The Magisterial Inquiry

Sketches made in court
The Daily Graphic

The following report appeared in the Herts and Cambs Reporter and Royston Crow on Friday 29th April 1904:

Prisoner Committed For Trial

The pathetic tragedy at The Gables, Meldreth, when the lad, Frank Rodgers, shot his mother after supper on the night of the 12th inst. is still the absorbing topic in the village and district.

Since the first magisterial inquiry and the inquest held on Thursday, 14th inst., the accused boy has been detained in Cambridge jail.  He was formally remanded at an Occasional Court at the Cambridge County Police Office on Thursday 21st inst., to Melbourn Petty Sessions to be held on April 25th, as reported in our paper of  last week.

On Monday morning last the prisoner arrived quite early at the Court, having been driven over in a cab from Cambridge in charge of Supt. Webb.

In the little Court House at Melbourn at any time there is not much accommodation for the public, and on Monday morning, soon after ten o’clock, such an army of pressmen and artists presented themselves at The Court that they filled up all the seats provided for the public, and even then, there was not room, some late comers being accommodated at the superintendents table.  In consequence of this the general public were not admitted to the room.

The magistrates in attendance were D.B. Balding, Esq., (in the chair), W.W. Clear, W.A. Fordham, W.J. Clark, A.C. Ellis, A.R. Fordham and A.P. Humphrey, Esqs.  Mr. Charles Stretten, Chief Constable, was also present.

Precisely at 11 o’clock the Bench took their seats and the prisoner was at once placed before them.  He was accommodated with a chair and remained seated during the hearing of the evidence and did not appear to take much notice of what was being said.  Occasionally he would lean forward with his hands clasped between his knees, and at other times he rested his arm on the back of the chair and covered his eyes with his hand and occasionally leaning back in the chair, apparently gazing into vacancy.  He was wearing the same clothes as when he appeared at the previous hearing and looked no worse for his enforced incarcerations, indeed, there appeared a slight flush on his otherwise pale cheeks.  Prisoner’s father and other members of the family were allowed to converse with him before the hearing.

By special arrangement with the Daily Graphic we are enabled to reproduce the sketches in Court by their artist of the prisoner and the principal witnesses, which appeared in the Daily Graphic of Tuesday last.

The Charge

Frank Rodgers, now described as a school student, 15 years of age, was charged on  remand with that “Feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought, he did kill and murder one, Georgina Rodgers at Meldreth on 12th April”.


Mr. F.J. Williamson appeared to prosecute on behalf of the police, and Mr. F. Low, K.C., again appeared on behalf of the prisoner.

The Sister Again Gives Evidence

Winifred Rodgers, a sister of the prisoner, was the first witness called.  She entered the court dressed in black wearing a large black picture hat and looked pathetically pale.  She was again attended by her cousin.  The previous evidence being read over, Mr. Williamson proceeded to cross examine the witness.

What was your mother’s name? was the first question asked.

Her name was Georgina replied Miss Rodgers.

At supper on the night of the 12th inst., was there any quarrel between your mother and your brother? – No.

Had they been talking together at all? – No I do not think so.

How was your mother at that time? – She was under the influence of drink.

When you left the room where did you leave her? – Sitting in a chair by the fireplace.

Was she asleep? – Half asleep and half awake.

You referred to a sister “Georgina Marion.”  Is that the little girl you call “Queenie”? – Yes.

She, I think, is your younger sister? – Yes

When your brother Frank came into the room where you were and said “I have shot her, I think it’s for the best”.  Did he say who it was he had shot? – No, that was all he said.

When you went out to fetch the doctor, which way did you go? – I went out by the back door.

On the way to the back door did you see your mother at all? – No.

How was it that your brother did not go for the doctor? – I said I would go.  He simply remained in the house.

Her Mother Had Taken to Drink

You say he said “I did it for Queenie’s sake, she cannot live the life she has for the past two years”.  What kind of life have you lived? – Very unhappy.

Very unhappy through what? – Because my mother had taken to drink replied the witness in low tones.

Have you ever heard your brother complain to anyone of her drinking habits? – No but it seemed to worry him a great deal.

Have you at any time heard him speak to her about it? – No.

Never Ill-treated Queenie

Had she at anytime ill-treated Queenie?  To this question Miss Rodgers replied in most decided tones – “No, never”.

How old is Queenie? – She is six years.

When you went out to fetch the doctor where was Queenie? – She came to the gate with me when I went out.

When you came back where was she? – My brother Frank had taken her across to Mrs. Thurley’s.

Mother’s Boy

Re-examined by Mr. Low.  Is it a fact Frank was very fond of his mother? – Yes.

Out of all her children which was your mother’s special favourite? – Frank.

In consequence of this I think he was given a nickname? – Yes, we called him “Mother’s boy”, replied Miss Rodgers, with trembling lips, and the tears came into her eyes.

Accused Represses his Emotions

This was the only time the accused appeared to take any interest in the proceedings.  He flashed a look at his sister and smiled, and then bit his lips as if to repress some kind of emotion.

Have you noticed any change to Frank’s demeanour lately? enquired Mr. Low. – Yes, he has been very quiet.

Irritable? – Yes.

Has he complained of headaches? – Yes

Violent headaches? – Yes

Have you noticed he was subject to a great amount of bleeding from the nose? – Yes.

How long has this been going on?  – About six weeks.

Has the bleeding been considerable? – Yes

Had you noticed Frank seemed depressed and irritable when your mother was under the influence of drink? – Yes.

By Mr. Williamson: I received the cartridge case produced from Elizabeth Bass and handed it to Supt. Wilderspin.

The Clerk then read her deposition over to her, and when he came to the words we called him “Mother’s boy” young Frank was observed to again endeavour to repress his emotion.

Miss Rodgers then signed her deposition and hurriedly left the Court and was not seen again during the hearing.

Sensational Evidence of the Doctor

Dr. Ennion was then called, and after his previous evidence was read over to him, he further stated that when Frank handed him the revolver he did not examine it at all.  Prisoner asked him whether he thought his mother suffered any pain.  This was after he had seen her at the house.  On the afternoon of April 13th he made a post mortem examination.  The body was well nourished.  There were no other external marks of violence excepting two wounds in the neck.  One on the left side of the neck was situate an inch below and half-an-inch in front of the juncture of the lower lobe of the left ear.  It was a clean wound without any blackening by powder or singeing.  On the opposite side of the neck two inches below and in line with the lower lobe of the junction of the right ear was another wound, the edges of which were somewhat jagged, indicating that the bullet had entered the left side, passing out of the right.  The wounds were such as would be caused by a bullet passing through the neck.

Where the Bullet was Found

Mr. Williamson:  You examined the room and found marks from the bullet, I think?

Witness:  Yes, I examined the wall, but saw nothing.  It was after I had made the post  mortem on 13th I went to the Gables and examined the breakfast room and found a groove on the left side of the mantel-piece marked with lead.  (It is a wooden mantel-piece.)  Following the direction of the rebound I found a piece of plaster knocked off the wall.  The wall was at right angles and immediately behind a cheffioneer, I found the bullet produced with a piece of the wall paper adhering to it.

Could Not Be Self-inflicted

Do you think the wound could have been self-inflicted?

Witness: My opinion was that it was not self-inflicted.

What is your reason for saying that?

Witness: My reasons are, in the first place,  there was no blackening of the wound, which would have resulted had the weapon been held so near, and then the direction of the wound was downward and backward from left to right.

The Chairman: From your evidence I believe you think the bullet passed in at the left side.

Witness: I have no doubt of that.

Died in a Few Seconds

Mr. Williamson: How long would it be before death would ensue from such a wound?

Witness: Death would ensue in a few seconds after such a wound as this.

Did you notice any blood about?

Witness: Yes, there was a quantity of blood on the floor of the hall and I traced this to a chair in which deceased had been sitting in the breakfast room.

Frequently Under the Influence of Drink

Re-examined by Mr. Low: You have attended this family for the past twelve months, I think? – Yes.

From your own knowledge deceased was frequently under the influence of drink? – Yes.

You have attended her professionally and also the prisoner?  Yes

During the year you have known him has he grown rapidly? – Yes, his growth has been exceptionally rapid.

Have you attended him for violent headaches and bleeding at the nose? – Yes.

Did Not Realise His Position

How long after death had occurred was it when you were called in? – Only a few minutes.

It was a few minutes after this when you saw prisoner? – Yes.

He did not appear at all sorry? – Not in the least.

He did not appear to realize the gravity of the position he was in? – No

And he made no attempt to escape? – No.

Did you see him again that evening? – Yes I saw him about three-quarters-of-an-hour after at Mrs. Thurley’s.

What was he doing? – He was quietly reading a newspaper.

Did he say anything about going to school? – Yes he told me he was going to the Perse School at Cambridge next term.

He Hears Voices Which Urge Him to Do the Deed

Have you heard anything about him hearing voices? asked Mr. Law.

Yes, said Dr. Ennion, and a hush fell upon the Court as the doctor described what young Frank had told him.  He said, I saw Frank the next day after the occurrence and he said to me, “After we came home from Mr. Medlock’s we had supper together.  After supper I went upstairs and got the revolver.  I came down and went into the breakfast room with it and then felt an impulse to shoot my  mother, but I refrained and came out.  The impulse came again and I went back to the room and a voice distinctly told me to do it quickly.”  He did not remember pointing or firing the pistol.  He felt giddy and only remembers hearing a muffled report and stumbling against the door.

Constantly Thought His Mother Was Behind Him

Did he ever say anything to you about his mother appearing to be behind him during the last few months? – Yes, he told me that for two or three months he has constantly thought his mother appeared behind him and looking over his shoulder has caught a glimpse of her.  She has then disappeared.

How was it this conversation came about? asked Mr. Low.

Witness: This was his own voluntary statement to me in this Court after the first remand and whilst he was awaiting his removal to Cambridge.

Intemperance and Insanity in the Family

Have you been informed that prisoner had an uncle confined in an asylum? – Yes a brother of the mother, who was an epileptic, died in an asylum in Australia.  I have also received information that the mother’s father was very intemperate in his habits.  And if this is proved it would have a very important bearing on the case of prisoner? – Yes most decidedly.

Did Not Appear Concerned

P.C. Salmon deposed to receiving the bullet produced from Dr. Ennion on the 13th.

Mr. Williamson: And what was your opinion?

Witness: I examined the bullet with the revolver and it appeared to fit.

Mr. Williamson: Have you received any other cartridges? – Yes, on 14th April I received from Mrs. Thurley the loaded cartridge produced.

This does not fit the revolver at all? – No sir.

Mr. Low: I think you had the lad under your charge for a time? – Yes, I had him here in custody until he was brought up and remanded the first time.

Did he appear concerned at all about the matter? – Not at all.

Did Not Want to Be Worried

William George Rodgers, brother of the prisoner, said:  I am 21 years of age.  There were three cartridges in a box and some loose with the revolver in a drawer in my bedroom.  I frequently saw it there.  I cannot remember when I last noticed it.  I had not handled it for some months.  I think my brother knew where it was kept.  I was not in the house at the time when my mother was shot.

Mr. Williamson: What time did you return? – Soon after 9 o’clock.

Did you go to the British Queen public house? Yes.

Did you see Frank there, and what was he doing? – Yes, he was sitting reading a newspaper.

Did you speak to him? – Yes, I said “Frank, do you know what you have done?”.  He replied “I did it for Queenie’s sake”  I said again “Do you know what you have really done?”  He replied  “Oh, don’t worry me”.

Did you recognize this cartridge case? – It is similar to the ammunition I had in my drawer.

Restless In His Sleep

Mr. Low: I think you and your brother occupied separate beds in the same room?  – No we slept together in the same bed.

Had you noticed anything peculiar about him for the past few weeks? – Yes he has been very irritable.

Different to what he was before? – Yes

Was he restless in his sleep? – Yes he was.

Has he got out of bed in the middle of the night to lock the door? – Yes he has.

Did he appear to know anything about this the next morning? – No he did not.

Dreams He Had Strangled His Mother

Mr. Law next asked if the witness remembered a day after his mother had been very much intoxicated and the next morning Frank told him about a dream he had.

Witness: Yes

What did he tell you? – He told me at breakfast that he had dreamed he had strangled her, replied witness in low tones.

Before this period had he taken an interest in things generally? – Yes we were studying shorthand together, but lately he appeared to be listless, staying in the house doing nothing.

Quite different from his former state? – Yes quite.

Saves His Mother’s Life

There was another matter you heard about.  In January, I think, Frank took great risk to himself, saved his mother from being knocked down by a train at Royston station. – Yes I have heard so from an eye witness of the occurrence.

His Greatest Concern was for Queenie

Charlotte Elizabeth Thurley said :  I am the wife of Frederick Thurley, the landlord of the British Queen at Meldreth.  Prisoner came to my house on the night of the 12th inst., about ten minutes to nine.

Did he come alone? enquired Mr. Williamson.

Witness: No he had little Queenie in his arms.

What did he say to you? – He said “Mrs. Thurley would you mind taking care of Queenie to-night?”.

Did he say what for? – He said “There has been a little upset at home”.

Did he say what this was? – He said “I have shot mother”.  I said “What Frank!”  He said “I have shot mother: don’t worry, it will be all right.  I shall go to Melbourn tomorrow”.

What did he mean by that?  – I don’t know.

Did he go away and leave Queenie with you? – Yes.

Did he return again? – Yes.  I went outside shortly after and saw Frank standing in the road outside the gates of the Gables.  I said “Frank, is there anything I can do?”  He said, “I wish you would go in Mrs. Thurley: the servants are afraid”.  I went in and saw Dr. Ennion there.

Did you see him hand that revolver to Dr. Ennion? – Yes, and Dr. Ennion advised him to go to my house.  He did so and sat in my kitchen a few minutes.  Then he said “Mrs. Thurley, may I see Queenie? “  I said “Certainly Frank”.  He went upstairs where Queenie was in a cot with my own little girl.  He said “Goodnight Queenie” and he kissed her twice.  After that he came down and asked for a newspaper.  I gave him one and he sat reading until about five minutes to ten.  He sat there for the best part of an hour.  Then Sgt. Salmon came and took him away.  He handed me the cartridge now produced and said “Mrs. Thurley, will you take this?”

Where the Empty Cartridge Case Was Found

Elizabeth Bass, a cook employed at the Gables, said : About 10 o’clock on the 13th April I picked up the empty cartridge case produced from the kitchen floor and handed it shortly after to Miss Rodgers.  I saw Frank in the kitchen the previous night.  I heard no shots fired that night.

Supt. Wilderspin deposed to receiving the empty cartridge case from Miss Rodgers on 13th April.  He found it fitted the revolver then in the possession of the police.

This concluded the evidence, and Mr. Williamson stated that that was the case for the prosecution.

Committed For Trial

Prisoner was then told to stand up and after a momentary hesitation sprang to his feet as if just awakening to the fact he was being addressed.

The Chairman then read over the usual formula in which the accused is invited to speak if he so wishes, but young Frank Rodgers remained as before, silent, until the Chairman addressed him personally – “You do not wish to say anything then?” enquired Mr. Balding, in kindly tones.

The accused shook his head and respectfully replied “No, sir”.

The Chairman : “Well, you now stand committed to take trial at the next Assizes for the offences of which you are  now charged, and you will remain in custody.  A touch on the shoulder and the prisoner hastily turned and was conducted from the Court.  Later on he was again conveyed in a closed conveyance to Cambridge goal, there to await his trial.

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