Court Archive

The arrival of this ‘evil man’ in court was an event well dramatised throughout the national and international media. He was yet to receive even greater notoriety at the gallows. In the meantime the authorities were convinced they had their man. Here are the very words of the witnesses in Torquay Police Court, 120 years ago.


  • The following records appear courtesy of The National Archive.
  • I cannot take responsibility for any error in the following as every effort has been made to ensure this is as true a transcription from the original handwritten court records as possible.
  • These records describe a brutal murder. You might find the contents of this archive disturbing.
  • Spelling and general language remain unchanged from the original documents. Brackets are placed around a phrase or word where difficulty is experienced in understanding the original text.
  • These documents can be located at the National Archive, Kew, filed as follows: Home Office and Prison Archive references: ASSI / 26 21 64326.

Court Room Torquay 19 Nov 1884

JOHN LEE In Custody


Herbert Nicholas Chilcote
George Rounsfell
William Stott Steele
Eliza Neck
Jane Neck
Abraham Nott
Elizabeth Harris
William Richards
George Pearce
Thomas Bennett
William Gasking Walling
Richard Harris
Julius Meech
William Searle
George Phillips
William Delf Bowden
Frederick George Boughton
William Salter
George Russell
Elizabeth Harris
Douglas Barbor
Mary Blatchford
Ann Bolder
Thomas Stevenson

County of Devon (to wit.). The examination of (see ‘The Witnesses’ – previous page) taken on oath this fourth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty four at Torquay in the said County of Devon aforesaid, before the undersigned, one of Her Majesties Justices of the Peace for the said County in the presence of hearing of John Lee who is charged this day before the for that he the said John Lee on the morning of the fifteenth day of November one thousand eight hundred and eighty four at Babbicombe in the Parish of Saint Mary Church in the said County of Devon feloniously and wilfully and of his malice afore though did kill and murder one Emma Ann Whitehead Keyse against the peace of our Lady the Queen her (?) Almighty. ______and for that______He the said John Lee on the morning of the said fifteenth day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty four at Babbicombe in the Parish of Saint Mary Church in the said County unlawfully and maliciously and feloniously did set fire to a certain Dwelling House of Emma Ann Whitehead Keyse then situate, one Jane Neck, Eliza Neck and Elizabeth Harris being there therein (?) to the form of the Statute which was made and provided.

Mr. Templer appeared to watch the case on behalf of John Lee.


This deposition of Herbert Nicholas Chilcote on this oath saith as follows:

I am a Surgeon, practising at St. Mary Church. On Saturday morning last the 15th November I was called up between 5 and 6 by a Constable and proceeded to the residence of Miss Keyse. I saw the body of Miss Keyse which was in the boat house or store room in the charge of a Constable. I examined the body, the (condrtrace?) was scorched and (rounded?) in the throat, the deceased was quite dead. On Monday morning the 17th November I made a post mortem examination in conjunction with Dr. Steele. The skull was fractured in two places, one an (incised?) round at the back and the other on the right side of the head. These wounds were inflicted during life.

The throat was cut. All the main arteries being severed together with the (pigular?) vein. Even the parietal bone was notched.

There were also wounds from burning, the right foot being much charred as also one hand, on doubt these injuries were caused after death.

There were internal injuries, the cause of death being from blows on the head either of which would have been sufficient in itself. The blows on the head produced death before the throat was cut.

The blows must have been occasioned by a round instrument a kind of hammer or knob(ular?) stick. It would require much force to produce such a blow, the wound in the throat would probably be done with a knife. The knife produced might have inflicted it if great force had been use, still I think it was done with a larger instrument. There were blood stains on the papers in which the knife was wrapped. It was not possible for the wounds to have been self inflicted not accidental.

There was a strong odour of paraffin oil on the flannel about the body, and the different parts of the night dress which had not been burnt also smelt of paraffin oil. The deceased had been dead 3 or 4 hours when I saw the body.

There was no sign of a struggle having assured death being instantaneous. I was called between five and six and saw the body directly I arrived. I saw afterwards blood under the table in the Hall.

On Saturday morning about 8 I examined the arm of the (prisoner?) in my Surgery. There were 2 wounds (circular wounds) on the left fore arm about the wrist, superficial I (?) about the wounds. They might have bled a good deal as the skin was gone. Prisoner said the wounds were occasioned by his breaking open the window. There was also a slight punctured wound on the right arm. These injuries to the arm might have been caused by broken glass. The prisoner was wearing a sort of blue coloured shirt but I saw no blood on the sleeves. There was a patch of blood on the left leg of his trousers. Prisoner had on a coat and waist coat, when he shewed me his arm it was tied round with cloth.

He had on cloth trousers but I didn’t notice the pattern exactly.

The wounds on the deceased’s throat would completely drain the body of blood in a few minutes. As the jugular vein was severed the blood would pour out as it would out of a cut almost. I saw the place where the deceased was supposed to have fallen in the passage and also where I understand the body was found in the Dining Room and supposing it had been carried there (taken?) a quarter or half and hour of the wound being made very little blood would then have flowed. My impression was that the chair was used to put over the throat when the body was being removed to the Dining Room because the cover was partially burnt. It was afterwards (shewn?) an overcoat said to be Lee’s, the same produced.

Police Sergeant Nott shewed it to me. On the inside of both sleeves which were not cut there were marks of blood which correspond with wounds on the prisoner’s arms. To account for these marks the prisoner must have put on the coat with his shirt sleeve rolled up as there was no blood on the shirt.

The coat smelt strongly of paraffin. I examined a pair of trousers also shewn to me and and there is a patch of blood on one of the legs, a little to the back. I notice now a smell of oil about them. Did not so notice it when P.C. called upon me at my Surgery.

With regard the wound in the deceased’s throat the upper part of the vertebrae was injured. I think it might have been done with a cutting or chopping instrument, still I consider a powerful cutting knife was used. Having examined the knife now produced with a powerful glass, I observe stains of blood on the blade and handle.

On the hatchet produced I observe marks of blood. On the right side of the thick end there is a stain. The wounds on the head might have been produced with the thick end of the hatchet but the wound on the throat with a powerful knife.

The knife produced does not seem to me to be sharp enough to have caused the wound in the throat. Do not think there was much bleeding from the injuries to the head after the cutting of the throat or that there would have been more traces of blood if inflicted with hatchet produced.

I do not think that any strength could have inflicted the wound in the throat with the knife produced.

X’d. I give my opinion of these stains of blood on the handle and blade of the knife produced as the result of my working through a microscope and not as the result of a Chemical Analysis. An examination of the hatchet with reference to bloodstains has been made by me now for the first time. There has been no analysis of these stains or of what sort of blood it is. The two pieces of paper produced have bloodstains on them.

(Signed: Herbert Nicholas Chilcote)
Witness Index


I am a Police Constable at St. Mary Church. I produce a knife and I (some?) pieces of paper which I found on Saturday evening the 15th November in the Bulter’s Pantry which (was?) occupied. Two smears of blood on the drawer made me look inside and under some paper I found the knife. I wrapped it in the pieces produced which I found in this drawer and put it in the little box as it (now?) is the knife had the appearance of having been rubbed in the earth. There was blood stains on these pieces of paper, I would not swear that the knife was in the pieces of paper, but in searching the drawer both knife and paper fell out together.

No other pieces like those produced the next being (wrap?) paper.

Serg. Nott was present and told me to take care of what I had found.

(Signed: George Rounsfell)

3rd December 1884



Deposition of the 19th Nov., read over. Correct. On Saturday the 22nd of November I assisted Police Sergeant Nott in taking up the carpet in the hall. There were two pieces of carpet in the hall outside the Dining Room door the passage. The under piece was tacked down by the passage door and in the corner between the passage door and Dining Room door it was loose close to the (?). A door mat was on the top of all (cocoa nut mat). On the corner between the carpet and the floor I found a slipper and partly burnt stockings I don’t think the slipper has been burnt. Apparently these is blood on the bottom of the slipper, from the position I found these articles they must have been placed there by some one.

I examined the (cheffioneer?) in the hall with Police Sergeant Nott. It contained old periodicals and newspapers, a great quantity. I was blood on both leaves of the (cheffioners?) and also inside on the shelf, the newspaper produced was from the (cheffioners?).

There are marks of blood on it.

(Signed: George Rounsfell)

Witness Index

19th November 1884


St. Mary Church, Surgeon and co.

Dr. Chilcote and I having, to a certain degree, acted together. I made a further examination on Monday morning. I consider the immediate course of death to have been loss of blood from the wound in the throat. Two of the blows on the head were undoubtabtedly fatal and caused insensibility, there would not be much spurting of blood by cutting the throat after the blows to the head. If the wounds on the head has preceded the wounds in the throat the deceased could not have inflicted the latter.

There were three blows on the head. One heaving one, two extremely so and the third lighter one. I consider the heavier blow to have been given last with a heavy blunt instrument. Either of the blows might have been inflicted with the hatchet produced. Yesterday I compared this hatchet and found that the heavy end of it nearly fitted one of the wounds on deceased’s head there was some suffusion of blood from this wound but not much. After a careful examination I find many traces of blood on the hatchet. One stain very distinct on the left hand corner, another stain in a small pit at the back of head (ofid?). There are other stains on the edge in all 6 or 8 distinct stains but none on the handle. The wound on the throat could have been inflicted with a knife such as now produced. One powerful stroke from left to right, the bone in the throat was marked. There were stains of blood on the blade and handle of the knife produced. Also marks of earth (possibly?) flesh.

The pair of trousers produced have been recently shewn to me by the Police Sergeant Nott. I have made an examination of them and find many stains of blood. One on the waistband outside and a small stain inside, a bottom broken off at the back was found in one of the pockets. Stains of blood on the inside of the left pocket there was also a large stain of blood at the back of the trousers and some marks on the left leg as well as the right. Some of the stains might have been caused from the cuts on the prisoner’s arm but I can scarcely think that the stains on the back could have been one stain. Also on the left leg of the trousers is so situated that blood from the arm could scarcely have fallen there. Some of the stains seemed to have been scrubbed over and presented the appearance of on attempted effacement. I noticed this on Saturday and Monday as well as now.

X’d. Bloodstains on the inside of the pocket might have come from the prisoner’s arm by putting his hand on one of the buttons at the back of the prisoner’s trousers being off the bloodstains there might have caused by his putting his hand behind to hitch them off.

Re-Ex’d. In consequence of the general smell of smoke and fire about the house on Saturday last, I did not notice the smell of Petroleum Oil, but did on Monday. Can smell Petroleum about the trousers now, most distinctly.

(Signed: William Stott Steele)

3rd December 1884


Deposition of the 19th of November read over. Correct.

When I examined the body I found the skin of the chest considerably (scorched?) being hard and rigid. The sides a little burnt, the back not at all. Did not observe any blood coming from the wound in the throat. That would have been caused by the body being drained of blood and the heat of the fires. The effect of the blow on the right side of the head which broke the skull would have been likely to have caused (convulsions?). On Tuesday the 18th November I first saw the hatchet and then I carefully noticed the spots of blood on it. After that it was that I filled the head of the hatchet to the wound in the deceased’s head the same day, the 18th.

The head of the hatchet is rather square and the square depression in the skull was rather larger than the hatchet.

Impossible for any but a square headed instrument to have caused the wound in the deceased’s head. I saw a chair cover saturated with blood. The blood must been poured on it and congealed.

I am perfectly satisfied that I saw blood stains on the handle of the knife. The handle being smooth it is quite possible for the stains to scale off when hard and dry.

(Signed: William Stott Steele)

Witness Index

19 November 1884


I have been more than 40 years in Miss Keyse’ service. The other servants were my sister, Jane, and Elizabeth Harris, the cook, the latter about 2 years, prisoner also, he had previously (been) in Miss Keyse service.

The last time he had been with us about 12 months. On Friday the 14th E. Harris said she did not feel well and went to bed about 5 at our suggestion. Miss Keyse was not told of this. We had family prayers at near 11 on Friday night. I and my sister and the prisoner were present. The prisoner slept in the pantry. I am sure that (I we?) went to bed after prayers. Miss Keyse was in the habit of coming after we were all in bed down stairs to fetch a cup of cocoa which was left out in the kitchen by my sister for her. When I went to bed Miss Keyse was in the Dining Room . There was no fire in any room in the house except in the kitchen. If Miss Keyse had any orders (to give?) (? The man?) Miss Keyse would come down into his room herself or give Jane a written paper.

I found the cocoa half drunk in Miss Keyse’ room the next morning. I went upstairs at 12/40. The three bedrooms in which Miss Keyse No.1, Jane and I No.2, and the cook No.3, slept were all together at right angles and Miss Keyse’ was the nearest (and the?) head of the stairs.

Jane my sister followed me to bed in a few minutes. I did not here Miss Keyse come up before I fell asleep. I was awoke in the morning by Elizabeth Harris undressed. I was first down the stairs and it was so full of smoke that I could not see and I heard (*) the prisoner say what is the matter. I had no light, I went into the Dining Room and I could see there on a (ie?) of the fire which made it light. I did not at anytime break anyone break any windows in the Dining Room , there was no air in the room when I went in.


I went at once to the pantry and got some water and threw it on the fire in the Dining Room and then for the first time I saw Miss Keyse’ body on the ground and I called to my fellow servants. I do not know what the prisoner did until he was sent to fetch Gasking. Ten minutes lapsed between my coming down stairs and finding the body. Dining Room door was open when I went in. I did not see prisoner come into the Dining Room when I said I had found a body.

The body was lying with the head to the fireplace and the legs towards the door. I think when I saw the prisoner first he had braces hanging down. I sent prisoner for Gasking. I open(ing?) the kitchen door for him to go. I never knew prisoner go out at night without Miss Keyse’ knowledge. The prisoner was close to me when I first (?) into the Dining Room and I asked him to bring some water but he said that he could not on account of the smoke.

Before I went down stairs I opened the nursery door to let out the smoke.

X’d. I had no conversation with the prisoner when I saw him in bed.

(Signed: Eliza Neck)


Deposition of the 19th November read over. Correct.

Miss Keyse lived at the Glenn before my time. She was about 68 years old. Much the same size as myself. Our bedrooms were the furthest off from the bottom of the stairs. Miss Keyse’ bedroom was close to ours. Prisoner slept in the pantry (partition?) of which does not reach the ceiling. The door in the passage leading to the pantry always kept open. I have seen prisoner’s bed turned down. At the bottom there is a bracket table with trays on. This table is never let down. This was up as usual on Friday the 14th November when I saw prisoner in bed.

A person could get between the table and the bed by squeezing through sideways. There is a well courtyard outside the pantry window.

In this yard a pair of steps are kept to reach a (safe?) on the wall.

When awakened on Saturday morning the 15th November I heard E. Harris say “Eliza, Jane, where does the smoke come from?”.

My sister and I got out of bed directly. In my night dress I passed Miss Keyse’ bedroom without observing it to be on fire my sister stopped behind and went into Miss Keyse room. I went on and reached the landing on the top of the stairs the passage being full of smoke. The well of the staircase was also full of smoke. I had no candle and couldn’t see. Before I reached the bottom of the stairs I heard my sister calling out. The passage door leading to the pantry was open and there was smoke in this passage. (I saw the Dining Room on fire directly I looked in?)

The sofa and co on seeing Miss Keyse I called out “Miss Keyse is on the Dining Room floor”. I told the prisoner to go to Gasking as quickly as he could. This was about 5 or 6 minutes after I had come down. I didn’t see which way he went. After Mr. Gasking came I went to the Honeysuckle Room which was on fire and there was a great deal of fire in the Dining Room . I fetched water from the water butt and threw it on the fire in the Honeysuckle Room. I did not go downstairs again before the body of Miss Keyse was carried out. Whilst (up?)stairs I went into Miss Keyse’ room and helped put out the fire there. I saw that her bed had no been slept in. the hot water bottle was where I had placed it in the bed. The dress Miss Keyse had worn the night before was folded up and put on the seat. The rest of her clothes taken off were on the bed.

When dead Miss Keyse had on parts of a night dress and flannel. Her stockings hadn’t been taken off as they were not with her clothes.

After Gasking arrived I saw the prisoner. He held up his arm and said that he had cut it in breaking the window. This was said during the time I was up and down stairs. The fire in the Dining Room and that in Miss Keyse bedroom were two distinct fires.

I saw Miss Keyse’candlestick on the Dining Room floor that morning. The same she usually took to bed with her. Did not observe any candle.

I have never seen the hatchet produced in the house, never saw it before.

Miss Keyse kept a knife on the front hall table & sometimes on the cheffroneer close by half worn dinner knife sharpened a good deal. There was a bell rope in the deceased bedroom, the same produced. It was attached by a hook. I did not notice anything connected with the bell rope on the Friday 14th November which was hooked up as usual, had it not been I should have noticed it. On the Saturday morning November 15th I saw it on the settle below. To take it down the bell rope must be unhooked. A woollen knitted shawl was kept in the bedroom of the deceased which she occasionally put on. Did not see the slippers of the deceased on Saturday morning either up or down stairs. I bolted the nursery passage door on the Friday night & opened it myself to let out the smoke. I unbolted the kitchen door on Saturday morning, there were three bolts to unfasten top, middle & bottom.

Re-called. I identify the slipper produced as one Miss Keyse usually wore after she was upstairs. The partly burnt stocking produced is one she was wearing.

(Signed: Eliza Neck)
Witness Index

19th November 1884


I was in Miss Keyse service 48 years. It was duty to shut up at night. On Friday night the 14th November I shut up the front door, the conservatory door, the middle door & the kitchen door which has no lock, but three bolts, and the yard door (to?) the outside door of all. I cannot speak as to the condition of the doors in the morning except the front door & the conservatory door. I am doubtful as to the middle door. When I went to bed there was no window through which anyone could have entered the outside. Between 12/30 & 1 am I went to Miss Keyse. She was in the Dining Room writing her diary dressed in her evening dress, she had a lamp to write by. I also left a candlestick and a box of matches in the Dining Room.

The lamp is lighted by Alexandra Oil which is kept in the pantry and I think that there was a quart of oil left when I trimmed the lamps on Friday. There had been no fire in the Dining Room that day and there had been none that year. On the Sunday I went to get the can to get some more oil and to my surprise I found it empty. No one else except myself went to that can of oil or had any need to do so. I left Miss Keyse’s cocoa in the kitchen on the Friday night and found the cup with cocoa (in her bedroom?) in it in the next morning.

I was awoke on the Saturday morning by the cook Elizabeth who said that the house was full of smoke. I went at once to Miss Keyse’s room the partition wall of this room from the passage does not rise to the top.

I went into the room which was on fire the furniture being in a blaze. I went to the bed and found that Miss Keyse was not there. I could not see on account of the smoke and was very frightened at not seeing Miss Keyse in her room. I then heard my sister call out that Miss Keyse was down below dead. I was then dresses as I had got out of bed. The night dress produced is the one I was wearing. The Honeysuckle Room was also on fire it had caught from the Dining Room but this could not have been the cause as regards Miss Keyse’s bedroom.

Before I went down stairs I saw the prisoner close to me. I spoke to him saying the smoke is so dense I cannot find my way. He took me by the right arm and led me to the landing. There was no blood on my night dress when I went to bed. I cannot explain how the blood now on my night dress came there. The passage is very narrow and he was close to me when he had hold of my arm.

I saw him first after I had heard my sister call out. I then went downstairs and touched Miss Keyse’s body and found it cold. When I went into the Dining Room there was no air in the room but when a few minutes afterwards I opened the window to go out on the lawn of the window which had (been ? burnt?) (I?) when previously fell down and I stepped in broken slabs(?) I went into the veranda and shouted “Fire!” on the lawn and returned not being able to make anyone hear. I and my sister sent prisoner for Gasking.

After Gasking had come I wanted to get Stiggins to come and help and went to the front door under the colonnade, it was so dark a morning that I could not see my way and John came and laid hold of me to prevent my from going on the flowers. I was still in my night dress. I did not see the prisoner’s arm bleeding. I recognize the knife produced as one which I kept in the middle part of the drawer in the pantry and used it for cleaning the candlesticks.

I used it on the Friday. I never cleaned it with earth. I never put it in paper and never cleaned it at all beyond wiping the grease off it. There was another knife of a similar kind which Miss Keyse kept in the front hall and which was sharper than mine, not in the hall where the body was found. The other knife shewn (I the?) I believe (to be?) Miss Keyse’s but I cannot positively distinguish between the two. In the front hall where Miss Keyse kept her (gardening?) knife there was also on the table a sharpener.

X’d. Mr. Templar. I saw the prisoner in bed in the pantry after prayers. I heard him cough when I was with Miss Keyse the last thing. When I came downstairs I had my right hand on the (balusters?). I had noticed that the prisoner’s arm was bleeding up to the time of my telling him to go to Compton. Colonel McLean’s house and even then I should have noticed (nulep?) he had not told me of it.


I used another knife for the cat’s meat. The plate which Miss Keyse had in general use in the house is all safe.

The prisoner knew where I kept the oil can.

The candlestick and snuffers now shewn to me were those taken by Miss Keyse to bed every night, she never took a lamp upstairs.

(Signed: Jane Neck)

2nd December 1884


Deposition of the 19th of November read over. Correct.

I remember bolting the scullery door on the Friday night. I first saw fire in Miss Keyse’s room and then it was that I found her not in bed. When I came down I noticed the glare of the fire in the Dining Room, the door being open, this was when I first came down stairs. Prisoner left me at the top of the stairs. I left the window open upon first going on the lawn. It was the second time I went out of the window that I stepped on broken glass. Did not notice any the first time. When I returned the first time through the window Lee said “I have broken the window to let out the smoke.” I did not hear any breaking of glass. The wind was very high.

I shut the shutters again also the window and I noticed then that the glass was broken. Asked Lee to go to Gasking’s and immediately went out again for the second time to call Stiggings. The shutters remained shut until Gasking came. I know prisoner had on his trousers when standing at the Dining Room. I did not notice whether he had any boots on (or?)only in his stockings.

I did not see any of Miss Keyse’s slippers down stairs that Saturday morning. The passage door leading to the pantry is never shut. I put down prisoner’s bed that night as usual. There is a table at the bottom which has not been let down for (6?) years come March. I saw it up on the Friday night. Tray and other things were kept on it and the next morning it was as I had left it. There is scarcely any space between bed and table.

The partition of the pantry does not rise to the top and there is nothing to keep off any sounds. I attend to the lamps and the oil can is kept in a cupboard the other side of the prisoner’s bed. I should have occasion to go (to?) the oil can every two days to fill my bottle. This bottle is kept with the can. On Friday morning the cook (was ? the bottle?) and the funnel upside down in the can(?). on Saturday morning I found the cork of the can near the foot of the table in the pantry on the floor. I put the cork into the can again and on the Sunday morning I went to replenish my bottle and then found the empty can.


I know the candlestick and the slippers produced to be the same Miss Keyse used. I put a whole candle in on Friday night and the next morning it was burnt close to the paper.

To my knowledge I never remember seeing the hatchet produced.

We use the kind of matches produced, large size and the same sort were put in Miss Keyse’s candlestick.

It was a long time since the bell rope was down and the bell sounded in the kitchen. It is not possible to open the Dining Room window from outside.

X’d. I remember saying to Miss Keyse on the Friday night that I had lit her lamp and hoped she wasn’t going to sit up long as I was afraid it wouldn’t last and that she replied that she was not going to sit up long.

(Signed: Jane Neck)

Witness Index

19 November 1884


Police Sergeant. St. Mary Church.

I produced the hatchet which I found on the morning of the 15th November in the Dining Room where the body of the deceased was found by the entrance door. It had been in the charge of the Police ever since. I also produce a small knife which I found outside the deceased’s bedroom on the same day as well as a chair covering which I found close to a pool of blood in the hall near the Dining Room door a pair of socks belonging to prisoner and which I found behind a box in the kitchen on Monday last 17th November I also produce.

(Signed: Abraham Nott


Deposition on the 19th November read over. Correct.

I am a Police Sergeant at St. Mary Church on Saturday the 15th November between 5 and 6 AM I was called to go to Miss Keyse’s house. I went there was the witness Bennett in the Dining Room. Pearce and firemen also. Did not see lee then. My attention was called to a pool of blood in the hall. A chair covering saturated blood partly burnt and smelling of mineral oil nearby. I found a hair comb near this pool of blood and there was candle grease on the floor close by the skirting. Blood also on the skirting. In the Dining Room I found the hatchet and candlestick produced. The lamp I saw on the table. It was burning when I got there. I noticed spots of blood on the hatchet, a quantity of charred paper smelling strongly of oil in the arm chair and other paper on the floor and sofa. I produce the carpet where the deceased was found as pointed out to me and this carpet smells of mineral oil strongly. Underneath where this carpet was the woodwork or floor is stained and smells of mineral oil 3 ft in length and 1 ½ feet in breadth. On that day saw traces of oil 3 stairs from the bottom and which had been set on fire. The (Dinggetting?) and carpet was burnt. The clothing on the deceased smells strongly of oil. The shirt (skirt?) I had from Gasking is also produced, it is partly burnt and smells strongly of oil also.

From the third finger of the left hand of the deceased I took 4 gold rings which I produce also a diamond ring which I found in deceased’s bedroom. I examined this bedroom. The bell pull I found on the ottoman (unhung?). it dastens with a hook. Eliza neck was present. Saw the bed furniture had been burnt (butus?) woodwork. No other damage excepting little to the bedclothes.

On the 22nd November on searching this room again I found a match partly burnt in this room and that the ottoman had been fired. Also a piece of paper. As soon as Supt. Barbor arrived that morning (15th November) I accompanied him around the house and premises to see if there had been a burglary. Examined the premises generally and found no traces of breaking. I had previously examined the Dining Room and noticed glass under my feet on going up to open the shutters, not much, on opening the shutters a lot of glass fell down. The space between the shutters and the window was 1 ¾ inches. The widow opens inwards as well as the shutters.

“A” “John it will be better to do some raking of the (Palters? Patio?) before breakfast and go to Compton after.”

On the right shutter I noticed two dents in one a piece of glass adhering. The framework of the window outside had blood on it and skin inside on the glass. Outside the kitchen door there was spot of blood. On the wall also spots on ivy leaves and on stones at the top. In the pathway leading from outside the Dining Room to the kitchen there are spots of blood. And on the iron gate on one of the rails. In the corridor outside the front step there were spots of blood (colonnade).

Also handle of door and woodwork inside and out bore marks of blood. In searching the pantry on the 15th November I found a piece of paper on the floor, same produced marked “A”. (note: see previous page) It hears the following writing “John it will be better to some raking of the paths before breakfast and go to Compton after.”

PC Rounsfell having called my attention to a knife which he had taken from a drawer in the pantry. I examined such drawer and found a streak of blood running down from the top inwards, and a spot of blood on the outside. The knife was found in the right hand compartment. The 2 pieces of paper were found in the same place. I have seen the prisoner’s bed in the pantry. It is 5ft 9 from the pool of blood to edge of pantry door and 3ft from edge of door to his bed. The partition between the passage and pantry is 1ft 10 ½ inches from the ceiling leaving open space the whole length of the partition. It is a wooden partition between prisoner’s bed and the passage. I have seen prisoner’s put down several times. Also have seen the table at the bottom of the bed. The space between the bed and this table is 2 ½ inches that is when the bed is down.

It is only possible to pass between by walking sideways. The height of the bed is only (7?) inches. I produce two towels found in the pantry behind the door. They bear stains of blood. The 3rd towel produced I found in the scullery stained with blood. In the right hand corner of the cupboard in the pantry I found the empty oil can produced. It has marks of blood on it. Only took (forsesseric?) of it on the 17th of November. The funnel produced I had from Jane Neck. There are marks of blood on this funnel.

(Signed: Abraham Nott)

Continued this 3rd December 84


I examined the pantry window on the 15th November. Outside there is a Well Court Yard. To get from this yard a pair of steps would be necessary. A pair was there at the time in a recess in the passage leading to the scullery. I then went upstairs and examined Miss Keyse’s bedroom. By the handle of the door which is a paper partition the paper was burnt through. Inside this partition was the deceased’s bed. This bedroom is immediately over the pantry. The curtains of the bed and canopy immediately inside the partition were burnt. The left hand post of the bed was seared a little, no other woodwork in any ways was injured. The bell pull was down. Found certain of the deceased’s clothing in the room, also a cup, plate and biscuit in this room. From the effects of the fire in the room I should say it had been burning 10 or 15 minutes.

In the Dining Room I found the diary produced, it is partly burnt and was with papers in the chair. After I examined the house all through (the?) prisoner returned. This was about (7?) AM. Witness Bennett was present, I said to the prisoner, first cautioning him “What time were you home last night” and he replied “About eleven. We had prayers in the Dining Room. Miss Keyse, Eliza and Jane Neck were present. I went to bed about 10 minutes and ¼ past 11″.

I asked if he heard any noise during the night and he said “No until I heard the servants shouting out the place is on fire. I shouted out what’s the matter and they said the house is on fire. I got up put on my trousers and went into the Dining Room with Eliza and Jane.” I then said “What is all this blood down over your trousers” He answered “I cut my arm,” shewing me his left hand, “In knocking out the glass in the Dining Room in order to let the smoke out.” I said there is no cut about your hand and he then shewed me the cuts on the fleshy part of his arm under part. He was arrested then. I asked him when he cut his arm and he replied “Before I went to Mr. Gasking’s”. I said no more then. About ten the same morning Supt. Barbor being present in the pantry saw the prisoner again, cautioned him and he repeated his previous statement to me. I then charged him saying “I charge you on suspicion on having committed murder of Miss Keyse”. He replied “On suspicion, oh, all right”. I told him he would have to go to Torquay with me, took charge of his great coat and at Torquay I searched and found stains of blood on both arms the lining inside, the left arm smelling of mineral oil. Jacket and vest no blood, trousers he was wearing (some?) spots of blood on both legs. On his shirt there was blood, a good deal on the left breast, his shirt sleeves were rolled up. On the left sleeve no blood but some on the right just above the wrist. Upon feeling his socks I remarked that they were dry (he had had boots on).

He said “I put on a dry pair before I went to Compton to get my boots on.” Subsequently I found a pair of socks behind a box in the kitchen. Prisoner had told me where they were. They were (new?) and one in particular smelt strongly of mineral oil. One wetter than the other and moisture might have been squeezed out.

Saw 2 or 3 hairs on the socks. I considered them human hairs and pointed them out to PC Boughton who was present at the time. I found these socks on the 17th November I rolled them up on the 17th between 9 and 10 AM, same as they are now. Also found on the prisoner some letters, 3 / 4 ½ in money, door key, pen knife and a quantity of matches similar to those used in the house. I produce the piece of carpet the body was carried out. Several partly burnt matches were found on the side board in the Dining Room. On Saturday the 22nd November in company with PC Rounsefell I took up the carpet in the hall. 2 pieces were nailed across the passage doorway leading to the pantry. The piece produced was on top of the 2. This smells of paraffin oil. It had been turned back and fired and shewed stains of blood. One of the pieces of carpet which had been nailed I took up. The same piece produced, 2 stains of blood on it, underneath this piece I found the slipper which I produce. One corner of the carpet was not nailed. With the slipper I found portion of a stocking partially consumed as produced. I saw the spot where the slipper and stocking were found. To have placed them where they were the carpet must have been turned up. There were two door nails over the carpet. By the pool of blood I found a piece of newspaper dated 26th October 1881, part of Directory, there were marks of blood on this paper and earth mixed with it.

I produce a piece of carpet with portion of newspaper sticking to it the date March 30th 1876. Times paper. Produces a second piece of newspaper with marks of blood as if an instrument having been wiped with it, this piece was found under the carpet with paper adhering.

There is a cheffioneer in the hall 12 feet from the pool of blood. It has two cupboards on the left leaf on the outside I found stains of blood and on the inside, also stains of blood on the top shelf apparently finger marks. This cupboard contained newspapers of different dates, a great quantity. I made an examination of the hall table which has a leaf. On this leaf there were stains of blood. The stone sharpener produced I found on the hall table. (Dec 2nd) Last evening I the wall between the pool of blood and the prisoner’s pantry, it’s thickness is 7 ¼ inches the wall being composed of lath and plaster.

On the morning of the 15th November between 8 and 9 in the passage outside the deceased’s bedroom door I found the knife produced. I cut some hair from the deceased’s head on Tuesday 18th November. A lock each side, this hair I gave to the Supt. Barbor.

(Signed: Abraham Nott)
Witness Index

19 November 1884


Elizabeth Harris spinster, half sister of prisoner. I was unwell and went to bed early on evening of 14th Nov. I was awoke by a smell of smoke and called up the other women.

I dressed myself before going down stairs, it was half an hour before I went downstairs, I helped to put out the fire in the Honey Suckle Room. In a very few minutes after the alarm was given prisoner came upstairs. I did not go to Miss Keyse’s room, I do not know where Jane was. I saw Eliza in the honey suckle room. When I saw the prisoner no remark passed between us as to Miss Keyse being dead. When I saw the prisoner down stairs if was after Gasking has come and he did not say anything nor did I see anything about his hands bleeding. I cannot remember when I first noticed it.

I never take any oil from the can in the pantry.

I identify a pair of socks produced as belonging to prisoner.

(Signed: Elizabeth Harris)

2nd December 1884


Deposition of the 9th of November, read over. Correct. My door was open whilst I was dressing. I saw the prisoner pass my door at this time. I thought he was going for water, I don’t recollect his say anything then.(Bridges: “Anything said by him?”) He seemed rather excited, my bedroom door id close to the nursery door. I saw prisoner at the water cask before Mr. Gasking arrived but it couldn’t have been very long before.

I saw the body of Miss Keyse being carried out by Gasking and Lee. Did not see that the throat was cut, have not seen it at all, I was standing in the room by the Cheffioneer, Gasking called John 2 or 3 times before he would come to assist in removing the body. Lee had hold of the legs and Gasking the Head. I think I went upstairs then, can’t say when I saw Lee, when I did he told me without having noticed any blood that he had cut he hands.

I think he said he couldn’t open the shutter and broke the window to let the smoke out. I had not noticed that his arm was bleeding before this. I noticed that he had on a shirt and pair of trousers nothing else.

After prisoner came from “Compton” I got some warm water and washed it and bound it up, this was in the scullery before he went to the Doctor.

I thought from the voice that I first heard Eliza say Miss Keyse was dead. Did not see Miss Keyse’s slippers that morning downstairs.

I have seen the hatchet produced never saw it before. About 2 months ago I had a conversation with Lee, we were talking about his leaving Miss Keyse’s service and I saw suppose Miss Keyse won’t give you a character and he replied that “if she does not I will lay the place in ashes.” I said don’t burn me with it and he said “I will let you know.”

I remember the 28th October. John came into the kitchen crying. I asked his what he was crying for, he did not make any answer at first, but afterwards he said Miss Keyse was only going to pay him 2/- (two shillings) a week. I said I thought the agreement was 2/6 (two shillings and six pence) a week and he answered that he did not know as he hadn’t made the agreement. He further added that he wouldn’t stop another night and before he left Torquay he would have his revenge.

On another occasion he said he would set the place on fire go on the top of the Hill and watch it until he was arrested. In my presence Lee spoke of Miss Keyse as the ‘old woman’. I am quite sure I was not called that morning by anyone. I smelt smoke and woke up naturally.

(Signed: Elizabeth Harris)
Witness Index


19TH November 1884

William Richards, I am a postman at Babbacombe. I have known the prisoner for 6 years. I had a conversation with prisoner about 2 months ago on the hill leading down to the house. “I said to him are you hard at work”, he said “I am tired of it here if Misses does not get me a good place soon she will bloody soon wish she had. I will put an end to one before I leave.” Prisoner was quite (so?) (her?). I told him he better be careful, if his words that he made use of got among the public, or the police he might be apprehended should anything occur. Prisoner said he did not care. Prisoner was in the habit of carrying a stick of a dark colour with a knob to it. I asked him to give me the stick and he declined saying that it would give any one a hit on the head.

On the 29th of October at Midday (prisoner?) told me he had a row with his Mistress and that he had threatened to leave her service.

(Signed: William Richards)

Witness Index


19 November 1884

George Pearce – Coastguard stationed at Babbacombe. On the 15th November I was awakened by somebody rattling at my door in the early morning, it was Miss Harris. I went to Miss Keyse’s house. I went into the Dining Room and found Gasking there and prisoner, room was partially burning, it is panelled. They were occupied putting out the fire. I helped. I afterwards went upstairs case into Honeysuckle Room and there prisoner brought me the hatchet, now produced, which I used for at least 5 minutes in knocking away the partition of the room. Prisoner had no waistcoat or coat on only shirt and collar and trousers, he had boots on – I did not observe that he was cut in any way or any blood upon him. I am sure that when I came both windows and shutters were shut. I wanted something shorter than the pole I was using in the Honeysuckle Room to put out the fire and the hatchet was then brought to me by the prisoner to knock away with.

X’d I left the hatchet in the upstairs room on a partition, this was about 5 AM and did not see the hatchet after.

(Signed: George Pearce)


2ND December 1884

George Pearce. Disposition of the 19th November, read over. Correct. I first used the hatchet. Lee said he would get something when I asked for something shorter than the pole I was using. He brought the hatchet and was very quick in doing so, not more than a minute and not time to go out of the House for it.

I saw the shutters opened late in the morning and the broken glass.

X’d. Don’t remember seeing the hatchet before. P.O. went down over the stairs for the hatchet. I was in the passage at the time and saw his go that way.

(Signed: George Pearce)

Witness Index


19th November 1884

Thomas Bennett. Chief Officer, Coastguard, Babbicombe. On the morning of the 15th November I went to Miss Keyse’s house about ¼ hour after seeing Pearce using the hatchet produced. I saw it in use down stairs, one of my men using it. I noticed (Dft?) first, about 4/30 AM. There was I believe at that time blood down his right hand, there was not much blood it was not flowing freely, like from (and ser(v)ape?). I think that I noticed a little blood across his breast, he was dressed in (drat?) trousers coloured shirt and collar secured by a stud or button. I saw that in Miss Keyse’s room the curtains or vallances had been set on fire – I consider that from what I saw the fire in Miss Keyse’s room was a distinct fire from that in the Honey Suckle Room.

X’d. Prisoner told me before I entered the Dining Room the 2nd time in answer to my second question as to the blood on his head that he had cut his arm in breaking the windows to let the smoke out. I observed when speaking to him. This was about 4/50 that the blood was congealed on his hand.

(Signed: Thomas Bennett)


2ND December 1884

Thomas Bennett. Deposition of the 19th November read over. Correct. I went into the Honey Suckle Room first. Pearce was there, but not Lee. Pearce asked for a hammer, hatchet, or something and Lee said “I’ll soon get you something.” He was absent say 1½ minutes and brought back the hatchet produced.

As I passed round the foot of the stairs I noticed blood on the prisoners hand. I was going to the Dining Room at the time. One of my men used the blade part of the hatchet to knock a stone out. I noticed a great quantity of charred paper on the sofa. Underneath, and on the arm chair I saw a heap of paper with the edges burnt on the floor.

I saw the shutters opened about 6.30 AM. There was a great quantity of broken glass between the window and shutters and when the shutters were opened the glass fell into the room.

The shutters open inwards, subsequently examined outside of the window frame and found blood stains there. I should say from appearances that the glass was broken from the outside as pieces of broken glass had been driven onto the shutters. These were two pieces of skin on the glass on the inside I think, blood on the outside. I should say that the fire in the Dining Room had been burning 2 hours and that in Miss Keyse’s bedroom about 40 minutes or ¾ hour.

X’d. There were pieces of glass on the carpet before the shutters were opened. There were pieces of glass outside some 3 or 4 paces off from 4 to 6 panes of glass were broken.

(Signed: Thomas Bennett)

Witness Index


Monday, 1st December 1884

Douglas Barbor. I am Superintendent of Police at Torquay. On the 20th of November I received from Police Sergeant Nott, a Hatchet, Man’s Shirt and a Pair of Socks, a Woman’s Night Gown and Lock of Hair. And at the same time from P.C. Rounsefell, a Knife and some Paper.

On the 21st Nov. I proceeded to Guy’s Hospital London, there saw Dr. Stevenson and personally delivered to him the whole of these articles. On the 25th November I received from Police Sergeant Nott a pair of Trousers and an Oil Can.

On the 27th November I personally delivered these articles also to Dr. Stevenson at Guy’s Hospital London.

Yesterday, the 30th November, Dr. Stevenson returned to me personally here in Torquay the whole of the articles before mentioned and I now produce them. The articles inquisition were handed by me to Dr. Stevenson personally his precisely the same slate as when I had them from the Constables.

(Signed: Douglas Barbor)


3rd December 1884

Douglas Barbor. Deposition of the 1st of December read over. Correct.

On Saturday 15th November I arrived at the Glen just after 7 AM. In company with Sergeant Nott I examined the Dining Room without disturbing anything, found this room had been on fire and the wall behind the door burnt also sofa and chair.

Heaps of papers and old letters under the sofa and chair were partly burnt. The shutters of the window opposite the Door was both closed and barred then.

They were opened by Sergeant Nott in my presence and then I noticed 6 panes of broken glass. From the appearance of the glass which was loosened in the Putty and turned inwards and the spots of blood on the outside of the glass also there being dents in the shutters and 2 peices of glass adhering to such shutter. I believe the window to have been broken from the outside. I also believe that to be so by seeing a large smear of blood on the centre of the window also from the fact of there being a larger quantity of broken glass on the inside that on the outside. I went outside and tried the window as to whether it could be opened from the outside but found it could not from the shutters being closed. I tried whether the shutters would remain closed without the bar being up and found that they would not.

Afterwards when it became lighter I made further examination of the window and found a piece of skin on one of the points of glass remaining on the left centre pane. Sergeant Nott took it off, found another piece slightly lower down, both pieces of skin were upon the inside of the glass.

I was present and saw Lee’s wounds dressed a day or two after at the Police Station. I saw the wound nearest the hand and it corresponds with the larger of the pieces of skin taken from the broken window.

After examining the Dining Room on the 15th I went to the Hall.

There I saw a large pool of blood just under the clock by the table, very much congealed. Saw that the (Dringgetting?) on the 3 steps of the stairs at the bottom had been fired. Proceeded upstairs into Miss Keyse’s bedroom and saw that the bed and curtains had been burnt and the bedding slightly. Also a hole burnt in the canvas and paper partition on the left of the entrance door close to the (locker?). In the Honey Suckle Room saw that the bed and bedding had been much burnt and holes in the flooring which ahd the appearance of burning from the fire coming through from below. Visited all the rooms in the house and carefully examined all the doors and windows throughout. All the windows were fastened and the door leading from the scullery to the courtyard bolted on the inside. Could find no traces whatever of the House having been broken in or (yet?) any trace of breaking out. In the centre door between the stairs and front door I found a spot of blood on the inside and a smear on the outside as from a finger.

The spot was on the right hand side and the smear on the left, it was a little way under the bar that it the spot was, just outside that door is a hall table. I found blood on the handle of the front door both inside and out.

There were also many spots of blood on the colonnade which leads to the lawn also a spot of blood on the glass about two or three feet from the spots in the colonnade. On (wood?) work and whitewashed wall found smears of blood more like a shot on the rockery, spots of blood between lawn outside Dining Room and the kitchen door. Many spots of blood in different places and some on Ivy leaves. On the lock of the door leading to Gasking’s I saw a right hand thumb mark and further stains upwards on the door.

Stains of blood on Gasking’s gate but none on the road leading there. I went back to the house and found marks of blood in the passage both sides between the kitchen and the Dining Room . I examined the body of the deceased and sent for a Doctor. Sent Sergeant Nott for Lee and he brought him to me in the pantry. The Sergeant cautioned him and the conversation as already given by Sergeant Nott as to what took place is quite correct.

I said to P.O. “It is very evident that the house was locked up last night. It was all locked up this morning.” And that Miss Keyse had been murdered and by a man as he was the only man in the house he would have been arrested on suspicion. He replied “Oh, on suspicion, alright.”

He was then taken into custody. Later in the day I had from Sergeant Nott the hatchet produced and from P.C. Rounsefell the knife wrapped in paper, also produced. I returned these articles to them again. On the same day I saw the blood on the drawer in the prisoners pantry, inside the drawer. It seemed quite fresh then, later on the same day noticed the smell of paraffin in the Dining Room . Papers, chair and sofa all smelt of Paraffin or mineral oil.

I corroborate Sergeant Nott’s evidence in respect of the distance between the bed in the pantry and the pool of blood in the Hall, also to the position of the bed and table. And height of partition between pantry and passage.

The fire in the Dining Room must have been burning quite an hour before the fire in the deceased’s bedroom. I tried the passage door and found it wouldn’t close.

(Signed: Douglas Barbor)
Witness Index

1st December 1884


I reside at Sandhurst Lodge, Gresham Road, London, Surrey. I am a Doctor of Medicine, A Fellow and Examiner in Chemistry of the Royal College of Physicians, London, a Lecturer on Chemistry and Medical Jurix (Prudence?) at Guy’s Hospital. I am also official analyst to the Home Office.

On November 21st I received personally from the Superintendent Barbor six articles for examination and analysis; a hatchet, knife and paper, a woman’s nightdress, a man’s shirt, prisoner’s socks and a lock of hair. On the 27th November I also received personally from Supt. Barbor, a pair of trousers and an oil can. I have examined and analysed those articles. The hatchet was marked with whitish plaster, same produced, on the back of the wooden handle near the head there is a stain or thin smear of blood and a stain of blood on the edge of the iron head. There were also a few blood corpuscles at the edge (in) the edge of the blade. The blood was that of mammalian either human or that of an animal of the class which (suggests?) it’s young. Cannot (distinguish?) between the blood of a human being and the animal. The stain of the handle had not lost the character of recent blood by which I mean not more than 5 or 6 weeks red or more recent than 3 or 4 days. I examined the knife, table knife ground to a point. The blade had been rubbed against some hard substance so as to scratch it. The handle is much polished but could not detect any blood. I detected a trace of mammalian blood in the dirt at the junction of the handle and blade. Just at the (tit?) of the blade I found a trace of blood. On the right side and a little earth on the left.

Examined the 2 pieces of paper in which the knife was lying in a little box. On the smaller piece there was a blood smear on both sides. On the other piece on the inner side only. In my opinion recent blood, mammalian, on the night dress of a female which smelt strongly of burnt or smouldering oil. I found on the right sleeve which was rolled back as it is (non?) so as to to (repose?) the inner surface smears of blood, when stained the sleeve must have been tucked up, the outside of this sleeve is also extensively stained with blood near the shoulder and over the shoulder blades behind. The left sleeve had smears of blood to a lesser degree. The interior of the dress is free from blood stains. The blood is familiar to that of a human being. I further examined a mans shirt, same produced extensively smeared with blood. On the front and on the left side, more especially in front on the left side.

The right sleeve is blood stained chiefly between the elbow and the wrist. On the inner surface where it had been rolled back. The left sleeve is torn and free from stains except a small spot below the shoulder. The shirt has been worn a great deal and had the odour of (fusses?) of burnt oil. Socks produced, man’s cotton socks were dampish, smelt of mineral oil, and had earth on them, found some hairs on them. 4 different kinds of hair adhering to the socks, 2 long (iment?) hairs, human like those of a woman’s head and of reddish tint. They were precisely like those given to me by Superintendent Barbor in size, in (strinetime?) and in clour. Found some other hairs precisely like the rest but (finer?) which might have been proceeded from the same person from a different part of the head, also found some greyish or whiteish hairs on these socks of the same (strenetime?) as the last but finer. The sock having been rolled up (damp?) in paper it is impossible to day what part the hairs had originally adhered to.

Found also some vegetable fibre probably from a mat. I have examined the lock of hair produced, it is the hair of a woman’s precisely like the hair I found on the socks. The tint is unusual for an elderly person. There is blood on this lock of hair. The trousers produced have been examined by me. Ordinary greasy stains on them and smell of mineral oil. On the left leg in the front of the left thigh there is a stain of blood and smaller ones close by. This stain appears to have been diluted with water. The smaller ones are a little clotted. On the same leg below the (line?) there is a stain near the seam which appears to have been (aclid?) upon by sponging.

At the back on the left side near the waistband there is a (lined?) of double stains and some others. Near the button on the lining there is a (spot?) of blood and stains on the right and left pockets.

The can produced has contained mineral oil. I examined it and found below the handle and downwards near the seam marks of blood, similar stains on the bottom of the can, mammalian blood. Paraffin protects the freshness of bloodstains. Therefore cannot say how recent or otherwise these stains are.

(Signed: Thomas Stevenson)

{To be (subpressed?) – not being bound by (recognizanal?) to appear and give evidence at the next assizes at Exeter} [Written by W. Bridges]
Witness Index

2nd December 1884


I live at The Cary Arms Babbicombe. On Saturday morning 15th November I was awoken by my niece calling me about 4.00 (AM). I got up and went to Miss Keyse’s house, saw no one before I got there, Miss Keyse, I first saw John Lee who was standing in the doorway about 2 feet opposite the water cask, the Nursery entrance. I said what’s the matter and he replied, Miss Keyse is burned to death. Within ten minutes of being called I was at the house. I asked “where to” and he said “the Dining Room “. I turned round to go to the path to the kitchen door and saw Elizabeth Harris drawing water from the cask. I said to her “come and knock the head off this cask” and he said “I haven’t anything to do it with”. I said “jump on the wall and you can find a stone.” He did so, got a stone and broken in the top of the cask. I said to Elizabeth Harris “stop that tap and get out of the way.”

Lee had on trousers and shirt and braces hanging down. Didn’t notice his feet. I went to the Dining Room by the kitchen entrance. At the Dining Room door I saw Lee. He had come another way from the inside of the house, couldn’t say whether he or I entered first didn’t notice the shutters then, the door was half open, saw the body of Miss Keyse on the floor, feet towards me and head towards the fire. The clothes about the body was smouldering I said to Lee “let’s get her out of this” and asked him to come and help me. At first he was rather reluctant and I had to call him the second time. I took the body by one side and Lee by the other, such as supporting shoulder and leg. There was no support to the head. Lee let the body slip but I held on, this was just outside the Dining Room door, carried the body outside the kitchen door using a piece of carpet in so doing.

I told Lee to fetch a bigger carpet and just as he returned with one Richard Harris arrived. I think I asked Harris to assist and he carried the body to the out house. I at the feet Harris at the head, this took 6 or 7 minutes.

Lee did not accompany us, told him to get water. I noticed a wound in deceased’s throat as soon as I looked at the body in the Dining Room . Lee at this time chattered something but couldn’t say what and told him to help me. Couldn’t help noticing the wound in the throat as the head was hanging down. Harris Richard went to me house for (nails? or pails?) and got some. I went to a tap by the woodhouse, after this I went again to Dining Room saw certain the shutters were shut then. They were not opened at all in my presence. I should say the fire in the Dining Room had been burning an hour or 1 ½ hours, great heat in the room. The partition of this room is known as “stone hugging”. The (stairs?) were burning and the wall was quite hot.

I ask for pole to knock away the ceiling, one was brought by someone. Richard Harris was with me then, after sometime I asked if anyone could get me a hatchet or something short. A hatchet was brought by someone to the Dining Room . Same hatchet produced. Know it well. It was kept in the Greenhouse and Woodhouse but never saw it about the house. When the fire was nearly out I went round the front of the house with the same man. Had a lantern and looked at the window and I am under the impression that only one pain was broken then. I had no blood on my clothes from carrying the body.

Saw no blood on Lee’s arms and he said nothing to me about blood until afterwards in the kitchen when he help up his arms saying how he had broken the glass. It was after he had returned from the doctor that I knew his arm was cut. I noticed the smell of paraffin upon entering the Dining Room the second time, after the body had been removed, it smelt strongly. Prisoner wanted to go to “Compton” that morning but I wished him to remain at home. He however went.

X’d. I carried on the left side of the body. Consider it a matter of impossibility that Lee could have carried the body as he did and not have noticed the wound in the throat. Cannot say whether the shutter was bolted or not when I first entered the Dining Room . The Woodhouse is at the back of the kitchen and the Greenhouse 2 or 3 minutes from the house. Don’t think he could have gone to the Woodhouse in 2 minutes but he might have.

(Signed: William Gasking Walling)

Witness Index

2nd December 1884


I live at Beach Cottage Babbicombe. Am a fisherman. About ¼ to four Saturday morning the 15th Nov I was awoke by John Lee calling. My house is at the bottom of the hill on right hand side. Lee was calling Gasking and he also called me saying Miss Keyse’s house was on fire. I found Gasking and Lee with the body of Miss Keyse by the Dining Room door. I asked Gasking, as it was dark, who it was and he said “Miss Keyse”. The clothing on the left shoulder was smouldering, water was thrown over the body, Gasking asked Lee to fetch a carpet which he did.

I assisted in placing the body in the carpet and we took it to the outhouse. Lee remaining behind. I noticed a wound in the throat before the body was placed in the carpet. I said “what a wonderful burn in her throat thinking it was a burn.” Lee was present when I said this. It took us 5 or 6 minutes to go to the outhouse with the body. Up to this time I had not noticed any blood on the Lee’s arm saw no blood dripping him, fetched some buckets from Gaskings and took them into the Dining Room .

Lee afterwards helped me to place a knife under the water tap near the woodhouse. I assisted in putting out the fire, a pole was fetched and used, also a P.O. of (steps?) which were carried upstairs, saw Pearce, Bennett and Searle in the Honeysuckle Room, the steps were wanted to reach and knock away the ceiling. Sometime after 5 or 6 minutes perhaps Gasking said he wanted a hatchet or something short. Lee brought the hatchet to Pearce I think.

Pearce put this hatchet on the partition of Miss Keyse’s bedroom when he had finished. Prisoner wasn’t more than a minute in getting the hatchet after Gasking had asked for it. The hatchet was afterwards used in the Dining Room , I fetched it for Gasking who wanted it. It was on the top of the partition of Miss Keyse bedroom. Can’t say what became of this after this. Lee, his sister and I fetched the steps. He then told me that his arm was cut. But I hadn’t noticed it. The sister was carrying the light. Lee said he had cut his arm by breaking the window to let the smoke out. I noticed that the sleeves of his shirt were rolled up.

He had on at that time boots or shoes, also shirts and trousers, but cannot speak as to any collar, this would have been half and hour after my first arriving. Lee was out of my sight at times perhaps ten minutes. After the fire was out he showed me his arm in the kitchen, it was cut a good deal and I persuaded him to have it washed. He said he should go to the doctor and have it dressed. I saw the shutters in the Dining Room opened once about half past five, many were in the room then. I should say that the fire had been burning sometime when I arrived a great heat and I saw paper burning in the chair. Saw the fire in deceased’s bedroom, that had no connection with the Dining Room .

Can’t say how long this fire had been burning, I stood at the door, the nature of the partition in the Dining Room was such as to prevent the fire from spreading.

X’d. I should say that the fire in the Honeysuckle Room was caused from the fire below in the Dining Room . Lee carried the steps. Dark night. His arm might have been burnt then and I have not noticed it.

(Signed: Richard Harris)

Witness Index

2nd December 1884


I am a Constable at Babbicombe. On Sauturday 15th November about ½ past 4 from information I went to Miss Keyse’s house. Through the kitchen into the Dining Room saw Eliza and Jane Neck, Gasking, Bennett and the prisoner in this room. Eliza Neck came towards me and I asked where Miss Keyse was and she replied “burnt to death”. I asked if she was sure she was dead. She answered “Yes, they have carried her out behind” and she pointed out to me the place where the body had been found.

The fire was pretty well got under at that time. I went as far as the door and Lee came against me, noticed his dress, trousers, shirt and collar his shirt sleeves being rolled up. Noticed blood on both arms especially on the left. Asked him what he had done to his arms and he replied “I have cut them in the glass. I tried to open the window but could not so put my fist through to let the smoke out.” The shutters I know were closed. I then went upstairs to Honeysuckle Room saw fire there although pretty well out.

Prisoner was in this room as well as myself and Gasking. Prisoner torn down one of the curtains in this room, went into Miss Keyse’s bedroom which had been fired, upon coming downstairs I noticed a large pool of blood under the table near the Dining Room door. Also a cloth saturated with blood close by. Went to the outhouse and saw the body and the wound in the throat.

Left the house returned again and took charge of some of the rooms. About (a. 15?) Prisoner came to me on the landing upstairs.

He was trembling very much, I said to him “You are shaking” and he replied “Yes I am cold. This is bad job for me. I have lost a good friend”. He had on either boots or shoes and had them on when I first saw him in the Dining Room .

(Signed: Julius Meech)

Witness Index

3rd December 1884


I am a Coastguards man living at Babbicombe. On 15th November I was called to Miss Keyse’s house, arrived there shortly after 4.00 AM, proceeded upstairs to the Honeysuckle Room. Pearce was there also Phillips and Gasking. (A Prisoner of steps?) were brought to knock away the laths and ceiling and I heard Pearce call for a hammer, hatchet or something short. Prisoner was there and said “I’ll get you something”.

He brought the hatchet produced, brought it very quickly. He went downstairs. After the fire was out I was in the Dining Room . Up to this time I had not spoken to Lee. Lee came into the Dining Room , shortly after 7 it was. He put his arm on the sideboard and said “Oh, my dear arm”. I said “What is the matter” and he said he had cut it by breaking the window. I wouldn’t be certain but I think he had his coat on. He showed it to me, held up his arm so that I could see it. I turned over the sofa in this room and saw underneath a heap of charred papers. On the floor between couch and chair there was another heap of papers.

X’d. You asked me to look at you (by prisoner) arm.

(Signed: William Searle)

Witness Index

3rd December 1884


I am Chief Boatman at Babbicombe. I was called on Saturday 15th November to go to Miss Keyse’s. I got there about 4.00, took 2 buckets of water to a room over the Dining Room . Bennett and Pearce were there. Saw Lee as I was going up. Heard Pearce call for something to knock a hole in the partition. Lee said “I’ll get you something”. He went and brought back a hatchet, same produced. Was away a few seconds. I went downstairs, Pearce placed the hatchet on the partition of Miss Keyse’s bedroom when he had finished with it. I took it from there and gave it to Richard Harris to use.

(Signed: George Phillips)

Witness Index

3rd December 1884


I am surveyor to the St. Mary Church local board. I produce a model of the house of the late Miss Keyse, portion of the house, the scale of which is half inch to the foot. It correctly represents the portion of the house as shown by the model.

(Signed: W.D. Bowden)
Witness Index

3rd December 1884


I am a Police Constable at Babbicombe. On Saturday 15th November went to Miss Keyse’s about ½ past 5 AM. Was placed in charge of the outhouse where the body lay. About 6.15 AM I saw the Prisoner, John Lee, he was passing the boathouse going to Miss Keyse’s. I said “Oh, what is that for, where have you been”. He said “I have been to “Compton”, isn’t this a sad job.” I said it is. He then took his left arm in his right hand and said “Isn’t my arm bad”. I said “What’s the matter with it.” And he replied “I cut it on breaking the glass of the Dining Room window to let out the smoke”. I said that was a foolish thing to do as it only made a bad matter worse. He answered “I was obliged to do it as the smoke was so think, I couldn’t find my way back to door.”

He left me there and went in. At 9 AM I saw him again. He came to the door where I was shaking very much. I said “Hello, old man, you are feeling the cold”. He said “So would you if you had been running about all morning with only your shirt and trousers on.” He also said “Good God there’s such a thing should have happened. I have lost my best friend.” I replied “No doubt about that but didn’t you hear anything of this going on in the night”. He said “No I was dead asleep and the servant had great trouble to wake me when they came down.” He left and I did not see him again until he was in custody.

X’d. He had his coat on, great coat, when conversation took place.

(Signed: Frederick G. Boughton)

Witness Index

3rd December 1884


I am an Ironmonger at St. Mary Church. On the 6th November I supplied Miss Keyse with a gallon of Alexandria Oil. I sent it to the house by my boy we call George.

(Signed: William Salter)

Witness Index

3rd December 1884


I am a chimney sweep at St. Mary Church. On Saturday 15th November about ½ past 5 AM I was going to Sir Alfred Ryder’s of Wellswood. I met prisoner Lee walking towards Wellswood from St. Mary Church. He had a lantern at any rate a light in his hand. I spoke to say “Hello”. He stopped and said “Either I have gone or am going to Mrs McLean to tell her, her sister Miss Keyse was dead and burnt to death.” I replied “How did it occur.” He said he didn’t know how it occurred “They would all have been burnt to death if it had not been for his sister” “We shall never know how it occurred as she is dead”.

I asked how his sister knew of it, and he said “She smelt smoke and came down in the drawing room and saw the sofa on fire.” He said “Drawing Room”, I said “Is that all” and he said “Yes”.

I asked if there was any lamp or fire and he said “There was neither lamp, fire or candle.” Upon this I remarked “It was very strange.”

X’d. He said first he didn’t how it occurred.

(Signed: George Russell)

Witness Index

3rd December 1884


I am the wife of Richard Harris a Fisherman of Babbicombe. A few minutes before 4 AM 15th November I went to Miss Keyse’s house. My husband and Mr. Gasking were in the outhouse. Went home and returned in about ten minutes. Then saw my husband and prisoner Lee fixing a (kieve?) under a tap. I had a lantern, I noticed Lee’s arm after my husband had gone into the house. There was blood on the arm, right arm, did not see any wound. I asked what was the matter with it and he said “I have cut it with the glass.” He had his shirt sleeves rolled up. I then went into the house, into the Dining Room , someone wanted to open the shutters but was prevented.

(Signed: Elizabeth Harris)

Witness Index

3rd December 1884


I am Lady’s Maid to Mrs McLean of Compton Torquay. On Saturday 15th November the morning perhaps from ½ past 5 to ¼ to 6 I saw John Lee. He came into the yard of “Compton” and knocked at the door. I asked who was there and he said “Miss Blatchford come down, come down, Miss Keyse’s house is burning”. I went into another room and spoke to him from the window. I asked him if it was much and he said “The dining is on fire.” I asked where Miss Keyse was and he said “She’s burnt” I asked again “Where is she” and he said then “She’s dead”. I think I said “It’s not possible” and he replied “Yes her is”. He told me I must tell Mrs McLean “Jane said I was to tell you and you must tell Mrs McLean.” I think that was all he said.

X’d. He appeared not to like to tell me. I was much shocked.

(Signed: Mary Blatchford)

Witness Index

3rd December 1884


I am cook at Mrs McLeans of Compton Torquay. On Saturday 15th November I saw Lee come into the house about ten to 6 AM. I came down from my bedroom. He said to me that Miss Keyse’s house was on fire and that she was burnt to death. That was all he said to me. He did hold up his arm and say that he had cut it by breaking the window. Can’t say which arm it was.

(Signed: A. Bolden)

Witness Index

End of Archive


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