On the morning of Saturday, 15th of December, 1900, the body of Mrs. Lucy Smith was found in her house at 23, Venour Road, in Bow, East London. As it transpired, the police did not have to look far to find the murderer as he was sitting alongside the body.
Reynolds’s Newspaper took up the story of the crime in its edition of Sunday, 16th December, 1900:-
ANOTHER EAST END TRAGEDY
WOMAN’S HEAD CUT OFF
COUSIN ARRESTED YESTERDAY
“Another East End tragedy was reported yesterday morning.
Shortly before eight o’clock, the police were called to 23, Venour Road, a little street off Canal Road, Burdett Road, Bow, and there they found a woman, the wife of a man named Smith, lying dead.
The woman’s throat was cut from ear to ear, and death is supposed to have taken place only a short time before the advent of the police. The husband states that he found the woman dead when he arrived home from work early that morning.
The woman’s body was removed to the mortuary, where a doctor certified that death was due to the terrible wounds she had received.
Mrs. Smith is described as a good-looking young woman.
MAN IN COURT
At the Thames Police Court yesterday afternoon, Sampson Silas Salmon, aged 32, described as a labourer having no fixed abode, was charged with the wilful murder of Lucy Smith, his cousin, aged about thirty, the wife of Sampson Smith, who is in the service of the Mile End Council.
Inspector Andrews asked that only evidence of the arrest and doctor’s evidence be taken on that occasion.
During the hearing, the prisoner sat looking very dejected.
Constable John Benson, 618 K, stated that at eight o’clock that morning he was called to 23, Venour Road, Mile End Old Town. On entering the back kitchen, he saw Lucy Smith lying on her back on the floor in a pool of blood and the two knives produced were by her side. The head was nearly severed from the body, beside which sat the prisoner on a chair. He was quite calm.
HE DID IT
The husband of the deceased woman, who called the witness, entered the room and the witness asked him who did it. He replied, “That man did it.”
Witness then said, “Did you do it?” and he replied, “I did it and I will swing for it.”
Witness then told him that he would be arrested for murdering the woman and to that he made no reply.
The prisoner was conveyed to the police station and he made no reply to the charge. He was quite sober.
THE DOCTORS EVIDENCE
Dr. Edmund Arthur Lightburne divisional surgeon of police for Bow, deposed that he was called to the house that morning at 8.30 where he found Lucy Smith lying on her back on the kitchen floor fully dressed. She was lying in a pool of blood and, on examining her neck, he discovered that her head was nearly severed from her body. All the blood vessels of the neck were severed, also the windpipe.
There were two knives on the door beside her head and both were covered with blood. They were the knives produced. One was a white-handled table knife and the other was a black-handled clasp knife.
The cause of death was the severance of all the main blood vessels of the neck, and death must have been almost instantaneous.
On this evidence, Mr. Dickinson remanded the prisoner.”
THE INQUEST INTO HER DEATH
The East London Observer, reported on the second day of the inquest into her death in its edition of Tuesday, 1st January 1901:-
“On Friday afternoon Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, Coroner for East London, resumed his inquiry at Limehouse respecting the death of Lucy Smith, aged 32 years. the wife of a road-sweeper, who was murdered at her home. 23, Venour Road, Bow, on the morning of the 15th inst.
Samson Silas Salmon, a labourer, and a cousin of the deceased, now stands remanded from the Thames Police-court charged, on his own confession, with the crime.
The evidence already given, shows that, a week before the tragedy, Salmon threatened to kill the deceased, her husband, and their little girl. He flourished knives and assaulted Mr. Smith and a Mr. Baker. He was ejected from the house, but, on the day in question, he broke in after the husband had gone to work, and nearly severed the poor woman’s head from her body.
When found beside the body he said, “I have done it, and I will swing for it.”
ELIZA BAKER’S EVIDENCE
Eliza Baker. of 23, Venour Road, Bow, the wife of a barge builder, stated that she had never seen any sign of affection between the deceased and her cousin, Salmon.
On the Monday prior to the murder, Salmon tried to get into Mrs. Smith’s bedroom. Later in the day, he called the deceased foul names, and when she ran up to witness’s room he followed, smacked her face, and threatened to shoot the witness and deceased.
Salmon, who appeared the worse for liquor, said that he would black both Mr. Smith’s eyes when he came home. He again struck the deceased and threatened to hit the witness if she interfered. Witness asked him what he was assaulting deceased for, and Salmon then pulled out a bottle of whiskey, uncorked it, and threw the spirit into the deceased’s eyes, and slapped her face.
Then the landlady’s daughter called for the rent, and the deceased was able to get back to her own kitchen.
THE KNIFE ON THE TABLE
Salmon called them up, and they thought it best to go.
The witness then noticed a knife on the table beneath a piece of brown paper.
Shortly afterwards, Mr. Smith arrived home and was assaulted by Salmon. The witness’s husband was served in the same way, and Salmon was then ejected by force.
THE MORNING OF THE MURDER
About 20 minutes to eight o’clock on the morning of the 15th, the witness heard Mrs. Smith scream. Mr. Smith arrived home a few minutes later, and said to Salmon, “What are you here for?” Witness did not hear the reply.
The murdered woman’s body was then found in the kitchen. Mr. Smith asked Salmon, “What have you done this for?” and then left the house for the police.
The witness could not say how Salmon effected an entrance into the house; the front door was always locked.
Dr. LIGHTBURNE’S EVIDENCE
Dr. Edmund A. Lightburne, of 6. Bow Road, the divisional surgeon, stated that he was called to the house by the police at about 8.30 a.m. The woman was lying on the floor on her back, in the kitchen, in a pool of blood, with her head was almost severed from the body.
Two bloodstained table-knives were lying by the head.
Salmon was sitting on a chair near the fireplace.
The autopsy showed that the wounds in the neck extended down to the spinal column. Death was due to haemorrhage.
About eleven o’clock, the witness examined the accused man at Bow Station. Both his hands were covered with dry blood. He appeared dazed and dejected, but he did not seem to realise the gravity of his position.
HERBERT SMITH’S EVIDENCE
Herbert Smith, carman, of 22, Canal-road, Bow, was next called. His evidence was to the effect that he slept at Mrs. Smith’s house after the trouble with Salmon. When the witness left the house, at 7.40 on the morning of the 15th, the deceased was cleaning the kitchen grate. The table was laid for breakfast, and the two knives produced were lying on the cloth.
Police evidence was then called.
The inquiry was again adjourned.”
THE BOW MURDER
On the concluding day of the inquest, Friday, 4th January, 1901, the jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder against Sampson Silas Salmon” and he was duly committed for trial on the Coroner’s warrant.
He duly made another appearance at the Thames Police Court, which was reported by The North Devon Gazette on Tuesday, 8th January, 1901:-
“Samson Silas Salmon, aged 32, described as a labourer, was again charged at the Thames Police Court, on Saturday, with the wilful murder of Lucy Smith, his cousin, on the 15th inst.
Samson Smith, the husband of the deceased woman, stated that he lived at Venour Road, and was in the employ of the Borough of Stepney.
The prisoner was cousin to his late wife, and, in April last, he went reside with them.
For some time Salmon had been out of work, but the witness obtained him employment under the Vestry as a street cleaner.
On the 10th inst, the witness noticed that the accused looked excited, and commenced words with him.
HE HELD A KNIFE
Salmon on that occasion lifted up a knife to him, and also slapped his head several times. The prisoner, when he held the knife over his head, declared his intention to take one of their lives, meaning either witness, his wife, or child. The witness also saw him slap the face of the deceased, and he was also violent towards Mr. Baker.
That day, the witness took two or three knives away from the prisoner, and, afterwards, he turned him out of the house.
The following day, Salmon threatened the lives of the witness and the deceased. After that, he kissed the deceased, shed a few tears, and went away.
THE DAY OF THE MURDER
On the morning of the 15th, the witness left home at five minutes to six, and his wife was then in bed, well and cheerful.
On his return at eight o’clock, and on entering the passage. he saw Salmon at the foot of the steps leading to the kitchen.
The prisoner said, “fetch a policeman, Sam; fetch a policeman.”
The witness looked into the kitchen, and he saw his wife lying on the ground. He said to the prisoner:- “What did you do it for?” and he replied, “All through you. I did it and I’ll swing for it.”
Witness went and fetched a policeman, and, on his return, the prisoner was sitting on a chair in the kitchen.
The prisoner, having been formerly cautioned, said that he had nothing say.
Mr. Dickinson committed him to the Central Criminal Court on the capital charge.”
WAS HE INSANE?
The London Daily News, on Saturday, 12th January 1901, raised the question of his actual fitness to stand trial:-
“Mr. Charles Mathews asked his lordship to fix the trial of Sampson Silas Salmon, indicted for the wilful murder of Lucy Smith in Whitechapel, for Monday next.
Answering, Mr. Justice Wills said that the trial would turn upon the question the prisoner’s sanity.
Mr. Justice Wills said that he should like to see the report of the medical officers.
Mr. Mathews replied, “I may as well tell your lordship that they are not of the opinion that the accused is insane.””
HIS OLD BAILEY TRIAL
The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser published a report on Salmon’s trial at the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey) in its edition of Wednesday, 30th January 1901:-
The trial of Sampson Silas Salmon (32), labourer, who is charged with the wilful murder of his cousin, Mrs Lucy Smith, at Bow, was resumed yesterday, at the Old Bailey, before Mr. Justice Wills.
Salmon had expressed his affection for his cousin in fervent terms to her husband.
He is said to have secretly entered the house on the morning of December 15th last, and he almost severed her head from her body whilst she was kneeling on the floor cleaning the hearth.
THE DEFENCE WAS INSANITY
The defence set up was one of insanity, and two doctors proved that the prisoner’s father and cousin died in an asylum.
Dr. Bastian, an expert on diseases of the brain, and lately an official at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, who was called for the prosecution, said that he could find no traces whatever of insanity in the prisoner.
He was found guilty, and sentenced to death.”
WILL HE BE HANGED?
The Gloucestershire Echo, on Thursday, 31st January, 1901, revealed that the date for Salmon’s execution had been set:-
“The execution of Sampson Silas Salmon for the murder of Lucy Smith at Bow has been fixed to take place at Newgate on February 19th.
If the law takes its ordinary course, this will be the first execution in the reign of King Edward VII, and the first of this century at Newgate.”
BRUTAL MURDERER EXECUTED THIS MORNING
The Dundee Evening Post, reported on his execution on Tuesday, 19th February, 1901:-
“At Newgate this morning, Sampson Silas Salmon (32), labourer, was executed for the murder of his cousin, Lucy Smith, at Bow in December.
Salmon, who was a native of Bishop Stortford, was formerly in the Royal Marines, but he was invalided out of the service.
CALM AND COLLECTED
He appeared quite indifferent to his fate, and, at an interview with some friends on Saturday, in the prison he chatted freely.
This morning, he partook of a light breakfast, and he offered no resistance to the pinioning process by Billington, the executioner.
He walked with a firm step to the scaffold, and, when the bolt was drawn, death appeared to instantaneous.”