The Hampstead Mystery eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 406 pages of information about The Hampstead Mystery.
prisoner did so.  Is it not extremely probable that the unexpected return of Sir Horace upset Hill, who was giving a final look round the house before the burglary took place?  That, instead of answering his master with the suave obsequious humility of the well-trained servant, he revealed the baffled ferocity of a criminal whose carefully arranged plan seemed to have miscarried; that his master angrily rebuked him, and Hill, losing control of himself, sprang at Sir Horace, and the struggle ended with Hill drawing a revolver and shooting his master?

“The rest of the story from that point can be constructed without difficulty.  The murderer’s first thought was to divert suspicion from himself, and the best way to do that was to divert suspicion elsewhere.  He locked up the house and went to see Birchill.  He urged Birchill to break into Riversbrook, in which the dead body of the murdered man lay.  It is true that he need not have told Birchill that Sir Horace had returned unexpectedly; but his object in doing so was to make Birchill search about the house until he inadvertently stumbled across the dead body.  Had Birchill been under the impression that he had broken into an entirely empty house he would have collected the valuables and might not have entered the library in which the dead body lay.  It was necessary for Hill’s purpose that Birchill should come across the corpse; then he would be vitally interested in diverting suspicion from himself (Birchill) and that is why he cunningly revealed to Birchill that Sir Horace had returned.  I put it to the jury that such is a more probable explanation of how Sir Horace met his death than that he was shot down by Birchill.  I ask you again to remember that the body was fully dressed when it was found by the police.  I put it to you that in this matter the prisoner walked into a trap prepared by his more cunning fellow criminal.  And I urge you, with all the earnestness it is possible for a man to use when the life of a fellow creature is at stake, not to be led into a trap—­not to play the part this cunning criminal Hill has designed for you—­in the sacrifice of the life of an innocent man for the purpose of saving himself from his just deserts.  Looking at the whole case—­as you will not fail to do—­with the breadth of view of experienced men of the world, with some knowledge of the workings of human nature, with a natural horror of the depths of cunning of which some natures are capable, with a deep sense of the solemn responsibility for a human life upon you, I confidently appeal to you to say that the prisoner was not the man who shot Sir Horace Fewbanks, and to bring in a verdict of ‘not guilty,’”

A short discussion arose between the bench and bar on the question of adjourning the court or continuing the case in the hope of finishing it in a few hours.  Sir Henry Hodson wanted to finish the case that night, but Counsel for the prosecution intimated that his address to the jury would take nearly two hours.  As it was then nearly five o’clock, and His Honour had to sum up before the jury could retire, it was hardly to be hoped that the case could be finished that night, as the jury might be some time in arriving at a verdict.  His Honour decided to adjourn the court and finish the case next day.

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The Hampstead Mystery from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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