One of the most fascinating things about studying the Jack the Ripper case is the opportunity it affords to gain a sneak peak into the everyday lives of some of the honest, and not so honest, folk of Victorian London.
This is particularly so when it comes to reading newspaper accounts that covered the Whitechapel Murders but which, at the same time, reported on everyday life that, of course, still continued irrespective of what Jack the Ripper was up to in London’s East End.
On November 17th 1888. The Illustrated Police News reported the following court case under the headline “An Amusing Witness.”
HE STOLE A WATCH
Edward Coleman, 18, described as a labourer, surrendered to his bail, at the Middlesex Sessions, to answer an indictment charging him with stealing a watch from Ellen Doyle, a cook in the employ of Mrs Powell, living in Norland Square.
When taken into custody on the evening the offence was committed, the prisoner stated that he was at work at the time of the robbery, and Mr Watts, a dealer in firewood, was called as to character.
MR WATTS GIVES HIS EVIDENCE
In an answer to Mr Keith Frith, he said the prisoner was working for him at the time, mentioning the hour of the day when the watch was stolen, saying the prisoner was under his eye at the time. This caused amusement in the court room and laughter rang out.
THE MEAT WAS IN THE POT!
Mr Piggot, the prosecuting counsel asked Watts “Why are you so positive it was nine thirty on this day?”
Witness: Because my missus was cooking me a bit of meat. (Laughter).
Counsel: Is it such an extra ordinary thing for you to have a piece of meat that you can swear so particularly as to the time?
Witness: Well, all I know is that the pot was boiling at twenty minutes after nine.
Counsel: What time did you have anything to eat?
Witness: About 11 O’clock.
Counsel: Why, then, was the pot boiling at twenty minutes past nine?
MR WATTS BECOMES AGITATED
Mr Watts was, by this time, evidently getting tired of the cross examination and exclaimed, “now, you look here; I’ve come here to tell the truth; I’m not telling any lies.”
MUCH COURTROOM MIRTH
Those in court seemed much amused with the answers given this witness, and the court erupted in laughter, so much so that, for a moment, the cries of “silence” from the usher went unheeded.
The jury, after long deliberation, found the prisoner guilty, and he was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment with hard labour.