Murder In Cubitt Town

Although the Jack the Ripper murders are today about the only homicides of the periods to be remembered, there were many other such crimes during the twelve or so weeks over which the murders stretched.

One murder, the aftermath of which covered almost the entire period that the ripper murders were causing terror in the East End of London, was that of Elizabeth Bartlett, which took place on Sunday, 19th August, 1888.

The St James’s Gazette broke the story of the crime in its edition of Monday, 20th August, 1888:-


“A shocking case of murder and attempted suicide occurred at the Isle of Dogs, Poplar, yesterday morning.

Levi Richard Bartlett, a general dealer, sixty years of age, of Manchester-road Cubitt-town, murdered his wife, aged fifty-six years, by striking her on the head with a 14 lb, hammer while she was asleep, afterwards cutting his own throat with a razor.

He had, it is stated, been drinking heavily for some time past, and was very drunk on Saturday.”


The next Sunday, 26th August, 1888, The  People, reported on the proceedings at the inquest into Mrs Bartlett’s death:-

Wife Murder and Attempted Suicide.

“Mr. George Collier held an inquest at the Poplar Town Hall into the circumstances attending the death of Elizabeth Bartlett, aged 58, the wife of a general dealer, lately living at 248, Manchester Road. Cubitt Town.

The body lay in the Poplar Mortuary, and presented a shocking appearance, the head being completely battered in, while the neck bore marks as if an attempt had been made to cut her throat.

Great excitement prevailed in the district, and the precincts of the town hall were crowded with the general public, who, with to the court being small, were not admitted to hear the evidence.


Mrs. Emma Mears, of 290, Manchester Road, stated that she was the sister of the deceased, whom she last saw alive at a quarter to twelve on Saturday forenoon last.

She was complaining of a bad throat, and she said to the witness, “I must prepare for death, for I know I shall be choked one of these times.”

She had been ill for some time.

On the following day, a boy, who worked for the husband of the deceased, who went by the name of Freeman, came to her house, and said, “Hurry up, hurry up; Freeman has bashed his wife’s head in with a hammer and cut his own throat ”

The Witness went at once to the house, and found her sister lying on the bed. There was a doctor and four policemen at the bedside. The doctor’s name was Smyth, and he attended to her, but she died in half an hour. The husband was lying on the bed with his throat cut and bleeding. Both were unconscious. The doctor strapped his throat up, and he was taken to the hospital.


The Deceased and her husband were continually quarrelling when the latter was in drink. He was very often violent, and the witness had seen him strike her often. When he was sober he was a good husband, but the drink made him mad.

The Witness saw her sister constantly, and she continually complained of his conduct towards her.

Witness had heard him say that he would cut her head off and throw her out into the street. That was when he was drunk. She never heard him may so when he was sober.

The Deceased was a most sober woman.

The Coroner:- “Have you seen her strike him?”

Witness:-  “Yes, in self-defence only; not otherwise.”

The Coroner:- “She was a fine woman, and looked able to have taken her own part.”

Witness, continuing, said that her sister was generally of a quiet disposition, and would not quarrel without a cause.


The Coroner:-  “Do you’ know if she was legally married to him?”

Witness:- “Yes, Sir.”

The marriage certificate was here handed to the coroner, who remarked that it appeared all right.

By the Jury:- “They lived together as man and wife some years before they were married. They have been married for fourteen or fifteen years, but have lived together for twenty years.


The coroner said that there could be no moral doubt as to who inflicted the injuries, but it was necessary to prove them, and, under those, circumstanced it was necessary to adjourn the inquiry for the police to get up the evidence.

The inquiry was then adjourned for a fortnight.”


On Tuesday, 4th September, 1888, The London Evening Standard published the following account of proceedings at the concluding day of the inquest:-

“Mr. George Collier, the Deputy Coroner for South-East Middlesex, resumed an inquest yesterday, at the Poplar Town Hall, upon the body of Elizabeth Bartlett, aged 56. the wife of a general dealer, lately living at 248, Manchester-road, Cubitt Town, who was murdered by her husband, and he afterwards attempted to commit suicide by cutting his throat with a razor.

The husband, who is still an inmate of the Poplar Hospital, is progressing favourably.

The following evidence was taken:-


Dr. Charles Smyth, 451, Manchester-road, Poplar, said that he was called to the deceased at about a quarter to five o’clock on Sunday morning, August 19.

He found the deceased lying on the bed.

There was a fracture about four inches square on the skull, the left ear was split, there were three stabs on the neck, and a large bruise on the left eye. Death was caused, no doubt, by a blow from the hammer produced. A single blow would have been sufficient to cause death. The stab on the neck might have been caused by an ice-pricker (produced).

Death was due to the depressed fracture of the skull. The stabs were given after the blow from the hammer.


Walter Still, aged 15, of 248, Manchester-road, Poplar, errand boy to Bartlett, said that on Sunday morning, 19th inst., he heard Mr. Bartlett groaning; he slept in the front room, and Witness in the back.

Witness went to Bartlett’s room, and found him sitting on a chair trying to tear his throat open. There was a wound in his throat, but he had no weapon in his hand. Witness went round the bed to wake Mrs. Bartlett up, and then found that blood was flowing from her throat.

Witness raised an alarm and a boy named Jones came into the room, and then ran upstairs to alarm the other lodgers.

Witness then ran for Mrs. Mears, and told her that Bartlett had cut his wife’s throat.

Witness had lived at Bartlett’s for five years.

The hammer was kept in the coal cellar. Witness last saw the hammer in the cellar about a week before the murder, when he went to break some coke.

Mrs. Bartlett was a sober woman, but Bartlett used to drink very much. He was often drunk. The last time Witness saw him drunk was on the Saturday before the murder. Bartlett and his wife used to live happily together, except when he was in drink.


Thomas G. Jones, of Manchester-road, Poplar, a milk carrier to Bartlett, said that Bartlett came into his room between four and five on the Sunday morning, and asked a man named Ben French if he had got anything to drink. French slept in the same room as Witness. French said, “No; I have not got any.” Bartlett shook hands with French, and said he would not see him any more alive.

Bartlett then left the room.

Bartlett came in again about half an hour after, and said good-bye to Ben again, and shook hands with him. Bartlett was then sober.

Witness had been in Bartlett’s employ about five and a half years.

He was a man much given to drink, being more often drunk than sober. Mrs. Bartlett was a sober woman.

The second time Bartlett came into the room he went to Witness, and said, “Good-bye, Tom. I have done for the missis, and am going to do for myself.”

By the Jury:- Witness heard no noise in Bartlett’s room after he was first awoke.


Benjamin French, a labourer in the docks, said that Bartlett came into his room about five o’clock, and said, “I’ve done it; good-bye.” Bartlett came in a second time, and gave Witness a key, and said, “Give this to ———” and then went away. Bartlett came to the door a third time, and Witness noticed that he then had his throat cut.

Witness called for two other lodgers, and then went to Bartlett’s room.

He found Mrs. Bartlett lying on the bed with her head knocked in, and her brains protruding. She was then alive.

Bartlett was lying on the bed beside his wife with a razor in his hand.


Martha Johnson, of Manchester-road, Poplar, a widow, said that bartlett came into her shop about three o’clock on the Saturday, and said that he would treat her for the last time. He was then very drunk.

She had known him for twenty years, and he was always drunk.


Police-constable William Doe said that he was called on Sunday morning, the 19th instant, by Police-constable 577, about five o’clock, to 248, Manchester- road.

On the first floor he saw Bartlett, sitting on the bed in his shirt, the front of which was covered with blood. Blood was flowing from a wound in his throat. In his right hand he held a razor, covered with blood. Witness said, “Halloa; what is the matter?”, at the same time taking the razor from him. Bartlett muttered something, and struggled very much.

Under the bed, and between Bartlett’s feet, lay a hammer and knife (produced). Witness picked them up.

Mrs. Bartlett was lying ou the bed on the other side, in a pool of blood, apparently dead.

Dr. Smyth and Mr. Macdonald, the divisional surgeon, attended to Bartlett, who was then conveyed to Poplar Hospital in the ambulance.

Dr. Smyth, who attended to Mrs. Bartlett, gave no hope of her recovery, and she died before Witness got back from the hospital.


Sarah Ann Fish, wife of Francis Fish, a mason, of 14, Horseferry-road, Westminster, was called by Bartlett’s solicitor, and stated that Bartlett was her brother.

Witness knew that he and his wife frequently quarrelled.

Bartlett had told her that he was often dreadfully ill-used by his wife. Witness knew that Mrs. Bartlett always had her own way in everything. She did not believe that her brother was an habitual drunkard.


The Coroner having briefly summed up, the Jury returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against Levi Richard Bartlett, who was committed for trial.”


The Huddersfield Daily Examiner published an account of Bartletts court appearance, in its edition of Saturday, 29th September, 1888:-

“At the Thames Police Court, on Thursday, Levi Richard Bartlett, fifty-seven, a general dealer, of 2448, Manchester Road, Cubitt Town, Poplar, who has only just sufficiently recovered to be brought up, was charged with wilfully murdering his wife, Elizabeth Bartlett, on Sunday, the 19th August, by battering her head in with a hammer. He was further charged with attempting to commit suicide on the same date.

Prisoner seemed in a very weak condition. He was accommodated with a seat. His throat was still bound up. Besides the wound in the throat, he was suffering from a severe attack of gout, and could not walk.


lnspector Crawford stated that on August 19th, a few minutes after five am., he was called to the house of the accused.

In the first floor front room he saw the wife of the prisoner lying on the bed, wearing only one garment. Her brains were protruding from her head on the pillow, She had several wounds in the neck like stabs. Deceased was still alive but unconscious, but she died in witness’s presence at five minutes past seven, never having recovered consciousness.

Them was no evidence of any struggle having taken place.

When witness first arrived, the prisoner was on the same bed and held down by four policemen. Dr. Smyth was attending him, for he had a wound in the neck.

Under the direction of the doctors, witness removed Bartlett in custody to the Poplar Hospital, where at 10.30 on Thursday morning he arrested him, and told him that he would be charged with wilfully murdering his wife and attempting to commit suicide. The prisoner replied, “All right. How are they all down at the island?” Witness replied, “Very well.” Prisoner said, “The firm is not cracked up, then?” —

Mr. Lushington remanded the accused, and ordered him to be removed to Holloway Gaol in a cab.”


Levi Richard Bartlett was tried for the murder of his wife, Elizabeth, at the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey) on Thursday, 25th October, 1888.

Newspaper accounts described him as”a dejected looking old man”, and several witnesses testified that he was something of an eccentric oddball and that he was known in the neighbourhood as “Mad Dick.”

There was little the defence could do and, on the Jury returning a verdict of”guilty”, the judge duly sentenced him to death.

He was hanged at Newgate Prison on the morning of Tuesday, 13th November, 1888.