Soon after ten o'clock they were seen having dinner in the Cafe de Paris. Soon after eleven they were seen at a well- known night resort in Dean Street the management of which indignantly complained when the papers so described it in the days and weeks that followed. ('We are a high-class social rendezvous and members' club.') Soon after twelve they left this club and so far as is known went straight back to William Mews.
They were certainly there at three, when yet another of their quarrels broke the silence of the summer night. Sleepers in the mews reluctantly awakened; swore at the nuisance; prayed it would die down. But instead the uproar gathered force and swelled in volume. Woman's voice; man's voice; woman's voice; man's voice; separate and distinct at first, then jumbled together. The mews pulled its sheets round its infuriated head; but could not shut out this obliterating row. Groans, abuse, tears, entreaties and was that the sound of a struggle, of a fight? Somewhere about four there was a piercing crack. People sat up, startled. No, it couldn't be. Crazy as that woman was, it couldn't be. ... Most of them had dropped of! again to sleep before the doctor's telephone began to ring. 'I have been cautioned that I am not obliged to make this statement. I have known Michael for about a year. We were great friends, and he used to come and see me from time to time. 'He always used to see me home. He did so last night as usual. Immediately we got in we had a quarrel about a woman he was fond of. 'He knew I kept a revolver in the house. I have had it for years. It was kept in various places. Last night it was under the cushion of a chair in the bedroom, near the bed. I was afraid of it and used to hide it from time to time. He knew where it was last night. 'He took it, saying, "I am going to take it away for fear you kill yourself." He went into the room on the left. I ran after him and tried to get it back. 'There was no struggle in the bedroom. It was outside in the spare room, in the doorway. As we were struggling to- gether he wanted to take it away, and I wanted to get it back it went off. Our hands were together his hands and mine. . . . 'I did not think anything had happened. He seemed quite all right. He went into the bathroom and half shut the door, and said, "Fetch a doctor." 'I asked, "Do you really mean it?" I did not have the revolver then. I think it had fallen to the ground. 'I saw he looked ill, so I rang up a doctor, but no one answered. I went upstairs again and saw him sitting on the floor. 'I was upset and began to cry. I again rang up the doctor and he said he would come. I went upstairs again. Michael asked, "Why doesn't the doctor come? I want to tell him what happened. It was not your fault." 'He repeated that over and over again. I tried to cut his tie off, put a towel on his chest and got towels. I again rang up the doctor, and they said that he was leaving. 'I again went upstairs and saw he was dead and just waited. I don't remember what I did afterwards. I was so frantic. I am sure as far as I know there was only one shot fired. 'Michael and I have quarrelled on previous occasions, but not often.' Mrs Barney leaned back. Her face was ashen and her breath came heavily. While the Inspector read over her statement in official monotone, for the first time she allowed her eyes to wander over the bleak and bare police station room. The foolscap sheets were put in front of her. Mechanically she signed. It was morning, almost ten o'clock in the morning, after a night packed full with horror and distress. When the doctor arrived in response to Mrs Barney's summons ('There has been a terrible accident; for God's sake come at once!') he beheld a scene that might have been pleasing in a mystery novel, but was apt to harrow the steadiest nerves when en- countered in real life. Michael sprawled at the top of the stairs, a bullet through his lung; it was obvious to the doctor that he was already dead. Close beside him lay a pistol; it contained five cartridges, two of which were spent. Mrs Barney herself was uncontrollably hysterical and only inter- mittently coherent. 'Pie cannot be dead, he cannot be dead,' she cried time and again. 'I will die too; I want to die. I loved him so. I loved him so.' As the doctor, stooping low over the corpse, confirmed his initial melancholy conclusion, she ran aimlessly to and fro, calling the dead man's name and trying to explain what had occurred in disconnected fragments. The arrival of the police (whom the doctor as in duty bound immediately informed) seemed to drive the unhappy woman clean out of her mind. She said afterwards that she had no recollection of this episode, and quite conceivably she was in some sort of delirium; if not whether innocent or guilty her conduct would have surely been less hurtful to her cause. She cursed and fulminated against the officers, calling them 'vile swine' and ordering them to leave; when they used the telephone, she snatched it from their hands; when told that she must go to the police station for further questioning, she gave her interrogator a blow across the face. She shrieked, stamped, laughed and wept alternately. She was, said the doctor, absolutely frenzied. . . . No spark of frenzy lingered in Mrs Barney now. It had died when they took her away from the cottage that had been her home and where now her lover's body lay. Thenceforward she was calm but patently exhausted; what woman could be otherwise who in so few hours had passed through so many prostrating events? While she made her statement, under the horrified eyes of her distracted parents who had been apprised and had hurried to her side, Mrs Barney must have been close to collapse from sheer fatigue. The clarity of her account thus becomes the more remark- able. Moreover, it entirely corresponded in essentials with all she had so far said and all she was yet to say. There were one or two omissions, probably deliberate. It would have been painful to reveal in the presence of her parents that she and Michael had been lovers many months; that the quarrel had developed after they had gone to bed; that Michael had threatened to leave her, got up again and dressed; that it was then she had talked of committing suicide. She hoped no doubt expected that the matter would soon drop with- out necessitating these intimate disclosures. But substantially the story that was outlined in her statement was the story that the doctor had already pieced together from her paroxysmal and confused ejaculations; nor was it changed in that excruciating hour when, with two prison wardresses beside her, she told it to a packed and palpitating court. . . . The police conferred together. Her own statement excul- pated Mrs Barney, and they had no evidence yet to suggest it was untrue. 'Very well,' said the Inspector, 'we will not trouble you, madam, any more just now. You are free to go.' 'She will come home with us, of course, Inspector,' said her mother. . . . The respite was a short one. Only three days afterwards, as the troubled family prepared for dinner, the police came visiting the house in Belgrave Square. They had now been able to make a full investigation and, as a result, were no longer satisfied. Data in their possession could not be made to tally with the statement that the lady gave them earlier in the week. That evening Mrs Barney, who had said she wished to die, stood in grave danger that this wish would be fulfilled. 6
From the moment of her arrest the popular press was in full cry; their headlines sometimes read like a satirical bur- lesque. 'West End Flat Mystery,' 'Society Tragedy Sensa- tion,' 'Mayfair Beauty in Shooting Drama,' 'Banker's Son Dead after Cocktail Party,' 'Knight's Daughter on Murder Charge'; variations revolved round these titillating words save in one instance, where a banner frankly promised 'Mrs Barney : The Biggest Thrills.' The prisoner herself, on her first appearance at the preliminary proceedings in the police court, unintentionally added to the atmosphere of melo- drama by falling to the floor of the dock in a dead faint. Mrs Barney had good reason to feel deeply apprehensive. The police had not at all overstated their position; the new evidence if accepted made her story of an accident un- tenable. One female neighbour was fully prepared to swear she had heard Mrs Barney shout Til shoot you' just before the shot. Another female neighbour was equally prepared to swear that she had heard more than one shot being fired (an assertion that appeared to gain considerable force from the presence of a bullet mark on the cottage bedroom wall). Both women also spoke of an incident some days earlier when, as they declared, Mrs Barney from the window fired at Michael in the mews. And to all these presumed facts was added the opinion of two exceptionally influential experts, Churchill the gunsmith and Spilsbury the pathologist; each independently had come to the conclusion that Mrs Barney's version of the shooting was improbable. The former attached special significance to the type of pistol. 'It requires both a long and heavy pull,' he said. The Crown thus had a formidable case and the prisoner sore need of a formidable defender. For once in a murder trial money was no object. The brief for Mrs Barney was offered to Patrick Hastings. One may surmise that that distinguished advocate, then a little over fifty and at the very peak of his dazzling career, thought hard before he undertook this burden. It was in the middle of the summer term, and a dozen heavily marked briefs were on his desk. He was representing one of the great trusts in a claim for ^60,000 from one of the great banks. He was retained by a leading theatre management in a suit for damages brought by a leading lady. He was con- cerned for the co-respondent in an aristocratic divorce with Eaton Square addresses and an adultery charge at Cannes. He was also concerned in a big probate action (disposed of four days before the Barney trial began), in a newspaper libel on a popular peeress (settled three days after the Barney trial concluded), and, as leader of a string of eminent counsel, in an appeal by the directors of a company against a verdict of ^250,000 imposed upon them for conspiracy and fraud. (This last case actually started on the final morning of Mrs Barney's trial, and continued uninterruptedly thereafter for a fortnight.) There were certainly ample demands on Patrick Hastings and there was, of course, his confessed dislike of capital defences. Nevertheless, he did not decline the Barney brief, and this without doubt was artistically fitting. Here at last for the sophisticated advocate was a murder case that had at least grown out of his own world. Any murder trial at any time tends to attract spectators if only because the stake is human life. A sensational Victorian trial like Mrs Bartlett's or a sensational Edwardian trial like Robert Wood's was not only sure of a continuously packed court, but also as has already been remarked would draw and hold great multitudes in the adjoining streets. More recently this latter phenomenon had been rarely seen. It re- appeared, however, at the trial of Mrs Barney, which, on. 4th July and the two succeeding days, made the Central Criminal Court like a fortress under siege. The military metaphor is far from inappropriate. For in one respect, at least, the crowds on this occasion easily sur- passed all their predecessors. They were less demonstrative than some, partly because of the changed bent of the time, partly because at no point was there anything approaching unanimity of view upon the case's merits. But they were surely unique in ferocity and resolve. The waiting crowds of earlier years may have envied those within; they did not themselves seek entry by violence and brute force. But many of those who stood and stared at the walls of the Old Bailey, hour after hour while Mrs Barney was being tried, only accepted this second-best sensation after a pitched battle in which they were repelled. The queue had begun to form on Sunday afternoon, more than twenty hours before the court was due to sit. Well before midnight it had grown so long and deep that the police decided it ought to be dispersed. Those who had already waited nearly half a day did not receive this decision with good humour. There were loud cries of protest; heated disputes developed; one poor old lady burst into bitter tears she had been there since two o'clock and now her last train had gone. The police, however, insisted on their orders being obeyed, and reluctantly the crowds withdrew from their vantage- ground. Some gave up altogether and went home. Some took refuge in the all-night cafes, where they debated plans for making a fresh attempt. But the majority merely split up into groups of two or three, who walked and stood and squatted in the neighbourhood all night and took up posts next morning within sight of the court door like so many beasts of prey around a water-hole. These omens were not lost upon the police, and a strong protective cordon was established before giving the signal that the queue might be re-formed. Strong, but not strong enough to seize immediate control. From all directions men and women flew towards the spot with an impetus as if they had been shot from catapults. The cordon swayed, retreated and at one point finally broke; the mob hurled themselves madly at the gap; and that first afternoon the newspapers had pictures of police and civilians struggling on the ground. Only a handful of these warriors gained admission to the court, where most of the space had been allotted in advance by tickets bearing the full name of the successful applicant. But there, too, disorder threatened, though of a different kind. Many of the tickets had somehow been obtained by young, well-dressed and frivolous-minded women who re- garded the trial as a theatrical first night and proceeded to behave like the audience at one. They giggled and chattered with indecent zest as they waited, all agog, for the perform- ance to begin. At any intimation of weakness on the Bench this animated bevy might have got right out of hand. There was no such intimation. 'If there is any more of this,' remarked his lord- ship coolly, when the female babble broke out for the first time in his presence, 'the whole court shall be cleared.' Thenceforward silence reigned. Even the silliest could see that Mr Justice Travers Humphreys was a man who meant exactly what he said. 8 Hastings had come into court just before the appointed hour. After one contemptuous glance at the gay parade of fashion, he took his place without ostentatious fuss and sat there very straight and very quiet and very still. Those present who had witnessed Marshall Hall's volcanic entries on similar occasions, and the indisputable gallery play that followed them, could hardly fail to be struck by the sharp contrast. One thing only the two men had in common a personality magnetic and commanding. Without the slightest effort almost as though it were contrary to his wish from the very moment when he first appeared Hastings dominated the entire Old Bailey scene. Long before he had said a single word, even during the opening statement for the Crown, the eyes of the jury were straying constantly to him. . . . A practised observer can usually detect when a prosecutor feels full confidence in his case. If he harbours any serious doubt himself, being imbued by his training with the salu- tary doctrine that the prisoner must receive the benefit of a doubt, this is almost sure to be reflected in his speech. He will pitch his argument in a lower key, sprinkle it with exceptions and provisos, leave the issue conspicuously open. In short, he becomes more narrator than accuser. Nothing of this kind occurred at the trial of Mrs Barney. Percival Clarke, leading counsel for the Crown, gave the jury at the outset a strong and clear lead. His manifest integrity befitting a son of Mrs Bartlett's great defender lent his comments additional effect. Some of these consisted of direct denunciation. Of the prisoner's hysteria on the arrival of the doctor he said : 'Perhaps she realised then what she had done.' Of her assault upon the police: 'You see what sort of temper this woman gives way to on slight provocation.' And of the actual shooting he spoke in these uncompromis- ing terms : 'The medical evidence can definitely establish the direction in which the revolver was held when fired. You will learn from that that it is practically impossible for the man to have caused this injury to himself. If he did not, who did ? There was only one other person there. If you are forced to the conclusion that she shot him, you will have to consider whether she did it by accident or design. In that connection you will bear in mind her admission of the quarrel. You will bear in mind what she shouted before the gun was fired. You will bear in mind that she had fired the gun during another quarrel on a previous occasion. Mem- bers of the jury, is there any explanation consistent with common sense which will enable you to understand how that man met his death unless this woman deliberately fired ? ' To the lawyers in court and there were a great number, some even disposing themselves upon the floor it became more apparent as each minute passed that the prosecution were not pulling any punches. Obviously they believed in their case and they were both seeking and expecting a con- viction. 9 The chief witnesses called on the first day of the trial were Mrs Barney's much-enduring neighbours from the mews. There were three altogether; but the last, a chauffeur, was of little consequence. It was the two women who mattered the women, each of them a decent chauffeur's wife, who had had their lives made wretched by Mrs Barney's escapades. The defence could not hope to find them favourably in- clined, and their cross-examination needed infinite finesse.