Assault On Mr Newton

Sometimes it is easy to forget that other crimes were taking place in London during the Jack the Ripper scare. Indeed, so ubiquitous is the coverage of the Whitechapel murders that other crimes and perpetrators seldom get a look in.

But other crimes were happening and the authorities were dealing with them even, as today’s story shows, at risk to their own safety.

The following article appeared in The London Evening Standard on the 8th November 1888 and concerns an assault that had been made on the notorious Mr Newton, the  Marlborough Street Magistrate who had been severely criticised during the Miss Cass case of the previous year.

If you haven’t read the blog about this particular case you can do so here.


The protagonist in this particular saga was a girl by the name of Annie McDonald, and she had appeared in court on the 7th November 1888 charged with doing something that many like her who had appeared before the irascible Mr. Newton had, no doubt, wanted to do – that is, she had thrown a bottle at him.

A sketch of Mr Newton.
The Magistrate Mr Newton. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.


“Annie Mc’Donald, a young woman, was charged with assaulting Mr. Newton, one of the Magistrates, by throwing a half-pint spirit bottle at him whilst he was presiding on Friday.

In reply to Mr. Hannay, Inspector Clarke said the Prisoner had been twice committed for trial from that Court for wilful damage and sent to the Sessions.


Serjeant Brewer, the gaoler, said that on the 2nd inst, the Prisoner was placed in the dock charged with wilful damage; and her case proceeded before Mr. Newton.

“After the evidence of two witnesses she was ordered to be put back for another witness to be called.

As soon as she heard that, she drew a bottle from her pocket, which had contained spirits of turpentine, and raised it in her right hand. I sprang forward, but before I could get hold of her arm she threw it at the Magistrate.

It missed Mr. Newton, passing about a foot away from his head, struck the bookcase in the rear, and fell to the floor unbroken.


I took her back to the cells and said to her, “You must be a foolish woman to do what you have.”

She replied, “He (the Magistrate), has always been down on me and my sisters. It is Mr. Newton, and I am sorry it did not hit him.”


I asked her whence she got the bottle, and she said, “When I came from Vine-street Station in the van, I was brought into the yard, and placed in the cell passage at the back of the Marlborough-mews Police-station with others. I saw the bottle standing against the wall, and I picked it up and put it in my pocket. I don’t want any one to get into trouble for what I have done.””

Prisoner: Did Mr. Newton instruct you what evidence to give.

Witness: I have not spoken to Mr. Newton about you.


Mr. Hannay said he had always thought that prisoners were searched before they were placed in the dock.

Brewer said they were searched after they were charged, but not at the police-court.

Mr. Hannay said he should send the Prisoner for trial before a Judge and Jury. It was better that they should deal with the case.


When called upon for her defence, the Prisoner said – I wish to say that Mr. Newton and other stipendiary magistrates, as I can prove, have perpetrated every outrage on me and my sisters, and have done it at the instigation of a man with money.

He (the man) threatened to pay everyone to hunt us down, and up to the present he has done so.


He is like the Whitechapel murderer, and he has undone three defenceless women. The only difference between him and the murderer is, that the latter has to evade the law, whilst this man can pay for it – he can buy it.

Another of the magistrates sent me to prison for nothing whatever, and I was there for a month.

Mr. Hannay: All this is no answer to the present charge.

Prisoner: No; but it is this man who has paid everyone. It is an outrage to send anyone to prison for nothing, as I have been sent, and all at the instigation of that man, who, with his money, has done it.


Mr. Hannay: I presume you have no witnesses?

Prisoner: No: but every word I say is true. One of the stipendiaries at Bow-street seized on my sister’s child.

Mr. Hannay: This is no answer to the charge.


Prisoner: It was a brutal outrage.

They sent him to a workhouse in Wakefield, and during two years they detained him there. He did not gain one ounce in weight in the two years, and was like a little skeleton.

It was that brutal man, his father, who has done all this. It is his own child, which he was ordered to keep by a body of his countrymen. The child was covered with bruises where he was battered on the head by a workhouse official.

I wish to say that their acts will rise up in judgement against them, and I call upon God to judge between them and me.

The Prisoner was then removed to the cells.”


What is interesting about Annie’s outburst to Mr Hannay – aside from the fact that she invoked a comparison with the Whitechapel murderer – is that, in putting forward her conspiracy theory about the way in which she and her sisters (and I am presuming here she was a prostitute and was, therefore, referring to her fellow streetwalkers) were being silenced by the authorities at the instigation “of a man with money”, she managed to preempt by almost a hundred years the similar theories that would start circulating from the 1970’s onward.

And yet, when she appeared in court and made her allegations, the murders were far from over.

Indeed, just two days after she appeared before Mr Hannay and made her allegations about the authorities being down on her and her sisters, Jack the Ripper would strike again and carry out the brutal and gruesome murder of Mary Kelly, the victim who later conspiracy theorists would come to view as the centre of the web of intrigue surrounding the Whitechapel murders.