28 May 1904

Hyde Butcher in Custody — A Farmyard Struggle

At Dukinfield Police Court, on Wednesday, Henry Gilbert WATSON, butcher, of Clarendon Place, Hyde, was charged with unlawfully shooting Samuel Lester SMITH, a joiner, of 27, Godley Hill, Godley.

The evidence of the injured man, who is employed by the Great Central Railway Company, was that on Sunday afternoon, accompanied by Abram DAVIES, James TAYLOR, and Daniel ATKINSON, three Godley men, he had a stroll through Hattersley. The public road passes through the yard attached to Field’s Farm, and as they passed along SMITH patted the head of the farmer’s dog.

The prisoner, WATSON, who was standing near the house, which belongs to a relative, remarked that he wished the dog had taken hold of SMITH, and the latter replied that if it had done he might have taken hold of him (WATSON). An altercation then ensued, and eventually the prisoner took up a three-foot rail and threatened to split prosecutor’s head open.

In self-defence SMITH closed with WATSON, and after a struggle threw him to the ground. Prisoner then got up, and as he (SMITH) was walking away one of his companions shouted, “Come on, he’s coming with the gun.” He turned sideways, prisoner pointed the weapon at him, and fired at a distance of 20 yards. He received the shot in his right thigh. He returned to Hyde and saw Dr. SCOTT, who had twice probed for the shot. He could not, however, recover it, and he was in great pain.

The Mayor (to prisoner): I suppose you went deliberately to the house for the gun? — Prisoner: I was bound to get it. There were four of them, and they kicked me in the head. I did it in self-defence. — Cross-examined by the prisoner, the prosecutor denied that knocked him in the gutter, and that his companions maltreated him. — Did you kick my teeth loose? — No.

Superintendent CROGHAN said the offence was a very serious one, and had the shot been a few inches higher, death would have been instantaneous. — The magistrates remanded prisoner, and refused to allow bail.

Prisoner was again brought up in custody at the Dukinfield Police Court, on Thursday, before Alderman C. H. BOOTH (chairman), J. KERFOOT, and Mr. W. S. LOWE. He was undefended, but took notes of the evidence. His father and his wife and child were also present.

Samuel Lester SMITH said: I live at 27, Godley Hill, Godley, and am a joiner in the employ of the Great Central Railway Co. at Godley. Last Sunday afternoon I and three companions went for a walk along a footpath leading through Field’s Farm, Hattersley, of which the prisoner’s father is tenant.

In going through the farmyard I saw a dog fastened to a chain close to the path. I patted the dog on the head. The prisoner was standing at the door of the farmhouse, some 15 yards away. After I had patted the dog prisoner remarked to me, “The dog ought to have bitten you.” I replied, “The dog is quiet enough.”

He then said, “It ought to have got hold of you.” I replied, “If it had I might have got hold of you.” Prisoner then picked up a rail about 3ft. long, and came over a wall towards me. He said, “I will split your ----- head open.” When he had got within a yard of me he raised the rail to strike me.

I closed with him, and we got on the ground. I was on top, and I took the rail off him. He then ran towards the house, and I walked on. At this time my companions were standing a few yards below, and could see what took place. One of them shouted, “Come on, he’s coming with a gun.” I turned round sideways, and saw the prisoner pointing a gun at me.

The Chairman: Did he fire? — SMITH: Yes, and shot me in the right leg above the knee and above the thigh. — The Chairman: The gun was charged with shot? Yes. The prisoner said something, but I could not catch what it was. I walked to my friends, and the prisoner came after us with the gun again, and said, “I will do for you next time I hit you.”

On the following day I went to Dr SCOTT, of Hyde. I have suffered considerable pain ever since, and the pellets have not yet been extracted from my thigh. — Superintendent CROGHAN: Did you know the prisoner? — SMITH: I have never spoken to him in my life, but I know him by sight. I know his father lives at Field’s Farm.

Prisoner: When you came through the farmyard past the dog, was it close to the footpath? Yes. — How many yards was it from the dog to the building? — The Chairman: Let me point out that you are charged with shooting this man. There mere fact of the dog being off the footpath, or so many yards away from the building, won’t add very materially to the issue. What have you got to show is why you, did shoot.

Prisoner: You say I picked up a piece of rail 3ft. long? — SMITH: Yes. Didn’t you say would do me and the ---- dog and all? No. Didn’t say you knock me down? No. — And didn’t you kick me in the mouth? No. — And didn’t all the others kick me? No. — Didn’t they say “Give it him now you’ve got him down?” No. — Didn’t I run into the house? Yes. Didn’t you follow me? No. Didn’t my wife see you? I don’t know; I didn’t see her.

Didn’t I get a gun? Yes. — Did I put it to my shoulder? Yes, just as I turned round. — Didn’t the gun accidentally go off? No, it did not. — How many yards were you away? About 20. — If I was 20 yards away and shot you on purpose with a 4in. shot cartridge, don’t you think there would be more than two pellets in you? I don’t know. — The Chairman: You might be a bad shot and missed him altogether.

Prisoner: Didn’t your friend say, “Has he hit you?” Yes. — What did you say? I said you had hit me. — What did I say? I don’t know. — Didn’t I say, “Thank God, I have missed you”? No. — When I followed you down the field again had I the gun? No. — Didn’t one of the other men say he would smash my head open? No. — And didn’t I call you cowards? I could not tell what you said.

Superintendent CROGHAN: When your companions shouted that prisoner was coming with the gun did you turn round? Yes. Had he the gun at his shoulder then? Yes. — Deliberately pointing at you? Yes. — As if he was taking aim? Yes.

Dr Robert SCOTT, practising at Hyde, said SMITH came to his surgery on Monday, and complained of having been shot. He examined his right leg, and found on the outside of the thigh a puncture and a certain amount of bruising. He probed the wound four inches, but could not locate any pellets. SMITH came the following day, and witness again probed the wound with the same result.

The Chairman: I suppose it is not an uncommon thing to probe and not find a bullet? — Dr SCOTT: No. There was contused wound on the inside of the left thigh, but no penetration of the skin. There was no scorching of the clothing. — Superintendent CROGHAN: If SMITH had faced the prisoner the results would have been worse. — Dr SCOTT: Yes, the shot might have hit the femoral artery. — Superintendent CROGHAN: And he might have bled to death.

The Chairman: He might have died, but he has not. — Superintendent CROGHAN: I apply for a remand until Monday at Hyde. — The Deputy Clerk: Have you any application to make for bail. — Prisoner’s father: Yes. — The magistrates then granted bail, prisoner in £20 and his father in another £20,

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