Saturday, 6 July 2013

'And that's that, Mrs. Pace'

A dramatic moment from the end of Beatrice Pace's trial for murder: an excerpt from The Most Remarkable Woman in England. 

In the dock, Beatrice remained unmoving, and it seemed to observers that she had little idea what was happening. She later explained that prolonged anxiety had badly affected her hearing and eyesight: she had only been able to follow a portion of the trial and the judge had been simply a ‘red blur’. ...

The jury was told to rise, and the foreman was asked the usual questions: ‘Are you agreed on your verdict – what is your verdict?’ After the briefest of pauses, he responded: ‘Not guilty.’

At first, there was silence. Then, the defence’s medical expert, Dr Bronte, turned to Beatrice and said, ‘You’re free.’ Birkett followed suit: ‘And that’s that, Mrs. Pace.’ 

Beatrice Pace and her daughter Doris
Word quickly spread. One reporter stated, ‘In the court we heard the big roar of cheers from outside.’  The courtroom remained orderly, but after the judge had bowed to the assembled barristers and retreated ‘with almost magical swiftness’ through a curtained door, ‘the whole decorum of the court went to pieces’ as wild cheering burst out.  (Several of the jury members were said to have joined in the applause. )

A woman raised a cry, ‘God Bless Her!’ which was soon taken up and
repeated ‘until it was a thunderous echo in the crescent-shaped court’.  Beatrice blew kisses to her friends. Unable to believe what was happening, she sought confirmation from the wardresses guarding her. As the result dawned upon her, she exclaimed ‘Thank God it is over!’ before retreating to the privacy of the grand jury room.

There, she was visited by Birkett and Purcell, whom she thanked profusely. She then immediately asked to see her children. Dorothy, Leslie and Doris came into the grand jury room for ‘a happy reunion of tears and smiles’. ...

The legal ‘martyrdom’ of the ‘tragic widow of Coleford’ had, it seemed, at long last come to an end.

Her story, however, was far from over.

(The Most Remarkable Woman in England, 109-110)

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