This morning the January Sessions for the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court were opened at the Sessions-house in the Old Bailey, before the Lord Mayor, Sir Charles Hall, Q.C., M.P., Recorder of London, Alderman Sir Stuart Knill, Alderman Sir H.E. Knight, Alderman and Colonel Davies, Alderman Sir Joseph Dimsdale, Mr. Alderman Vaughan Morgan, Mr. Alderman Treloar, Sir Forrest Fulton, Q.C., Common Serjeant, Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Samuel, Mr. Sheriff Hand, and Mr. Under Sheriff Phillips.
The calendar contains the names of 83 prisoners for trial, and the offences are thus enumerated:-Murder 1, manslaughter 8, attempting murder 2, rape and assaults on girls 3, arson 4, assault with intent to rob 1, burglary 10, uttering counterfeit coin 1, conspiracy 3, forgery 7, housebreaking 2, larceny 10, letter stealing 4, libel 2, misdemeanour 19, and robbery with violence 6.
The RECORDER, in charging the grand jury, said he was glad to state that the number of prisoners for trial was below the average number with which they had to deal at the ordinary sessions of the Court. Although this was the case, he regretted to find that the number of serious cases, especially those in which human life had been lost, was very much higher than the average. There were no fewer than nine prisoners charged with offences involving the loss of life. There was, however, one feature in the calendar which was a subject for congratulation. It was that two classes of offences which had been very rife of late, and were very prevalent in the winter months, when the days were short and the nights were long-he referred to burglary and robbery with violence-showed a marked diminution. Both were very serious offences, and in the case of robbery with violence it had been found necessary to adopt stringent measures in the hope that they might be able to reduce the number of such charges. He trusted that the favourable results noticed in the calendar would be maintained. The first case to which he need direct their attention was as to the charge of murder against Reginald Saunderson, who was accused of having taken the life of Augusta Dawes. In dealing with the case the grand jury would steadily put aside all that they had heard or read about it. They would use their own common sense and judgment and deal only with the facts as they came before them. The woman was seen by several witnesses in the company of a man in the Holland-park-road. This would be somewhere about midnight. None of the witnesses recognized the features of the man, but it was sought to connect him with the prisoner by the appearance of the two. One of the witnesses saw the man and the deceased fall to the ground and heard the woman exclaim, "Oh, you brute." On the appearance of the witness the man ran away. The woman, whose throat had been terribly cut, died almost immediately, and a knife covered with blood was subsequently found in some unfinished buildings not far from the scene of the murder. The prisoner was a young man who had been sent by his father to an institution at Eastcote, which might be described as a place where lads were taken whose mental and moral requirements were such as to make it necessary for them to be sent where strict supervision could be exercised over them. There was no doubt that the prisoner had sometimes shown what was called a weakness of mind, and on this day, Sunday, he went out of the house in the evening, it being supposed that he had gone to church. He took with him a stick belonging to another pupil, and also a razor, which he gave to the sentry at the Horse Guards about 2 o'clock the following morning, and the knife, a peculiar one used in the carpenter's shop. The knife was found after the murder in some unfinished buildings, and the stick was found near the scene of the murder. About half-past 5 o'clock in the morning the prisoner was at Gower-street Station, where he had a conversation with some one, and stated his desire to get to Willesden. He was next heard of about 8 o'clock, on the road to Harrow, and he induced a gardener's assistant who was driving a cart to give him a ride. The prisoner told the young man that he had witnessed the terrible murder of a woman the previous night in the Holland-park-road. At Harrow he obtained money from one of the masters and made his way to Dublin. Two days later the police received a letter signed "Jack the Ripper" in the prisoner's handwriting. He described in the letter how the murder was committed, and also indicated where the knife would be found in the unfinished buildings. The duty of the grand jury in this case was simply to inquire into the question whether there was prima facie evidence as to the accused having committed the murder. It was not for them to inquire into the state of his mind, or whether he was responsible for his actions. This was a matter which would be tried before a Judge and jury when the case come [sic] to be thoroughly inquired into in open Court. Having regard to the facts which would be proved before them, he thought it would be their duty to return a true bill. [NOTE: The grand jury was then handed the case of Maurice Winter, who had been indicted for manslaughter in the death of George Smith during a boxing match.]
The grand jury were afterwards dismissed to their duties.