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description of her. But somehow or other, Mrs. Maclachlan, the intimate friend of the murdered Jessie McPherson, who had been twice examined regarding the murder by the Procurator Fiscal, (the official who collects and reports evidence to the Lord Advocate as Crown-prosecutor,) was at last fixed on, and rightly as it has turned out, as the pledger of the plate, and on Sunday was taken into custody. The clue that guided the police to her has not yet been made public, nor has the date of its discovery, and nothing can be known with certainty regarding it; for the whole investigation was conducted by the Glasgow officials with so little integrity and openness, and so much of the dexterity and cunning of pettifoggery, that it is not at all improbable that Mrs. Maclachlan was suspected almost as early as old Fleming, that she was twice examined by the Procurator Fiscal merely to entrap her, and that she was watched during the week she was at liberty. At all events, she was easily proved to have been wandering about the fields near Hamilton, a small town ten or twelve miles from Glasgow, and to have placed there at various places certain shreds of cloth, which had been saturated with blood, and which were sworn to have been fragments of two petticoats and a gown usually worn by her. She was called upon on three occasions to make what is called in Scotch law a “declaration,” which is in theory a voluntary statement by a prisoner charged with a crime, in reference to his or her connexion or want of connexion with that crime; but is in practice a reply to a series of questions put by the Procurator Fiscal in presence of a magistrate to the prisoner, secluded from all advice, for the purpose of entrapping him or her into admissions of complicity or guilt, or into the telling of lies, which are construed to be evidence of guilt, because in Scotland all innocent persons are presumed to speak the truth. Mrs. Maclachlan told lies in her three declarations; perhaps led into a snare, being too simple and polite to hold her tongue when a gentleman like the Procurator Fiscal was pressing her to answer questions. She had told a woman who used to wash for her that she was going on the night of Friday the 4th July to see Jessie; and her lodger, a Mrs. Campbell, proved that she was out of the house on that night, and that she (Mrs. C.) had to rise to attend to the prisoner's child, who cried at five in the morning; and also that a rum-bottle found in a press in Mr. Fleming's house was like one belonging to her, which it was assumed Mrs. Maclachlan had carried with her. There were three bloody prints of a naked left foot left after the washing of the room floor in which Jessie McPherson's dead body lay. The parts of the board on which they were found were cut out, and the doctors caused Mrs. Maclachlan to dip her naked left foot in blood, when the print of it on a board corresponded with those which had not been washed out in Jessie McPherson's bedroom. She had carried off some of Jessie McPherson's clothes with her, and sent them by the railway to Ayr to lie till called for. She had told her husband about this as well as about the pledging of the plate. The ingenious Fiscals had him also apprehended as being guilty of the murder, although they had good reason to believe that he was out of Glasgow on the night in question, and had no reason to believe the contrary, and by this scandalous device they seem to have succeeded in getting him to make a declaration in which he gave them all the information that he had derived from his wife, and then, after they had succeeded in this trick so far as they desired, they liberated him, having professed to find out what they knew, or ought to have known all along, that he was in Ireland on the night of the murder. And so by one means and another, partly fair, partly unfair, the evidence was gathered together which was considered sufficient to demonstrate that Mrs. Maclachlan alone was guilty of the murder of Jessie McPherson, and after eight days' confinement, the old man, Mr. James Fleming, was set at liberty.
The whole evidence, extending into many details, (too numerous to mention,) was fully laid before the public in a trial at the Circuit Court of Glasgow, which occupied four days in September, and the jury, with the approbation of the
presiding judge, Lord Deas, or as many prefer to affirm, at his instigation, after nineteen minutes' deliberation, returned a verdict unanimously finding Mrs. Maclachlan guilty of the murder of Jessie Macpherson, and of the theft of her clothes and of Mr. Fleming's silver plate. After the verdict, and after the Advocate-Depute had “moved for sentence,” Mr. Andrew Rutherford Clark, the Sheriff of Inverness, who had acted as counself or the prisoner, stated that he understood the prisoner had a statement, either to be made by her own lips, or to be read by some one for her. Lord Deas said she was at liberty to make it in any way she preferred; whereupon the prisoner, who had sat quite still during the trial, with her veil down, threw her veil off her pale face for the first time, and in a calm, clear, earnest voice, said, “I desire to have it read, my lord. I am as innocent as my child, who is only three years of age.” It was then read to a breathlessly attentive court by Mr. Clark, and when it was finished, the prisoner was ordered to stand up, and Lord Deas proceeded to pronounce sentence of death, in a tone of voice and with a manner which are universally reported to have betrayed no kindliness or compassion. He told her that her statement conveyed to his mind “the impression of a tissue of as wicked falsehoods as any to which I ever listened.” In spite of not a little respect for Lord Deas, whose rapidity and clearness of intellect, indomitable pugnacity and energy, extensive law learning, and capacity for reaching on fitting occasions a very high level of judicial eloquence, entitle him to a most conspicuous and honourable place among Scotch judges, both living and dead, we cannot but believe that his “impression,” so roughly announced to this poor woman standing under the very shadow of the scaffold, is as false as any part of her statement can possibly be: and that in truth this statement contains the most authentic narrative that most probably will ever be given of the mysterious Glasgow tragedy. A tissue of lies it is not, for it fits completely into the whole evidence. There may be one very great and very wicked lie in it, but there is not more than one of that character. The suspicion that has been thrown upon it since the trial is not that it is a tissue of lies, but that it is a tissue of truth with one lie ingeniously interwoven, and that it has been concocted by her agents and adapted to the evidence after they knew it all. That view may possibly be correct, but we do not believe it. We learn on good authority, that her agents are three young lawyers of ability above the average of their profession, of highly respectable connexions, and the prospect of almost certain success in their business of law-agents. They have worked for the poor woman it is said, not a little from motives of charity, for she and her relations are too poor to pay; and it is all but certain that they would not have risked their chances of success in life, to put the matter no higher, by telling to the world a deliberate lie. They say that the substance of the statement was communicated to them in August, so soon as she was assured of the liberation of Mr. Fleming, regarding whom she had said, oftener than once, that he “would surely clear her,” and had expressed her surprise that he did not do it, with the most convincing appearance of sincerity. But whether fabricated by the agents or not, it has given a shape to possibilities which the jury ought to have taken into account, and in the meantime it has obtained a respite from death of the unfortunate woman. Although it may be false in one vast particular, it contains the truest and most concise account of the essence of this case, and our chief regret with regard to it is that we have not space to print it entire. The reading of it occupied forty minutes. It is full of the most Defoe-like circumstantiality of detail ; and if untrue, it is capable of being contradicted at many points.
The substance of this statement is, that on the night in question she called on Jessie McPherson after 10 o'clock, having delayed till that hour to allow the old man Fleming, who was jealous and inquisitive, to be in bed; that she found on being let in by Jessie that he was in the kitchen beside her; that a little after eleven he sent her out for half a mutchkin of whisky; that she found the whisky-shop shut, and on returning without the whisky found the back door of the house also shut; that she knocked and received no answer, and knocked again with the lane-door key, and at last old Fleming opened the door; that she found that during her absence Jessie had been struck by him and cut across the forehead and nose, and was lying on the floor of the laundry, which was her bedroom, insensible; that she bathed her face, and washed away the blood, and that in a while Jessie returned to consciousness, and told her that the old man had struck her; that a fortnight before he had come into her bed during the night and attempted to take liberties with her; that she had threatened to tell his son, and that he had begged that she would not, and seemed uneasy at these threats; that she had shut him out of the laundry, and that he came back and in a passion struck her suddenly; that the prisoner nursed her during the night, helped her to bed, and on her feeling cold helped her to the kitchen, as she was weak and unsteady on her feet, and made a kind of bed for her before the fire; that she did not wish a doctor, and did not seem to be apprehensive about her wounds; that about break of day Jessie seemed to turn worse and to faint away; that she proposed to go for a doctor, but the old man seemed averse, and said he did not know where a doctor was to be found, and that he would
down and see how Jessie was, and whether a doctor was necessary; that while she was upstairs trying the front door, and looking out at a back window to see if any one was stirring in the neighbouring houses, she heard a noise downstairs, and on running down, saw the old man finishing the murderous work he had begun; that he alleged as his reason for this second and fatal attack that he knew she could not live, and that if a doctor came he would be brought in for her murder; that she promised not to tell and was induced by him, partly as a bribe, and also in order to produce the appearance that the house had been robbed, to take the articles of silver plate and some