Edmund Walter Pook

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Edmund Walter Pook was born at Walworth, Surrey in 1851, the son of Ebenezer Whitcher Pook and Mary Pook, formerly Burch. He was employed in his father's printing works at Greenwich, London. In May 1871 he was accused of murdering Jane Maria Clouson, a former maid in his parents' home. Jane, who was just seventeen years old, was attacked with a hammer in Kidbrooke Lane, Eltham, South-East London - a killing that came to be known as the Eltham Murder. It was claimed that Edmund had made Jane pregnant, and as a result Jane was forced to leave the household. However, this claim was refuted by his parents, who stated that Jane was dismissed following several warnings about her unkempt appearance, and slovenly work habits. It was also claimed that Edmund and Jane had continued their relationship following her dismissal. It was said that they met secretly and corresponded romantically with one another. However, these claims were proved to be completely unfounded. No correspondence from either Jane or Edmund could be found, and no witnesses to these secret meetings were able to be presented in court.

Newspaper accounts of the time had intimated Edmund's guilt, even before his trial, which took place at the Old Bailey in July 1871. During the final day of his trial a large crowd had gather in the street outside the court, the courtroom being packed with spectators. As his acquittal by jury was read out in court, a large cheer went up from the courtroom spectators, but when it was announced to the crowd waiting in the street, the mood was one of anger and disappointment. Those not able to hear the evidence presented in the courtroom, had relied on newspaper accounts to make their own judgment of Edmund's guilt or otherwise. Edmund's acquittal was based on the lack of creditable evidence. It has been suggested that Edmund had escaped justice because of his social class, and family connections. His father had previously worked for The Times as a tradesman printer. It is highly doubtful that Ebenezer Pook would have had any influence on the processes of the law, and considering that his son, and his wider family were harassed by the print media, both during and after the trial, Ebenezer Pook appears to have had little influence over the newspapers.

Edmund was represented at the Coroner's Inquest into Jane's murder by Henry Pook, a solicitor, not related to Edmund's family. Henry Pook had also represented Edmund Pook in two subsequent criminal libel suits, where Edmund was openly accused in pamphlets of being a murderer, despite his acquittal. During his trial at the Old Bailey, he was defended by Mr. Huddleston, Q.C., with Messrs. Harrinton and Besley assisting.

Edmund and his family subsequently fled London, changing their identity as they continued to be hounded mercilessly by the press.

The murder of Jane Maria Clouson and subsequent the trial of Edmund Walter Pook, was an early example of the growing influence of the print media over public opinion.

References[edit]

  • Jack Smith-Hughes, "Unfair comment upon some Victorian murder trials", Cassell, 1951, pp.1-71

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