Although the Jack the Ripper crimes, and the other Whitechapel murders, were by far the biggest sensation of 1888 – and, if the truth be told, are about the only homicides of that year to be universally remembered, spoken about and written of today – there were, of course, other murders that took place in the district in that year.
MURDER BY A PUBLICAN
One such murder, took place in Mile End, in the early hours of the morning of Monday, 2nd July, 1888.
The Witney Gazette and West Oxfordshire Advertiser carried the following report about it in its issue of Saturday, 7th July, 1888:-
“A dreadful domestic crime has been committed in the East-end of London by the landlord of the Bancroft Arms, situated in a bye-thoroughfare adjoining the Mile End-road.
Mr. R. Barrell lived there with his wife and four children, three young boys and a daughter of 17.
HIS MANNER WAS VERY STRANGE
On Sunday night, his manner was noticed to be very strange; his looks were downcast, and his conversation bordered on the melancholy.
After he had retired to rest with his wife, a police constable aroused him at a late hour and told him that a window leading to the tap-room was open.
Mr. Barrell, who had a horror of burglars, went downstairs at the constable’s bidding, and securely fastened the premises.
HIS MIND GAVE WAY
This occurrence is supposed to have so worried him that his mind, already weakened by failing health, completely gave way.
He securely locked the door of his bedroom, took a revolver from a chest of drawers, and shot his wife through the right eye as she lay asleep in the bed.
The murderer then shot himself while in an upright position, and fell prostrate on the floor, close to the bedstead.
The bullet, by a singular coincidence, entered his right eye.
HIS CHILDREN HEARD NOTHING
His four children, who slept in an adjoining room, heard nothing of that occurrence, though they were aroused from their sleep by the bark of a dog at the time the crime was supposed to have been committed.
HE WAS A TEETOTALER
The only daughter, who was serving at the bar of her father’s house next day, stated that her parents were devotedly attached to herself and her brothers.
“I am sure father’s mind must have been unhinged, or he would never have done such thing,” said the daughter, who added, “It can’t be through drink, for he has been a teetotaler for a long time past. He drank nothing but lemonade.”
The deceased man was about 42 years of age.”
THE INQUEST AND VERDICT
In all honesty, the case, though horrific and tragic, was an open and shut one and, The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, carried the following brief report on the inquest into the deaths of the publican and his wife in its edition of Wednesday, 4th July, 1888:-
“An inquest was held last evening at the Mile End Workhouse, London, on the body of Robert Barrell, aged 43, landlord of the Bancroft Arms, and his wife, who were found shot dead on Monday morning in their bedroom.
THE DAUGHTER’S TESTIMONY
Elizabeth Barrell, daughter of the deceased, deposed that her parents were both well on Sunday night, and she heard no disturbance during the night.
Her father was in trouble through money being stolen.
A medical witness stated that Barrell had been treated several times for chronic alcoholism.
The jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder” against Robert Barrell, and “Suicide whilst temporarily insane.”