10 March 1881
(Before the Right Hon. the President and a Special Jury.)
Dr. Deane, Q.C., Sir J. Holker, Q.C., and Mr. Searle appeared for the plaintiff; Mr. Inderwick, Q.C., and Mr. Bayford for the defendant.
The hearing of this cause (sic), in which the validity of the last will, dated February 4, 1880, of Mr. John Hilbridge, late of Bournemouth, in the county of Hants, was the subject of controversy between the parties, and the facts of which were reported in the Times of Monday, was continued and concluded today. No light was thrown on the manner in which the spurious and triplicate copies of the original will of the testator, bearing date May, 1873, and the codicil thereto, executed in 1876, came into existence. Mr. Druitt, who acted as solicitor for the testator after Mr. Webb left Bournemouth, stated that when he received instructions to prepare the codicil of September, 1879, he called the testator's attention to the spurious documents pointing out that the signatures of the attesting witnesses, Mr. Webb and Mr. Joy, his clerk, were clearly forgeries, but the testator regarded what purported to be his own signature as genuine, and this also seemed to be the opinion of Mr. Druitt and Mr. Chabot, the expert, who had examined the papers. With regard to the last will, the subject of the action, Miss Butler was confident that that neither Mr. Creek, who prepared the instrument, nor Miss Banger, who attested it with him, was at the testator's house on the evening of the 4tf of February, 1880, when, as they alleged, it was executed; but there was evidence on the other side which went to show that her memory had failed her in the matter, and that she was out when they called. Before the evidence has closed, the jury intimated that they had come to a conclusion in the matter, and counsel accordingly forbore addressing them.
The President, in briefly summing up the case, pointed out that the existence of the spurious documents might be explained on the hypothesis that they were prepared for the purpose of execution by the testator. He himself seemed to admit that his signature to them was genuine, and neither Mr. Druitt nor Mr. Chabot would undertake to say that it was a forgery. That was a thought which had occurred to him, but he did not profess to give it as the true explanation of the mystery.
The jury, without leaving the box, found for the plaintiff on all the issues, and the Court pronounced for the will.