The Magistrates assembled to hear the case were four in number, two of them being local magnates and personal friends of Sir Calvin, who was accorded a seat on the Bench. They took their places at eleven o'clock, the Court being then crowded to its utmost capacity. The case stood first on the list, and no delay was experienced in opening it. As before, Mr Fyler appeared for the police, and Mr Redstall for Sir Calvin. The prisoner was undefended.
At the outset of the proceedings a surprise awaited the public. The prisoner having been brought up from the cells beneath the Court, and placed in the dock, Sergeant Ridgway asked permission to speak. Addressing the Bench, he said that since the inquiry before the Coroner, which had ended, as their Worships were aware, in a verdict by the jury of wilful murder against the prisoner Louis Victor Cabanis, facts had come to his knowledge which entirely disposed of the theory of the prosecution, proving, as they did, an unquestionable alibi in the prisoner's favour. Under these circumstances he proposed to offer no evidence against the accused, who, with their Worships' permission, would be discharged.
Smart in aspect, concise in phrase, the detective stood up and made his avowal, and again, though in an auguster atmosphere, with a marked impression upon his hearers. Some of them had already encountered him, no doubt, and were prepared to concede to his every statement the force and value of an official fiat.
'Very well, Sergeant,' was the reply, while the public wondered if they were going to be defrauded of their feast of sensation, or if some spicier substitute were about to be placed before them. They were not kept long in suspense.
Following the Sergeant's declaration, brief evidence was given by Andrew Marie, shepherd, and Nicholas Penny, thatcher. The former deposed that on the afternoon in question he was setting hurdles on the uplands above Leighway, at a point about three miles north-east of Wildshott Park as the crow flies, when he saw prisoner. That was as near three o'clock as might be. Prisoner had stood watching him for a few minutes while exchanging a remark or two, and had then gone on in a northerly direction.
Penny gave evidence that, on the same afternoon, at three-thirty, he was working in the garden of his cottage at Milldown, two miles beyond the point mentioned by the last witness, when prisoner came by and asked him the time. He gave it him, and the prisoner thanked him and continued his way, still bearing north by east until he was out of sight. He was going leisurely, both witnesses affirmed, and there appeared nothing peculiar about him except his foreign looks and speech. Neither had the slightest hesitation in identifying the prisoner with the man they had seen. There was no possibility of mistaking him.
This* evidence, said the detective, addressing the justices again at the end of it, precluded any idea of the prisoner's being the guilty party, the case for the prosecution holding that the murder was committed at some time between three and four o'clock in the afternoon. At three o'clock the accused was proved to have been at a spot good three miles away from the scene of the crime, and again at 3.30 at a spot five miles away, representing a distance which, even on an extravagant estimate, he could hardly have'covered within the period remaining to him if the theory of the prosecution was to be substantiated. There was no case, in fact, and the prosecution therefore withdrew the charge.
A Magistrate put the question somewhat extrajudicially, "why had he not pleaded this alibi in the first instance. The accused, who appeared overwhelmed by the change in his situation, was understood to say, with much emotion and gesticulation, that he had not been advised, nor had he supposed that the deposition of a prisoner himself would count for anything, and, moreover, that he had been so bewildered by the labyrinth of suspicion in which he had got himself involved, that it had seemed hopeless to him to think of ever extricating himself from it. He seemed a simple soul, and the justices smiled, with some insular superiority, over his naive declaration. He was then given to understand that he was discharged and might go, and with a joyous expression he stepped from the dock and vanished like a jocund goblin down the official trap.
Counsel for the prosecution then rose, and stated that, the charge against Cabanis being withdrawn, it was proposed to put in his place Samuel Cleghorn, against whom, although no definite charge had as yet been preferred by the police, a prima facie case existed. His examination, and the examination of the witnesses concerned, would probably prove a lengthy affair, and he.asked therefore that the case might be taken next on the list. The justices concurring, Samuel Cleghorn was brought up from the cells, and stood to undergo his examination.
Confinement and anxiety, it was evident, had told upon the prisoner, whose aspect since the Inquest had undergone a noticeable change. He looked limp and deteriorated, like a worn banknote, and his hps were tremulous. Respectability in a sidesman caught pilfering from the plate coulcl not have appeared more self-conscious of its fall. He bowed deferentially to the Bench, with a slight start on seeing his master seated there, and, making some ineffectual effort to appear at ease, clasped his plump white hands before him and fixed a glassy eye on the wall. The public, reassured, settled down, like a music-hall audience to a new exciting 'turn,' the Bench assumed its most judicial expression, and Counsel, adjusting its wig for the fray, proceeded to open the case
It is not proposed to recapitulate in extenso the evidence already given. In bulk and essentials the two hardly differed, the only marked changes being in the order of the witnesses examined, and in the absence from their list of the Baron Le Sage, who, however, inasmuch as his sole use had been to testify to the character of his servant, was no longer needed. There was the same reference to the insuperable difficulty'-experienced and still unsur-mounted-in tracing out the deceased's connexions, the same statement by Sergeant Ridgway as to the fruitlessness of the measures taken, and the same request that, in default of further information, such evidence of identification as was at present available should be provisionally accepted. The Bench agreed, the detective sat down, and Counsel rose once more, this time with a formidable eye to business.