Mr Hugo Kennett was the first witness called. He gave his evidence quietly and clearly, though with some signs of emotion when he referred to his discovery of the dead body. His relation of the event has already been given, and need not here be repeated. The essential facts were that he had entered the Bishop's Walk, on the fatal afternoon, shortly after three o'clock; had encountered and stood talking with the girl for a period estimated at ten minutes; had then continued his way to the house, which he may have reached about 3.15, and later, just as it struck four, had suddenly remembered leaving his gun in the copse, and had returned to retrieve it, with the result known. The body was lying on its face, and from its attitude and the nature of the injury, it would appear that the shot had been fired from the direction of the road. He went at once to raise an alarm.
At the conclusion of this evidence, Counsel rose to put a few questions to the witness.
Q. You say, Mr Kennett, you left at once, on discovering the body, to give the alarm?
Q. Leaving your gun where it was?
A. No, I forgot. I spoke generally, not realising that the point might be important Q. You see that it may be ? A. Quite.
Q. You secured your gun first, then?
A. Yes, I did. I had to pass the body to do it, not liking the job, but driven to it in a sort of insane instinct to get the thing into my safe keeping when it was too late. You see, I blamed myself for having in a sort of way contributed to the deed by my carelessness. I was very much agitated.
Q. You mean that, in your opinion, the crime might never have been committed had not the gun offered itself to some sudden temptation?
A. Yes, that is what I mean.
Q. You are convinced, then, that the shot was fired from this particular weapon?
A. It seems reasonable to conclude so.
A. I had left it with one of the barrels loaded, and when I saw it again they had both been discharged.
Q. You will swear to the one barrel having been loaded when you left it leaning against the tree?
A. To the best of my belief it was.
Q. You will swear to that?
A. No, I cannot actually swear to it, but I am practically convinced of the fact.
Q. Did you notice, when you took up the gun again, if the barrels, or barrel, were warm?
A. No, I never thought of it.
Q. Don't you think it would have been well if it had occurred to you ? Don't you think you would have done better to leave the gun alone altogether, until the police arrived?
A. (The witness for the first time exhibiting a little irritability under this catechism): I dare say it would have been better. I was agitated, I tell you, and the situation was new to me. One doesn't think of the proper thing to do on such an occasion unless one is a lawyer. I just took the gun with me, and chucked it into the gun-room as I passed, hating the infernal thing.
Q. Very natural under the circumstances, I am sure. Now, another question. The shot was fired, you consider, from the direction of the road. At what distance from the deceased would your knowledge as a sportsman put it?
A. Judging roughly, I should say about fifteen feet.
Q. About the distance, that is to say, between the tree against which you had leaned your gun and the spot where the body was found ?
Q. Then the inference is that the gun had suddenly been seized by some one from its position, fired, and replaced where it was?
A. I suppose so.
Q. You reached the house, you say, about 3.15, and left it again, on your way to the copse, just as it struck four. Would you mind telling us how you disposed of the interval?
A. (With some temper): I was in my own den all the time. What on earth has that to do with " the matter?
Q. Everything, sir; touching on the critical movements of witnesses in a case of this sort matters. 1 wish to ask you, for instance, if, during that interval from 3.15 to 4 o'clock, you heard any sound, any report, hke that of a gun being discharged ?
A. If I had, I should probably have paid no attention to it. The sound of a gun is nothing very uncommon with us.
Q. I ask you if you were aware of any such sound ?
A. Not that I can remember.
Mr Fyler was an advocate of that Old Bailey complexion, colourless, black-eyebrowed, moist, thick rinded, whose constant policy it is to provoke hostility in a witness with the object of bullying him for it into submission and self-committal. With every reason, in the present case, to aspect, and none to swspect, the deponent, his professional habit would nevertheless not permit him to cast his examination in a wholly conciliatory form.
Q. Now, Mr Kennett, I must ask you to be very particular in your replies to the questions I am about to put to you. You came upon Annie Evans, I understand, shortly after entering the copse, and put down your gun with the purpose of speaking to her?
A. With the purpose of lighting a cigarette. Q. But you did speak with her?
A. Yes, I have said so.
Q. You placed your gun against the tree where you afterwards found it? A. Yes.
Q. Was the deceased then standing near you, or further in by the tree where her body was found?
A. She was standing-- (Some amazing purport in the question seemed suddenly here to burst upon the witness, and he uttered a violent ejaculation) -Great God! Are you meaning to suggest that I fired the shot myself? (Sensation.)
Q. I am suggesting nothing of the sort, of course. Will you answer, if you please, whether, after you had put aside your gun, she came towards you or you walked towards her?
A. (Recovering himself with obvious difficulty): She came towards me.
Q. So as,to bring herself within view, we will say, of any one who might be watching from the road, or thereabouts?
A. Just possibly she might, if the person had come inside the gate.