John Henry Gubee

Barely has the year 1889 got underway than the residents of the East End of London were learning of another outrage that had taken place in their midst, this time in Limehouse.

On Thursday, 10th January, 1889, John Gubee, a ship’s steward, attacked Rose Elizabeth Payne in a room of a house in Rich Street, In Limehouse.

The injuries she sustained were truly horrific. He had beaten her so violently with a poker that the poker itself had actually bent itself around her body. Furthermore, he had then cut her throat with a razor and then had proceeded to try to “enlarge” the wound with his fingers.

An illustration showing Gubee attacking his victim.
Gubee Attacking His Victim. From The Illustrated Police News, 26th January, 1889. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, carried the following report of the atrocity in its edition of Sunday, 13th January, 1889:-

“John Henry Gubee, a native of Delhi, and described as a ship’s steward, of 43, Pigott-street, Limehouse, was charged, at the Thames police-court, on Friday, with attempting to murder Rose Elizabeth Payne, of 97, Rich-street, Limehouse, by striking her on the head with a poker and cutting, her throat with a razor.


Hannah Holding, of 9, Rich-street, Limehouse, said she was the wife of a dock man.

About half-past 10 on Thursday night she was in the front room of the second floor. Payne and the accused were also there. The two latter were quarrelling.

The prisoner offered Payne 6 shillings. if she would allow him to stay there.

She would not have the money, and told him to go home to his own lodgings, and that she did not want the money.

He said, “Why do you not want it?” and she replied, “I won’t have it; you go home.”

He again offered her the money; but she would not have it.

Gubee then picked up the poker from the fireplace, and began to beat Payne with it.

The witness then ran out of the room.


Balcomb said that about 10 minutes to 11 on Thursday night he was at Pigott-street police-station when the injured woman with another woman came there.

Payne was bleeding very much from the breast.

She was taken inside the station, and was subsequently removed to the Poplar hospital.


Sergeant Brown said that, when the injured woman was brought to the station, he directed the last witness to take her in a cab to the Poplar hospital.

He followed behind, and saw the prisoner standing at the station door.

He then took Gubee into custody, when the latter said, “Here I am.”

He was brought into the charge-room, and said, “Yes, Mr. Brown: I did it.”

The prisoner then wanted some brandy.

Both his hands were covered with blood, and also his shirt wrist-bands.

Between two and three o’clock that (Friday) morning he was formally charged with attempting to murder the woman.

He replied, “I never thought I was going to kill, until she called me vile names. I struck her with the poker (which was bent nearly double). She caught my coat, and then I took the razor and cut her throat.”


Inspector Dinneen said he saw the prisoner at the Limehouse station.

His clothing and hands were stained with blood.

He afterwards went to the woman Payne’s room, which was on the first floor. He saw blood on the bed and on the floor, and the room was very much disarranged. He found a razor in a pail in the room.


Mr. Frederick Preston, house-surgeon at Poplar hospital, described the injuries to the woman as a cut on the throat extending from the right ear, passing down under the chin, and reaching nearly to the left ear; an incised wound on the scalp on the right side 5in. long, cutting through the tissues and into the bone; a laceration on the left arm about 2in. long; a small laceration on the forearm below the elbow; and a laceration of the outer side of the right hand, going down to the bone.

Mr. Lushington remanded the prisoner.”


On Saturday, 9th February, 1889, Gubee again appeared at the Thames Police Court and Lloyd’s List, in its edition of Monday, 11th February, 1889, reported on the proceedings:-

“At the Thames Police Court on Saturday John Henry Gubee, a native of Delhi, was committed for trial on the charge of having attempted to murder Rosa Payne, in Rich -street, Limehouse.

It is alleged that the prisoner beat the woman with a poker until it was bent considerably, and that he cut her throat with a razor, and putting his fingers into the wound, tried to enlarge it.”


On Monday, 4th March, 1889, John Henry “Guhee” (it appears that, either,  the newspapers had reported his name wrongly, or the Old Baily stenographer transcribed it wrongly) appeared at the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey), charged with “Feloniously wounding Rose Elizabeth Payne, with intent to murder her Second Count, with intent to do her grievous bodily harm.”


The majority of the witnesses who had already appeared at his previous court appearance repeated the evidence that had already been reported in the newspapers.

However, his victim, Rose Payne, also appeared and gave her account of the events of that January night:-

“I am an unfortunate, and live at 9, Rich Street – on this night I went up to my room about 10.30, and Anne Holding came up behind me.

I found the prisoner hiding in my room, and said, “You call yourself a gentleman, but I call you mean, to hide yourself in an unprotected woman’s lodging like this.”

He then offered me £6, and I told him to go home to his lodging.

He then started beating me with a poker on my arms and body.

He had been breaking my things on the previous Friday, because he accused me of stealing his watch and chain and money, and he offered me the £6 as a recompense.

The poker was straight before this.

I tried to take it from him, but, during the struggle, I fell down, and did not know my throat was cut till I felt him put his fingers in and pull the flesh down.

He was kneeling on me then, and he got up and kicked me three times.

I got out of the room and went to Mrs. Foley.

I was twenty-eight days in the hospital.”


Guhee, or Gubww, was subsequently found guilty on the Second Count, of intending to do her grievous bodily harm.

He was sentenced to five years hard labour.