A Murder At Whitechapel

It is quite easy for what begins as a simple disagreement to suddenly boil over into something far more serious, especially when drink is involved.

This is and always has been the case, and, in the past, it was quite common for drunken brawls to suddenly result in murder.

The Exeter Flying Post, in its edition of Thursday 17th August 1820, carried an article about one such brawl:-


A few evenings back, whilst a party of Irish people were drinking in a low public-house called the George, in George-yard, Whitechapel, a quarrel arose between them, which ended in the death of Jeremiah Carty, a poor inoffensive man.

The deceased was sitting in company with two Englishmen, drinking a pot of beer, and opposite to him in another box were a company of five men and women, all relatives.

A view along George Yard, scene of Martha Turner's Murder.
George Yard In 1890.


When the tap girl entered with some beer, the deceased jocularly laid hold of her arm, and said that he  should like to dance with her, when William Cavan and Edward Callaghan. two of the other party, sprung on him, and with two desperate blows, knocked him down.

This unprovoked assault created much confusion, more especially as no other cause was assigned for it, than that the girl was related to Callaghan and Cavan, and much angry feeling was expressed on each side, till at length the assailants seemed sorry for their conduct; and approached the deceased, each holding out a hand for him to shake in a token of friendship.

The poor fellow, suspecting no treachery unhesitatingly placed both his hands in theirs, and whilst be stood in this defenceless posture, and before the words expressive of his ready forgiveness had yet died upon his lips, both the ruffians again struck him, and continued to beat him till he dropped on the ground covered with blood.


They then began to whisper to the woman, who soon after rose from her seat and went out, whilst the landlord of the public-house (foreboding some evil from the circumstance) took Carty up in his arms, and prevailed on him to make his escape the back way; but before this object could be wholly accomplished, the woman returned, bearing two large bludgeons, under her cloak; the whole party then sallied out after Carty, notwithstanding every exertion of the landlord to the contrary.

The woman (who is far advanced in pregnancy) seized a brick and hurled it at the deceased; it struck him on the head, and whilst he was in the act of falling, he was twice with a cudgel, which broke the force of the blow.


Whilst he laid on the ground, they gathered round him, and began, in the most ferocious manner, some to kick him in the ribs, and others to beat him with anything that was likely to do a mortal injury which they could find; one man, having no weapon, broke open a door in the adjoining court, and armed himself with a poker, with which be rushed to the scene of the outrage with increased appetite.

As a considerable crowd was collecting, they dragged the inanimate body into an out-building, where they remained for some time, the persons on the outside hearing noises like the sound of blows – and faint groans, which at last died away altogether.


The party then came out of the place,  and seeing a number of Englishmen (whom the report of murder had collected together) preparing to attack them, they made a precipitate escape.


In some minutes afterwards the deceased came out of the privy, bleeding from his bead and face, and walking as if he had sustained some mortal injury about the body; he walked with great difficulty to the shop of a surgeon, where he received a temporary dressing, and immediately after fainted.

A coach was then called, and the deceased was conveyed to the hospital; but, although he received the best possible medical treatment, he died a short time afterwards.


An investigation took place with as little delay as possible, before Mr. Unwin, the Coroner for the district, and a Jury of the most respectable inhabitants, when a variety of witnesses were produced who proved the whole of the foregoing facts, and added, that the deceased was a very harmless sober man.

On this evidence the Jury returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against William Cavan,  Edward Callaghan, Sylvester Mahony, Daniel Donovan, Wm. Donovan, and Mary Donovan; and the Coroner immediately issued his warrant for their apprehension.

The accused, with the exception of Sylvester Mahony, have been apprehended, and committed to prison from Lambeth-street Police Office, to take their trials at the forthcoming Old Bailey Sessions.


You can watch videos on other crimes in Whitechapel on your YouTube Victorian history channel.