On Wednesday, 10th July, 1872, an horrific double murder took place at a house in Hoxton. The victims were an elderly woman by the name of Sarah Square, and her daughter, Christiana.
The East London Observer reported on the circumstances of the crime in its edition of Saturday, 13th July, 1872:-
MYSTERIOUS DOUBLE MURDER AT HOXTON
A double murder of a very shocking and mysterious character was on Wednesday committed at 46, Hyde-road, Hoxton.
The sole occupants of the house in question were Sarah Squire, aged 73, a widow, who although said have been possessed of independent means, carried on the business of a wholesale picture and print dealer, and her daughter Christiana, aged about 30, and unmarried.
It seems that at about “half-past one o’clock in the afternoon, a lad named William Eyre was sent to the place on an errand, and, after having knocked in vain, he left, his suspicions being aroused by marks of blood on the counter. He thereupon communicated with Mr. Dodd, a greengrocer, living opposite, to whom the tragic occurrence soon became apparent.
THE BODIES FOUND
On the arrival of Police-constable James Kingsley, 228 N, he found the body of the mother behind the counter, and that of the daughter partly in the passage and partly in the back parlour.
The assistance of Dr. Hawthorn, of Hoxton-street, was soon procured; but life had been extinct in both cases for some time, death having been occasioned by heavy blows on the head.
The elder woman appears to have been the greatest sufferer, and blood had flown in copious streams from her wounds.
THE SCENE IN THE HOUSE
Inspector Ramsay subsequently made a search in the house, wherein everything was in a state of disorder – drawers having been forced open and their contents thrown out; cupboards being emptied; all the doors and windows being unfastened; and the outer case of an old-fashioned clock standing on the sideboard in the back parlour, which had ceased to act at 12 o’clock, having been removed, leaving the works exposed.
A further investigation led to the discovery, under a sofa and enclosed in a paper bag, of a will made some short time since by the mother.
No weapon with which the murders might have been committed could be found, and it was impossible to arrive at the cause or the author of the terrible act.
HER TWO SONS
Suspicion rested for a time on a son named Frank, who had been an inmate of Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, but who was ultimately taken from the asylum to the infirmary, Shoreditch Workhouse, where it was found that he was at work at the time at which the murder must have been committed.
Another son named Edward, a musician, was away at Brentwood on a professional engagement, and on his arrival in town, he was totally at a loss to conceive the motive that must have prompted the horrible affair.
Both the deceased women were seen about twelve o’clock, and it is pretty clear that preparations were being made for dinner, as a saucepan was found on the hob containing a dumpling.
The doctor states that he never saw two persons so battered about in his life, the face of the daughter being so disfigured that it is impossible to recognise her.
Mrs. Squires has seven wounds on the head, and a large part of the left ear is cut off, and the daughter has five wounds, besides her head being battered in.
No clue has been obtained as to the murderer, and the greatest possible excitement prevails in the neighbourhood.”
THE INQUEST INTO THE DEATHS
Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper reported on the inquest into the deaths of the two women in its edition of Sunday, 21st July:-
“The inquest on the victims of the terrible tragedy at Hoxton was held at the Shoreditch Workhouse, before Mr. Humphreys, Coroner for Middlesex, who was assisted by Mr. Richards, the Deputy-Coroner.
Having viewed the bodies at the mortuary, the inquest got underway.
CAROLINE RICHARDS TESTIFIES
The first witness called was Caroline Richards, who said that she was a single woman, and resided at 30, Northport-street, a street running at the end of Hyde-road. She said that her house was in the rear of the house where the deceased women lived.
On the day of the murder, about noon, she heard faint cries of “Murder”, but, as there were some persons living near who were in the habit of quarrelling through intoxication, she had often beard such cries before, and that was the reason she took no notice of them.
She told a lodger named Mr. Chapman that she had heard the cries in the back, but that she thought they were doing it for amusement.
On the Saturday night prior to the murder, the witness heard a square of glass broken in the house No. 46. There was a very high fence on the top of the wall, and she saw a light in the grocer’s shop at the back of the house.
The coroner asked, “Had any previous attempt been made to break into the house?, to which she replied, “Mrs. Squire told me that a fortnight before, a branch of a tree was broken down; she thought it was by a cat.
A Juror:- “A very heavy cat to break a branch off a tree.”
HENRY INALLS’S TESTIMONY
Henry Inall, butcher, of 11, Blanchard-street, said that he called at the house on the Wednesday at about eleven o’clock, and that the elder deceased was standing at the door of her shop. She told him about the attempt to break into her house on the previous Saturday. The younger woman was down in the kitchen.
Mrs. Squires then took witness through the house, and showed him the holes in the back door which the burglars had made.
The younger deceased said that she had pasted some paper over the holes, because she did not like the look of them.
They then stood talking in the shop, and Mrs. Squires said, “You know, Mr. Inall, if they were to get in here they would not get anything; because when I go into the City I take my money and leave it there.”
Last Wednesday week, the day of the murder, the witness heard faint cries of murder at about twelve o’clock in the morning, as near as possible. She mentioned the circumstance to a lodger of her father’s, Mr. Chapman, but no further notice was taken, as disturbances were constantly occurring in the neighbourhood. If she had thought that the cries had come from 46, Hyde-road, she should have thought something was wrong, as the Squires were rather quiet people.
GEORGE SQUIRE’S GIVES HIS EVIDENCE
George Squire, a youth of 17, said:- “I believe I am the son of Christiana Squire, and am apprenticed to a hairdresser. I used to live at 46, Hyde-road, but had left about two years ago. I visited grandmother about once a fortnight. I last saw her alive about three weeks before the murder. I generally went on the Monday. as that was a slack day with us.
On the usual Monday I did not go, as I went to see the Prince of Wales go to the museum.
I knew a man, whom we knew as “York,” who visited the shop. He was a seafaring man, but was he was now independent.
There was another person of the name of Niblett, a stonemason at Hoxton, who used to go out with my aunt. I called my mother aunt.
I considered Niblett was paying his addresses to my mother. He used to come in every day and on Sunday to tea. I have not seen him there for some time. I saw him this morning in bed, at 60, Mary-street, Old Ford. He is ill with erysipelas, and told me he was taken bad on Sunday.”
CHARLES WALLEN’S EVIDENCE
Charles Wallen said:- I am a carman, and I reside at 44, Hyde-road, next door to the deceased women.
I saw the old lady standing outside her door on the morning of the murder at 11.30. I then noticed a man leaning against the railings of the wheelwright’s close by. He had a sort of pilot jacket on, muoh worn, and a worn billy-cock hat.
Another man was walking backwards and forwards by the butcher’s.
It was from my front upstairs window that I noticed them.
One was dressed in dirty light trousers. Mr. Walton, the broker, then came for me on business, and we went away together.”
Having then heard evidence from the police about the scene inside the house, the Coroner adjourned the inquest for a week.
ANOTHER RELATED TRAGEDY
However, on Saturday, 20th July, 1872, The East London Observer, had reported that a second tragedy had befallen the family:-
Tho death, by self-destruction, of Jemima, the eldest daughter of Sarah Squire, whose untimely end, also that her daughter Christiana, is still surrounded with mystery, adds another melancholy incident, to this horrible tragedy.
It will be remembered that the two sisters above mentioned were the only issue of the second marriage of their murdered mother; and it is alleged that the marriage to a man named Totnum resulted in the birth two children – one of whom is dead, the other being an interesting little girl, now in her eighth year.
A MELANCHOLY CONDITION
As might be naturally supposed since the unfortunate affair in Hyde-road, Jemima had been in a very melancholy condition; but, added to the grief occasioned by the murder of her mother, there appears to have been family differences, and it is said that she had previously attempted to lay violent hands on herself.
In the present instance, it appears that on Sunday the family, who resided at Bow, were just going to sit down to dinner, when the wife, Jemima, made her appearance with blood flowing from her neck, and it was soon discovered that she had cut her throat.
TAKEN TO THE INFIRMARY
Medical aid was procured, and the unfortunate woman subsequently removed to the Infirmary at Poplar.
She had inflicted a severe gash, and expired in the above institution from loss of blood and exhaustion.
The act was committed with a razor which the poor creature had secreted about her person.
The excitement in the neighbourhood of the murder is still intense, and much sympathy prevails, the more so from the general surprise felt that so foul a deed should be committed midday and the perpetrator escape detection.”
THE RESUMED INQUEST
The Islington Gazette, on Tuesday, 30th July, 1872, reported on the proceedings at the resumed inquest:-
“Mr. Humphreys resumed, at the Shoreditch Workhouse on Friday, the investigation respecting the deaths of Mrs. Sarah Squires, aged 76, and that her daughter, Miss Christiana Squires, aged 36 years, who were murdered at No. 46, Hyde-road, Hoxton.
Mr. Watson appeared for the relatives of the deceased, and Inspectors Palmer and Ramsay represented the police.
Walter Chapman deposed that he lived at 30, Northport-street, Hoxton, and that he was a carpenter. Miss Richards, on the day of the murder, at about a quarter past one o’clock, told him that she had heard cries of “murder,” and she said, “I suppose they came from the house three doors off,” from whence cries were often heard.
James Jones, a boy of 17, said that he lived at No. 6, Adelaide-square, Essex-road. He worked for Randall, the carman.
He remembered Wednesday, the 10th of July, and was on that day walking alongside a three-horse waggon, which was being driven by Randall.
Another waggon was being driven in an opposite direction.
A man came across the road, and the front horse knocked the man down, and he fell against witness, who was also knocked down.
He got up, hid his face with his arm, and ran away.
THE WINDOW MENDER’S EVIDENCE
Charles Henry Hasler, 21, Downham-road, a greengrocer, “doing odds” in the window-mending line, said he worked some time for Mr. Woolrich, and he asked the witness to put some glass in a broken window.
On the Monday before the murder, about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, he went to the house, and while he was there Mrs. Squires said to him, “It was done with a piece of brick. It was the thieves, and I suspect we shall all murdered. The worst of it is, it is our neighbours. I know them very well. It is in that street” and she pointed to Gopsall-street.
She added, “I know the villains very well. One ran from my house, and one was in the yard at the other side of the wall, and another stood on the wall, making three in all.
The man in the yard threw the piece of brick to the man on the wall, who threw it through the window. We shall be all murdered, sure as I am alive.”
I proposed to take the window away, not to cause dirt in the room. She then said, “Oh, don’t take the window away, we shall be all murdered.”
I did, however, take the window away, and when I brought it back in half an hour she said:- “Nail it up well, for the thieves will be back again. The man who threw the brick is a neighbour of ours, and he lives in that street. I won’t tell the police, for I know the neighbourhood.”
I then left.
GEORGE NIBLETT’S EVIDENCE
George Niblett, a stonemason, living at No. 20, Mary-street, Hoxton, said that four years ago was the last time he saw either of the deceased.
He was keeping company with the younger woman, but finding that somebody else was out with her he gave her up.
On Wednesday, the 10th of July, the witness was at work in a stone yard near the Kingsland-road-bridge. He dined between twelve and one o’clock, and his master saw him before and after dinner.
The Coroner said that he had received communication from the government stating that they had increased the reward to £200.
There was a witness whom it was necessary should be before the jury, but he was present away in the country.
He should, therefore, propose to adjourn the inquiry for another week, so that the witness might be brought before the court; there were also one or two others he wished to call.
THE GRANDSON RE-EXAMINED
George Squires (grandson), was examined, and stated that he knew a fruiterer of the name of Cohen, in the Bethnal-green-road. Witness asked him if he would give him a job, and he replied, “Yes, if you leave your present situation.”
He told him about circumstances connected with his grandmother, but he did not tell him that, on the death of his grandmother, he should come into all the property. He never told anyone that his grandmother and aunt had a good deal of money. The day he went to the museum he was by himself.
The Court was then adjourned until Friday next.”
THE CONCLUDING DAY
The final day of the inquest was held on Friday, 2nd August, 1872, and the Jury returned the inevitable verdict of, “Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.”
Although nobody was brought to justice for the murders of Sarah and Christiana Squire, The Oxfordshire Weekly News, on Wednesday, 29 August 1888, carried the following story about a man who had confessed to having committed the murder:-
“At the Worship-street Police-court, on Wednesday, Thomas Wright, 36, described as a chair-maker, was brought up on remand, charged on his own confession with having on the 10th July, 1872, murdered Sarah and Christiana Squire, with a crowbar at Hyde-road, Hoxton.
Every inquiry had been made as to the prisoner and his statement, with the only result that it showed his “confession” to be wrong.
The prisoner was at work at the time, and could not have committed the murder.
A DISGRACEFUL THING
Mr. Saunders (the magistrate) asked the prisoner what he had to say.
The prisoner said. “I was in drink at the time, Sir, and did not know what I was doing.”
Mr. Saunders, admonished him thus:- “You seem to have given everybody a great deal of trouble for nothing by charging yourself with murder. It is a very disgraceful thing that a man should stir up all this bother by charging himself with murder, and then offer as an excuse that he was in drink. You ought to be sent to prison, and I am sorry that I have not the power to sentence you. I hope, one of these days the law will be altered, and people who charge themselves with murder will be liable to punishment.
THE ANGRY WOMAN
A woman here rose from the Witnesses’ place and exclaimed, excitedly, “He knew all the particulars of what happened all those years ago. If he didn’t do the murder, I do not know who did.”
Mr. Saunders repeated that he was sorry that he had not the power to send the prisoner to gaol, and then ordered him to be discharged.
The woman (who is said to be a relative of the murdered people) again interrupted, and called out, “He ought to be horsewhipped.””