In the recent post on poor old Henry John Hatch, the one ‘trial’ I didn’t mention was the apparent estrangement from his daughter Lucy. She was an orphan whom the Hatches adopted, and at the tender age of eight, she gave evidence in respect of the charges against Henry. Lucy was present during three of the occasions that eleven-year-old Mary Eugenia Plummer claimed that she had been indecently assaulted by Henry. During one of those incidents, Eugenia said that Lucy was also assaulted. Lucy steadfastly declared that on the occasions when she had been present, nothing had happened.
In the book I presented extensive evidence, by necessity circumstantial, to show that it was remotely unlikely that Henry had committed the offences of which he was charged. The most telling of this evidence was detailed by the trial judge during Eugenia’s trial for perjury. Although both Eugenia and her younger sister Stephana claimed that Henry had assaulted them, neither child ever claimed that Henry had warned them not to ‘tell’.
So when it became clear that Lucy had left the Hatches, at least by the time she was nineteen, had reverted to her birth name, ‘Buckler’, and was living close to her birthplace on the south coast, I found myself wondering what had happened. Neither Henry nor his wife was a signatory on Lucy’s marriage certificate, although that was hardly suspicious. But when Henry made a will, there was no mention of Lucy.
There could be many quite innocent explanations. The Hatches were effectively bankrupt and living off charity after the failure of the court actions. Perhaps Lucy left in order to get a job and support herself. Possibly she reverted to her original name in order to avoid any taint attaching to the ‘Hatch’ name—since Henry’s misfortunes had been national headline news. It is also possible—although unlikely given Henry’s charitable nature—that there was a family schism for reasons entirely unrelated to the trauma they had all suffered in court.
Nevertheless, conspiracy theorists might speculate that Henry’s behaviour towards Lucy and/or Eugenia had been less than entirely innocent, and as Lucy got older she determined to distance herself from him. I do not believe that, although I recognize that it is a possibility no matter how unlikely. Lucy died in 1943 at the age of ninety, and like Eugenia took her secrets with her to the grave. There remains the remote possibility that she did confide in someone, perhaps her husband James Staniland Stocks, or her siblings—she was one of five. Somewhere, in a journal or letter, there might be some clue as to what really happened.
We are used to nice pat resolutions to the unceasing diet of detective/murder mysteries that seem to dominate TV drama at present. Real life is rarely so accommodating.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs