Thursday, September 22, 2011

Clouds of Witness continued

Mrs. Pettigrew-Robinson confirmed her husband's evidence. She had fallen asleep before midnight, and had slept heavily. She was a heavy sleeper at the beginning of the night, but slept lightly in the early morning. She had been annoyed by all the disturbance in the house that evening, as it had prevented her from getting off. In fact, she had dropped off about 10.30, and Mr. Pettigrew-Robinson had had to wake her an hour after to tell her about the footsteps. What with one thing and another she only got a couple of hours' good sleep. She woke up again at two, and remained broad awake till the alarm was given by Lady Mary. She could swear positively that she heard no shot in the night. Her window was next to Lady Mary's, on the opposite side from the conservatory. She had always been accustomed from a child to sleep with her window open. In reply to a question from the Coroner, Mrs. Pettigrew-Robinson said she had never felt there was a real, true affection between Lady Mary Wimsey and deceased.
In England and Wales a coroner is an independent judicial office holder, appointed and paid for by the relevant local authority. The Ministry of Justice, which is headed by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has the responsibility for the coronial law and policy only, and no operational responsibility.

The post of coroner is ancient, dating from approximately the 11th century, shortly after the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

The office of Coroner was formally established in England by Article 20 of the "Articles of Eyre" in September 1194 to "keep the pleas of the Crown" (Latin, custos placitorum coronas) from which the word "coroner" is derived. This role provided a local county official whose primary duty was to protect the financial interest of the crown in criminal proceedings. The office of coroner is, "in many instances, a necessary substitute: for if the sheriff is interested in a suit, or if he is of affinity with one of the parties to a suit, the coroner must execute and return the process of the courts of justice." This role was qualified in Chapter 24 of Magna Carta in 1215, which states: "No sheriff, constable, coroner or bailiff shall hold pleas of our Crown." "Keeping the pleas" was an administrative task, while "holding the pleas" was a judicial one that was not assigned to the locally resident coroner but left to judges who traveled around the country holding Assize Courts. The role of Custos rotulorum or keeper of the county records became an independent office, which after 1836 was held by the Lord Lieutenant of each county. The person who found a body from a death thought sudden or unnatural was required to raise the "hue and cry" and to notify the coroner.

Coroners were introduced into Wales following its military conquest by Edward I of England in 1282 through the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284.

To become a coroner in England and Wales the applicant must have a degree in a medical or legal field, e.g., criminology or bio-medical sciences. Generally, coroners have had a previous career as a lawyer (solicitor/barrister) or physician of at least five years standing. This reflects the role of a coroner: to determine the cause of death of a deceased in cases where the death was sudden, unexpected, occurred abroad, was suspicious in any way, or happened while the person was under the control of central authority (e.g., in police custody).

They seemed very off-hand, but that sort of thing was the fashion nowadays. She had never heard of any disagreement.

Miss Lydia Cathcart, who had been hurriedly summoned from town, then gave evidence about the deceased man. She told the Coroner that she was the Captain's aunt and his only surviving relative. She had seen very little of him since he came into possession of his father's money. He had always lived with his own friends in Paris, and they were such as she could not approve of.

“My brother and I never got on very well,” said Miss Cathcart, “and he had my nephew educated abroad till he was eighteen. I fear Denis's notions were always quite French. After my brother's death Denis went to Cambridge, by his father's desire. I was left executrix of the will, and guardian till Denis came of age.
Executor (female form: sing. = executrix, pl. = executrices) is also a legal term referring to a person named by a maker of a will, or nominated by the testator, to carry out the directions of the will. Typically, the executor is the person responsible for offering the will for probate, although it is not absolutely required that he or she do so. The executor's duties also include the disbursement of property to the beneficiaries as designated in the will, obtaining information about any other potential heirs, collecting and arranging for payment of debts of the estate and approving or disapproving creditors' claims. An executor also makes sure estate taxes are calculated, necessary forms are filed and tax payments made, and in all ways assists the attorney for the estate. Also the executor makes all donations as left in bequests to charitable and other organizations as directed in the will. In most circumstances the executor is the representative of the estate for all purposes, and has the ability to sue or be sued on behalf of the estate. The executor also holds legal title to the estate property, but may not use that property for the executor's own benefit unless expressly permitted by the terms of the will.

I do not know why, after neglecting me all his life, my brother should have chosen to put such a responsibility upon me at his death, but I did not care to refuse. My house was open to Denis during his holidays from college, but he preferred, as a rule, to go and stay with his rich friends. I cannot now recall any of their names. When Denis was twenty-one he came into £10,000 a year. I believe it was in some kind of foreign property. I inherited a certain amount under the will as executrix, but I converted it all, at once, into good, sound British securities.
A security is generally a fungible (the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution, such as crude oil, wheat, precious metals or currencies) , negotiable financial instrument representing financial value. Securities are broadly categorized into:

debt securities (such as banknotes, bonds and debentures),
equity securities, e.g., common stocks; and,
derivative contracts, such as forwards, futures, options and swaps.
I cannot say what Denis did with his. It would not surprise me at all to hear that he had been cheating at cards. I have heard that the persons he consorted with in Paris were most undesirable. I never met any of them. I have never been in France.”

John Hardraw, the gamekeeper, was next called.
A gamekeeper (often abbreviated to keeper) is a person who manages an area of countryside to make sure there is enough game for shooting, or fish for angling, and who actively manages areas of woodland, moorland, waterway or farmland for the benefit of game birds, deer, fish and wildlife in general.

Typically, a gamekeeper is employed by a landowner, and often in the UK by a country estate, to prevent poaching, to rear and release game birds such as pheasants and partridge, encourage and manage wild red grouse, and to control predators such as foxes, to manage habitats to suit game, and to monitor the health of the game.

He and his wife inhabit a small cottage just inside the gate of Riddlesdale Lodge. The grounds, which measure twenty acres or so, are surrounded at this point by a strong paling; the gate is locked at night. Hardraw stated that he had heard a shot fired at about ten minutes to twelve on Wednesday night, close to the cottage, as it seemed to him. Behind the cottage are ten acres of preserved plantation. He supposed that there were poachers about; they occasionally came in after hares. He went out with his gun in that direction, but saw nobody. He returned home at one o'clock by his watch.

The Coroner: “Did you fire your gun at any time?”

Witness: “No.”

The Coroner: “You did not go out again?”

Witness: “I did not.”

The Coroner: “Nor hear any other shots?”

Witness: “Only that one; but I fell asleep after I got back, and was awakened up by the chauffeur going out for the doctor. That would be at about a quarter past three.”

The Coroner: “Is it not unusual for poachers to shoot so very near the cottage?”

Witness: “Yes, rather. If poachers do come, it is usually on the other side of the preserve, towards the moor.”

Dr. Thorpe gave evidence of having been called to see deceased. He lived in Stapley, nearly fourteen miles from Riddlesdale.
Stapley and Riddlesdale are fictional towns.

There was no medical man in Riddlesdale. The chauffeur had knocked him up at 3.45 a.m., and he had dressed quickly and come with him at once. They were at Riddlesdale Lodge at half-past four. Deceased, when he saw him, he judged to have been dead three or four hours. The lungs had been pierced by a bullet, and death had resulted from loss of blood and suffocation. Death would not have resulted immediately—deceased might have lingered some time. He had made a post-mortem investigation, and found that the bullet had been deflected from a rib. There was nothing to show whether the wound had been self-inflicted or fired from another hand, at close quarters. There were no other marks of violence.

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