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Was John Richardson A Reliable Witness?

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  • #46
    Originally posted by Ms Diddles View Post
    A well framed question with an excellent summary of the arguments for and against!

    I voted "reliable".

    As with everything else in this case, it's impossible to know for sure at this distance, but I see no reason to believe Richardson lied.

    It's no great stretch to explain away the two differing accounts, I find it quite plausible that Richardson's initial account to Chandler was just a brief summary, after which more details were ascertained at the inquest.

    I also find it hard to believe that he could have failed to observe a dead body at such close proximity.

    Personally I find the arguments in favour of Richardson's credibility as a witness more persuasive than those supporting Dr Phillip's TOD estimate.

    Thanks Ms D
    Regards

    Herlock






    "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

    Comment


    • #47
      Originally posted by Fisherman View Post

      Eh - Phillipsīestimate need not have anything to do with it at all. The police concluded that Richardson may have missed the body, and so it may or may not have been in place, regardless of Phillipsī view.

      Why vote "reliable" if you realize that we canīt tell? Isnīt the obvious result of that insight to vote in accordance with it? Just curious.
      Why do you say that the police concluded that Richardson might have missed the body?
      Regards

      Herlock






      "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

      Comment


      • #48
        Originally posted by Fisherman View Post
        By the way, knowing, as I do, a bit about polls, I can tell you that nobody is normally going to vote "unreliable", because it sounds very harsh and there is no evidence to support it, whereas many will vote reliable, because we learn not to judge people from childhood.

        If the poll had had three answering alternatives shaped like this:

        1. There is enough in it to conclude that Richardson was reliable
        2. There is enough in it to conclude that Richardson was unreliable
        3. There is not enough in it to conclude either way

        ... we would get a lot of number 3 answers.

        If we made a generalistic poll and asked whether people who had misinformed an inquest should be relied upon and offered the alternatives:

        1. Yes
        2. No

        ... we would get a result that - applied on Richardson - would condemn him as unreliable.

        Itīs how we call out in the forest that determines the kind of answer we will get, as an old Swedish proverb puts it. But polls can of course be good fun anyway, as long as we donīt overinvest in clumsily or badly formulated ones!
        Fish, the poll does have three options (including ‘unsure’)
        Regards

        Herlock






        "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

        Comment


        • #49
          Originally posted by Herlock Sholmes View Post

          If Richardson had told the police that from the position that he’d taken up he could not have missed seeing a body why is it so unlikely that they might have taken it for granted that that was exactly what he meant and that he wouldn’t have been so stupid as to have not realised the possibility of the body being behind the door? At the end of the day Richardson spoke at The Inquest and was 100% that there was no body in the yard and that he could not have missed one had it been there. This is the crux of the matter.
          Maybe we should not speak of stupidity, though - you yourself have on various occasions said that he could not have missed the body, although it is clear that he COULD have done so. You speak of the vast gape between the door and the stairs, but the fact is that a person sitting behind it will have his eyes on a level that means that the gap does not allow for seeing anything but the stairs if the door is close to the body of the person on the stairs.

          As I have piointed out before, on first glance it SEEMS impossible to miss the body, and so it is not stupid to claim it is - it is not realizing the vision fields offered by various angles. The police may well have thought the exact same - that there was nothing at all strange if Richardson was not aware of how the body may have been hidden after all. it has nothing to do with stupidity.

          I pointed out before that the world is full of examples of people who have claimed to be absolutely certain, but who were neverthless wrong. In Richardsons case, his certainty is perhaps more understandable than in more ordinary cases, because on first glance ...

          Taking a second look at things is always useful, which was why I offered my sketch earlier. Although people tried to mock it by saying things like "Oh, so you think he was sittring in a totally improbable position" and "Oh, so he crept out of a miniscule door opening", R J Palmer checked it out in a experiment and found that I was correct. The door can be ajar to a very large degree, easily letting Richardson through, and he need only sit in a slightly turned position for the body to be impossible to see.

          Not to accept that is where the term stupid applies a lot better, at least to my mind, and it seems the police shared that view. Did they stupidly allow for the impossible, or did they check for themselves? And did that check tell them that although Richardson was adamant that he could not have missed the body, he in fact could have done just that?

          So who do we rule out? You or the police? That choice must rule you out in my book, since the police were there, they know the exact angles, they could check every position, they had access to Richardson and could put any question they wanted to him - and they arrived at the conslusion that the door could have blocked him from seeing Chapman even if she was there.

          You are welcome to your view, but it is not in line with how those who had the advantage of being able to check things decided.

          Comment


          • #50
            Originally posted by Fisherman View Post

            Regardless of any benchmarks, the thing is we donīt. And of course, that is not a sexy answer, but it is nevertheless the only applicable one to my mind. The one and only matter where we can check whether he told the truth or not is the matter about the cut leather, where we have clear and unshakable evidence that he said one thing but did another.
            But these polls are not very sharp intruments anyway - quite the contrary, in fact. As I say, if your intuition tells you that Richardson was a good guy, then vote away to your heartīs delight! And I promise to leave you to it as of now.
            You might as well say the same thing about elections Fish. When we vote for a candidate or a Party it’s not always because we think that the candidate/party is wonderful but maybe that they’re more likely to get things done that the alternative.
            Regards

            Herlock






            "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

            Comment


            • #51
              Originally posted by JeffHamm View Post

              I don't know if we would get a lot of #3's actually. Richardson's story remains consistent,

              Does it? About the leather cutting, for example? I am under the impression that he changes story on that one. Or afre you solely speaking of how he could not get his head around how he could be wrong?

              though more details are filled in as he's questioned but that's sort of what questions are supposed to do. His first telling, given to a police officer at the scene of the crime, which is his mother's property, when things are busy and confused and panicked, are the main and important bits of information 1) I was here at 4:50, 2) I viewed the backyard 3) there was no body. The other details, involving sitting on the steps, attempts to repair his shoe, etc, are drawn out by questioning him. This is because, as others have noted, eye-witnesses can be mistaken. Trying to determine if he could have missed the body is what they were doing, and as more seemingly unimportant details of his activities come to light, the chance of him not seeing the body drops to near zero.

              But why was it then that the police did not believe so? In what way is your version superior to theirs?

              All we are left with is the ever present caution of "what if he lied about the whole thing"? for which there is no evidence at all other than reliance on "it has happened before in some other case", which of course isn't evidence about this case. It's also happened before that witnesses have told the truth after all.

              We are left with a whole lot more, Iīm afraid, not least the policeīs acceptance that he could have missed the body if it was there.

              Fisherman has suggested the police asked him if he looked behind the door, which is a fair speculation, I could see them asking that.

              I cannot see them NOT asking that, actually.

              However, to conclude that Richardson must have answered NO is based upon the presumption the body was there.

              No, it is based on the fact that the police did not buy Richardsons certainty. They would have if he said he looked behind the door, and furthermore, we can be reasonably certain that we would know if he did.

              We can't create answers to fit the theory, because if we do we must accept as fair counter-argument that Richardson answered "YES, and there was no body".

              Nope. There is no rason. to accept tht at all, becasue that would mean that the police worked from the assumption that he lied about it, and we have no such suggestion or anything reminding of it on record. If he had said he checked behind the door, that would have been mentioned in the police reports.

              I would be surprised if the police didn't question people at Richardson's work, asking if he did borrow a knife to fix his shoe that day.

              So would I.

              If they did, it's a shame we don't have a record of what they found. That's the sort of thing that would be helpful to us, but alas, the fine details of many of the police follow up lines of inquiry are lost now.

              - Jeff
              Sadly, yes. But we need not doubt that Richardson did not say that he looked behind the door, becasue we would certainly know if he did. It is not on record, but it does not need to be. The likelihood of him not having said he looked behind the door is so great as to put it beyond reasonable doubt to my mind.

              Comment


              • #52
                Originally posted by Herlock Sholmes View Post

                Why do you say that the police concluded that Richardson might have missed the body?
                Because they worded that very thing.

                Comment


                • #53
                  Originally posted by Herlock Sholmes View Post

                  Fish, the poll does have three options (including ‘unsure’)
                  Yes, I know. I never said it didnīt.

                  Why is it that exchanges between you and me end up like this?

                  Comment


                  • #54
                    Originally posted by Herlock Sholmes View Post

                    You might as well say the same thing about elections Fish. When we vote for a candidate or a Party it’s not always because we think that the candidate/party is wonderful but maybe that they’re more likely to get things done that the alternative.
                    There are a number of differences involved, actually.

                    Why is it that exchanges between you and me end up like this?

                    Comment


                    • #55
                      Originally posted by Fisherman View Post
                      The very fact that the question is asked highlights how we simply cannot know whether Richardson was a reliable witness or not.
                      Questions are asked Crister, because we don't know the whole story.
                      This has no bearing on the subsequent question of his reliability.
                      As was pointed out before, Richardson didn't change his story, one was merely a brief version of the other. Thats one reason why statements are put down in writing. It doesn't matter how many times a story is related verbally we will add or omit details for no obvious reason, only when we commit to writing do we normally get everything down as it happened.
                      That doesn't make the previous verbal accounts all 'lies'.


                      Regards, Jon S.

                      Comment


                      • #56
                        Originally posted by Wickerman View Post

                        Questions are asked Crister, because we don't know the whole story.
                        This has no bearing on the subsequent question of his reliability.
                        As was pointed out before, Richardson didn't change his story, one was merely a brief version of the other. Thats one reason why statements are put down in writing. It doesn't matter how many times a story is related verbally we will add or omit details for no obvious reason, only when we commit to writing do we normally get everything down as it happened.
                        That doesn't make the previous verbal accounts all 'lies'.

                        The question I alluded to is the one in the thread heading: Was John Richardson reliable? And the fact that we do not know the whole story does not implicate that if we DID, we would know that Ricahrdsom was reliable. What it implicates is that he may or may not have been reliable, otherwise there would be no reason to ask the question.

                        And Richardson DID change his story on the leather-cutting matter. We know that for a fact. And Chanbdlers version visavi the inquest versions are not two similar versions. The one thing he is adamant about throughout is that he was in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street and that he did not see Chapman there.

                        I perhaps need to point out that I am not saying that the previous accounts were lies. I am saying that they may have been, because - just as you note - we cannot tell, becasue we do not have all the cards on hand. Richarsdsom may never have been in Hanbury Street at the given hour, there is noone and nothng to corroborarte that he was. That in itself does not in any fashion implicate that he lied about it - but it is of great importance to keep it in mid, so as not to fall into the trap of believing everything a witness says.

                        I realize that you are not at risk to do so, Jon - but if you are broadminded enough to accept that part of the reality, then you must accept the other side of it too.

                        Comment


                        • #57
                          Originally posted by Fisherman View Post

                          Yes, I know. I never said it didnīt.

                          Why is it that exchanges between you and me end up like this?
                          Believe it or not Fish I wasn’t having a dig. You said this:

                          . 3. There is not enough in it to conclude either way
                          and that if we had this alternative in th poll it would get a lot of votes. I was simply pointed out that this option is in fact available. The third option is ‘unsure.’
                          Regards

                          Herlock






                          "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

                          Comment


                          • #58
                            Originally posted by Fisherman View Post

                            There are a number of differences involved, actually.

                            Why is it that exchanges between you and me end up like this?
                            I was just responding to this point Fish

                            . But these polls are not very sharp intruments anyway - quite the contrary, in fact.
                            Id never claim that a poll gives us a conclusive solution to a debated issue. The intention was to get a feel for posters opinions and why they came to them.
                            Regards

                            Herlock






                            "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

                            Comment


                            • #59
                              Originally posted by Fisherman View Post

                              Maybe we should not speak of stupidity, though - you yourself have on various occasions said that he could not have missed the body, although it is clear that he COULD have done so. You speak of the vast gape between the door and the stairs, but the fact is that a person sitting behind it will have his eyes on a level that means that the gap does not allow for seeing anything but the stairs if the door is close to the body of the person on the stairs.

                              As I have piointed out before, on first glance it SEEMS impossible to miss the body, and so it is not stupid to claim it is - it is not realizing the vision fields offered by various angles. The police may well have thought the exact same - that there was nothing at all strange if Richardson was not aware of how the body may have been hidden after all. it has nothing to do with stupidity.

                              I pointed out before that the world is full of examples of people who have claimed to be absolutely certain, but who were neverthless wrong. In Richardsons case, his certainty is perhaps more understandable than in more ordinary cases, because on first glance ...

                              Taking a second look at things is always useful, which was why I offered my sketch earlier. Although people tried to mock it by saying things like "Oh, so you think he was sittring in a totally improbable position" and "Oh, so he crept out of a miniscule door opening", R J Palmer checked it out in a experiment and found that I was correct. The door can be ajar to a very large degree, easily letting Richardson through, and he need only sit in a slightly turned position for the body to be impossible to see.

                              Not to accept that is where the term stupid applies a lot better, at least to my mind, and it seems the police shared that view. Did they stupidly allow for the impossible, or did they check for themselves? And did that check tell them that although Richardson was adamant that he could not have missed the body, he in fact could have done just that?

                              So who do we rule out? You or the police? That choice must rule you out in my book, since the police were there, they know the exact angles, they could check every position, they had access to Richardson and could put any question they wanted to him - and they arrived at the conslusion that the door could have blocked him from seeing Chapman even if she was there.

                              You are welcome to your view, but it is not in line with how those who had the advantage of being able to check things decided.
                              How can this be checked out unless someone has a yard that is an exact replica of 29 Hanbury Street (much as I respect Roger Palmer) And it’s not just a case of whether it was physically possible or impossible for the door to have blocked his view it’s a case of how likely was it and could Richardson have been unaware of this possibility?

                              Richardson opened the door and stepped down onto the next step and then onto the flags. To do this it would have been overwhelmingly likely that he’d have faced forward as people do when they’re descending steps. To do this he would have held the door open or he’d have been walking into it. A door open to 90 degrees or slightly more would have revealed the body. Then your scenario has him sitting on the steps facing right (almost as if he’s trying to avoid seeing the body.) I’d say that this is unnatural (not impossible of course) but when people sit they usually face forward. And so I’d say that your version of Richardson going through the door and sitting on the steps is unlikely in the extreme. But, at the end of the day, I have to repeat....Richardson was absolutely certain that he couldn’t have missed a body had it have been there. Could he have been unaware that the body might have been obscured by the door? No, I don’t think that this is possible. He saw the body, knew it’s position, knew how much floor space it took up, knew where he’d sat and in what position.

                              So I think that it’s near impossible that he could have been mistaken. It’s just asking too much. To say that he might have been unaware that a body might have been hidden by a door just implies near imbecility for me and we’ve no reason to believe that of Richardson.
                              Regards

                              Herlock






                              "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

                              Comment


                              • #60
                                Originally posted by Fisherman View Post

                                Originally posted by JeffHamm View Post
                                I don't know if we would get a lot of #3's actually. Richardson's story remains consistent,

                                Does it? About the leather cutting, for example? I am under the impression that he changes story on that one. Or afre you solely speaking of how he could not get his head around how he could be wrong?

                                though more details are filled in as he's questioned but that's sort of what questions are supposed to do. His first telling, given to a police officer at the scene of the crime, which is his mother's property, when things are busy and confused and panicked, are the main and important bits of information 1) I was here at 4:50, 2) I viewed the backyard 3) there was no body. The other details, involving sitting on the steps, attempts to repair his shoe, etc, are drawn out by questioning him. This is because, as others have noted, eye-witnesses can be mistaken. Trying to determine if he could have missed the body is what they were doing, and as more seemingly unimportant details of his activities come to light, the chance of him not seeing the body drops to near zero.

                                But why was it then that the police did not believe so? In what way is your version superior to theirs?

                                All we are left with is the ever present caution of "what if he lied about the whole thing"? for which there is no evidence at all other than reliance on "it has happened before in some other case", which of course isn't evidence about this case. It's also happened before that witnesses have told the truth after all.

                                We are left with a whole lot more, Iīm afraid, not least the policeīs acceptance that he could have missed the body if it was there.

                                Fisherman has suggested the police asked him if he looked behind the door, which is a fair speculation, I could see them asking that.

                                I cannot see them NOT asking that, actually.

                                However, to conclude that Richardson must have answered NO is based upon the presumption the body was there.

                                No, it is based on the fact that the police did not buy Richardsons certainty. They would have if he said he looked behind the door, and furthermore, we can be reasonably certain that we would know if he did.

                                We can't create answers to fit the theory, because if we do we must accept as fair counter-argument that Richardson answered "YES, and there was no body".

                                Nope. There is no rason. to accept tht at all, becasue that would mean that the police worked from the assumption that he lied about it, and we have no such suggestion or anything reminding of it on record. If he had said he checked behind the door, that would have been mentioned in the police reports.

                                I would be surprised if the police didn't question people at Richardson's work, asking if he did borrow a knife to fix his shoe that day.

                                So would I.

                                If they did, it's a shame we don't have a record of what they found. That's the sort of thing that would be helpful to us, but alas, the fine details of many of the police follow up lines of inquiry are lost now.

                                - Jeff

                                Sadly, yes. But we need not doubt that Richardson did not say that he looked behind the door, becasue we would certainly know if he did. It is not on record, but it does not need to be. The likelihood of him not having said he looked behind the door is so great as to put it beyond reasonable doubt to my mind.
                                I think even the shoe cutting remains consistent. Once he provides more details about what he did at 4:50, that brings in his describing he sat on the stairs and what he did there at that time. It would be strange to go on and start describing more details about what he did later in another unrelated place with regards to trying to sort out an uncomfortable boot when the topic is a mutlation murder in the back yard of his mother's property. That detail comes out only in response to the commet that the knife he brought was pretty dull, etc. That line of the conversation is a digression from the main topic of the murder, but those digressions give a more complete picture of what his activities were and would provide something for the investigators to check and verify or not. If they were not verified, then that would arouse suspicion in him, and he might end up being looked at differently by the police as a result. He wasn't, but whether that's because the details were not investigated or because they checked out we don't know because it's not in the recorded evidence we have. I agree that it's probable they followed it up based upon how they followed up other such things, but that doesn't change the fact we don't have a record of it.

                                And I think the police did believe him, certainly the coroner's summing up emphasized the testimony of the withnesses (including Richardson) over the conflicting, and caveated, estimate given by Dr. Phillips. But the police are also obliged to follow up all possibilities, and so have to investigate based upon both possibilities, even if they think one more likely than the other. Otherwise, it's a badly done investigation and I think the police did the best they could and went to great efforts to follow up as much as possible. that doesn't mean something might have been overlooked, of course, which happens all the time because there are so many lines to follow. Cold cases are often solved, in part, because a fresh set of eyes sees a line of inquiry that wasn't followed to completion and as a result something new gets uncovered.

                                I really don't think the police believed he could have missed the body if he sat on the steps as he said. But as I mentioned above, they are obliged to consider the estimate given by Phillips, even if they think Phillip's own caution (mentioning it was cool, and blood loss resulting in faster cooling, etc), makes his estimate the less reliable one. Considering something because they are obliged to doesn't mean they considered it likely.

                                As for them not asking if he looked behind the door, I suppose it depends upon how literal one takes the "Did you look behind the door" as a question. If Richardson, in his description of what he saw, included a statement "I could see the whole yard and there was no body there", he effectively answers the question without it being asked. I agree, though, that they would have wanted to find out how sure he was that the body wasn't there, and Richardson states it very emphatically that Annie wasn't there at the time he was.

                                What we have is Richardson's testimony that he was sure there was no body there at 4:50. And the descriptions of what he did during his visit unfold in a way that does not look suspicious. More details come out about things he did that are less and less directly related to the main topic (the murder) and are more incidental, and normal, activities of a day to day nature. And from what he describes, there is no reason to believe he simply missed seeing a body beside him. Either one has to reject his testimony by arguing he's made it all up, for which there is no evidence, or argue that he was way out on the time (again, no evidence for that), or that Annie was murdered before 4;50 am.

                                - Jeff

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