Attempted Mile End Murder

Domestic violence was a frequent occurrence in the Victorian East End, and the newspapers of the age carried frequent reports of attacks on wives by their husbands.

The Illustrated Police News featured the story of one such attack in its edition of Saturday the 21st of December 1878:-


At the Thames Police Court on Tuesday, William Tritner, aged thirty years, described as a potman, of 27, Ernest-street, Stepney, was brought before Mr. Saunders, charged with attempting to murder his wife, Emma Tritner, aged twenty-three, by striking her on the head with a hatchet.

Frederick Winslow, 63 KR, said that at a quarter to four o’clock on Monday afternoon he was informed that a man had attempted to murder his wife at 22, Beaumont-square, Stepney.

He at once hastened to the house, and, on knocking at the door, it was opened by a woman who was terribly cut about the head. and arms, in fact, being so weak that she staggered back into a chair.

An illustration showing the attempted murder.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 21st December 1878. Copyright, The British Library Board.


After she had somewhat recovered, he asked her who had done it. She said, “My husband did it. As soon as I opened the door to him he chopped me down, saying, “I’ll do for you now,” and ran away, taking the chopper with him.”

Witness sent for a cab, and had her conveyed to the London Hospital.

He afterwards saw the prisoner in custody and heard him say, “It was her own fault; she cut my head with a basin three weeks ago. I asked her to come home, but she refused, and then I did it.”


Louis Bellamy, the potman at the Hobart Arms, Bancroft Road, Mile End Road, said that at a quarter-past four o’clock on Monday afternoon he was in the skittle ground when the prisoner entered.

Witness noticed the prisoner’s hands were covered with blood, and after cleaning them in some fine sand, he suddenly exclaimed, “I have done it this time.”

On asking him what he had done, he said, “I knocked her down three times with a hatchet.”

Shortly afterwards, the prisoner left, and the witness found a chopper stained with blood exactly at the spot where he had seen the prisoner.


Henry Lammas, 10 K R., said that on Monday night he went to 27, Ernest-street, and secreted himself.

Shortly afterwards, the prisoner arrived and he took him into custody and charged him with attempting to murder his wife.

He said, “Alright; I know all about it. I did it.”


Later in the day, it was reported that the injuries the unfortunate woman had received were likely to terminate fatally, and it was thought requisite to take her depositions.

The magistrate, Mr. Thomas, the clerk, and Inspector Woodley, of the K division, attended the London Hospital for that purpose, and the injured woman, in the presence of her husband, made a statement to the effect that she had been married to the prisoner three years, but, lately, she has been in service at 22, Beaumont-square, where she was employed previous to her marriage.


On Saturday last she summoned her husband at this Court, but when his name was called out he ran away.

The same day he threatened to cut her throat and he said that he would hang for her before long.


At about three o’clock on Monday afternoon she heard a knock at the door, and, on opening it, she saw her husband. He said, “Well, Emma, what do you think of doing; are you coming home?”

She told him it was no use, as he had no fire or food.

He said, “That won’t do for me;” and, as she was in the act of closing the door, he pushed it back and struck her on her head with a hatchet.

The blow knocked her down, and while she was on the ground he struck her five or six times on the head with the weapon, and she lost her senses.

She recollected nothing more until a constable arrived and took her to the hospital.


In answer to the magistrate, she said that after her husband struck her the first blow he said, “Now I’ll do for you.”

Her husband had previously threatened to do for her or “Old Dipple” (a former employer living in the Commercial-road), because he would not give him a good character.

She had never threatened to stab her husband, but she had often told him she would work her fingers off if he would be steady.

Mr. Saunders remanded the prisoner for a week to see how the unfortunate woman progressed.


Close to the house at which the act had been committed a card very neatly written in old English was found, bearing the words, “William ThomasTritner, 27 Ernest Street, White Horse Lane, Stepney.” Underneath this was drawn a man standing under a gallows, with a priest and a hangman standing beside him.