Violent crime was a common occurrence in the streets of the Victorian East End of London. Spitalfields, in particular, was an enclave that “enjoyed” more than its fair share of attacks and attempted murders.
The thoroughfares that led off Commercial Street were frequently turning up in the crime pages of the Victorian newspapers, and the list of crimes that occurred in them – even without their associations with the jack the Ripper atrocities – could fill several true crime volumes.
A WHITECHAPEL OUTRAGE
One such attack occurred in early December, 1892.
The Cheltenham Chronicle, published full details of it on Saturday, 10th December, 1892:-
“Albert Edward Hawthorn, twenty-one, a barman, was charged before Mr Bushby, at Worship-street Police Court, London, on Saturday morning, with attempting to murder Emma Johnson, known as Mary Ann Smith, “Deaf Emma,” and by various other aliases, at 13 Pearl Street, Whitechapel, on Friday night.
Inspector Beck appeared to prosecute, and Mr T. W. Moore defended.
HE CUT HER THROAT
The prosecutrix, whose face was bound up in flannel, said that the prisoner accompanied her to her room on Friday night, and, before he had been in it more than a minute, he had cut her throat and attempted to murder her. She screamed, “Murder! Police!”, and some people came.
She remembered nothing particularly after that.
Cross-examined, she denied that she took a silk handkerchief from the prisoner or attempted to rifle his pockets.
He had no reason to quarrel with her.
The further cross-examination of the witness – whose evidence, owing to her deafness and dazed condition, was not very intelligible – was postponed.
DR. CLARK’S TESTIMONY
Dr. Percy John Clark, of 2 Spitalfields Square, said that he was called to Commercial Street Police Station at about a quarter to ten on Friday night, and saw the woman Johnson suffering from a severe wound in her throat.
A flap of skin about two inches wide and an inch and a half in length was hanging down. There was also a deep cut across the inside of her thumb. She had lost a great quantity of blood. All the wounds might have been caused by the razor produced, which had bloodstains upon it.
Cross-examined: Though the wound in the throat was in a slanting direction, he could not say that it must have been done in a struggle. The wound on the thumb was probably so inflicted.
CONSTABLE JACOBS’ EVIDENCE
Police-constable Arthur Jacobs said that the prisoner made a statement to him when in the cell after his arrest. He said:- “I intended doing it. I put the razor in my pocket this morning. She has always followed me about at night when I come from places of amusement. I have been on the spree for a fortnight.”
Cross-examined: He never suggested that the prisoner should speak. The inspector sent him to watch that the prisoner did not attempt to hurt himself. The prisoner was quite cool when he made the statement.
The razor-case was found in the prisoner’s pocket.”
A WOMAN’S THROAT CUT IN WHITECHAPEL
Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper gave a much fuller account of the crime and the court appearance of the accused in its edition of Sunday, 11th December, 1892:-
“On Friday night an attempt was made to cut the throat of an “unfortunate” named Johnson, in a house in Pearl- street, Whitechapel, which forms a crescent at the back of Commercial- street – the two entrances in the main thoroughfare being separated by the Cambridge Music Hall.
It seems that the woman Johnson had accompanied a young man to the house, and soon after he was seen to run towards Commercial-street.
He was closely followed by the woman, who shouted that her throat was cut, and who was seen to be bleeding somewhat profusely.
The cry was taken up by several others in the street, and the fugitive was stopped in Commercial-street by two men. He struggled violently until a constable stepped across the road and took him in charge.
The young woman had received a curved gash across the throat, but not of so serious a nature as to necessitate her immediate removal to a hospital.
PRISONER IN COURT
Albert Edward Hawthorne, stated to be 21 years of age, but looking older, a barman, who gave the address of his mother at 13, Gibraltar-walk, Bethnal-green, was charged at Worship-street police-court on Saturday with feloniously cutting and wounding Mary Ann Johnson with intent, &c.
The prosecutrix is 30 years of age. When brought into court she had a bandage under her chin, passing over her head, and her left hand was also bandaged.
She proved to be so deaf, as well as slow of apprehension, that it became necessary to place her in front of the clerk’s desk.
The evidence she gave was in reply to questions put to her.
HOW THE ATTACK OCCURRED
She said she was accosted by the prisoner in Commercial-street about half-past nine on Friday night, and she took him to her home at 26, Pearl-street.
He attacked her in her room.
She suddenly felt something sharp at her throat. On putting her hand up she found that she was bleeding. She screamed out for “police” twice. He tried to cut her neck again, and then she began struggling with him for the knife. In the struggle, her left hand was cut. She thought the knife fell out of his hand, and she had just time then to rush out of the door and get to the police-station, when she lost her senses.
SHE GAVE CONTRARY ANSWERS
On being questioned by Mr. Moore, her deafness caused her to give several contrary answers. She said she had not robbed the prisoner in the room. She did not know if he had a stick – she had not seen one – and she had not taken a silk handkerchief from him. They had not quarrelled and she did not know why he had attacked her.
They were only together three or four minutes. What she thought was a knife was razor (a broken razor was produced), but she had not opened the razor nor taken the case out of his pocket. It was found in his pocket the station.
THE INJURIES SHE HAD SUFFERED
Mr. Percy John Clark, surgeon, an assistant to Mr. Bagster-Phillips, divisional surgeon of police, of’ 2 Spital-square, deposed to dressing the wounds of the woman.
There were two injuries in the neck, one under the chin running inwards and downwards; the other a small incised wound jut through the skin, half an inch in length. The former wound left a flap of skin hanging, and a third cut was across -the left thumb, inner side.
Witness had also attended to two wounds on the prisoner’s left hand, cuts from a sharp instrument.
The razor produced would cause all the wounds.
THE ARREST OF THE PRISONER
Police-constable Jacobs, 77H, said that at 9.40 he heard cries of “Stop him”, and he saw the prisoner held by two or three men.
At the station, when charged, he made no answer.
After being placed in a cell, the witness was watching him, and the prisoner said, “I intended doing it. I put the razor into my pocket this morning. She is always following me about of a night when I come from places of amusement. I have been on the spree for a fortnight.”
A QUIET AND INOFFENSIVE MAN
Mr. Moore said that the latter statement took him by surprise.
The prisoner had given him no account of the matter, but he denied having been “on the spree.”
His friends said he was a quiet and inoffensive man.
A REMAND GRANTED
Inspector Beck, H division, said there were other witnesses, but asked for a remand, and that the magistrate would certify for legal aid.
Mr. Bushhy granted a remand, and marked the charge-sheet that he thought the Treasury should afford legal aid to the police.
The prisoner, in appearance a quiet and respectable looking young man, made no remark during the hearing or when he was remanded.
He was visited by his stepfather, a shopkeeper in Gibraltar- walk, Bethnal-green, who described him as a quiet, well-conducted man.
HAD SHE ROBBED HIM?
With respect to the suggestion made in cross-examination that the woman had robbed the prisoner, it was stated by him that the prosecutrix put her hands into his coat pockets, that his silk handkerchief was stolen, and that three women rushed into the room to rob him.
As to his reported statement to the constable that he had been “on the spree” for a fortnight, it is somewhat confirmed by the fact that that period has elapsed since the prisoner left his last situation as a barman at the Dudley Arms, Harrow-road, Paddington.
The prosecutrix has parents in Turville- street Bethnal-green, and her father was in court.
At the solicitation of Mr. Massey, missionary at the court, the father consented to take her home during the remand.”
HIS OLD BAILEY TRIAL
The Northern Daily Telegraph reported on his appearance at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) in its edition of Saturday, 17th December, 1892:-
“At the Old Bailey yesterday, Albert Edward Hawthorne, aged 21, barman, was charged with wounding Mary Ann Johnson, on the night of the 1st December, in Whitechapel, with intent to murder.
The jury, after a short deliberation, found the prisoner guilty of unlawfully wounding, and the Judge passed a sentence of eighteen months with hard labour.
As the prisoner was leaving the dock he declared he was innocent the crime.”