The Murder Of John Gray

It really is striking how often fatal stabbings took place in the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields in the 19th century.

The London Evening Standard reported on one such incident in its edition of Friday the 5th of February 1875:-


At the Worship Street Police Court, Patrick Callerty, aged 19, a costermonger, living at Angel Alley, Whitechapel, and John Leary, 18, of Castle Alley, were placed at the bar before Mr. Bushby charged with the wilful murder of John Gray, 24 years of age; and further with stabbing a man named Francis Dempsey, now in the London Hospital.

An exterior view of the London Hospital.
The London Hospital.


Dennis Maddigan said that he was a fish porter, living at 9, Flower and Dean Street, Spitalfields.

Between a quarter and ten minutes to ten o’clock on the previous night he was going through Frosdic Place, Brick-lane, Spitalfields, in company with the deceased man, Gray, when he saw a ”row,” and had his attention called to it in Frosdic place.

He went down with Gray to see what was the matter, and the prisoners and others were fighting.


Knives were out, and the prisoner Leary called “Out with your knives, chivs are ready.” “Chivs,” the witness explained, was slang for knives, and meant that he (Leary) had hidden his.

One of the prisoners rushed at him, and the man Dempsey was fighting, it seemed, on the other side, with the prisoners.

There were sides, and many of the men had knives.

Frosdic Place was stated to be a narrow alley, turning out of Brick-lane into Old Montague street.


“When the prisoner rushed at him the witness “bobbed” aside, and the man Dempsey, who was close by his side, called out that he was stabbed.

Callerty then said, “No matter, let one of the others have it; I’ll have my temper out on some one now.”

The witness saw him then strike Gray and hit him in the breast.

Gray fell down and said that he was stabbed.

He told the witness to look after that man, meaning Callerty, and not to lose sight of him.


Gray, when picked up, was bleeding from the breast, just by the heart. He was alive, and was carried to a doctor’s shop in Brick Lane.

He was then taken by a serjeant and a constable to the hospital in a cab.

Witness went with them to the hospital and saw the prisoners there. He pointed them out and they were taken into custody.

They denied it, and alleged that the man was killed by a lad named Jenner.

Gray died about two minutes after his removal to the hospital.


At this stage of the case Mr. Bushby said that it would not be necessary to go further in the matter at present, and the prisoners would be remanded.

Inspector Abel said that there were other witnesses present, and they all lived in common lodging houses in Spitalfields, so that it was difficult to find them.

He was afraid that he should not be able to get them on the next occasion.

The prisoners were remanded for eight days.