Philip Percy Spriggs

Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 16 October 2011), July 1889, trial of PHILIP PERCY SPRIGGS (27) (t18890729-619).

Dated: 29th July 1889

PHILIP PERCY SPRIGGS (27), Feloniously shooting at William Leys, with intent to maim and to disable, and to do grievous bodily harm.

MR. BESLEY Prosecuted.

JAMES WELCH. I am in charge of a telegraph office belonging to the Midland Railway Company, near Child’s Hill Station, Hendon.  About three o’clock in the morning of 12th July William Leys, who was in the service of the company, brought the prisoner to my office.  He left the prisoner there and went out.  In about three minutes the prisoner took a pistol from his left waistcoat pocket, I asked him if it was loaded, and he immediately fired at me.  I saw he could not work the second chamber, and I saw my chance and escaped out of the office.  He was seven or eight feet from me when he fired, he missed me, I had not gone above fifteen or sixteen feet when I heard a second report; again I was missed.  The first barrel was loaded with a bullet. I heard it strike the side of the office and then enter the ceiling; it fell, and was picked up after wards.

WILLIAM LEYS (Midland Railway Policeman). About three in the morning of 12th July I was on duty at the Brent Siding, close to Child’s Hill Station.  I saw the prisoner about thirty yards off running in the direction of a shunting engine that was at work.  I ran and got between him and the engine, shouted to him, and prevented him from getting to it, he was about two yards from the engine when I intercepted him, the engine was moving at the time.  He turned and ran away, I ran after him, and caught him, and asked him what he was doing on the railway.  He made no reply, but again moved towards where the engine was.  I said, “There is no thoroughfare that way”  He said he knew his way, and wanted to go down among the engines.  I said, “You must come this way, along with me;” and after a struggle I got him to the telegraph office.  I took his name and address, “Philip Percy Spriggs, 5, Featherstone Buildings, Holborn.  I asked what he was; he said he was a solicitor’s clerk, to Bannister, Williams and Ram, of John Street, Bedford Row.  I did not observe anything peculiar in his demeanour.  I asked him what account he had to give for being on the railway.  He made no reply.  I quietly told the clerk to keep an eye upon him, at the same time telling the prisoner to sit down to have a rest.  When I saw him trying to get to the engine I thought he was trying to commit suicide.  I left the prisoner in the telegraph office, and when I had got about seven or eight yards away I heard a report of firearm.  I turned round and saw Welch running out at the door; I saw smoke, and I heard the report of another shot.  The prisoner was not pursuing Welch, he was sitting down in the office when he fired the second shot.  I ran to the office door, the prisoner had then shut the door.  I looked in at the window, and saw him sitting in front of the door with the revolver in both hands, pointing it directly at the door, I went towards him, sprang upon him, and seized the revolver by the muzzle; he had hold of the back, he shouted to me to let go the revolver or he would shoot me, and I shouted to him to let it go.  He struggled hard, and tried to turn the revolver towards me, I had great difficulty in holding it down.  He fired, and the bullet went right between my legs through the floori.  During the struggle he got the trigger up again, I called for assistance, and Thurlow came and took the revolver from him; this is it.  Two spent bullets were afterwards found, one on the floor, the other was underneath the flooring.  He was searched at the station, this strap was found round his body.  Five cartridges were found loose in his pocket; they fit the revolver  I fired two shots out of the revolver into the field, while doing that he pulled this large sheath knife out of his pocket, and Thurlow knocked it out of his hand before he could use it; his initials are on it.  I then saw him put his hand into his outside coat pocket, I seized his hand, and found this razor in his pocket.

Prisoner. When did the shot go off? Witness. During the struggle in trying to get the revolver from you.

THOMAS DONALDSON (Police Sergeant on the Midland Railway). I was called by Leys to the telegraph office, and found the prisoner there.  I asked him his name; he gave it.  I said, “Are you aware what you have been doing?”  He said, “Yes”.  I said, “Do you know that?” (the revolver)  He said, “Yes; it is mine; I bought it in High Holborn.”  I said, “What did you intend doing with it?”  He said, “I intended to shoot somebody, and to shoot myself afterwards; but I did not intend to shoot you.”  I said, “Do you know the knife?”  He said, “Yes; that is mine, I bought it.”  I said, “Do you know these initials on it?”  He said, “Yes; they are my initials.”  I said, “What did you intend to do with this if the revolver did not act?”  He said, “I intended using it.”  I showed him the razor, and asked if he knew that.  He said, “There’s nothing in that; that is no good at all.”  I said, “I shall hand you in charge to the police.”  He said, “You may as well give me some poison and have done with it at once.”  I handed him over to the constable, he was perfectly sober.

PHILIP FRANCIS GILBERT . I am medical officer of Holloway Prison.  The prisoner came there on the afternoon of 12th July.  I saw him on the morning of the 13th.  I examined him frequently as to his mental condition, he is insane.  He was undoubtedly insane on the 12th, and had been for some time.  He was intensely dejected, as he is now.  He is subject to delusions, that people are following him about to put him away, and persisted in it while in prison, he is a sober man.  It has arisen from onanism.

GUILTY of the act, but insane at the time. To be detained until Her Majesty’s pleasure be known.