The Murder In Spitalfields 1875

In a previous article, that showed the dangers of sudden violence in the streets of Whitechapel, I covered the murder of John Grey by Patrick Cullerty.

There now follows and account of the trial of Cullerty and his associates at the Old Bailey.


Patrick Cullerty, 18, John Leary, 18, and Francis Dempsey, 16, three labouring lads, were charged with the wilful murder of John Grey, by stabbing him, on the night off the 3rd of February, in Spitalfields.

Mr. Poland and Mr. Mead prosecuted for tie Treasury. Mr. Montagu Williams and Mr. Sou’sby defended Cullerty and Dempsey, and Mr. Kelly defended Leary.

The circumstances under which this charge was proffered were somewhat confused and complicated, and the case occupied the court for a very considerable time.

A city policeman watching a prisoner arrive for trial at the Old Bailey Court.
A City Constable On Duty At Old Bailey.


It appeared that the transaction first commenced on the evening of the 2nd of February, in Finch Street, Spitalfields, when a quarrel took place between Dempsey and a lad named King. They fought, and King seemed to have got the worst of the struggle; he gave in, and nothing more took place on that evening.

It appeared, however, that some arrangement was made that there should be a general fight on the following night, the 3rd of February, and accordingly, when the time arrived, the prisoners and a number of other men assembled, and King was amongst them.

Dempsey then wanted to renew the fight with King, but the latter would not fight with him.


Dempsey kept badgering at King with his left hand, and it was noticed that he had at the time a knife in his right band.

Very shortly after this a general tight appeared to have taken place between the parties, and one of the prisoners was heard to call out, “Knives out – get your  chivs (knives) ready,” and several of the parry, upon this, did draw knives and brandished them about.


During the struggle the prisoner Cullerty was seen with a knife in his hand; he appeared to have aimed a blow at the man King with the knife, but he missed him and stabbed Dempsey, inflicting a severe wound on his arm.

Dempsey fell to the ground, but before he did so he exclaimed to Cullerty, “You’ve stabbed your pal, Jim Pudding” (a nickname he went by).

Dempsey was then carried to the hospital, where he remained a considerable time before he was in a fit condition to be taken before the magistrate upon this charge.


After Dempsey had been thus wounded, some of the party seemed to have reproached the prisoner Cullerty with having stabbed his friend, and he replied, “Never mind, I will have my temper out,” and he then made a stab at another man named Mannigan.


The deceased, who did not appear to have taken any part in the fight, and who was merely present by accident, upon seeing what Cullerty was about to do, laid hold of Mannigan to pull him out of the way, and in doing so he received the stab that was intended for him, being wounded very severely in the arm, and, upon his failing to the ground, the prisoner Cullerty appeared to lunge up to him and kicked him.

The deceased was taken to a chemist’s shop close by, and he died in the course of a just few minutes.


Under these circumstances the prisoners were jointly charged with the crime of murder – Cullerty as principal, and the others with aiding and abetting in the act.

A number of witnesses were examined for the prosecution, but their evidence merely established the facts as above narrated.


The origin of the quarrel and fight did not appear to be at all clearly established, the only suggestion being that it arose about a girl who had  created some feeling of jealousy between the prisoner and Dempsey.

Mr. Montagu Williams and Mr. Kelly addressed the jury on behalf of their respective clients, and they endeavoured to show that there was an absence of all evidence to show that the prisoners entertained any intention to destroy the life of the deceased; and that, supposing they should believe the death to have been caused by the act of the prisoner Cullerty, under the circumstances of hot blood and excitement that prevailed at the time, the offence would only amount to manslaughter.


The learned judge having summed up the case with great carefulness, and pointed out the legal difference between the offence of manslaughter and murder, the jury, after a short consideration, found Cullerty and Dempsey guilty of manslaughter, and acquitted the other prisoner Leary.

His lordship sentenced Cullerty to 15 years’ penal servitude and Dempsey to 10 years.