How the Victorian press covered the story


William's Defence

4th May 1887

Mr.Addison, advising the jury on behalf of the prisoner, said he was glad that at last, after being exposed to the most cruel remarks, and the most cruel charge brought against him, Garner was able to come before them, rejoicing in the fact that now at last, before twelve men - and he was glad to say men like himself - and ask for a verdict upon the case. Undoubtedly there had been exaggeration and the case would depend upon whether they believed the evidence of the family or whether they gave credence to the evidence on the other side. Nothing they had heard imputed anything against Garner, and he asked whether the exaggeration, if any, did not exist in the way in which those cruel imputations were cast broad cast in the neighbourhood and the finger of scorn pointed against him.

He regretted at present the law did not allow the prisoner to deny on oath the cruel charges that had been made against him. The imputations had by this trial been cleared away and Garner stood before them as a man against whose life in connection with his wife nobody could fling a stone of reproach. He was a member of the Congregational Church. Three of his children had given evidence that day, and three more were too young to give evidence. Then they had the brother-in-law and the sister-in-law, all bearing testimony to the prisoner's character.

Let them pass on and see what he had been doing. They found at Christmas, Margaret, the oldest daughter, working at the mill in the morning and attending the Congregational school in the afternoon, and at that time he took her away to attend to her mother, who was despondent and apparently in ill health. He not only did that, but he had a woman to do the washing, all of which went to show that they were dealing with a man who had led an exemplary life, and had proved himself a kind, considerate husband and father.

They had also heard that the deceased told some members of her family that she would not get over her confinement, and even on the Thursday she said, "I want to go to aunt Hannah's," and then said she would not go and injured herself in the manner described. All that went to show the state of mind the woman was in. Then they had the unhappy woman sitting in the kitchen for some time after her confinement. She was removed upstairs to the room above, a room where there was no fire, and where she appeared to be shivering. Towards 11 o'clock (she had been left comfortable at 8), her sister-in-law had left, and she seemed to have got up, partly dressed herself, and to have made her way out of the house for the purpose of going to see Nancy Eccles. The theory of the prosecution, and it was only a theory, was that the accounts the prisoner gave of her doing this were false; and that he had turned her out of bed and out of house.

The man went to Darwen that morning, and he might have got more whiskey than was good for him, but he was quiet and in a good temper. A cross or rude word was never heard proceeding from that man the whole of that day. He was laid down on one of the beds quietly in the very room in which his wife was. Looking at what had happened before, and at the whole history of the case, he contended that the medical evidence clearly showed that at the time the woman was suffering from the disease he had mentioned.

Taking the evidence of the daughter Mary, it was clear that the mother left the house voluntarily, for she stated that at the time her father was in the "shop" and the prosecution had not even suggested that the child was not speaking the truth. It was not for him, but for the prosecution to prove that violence had been used. He had not proved it. They might well imagine the poor woman in her mania getting up, half-dressing herself and falling downstairs. Next came James Fleming. Well, he was not going to suggest that Fleming was not speaking the truth, but he was at a distance outside. He said that the three children who had been playing set up a cry, which made him look. When he looked, nothing occurred; they had gone in, and from the evidence that must have occurred at the time Gamer was taking his wife into the house. Fleming said it was strange, and showed that that there had been violence by the husband upon the wife; but it was all the other way. They might have expected the wife to scream or something of that kind to happen, but there was nothing. What could be so natural for those poor children, when they saw their mother in the yard half dressed, than to scream? They saw their father pulling her back into the house, and they screamed, and if they did what could there be in it to anybody. He thought nothing of it at the time, and it was only when rumours began to circulate, a long time afterwards, that he told what he had heard. When she was got to bed they found the prisoner lying on the other bed seemingly asleep, but really keeping a quiet look-out after his wife until Margaret Garner came. It was amazing to think that the prosecution should rely on these two occasions to establish violence against the prisoner. His friend now left that an open question. At two o'clock the unhappy woman wanted to go out again. They had heard that from all the witnesses, and if they were to believe the story of Margaret and Mary, it was not what they said in words, but the impression left upon their minds by the scene. Their mother wanted to go to Nancy Eccles half dressed, and when their father was trying to get her in she was going quietly with him. That was the story every one gave, and it was not contradicted except by what the two men Ainsworth and Dickinson had said. According to the evidence of those witnesses he was doing something to his wife that they might take for striking. They had started from a theory altogether untrue - that he had driven her out of the house - and from that they might come to the belief that he was striking her when they saw his hand fall. At a distance of three hundred yards they apparently saw him leading his wife through the yard. She was not struggling. They did not hear her cry out; they heard no cries from either of them. They said that he held up his hand and let it fall. That might have been the most innocent movement in the world. The witnesses would not even swear that he was striking. They did not like to keep to that, and would not even call it a blow. The hand was brought down. It did not even strike them that what they saw was of any importance at the time

There was positive evidence that the prisoner took the deceased in the first time, but had they positive evidence as to how she came out the second time? Not one single human being could say that he used violence except that one who said he saw him bring his hand down on her. In fact there was no evidence to connect the prisoner with any cruelty or unkindness in anything he said or did. Everybody admitted that he treated his wife with the greatest kindness both before and after her confinement. He was put about, and was depressed. He ordered everything to be got that could be got for her, and from first to last he has acted in such a way as only an affectionate husband might have done. The whole case rested on the story that he had turned her out of the house, whereas all that he had done was to try to get her back. There was not the slightest evidence as to the cause of the bruises, but they ought to be proved before they could say that the prisoner inflicted them. He appealed to the jury to take a merciful and just view of the case, and to acquit a highly respectable, quiet, and good man from the very serious crime that had been preferred against him, and to send him back to his unhappy and bereaved family.