A preacher accused of killing a young woman during "exorcism" described yesterday how he saw an evil spirit calling itself Jack the Ripper hovering over her body. Later he saw another spirit, Judas Iscariot, he said at the Central Criminal Court.
John Sherwood, aged 31, is alleged to have punched, kicked and stamped on Miss Beatrix Rutherford, aged 31, a civil servant, during an "exorcism" at her home in Edmonton, north London, in March. He told how she dies after he tried to wrestle devils from her body.
Mr. Sherwood, an itinerant preacher and former actor, of no fixed address, and Anthony Strover, aged 25, unemployed, of Wood Lane, Shepherd's Bush, both deny the manslaughter of Miss Rutherford.
They are alleged to have jumped on her, smashing her rib cage and splitting her liver in an attempt to rid her of the devil.
Dom Roger Petpierre, a Benedictine monk who has taken part in exorcism, told the court that he believed there were hundreds of thousands of "little devils" on earth.
A defence witness, he said: "The New Testament is quite clear that they exist. There is no doubt the Christian faith has always taught of the existence of little devils, just as there are angels."
Mr. Sherwood, who declined to swear on the Bible, earlier affirmed before giving evidence. He said that on the day of her death Miss Rutherford woke up appearing to be in a trance, and he and Mr. Strover had started calling the name of Jesus and praying for her.
After the prayer session all three went to a religious meeting. When they got back, Mr. Sherwood said, as he was "calling out to Satan and for the name of the devil, I saw another body over Beatrix's body, which I had not previously seen.
"I cannot describe it to you, I cannot describe what an evil spirit looks like," he said. "This was my first experience; I had never actually seen a demon myself. My own strength seemed to have been taken over. I became filled with hatred for this evil spirit."
He said he did not intend any violence towards Miss Rutherford. He could only think he completely lost control, although he could not remember hitting her or jumping on her.
He remembered the devil in her "telling me his name was Jack the Ripper. The voice was in Beatrix, but a deeper voice."
At the end Miss Rutherford appeared calm and he and Mr. Strover put her to bed and watched and prayed over her. When she had not moved for a long time they touched her and found that she was cold and that rigor mortis had set in.
In cross examination Mr. Sherwood said he though Miss Rutherford's body "was damaged by the great force of the devils leaving her. The last one was Judas Iscariot.
"I have a memory of being engaged in a struggle with the devil and I may well of struck her, but at the end I could not believe what had happened."
Mr. Strover, who also affirmed, said he slapped Miss Rutherford's face, but did not punch her. "I used quite a lot of force when I hit her. I was exhausted in the end because I had been striking her for so long."
The trial continues today.
|Press Reports: Times - 5 September 1980|