Burrell, which would consequently come into his hands; that the affair was of a private and serious nature; that he expected it, or had expeced it by the 1st of January, and that he expected it would be forthcoming to meet the premium of a life policy of £3000, which I held. The premium was £126 17s.
In re-examination this witness stated that he had befriended Bowyer by lending him £500.
Mr Henry Baker I am an attorney, and was in partnership with Mr Bowyer four years up to June, 1845. In 1845 there was not (to my knowledge) any business transacted with the family of Steer, nor any communication with Daniel Steer, nor am I aware that Mr Bowyer was retained by Steer. There was no entry in the books of any professional business being transacted for any of the Steer's.
Had you a young man in the office at the begijnning of 1845 on his probation for being articles? There was a young man.
Now was the state of the business such as to induce you to give notice to the father of that young man not to article him?
Mr Serjeant Jones I object to that question.
Lord Denman Do you know whether he was in needy circumstances?
Witness Mrs Bowyer?
Lord Denman Yes.
Witness I don't know.
Cross-examined by Mr Serjeant Jones I did not know, in 1844, that Mr Bowyer and myself were concerned for James Steer, the father, in an action brought against him by Mr Stedman. I have since learned from the agents' books that such was the case. I have heard that Daniel Steer applied to Mr Bowyer to make an arrangement with some of the creditors. I do not know that Mr Bowyer had to remit £15 to Mr Powell, of Chichester, on account of Steer.
Hannah Newman was in the service of Mr Bowyer from October, 1844, to December, 1845. Daniel Steer was in the habit of coming in the early part of 1845 sometimes with, and wometimes without his wife. They came chiefly in the evening; they often drank tea there; and the two prisoners frequently smoked together. They appeared to be on intimate terms of acquaintance, and Steer used to remain several hours. She had frequently heard the name of Mr Percy Burrell mentioned; had heard Daniel Steer say that he was going to have property in Kent from Percy Burrell, and she was to have a present for waiting on him. Bowyer did not say any thing.
George Steer, examined by Mr Bodkin I am an elder brother of Daniel Steer. My father lives in the lodge. I have frequently heard convesations, in 1844, between my father and brother on the subject of Mr Percy Burrell. In March, 1844, my father shewed me some letters. I did not know the hand writing. In March they were speaking of a criminal connection between Mr Percy Burrell and Daniel Steer. I told them it was false, as I believe Mr Percy Burrell was a different gentleman from what they represented; that I did not believe what Daniel said, and that if his father believed it, he would be led astray. My father said it was correct, and that he had letters to prove it. I said that I had seen them, and that they were forged; I said so, knowing Daniel to be a false man. In May, 1844, my brother came to Petworth with a horse and gig. He said he came from Brighton; that he had been with Mr Percy Burrell; that he had had a long conversation with him; and that he (Mr Burrell) enquired after me, and said he would put my son to school and make a gentleman of him. He also said that Mr Percy Burrell had a cap on with a gold band; and that as he (Daniel Steer) drove away for Petworth, Mr Percy Burrell stood at the window of an inn at Brighton, and made a motion of his hand in this way. (Witness here imitated the motion by putting his thumb to his nose, in a way which is called "taking a sight.") I told him it was not true. He also said in August, 1844, that he had been to Goodwood races with Mr Burrell, and walked there quite boldly with him. I told him it was false. In October, 1844, I saw Mr Bowyer with my fatheer. He called me into his office, and asked me what kind of a man my brother was? I told him he was a great liar, and that if he believed him he would be deceived. Mr Bowyer advised me not to run out against my brother, as he might be a great friend to me. Mr Bowyer came constantly to the Lodge to my father. I heard Mr Percy Burrell's name frequently, and my father said that Daniel would be worth his thousands by and bye, and would have more money than he knew what to do with. It was to come from Sir Charles Burrell. Daniel was away in the autumn of 1844. Mr Bowyer still came, and there were letters read,, which they said came from Mr Percy Burrell. I told him they were lies, and that it was not Mr Percy Burrell's writing, but the writing of Daniel Steer's wife. Bowyer said no he believed not. My wife was present on one occasion, and took notice of one letter, and said it must be an accomplished gentleman to write "Mr Daniel Steer, Esq." It was so written. She also said it was Daniel Steer's wife's writing. When this was received, Mr Bowyer said it was just the thing he wanted, and that he was certain it came from Mr Percy Burrell, and that he had several at home. I told them it was all lies that they would get transported, and serve them well right, too. (Laughter.) In June, 1846, when Daniel Steer was apprehended, Mr Bowyer sent for me to his office at Petworth, and said that my brother was writing against him in prison, and that my brother had misled him. I said I had told him he would. Mr B. said he believe there was some truth in it yet. Then I said, "You are as bad as he."
Cross-examined by Mr Serjeant Jones Mr Bowyer seemed to place confidence in my brother. The first time I saw Mr Bowyer and my brother together was in October, 1844. I know Bowyer was engaged to defend an action brought against my father by Mr Stedman.
Did not Mr Bowyer say you might be friends with your brother again? No; he said he would be a friend to me.
He knew you were not on good terms with your brother? Yes; and it was on account of his telling lies about Mr Percy Burrell.
Mr Percy Burrell examined by Mr Clarkson I am the elder son of Sir Charles Burrell. In December, 1844, I was living in Paris, at 44, Rue de Grenelle. I had not been previously in England since 1841. On the 19th December, 1844, between the Theatre Français at the the Palais Royal I was accosted by a man, who said, "You don't know me, Sir I am Daniel Steer, the son of Steer, who keeps the lodge at Petworth." It was the prisoner Daniel Steer. I said "What brought you to Paris?" He said he had come on business. I enquired if his father was still in Colonel Wyndham's service. Colonel Wyndham is my uncle. Steer said he was. I then walked on. On the following morning I was told, about half-past ten or eleven o'clock, that a man named Steer was enquiring for me. I was in my room, dressing for breakfast; my saloon and bedroom were on the same floor, and communicate with each other. I put on my dressing-gown and went out into the salle. The first thing I said was, "How did you know my address?" He said he had learned it at the French Embassy. He then said that he and his wife had come to Paris on business, and that they were in great distress to return home, and hoped that I would assist them to return to England. I said that, as his father was known to me, I would give him 15f.; that I could not think of passing home persons who camed to Paris on business, but that I believed there was a society in Paris where that was done, and I recommended him to go there. He seemed thankful, and went away.
Had you, Mr Burrell, up to the period of meeting him in the street ever, to your knowledge, seen him in your life? No. The next morning I was told that Mrs Steer called. I sent out word that I had given what I intended, and declined to see them again. I never did see him until last Assizes. In January, 1845, I received a letter from Mr Bowyer, to which I wrote an answer. I never travelled in a post-chaise in my life with Daniel Steer was never with hm at Goodwood, or suffered him to take my arm. I was never with him at Horsham, or any other place in the county of Sussex. I never wrote a letter in the name of John Smith, or passed under that name, or any other name than my own. In consequence of these circumstances being made known to me, I came over to England in May, 1846, to prosecute at the last Assizes, and have remained here since.
Mr Serjeant Jones Have you any other christian name than Percy? No.
Nothing before or after? No.
Lord Denman Steer, do you wish to put any question?
Steer, who has an impediment in his speech, attempted to speak, but was not able. He, however, communicated to the gaoler in a whisper.
Gaoler He says that Mr Percy Burrell is entirely innocent of the crime.
Mr Clarkson His lordship asks whether he has any questions? No.
In reply to a question from Lord Denman, Mr Percy Burrell stated that the Latin line at the bottom of Bowyer's letter to him was written by him (Mr P. Burrell).
Sir Charles Burrell, Bart., examined by Mr Bodkin I reside at Knepp Castle. Mr Percy Burrell is my eldest son. He left England six or seven years ago. I have had frequent communications from him; and as far as my knowledge and belief goes, he has never been in England since, until last year. Having fortunately preserved his letters and their envelopes, and likewise his drafts on my bankers for money, I am enabled thus, if requisite, to prove that my son was not residing at the places where he was pretended to have been by the prisoner. In January, 1845, a communication was made to me through Mr Walter Burrell, from Mr Coppard, and Mr Coppard acted in that transaction towards Mr Bowyer by my recommendation. The letter produced (signed "John Smith") is not my son's handwriting; it bears no resemblance to it.
Walter Burrell, Esq. I am a barrister. I was at Petworth Sessions in January, 1845. A communication was made to me by Mr Coppard on the subject of my brother, Mr Percy Burrell, which I first communicated to Colonel Wyndham, and then to my father. I did not afterwards interfere in any way in the matter.
The Rev. Mr Langshawe, Chaplain of Petworth Gaol, deposed In the beginning of June, 1846, I received a statement from Daniel Steer, who was in gaol on a charge of felony; also a confession, in his own handwriting, of the innocence of Mr Percy Burrell of a charge which he had been induced to make against him, through the earnest persuasion of Mr John Bowyer, for no other purpose than to extort a large sum of money for the use of Bowyer. The signature to these letters (those signed Daniel Steer and given in the opening) is in Steer's handwriting.
(The confession or statement of the prisoner occupied nearly an hour in reading. It narrated the commencement and progress of Steer's alleged intimacy with Bowyer, whose instrument both in travelling and writing letters he alleged that he had been during the last three years, the object being to get a large sum of money from Sir Charles Burrell for hushing up an infamous charge to be made against his son, when the train which had occupied so long a time in preparation should be ripe for explosion. He represented Bowyer as the concoctor and director, and himself the agent, throughout the nefarious transaction.)
This was the case for the prosecution.
Mr Serjeant Jones addressed the jury at considerable length for the prisoner Bowyer. He admitted that the prisoners had, without the slightest ground, threatened to accuse the heir of one of the most honourable and respected families in this county of an offence, than which none more atrocious could be brought against a gentleman; but he entreated the jury to dismiss from their minds all the prejudice which they might have imbibed against the prisoners, and to give their verdict, under the obligation of the oath which they had taken, on a calm consideration of the evidence. If it should be the fate of Mr Bowyer to be consigned by their verdict to disgrace and punishment for the remainder of his life, they must all lament that a man who stood in the situation of a gentleman, who had practised the profession of a gentleman, and who had lived upwards of 30 years in this county without any reproach on either his private or professional reputation, should have been so duped by the artful story of the other prisoner Steer, as to have taken such a part in this most unfortunate and in some respects reprehensible transaction; one could not but lament that a man in such a station of life should have been induced by a misrepresentation to mix himself up for a single moment with such a transaction. He (Mr Serjeant Jones) was free, on the part of Mr Bowyer, to admit that he had been guilty of very great imprudence and indiscretion, and, in a certain sense, also of great injustice to Mr Percy Burrell, by lending himself in any way, even although he did believe the story told him (which his client assured him that he did) to the attack made by Daniel Steer on Mr Burrell. The jury, however, ought not to be induced, because Mr Bowyer lacked the prudence which he ought to have possessed, to find him guilty, if they should feel that, misled by the statement of the other prisoner, he was weak enough to believe his statement and was deceived by Steer, and that in what he did in the transaction, he really had no wish or intentionn to accuse Mr Burrell of this horrible crime for the purpose of gain. The learned Serjeant proceeded to contend that the allowing Mr Coppard to take the letters to Sir Charles Burrell was the conduct rather of a professional man acting for his client, than that of a party conspiring to charge an infamous transactionn for the purpose of extortion, since the very act involved almost certain detection, if such a conspiracy existed. The account given by Steer that he learned Mr Burrell's residence at the British Embassy, was sufficient to show that Steer had accidentally met Mr Burrell, and not that he was sent over to Paris by Bowyer, for the purpose of seeking him out and laying the groundwork of a charge. But, in his confession, Steer stated that Mr Burrell knew him well. Mr Burrell stated that he had never seen Steer in his life; and this showed that in one respect, at least, Steer's confession was false. If the jury found the prisoner Steer making a misrepresentation in one case, would they not suppose that he did so in others; and would they convict Bowyer on such evidence? If Steer could bring himself to charge an innocent man, Mr Burrell, would he hesitate to charge Bowyer, with a view to screen himself fromm conviction, or if convicted, with a view to lessen his punishment? Which was most likely to have originated the charge with a view to extort money, Steer, who was in debt at Petworth, or a gentleman exercising a respectable profession, like Mr Bowyer? Before Steer was shown to be acquainted with Mr Bowyer, he came to Petworth in a gig, and made statements respecting Mr Burrell, and subsequently spoke of his walking on the Goodwood Race Course with Mr Burrell. Did not that show that he was preparing for the accusation which he afterwards made, not at the suggestion of Mr Bowyer, but from his own wicked mind?
Lord Denman interposed, observing that there was no charge against Mr Bowyer on the confession of Steer. What Steer had stated could not affect another, and hardly himself.
Mr Serjeant Jones then commented generally on the case, and contended that the evidence did not support the indictment against Bowyer, either on the first three counts charging the accused of the crime, or the next three charging the threat to accuse.
Steer, when called on for his defence, reiterated the statement in his confession, that Mr Burrell was entirely innocent of the crime charged against him; that all the letters which he had written from Paris or elsewhere were copied from draughts furnished to him by Bowyer; and that Bowyer never suggested to him to make the horrible accusation till he knew that he (Steer) and his wife were in great distress.
Lord Denman then summed up. It was deeply important that the jury should understand the nature of the charge, which, although many extraordinary facts had been brought before them, was in itself most simple. The Act of Parliament under which the indictment was framed, made it a felony to accuse any one of an infamous crime, with intent to extort money from him. Whether that crime had been committed or not, and whether the party who accused believed it to have been committed or not, was perfectly indifferent for the purpose of their verdict. Because, if he believed it to be true, it was his duty not to smother it, but to take care that the guilty individual should be pointed out and brought to condign punishment, if punishment could overtake him; and if he believed it to be untrue, he ought to take the same course, or put the matter into a course of proper investigation. But the Act made it criminal felonious to make an accusation of this sort for the purpose of extorting money; those simple words created the whole of the offence, and they were all that was necessary to prove the party guilty. The question was, did Mr Bowyer accuse of an infamous crime? and was that accusation made with intent to extort money? The word "accuse" had no particular technical sense in the act, but was a word of easy construction, and the meaning of which was known to every one. To state that an individual had done wrong was to "accuse" within the act, if that was stated to any third parson, the accusation was made and the act of parliament was violated, if any man says of you, "that man has committed such an act," that is an accusation of the party so speaking. Then comes the question whether that accusation is made that statement is made to another with the intent to extort money? The facts that were to make out this case against Bowyer were extremely few; and he should state them, he hoped, in very few words. He would begin with the evidence of Knight, the farmer, merely to show that he knew intimately the affairs of Bowyer, that there was an assurance on his life, that he was anxious to have the premium paid, and that he made application on the subject. That showed that Bowyer was a needy man. He answered Mr Knight that he expected a considerable sum of money from Sir Charles Burrell, and connected it in some way with a very serious affair, and with the name of Percy Burrell. After all they had heard of this case, there was no doubt they knew it that he must have alluded to this affair. He alluded to it to Mr Knight, as a source from which money might come to him. Then it appeared that Bowyer was acquainted with the prisoner Steer. It did not apepar that he was acquainted with him before the month of October, 1844; but from the month of October, if they believed the prisoner's brother, George Steer, Bowyer was very frequently in his father's house, was very often there, there was a great talk about Percy Burrell, there were letters produced from time to time, on which he had an opinion as to their being true or being written by Percy Burrell; and on seeing a letter, said to be written by Mr Burrell, Bowyer said that was the very thing he wanted. That being so, they (the jury) came to Mr Coppard and Mr Bowyer. Mr Coppard was attended the Quarter Sessions at Petworth, when Bowyer expressed a wish to see him on a subject of great delicacy. He asked Mr Coppard whether he knew Colonel Wyndham and Sir Charles Burrell, and could communicate with them on a painful subject; and then he said, "Do you known Percy Burrell? My communication affects that gentleman's character." And then he immediatey said, he was a . "I expressed surprise and disbelief," said Mr Coppard. "He assured me it was perfectly true, and said he was in a conditon to prove it. He produced these two letters; and said that Percy Burrell had been guilty of the act with Daniel Steer, and these letters came from him." These letters were dated the 23d December, 1844, and the 29th December, 1844, in one of which Steer wrote general matters, and in the other he gave all those horrid particulars. Then Mr Coppard said, "I told him I would not take upon myself to make such a communication to Sir Charles Burrell." He said it was true, and that Daniel Stret had travelled with Percy Burrell from Paris to Antwerp, and had been his constant . He also produced a letter, and said it came from Percy Burrell. That letter was in the name of Percy Burrell, or rather in the name of Smith, and came in October, 1844, to Bowyer, from St. Martin's Lane. Bowyer further said to Mr Coppard that Daniel Steer was much in debt, and that his father was likely to be sold up; and (said Mr Coppard) "Bowyer urged me to mention the circumstance that Percy Burrell had promised Daniel Steer £1,000 on New Year's Day; and he wished the execution to be prevented, as otherwise a dreadful exposure would take place." The witness then said he would speak to Mr Walter Burrell; and he did so. Sir Charles afterwards borrowed the letters, and said he did not believe a word of them. "Bowyer," continued Mr Coppard, "gave me the letter under a pledge that I would return them without taking copies. I returned the letters, and told him that the letters said to have come from Percy Burrell were not his, and that Sir Charles would not give the tenth part of a farthing for hush money, but would have the matter fully investigated." Then Bowyer suggested that he should be sent to Paris to hush the matter up, spoke of himself and £1,000, and made a proposal that something should pass to give the payment of the money the appearance of a loan. Unless (continued his lordship) there was any thing more which the counsel required him to lay before the jury on either side, he was disposed now to stop, and ask, without gong into the numerous particulars which did not point to the particular charge, whether the jury were or were not satisfied that Bowyer did accuse, in the most distinct terms, Mr Percy Burrell of a most infamous crime, for the purpose of extorting money? He would make no more observations. The time of the court was of some importance; and it was of much importance that the mind of the Jury should be fixed to the charge, and not wander over things which excited the feelings. Supposing they were not satisfied that Bowyer was guilty of making the accusation, and for the purpose of extortion, they would acquit both prisoners; but if they were satisfied that Bowyer did accuse in order to extort, then the question would be whether they had any doubt that Daniel Steer was an accessory before the fact, because those two letters which were shown by Bowyer to Mr Coppard were written by Daniel Steer, and furnished the most direct means of making that charge to extort money. He wished the jury to take this part of the case entirely on the evidence which had been given, and not in any way on the statement of Steer; for he would take nothing from him, after showing the character which he had displayed. It appeared to him, however, that the other evidence in the case carried it as far as the confession did. What Steer said against another was no evidence; what he said against himself was evidence against himself; but really, without those two letters, whether written by Bowyer's dictation or not, it appeared to him that there was a complete case on which he could properly ask the jury "Did Bowyer accuse Percy Burrell of an infamous crime in order to extort money?" Was, or was not, Daniel Steer accessory to the commission of the crime beforehand?"
After a minute's deliberation, the Jury indicated that they had agreed on their verdict.
Clerk of Arraigns Do you find John Bowyer Guilty or Not Guilty?
Foreman (emphatically) Guilty.
Do you find Daniel Steer Guilty or Not Guilty? Guilty.
Lord Denman proceeded to pass sentence: John Bowyer, I can scarcely conceive any mortal man standing in a situation more awful than yourself. I have hardly ever heard of the commission of a crime of greater magnitude, both as affecting the individual who committed it, and as affecting the state of society in which we all live. Brought up as a gentleman in a profession in which the interests and characters of numerous clieents are necessarily confided to you, what a dreadful consideration it is that we are all exposed every one equally exposed to have such an attack made on the character of an an honourable man by a person placed in a situation so capable of giving vent to so false and infamous an accusation. I entirely disbelieve the particulars stated by your companion in guilt, that ill-assorted partner with you, who has now been convicted with you. I do not believe that man when he states that you directed him to write these letters, as they are rather below the lowest attorney and the most perferted mind. The man who possessed any sense or knowledge of life, or the smallest acquaintance with human character, could not by possibility believe that that man was stating the truth when he related this most infamous charge to you under his hand. It is to me almost indifferent whether you told him word for word to write that letter, or whether, when you received it, you could place any faith in it. You could not do it. The thing is impossible. You saw a man infamous enough to make such a charge; and you saw a family high in reputation and honour, who, on such a charge being whispered in their ears, were likely enough I don't mean individually speaking but persons in that state would be likely to say, "There is a charge made of that hateful character, that any pecuniary sacrifice is better than to let it appear connected with out name before the public eye." That was your object. That was the scheme. Therefore was the accusation made. And if you had obtained this £1000 under the guise of a loan, or under any other guise, it would have gone to pay your premiums, or relieve you from your distress, in conjunction I suppose with the man who stands by your side; for I presume that some division of this plunder so obtained was intended. But I cannot refrain from expressing my most cordial admirationn of the firm and noble conduct of that honourable man who, informed of a fact affecting the character of his son that was almsot enough to break the heart of a father, rather chose to expose that son, ignorant of the fact, but confident of his character, to every enquiry that could possibly be made into it by the most unscrupulous men, than to compromise, in the slightest degree, the character of an English gentleman and of an English man. And I must say I am happy to see in other ranks of society, as well as in that exalted rank to which the honourable baronet belongs, the same honourable feeling. I am happy to see in the conduct of the brother of one of the prisoners the same high regard for character, and that they prize it and love it as the highest of earthly possessions, and will not yield it or sacrifice it for any other base object. With regard to you, Daniel Steer, I don't know whether any thing can place you lower than the person I have just addressed. To contemplate a man who, after a series of inventive falsehoods, concludes by making himself the victim of a filthy and disgusting passion which you say was indulged on your person, the man who places himself in that position is really too infamous to be believed, even when he makes a charge against himself. I believe I have not quoted what you mentioned as your confession; and I cannot help expressing some regret that the respectable gentleman, the Chaplain, when he took down your confession of the facts of the case, should have permitted you to launch out into any other statement, particularly as affecting the character of any other person, because we know that where dirt is thrown, some dirty minds would let it lie where it would stick; and I think it would have been better to take the confession only as against himself. I can use no words to aggravate your guilt. I shall proceed to pronounce the only sentence which can be pronounced on such an occasion. I have, I find, in the Act of Parliament a discretion as to the punishment; but in this case a Judge is deprived of discretion. He has only one duty when such immense moral wrong has been done, and such enormous moral mischief would follow from such an example, and that is, to inflict the highest punishment the law admits. The sentence of the court on you, John Bowyer, and on you, Daniel Steer, is, that for the felony of which you stand convicted, you and each of you be transported to such place beyond the seas as Her Majesty may be pleased to declare and apoint for the term of your natural lives.
The prisoners were then removed from the dock.
THIRD DAY, Saturday, March 27.
JAMES STEER, 64, (included in the same charge with Bowyer and Daniel Steer, his son) pleaded not guilty to a charge of misdemeanour, in aiding and abetting John Bowyer in an attempt to extort money from perecy Burrell. No evidence was offered for the prosecution; and the prisoner was Acquitted.
Wednesday 7 April 1847
TRANSPORTATION OF A SOLICITOR. At the Lewes Assizes an attorney named Bowyer was sentenced to transportation for life, for attempting to extort the sum of one thousand pounds from the son of Sir Charles Burrell, by charging him with an unnatural offence. (Hereford Journal)
Thursday 15 April 1847
A JUST SENTENCE.
At the assizes at Lewes, on Saturday last, the Lord Chief Justice sentenced to transportation for life a solicitor, named Bowyer, who had been one of the principal parties in concocting a charge of an unnatural offence, for the purpose of extorting money (a thousand pounds was the sum demanded), against a son of Sir Charles Burrell. It is unnecessary for us to enter into the particulars of the case. It was clearly shown to the satisfaction of all, during the progress of the trial, that the charge was without the shadow of foundation. It appeared that one of the accused had met young Mr Burrell in Paris, in 1845, and upon representing himself to be in severe distress, had received from him a small sum to enable him to return to England. This was the slight substratum on which the abominable superstructure was attempted to be raised. Sir Charles Burrell, when applied to, at once and indignantly refused to enter into any compromise; and it is to his firmness that the public are indebted for the exposure of this foul conspiracy, and for the punishment of the parties concerned. The Chief Justice, in passing sentence, pertinently and forcibly remarked
"It was dreadful to think that a man holding the position of a solicitor the member of a profession to which they were all at times obliged to confide their interests should have lent himself to make a charge calculated to destroy the peace of an honourable and respectable family. The attempt at extortion had been defeated through the prompt and honourable feeling of Sir Charles Burrell, and too much could not be said in praise of his conduct in the transaction."
Cases do sometimes occur, where the sentences passed by our judges upon criminal offenders are not entirely unobjectionable. Sometimes they are too lenient, sometimes they err in the other extreme. Of the justice the complete justice of the sentence passed upon the man Bowyer, there are few, we apprehend, who will entertain the slightest doubt. Indeed, if a severer punishment could have been infliced, it would not have been too great for the offence. Can anything be conceived more foul and abominable than to bring a charge of so horrible a nature against an innocent party? It is not difficult to imagine cases where a charge of such a kind might be so ingeniously concocted, and be supported by so much of circumstantial evidence, that it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, for the accused clearly to establish his innocence. In such a case, the stigma cast upon the unfortunate man's character would never be wiped out. He would be doomed to drag on a sort of lingering death, feeling that, although innocent of the crime imputed to him, yet that wherever he went he was an object of suspicion. What punishment, then, can be too great for the wretches, the unnatural and degraded wretches, who make a trade of fabricating such filthy charges who, for the sake of their own vile gain, become the assassins of a man's character? We are glad that the Bench have begun to view the crime in its proper light, and to deal out to the guilty parties the heaviest punishment which it is in their power to inflict. Sunday Times. (Brighton Gazette)
SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Attempt to Blackmail the Son of Baronet, 1846",
Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 27 April 2017