The conviction of Hugh GRANT for the willful murder of his child at
Workington was a forgone conclusion. It was impossible for the jury to return any
other verdict than the one which has produced such a profound sensation in West
Cumberland. No more painful task can be imposed on any person than to assist
in sending a human being to the scaffold; but the men who were called upon to
decide on Wednesday whether GRANT had or had not committed the most serious
crime known to the law had no alternative.
To their verdict they appended a recommendation to mercy, which will, no
doubt, receive from the Home Secretary the consideration to which it is
entitled. It is difficult to understand why such a recommendation should have been
made. Probably it was due to the horror felt by the jurymen at dooming an
fellow creature to die by the hand of the hangman. We can sympathise with this
feeling, and to a certain extent, admire it, but it can only be justified on the
ground we have stated.
A fouler or more brutal crime than that of which GRANT has been convicted
was never committed. There is not a shadow of an excuse for it. Mr. SHEE, who
defended the prisoner, struggled hard against the evidence for the
prosecution, but from the first the struggle was hopeless. No eloquence, no persuasion,
no pleading could disprove the damning fact that the prisoner had, without
the slightest shadow of provocation, taken away the life of a helpless and
unoffending infant whom it was his duty to protect, and whose very
defencelessness ought to have been its best safeguard.
The surrounding circumstances are quite insufficient to explain away the
conduct of GRANT, and they do not in the slightest degree palliate his crime.
Inflamed by passion and maddened by drink, he went down to the house of his
wife’s father with the deliberate intention of picking a quarrel with the
inmates. He fancied himself an injured man, but for any injury which had sustained
he seems to have been purely responsible. His conduct when he reached the
house, before he committed the terrible crime for which he has forfeited his
life, was bad enough. He seems to have acted like a Malay running a-muck, and to
have struck right and left at anyone near him. If, during the quarrel
between them, he had killed his wife, a jury would probably have had no difficulty
in reducing the crime to manslaughter. But what he did was to take his own
child who had given him no cause of offence, and beat out its little life.
The Crime of GRANT has not stirred the people of this district so deeply as
the murder of LUCY SANDS. The mystery in which the death of LUCY SANDS was
shrouded had a great deal to do with the intense excitement which the
discovery of her body created. It was both strange and frightful that a young woman
should be killed and buried beneath a heap of stones not many yards from a
human dwelling and near to a thickly populated town. But the murderer of LUCY
SANDS was not guilty of a worse offence than that of Hugh GRANT has been
convicted. And if the crime has failed to impress the public mind as deeply as the
other, it is because the public has failed to grasp in its entirety the
enormity of GRANT’s offence.
For a strong man to attack one weaker than himself is a cowardly act, and
Englishmen have always accounted it so. To assault a woman is more cowardly
still. But for a father to take away the life of his own child, and stifle the
feeble wail of infancy by ruffian and unprovoked violence, is a crime so
appalling that no language that was ever written or spoken could depict it in
its true colours.