Whitechapel in the 19th century could be a violent place, and, the Jack the Ripper murders aside, violence and even murder, were, to say the least, commonplace.
Drunkenness was an endemic problem in the district, and much of the violent crime in the area came about as a result of people having over imbibed and then ending up getting into a brawl.
One such story was reported in The Otley News and West Riding Advertiser on Friday the 15th on November 1889:-
MURDER IN WHITECHAPEL
A startling discovery was made at three o’clock on Sunday morning, at a house in Greek’s Court, Swan Street, Whitechapel.
A police inspector, having received information of a tragic occurrence having taken place in the dwelling, on Saturday night, entered the place and found in one of the rooms the lifeless body of the occupant, an elderly woman named Catherine Caldon.
Her head sustained a severe wound, and fragments of a jug lay about the place.
SHE WAS HER STEPDAUGHTER
It appears from the statement of the victim’s son, a boy aged 12 years, that on Saturday night the woman was visited by her step-daughter, a young woman, wife of Patrick Taylor, carman, to whom she had been married only six months, and that a violent quarrel took place between them, and ended in Mrs. Taylor striking the deceased on the head with a jug, causing her to immediately fall dead.
HER FATHER WAS IN HOSPITAL
Her father, the husband of the deceased, is a costermonger, and has been in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital for some time.
THE WORSE FOR LIQUOR
The parties are Irish, and it is said that one of the women, at any rate, was the worse for liquor when the quarrel occurred.
There had been an ill feeling between them for some time past, arising out of family matters.
ELLEN DONOVAN IN COURT
The Morning Post on Tuesday the 12th of November, 1889, gave more details on the case along with a report on the appearance of the perpetrator at Thames Police Court:-
At the Thames Police Court yesterday morning Ellen Donovan, aged 21, a married woman, of Enoch Court Goodman’s Yard, Whitechapel, was brought up in the custody of Detective-inspector Reif, charged on suspicion with causing the death of Catherine Caldon by striking her on the head.
lnspector Reid said that the prisoner was charged on suspicion with causing the death of her stepmother.
It appears that on Saturday Mrs. Caldon and the accused were heard quarreling by a Mrs. Dodd. The latter saw that Mrs. Caldon was bleeding from a cut on the head, and she bathed the wound.
The prisoner rendered no assistance.
Mrs. Dodd went marketing, and when she returned she saw Mrs. Caldon sitting at the door. She and the prisoner’s husband were afterwards drinking together.
FOUND DEAD IN A CHAIR
At two o’clock on Sunday Mrs. Caldon was found sitting in a chair in her room dead.
The doctor was called, but he was unable to say what the cause of death was. There was, however, a large cut on the forehead and several on the face, and inquiries were made by the police.
Inspector Causby found a broken jug in the room, and it was believed that the prisoner struck her stepmother with that.
CHARGED AT THE STATION
She was arrested on Sunday night in Busby’s public house in Mansell Street. When told the charge, she said, “She was a drunken woman. I had a row with her about a shilling; but I never struck her.” When charged at the station she made no reply.
Mr. Saunders remanded the accused, but he agreed to accept bail in one surety of £20.
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