Three men, named Patrick Slaven, John Williams, and Matthew Traill, were placed at the bar charged with assault with intent to ravish, as also culpable homicide. The indictment set forth that on the 22d September last in the Queen's Park, Edinburgh, near the house known as the iron house, situated in the part of the park known as the Hunter's Bog, they attacked Margaret Lindsay Cunningham, now deceased, then residing with her mother, Mary Brown or Cunningham, a widow, at Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, and that Patrick Slaven attempted to ravish her, while John Williams and Matthew Trail assisted in holding the deceased down; (2) that about 170 yards southward from the iron house they repeated. the assault, Slaven again attempting to ravish while Williams and Traill assisted in holding the deceased down; and (3) after she had arisen from the ground and was endeavouring to escape by running in the direction of Salisbury Crags, the three accused followed and pursued the deceased to the edge of the rocks, and that she, while endeavouring to escape from the pursuit of the prisoners, fell over the edge of the rocks to the ground near the path known as the Radical Road, a depth of 140 ft., whereby her skull and pelvis were fractured, and she received mortal injuries whereof she immediately or soon after wards died, and was thus culpably bereft of life.
An objection to the relevancy of the indictment was repelled by his Lordship.
James Craig, a compositor, who was the first witness, deposed that while taking a walk in the Queen's Park about seven o'clock on the morning of the 23d September last he found the body of the deceased lying at the foot of Salisbury Crags.
Malcolm MacIntyre, gatekeeper at the Queen's Park, gave corroborative evidence, and identified Slaven and Williams as men who before the death of the woman were frequently hanging about the park at night with field glasses in their hands. The distance between the iron house and the cliff was about 300 yards, and the ground there was very rough and hilly.
Alexander Cooper, 27 years of age, said he was porter at the University Club. Last summer he was keeping company with Margaret Cunningham. On the night of the 22d September last he met the girl by appointment about eight o'clock, and they went for a walk in the Queen's Park. They sat down together on the face of the rock near St. Margaret's Loch. While sitting together they heard a piece of stone fall beside them, and then two men came from behind the rock, and demanded what they were doing there. The men spoke in a very authoritative tone. One of them took him by the left arm and led him off towards the Queen's Drive, while the other dragged the girl away up the Hunter's Bog. He thought the men were detectives, or men of authority clearing the park. Witness asked the man who had hold of him to let the girl and himself away, promising to recompense him. He gave the man a couple shillings, which he took, telling witness to go straight to the east gate of the park, and he would send the girl to him. Witness waited at the east gate for about half an hour, but she did not turn up, and imagining that by that time the girl must have gone out of the park by another gate, he went to Fountainbridge, where her mother lived. As near as he could say Traill was the man who took hold of him. He could not, however, distinctly identify him.
Cross-examined by Mr. Young-- He was only with the man who led him away for about four minutes. This took place about ten o'clock.
By the Court-- The girl was about nineteen years of age. She had been a servant in the University Club when he was there. She left the club shortly before this occurrence took place. It was a moonlight night. When the man let witness go he made him promise to go straight out of the park by the east gate. The man then went off in the direction in which the girl was taken.
Malcolm Mclntyre (recalled) stated, in answer to the Court, that Slaven and Williams were in the habit of going about the park with field-glasses watching for men and women sweethearting. He never saw them interrupt anybody. Last winter a com plaint was made to him by a lady and gentleman in the park that they were molested by five men. Witness, on proceeding to investigate the matter, came across five men in the Hunter's Bog, one of whom wan Williams. This state of matters had existed for twenty years, and he had known the prisoners Slaven and Williams as having frequented the park for several years. He had also seen Traill in the park.
Peter Clarey, from the prison of Edinburgh, was next put in the witness-box. He was informed by his Lordship that he would not be prosecuted for anything he said, his duty being to tell the truth. Clarey then deposed that he was a cabinetmaker in Edinburgh, and was thirty-seven years of age. The first he saw of the girl Cunningham on the occasion in question was in the company of Slaven.
They came together from the direction of the Haggis Knowe, and crossed to the iron house. Williams and Traill were with witness. He met these two between eight and nine o'clock that night near St. Anthony's Well in the Hunter's Bog. He saw Slaven half-an-hour afterwards. The three of them followed Slaven and the woman. When they got to the iron house they found Slaven and the girl sitting together. Slaven and the woman then jumped to their feet on a sudden, and went up in the direction of the quarry above the iron house. When he got over to the quarry the woman was struggling and screaming with distress. The woman called out “murder” and “police,” and then ran away. Williams ran after her. He could not swear that Traill followed her at all. When the woman got out of the sight of witness he heard her still screaming. At that time Slaven was standing beside witness. Traill was also within sight of witness, and sitting on the top of the knowe. When he saw what Slaven was doing to the girl none of the others interfered, Slaven told him that he got the woman at the Haggis Knowe. Witness asked Slaven if she was a prostitute, and he answered “ "No.” Witness asked how he knew that, and Slaven answered “Fine,".
Witness then asked where the woman belonged to, and Slaven answered-- " Somewhere in Fountainbridge.
By the Court-- He had known Slaven and Traill about 17 or 18 years, and Williams about eight or nine years. The whole of them had been in the habit of going to the Hunter's Bog at night. Traill and Williams had field-glasses. The glasses were for looking after men and women in the park. If they saw men and women together witness and his companions interrupted them for a piece of lark.
Lord Young-- For anything else?
Witness -- No.
Lord Young-- Not for money?
Witness-- I have got money.
Lord Young-- Well, it was for money?
Witness-- It was not exactly money.
Lord Young-- Come away now; your purpose is plain enough. It was for money?
Witness-- No, my Lord; I have not got money this year.
Lord Young-- You have not been lucky this year. (Laughter.)
Cross-examined by Mr. Young-- Slaven had not been in his company when he had got money from people, but the other two prisoners had been with him on such occasions. After the woman went away witness found fault with Slaven for meddling with her if she was not a prostitute. Witness had watched men and women in company with a policeman as well as rangers.
Cross-examined by Mr. Cragie-- Williams came back in a few seconds after pursuing the woman up the hill, and she was screaming after that. He did not see Williams do anything to the woman. Traill was in the company of witness during the whole time he was in the park. Witness saw a stranger come up to the iron house after Slaven.
By the Court-- Witness gave the names of six or seven men with whom he used to frequent the park, and the majority of whom had field glasses.
Lord Young-- Were you in the habit of dividing the money you got amongst you?
Witness-- Yes; when they got hold of a couple they sometimes pretended to be detectives and occasionally got a couple of shillings or half-a-crown to say nothing about the matter.
Peter Somerville, joiner, deposed that he went to the Queen's Park on the night in question, and met James Pearson at the top of the Hunter's Bog. The two of them saw Clarey and the prisoner Traill lying amongst some stones watching a couple of people. After being there some time Williams came up to the company from the direction of the Hunter's Bog. Pearson and witness then returned up the bog. They had not gone far when they saw what appeared to be a lad and lass coming up the bog from the direction of St. Margaret's Loch, and disappear behind the iron house. Immediately afterwards they saw one man and then other three men running in the same direction. Witness and Pearson retraced their steps, and discovered Trail lying on the grass to the left of the house, and near to the other was Williams, while Clarey was standing in the centre. They appeared to be watching earnestly the other corner of the house. Pearson said to witness, “Come away out of this; it is the same lot." Witness and his friend then went away. While proceeding homewards up the bog he heard a couple of screams.
James Pearson, joiner, gave corroborative evidence. He stated further that when he and Somerville returned to the iron house to discover what the men were doing, Clarey said Traill told the witness to go away and take Somerville with him.
James Todd, electro-plater's polisher, deposed to having been in the Hunter's Bog on the night in question. It was a windy night, and during a lull in the wind ho heard a scream.
William Angus, detective officer, gave details as to the condition of the ground near the iron house. His idea of the disaster was that the girl fell over the cliff while running towards the lights of Holyrood.
Dr. Littlejohn stated that the result of his examination of the girl's body was that she must have fallen from a height.
The declarations of the prisoners were then read. They all admitted having been in company with the girl, but denied having pursued her over the cliffs. Patrick Slaven stated that he was 39 years of age and Was a shoemaker. He admitted having been in the Queen's Park on the night in question. He met a woman running towards St. Anthony's Well. She came with him along the bog. While sitting together, about a half-a-dozen men surrounded them and the girl got up and ran away. Traill and Williams followed her for a short distance but soon came back and they all went away in company. He saw nothing more of the girl. She complained that while in the park with her sweetheart they were attacked by a. a couple of men. In subsequent declaration Slaven said the woman was quite agreeable to go with him. Williams said he was 42 years of age and Traill 35. All the prisoners are married men, Williams being a stereotyper and Traill a printer.
There was no evidence for the defense.
The Lord-Advocate, in addressing the jury, said if they were to believe the evidence a system of most abominable espionage had been practiced by a gang of ruffians for a number of years in the Queen's Park for purposes either of lewdness or blackmail, which were equally discreditable to our common humanity. Whatever might be the result of this case, all right-thinking citizens had reason to congratulate themselves on the prospect that such an abominable state of things had been broken up, and was not likely to recur. That men should be found in the country going about with night glasses in a place like the Queen's Park for the purpose of observing nasty things going on there; and making money out of them was too horrible to conceive.
Mr. McWatt addressed the jury on behalf of Slaven, Mr. Cragie for Williams, and Mr. Young as representing Traill.
Lord Young, in summing up said that if they were to believe the evidence of the witness Clarey, the prisoners belonged to a class of men of whom it would require stronger language than his Lordship cared to make use of to express his abhorrence. At the same time one could not help reflecting that perhaps it was not altogether desirable that the Queen's Park should be a quite safe and secret place for all purposes of immorality, so that noxious human vermin might have their uses as well as other vermin in promoting purity and cleanliness of habit in others.
The jury retired at half-past four o'clock, and re turned to Court at ten minutes past five o'clock, with a unanimous verdict of guilty against all the prisoners. (Applause in Court)
Lord Young, addressing the prisoners, said this was a very sad case. If they had contemplated anything of the kind that resulted it would have been a case of murder. His Lordship could not imagine that for a single moment. But they were very bad men all of them, for they were engaged in wickedness that very night, and the poor girl was abused in this way, and lost her life in this place. He could not in the discharge of his duties pronounce a light sentence upon them. He was almost persuaded that a heavy sentence-- one that would remove them from this place for a number of years-- would be the best for themselves as well as for the whole community. The sentence of the Court was seven years' penal servitude. (Applause in Court.)
Glasgow (Scotland) Herald, November 17, 1885.