20 December 1888
At Winchester, yesterday, before Mr. Justice Stephen, ROBERT HUSBAND, 11, was charged with the willful murder of Percy Knight Serle, at Havant, on November 26. Mr. Temple Cooke and Mr. Rubie prosecuted for the Treasury; Mr. Charles Mathews and Mr. Bovill Smith defended. This case, the facts of which have recently been before the public, created much interest, and the court was densely crowded. The prisoner, a boy aged 11 years and 11 months, is the son of a man in charge of a coalyard, living in North-street, Havant. The deceased was eight years old, the son of a labourer living in another part of Havant. Shortly before 6 p.m. on November 26, which was a dark, cloudy, and rainy night, deceased was sent by his mother to buy some things at a shop at the corner of North-street and the Pallant. A boy named Farnden was in the shop when the deceased was there and noticed the prisoner peeping in at the door. Farnden went out, leaving the deceased in the shop, and the prisoner walked up the Pallant with him, down a lane, and back again to Farnden's home. Farnden went in, leaving the prisoner outside. The deceased would have passed up the Pallant, close by Farnden's house, to reach his house. About a quarter of an hour later a man named Shirley, who was at Randall's shop, saw the prisoner running down the Pallant in the direction of his home. Seeing Shirley, he crossed the road and told him a man was killing a boy. A man named Platt, living opposite, came out and went with the prisoner and found little Serle lying at a spot in the Pallant, not far from Farnden's home; after gasping twice, the little boy died. Two scratches were found on the front of the throat, and a deep gash (which must have been inflicted from behind) on the right side of the neck, which was the cause of death. The little boy's cap, and the parcel he had brought from the shop, were found in the road near the body. The police were fetched, and also a medical man. The prisoner said to several witnesses that he saw a tall man murder the boy and then run away in the direction of Fairfield. From the description given a man was actually arrested, but was afterwards discharged. An old knife, covered with blood, was picked up eight yards from the body. This knife had been given to the prisoner's brother a few days previously; he had lost it the day before the murder, and the prisoner had it in his possession, as on the 26th he was offering it for sale to another boy, and was seen sharpening it. In cross-examination, the prisoner's brother admitted that just before he found he had lost the knife he had walked by the spot where the body was afterwards found. The other witnesses were cross-examined at some length as to the identity of the knife shown to them by the prisoner and the knife produced. Earlier in the evening of the 26th the prisoner came up to a boy flourishing a knife in his hand, and said he was "Jack the Ripper," but meant no harm. The prisoner made various statements, said to be inconsistent with each other. To Platt he stated he was standing near a lamp when he saw the murder committed. It was said, owing to the position of the body, it was impossible he could have seen it from the lamp mentioned. Next day he told the police he had gone to Mrs. Farnden's for some money, and when at her door had seen the murder committed. It was untrue that he had been to her at all; nor, again, could he have seen any one from that place, according to the experiments subsequently made by the police and other witnesses. On the 28th the prisoner was arrested. No blood was found on the clothes which his mother gave to the police as those worn by him on the 26th. A towel was asked for with which the prisoner was seen drying his hands after he had given information of the murder; but this apparently had been washed. A number of witnesses were called in support of the case for the prosecution, among them Dr. Bond, of Havant, who saw the body of the deceased. Professor Tidy (one of the official analysts of the Home Office), to whom the knife and the various articles of clothing worn by the prisoner were handed by the police on November 30, said the blood on the knife was living blood. On the right wristband of the shirt there were a few slight stains of blood which appeared to be at least a month old; he added that if the stains were recent these signs might be produced by washing the shirt, but it did not seem to have been washed. He found no other trace of blood on any of the other clothes. At the close of the evidence for the prosecution, Mr. Mathews said he confidently hoped the jury would be able in the result to set the prisoner at liberty. He appealed to the facts as showing the charge was unfounded. There was no evidence of malice. No adequate motive had been shown, nor the existence shown of any ill feeling between the prisoner and the deceased. He also urged that the knife found had not been proved to be the prisoner's. The case was adjourned at his request before he had finished his speech and will be resumed to-day.