Murder In Somers’ Town

Although the Jack the Ripper murders were the crimes that truly shocked the people of London in 1888, and, as a consequence, tend to, nowadays at least, be the only homicides that are remembered from that year, other similar crimes, which were equally appalling, did take place in 1888.

Since, in a large percentage of these crimes, the perpetrators were actually caught – oft times in the very at of murder, these other murders from the year of the ripper atrocities are historically important in that they enable us to watch how the police dealt with the perpetrators and how those perpetrators were then progressed through the system where they were either found guilty or acquitted.

On Saturday 19th May 1888 Charles Latham murdered Mary Newman in a room they shared together in Somers’ Town.

A full account of the crime appeared in Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper on Sunday May 27th 1888:-


“On Saturday a woman was murdered in Somers’-town by a well-known character in that neighbourhood – Charles Latham, aged 38 (nicknamed “Nob”), who obtains a precarious living by assisting the costermongers in the market-place.

He has been confined in the insane ward of the St. Pancras workhouse, suffering from delirium tremens, and a fortnight since was taken care of again by the parochial authorities.

A week ago he was again fetched out by his brother, and the same night committed a serious assault on a fellow lodger.

An illustration showing the murder of Mary Newman by Charles Latham.
From The illustrated Police News, 9th June 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


He had seemed strange in his manner all the week, and, on Saturday evening, went home to tea at 53, Drummond-crescent, where he occupied a back kitchen with a woman named Mary Newman, with whom he has for some years cohabited.

After being at home some time he ran out through Church-way into Chalton-street, where there is a butcher’s stall kept by a man named Corbett.

From this he snatched a knife and ran back home again.


The landlord, Mr. Joseph Butcher, hearing a scuffle and a peculiar noise, at once went to the room, and, on opening the door, saw Latham kneeling on the woman and sawing away at her throat.

He attempted to pull him off, when Latham sent him flying across the room and made his escape out of the house.

The landlord then, seeing blood pouring from the woman’s, throat at once raised an alarm and called “Murder!”


Police-constable George Patten, 25 Y R, who was patrolling close by, at once ran to the house, and, seeing the state of affairs, sent for a cab, and conveyed the woman to the University College hospital, where she was admitted, and attended by Dr. Holder, the house surgeon; but she survived only a few minutes.

In the meantime Police-constable Greenaway, 496 Y, and Police-constable Kelly, 385 Y, hearing what had occurred, went to the Coffee House tavern in Chalton-street, where they found Latham drinking with some companions.

They took him into custody, and conveyed him to the Somers’-town police station, Platt-street, where he was charged, first with cutting and wounding and afterwards with the capital offence.


The room where the tragic affair occurred, as before stated, is a back kitchen, approached by two steep flights of narrow stairs.

The only special articles of furniture in the room were two chairs and a small deal dressing-table.

On a line across the room there are a few articles of children’s clothing. which had evidently been hung up on the day previous to the attack.

The deceased was the mother of two children, a girl, aged 13, and a boy, five and a half years.


Inspector Charles Austin, in charge of the Somers’-town station-house, Platt-street, upon hearing of the occurrence at once took prompt measures and had the children removed.

The tradesmen in the immediate neighbourhood, it is said, complain very much against the parochial authorities for allowing Latham to be at large, when it was the opinion of all who knew anything of him that he had a homicidal tendency.


Charles Latham’ labourer, aged 30, was charged at Clerkenwell police-court, on Monday, with the wilful murder of Mary Newman, by cutting her throat with a knife, at 53, Drummond-crescent, St. Pancras, Somers Town, on the 19th of May.


Elizabeth Leigh, the wife of Walter Leigh, a cabdriver, said:-

“I live at 53, Drummond-crescent, St. Pancras, where the prisoner also lived with Mary Newman, who was usually called Mrs. Newman.

She came and took a back room unfurnished from me about five months ago, and had occupied it for about three months when the prisoner came to live with her.

On Saturday evening, at about seven, I was at home in the back parlour.

While passing along the passage to go to another room, I saw Mary Newman’s little girl, about 13 years of age, crying in the passage.

I spoke to her, and then ran downstairs to Mary Newman’s room.

I opened the door and rushed in, and saw the prisoner kneeling on the woman, who was on the bed.

She called out, “Mrs. Leigh, Mrs. Leigh, he is killing me.”

I called out, “Oh, you murdering villain, you are killing her,” caught hold of him by his collar, and tried to pull him off.

He looked very wild at me, but did not speak. He had something small in his hand, with which he was striking Mrs. Newman on the neck, but I could not see what it was. Her neck was bleeding. I could not pull him from her, so I rushed upstairs and called Mr. Butcher, the landlord, and another man who was there.

They ran downstairs, and I ran out of the house and across the road to a house where the prisoner’s sister lives.

I then ran back to the house, and saw Mr. Butcher struggling with the prisoner in the kitchen. I then ran out and fetched a policeman. Mr. Butcher and the prisoner and Mrs. Newman all came upstairs together, and Mrs. Newman went into my parlour.

Mr. Butcher let the prisoner go, and he left the house.

I followed him into Chalton-street.

The policeman whom I had brought had gone into the parlour to see the woman.

I don’t think he understood what I meant.

Afterwards he came out, and I pointed the prisoner out to him standing at the bar of a public-house in Chalton-street, called the “Coffee house.”

There two policemen took him into custody. I went back to my house, and found Mrs. Newman in my parlour sitting in a chair, with a cloth round her neck. She was just alive, and a doctor was attending her.

She was removed to the University College hospital.”

When asked if he had any questions to put to the witness, the prisoner said, “That home belongs to me; my sister took it when I came out of prison. She knows she did.”

The witness said that was not so. Mrs. Newman took the room.


Dr. John Murray Llewellyn, of 82, Chalton-street, surgeon, said:-

“I was called to 53, Drummond-crescent at about a quarter to eight on Saturday evening.

In the front parlour I found a woman being supported on a chair. She was in a dying condition, smothered in blood. I saw she had several wounds, some incised and some punctured, on the right side of her throat. I bandaged the wounds, sent for a cab, and sent her at once to University College hospital.

I did not see the prisoner.”


Police-countable George Batten, 25 Y R, said:-

“I was called to the Coffee House public-house and there saw the prisoner coming out in the custody of another constable.

I then went to 53, Drummond-crescent, where I saw the last witness attending to the deceased, who was sitting in a chair.

I called a cab and took her in it to the hospital, where she was seen by Dr. Holder.

It was about 20 minutes to eight when I arrived there, and she expired about 10 minutes after her admission.”


The prisoner, who maintained a stolid demeanour throughout, was remanded.

It was mentioned that at the next hearing evidence as to the prisoner’s mental condition would be offered.


Dr. Danford Thomas held an inquest at the St. Pancras Coroner’s court on Wednesday, on the body of Mary Newman.

Margaret Newman deposed that the deceased was her mother. She was the widow of John Newman, a carman.

The witness visited her occasionally. She lived with a man named Charles Latham. She could not say if they lived on amicable terms.


Elizabeth Leigh, landlady at 53, Drummond-crescent, said that deceased had occupied apartments with her for five months. She was an industrious woman, and had two children aged 13 and seven.

Soon after she came Charles Latham came to live with her. He would frequently quarrel with the deceased and beat her. The witness had to get him ejected from the house, and he was sent to the infirmary.

On the previous Wednesday “he again turned up at the house,” and the deceased seemed to have a dislike to admit him.

Soon after eight o’clock, on Saturday, Latham forced his way into the deceased’s apartment.

A little later the witness found one of the children crying in the passage, and heard terrible groans proceeding from the deceased’s room.

She went in, and saw Mrs. Newman on the bed, with Latham kneeling upon her.

The deceased cried out, “Mrs. Leigh, he is killing me.”

Latham was holding something in his left hand, and “digging it into her neck.”

The witness said, “You murdering villain, you are killing her!”

She could not pull Latham off the deceased, and then ran upstairs for Mr. Butcher. She afterwards called the police.

In answer to the coroner, the witness stated that she had heard Latham on more than one occasion threaten to kill the deceased. She thought he suffered from delusions.


Joseph Butcher, a decorator, deposed that he occupied the front parlour at the house referred to.

Latham was at times delirious from the effects of drink, and in the witness’s opinion he was not a proper person to be at large. It was the drink
that had done it.

On entering the kitchen when called on Saturday night, the witness found Latham on the top of the deceased, “digging” with something at her throat.

The witness and a friend named Mumford got hold of Latham’s collar and pulled him off.

Latham said nothing, but walked deliberately out of the house.

The deceased said, “I know he has killed me.”

Her wounds were afterwards bound up with a cloth, and she was removed to the hospital.

By the Coroner: The witness had seen Latham since he came out of the infirmary, about 14 days ago, and he thought he had “the same wild look” as when he went in.

The witness had refused to let Latham come into the house.


Police-constable George Patten, 25 Y, stated that he took the deceased to the University College hospital, where she died in 10 minutes.

She never spoke on the way to the hospital.

Police-constable John Kelly deposed to arresting Latham at a public-house, and he remarked, “For cutting my wife’s throat with a razor, I suppose?”

Inspector Palmer stated that Latham made a long statement at the station, in which he charged the deceased with being unfaithful to him.


Dr. J. M. Llewellyn, 32, Charlton-street, deposed that the deceased had seven or eight wounds in the throat, one of which had cut through the jugular vein.

Death was due to syncope and haemorrhage from wounds in the throat.

The jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder against Charles Latham.”


On Wednesday 4th July 1888, Charles Latham was found guilty of the murder of Mary Newman, following his trial at the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey).

However, the jury  found that he was insane, and he was ordered to be detained during her Majesty’s pleasure.


You can read the full transcript of the trail of Charles Latham at the Old Bailey Online website.