Murder Of A Publican

In the 19th century, other parts of the country faced similar problems to those that were frequently reported in Whitechapel.

There were, for example, frequent reports of men being either attacked or even murdered, in brothels throughout the country.

The Morning Herald, in its edition of Monday the 21st of November, 1859, reported on one such case:-


On Friday, Frederick Johnson, a respectable-looking young man, residing with his mother, who keeps a brothel on Templar Street, was charged at the Town Hall, Leeds, with the murder of John Fletcher, the landlord of the Hole-in-the-Wall public-house, Briggate.

The case has been some days under investigation before Mr. Blackburn, the borough coroner, but in consequence of the perjury of one of the principal witnesses, at the instigation of Johnson’s mother, the jury failed to unravel the mystery, and after two days’ examination of witnesses found it necessary to again, adjourn for further inquiry.

According to the evidence given before the coroner, the deceased was taken home by a disreputable woman named Elizabeth Rhodes, in a cab, on the Saturday afternoon previous in a state of insensibility, and on Mr. Henry W. Price, surgeon, being called in, he was cold, pulseless, and unable to swallow – in fact, he was dying.


The statement of the girl Rhodes was, that the deceased had been found dead drunk in Templar Street, early that morning, opposite Mrs. Johnson’s door; that they had taken him in, laid him on the hearth-rug, covered him over, and left him there until the following morning, when they found him still insensible.

Thinking that he would rally, they did nothing until noon, when his continued stupor excited their alarm, and she (Rhodes) was ordered to take him home.

Mr. Price called again at seven o’clock, but Fletcher was then dead.


Subsequently, Mr. English, the chief constable, received some important information, and obtaining a warrant, he apprehended the prisoner on the charge of murder.

The case came before the sitting magistrates accordingly on Friday morning, on an application for remand.


Annie Green was sworn. She had not been before the jury.

The witness said:-

“On Friday night, about half-past eleven, I called in at Mr. Long’s tap, Templar Street, and found Mr. Fletcher there. I knew him, and he asked me to take a glass. I stayed until twelve o’clock when we both left.

I was going down Templar Street, and he asked me where I was going. I said I was going to call at Mrs. Johnson’s, and he replied, “I will go in with you, I know her.” He went with me, and when he got in he sat down, and was asked to send for something to drink. He did not say he would not.

At that time Frederick Johnson was having some words with his mother, and he turned round and told the deceased to go. Fletcher wouldn’t, upon which Johnson took him by the shoulders and pushed him out of the door. I said,” Oh Frederick you have hurt him – you had better bring him in again.” Mrs. Johnson said, “Yes, you had better do so – I know him.” He was brought in, and I left, and I heard nothing more of him until Monday night, when I was told he was dead.”


Elizabeth Rhodes was also called, and she said:-

“I was in the house, but I cannot exactly tell what time it was.

I saw Frederick Johnson take him up in his arms, after telling him to go twice, and push him right out of the door. He was not long out before we brought hirn in again.”


Mr. Blackburn said that Rhodes had repeatedly contradicted herself during her examination, though cautioned, and swore positively that on leaving Fletcher in the street she knew nothing more until the deceased was found outside the door.

This being so, and some disinterested witnesses speaking to seeing the deceased and another man drunk in the street, the impression produced on his mind was that Fletcher had fallen down drunk, and that the Johnson, supposing him simply to be drunk, had taken him in and treated him accordingly.

There was no evidence of violence, and so far as the girl Rhodes was concerned she swore just the contrary of her present statement.

Elizabeth Rhodes:- “I did so because Mrs. Johnson said if I did not I should have to go to prison.”


The prisoner was remanded until this day, when he will be brought before the Coroner.

The deceased had been on the spree all the day, and at noon he had two or three sovereigns. He went to the Templars’ Inn at night, and there he met with the women, as previously stated, and accompanied Green to Johnson’s.

When he was taken home all his money was gone.”