The Evidence of Mrs. Elizabeth Armstrong2

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The Evidence of Mrs. Elizabeth Armstrong

The Old Bailey (October 24, 1885). Quoted in Alison Plowden, The Case of Eliza Armstrong: A Child of 13 Bought for £5 (1974)

Stead: When did you first see the article in the Pall Mall Gazette?

Mrs. Armstrong: I first saw the Pall Mall Gazette on a Thursday. I went to the police court on the following day.

Stead: Did you tell anybody you thought Lily was Eliza?

Mrs. Armstrong: Yes, I told the magistrate.

Stead: Did you tell your husband?

Mrs. Armstrong: I did not, because I know the violent man he is.

Stead: Were you afraid?

Mrs. Armstrong: Yes. If I had told him I thought Lily was Eliza, he would have struck me.

Stead: So that, living in the same house with your husband, and knowing how anxious he was about the child, you did not tell him that the Pall Mall Gazette knew something about her?

Mrs. Armstrong: I did not. I thought it was a very strange thing that you should know anything about her.

Stead: The only clue you had to the whereabouts of your child was the story in the Pall Mall Gazette?

Mrs. Armstrong: Yes.

Stead: And yet you never took any steps to inquire or to get the police to inquire at the office?

Mrs. Armstrong: No, I did not know where you lived, and I was not certain that Lily meant Eliza, though I thought it did, especially when I subsequently got her letter containing that verse quoted in the Pall Mall Gazette. I did not get her first letter; I believe you had that.


Stead: On July 9th you thought you identified your daughter as the Lily of the Pall Mall Gazette?

Mrs. Armstrong: Yes, from the mention of Derby Day, the mention of her school treats, and other things.

Stead: Was not one of the things the mention of the child having been got from you by a neighbour?

Mrs. Armstrong: Yes, I did think so then, and I spoke to her and her husband about it, and said what a shocking thing it was, and I told her I should go to a magistrate about it. Mr. Broughton said, “Nonsense, Becky would not do a thing like that. Wait till Monday—they will probably bring her back by that time.” I said, “No, I will go at once.”

(Mrs. Armstrong bursts into tears)

Stead: I am very sorry, but my questions are not pointed to blaming you, but Mrs. Broughton.

Justice Lopes: There is nothing objectionable in your questions, Mr. Stead.

Stead: Do you believe now that Mrs. Broughton was guilty?

Mrs. Armstrong: No, I now believe she was innocent. I believe that woman—Jarrett— deceived her as well as me.

Stead: On the Wednesday, when your daughter left, did you ask Mrs. Broughton to lend you sixpence?

Mrs. Armstrong: No, I asked her if she could lend me a penny to get some sweets to keep the baby quiet. Jarrett produced a shilling instead, and gave it to me to get something for the baby. I bought a comb for Eliza and a pair of socks for the baby. There was only a farthing left.

Stead: Did you get drunk on that farthing? (Laughter)

Mrs. Armstrong: I suppose I did, according to the accounts you give of me.

Justice Lopes: You must answer the question seriously. Do you mean to say that you got drunk on that farthing?

Mrs. Armstrong: No, my lord.

Stead: But you bought drink that day?

Mrs. Armstrong: I had a glass at night, after my husband struck me.

Stead: Where did you get the money?

Mrs. Armstrong: From my husband. It was housekeeping money. I am not a person who goes out drinking, although I have got that character from you.

Justice Lopes (to Stead): I suppose the object of this is to impeach the credit of the witness. If that is so, I will say nothing. I will only remind you that the charge we are now trying is the unlawful taking away of the girl Eliza from her parents. But if you say that your cross-examination is directed to the credit of the witness, I shall not stop it.

Stead: My object is to show that she contradicts herself on almost every point. I want to bring out that her conduct, as admitted by herself, was not that of a parent who suspected her neighbour of having sold her child into infamy.

Justice Lopes: Put any questions you like upon that.

Stead (to Mrs. Armstrong): Did you in any way, when at Broughton’s, accuse her of having got the four or five pounds for Eliza?

Mrs. Armstrong: No.

Stead: And yet the story in the Pall Mall Gazette is that Mrs. Broughton got your daughter from you and handed her over to Mrs. Jarrett for the sake of four or five pounds. Did you never ask Mrs. Broughton if she got that money?

Mrs. Armstrong: No.

Stead: Would it not have relieved your mind very much to know that Lily was not your daughter?

Mrs. Armstrong: Yes, it would.

Stead: Then why did you not challenge Mrs. Broughton on the point?

Mrs. Armstrong: I daresay if I had had as much sense as you, I should have done.

Stead: But I should think that a mother who had lost her child, and finds in the newspaper a story that she has been taken to a house of ill-fame and ruined, would not need my sense to go and ask the neighbour who took the child away, if she knew anything about it?

Mrs. Armstrong: I don’t understand you. Besides, I am getting tired of this.

Stead (to Lopes): I don’t want to press the witness unduly, my lord, if you think it unnecessary.

Justice Lopes: I must leave it to your discretion.

Stead (to Mrs. Armstrong): Why did you not ask Mrs. Broughton?

Mrs. Armstrong: I don’t know. That is my business.

Stead: Did you ask her any more about Jarrett’s character?

Mrs. Armstrong: No. I thought she knew all about her, as she said she was a genuine woman.

Stead: You knew it was stated she was a procuress?

Mrs. Armstrong: Yes; and I daresay she was.

Stead: But you did not ask Mrs. Broughton if it was so ?

Mrs. Armstrong: No, she would not know what the woman had done after leaving her.

Stead: There are some six statements in the article by which you identify Lily as your daughter?

Mrs. Armstrong: Yes, and I daresay there are a lot of lies in it as well as truth.

Justice Lopes (to Stead): I think you have got enough now to enable you to urge upon the jury that the conduct of Mrs. Armstrong was not consistent with that of an honest and affectionate mother.