How the Victorian press covered the story


Commital to the Assizes

21st March 1887

On Monday, as on Saturday, previous to the opening of the Court, large crowds of persons assembled near the doors desirous of gaining admission to the building, in the hope of seeing the accused man. As soon as the doors were thrown open the court became crowded, a large proportion of those admitted being women. The prisoner Garner was brought from the day-room, and placed in a similar position to that occupied by him on Saturday.

Margaret Garner, 11 year old daughter of the prisoner, was called. The Northern Daily Telegraph reporter commented in that day's newspaper:

"It was most painful when the prisoner's daughter (Margaret) was placed in the witness box to give evidence against her father. The pinched face of the little girl was blanched as she told the story of the occurrences of the 25th February." Her evidence differed slightly from that she gave at the inquest, with reference to getting into the shandry on the 24th of February. She said her mother had expressed a wish to go to aunt Hannah's that day, and her father got the vehicle ready with the intention of taking her there. Her mother was getting into the shandry when her foot slipped, and she fell with her face against the handle or top rail of the vehicle. Her father was not forcing her into the shandry, but helping her to get in.

When cross-examined by Mr. Broadbent, the little girl repeated the statement made before the Coroner as to the kindness and consideration her father had always shown to her mother and them. She was sure she heard her father say a drop of whiskey in a cup of tea would do her mother good, and he wanted to take it upstairs to her, but her uncle Thomas prevented him doing so. There was some tea on the hob at the time. The girl then told the bench about being taken away from the mill to help her mother at home.

Isaac Garner, aged 12 years, brother of the last witness, was next called and examined at length. According to The Northern Daily Telegraph reporter "He looked very much like his father, and spoke in faltering tones, seeming full of trouble and, from time to time, looking towards his father who was seated with his back towards him." He, like his sister, was present on the 24th of February when his father and mother were in the yard near to the shandry. He confirmed the statement made by his sister as to his mother's foot slipping off the footstep and hurting her eye with the handle of the vehicle. He was also present when his father was taking his mother into the house on the 25th of February, and he maintained that his father did not strike his mother nor treat her roughly.

To Mr. Broadbent, in cross examination: His father was leading the deceased quietly back into the house and was in no way rough with her. His sisters, Mary and Ellen, were skipping at the time in the garden near the shippon. He knew that his mother had been ailing for some time, but during that time she had done no work only what she wanted to do. Isaac then left the court, retiring to the magistrate's room, and was replaced in the witness box by his 10 year old sister, Mary.

Like her brother and sister, Mary adhered to what she had previously said with regard to her father's treatment of her mother. She corrected the statement she made at the inquest "that she saw her father go upstairs prior to her mother running outside into the yard," and said that she did not see her father go upstairs to her mother at that time. During this evidence Garner sat, seemingly unconscious of her presence.

Thomas Garner, the brother of the prisoner, who had not previously given evidence in the case, was next called. He was dressed in a black tweed suit with a black tie and had the ordinary appearance of a countryman in mourning. The manner of the witness seemed careless but he bore traces of the misfortune that had come upon the family of the Garners. He described how he visited Earnsdale Farm on the 25th February to help with the work. It was soon seen that the witness was very reluctant in his answers and the Chairman commented on this. Under questioning, Thomas Garner said that his brother William was more or less under the influence of drink when he first saw him on the 25th of February, and was unable to take that part which he ordinarily took when he was sober and that was the reason why he (the witness) was sent for. While he (witness) was in the room, the deceased woman did not complain

John Fleming, Robert Ainsworth and James Dickinson repeated the evidence they had given to the inquest. Despite being subjected to a rigid cross examination by Mr. Broadbent, they stuck to the facts which they stated at the inquest.

Medical evidence was given by Dr. Ballantyne, who attended the deceased after her confinement, and made the post mortem examination. Dr. Mathieson, Inspector Noblett, and P.C. Moore also repeated their evidence, and Superintendent Myers intimated that this concluded the case for the prosecution.

The prisoner was then cautioned by the Clerk, and in answer to the charge he said, "I'm not guilty. I reserve my defence."

"Mr. Broadbent, addressing the Bench on behalf of the prisoner, said a charge of so serious a nature had never before engaged the attention of the Darwen Bench, at any rate not since the present Borough Bench was formed. It was a case in which he, as representing the prisoner, felt a frightful responsibility a responsibility which if it were not for the unfortunate position of that man he should almost shirk and fear to undertake. He concluded by asking the Bench to commit the man to take his trial, not upon the fearful charge of wilful murder, but upon the more lenient and more humane charge of manslaughter.

The Bench retired, and on returning into court, after an absence of ten minutes, the Chairman said: "The magistrates think that upon the evidence which has been given they are bound to send the prisoner for trial upon the charge which was made against him, viz, wilful murder. We, of course, express no opinion as to his guilt or innocence, as it is in no part of our duty to do so. All that we say is that such a case has been made out as compels us to send it for trial by jury. The prisoner will, therefore, stand committed to the next assizes at Manchester for trial on the charge of wilful murder. We understand that the prosecution will be undertaken by the Treasury Solicitor."

The Darwen Post

26th March 1887

The depositions were read over and signed by the witnesses, who were then bound over to appear at the next Manchester Assizes to prosecute the prisoner on the charge. The prisoner felt his position acutely when he heard the magistrate's decision.