A Disturbing Case From November 1889

By the end of October 1889, the Jack the Ripper murders appeared to have come to an end and the people of London had resumed their everyday lives, no doubt relieved that their nightmare was over.

The newspapers had long stopped reporting updates on the murders with the regularity that is more than apparent when you study the press reports throughout the autumn of 1888. Admittedly, every so often things would happen that would send the press scurrying around the area in search of information and stories. But, on the whole, the fear that had reigned supreme in the East End of London between August and November 1888 had, pretty much, bated.


But, for some, the fear of Jack the Ripper was still very genuine and, occasionally, stories would appear in the press that demonstrate the part that fear itself could often play by impacting on sensitive and disturbed minds, sometimes with tragic consequences.

One such story appeared in the Portsmouth Evening News on Friday November 1st 1888.

The article was headlined


The story read:-

“Yesterday, Mary Edith Parnell, 30, married, of 143, High-road, Kilburn, was charged at the Marylebone Police-court with attempting to murder on Wednesday her two children, Mary Eleanor, aged three years and eleven months, and Beatrice Isabella, aged seven months, by strangling them. Mr C. E. Bowker, solicitor, defended.


Police-constable 78 X said he was in the Highroad, Kilburn, about six o’clock on the previous evening, and was informed that a murder had been committed at 143, High-road. He went there, and with Mr. Percy, the landlord, went upstairs, and found the back-room door locked on the inside.

Two other constables came to his assistance, and then witness knocked at the door, and asked for admittance.

The prisoner replied, ” Wait a minute.”

He again asked her to let him in, and she replied in a similar way.


With the approval of the landlord, he forced the room door open, and then he saw two children on the floor with string tied tightly round their necks, and blood running out of the elder child’s mouth.

Witness went for Dr. Smith, having previously seen the string cut oft the children’s necks.

The prisoner was looking at the children, and as they cut the string she exclaimed, “For God’s sake don’t cut the string. Let them die ; they will then be happy.” (The prisoner wept bitterly as this was repeated.)

Dr. J. C. Smith, 2, Gascoigne-avenue, said he was called to the hose, and found the elder child in a state of insensibility, almost pulseless, and apparently not breathing. The artificial respiration was continued for half an hour, when she breathed freely.

There was an abrasion round the neck of each of the children. There was also a contusion on the elder child’s forehead. The insensibility was probably the result of strangulation.


The police gave great aid by the artificial respiration employed, for witness was not on the spot until ten minutes after they were there, and but for what they did the children would most probably have died. This instance illustrated the great value of the training of the ambulance classes, and of the good likely to be achieved through them.

The children both revived, but he had ordered them to be kept in bed for the present.


Inspector Cooper said he was called to the house, and found the prisoner in the back room, the doctor and the children in the front room. He asked the prisoner if she was the mother of the children, and she said she was.

He then cautioned her in the usual form as to anything she might say, after which she said, “I was out of my mind when I did it. I did not know what I was doing, I wrote that letter (produced, and said to have been found on the table beside the pen and ink) about an hour ago. I did not think of killing them when I wrote it ; I saw a ghost the other night, and had Mrs. Percy stayed with me this would not have happened. I wanted them to send for my husband, but they refused to do that. I have not known what I have been about for nearly seven months. People have teased me so, and I was threatened by a lot of people that they would kill me, and I have not known what I have been doing since. I put on Mary’s best clothes. The baby was asleep, ready to go to their aunt’s, Miss Farnell, of Birbeck-road, Acton. I thought after that they had better go with we, as I was dying.”


The prisoner was very much excited and talkative, and said she would like the children to die with her, as they were girls, and might perhaps go wrong and fall into the hands of ‘`Jack the Ripper.”


The prisoner, a very respectable-looking person, by the advice of her solicitor, pleaded “Not Guilty”, and reserved her defence.

Mr. Cooke committed her for trial, and directed that she should be at once conveyed to the prison in a cab.”