28 August 1865
We have to record the violent death of a respectable young woman at the hand of her acknowledged suitor, with an attempt at suicide on the part of the murderer.
Charles Christopher Robinson, now aged 18, was left without father or mother at the age of seven. His father had been a blacksmith and coal dealer, and occupied premises on the spot which forms the site of the present Market Hall in Wolverhampton. Dying first, Mr. Robinson left his wife with two sons, and also his daughter by a former wife. Upon her decease, Mrs. Robinson left her son Charles a farm, and some cottage property at Trysall, near Wolverhampton, worth, in all, £4000. The joint executors were Mr. Josiah Fisher, living in Sidney street, Wolverhampton, and Mr. Reuben Robinson, coal merchant, of Cleveland street, in the same place, brother to the boy's father, and who succeeded the father in the business of coal merchant. Charles has, ever since the death of his father, lived in the family of the first named trustee, and was, at his own wish, apprenticed to a cabinet maker, but did not remain with his master two years. On leaving through, it is alleged, an indisposition to work, he declined to pursue any calling, justifying himself by saying that "enough money had been got to keep him."
At the rear of Mr. Josiah Fisher's residence, and having a frontage in Ablow street, is a public house with the sign of the Queen's Arms. This house is kept by Mr. Isaiah Fisher, son of Mr. Josiah Fisher, to whom it belongs. There was a ready communication between both houses, and each family was in almost constant intercourse with the other. Up to some few months ago a girl named Rosetta Flower lived a servant to Mr. Fisher, in whose family she died. During a portion of her illness an interesting young woman named Harriet Seagar assisted to nurse her. Seagar is the daughter of a blacksmith living at Coren, a country village near to Wolverhampton. As the sister of Mrs. Isaiah Fisher, Harriet Seagar had for some time before the illness of Flower been living at the Queen's Arms. During that time an intimacy which ripened into affection sprang up between her and Charles Christopher Robinson. At about the time of the death of Rosetta Flower he was acknowledged by the friends on both sides as her suitor, and the ultimate marriage of the young people was confidently anticipated. After Rosetta Flower's death, Harriet Seagar consented to enter the family of Mr. Josiah Fisher and act as their servant, but on tolerably equal terms. She was slightly, but not a twelvemonth, older than her suitor, and was therefore scarcely 19 years of age on Saturday last. On that day Mr. and Mrs. Josiah Fisher, with Mrs. Isaiah Fisher (their daughter in law) left home about 3 o'clock in the afternoon to go to Codsall, about six miles from Wolverhampton. At that time, Charles Robinson was in the garden behind the house smoking, and Harriet Seagar was engaged about her domestic duties. Excepting these two, no one was left in the house in Sidney Street. About 4 o'clock, Emma Silleto, aged 15, servant at the Queen's Arms, was near the back door of Mr. Josiah Fisher, when she saw Seagar at work, but crying, and Robinson hear her. The impression left on Silleto's mind was that they had been quarrelling. In about half an hour afterwards Robinson went to the Queen's Arms and borrowed a knife board for Seagar's use. and with it took away a half a pint of ale. Half an hour afterwards Silleto sent one of her master's children for the board, and the messenger, a young boy, was told by Robinson that it was not done with, and he must come again. Some time after 5 o'clock Silleto herself went for the board. Seagar stood using it in the back kitchen. She was still crying, and Robinson was standing at the entrance to the kitchen. At a little before six Silleto heard a gun fired in Mr. Josiah Fisher's house, and in a few minutes one of Mr. Josiah Fisher's children ran in from the garden, which separates the two houses, and cried out, "Charles has shot Harriet." Silleto ran across the garden and saw Robinson come downstairs and enter the back kitchen. The foot of the staircase can be seen from the garden. So soon as she caught sight of Robinson she called out, "What have you done to Harriet?" He replied, "I've shot her," and proceeded into the back kitchen. On looking through the window of the back kitchen she saw him standing without his coat, in front of a small mirror, which was hanging against the wall. While looking to the mirror he held a razor in his right hand, and cut, Silleto says, three gashes in his throat. She raised an alarm, and when neighbours came in they found him standing outside the back kitchen, his clothes extensively stained with blood that had been and was still flowing from wounds in his throat. An attempt was made to secure him, when he became very violent, and tried hard to tear open the wounds. With some difficulty he was overpowered, and his hands were fastened behind him. While this was going on, neighbours had entered the back kitchen and found Harriet Seagar lying lifeless on the floor. Death had been caused by a hideous cut to the throat, which, passing through the windpipe and all the arteries, extended to the spine. She was surrounded with blood, and, upon her head being raised, the last faint breath of life seemed to depart.
Having been temporarily bandaged with the apron of a woman who came up while he was bleeding, the murderer was led into an inner room. Here his wounds were dressed in the usual manner by Mr. Summers and Mr. Vincent Jackson, surgeons. Before removing Robinson upstairs Mr. Summers found in the young man's bedroom a small pigeon gun reared at full cock against a table, upon which were powder, shot, and caps; and upon the bed there was a bloodstain, leaving the impression of a man's hand.
Police Inspector Thomas had now arrived, and, taking charge of the premises, he placed two policemen to guard the wounded murderer. The gun he found loaded with a heavy charge of some kind. In the back kitchen he found, closed up, a white handled razor, the blade and haft of which were clotted with blood. It was lying on the edge of the sink stone, upon which the knife board had been placed, and in front of which, upon the floor, the murdered girl was lying. Near the razor lay a fork and a piece of leather, just as these might be expected to be found if, while the deceased was cleaning the fork, she was pulled backward by the hair and her throat cut. The extent of the wound leads the surgeons to the conclusion that this is the way in which she was murdered; and the fact that the hair was dishevelled would point to the same conclusion.
After having taken Seagar's life, Robinson would seem to have gone upstairs into his bedroom, and then to have attempted to shoot himself; for not only was blood found on the bed in the impression described, but the barrel and butt of the gun likewise had blood upon them, and a charge of shot had passed into the ceiling and brought down some of the plaster. The gun, which bore marks of having been recently discharged, he would seem to have reloaded. The child of Mr. Isaiah Fisher, who first gave the alarm, appears to have been attracted to the house by the report of the gun, and, seeing Seagar lying surrounded with blood, conceived the notion that she had been shot. The alarm is thought to have brought the murderer downstairs before he had, by the second discharge of the gun, completed the purpose with which he is supposed to have at first discharged it; but an equally ready means being at hand, when he got down he seems to have adopted it, and so gashed his throat with the razor that was already dripping with the blood of his victim.
Robinson's statement to Silleto that he had "shot Harriet" does not seem to have been correct, for Seagar's corpse does not, so far as it has been examined, bear marks of other in injuries than those occasioned by the razor. The gun belonged to a son of Mr. Josiah Fisher, and Robinson had been using it during the day in shooting at small birds. Except to remark to Silleto that he had "shot Harriet," Robinson is not understood to have said anything about the shocking crime which he has committed. There are two wounds upon his throat, one of them so superficial as to scarcely more than cut through the skin. The other does not include any of the principal arteries, and while it extends to each side of the cartilage of the windpipe it has not injured it. In a few days, therefore, it is expected that he will be sufficiently recovered to appear in the dock charged with the wilful murder of Harriet Seagar. The coroner's inquest will be opened today. Awaiting this inquiry, the body of the murdered woman remains in the position in which it was first seen.