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1863.] The Roupell Forgeries. 273 - *
discovery was imminent. He further stated that on the 9th or 1 of September, 1856, his father told him he meant to make a new will giving him the whole of his property, and that he “glanced" at the will of 1850, and did not o see the dispositions of property which it made; but that he dissuaded his sither "...a o from altering his will. He then went on to state the circumstances under ". . which, after his father's death, he forged the will of September, 1856. He said -he took the will of 1850, on which the codicil of August, 1856, was written. He said he took out the will and put it into his writing-desk, and read it within a week. It was singular that he should not have read it before. This was a part of the case to which the jury would do well to attend. The witness said the will of 1850 gave the estate to his brother. If so, and if the will of 1856 was forged, then that will of 1850 would give the estate to Richard; and if the deed was not valid, he would be entitled to recover. It was to be borne in mind that it was sworn that in 1856 the old man had spoken of giving the estate to William. If it was so given by the will of 1850, then, of course, there would be a difficulty in the plaintiff's case (even supposing the deed not valid) if the will of 1856 was also invalid, which gave the property to the widow. The witness, however, stated all the circumstances of his alleged forgery of the will of September, 1856. He swore that the whole of it, attestations and all, were in his writing. That will had been proved, and made himself and his mother co-executors. There was no renunciation by the mother; but the will was proved by him alone. No doubt, the proctors were surprised at a new will so soon after the codicil of the 30th August, 1856, confirming the will of 1850. It was unfortunate that the will of 1850 was not forthcoming, and the draught of it had been destroyed by the proctors when the other was proved. It was not the habit of respectable proctors to destroy draughts of wills in their office, but the destruction of it was excused in this case by the circumstance that the latter will had been proved, and so the draught of the former seemed useless, and on the occasion of a removal of the office was destroyed with other papers deemed useless. The will, however, of September, 1856, was proved by the son William alone, the mother having written a letter to the proctors, to the effect that she did not desire to interpose. The letter spoke of the confidence reposed in him both by his father and mother, and was read for the purpose of showing the influence he had acquired over both of them. At all events, he obtained probate of the will of 1856, and went on to state that the will of 1850 devised the Warley estate to Richard, and, as he said, divided the whole of the property among “the family” pretty equally. He stated that in the will of 1850 he was described as “my son called William,” and it was suggested that this had a good deal to do with his resolution to supersede and suppress that will. But he did not destroy it, he said, until March, 1862. He admitted that he had practically cheated the defendants out of 12,000l., and that, though it was not, as he said, his purpose to get the property back for his family, it would be the incidental effect of his evidence to do so. And he said he had committed frauds and forgeries to the amount of about 200,000l. Such was the evidence of William Roupell. He would now direct their attention to the evidence of the attesting witnesses. They denied that they ever saw R. P. Roupell sign a deed; but that their own signatures to the attestation of the deed were genuine. The only persons present when they signed, they said, were themselves and William Roupell. There was evidence as to handwriting of several classes of witnesses. Persons who had been acquainted with the testator and saw him write, persons who were acquainted with William Roupell and knew his handwriting, were called to prove that the signatures to the deed or will were his and
not his father's. The great object of their evidence was to show that the deed was really executed by William Roupell alone—not by his father. They stated that they thought the attestation clause above their signatures was written when they signed, but they could not say that the whole of it was there, though they saw “something" written above. They said they did not remember the word or name “Roupell” above other names, but they said that the word “R. P. Roupell” in the attestation clause was in William Roupell's handwriting. This was to be compared with the evidence of Edwin Whitaker that it was in William Roupell's handwriting. In April, 1862, just after William Roupell had absconded, these witnesses were seen by Mr. Covington, on the part of the defendants, and he was called to contradict them as to their not having said then that they had not seen the old man sign the deed, and as to their saying that they should not have put their names if they had not seen him sign. Their own positive evidence now, however, was that they had not seen him sign. No doubt, if a deed duly attested was produced, it was not enough that the attesting witnesses did not recollect the signature of the donor or testator; but in this instance they explained that they thought that they were attesting something else, and they both swore positively that they did not see him execute the deed. The evidence of Mr. Covington was that they did not then say they had never seen the old man sign the deed, though Dove said he did not recollect that he had done so. The evidence was not quite reconcilable; but the two attesting witnesses now swore positively to the broad fact that they neither of them saw the old man sign the deed. Mr. Edwin Whitaker, brother of the Mr. Whitaker of whom so much had been said, was called and examined on the subject so far as concerned his own attestation of William Roupell's execution of the deed. He said that when William Roupell signed he signed the second attestation beneath the first, which was of R. P. Roupell's execution. He said the whole of the first attestation of R. P. Roupell was already written and completely filled when he attested “William Roupell” beneath it. It was not necessary in law that William Roupell should execute the deed, but he did so. And the evidence of Mr. Edwin Whitaker was that the whole attestation of William Roupell's execution was sent out from the office ready written out, and filled in with the words “in the presence of,” in his handwriting. This was to be compared with the evidence of Truman and Dove. The evidence of Mr. Edwin Whitaker was that the first attestation clause was filled in with the name of R. P. Roupell before it was sent out from the office. If so, of course it must have been there when Truman and Dove signed. And they said William Roupell covered it. Such was the evidence on this part of the case and the remarks which arose upon it. Then, as to the leases, the clerk to the law stationers, Messrs. Waterlow, was called to prove that they were copied on the 5th and 7th of January, 1856. The son of old Muggeridge, one of the witnesses to the will of September, 1856, was called to show that the deed was not genuine, and he said he believed it was not; and so he said of the will. Adverting to the evidence of the two tenants, Haws and Springham, the judge noticed that the latter produced his receipt for the rent of July, 1856, signed by the testator, and spoke to his making allowances for repairs, &c., up to September, 1856, the time of his death. This evidence the learned judge said was to show that, whatever might have been the intentions of old Roupell, he had not really carried them out so far as to part with the property to his son. The tenants had (he observed) agreed to hold of the mortgagees in 1862, on the expiration of their original leases, and the mortgagees had sued them for rent on the leases up to Michaelmas, 1862, when their
leases expired; and also for use and occupation for their subsequent holding under that acknowledgment of tenancy. Those actions had been defended by the now plaintiff's attorneys really on his behalf, and the actions were ultimately settled. A good deal had been said as to that, but after the tenants' acknowledgment of tenancy to the mortgagees, the tenants could hardly have defended that action successfully. The attorneys for the now plaintiff, therefore, eventually let judgment go by default in those actions, and brought the present action, which was one of ejectment, to try the title. There was now a direct claim by the plaintiff as entitled to the property on the grounds he had stated. The plaintiff relied upon acts of apparent ownership exercised by old Roupell after the transfer of the copyholds. About the fact of that transfer there was no doubt or dispute, though it was suggested by the plaintiff's counsel that it was with a view to “enfranchisement." There may have been an intention in old Roupell to give his son William the estate, but it also appeared that he thought it would be advantageous to have the copyhold transferred to him. The son was undoubtedly “admitted” in September, 1855, and there was evidence that the father at that time spoke to Haws as to his intention to give the property to his son William. Whether he meant by that the copyhold part of Bolens farm, or the whole of the farm, or both the farms, was left a little in doubt. On the part of the defendants these expressions were strongly relied upon, while on the part of the plaintiff equal reliance was placed on the evidence as to acts of ownership exercised by the testator down to the very month in which he died. Haws certainly proved a settlement with him on the 8th of September, 1856, only four days before his death, and various allowances between March and September, 1856, for repairs, &c. That witness likewise spoke to acts of ownership by the old man in June as to trees marked for felling. After the death of the testator the tenants paid rent to William Roupell. It was stated by Haws that the testator said to him, “I have given your place to my son, and you will have a lawyer for your landlord.” This witness spoke to a letter in September to the old man about marking timber, and to a visit by William Roupell about it. The evidence of this witness and of the other tenant was very strongly relied upon by both parties. On the part of the defendants there was little evidence as to new and distinct facts, apart from that as to handwriting. The only witnesses on their side as to new facts were Mr. Covington and Mr. Edwin Whitaker, already adverted to. He was aware of no new facts on their side, except to lay a foundation for the evidence as to handwriting. There were no new substantive facts beyond what he had noticed. As to the evidence upon handwriting, the jury had to form their own opinion upon it. It was competent to experts to give evidence upon the matter, but probably it was entitled to little weight. There were other witnesses—tenants and others—who had actually had transactions with old Roupell, and seen him frequently write. Under a late Act of Parliament (the Common Law Procedure Act, 1854) documents might be put in for the purpose of comparison of handwriting. The jury had heard a great deal about peculiarities of handwriting, and the general habit of writing; and a great many witnesses, having compared the deed with their receipts, had given their opinion to the jury. Upon this head of evidence there was very little that could be said, and the jury must form their judgment upon it; but, whatever weight they might give to it, there were other and more important facts to be considered. The evidence for the defendants as to handwriting, that the deed was genuine, was certainly very strong and cogent; but by itself it would probably come to little, apart from all the other facts and circumstances of the case. The evidence of William Roupell certainly was to be received with the utmost distrust, unless it was supported by other evidence so far as it could reasonably be so. The plaintiff's counsel contended that it was so. If the jury were not satisfied that he was speaking the truth they must not, of course, rely upon his testimony; but, if they were so, then they might find for the plaintiff, provided the other evidence supported the case on his behalf. In conclusion, the learned Baron said there were several questions which he should leave to them:— First,-Was the deed of gift signed by old Roupell in the presence of the two witnesses? Secondly,–Assuming that it was not so, was it actually signed and sealed by him, whether or not in the presence of the witnesses? * Thirdly,–Was the will of the 2nd of September, 1856, the will of the testator? (the effect of which would be that the will of 1850 would be revoked.) Fourthly,–If that will of 1850 was not revoked, did it devise this estate to the plaintiff, Richard Roupell? The jury then retired to consider their verdict. It was about twenty-five minutes past two o'clock. They were absent for some hours. Shortly before six they returned into court, and, the officer calling on them in the usual way, “Are you agreed on your verdict?”— The foreman answered,—Not quite. We are agreed as to three of the issues, but not as to the second (whether the deed was executed)—nor are we, as to that, at all likely to agree. The learned Judge desired to have the paper of questions he had given to the jury; and, looking at it, said he thought he need not trouble them to agree as to the one on which they were not agreed. His lordship handed it down to the counsel on each side to look at it, and they did so; on which Mr. Serjeant Shee said he thought the jury had better give their answers openly. The learned Judge asked if the second question were withdrawn by the defendants. Mr. Bovill said he only desired a general verdict. The learned Judge said he had put the question to the jury at the desire of the defendants' counsel, and could not withdraw it without their consent. Mr. Bovill said it seemed to him the main point in the case. Upon this The learned Judge said he must desire them to retire again to reconsider that question. The answers of the jury were as follows:— To the first question,-Was the deed of gift executed in the presence of the two witnesses?—they answered it was not. Upon the second question, as to whether it was executed by the testator, they were not agreed. To the third question,-Was the will of September 2, 1856, the will of the testator?—they found it was not so. To the fourth question,-Whether the will of 1850 devised the estate to the plaintiff-they answered that there was not sufficient evidence to enable them to find. The jury retired again about six o'clock. At half-past seven they again returned into court, having been out five hours, and The foreman being asked if they were agreed, said, No; we are in the same
position as when we went out, and I regret to say that, however long we may remain together, there is no prospect of our being able to agree.
The learned Judge then prepared in writing another paper, in which he said there was an alteration of the fourth question.
At ten o'clock, the jury being still unable to agree, and declaring that there was no prospect of their coming to an unanimous conclusion, the learned Judge, after conferring with the counsel on both sides, declared the jury to be discharged, and so this long-contested case ended, like the suit tried at Guildford, without any decision.
Four out of six prisoners charged with being concerned in forgeries on the Bank of England were put upon their trial at the Central Criminal Court, on the 7th of January, before Mr. Justice Blackburn and a jury—namely, George Buncher, 40, described as a butcher, William Burmett, 31, labourer, Richard Brewer, 34, mould-maker, and James Griffiths, 40, printer. The prisoners were formally indicted for uttering a forged 5l. Bank of England note, but upon that simple issue the whole case for the prosecution in all its parts and ramifications was disclosed. Sir Fitzroy Kelly, with Mr. Bovill, Q.C., Mr. Giffard, and Mr. Mathews, was counsel for the prosecution; Mr. Serjeant Ballantine, Mr. D. D. Keane, and Mr. F. H. Lewis, defended the prisoner Brewer, and Mr. Pater the prisoner Buncher. The prisoners Burnett and Griffiths had no counsel. A model upon a large scale of the bank-paper mills at Laverstoke, with all their contiguous offices and grounds, was placed in sight of the jury. Sir F. Kelly having stated the case for the prosecution, the first witness called was Henry Webb, a city detective police officer. He deposed to going to the house of the prisoner Griffiths, at 2, Brown's-buildings, Winsen-street, Birmingham, on the 27th of October, accompanied by Inspectors Tandy and Mauton. On getting admission to the house they went upstairs to the front room on the first floor, where they found Griffiths with his shirt sleeves tucked up, and his hands covered with ink. In the room was a printing-press, which seemed to be in use, and on it were twenty-one forged Bank of England notes, without the date or signature. On a bed in the room were twenty forged 107.notes finished, and a half-sheet of rupee paper wrapped up in gutta percha, and twenty-five forged 5l.-notes. In the room, close to the fireplace, there was a stove, on which lay a “mother-plate,” so called, for engraving the body of the 10l.-note. On the table in the same room there was also a mother-plate for a 5l.-note. In the same room, behind the door, were two other copper plates for making the water-mark. There was also a date and signature plate, all which he produced. After they had searched the house witness asked Griffiths if he had any more plates in his possession. He said he had some buried in a field, and that if Inspectors Tandy and Mauton and witness would go with him he would point out the place. They did so, and on their way he said he had been engaged in printing forged Bank of England notes since 1846; that he had printed the whole of the forged notes on the Bank of England for the last seventeen years, and that he had printed on genuine paper, stolen from the mill,