Murder In Spitalfields 1870

As is evidenced from the number of press reports in our blogs, many other murders took place in the East End of London during the latter half of the 19th century besides the Jack the Ripper atrocities. Indeed, many murders took place in the the same, or the surrounding, streets to those in which the Whitechapel murders occurred.

Given the fact that drunkenness was rife in the district, many of those murders were drink fuelled, as is the case in the following newspaper story from March and April 1870.


On 12th March 1870 Henry Parker, 22,  a fire wood chopper, and John Rutter, 26, his brother-in-law, had an argument at the Ship Tavern in Bacon Street, Spitalfields.

The two of them then left the pub and went out into the street where, according to a subsequent report in The Grantham Journal, they continued “making use of angry words towards each other.”


According to Ann Rutter – John’s wife and Henry Parker’s sister – the quarrel had, in fact, started at her mother’s house at 36, Canal Road, Shoreditch, when her brother had come round at about 9pm. She later stated that he had been drinking and that he started talking to his mother about “money affairs.”

His mother asked him for some money, to which he replied “I have none.” “I must have some,” his mother insisted, whereupon Henry slammed down a two-shilling piece on the table.”

At this point, Ann began to laugh and Henry, ordered her angrily out of the room. She refused, telling him “I have as much right here as you.” Ann and Henry then argued with one another and she struck her brother warning him that, if he did not be quiet she would fetch her husband, John.

She then left the house to look for her husband, not realising that he had been upstairs the whole time. When she arrived back, he was standing at the front door of the house and, seeing that she had been crying, he asked her what the matter was. She said nothing of the quarrel.


At this point, John left the house to attend a lead at the Ship Tavern, in Bacon Street and, a few minutes afterwards, Henry Parker also left the house.

Shortly afterwards, Ann headed out and, according to her later testimony:-

“…at the top of Bacon Street, I saw my husband and my brother – I heard my husband say some words when they met on the steps of the public-house, I can’t say what the words were, and I saw him strike Henry, and he followed him across the road, and there he knocked him down on his knees – my husband was rather a bigger man than Henry  – I ran towards them – while Henry was on his knees he said “Jim, if I have done anything wrong, listen to what I have to say?” – upon that my husband made use of bad language, and said he would listen to nothing, and hit him again, when he was on his knees, with his fist.

Henry got up, and went across the road, to get out of his way, and my husband followed him, and hit him again; that was the third time – and on that I saw Henry strike my husband – he said he was stabbed, and went into the public-house – I don’t know what became of Henry – I afterwards went into the public-house and saw my husband; he said he had been stabbed, and put his hand up to his chest – I did not see any blood – he was laid down, and afterwards taken off to the doctor’s – shortly afterwards I saw him dead.”

An illustration showing Henry Parker stabbing his victim.
Henry Parker Stabs His Brother-in-Law. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library.


According to Henry and Ann’s mother, there was a cupboard in her room in which she:- “had three white handled dinner knives – I did not see the prisoner go to the cupboard that evening.”


Francis Brockhill, a workmate of  Henry Parker’s stated that, on the 12th March 1870. he had been with Parker from 4 pm to 9 pm and that he had gone to his mother’s house with him where he witnessed the quarrel between Henry and Ann.

He later testified that:-

“I saw Henry go to the cupboard – I can’t tell what he did there – after that we went out together to go to a public-house – we intended to go to the lead – on our way we saw Joseph Rutter and his brother, and to avoid them we went into a shop – when we came out we saw them again in a fish shop, we went past them and missed them as they were going down Hoxton – we afterwards saw them in front of the bar of the Ship public-house, in Bacon Street – as soon as we got to the public-house, we stopped sudden, outside, we did not like to go in – Rutter came out and struck Henry a violent blow, he staggered across the road and Rutter struck him again, followed him up, he fell down, the second blow sent him down – when he was on the ground he said “Hold hard, Jim, let me have one word, hear reason” – Rutter replied “Get up and fight!” – Henry replied “No, Jim, you are too good a man for me” – he then got up and ran across the road – Rutter ran after him and hit him another blow, and knocked his head up against the wall – on that I saw Henry retaliate the blow, I mean, he struck him, I can’t tell with what, I did not see anything – Rutter put his hand to his chest and said “I’ve been stabbed,” and he staggered into the public-house – he remained there a short time and came out again and fell – Henry was standing in the middle of the road – he came up to me and got his cap and said “I must go, I think I have killed my brother-in-law,” and he went away, walking rather sharp – before we met Rutter, Henry said “I wish I had a white-handled knife that is at home, I would stab him; I have frightened him before with a poker.”


Abel Rutter, brother of the deceased, later recounted how he and John had gone to the Ship Tavern together on the Saturday night and had drunk some beer:-

“…as we came out I stopped behind to light my pipe – when I came out the first thing I saw was the deceased on the kerb, opposite the door, being picked up by two men – that could not have been more than a minute after he had left me – I saw someone running away, but who it was I don’t know – my brother was taken to the house, and I saw him bleeding from a wound in the chest, and in my opinion he died when he was in the public-house.”


Later that night, Nathaniel Nottage was walking along Collingwood Street when he met Henry Parker who, he later recalled, was very distressed:-

“…he was walking with his head down, and crying very bitterly – I asked him what was the matter – he said “I think I have killed my brother-in-law” – I said “You don’t mean to say so” – he said “I think I shall give myself up” – I said “No, don’t give yourself up, perhaps you have not killed him” – he said “I think I have, I will make away with myself; but Twiggy knows all about it from the first beginning to the end of it” – that is a nickname of Brockhill’s.”


The inquest into the death of John Rutter was held on Tuesday 15th March 1870, and the jury brought in a verdict of wilful murder against Henry Parker.

However, Parker had not been seen since his meeting with Nathaniel Nottage and his whereabouts were unknown.


In fact, he wasn’t tracked down until April 7th 1870, when Police Constable Edward Gage tracked him down to a house at 23, Queen Street, Rotherhithe, where he found him lying on a bed on the floor.

According to Gage’s later testimony:-

“I had previously spoken to Russell, the man who opened the door, and asked who he had got in the house, and Parker could hear what was said – Russell said “I have only my wife and a lodger” – I said “What is the lodger’s name?” – he said “Phillips” – I told him to open the shutters, and let me have a light, and I then saw Parker – I said to him “This man (Russell) says your name is Phillips, is that so?” – he made no answer – I told him he was charged with killing and slaying his brother-in-law, and that his name was Henry Parker – he said “All right, I know all about it.”

The Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser reported his arrest in its edition of Saturday 16th April 1870:-


“The man Henry Parker, who was found guilty of wilful murder by a coroner’s jury, for stabbing his brother-in-law, James Rutter, near a public house in Bacon Street, Spitalfields on the 12th of last month, was apprehended on Thursday at a house in Lower Road, Rotherhithe.

He was conveyed to the police station, in Spital Square, where he was visited by his mother, and an affecting scene took place.”


The newspaper also reported that, since his capture, he had made the following statement:-

“I and Rutter had a row, and he knocked me down three times. I asked him to stop, but he would not. I then struck him with the knife to stop him killing me. I never intended to kill him. After I struck him, he fell, and then I became alarmed and ran away. I met a man that I knew, and he advised me not to drown myself, and not to give myself up to the police. He said that Rutter might not be dead. I then left the neighbourhood, and I never went on the canal bridge in the Kingsland Road, so, therefore, no woman ever saw me trying to leap into the water. I met with some friends, who gave me money, and I moved about from lodging-house to lodging-house. The first that I knew about Rutter’s being dead was reading it in a penny newspaper that I bought the first thing on the Monday morning after I left Bacon Street. I never intended to kill Rutter.”

The magistrate sent the case for trial at the Old Bailey.


His trial took Place at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) on the 2nd May 1870.

The jury found him guilty of manslaughter but, at the same time, they strongly recommended him to mercy on account of the provocation he had received. The judge said he would give full effect to the recommendation, but the use of the knife was “so serious a matter that he must consider what sentence ought to be pronounced”.

A few days later, the judge, having deliberated the matter, sentenced Henry Parker to six months hard labour.