The Murder Of Charles Cantrey

For those seeking tales of true crimes, the Victorian newspapers provide a trove of stories that show some dreadful – as well as some very mundane – homicides.

The Jack the Ripper murders aside, you can’t help thinking that 19th century London must have been a very unsafe place to live.

The Westmorland Gazette, in its edition of Saturday the 27th of November, 1858, published details of another murder:-


A dreadful murder was on Tuesday morning committed at 1, Queen’s Square, by Edward Toomes, a traveller, residing in the Lower Road, Islington, upon Charles Cantrey, a man residing at 17, Gloucester-street, Queen Square.

From what can be at present ascertained, it appears that the prisoner called at the house of the murdered man, and, having obtained an interview, at once cut the throat of the deceased.

Sergeant Brown, E, was then called in, and Inspector Witham, of the same division, was at once on the spot, and, having ascertained the facts, took the prisoner into custody.


The man was brought before Mr. Corrie, at the Clerkenwell Police Court.

As soon as the Court was opened it was crowded to excess, and many persons were unable gain admission.

It would appear that the deceased carried on the business of a lithographer and general printer, and that although the prisoner and he had been acquainted for some time, they had never had any dispute.

The deceased had for a long time been affected with consumption.

Although the wound was of great depth, and extended from ear to ear, the haemorrhage appears to have been internal, as there was outward flow of blood.


Mrs. Sarah Bell, of 17, Gloucester-street, Queen Square, said that a person, named Cantly, had lodged in her house for some time.

That morning, about eleven o’clock, the prisoner came to her house, where he had been the nigh before three times.

On the previous night he came between ten and eleven o’clock, and said, “I have come to warn you, for you have a number of detectives in your house.”

He appeared excited; but, although he talked about nearly all the persons in the house, he said the least about the deceased.

The prisoner said, “Cantly’s against you, and he is one the detectives.”


From his excited manner she said, “You are mad; you are a raving madman.”

He was, what they had thought for some time past, a raving madman.

He came in a cab and said, “Will you do as say? ”

He then went away, and came back again, and repeating the same question, asked where Mr. Bell was.

She said, “I will not send for him, for you are mad.”


When he came in the morning he rapped at the door, which she opened, when the prisoner said, “Good morning,”  in his usual quick way.

She said, “Good morning,” when the prisoner said, “I have come to apologise for my conduct last night.”

She said, “You need do so, sir; ” and she said “You had better walk in here,” which was a parlour occupied by a lady lodger, whom he had mentioned the night before as being a detective.


The prisoner walked in and looked round the room, and then he walked down stairs.

She followed him, and saw him point a pistol at the deceased’s head.

The prisoner did not fire the pistol.

She heard the deceased scream “Oh.”

She saw nothing more, but rushed out for her friends.


Mr. Corrie inquired of the prisoner whether he wished to ask the witness any questions.

Prisoner:- “No, I acknowledge to have murdered the man. He was treated kindly by that woman, and she behaved like a mother him.”


The evidence of Miss Elizabeth Hodgkins, who was the kitchen when the prisoner entered, and who saw him there cutting the deceased’s throat, was next given; and, after the evidence of the police had been heard, the prisoner was remanded.