The Saffron Hill Murder (8) — Gregorio Found

Following the guilty verdict, events moved rapidly.  On Monday 6th February 1865, the date of Pelizzioni’s execution was set for Wednesday 22nd — just sixteen days away.  On the 8th, J. G. Lewis, accompanied by “Mr Gatti, the looking-glass manufacturer” (probably Galli is intended) and nine other Italians, asked Barker the magistrate to sign a set of formal depositions made to accompany a petition going to the Home Secretary, Sir George Grey (1799-1882).  And on that same evening, the news came through that Gregorio had been found — he was now revealed as Pelizzioni’s cousin, Gregorio Mogni.  He had been tracked down by Henry Negretti.   

The (London) Sun, 9th February 1865. © British Library Board

Mogni was swiftly brought to court next day.  Frederic Lewis prosecuted and Carlo Gatti (or possibly Galli) acted as interpreter.  Montagu Williams was appointed to defend Mogni’s interests.  “The prisoner, who is about forty years of age, upon being put in the dock looked somewhat anxiously around him, and then relapsed into a melancholy expression, and occasionally shed tears”.  A fresh magistrate, Louis Charles Tennyson D’Eyncourt (1814-1896) — related to the poet — was well-prepared, if a stickler for procedure.  He had little time for witnesses he thought were prevaricating.

Negretti related: “From information I received I went to Birmingham, and there saw the prisoner working in a carpenter’s shop … ‘You know that your cousin is going to be hung?’  The prisoner said, incredulously, ‘No’.  I answered, ‘Yes he is’ … ‘Is there any means to save him?’  I replied, ‘Yes, if you give yourself up’.  He answered, ‘Come along, I am ready’.  He then took his hat and put on his coat, and in coming downstairs, he said ‘My cousin shall not be hanged for me’”.  Mogni told Negretti that “I went to the Golden Anchor … I drank a great deal of rum … I slapped Mr Shore [Shaw] in the face, because he insulted me very much.  After this Mr Shore and I shook hands together and made peace.  That night there were a great many Italians in the taproom treating each other, and I was nearly drunk.  After a little while, having danced, the English in the bagatelle-room opened the door and challenged the Italians to go in.  They had sticks and pokers in their hands.  The Italians seeing these did not like to show that they were afraid.  Three or four of them went into the room.  After they got into the room the English began to strike my brother, and then we began to defend ourselves and strike with our fists much as we could … my brother was so covered with blood that I could scarcely recognise him.  I thought he would be actually killed, and I pulled out my knife and did all I could to save my own life, and if had not done so, I should never have come out alive” (Quotations from the London Evening Standard, 9th February 1865).

The fighting had taken place “in the bagatelle-room and nowhere else … After everything was finished … we heard that Polioni was in the hands of the police.  We followed them up as far as the workhouse, and afterwards, because I was without my hat, I went back to the Anchor, and I asked Eliza …  She brought me two.  I picked mine out and then I left”.

A statement signed at the police-station, where Mogni had been handed over to Superintendent Andrew Gernon (1824-1885) the previous evening, was admitted into evidence.  This covered the same ground, but also detailed Mogni’s movements after the incident: two nights on the wood-shavings, three days in South London, and then a train to Birmingham.

Frederic Hyman Lewis, by Camille Silvy. Albumen print, 1 February 1862. NPG Ax56825. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Some legal wrangling followed over what charges were to be brought and by whom, with some icy exchanges between Lewis and Inspector Potter — “I beg your pardon, Mr Potter.  You will please to remember that you are in the police, and that I am conducting the case”.  The police would only countenance a charge of aiding and abetting the already convicted Pelizzioni, but Negretti was prepared to bring a private prosecution for murder (Quotations from the London Evening Standard, 10th February 1865).

Matters were adjourned until the Saturday, when Giovanni Marizzoni (here John Manzzoni) confirmed that Mogni had slept on the shavings, but was now allowed to add what he had said: “‘I have had a row and a fight’ … a fight with some English who had used sticks … ‘When I saw myself beaten almost to death I took out a knife and defended myself’”.  He had admitted wounding three or four men — “I perfectly recollect … I am sure he said it was in the bagatelle-room”.  Gregorio had also told him about giving the knife away.  The evidence was interpreted to Mogni, who confirmed its accuracy.  

Pietro Maralizzi (Marazzi) now suggested that after being slapped, Shaw had headed for the bagatelle-room, while Mogni tried to get in by the other door.  D’Eyncourt intervened: he understood that Shaw was never in the bagatelle-room.  Potter instantly — perhaps too quickly — agreed.  

Maralizzi had not actually seen Shaw there, but he had seen Mogni’s brother John (Giovanni) — “His face was covered with blood … there were about twenty people in the room.  Gregorio and John Mogni were the only two Italians … When Gregorio went into the room … he had no knife in his hand, but a little while after … he had one …  I said, ‘For God’s sake, Gregorio, put away the knife’.  He replied, ‘Never mind, let me do what I choose, or we shall not get out alive’”.  Maralizzi had been dragged out, but later encountered Gregorio in Cross Street: “I said, ‘You’ve used the knife’.  He said, ‘Yes, I did, and I’ve wounded three or four’”.  Two knives were produced, and Maralizzi said that to the best of his belief, it was the longer one he had seen (the one found by Cowland), it was certainly not the shorter one (the one found in “The Ruins”).  In answer to Williams, he said, “I saw Gregorio throw a woman down almost immediately he went in.  I should not know her if I were to see her”.

Giacomo Mantova (Mantua, Montoa) recalled meeting Gregorio — “He put up three fingers, and said three, if not four, I’ve wounded.  I knew what he meant”.  Young Cowland was content that the longer knife now produced was the one he had found.  Rocco Angelinetta added that Mogni had disappeared without even collecting his wages, which had been given to his brother.  Cetta confirmed being given the knife, and then a new witness, Joseph Caprani, positively identified it as Mogni’s.  It had been his own until they had swapped knives some months earlier.  D’Eyncourt then fussed over formalities and matters were adjourned again until the following Tuesday (Quotations from the Sun, Monday 13th February 1865).

At the resumption, a frame-maker called Pietro Gugiana testified that after the fighting broke out, he had gone to fetch Pelizzioni from “Bordessa’s”.  D’Eyncourt — “That is a quarter of a mile”.  Lewis — “100 yards”.  D’Eyncourt — “How long did it take you?”  Witness — “Two minutes … There were a great many persons took part in the disturbance … Gregorio was one … I brought Polioni back with me … I saw Polioni enter … Before I brought Polioni … I made a statement to him”.  D’Eyncourt — “That statement you cannot have, Mr. Lewis”.  

Maria King still insisted it was Pelizzioni who had knocked her down.  Gugiana was recalled to state that Gregorio had now grown a beard.  Could this have been the man who had knocked her down? — “l never saw him in my life before”.  D’Eyncourt — “Look at the man at the bar, and then then tell me, on your solemn oath, whether you are prepared to swear that he is not the man who knocked you down?  Witness — Yes.  I never saw him in my life”.  Despite repeated questioning, she would not budge.

Others confirmed that Gregorio had previously had only a moustache and not a full beard.  A barber was sent for.  While Gregorio was being shaved, a lithographer named Benjamin George (1824?-1878) of Hatton Garden, who had prepared a detailed plan of the pub, gave some inconclusive testimony about whether a challenge issued from the bagatelle-room would have been heard in the bar-parlour (Shaw had claimed that it would and that he had heard nothing).  Gregorio re-emerged — “without the profusion of hair that previously was on his face … [he] looked some five or six years younger”.  Maria King was recalled, but still insisted that Mogni was not the man who had knocked her down — “I swear positively he is not the man”.

Montagu Williams – A portrait by “Spy” (Sir Leslie Matthew Ward) for Vanity Fair, 1879.

Under fierce questioning from both Lewis and D’Eyncourt, Rebbeck would not accept that any Italians other than Pelizzioni had been in the bagatelle-room.  Examined by Williams, he continued: “l was sent out … to get some sticks, as I was told there was going to be a row.  I went to the taproom, and I found the Italians all raving — holding up their hands.  There was no row then.  There was, however, swearing and fighting going on”.  D’Eyncourt — I must caution you about your speaking the truth.  You seem to be very uncertain, and just now you said that which was not true.  You must really remember a man’s life is at stake.  Don’t trifle and hesitate.  If you are not certain, say so; but by all means speak the truth”.

Witness — “I was told before the row commenced to get out of the way, or I should get served out.  I afterwards went into the bagatelle-room … I told those inside that there was going to be a row … They said, ‘Never mind; if they come in here we will protect ourselves’.  Someone said to me, ‘What are we to do if they come in here with their knives?  We have only got our hands’.  I went out and got some sticks — about five or six.  I handed them up through a cupboard”.  

Williams — “You have sworn that Gregorio was not in the bagatelle-room when the row began.  Now, if you were about for some time getting a quantity of sticks, how can you say he was not there at all during the row?  Witness — I am speaking of the row in the taproom, not that in the bagatelle-room.  When I got upstairs the Italians were trying to get into the bagatelle-room.  I saw Mrs King fall just as I entered”.  Under further questioning he stuck to his story: “D’Eyncourt — You take, upon your solemn oath, to say that?  Witness — Yes.  D’Eyncourt — A man’s life hangs on your answer, remember that.  Witness — Yes.  He was the only one in the room” (Quotations from the Sun, 14th February 1865).

Eliza Shaw, the landlady, was called for the first time: “I remember the prisoner asking me for his hat.  I said ‘I don’t know anything about it’.  He said, ‘They were in the bagatelle-room’, and someone then gave me two.  I threw them over the bar.  The prisoner and his brother picked them up and went away”.  They had not threatened her and she had seen no knife.

Lewis then took matters in a wholly new direction, which although prefigured in his opening remarks, must have created an absolute sensation in court.  Having told the court earlier that there were “love reasons” behind the failure to call certain witnesses — a remark so extraordinary he was asked to repeat it — he now asked Eliza Shaw directly about the exact nature of her relationship with Pelizzioni.  She had known him for some years.  Before her marriage, he often used to come to the pub and help out behind the bar.  

Lewis — “Was he not on intimate terms with you?”  Witness — “Intimate terms?  I do not know what you mean.  He was never on intimate terms with me.  He was friendly with me”.  Lewis — “l must ask you this question — Did you not have a child before marriage?”  Witness — “A child!  What do you mean?”  Lewis — “You know well enough what I mean … l ask you again, had you not a child previous to your marriage with Shaw?  Your sister is here”.   Witness — “My sister, perhaps, can answer the question better than I.  I don’t think it a proper question to put to me.  It has nothing to do with the matter before the court”.  Lewis — “l must repeat my question.  Had you not a child before your marriage?”  Witness — “I decline to answer the question”.  Lewis — “Have you told your husband since your marriage who was the father of the child?”  Witness — “No, certainly not”.  D’Eyncourt — “Have there been rumours about the place about you and Pelizzioni?”  Witness — “There have, but there is no truth at all in them”.  Lewis — “Are you certain that you have not told your husband who is the father of that child”.  Witness — “I am”.

D’Eyncourt — “I do not quite see the object of your question”.  Lewis — “It shows that the man Shaw had a feeling in the matter; and it is worthy of remark that all the other witnesses against Pelizzioni were customers from Shaw’s house … I was about to ascertain whether there was any jealous feeling, but the witness says she has not told her husband who the father of the child was — therefore I’m precluded”.  Witness — “I presume, Mr Lewis, that you wish to put to me a question whether I have had a child by Polioni”.   Lewis — “I don’t wish to put any more questions to you, Mrs Shaw”.

This put a wholly new complexion on the background to the incidents, particularly when it later emerged that Shaw had just assaulted his wife’s sister, Elizabeth Parsons, outside the courtroom, in an attempt to intimidate her.  Parsons was there to testify about the truth of the child, if necessary — but even if the affair did have its origins in a deeply personal feud, it did little to alter the fact of the stabbings. 

Returning to the events of Boxing Day, Eliza Shaw testified that there had been a physical altercation between Harrington and Mogni in the taproom after her husband had been slapped.  This was the first anyone had heard of this — Lewis remarked acidly that “This only shows what the police might have brought forward if they had pleased”.  Rebbeck was recalled again, but nothing further was elicited beyond the fact that he could not see the slightest resemblance between Pelizzioni and Mogni, and he knew them both.  Pearless the surgeon was of the opinion that the larger knife (Gregorio’s) was the one most likely to have caused the wound.  With its point broken off, the smaller one could not have done so.

In their final addresses to the court, Williams stated that the police were much to blame for withholding evidence and that given all the circumstances, the charge could only be one of manslaughter.  D’Eyncourt responded that he would make no comment on that, “even to Rebbeck’s evidence”, but would commit Mogni to trial for murder. (Quotations merged from the Sun and the Morning Advertiser, 15th February 1865).

That same day, questions were asked in the House of Commons.  The Home Secretary was asked if arrangements had been made for delaying the execution, now only a week away.  They had not.  A memorial had been received.  The free-trader John Bright (1811-1889) asked if a memorial were really necessary.  Sir George Grey replied loftily that he did not think it conduced to the good administration of justice that such questions should be asked.  He was not aware that any other Italian had confessed — but two days later Pelizzioni was reprieved until 22nd March.

On Thursday 23rd February, Fred Shaw was duly summoned “on a charge of unlawfully assaulting and beating Mrs Elizabeth Parsons … an assault committed on her in this court … The defendant and his wife were there to give evidence … and [Parsons] was also there, to rebut, if necessary, some of their evidence … some of the persons in court … considered the assault so cowardly that they at once gave their addresses so that justice might be done”.  

The elder Lewis prosecuted: “Had the attention of the Court been called to it at the time there could be no doubt but that the defendant would at once have been committed for contempt of court … there could be no greater contempt than an assault upon a witness to prevent justice being done”.  Elizabeth Parsons testified: “I have been in pain since … My father lives at the Golden Anchor with the defendant, and I am afraid to go to the house to see him as the defendant might strike me.  The defendant is a violent man, and has before threatened me.  I am afraid that he will do me some harm now you see the way he has served me in court”.  Shaw denied all knowledge of the matter, but Jane Redaello had seen “a very hard blow in the chest … The defendant said ‘Get away, you devil’.  He said that in a violent tone”.  Three Italians confirmed her account.  Three policemen, including Baldock and Fawell, said that Shaw had done nothing more than push his way through a crowded corridor.  Barker was unimpressed: “He had not the slightest doubt but that the assault was committed”.  Shaw was bound over “to keep the peace towards the complainant and all her Majesty’s subjects for the next three months” (Quotations from the London Evening Standard, Thursday 23rd February).

To be continued …

About Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Laurence Worms has owned and run Ash Rare Books since 1971. He represented the antiquarian book trade on the (British) National Book Committee from 1993 to 2002 and has been six times an elected member of the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. He was largely responsible for drafting the Association’s Code of Good Practice first introduced in 1997 (and its recent update), served as Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2011 to 2013. He is a former member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society and continues to serve on the Council of the London Topographical Society. He writes and lectures on various aspects of the history of the book and map trades, and has lectured at the universities of Cambridge, London, Reading and Sheffield, as well as at the Bibliographical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Warburg Institute, the National Library of Scotland and at Gresham College and Stationers' Hall. Published work includes the compilation of fourteen ‘lives’ for the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”, a number of articles for “The Oxford Companion to the Book” and the chapter on early English maps and atlases for the fourth volume of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain”. Essays on the British map trade are also appearing in “The History of Cartography” published by the University of Chicago Press. His long-awaited “British Map Engravers”, co-written with Ashley Baynton-Williams, was published to critical acclaim in 2011. He also contributed the numerous biographical notes to Peter Barber’s hugely successful “London : A History in Maps”, co-published by the British Library and the London Topographical Society in 2012.
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