The Murder Of Charles Howard

In the early hours of the morning of Sunday the 1st March, 1885, a murder took place in the East End of London which came about as the result of a fairly complicated love triangle.

The Daily Gazette For Middlesbrough, provided a brief report on what had occurred in its edition of Monday, 2nd March, 1885:-


“A terrible affair arising from jealousy occurred in the East End of London late on Saturday night.

A furrier named Charles Howard, of Mile End, had been paying attention to Mrs Russell, the widow of a police constable. A man named Henry Alt, also a furrier, had been paying addresses to the same woman.

On Saturday night, Howard was walking with Mrs Russell along Rutland-street, when Alt came up, and an altercation arose. Alt had a long-bladed knife in his hand, and he furiously attacked Howard, who, after an ineffectual attempt to defend himself, fell down, and Alt then turned upon Mrs Russell, stabbing ber in nine places. The poor woman screamed for help, but before any arrived Alt escaped.

Howard was pronounced to be dead. Mrs Russell is not expected to recover.

Alt was afterwards arrested at the German Hospital, where he was an inmate.”

Illustrations showing the murder and the attack on Mrs Russell.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 14th March, 1885. Copyright, The British Library Board.


On Sunday, 22nd March, 1885, Reynolds’s Newspaper published an account of the proceeding at the inquest into the death of Charles Howard:-

“Mr. Collier, the deputy coroner for East Middlesex, resumed on Wednesday, at the London Hospital, his inquiry respecting the death of Charles Howard, aged forty-eight, a farrier, who was fatally stabbed by a man named Henry Alt; now an inmate of the German Hospital, owing to self-inflicted injuries.


Sarah Burton in whose house lived Mrs. Russell, who was also severely stabbed by Alt, stated that when Mrs. Russell engaged the apartments she was accompanied by Alt, whom she told witness was to be her husband twelve months after her late husband, a policeman, had been dead.

About one o’clock on the morning of the 1st inst. she was in bed, when she heard signs of quarrelling outside her house. She went downstairs and saw Mrs.Russell and Howard standing by the steps of the door, and Alt on the other side of them –  on the pavement.

Witness heard angry words pass between the parties, and Mrs. Russell told Alt to go away, as she did not wish to have anything to do with him.

Alt said, “I will not go.”

Mrs. Russell then said, “‘Yes, you will, Harry. This man here is going to be my husband,” at the same time pointing to the deceased. Witness did not see any weapon in Alt’s hand. She told Mrs. Russell she had better go in to bed, when Alt said to the witness, “Look here misses; she has promised to be my wife, and she has deceived me.”

As the three seemed so angry with one another, the witness told her husband to come indoors, and he did so.

About two minutes afterwards she heard Mrs. Russell give a loud scream, and she then called out, “Mrs. Burton, let me in. I am all alone.” Witness then opened the door, and as soon as Mrs. Russell came in she said, “Mrs. Burton, I have been stabbed. I feel faint.” Witness led her to a chair just inside the front room, where she fainted away.

About a week before the occurrence Mrs. Russell had told the witness that she was going to be introduced to the deceased, and she said that she thought he would make her a better husband than Alt, who was so jealous of her.


Thomas Woodham, a milkman, said that on the night of the murder he was on his way home, when he saw two men and a woman in the street. He saw one of the men’s hands going up and down as if he was striking the other one, but he did not see anything in the man’s hand. The same man then struck the woman, who screamed out. He again went to the other man (the deceased) and struck him again.

The deceased then ran into a shop, and the other man tried to follow him. It was a very dark night, but there as a lamp on the opposite side of the street.

Witness then went towards them, when the man who struck the deceased and the woman ran away as hard as he could.

Witness went into the shop, and found the deceased lying on the ground.

Mr. Raven, the proprietor of the shop, helped him to get the deceased out of the shop, and at that time he had no idea that the man had been stabbed.


Mr. Raven, the shopkeeper, gave confirmatory evidence; and, after hearing the medical and some other evidence, the coroner adjourned the inquiry.

At the Thames Police-court in the afternoon, Henry Alt, described as a baker, was charged with the wilful murder of Charles Howard.”


The Tower Hamlets Independent and East End Local Advertiser published the following account of the final day of the inquest in its edition of Saturday, 18th April 1885:-

Mr. G. Collier on Wednesday resumed his adjourned inquest at the London Hospital, respecting the death of Charles Howard, a farrier, who was murdered on the 1st ult., by a German baker, named Henry Alt.

Mr. C. H. Salmon, solicitor, instructed by the German Consul, attended and watched the case on behalf of the accused.


Mrs. Ann Eliza Russell, who whilst giving her evidence had to be supported by one of the hospital nurses, said:-

“I was living at No. 27, Rutland-street, Mile-end, Old Town. My late husband’s name was John Russell, and he was formerly a police-constable. My age is 34 years. I had known the deceased man for some time, but only to speak to him about a fortnight before his death. I had known Henry Alt about 12 months, and I used to live in his cousin’s house.

During the fortnight I knew the deceased, he had been paying me marked attention. Previous to that Alt asked me once or twice if I would marry him, desert my children, and go abroad with him. I replied, “Decidedly not.”

It was not true I had introduced Alt as my intended husband, but I had told the landlady of 25, Rutland-street, that I was going to marry him at the end of 12 months.

I met the deceased at my sister’s house. I encouraged the deceased in his attentions to me, and had actually accepted him as my intended husband.

In the course of conversation with my landlady, Mrs. Burton, I had told her that I had advised Alt to leave me, as the deceased was going to be my husband.


On the night of the murder, I was with the deceased when Alt came up and said, “You have promised to be my wife.”

On the Saturday night, I was at Mr. Murrell’s house. He is my brother-in-law. The deceased came there to see me home. When we left the house it was close upon 12 o’clock. We did not go straight home, and, on the road, we met Harry Alt.

One of them asked the other, but I can’t say which, if he would have a drink. All three of us then went into the White Hart, in Turner-street, where we partook of some drink. The deceased and Alt had a second glass.

When we left the White Hart it was close upon 12. The two men were perfectly sober. We were all on good terms with one another.

We then went home to my door. Harry Alt, in the presence of deceased, asked me if I would be his wife, I said, “I will not, as I have told you before.” Alt then said something to my landlady, who had come up, which I can’t recollect.


Alt then went up to the deceased and stabbed him two or three times, but I can’t say for certain. I turned my head away. The weapon used was a dagger, and bright steel. I knew it well, as on one occasion I took it from him, as I was frightened of it. It belonged to Alt.

Alt then caught hold of me and stabbed me all round the neck, and then in the back. I had nine wounds. I saw deceased in the roadway, and he threw his two arms up as if he was staggering.

Alt was close by stabbing himself.

I then went indoors, and saw nothing more of either of the two men.


In reply to Mr. Salmon, the witness denied that Alt had been seen in her bedroom at her former lodgings. Alt followed her everywhere, and she was afraid of him.

Replying to the jury, the witness said that one day Alt came to her room, and forced himself in. He would not go away, and stayed there until four o’clock in the morning, when she ordered him out of the house.


Detective Henry Payne adduced a written statement taken from Alt’s own words, in the course of which he said, “I took my dagger out of my pocket and stabbed Mrs. Russell. Howard ran away to the corner of the street, and I ran after him and stabbed him two or three times. I then stabbed myself and ran to the corner of Whitechapel-road, where there was a cab.”

The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Henry Alt. and he was committed for trial on the coroners warrant.”


Henry Alt was tried for the wilful murder of Charles Howard at the Central Criminal Court on Monday, 22nd June, 1885.

The witnesses who had appeared at the inquest also gave the same evidence at his trial.


One additional witness was Inspector Frederick Abberline, whose testimony was taken down by the court stenographer:-

“Frederick Abberline (Police Inspector H), testified that:-

“On the 1st March, I went to the German Hospital, and saw the prisoner – he was very ill, and I gave instructions to Police-constable Paine.

At about 3 o’clock the same day I went again – I was not in uniform – the prisoner beckoned me to his bedside, and said, “Mrs. Russell has my bank-book in her drawer; she brought me to it.” I simply nodded, and passed out of the ward.

On the 18th March I went to the hospital again, and finding he was fairly convalescent and able to leave, I said to him, “I am an inspector of police; I have to take you into custody for the wilful murder of Charles Howard, and also for attempting to murder Annie Eliza Russell, by stabbing her on the 1st instant.” He made no remark whatever. At the station, the charge was read over to him and again he made no reply.

I searched at the Veteran public-house [where Alt was lodging] to see if I could find a dagger or instrument of any kind. None has been discovered.”


The case was a cut and dried none, and the Jury found him “Guilty” of Charles Howard’s murder, whereupon the judge donned the black cap and sentenced him to death.


His execution, at Newgate Prison, which took place on Monday, 13th July, 1885, was reported by The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette on Friday, 17th July, 1885

Henry Alt, journeyman baker, a German, aged 31, was executed on Monday morning, at eight o’clock, at Newgate, for the murder of a man named Charles Howard, by stabbing him with a dagger.

The German Ambassador has been communication with the Home Secretary with a view to secure a remission of the capital sentence; but the offence was considered to be of such character as to preclude the authorities from interfering with the action of the law, and a communication to that effect was made by the Home Secretary list Friday.

He slept tolerably well for three or four hours on Sunday night, and, at 7 o’clock yesterday morning, he was visited by the Prison Chaplain, who remained with him to the last moment.

Mr. Sheriff Phillips and Mr. Under-Sheriff Metcalfe went to the prison shortly before 8 o’clock, and at once proceeded to the prisoner’s cell, where the operation of pinioning was performed by Berry, the executioner.


The prisoner was asked if he wished to say anything, and he replied, “Nothing.”

A procession, headed by Captain Kirkpatrick, the Governor of Newgate, and comprising Mr. Sheriff Phillips, the Under-Sheriff, and the warders, was then formed, and the prisoner, who appeared quite calm and composed, walked firmly to the scaffold, the Burial Service being read by Mr. Driffield.

When the rope was placed round his neck, the prisoner exclaimed, “This is all through that wicked, deceitful woman.”

The drop fell, and he appeared to die instantaneously. The prisoner’s height was only 5ft 4in, and he had a fall of 6ft 6in. Death took place without the slightest struggle.

A gentleman connected with the German Embassy was present at the execution by special request.”