A Savage Assault

There is absolutely no doubt about it, Victorian Whitechapel could be a dangerous place – especially at night.

Indeed, should strangers venture out into Whitechapel after dark, all manner of dangers awaited them.

On Monday the 26th of January 1857 The Morning Herald published the following article that illustrates some of the dangers awaiting the unwary who got taken in by the criminal elements that lived in the district:-


At The Thames Police Court John, Green, alias William Johnson, aged 26, a powerful ruffian, well known to the police as a card-sharper, swindler, and thief, was charged with assaulting Mr. William Kittler, a ship’s steward, and attempting to rob him of his watch.

The Complainant, who has sustained very serious injuries, stated that he resided in High Street, Wapping.


On the previous night he was passing along High-street, Whitechapel, when the prisoner accosted him, claimed him as an old acquaintance, and entered into conversation.

He went, on the prisoner’s invitation, into a public house kept by a pugilist in the Whitechapel Road, and was there joined by another man.

View view along Whitechapel High Street.


After remaining there some time and drinking several glasses of grog they left, and went into a night house in High Street, Whitechapel, where they had some more grog.

He was anxious to leave his new companions and go home, but they prevented him from doing so, and said, “Don’t be in a hurry; you can go home along with us and have half my bed.”

He thought the prisoner meant what he said, and remained with him some time longer.


He left the prisoner at two o’clock in the morning, and was passing along a narrow court called Plough Street, leading out of Whitechapel High Street, when the prisoner came up behind him, put his right arm around his neck, and compressed it so tightly that he nearly strangled him, and then flung him on the ground.

The prisoner and another fellow, who was with him, knelt upon him, and attempted to drag his watch from his fob.

By a violent effort he partially released his neck from the prisoner’s grasp, and shrieked and groaned as well as he was able.

Fortunately, there was a police constable close by, who heard his groans, and the prisoner and his companions ran away.


Mr. Yardley:- “Did you lose anything?”

The Prosecutor:- “No, sir; but my watch was partially dragged from my fob, and one of my pockets, which contained no money, was turned inside out. My throat is very sore, and I have been very ill all night.”

The witness then exhibited marks on his neck, which had been tightly compressed.

In answer to a question by the prisoner, Witness said that they met at a foot race at Manchester two years ago.

The prisoner brought that circumstance to his recollection on the previous night.


George Woodward, a police constable, No. 187 H, stated that he heard the groans of the prosecutor, and, as he approached him, the prisoner and another man ran away.

He pursued the prisoner and overtook him, and after a desperate resistance secured him. ,

He afterwards took another man into custody, who was very much like one of the men he saw running away, but the prosecutor could not identify him.

Mr. Yardley ordered that the prisoner be remanded.