Living in Whitechapel in the 19th century could be dangerous, especially at night, or in the early hours of the morning, when the pubs had closed, and disagreements between drunken customers making their way home could boil over into fatal violence.
One such case – which happened close to Buck’s Row, the scene of the murder of Jack the Ripper’s first victim, Mary Nichols – was reported by The Cork Constitution in its edition of Monday the 10th of March 1890:-
A FATAL STABBING IN WHITECHAPEL
Early this morning, soon after the public houses were closed, Edward Sullivan, aged 20, and a youth named Boyce, about 18, had a fight in Queen Anne Street near Buck’s Row, East End of London, a neighbourhood well known in connection with the Whitechapel murders, and of the lowest character.
After the third round, Sullivan cried out, “I am stabbed.”
He was at once conducted to the London Hospital, which is nearby, but he died on the road.
Boyce soon after went to the hospital and gave himself up to the police.
It is stated that he admits his guilt, and that he will be brought up at Worship-street tomorrow.
THE INQUEST IS HELD
The Echo, on Wednesday the 12th of March, carried details of the inquest into the death of Edward Sullivan:-
The circumstances under which Edward Sullivan, a labourer, living at Lundy-place, Chicksand-street, Whitechapel, met his death have been investigated by Coroner Baxter and a Jury.
From the evidence of the father of Suliivan, it appears that George Boyce and his son had previously quarrelled – in fact, according to Mr. Sullivan, “they were always quarrelling.”
He declared that only a fortnight ago, Boyce took out a knife with the intention of stabbing the young fellow.
THEIR QUARREL WAS RENEWED
The two men renewed the quarrel in Queen Anne Street, Buck’s Row, on Sunday, and, stripping, fought two or three rounds.
Both, however, were, according to Daniel Sullivan, the worse for drink, Sullivan being helpless.
Suddenly Sullivan fell under a lamppost, with the exclamation, “Oh, he’s stabbed me.”
Daniel Sullivan then asked Boyce for the knife, when he replied that he had thrown it away.
AN EXTRAORDINARY STATEMENT
When Boyce was arrested, he made an extraordinary statement.
He said that they were fighting with knives at the time. Suliivan attempted to stab bim in the eye. He, however, put up his hand to protect it, when the deceased made a stab at his ribs.
He then ran away but was caught by Sullivan.
They then both made a plunge at the other, when the knife which he (Boyce) held entered the deceased’s chest.
A PUNCTURED WOUND
Sullivan died almost immediately after his admission to the London Hospital.
The doctor found a punctured wound on the left chest about two inches deep.
The Jury, after a short deliberation, returned a verdict of Manslaughter against George Boyce, who was accordingly committed to take his trial on the Coroner’s warrant.
BOYCE APPEARS IN COURT
The Globe, in its edition of Thursday the 13th of March 1890, reported on Boyce’s court appearance:-
At Worship Street Police Court yesterday, George Boyce 17. described as a general dealer, of Lindley Street, Jubilee Street, Mile End, was charged with causing the death of Edward Sullivan, by stabbing him with a penknife.
Shortly after midnight on Saturday, the deceased and the prisoner had a fight in Whitechapel, both being stripped to the waist.
HE DIED IN THE HOSPITAL
After two or three “rounds” Sullivan called out that he was stabbed, and, staggering back, he fell to the ground and was found to be bleeding from a wound in the right breast. He was assisted to the hospital, where he later died.
BOYCE ADMITTED STABBING HIM
At the hospital, the prisoner subsequently attended and was seen by Police Constable Franklin, who asked him if knew how Sullivan got his wound.
The prisoner replied, “Yes, I stabbed him. We were fighting, and we both had knives. He made a stab at me and cut my thumb, and I stabbed him.”
He added that he afterwards threw the knife away.
IT WAS A FAIR FIGHT
ln reply to the charge, the prisoner said that he was first attacked and that he made to fight with “fair fists,” but then he found that Sullivan had drawn his knife, and the prisoner took out his in order to frighten Sullivan, and, in a struggle, it went into him.’
Mr. Montagu Williams committed the prisoner for manslaughter.
TRIED AT THE OLD BAILEY
On Monday the 24th of March, 1890, George Boyce appeared at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) charged with the manslaughter of Edward Sullivan.
He pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to fifteen months hard labour.