Chapter 6-9. December 29, 1868 — The Trial — Day one

This was the first day of the trial, which the Brighton Guardian newspaper titled The Newmarket Murder. It took place at the Sussex Winter Asizes, Lewes, before Mr Baron Channell. Martin Brown, alias Henry Martin Vinall, was charged with the wilful murder of David Baldy. A jury, principally from Brighton, was empanelled to try the case. Mr Serjeant Sleigh and Mr Lord appeared for the prosecution, and Mr Besley and Mr Blake were for the defence.

The prisoner, who was described as a good-looking young man, appeared in court in a white slop, fustian jacket, and corduroy trousers. It was reported that he pleaded Not Guilty in a firm voice, and seemed quite unappalled by his fearful position. On the application of Mr Besley, all the witnesses, with the exception of the medical men, were ordered out of court.

It was to profound silence that Mr Sleigh rose to address the jury. He said that he need not bespeak their most anxious attention while he endeavoured to narrate to them as briefly as he could the circumstances and facts out of which arose this enquiry—one, which he need scarcely say, could be second to nothing that could engage the attention of a jury. It was an enquiry into the question whether or not the prisoner at the bar had been the perpetrator of that which undoubtedly they would have no hesitation in feeling was a very atrocious murder, on the person of the old man Baldey, whose death formed the subject matter of their investigation. It appeared that the old man, Baldey, was a farm labourer somewhere about sixty years of age, and had been for some time previous to his death, which occurred on Friday, the 9th October, in the employment of a gentleman named Hodson, a farmer in this immediate neighbourhood, at a village called Kingston. He might
state that Mr Hodson did not personally attend to the whole of the management of his business, he being a very elderly gentleman. In the payment of the men and other matters he was assisted by his grandson. The deceased at the time of his death was employed on the farm attending to bullocks, and lived in a cottage on Newmarket Hill, which is about a mile and a half from his master’s house on the way over a bleak hill from Kingston to Rottingdean. Therefore, deceased had to go a mile and a half to and from his work every night and morning. Two of his sons were also in the employ of Mr Hodson, and on every Friday fortnight the father was in the habit of taking the wages of all three. The prisoner was also occasionally in the employment of Mr Hodson, and having lodged at the house of Baldey, was perfectly acquainted with the habits of the deceased. The learned counsel then entered into an able summary of the facts of the case. When the old man Baldey left home in the morning it was arranged that on his return in the evening he and his wife were to go to Brighton in order to pay some bills. The deceased, having received his money, left Kingston with about £3 15s. While in the village he called at the house of a person of the name of Crocker, and that was the last time he was seen alive except by the person who murdered him. The body of the deceased was found within 500 yards of his own cottage, with bruises on the face, marks of powder on his clothes, and three bullets in the body. It
would seem that the murderer must have lain concealed in some brushwood near the spot where the body was found, and as soon as Baldey passed discharged the contents of the gun into his back. The proceedings of the prisoner were next gone into by the learned Serjeant, who referred to the fact that the bullets found in the body of deceased and others discovered in prisoner’s box corresponded. Parts of a gun found near the body of deceased and other parts found in Newmarket plantation fitted each other, and would be shown to form part of a gun belonging to the prisoner. The absconding of the alleged murderer, the false accounts he gave of himself, his apprehension by Supt. Crowhurst at Maidstone, when he gave a false name, and other circumstances afterwards proved in evidence, were minutely detailed, and, in conclusion, Serjt. Sleigh expressed his assurance that they would not allow their indignation at the enormity of the crime to warp their judgement in this important case. The speech of the learned counsel occupied three quarters of an hour.

11:20 Tuesday 30th December 1868 — Witnesses

Harriet Baldy, widow of the murdered man. She deposed: “The deceased was my husband; in October we lived in Newmarket Cottage on the hill between Newmarket and Rottingdean. Joseph Hollands, a lodger, and our own five children,—David, Philip, Walter, Mark, and Sarah,—lived with us. Prisoner had lodged at our house, but left about six weeks or 2 months before my husbands death, and had since lodged at Mrs Wickham’s, at Kingston. While he lodged at my house he and my two eldest sons worked for Mr Hodson. Deceased took his own and his sons’ money on alternate Fridays, and usually returned home on those occasions by way of the sheep hill from Kingston. Sometimes he came round by the road by Anderson’s public house [Newmarket Tavern?]. On Friday morning, the 9th Oct., about halfpast 5, he left home to “tend” the beasts and had 5s 3d in money with him. It had been arranged that if our son Philip had taken the money [their wages on his way home], deceased and I were to go to Brighton. Deceased did not come back that night and no search was made for him, as we thought he had gone to Lewes about his bad leg, and was staying with a friend. One day when I was going to Brighton, prisoner asked me to purchase some bullets and powder, as he said he could get half his living by shooting rabbits on the hill. I bought the bullets and powder at Mr Weston’s at Brighton, for him, and took them home and gave to him. He had then been at my house about a fortnight and three days.”

Cross-examined: “I never had more than two lodgers at one time. Had a lodger once whose name was not known even to myself. Brown had a revolver which he showed to me when I bought the bullets and powder. He said there was a rare lot of rabbits on the hill and he should knock some of them over. Deceased slept away from home twice in six months. Except a few words about the dog, my husband and the prisoner were on good terms.”

His Lordship: “How long was the quarrel about the dog before the 9th October?”
Harriet Baldy: “It was a week before Brown left.”

Mr Besley: “Your husband wished the dog to be tied up and not taken out by Brown, because he said it would deprive him of his bread.” [To be continued. . . ]

Previous: Chapter 6–8. October 19, 1868 — Adjourned Inquest

Table of Contents

Next: Chapter 6-10. January 1869 — Confession and Execution

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s