In the early hours of Monday, 25th February, 1889, a young woman by the name of Mary Ann Godstone was found cut and bleeding near Plumstead Railway Station.
She said that she had been attacked by a young man who had offered to take her to see her child, from whom she had been separated for reasons that were not specified in any of the newspaper articles that covered the case.
Initially, some newspapers were eager to compare the attack to the Jack the Ripper murders of the previous autumn, albeit this line of reporting was soon dropped when it became more than apparent that this was not in any way related to the Whitechapel murders.
The Suffolk and Essex Free Press took up the story on Wednesday 27th February 1889:-
WOMAN STABBED IN SEVENTEEN PLACES
The Woolwich and Camberwell police are making active inquiries in connection with the attempted murder of Mary Ann Godstone, aged 24, of 9, Camden Square, Camberwell, who was found, at a quarter to five in the morning near Plumstead railway station in an exhausted condition and bleeding from a number of cuts and stab wounds.
She was conveyed to Woolwich Police Court, where Dr. Haynes, police surgeon, promptly dressed her wounds. There was a cut extending from ear to ear round the chin.
AN ATTEMPT TO CUT HER THROAT
She said that her assailant made an attempt to cut her throat, but that she stooped, and, in the darkness. he drew the knife round her chin instead of her throat.
The surgeon also found 16 or 17 other cuts and stabs.
She made a statement to the effect that she met by appointment at St. George’s Church, Borough, a man named Jurram, aged 22. She had a child, whom she was very anxious to see, but whose whereabouts had been concealed from her.
THEY WALKED TO PLUMSTEAD
Jurram told her that the child was at his residence at Plumstead, and he offered to take her there, and she fell in with the suggestion, and they started between 10 and 11 p.m. to walk to Plumstead.
Instead of stopping at the latter place, Jurram took her a mile beyond to Bostal Heath, a lonely open space belonging to the Board of Works.
They reached there about three in the morning, and, without any preliminary threats she alleges that he took out his pocket-knife and drew it across her throat. She struggled to get possession of the knife but could only get hold of the blade, and, in drawing it back from her, both of her hands were severely cut.
She ultimately succeeded in wresting the knife from him, and, having thrown it away, she escaped.
MADE HER WAY TOWARDS LONDON
She made her way towards Plumstead, and, after walking some distance, came to a house, where she knocked to beg for a drink of water; but it being 4 a.m., she got no answer, and went in the direction of London, when she met a constable.
WHAT THE POLICE FOUND
Inspector Phillips, of the Criminal Investigation Department and Inspector Reid, with Detectives Alexander and Rutherford, tracked drops of blood to Bostal Heath, where they found signs of a severe struggle and some of the torn clothing of the young woman, but on scouring the heath and adjoining woods they found no traces of the young man.
HAD HE COMMITTED SUICIDE?
The Camberwell police were instructed to keep a look out for him; but it was found that he had not returned home, his relatives thinking it probable that he has committed suicide.
The medical superintendent at the infirmary states that none of the wounds are of dangerous character, the knife that was used being fortunately blunt.
A MAN ARRESTED
On Saturday, 2nd March, 1889, The Exeter Flying Post reported that some progress had been made in the hunt for the assailant:-
“This morning the West Ham Police telegraphed to say that they had arrested a man who resembled the description of Jurram.”
THE TRAIL GOES COLD
Frustratingly, the trail thereafter goes cold as far as newspaper reports of the attack in the arrest go. I can only presume that the unfortunate Mary Ann Godstone chose not to take the case any further, or the police considered that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution, or that the man arrested was, in fact, the wrong man.