A Detective Falls Through A Trapdoor

Dorset Street, where Jack the Ripper carried out his final and most gruesome murder, that of Mary Kelly, on 9th November, 1888, was frequently in the news in Victorian times, and, it has to be said, most of the newspaper mentions of it were focussed on the criminal activity that was known to go on there.

Indeed, many newspapers were of the opinion that – even up against tough competition from the likes of Flower and Dean and Thrawl Streets – Dorset Street, in Spitalfields, was quite simply, the “worst street in London.

A view Along Dorset Street.
Dorset Street As It Was


The Dublin Daily Express Friday, on 4th January, 1889, carried the following story that showed the dangers awaiting any police officer who pursued a suspect to this particular East End thoroughfare:-

“At Bow Street Police Court, London, on Wednesday, Catherine Barragan, of Dorset Street, Spitalfields, was charged with being concerned with a man, not in custody, in burglariously breaking into the premises of Messrs Baines and Co. opticians, of High Holborn.

Mr. Baines said that, at about half-past seven o’clock on Tuesday morning, his attention was called to his window by a passer-by.

He found that a thick plate glass window had been broken.

Upon making examination of his stock he found a number of opera glasses and barometers, to the value of £78. had been stolen.

Information was given to the police, and on Tuesday night he was called to the Bow Street Police Station, where he was shown some opera glasses and barometers, which he at once identified his property.


Detective-constable Pedder, of the E Division, stated that, at half-past eight on Tuesday night, he proceeded, with other officers, to the prisoner’s lodgings.

He told her that he suspected that she had stolen property secreted in her room. She made no reply.

Witness found the four pairs of opera glasses and the four barometers, identified by the prosecutor.

He said to her, “How do you account for these things being in your possession?”

She replied, “A man brought them here at two o’clock, and asked me to mind them.”

She was told that she would be charged with stealing and receiving them, well knowing them to have been stolen.

She made no reply.


Ten minutes afterwards, a man entered the room and said, “Are you there, Kate?”

Witness said, “We are police officers, and from what we have heard we shall search you, I have reason to believe that you have stolen property in your possession.”

In his right-hand coat pocket, a barometer was found.

The man said, “I bought this today, and gave five shillings for it to a man.”

Witness asked who the man was.


He replied that did he did not know, and was asked where he lived.

He replied, “Across the way,” and witness and the police officers went to a shop on the opposite side of the street.

The man went behind the counter, and, suddenly, he disappeared through a trapdoor.


The witness followed, and fell into the cellar.

He was seized by two bull terriers, who held him while the man escaped.

The other officers came to the rescue of the witness, and it was necessary, before he was released, to beat the dogs off with a crowbar.

The prisoner was remanded.”