On Monday, March 31st 1845, Mary Brothers was murdered by a client in a room at a house of ill-repute in George Street, in the St Giles district of West London.
Early in April, a suspect was arrested and charged with her murder
The Leeds Times gave news of the arrest on Saturday 12 April 1845:-
APPREHENSION OF THE MURDERER
The apprehension of the murderer of the unfortunate woman, Mary Brothers, alias Tape, was effected shortly after six o’clock on Friday evening last, by Superintendent Pearce, of the F division, and his identity fully established.
The individual in question, on being taken into custody, gave his name as James Connor, aged twenty, an Irishman.
ARRESTED BY SUPERINTENDENT PEARCE
From information received Superintendent Pearce, he for the last two days had strong suspicion that the perpetrator of the murder had secreted himself at no great distance from the vicinity of the spot where the crime was committed, and acting upon this impression and some peculiar facts which had privately come to his knowledge, he, shortly before six o’clock on Friday evening, proceeded to the house at No. 15, Belton Street, and inquired if there was a person residing there answering the murderer’s description; but being answered in the negative, he said he had strong reason for searching the place, and accompanied by some of his men the superintendent proceeded to effect this, and in a back apartment found the man Connor, who, the instant he saw the police, gave himself up, and was at once conveyed to the station-house in Bow Street.
WITNESSES SENT FOR
As soon as possible after Connor’s apprehension information was despatched to the E division, and Mr. Inspector Rawley, accompanied by Mr. Oldham, cutler, of High Street, and his daughter, and the two women who live in the house, No. 11, George Street, as also the woman known as “Irish Biddy,” with whom the murderer spoke after purchasing the carving-knife, proceeded to the station-house in Bow Street, for the purpose of speaking to the prisoner’s identity.
Mr. Oldham and his daughter were first shown the accused, and the instant the child, who is exceedingly intelligent, caught a glimpse of the prisoner, she exclaimed, “Oh, father, that is the man, I’m sure.” Mr. Oldham was cf a similar opinion, and he was the more convinced that he was right, as the man Connor had on a fustian, and not a velvet coat, which he had previously declared his belief was the case.
Mrs. Hall, who stated at the inquest that it was too dark for her to see him, could not speak positively; but the woman Palmer and Irish Biddy, identified him without hesitation.
The prisoner, who was exceedingly taciturn in his manner, was then locked up, the charge having been entered on the police sheet.
HIS FATHER’S HOUSE
A police constable was despatched to the residence of his father – a hard-working man – who lived with his wife and family at a house in Endell-street, Long Acre, and had been in the service of Mr. Garrard, silversmith, of the Haymarket, for many years, and here were found the velveteen coat and cap of which so much has been said and written.
They were taken from the room in which the prisoner had slept with his father up to the morning after the murder, from which time he had not been seen by his parents, having left his home without assigning any reason for so doing.
The cuffs of the coat were partially stained with blood, and in the pockets were found some hospital admission-tickets of which mention was made in evidence.
HE PREFERRED OLDER WOMEN
Looking at the comparative boyhood of the prisoner, and the advanced age of his ill-fated paramour, who has been said to be forty-eight, or thereabouts, everyone must be struck with the singularity of such connexion.
It would seem, however, that the murderer seldom selected for his female associates in infamy women of his own age, or approaching it.
Indeed, one wretched creature, whose evidence was taken on Saturday, and with whom the prisoner is said to have cohabited, must have been nearly sixty years old.
A POSSIBLE MOTIVE
With regard to the motives of the prisoner, it is now quite clear, that his object in meditating, and subsequently perpetrating, with such awful resolution, the murder of the unfortunate woman Brothers, was to appease a restless and long brooding revenge towards her, for having communicated to him, as he supposed, about two months ago, a disease from which he had been ever since a severe sufferer.
For this injury he had been heard to threaten her, in violent language, in the presence of a person who heard him deny the accusation shortly before the commission of the murder on Monday night; and what renders the shocking occurrence still more painful is the belief, strengthened as it is by the evidence of the medical gentleman, as well as by other circumstances, that this impression, which disturbed the prisoner’s mind, was wholly without foundation, and that he must have mistaken his victim.
Connor has at no time shown any contrition for the fate of the murdered woman.
At the examination, he repeatedly declared that he knew nothing of the murder, but, at other times, his remarks have certainly tended to criminate himself.
THE MOB ASSEMBLES
He was taken from the station in Bow-street to the police-court opposite at nine o’clock on Saturday morning, by which time the street had become crowded with men, women, and children of the lowest class.
The mob increased as the morning advanced, and frequently the road and footways were completely blockaded.
The policemen had great difficulty clearing a way for carriages, and their efforts now successful and then unavailing, gave rise to boisterous shouts and laughter, and obscene brawling, such as one is accustomed to experience at a race-course or a fair.
HE APPEARS IN COURT
The prisoner entered the court with a firm step, making a great noise with his feet, which was evidently the result of effort.
During the time he had been sitting in an anteroom awaiting the examination, he kept himself in a stooping posture, with his elbows on his knees, and his hands supporting his head.
A number of witnesses were then examined, all of which seemed to point to the prisoner as the guilty person.
BRIDGET RONAN’S TESTIMONY
Bridget Ronan said:- I am a single woman, and have known the prisoner about a year.
I saw him last Saturday night in George-street, and asked him how he was getting on. He said he was a little better, but did not wish his brother and sister or the old man to know what was the matter with him. He had previously told me of his having got a disorder from Mrs. Tape.
I saw him again on Monday night, at about half-past nine o’clock, in Bloomsbury-street, and inquired how he was then.
He said, “I have just seen the old —, and have been blowing her up. There she goes.” He pointed to a woman standing in the street, whom I had known by the name of Tape, and who, I have heard, was murdered the same night.
HE CHANGED HIS CLOTHES
The prisoner said, “She (Tape) would know me in these clothes. I will go home and put on my coat and cap.”
He then went away, and returned shortly afterwards. He had put on a dark velveteen coat and cap. He looked me in the face, and said, “Do you think she would know me now?”
I replied “Certainly”.
He said, “I have got something at home that will pepper her.”
I did not think he meant to hurt her seriously.
In about three-quarters of an hour afterwards, I saw a mob round the door of 11, George Street, and heard that a woman had been murdered.
HE DENIED SAYING IT
The Prisoner:- “Did you say that I said I had something to pepper her with?”
Witness:- “Yes, you did.”
The Prisoner:- “It’s quite false, that is.”
The next witness gave evidence to nearly the same effect.
MARY PALMER’S EVIDENCE
Mary Palmer examined:- I am servant to Mrs. Hall, who keeps the house at No. 11, George Street.
About a quarter to eleven o’clock on Monday night, a man and woman came to the door, and asked for a threepenny room. I showed them into a back apartment, and gave the woman my candle.
While I was sitting on the stairs, in about five minutes afterwards, I heard the woman crying “murder,” and ran to assist her.
I knocked at the door twice, but getting no answer I forced it open, when I saw the woman sitting on the bed and the man with his arm raised, as if in the act of striking her.
I said, “For God’s sake, don’t beat the woman so,” and caught hold of the man, but he threw me back against the fireplace, and ran out of the room.
It was then all darkness.
I followed him to the passage, and called to Mrs. Hall to stop him, but she could not, and he went away.
The woman jumped off the bed, ran into the next room, and there staggered and fell. She was covered all over with blood, and when a light was brought, we could see a large knife stuck in the back of her neck.
I went and fetched a policeman, and before I got back, several people were there. The woman was then quite dead, I thought.
The Prisoner:- “I know nothing at all about it.”
Mrs. Hall, the wife of the proprietor of the house, corroborated the above testimony.
OTHER WITNESS TESTIMONY
John James Allen, a policeman, stated how he had found the woman, and produced the knife with which the murder had been committed.
Henry Oldham, the cutler, from whom the prisoner had bought the knife, swore to his identity.
Mr. Fitzgerald, surgeon, stated that he had made a post mortem examination of the body, and found sixteen wounds in different places.
One, which had penetrated the pulmonary artery, had been the cause of death.
In reply to a question from his worship, the witness also stated that on examining the deceased he found no trace of the disorder alluded to in the evidence. There was nothing to lead him to the supposition that she had been recently infected any complaint of that kind.
Mr. Jardine now asked the prisoner if he would like a seat.
Prisoner:- “No, sir; this will do (still leaning with his arms folded over the dock).
THE FATHER OF THE PRISONER
The next witness was the father of the prisoner, an elderly man.
His appearance in the box had a momentary effect upon the prisoner, who until then had continued firm. Now, however, he became wholly unnerved, cried bitterly for a few moments, whilst his whole frame seemed agitated. He did not recover his self-possession for some little time.
Michael Connor examined:- I live at 15, Endell (late Belton Street), Long Acre.
The prisoner is my son, and has always lodged with me up to this week. He slept with me in my bed.
THE PRISONER’S MOVEMENTS
He came home on Monday night at about nine o’clock, and shortly afterwards went out again.
He returned about eleven o’clock, or soon after, and came into bed.
I left him there in the morning.
He did not go his work on Tuesday, but went to a relation’s, named Leonard, in Stone-cutter’s Alley, where I saw him in the evening.
He did not come home till two o’clock on Wednesday morning, after I had been in bed. He came to bed at that time.
I rose as usual at six, and went to work, and returned for breakfast at nine.
He was not up, and I complained about his not going to his work.
My wife said he was very poorly.
I have never seen him since that time till today, when he came into court.
Mrs. Leonard accompanied him home on Wednesday morning, at two o’clock. He has not been home since.
By Mr. Jardine:- Since last June he has worked with me for Mr. Garrard, silversmith, in Panton street, Haymarket. He turned the polishers’ wheel, as I had done before him for many years.
William Pocock, F 81. produced a velveteen coat, cap, and waistcoat, which he found in the room where the prisoner slept when at his father’s residence. There was some blood on the coat-sleeves. He found in the pockets the hospital tickets which had been spoken to by Mr. Partridge.
The prisoner:- “There aint any blood on the coat. That is only where it has been worn, as you will see, sir.”
SURE TO BE TUCKED UP
Superintendent Pearce then described the mode of his apprehension after which Adolphus Londsdale, who had taken charge of the prisoner during the previous night, was examined.
He said:- At about four o’clock this morning, said, “I am sure to be tucked up, if those two women who saw me between eight and nine o’clock on Monday night come and give evidence against me. I know them to be common prostitutes.”
I had said nothing to him to induce him to make these remarks.
SHE WENT BY THE NAME OF TAPE
James Brothers, the husband of the deceased, said he was a porter, and had identified the body as that of his wife, from whom he had long been separated, owing to her misconduct.
He believed she generally went by the name Tape, from having lived some time ago with a man of that name.
SENT FOR TRIAL
Mr. Jardine then asked the prisoner if he wished to say anything, with the usual cautionary remarks.
The Prisoner:- “No, sir, I have nothing to say.”
The prisoner was then fully committed for trial.
He seemed very unwell, although he contrived to walk out with a tolerably firm step.
THE ST GILES’ MURDER
The trial of Joseph Connor took place at the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey) on Thursday, 15th May, 1845.
The Berkshire Chronicle reported on the outcome in its edition of Saturday 17th May 1845:-
“On Thursday Joseph Connor was tried for the murder of Mary Brothers, alias Tape, in a house of ill fame in St. Giles.
The particulars are already known, and no new fact was elicited.
The prisoner was found guilty and was sentenced to death. He bore his sentence with firmness.”
Joseph Connor was executed at Newgate Prison on Monday 2nd June 1845.