A False Confession

Miller’s Court was where the murder of Mary Kelly, the final victim of Jack the Ripper, occurred on the 9th of November 1888. It stood off Dorset Street, a thoroughfare that had such a bad reputation that it was often referred to as “the worst street in London.”

By the 1920’s, Dorset Street had undergone a name change, and had become Duval Street.

On Wednesday, 29th December, 1926, a lady by the name of Jane Williams was found dead in her room in Miller’s Court. It seemed to be a perfectly straightforward case of death from natural causes, until, that is, the next day when a gentleman walked into an East End police staion and claimed that he had, in fact, murdered the deceased woman.

The Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail took up the story in its edition of  Friday 31st December 1926:-


“When Joseph Carson (65), inmate of West Ham Union, was charged at Old Street Police Court today with murdering Jane Williams at Duval Street on December 29th, a police witness said the prisoner entered Bow Road police station and said that he had murdered a woman in Spitalfields.

He was cautioned and the stated “I have come to give myself up. I cannot stand it any longer. I strangled her.”

Asked if he had any questions to ask the witness, the prisoner said, “I do not deny I was was upset, and may have said anything like that, but I do not agree with it now. I know I did not murder that woman.”

The accused was remanded until Monday.”

A sketch showing the exterior of the room in which Mary Kelly was murdered.
Mary Kelly’s Room. From Lloyd’s Weekly News, 11th November 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The inquest into the death of Jane Williams was held on Saturday, the 1st of January 1927, and The Chelmsford Chronicle reported on the developments to do with the case in its edition of Friday 7th January 1927:-

“The jury at a Stepney inquest on Saturday returned a verdict of death from natural causes on the case of Jane Williams, of Miller Court, Duval Street, Spitalfields, who was found dead in her room on December 29th, and in connection with whose death an inmate of the West Ham Union Institution at Whipps Cross had been remanded on a charge of murder.

Police-Sergeant Lane said that the man in custody, Joseph Carson, entered Bow Road Police Station on December 30th and said he wished to give himself up, he had murdered a woman and could not stand it any longer. He added that he had strangled her.

Dr. R. M. Bronte, who made a post mortem examination, said there was no  evidence of any injury or strangulation. It was quite a natural death.


Joseph Carson gave evidence, and said that it was “a lie” that he told police.

Dr. Guthrie (the coroner):- “Were yon in drink?”

Carson:- “No; I had only half a dozen drinks. You cannot get drunk oon two shillings.”

Dr. Guthrie:- “You were a foolish old man to give the police all this trouble.”

Turning to the jury, the Coroner added, “I am sorry, gentlemen, that you have had all this trouble over a silly old man.”


On Monday, at Old Street, Joseph Carson, aged 65, an inmate of West Ham Institution, Forest House, Walthamstow, appeared on remand charged on his own confession with the murder of Jane Williams at Miller Court, Spitalfields.

A detective stated that there had been a post mortem examination, and the jury at the inquest had returned a verdict of death from natural causes.

He would, therefore, like to withdraw the charge. He thought that Carson was under the influence of drink when he made his statement to the police.

Carson was discharged.”