On Monday, March 31st, 1845, a savage murder occurred in the St Giles quarter of west London in which the victim’s life prior to her demise bore chilling similarities to the Jack the Ripper murders that would occur 43 years later.
St Giles, the district in which the murder occurred, was one of the most poverty-stricken parts of London at the time, and would later be the neighbourhood where one of the most famous images depicting Victorian destitution – the lady on the step – was photographed
DREADFUL AND SAVAGE MURDER IN ST. GILES’S
The Globe gave details of the atrocity in its edition of Tuesday, 1st April, 1845. At this stage, the victim was known under her alias of Anne Tape, albeit, it would later transpire that her actual name was Mary Brothers:-
“Last night, shortly before 11 o’clock, one of the most ferocious and deliberate murders which have been perpetrated for many years was committed upon the body of a woman named Anne Tape, at a house of ill fame, 11, George-street, St. Giles’s.
SHE ARRIVED WITH A MAN
It appears that the deceased, who was a married woman, who had separated from her husband, and was well known in the neighbourhood as an abandoned character, had, about the hour mentioned, accompanied a man (whose person is known, but whose name the neighbours are unacquainted with) to the back parlour on the ground floor of the house in question.
After they had been there for some short time the man took his departure without exciting any particular attention.
HER BODY FOUND
Not hearing the female move for some time, the servant of the house proceeded to the room, when she was horror-stricken on discovering the unfortunate female lying on the bed, weltering in her blood from no less than six deep and desperate stabs in the throat, neck, and breast.
The hands of the unfortunate victim had also been much cut in her struggles to escape from the hands of her assassin, and the knife with which the wounds had been inflicted was still left sticking in her throat.
THE POLICE FETCHED
Information of the circumstance was immediately given to Mr. Superintendent Greenwood, of the E division of police, who, accompanied by Inspectors Bell and Campbell, repaired to the house, and Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Simpson, two surgeons residing in the immediate neighbourhood, were sent for and promptly attended.
They pronounced life have been extinct for some time.
The house in which the murder has been perpetrated is remarkable as having been that in which the celebrated Mr. Justice Dyot resided and died.
AN APPALLING SPECTACLE
As soon as the circumstance became known in the neighbourhood, immense crowds of persons assembled around the house, and several of the inhabitants were permitted by the police to view the body, which presented a most appalling spectacle.
It is stated in the neighbourhood, that the murderer and the deceased had for some time cohabited together, and that a threat on the part of the woman to return and live with her own husband was the man’s motive to the dreadful act.
Other motives are assigned, but little that can be depended upon is at present known.
As soon the murder became known, the most active measures were promptly taken by the police in order to discover the retreat of the murderer, and written descriptions of his person and dress have been forwarded for circulation throughout the various divisions of the force, in order that his escape from justice may be prevented.
Several persons were, in the course of this forenoon, taken into custody on suspicion of being implicated in the transaction; but they were speedily liberated on their satisfying the police that they were in no way concerned in the matter.
It is fully expected, however, that a very short interval of time will elapse between the commission of the crime and the capture of the culprit.
The following is a description of the murderer: He is a man of middle stature, of dark and pale countenance.
He wore a rough hair or fur cap, dark velveteen jacket, and light trousers. His hair is dark and short, and his whiskers somewhat closely shaven.
His person is known to the police and others in the neighbourhood of the murder, but not his name.
THE MURDER WEAPON
The deliberation with which the murder was contemplated, planned, and carried into execution, will appear from the fact, that at 10 o’clock last night he purchased a knife at the shop of Mr. Oldham, of High Street, St. Giles’s.
It is a carving knife, sharply pointed, as usual, and a portion of the point is broken off, no doubt, by coming into contact with the bones of his victim.
The street in which this atrocious and savage act has been committed runs parallel with that portion of Bloomsbury-street which, previously to the improvements in that neighbourhood, was called Plumtree Street, and the house in which the ill-fated woman lost her life is almost close to the back of Charlotte-street chapel. George-street forms a portion of what is well known as “the Rookery,” and is thickly inhabited by persons of the poorest, lowest, most abandoned, profligate, and squalid population.
It is expected that the inquest upon the body will be held this evening or tomorrow morning, when a little more light may be thrown upon the motives which led to so cruel and dastardly a murder.”
CORONER’S INQUEST ON THE BODY OF THE MURDERED WOMAN
Freeman’s Journal carried a summary of the first day of the inquest into the woman’s death in its edition of Saturday, 5th April, 1845:-
“Mr. Wakley, M.P, and a respectable jury, assembled at the Angel Tavern, near St. Giles’s church, shortly after ten o’clock this morning, to inquire into the circumstances attending the death of the unfortunate female who was so barbarously murdered in George-street, Seven Dials, on Monday night.
THE BODY IDENTIFIED
The coroner inquired if anyone was in attendance who could identify the body.
Inspector Haynes said that the husband of the deceased was present.
Brothers, the person alluded to, here came forward, and in answer to questions by the coroner, stated that he had seen the body of the murdered woman. She was his wife, her name was Mary Brothers.
The jury then retired to take a view of the body.
On their return, the following witnesses were examined:-
WILLIAM WILLIS’S TESTIMONY
William Willis examined:- I am a police-constable, E division, belonging to the George Station.
On Monday night, the 31st of March, a woman, named Palmer, came to the station-house, and gave information that a woman had been murdered at No. 11, George-street.
I and constable Allen immediately went to the house, where we saw three women standing at the door.
I procured a light and went into the room where the murder was committed. I there saw the woman on the floor, near the fire-place; she appeared nearly doubled up, and was weltering in blood. There was a black-handled knife sticking in the back of the neck; there were also marks of blood on the bed.
I immediately sent for a surgeon; the blood was gushing out of the neck when I first saw the deceased, she died a few minutes afterwards.
I produced the knife; it is a common black-handled carving knife, with a sharp point. (The knife was here produced and handed round to the jury. It is halfway up the blade stained with blood).
I have known the deceased by sight for the last two or three years. I think that I saw her in the streets on the night of Monday last. I do not know where she lived.
MARY PALMER’S EVIDENCE
Mary Palmer examined:- I am a widow. I live at 38, Church-street, St. Giles, but act as servant to Mrs. Hall, at No. 11, George-street. Mrs. Hall is the landlady of the house. Mrs. Hall has a husband living, but Mrs. Hall paid me my wages
Witness:- I do not know: he pays bills.
I knew the deceased; she went by the name of Mary Tibb. I remember her coming to George-street, about 11 o’clock, in company with some man. I did not know the man; I had never seen him before; he had a long nose. I do not know whether I should know him again.
WENT TO THE ROOM
The woman called for the key of one of the room doors, which I gave her, and they went in together. I did not see anything in the man’s hand. He had on a dark fustian jacket, like a shooting. jacket, and dirty drab trousers. I should say the man was under thirty years of age; he was very dark, had black hair, and small whiskers. I did not notice his eyes, he certainly had a long nose.
Neither the man or the woman made any observations before they went into the room. After they had not been in above five minutes, I heard the woman cry out three times “Murder!” I did not hear any other noise.
SHE OPENED THE DOOR
I knocked at the door but did not receive any answer. I then put my back to it and forced it open, and went into the room, where I saw the woman sitting on the bed.
The man was standing over her with his hand up. I thought he was hitting her. His face was towards the woman. I said to him, “Don’t beat the woman any more.” I did not see anything in his hand at the time. I repeated, “What are you doing to the woman; don’t hit her any more!”
The woman did not speak after I had used these words; the man ran out of the house. I caught hold of his coat, but was obliged to let go, arid he escaped out of the front door.
COVERED WITH BLOOD
I then attended to the woman and saw the knife; the deceased was covered with blood; she staggered from the bedroom into the room where the body now lies, and almost immediately died; she did not speak; I saw the knife now produced taken out of the neck of the deceased; the policeman told me it was five inches deep in the throat.
I am certain that I never saw the man before. He was of the middle size.
By a Juror:- The man gave me three-pence in the passage. I have heard two women who are present say they knew the man.
MARY HALL’S TESTIMONY
Mary Hall examined. My husband’s name is John Hall; He lives at No, II, George-street, he is a leather dresser: he rents the house in George-street, of Mr. Grant. The furniture in the house belongs to Mr. Grant.
Mrs. Palmer, the last witness, told me that a man and woman had come into one of the rooms; that was near eleven o’clock on Monday night.
After the man and woman had been in the room a few minutes, Mrs. Palmer called me and said, murder has been committed.
I immediately went for assistance.
A man ran by me in the passage. He pushed me aside. There was no light in the passage. I did not see what sort of a person he was. I do not know him.
I knew the deceased well. She lodged with me for five or six months.
THE HUSBAND’S TESTIMONY
James Brothers, the husband of the deceased, examined:- I live at No. 8, George-street, Grosvenor-square. I am porter to an upholsterer named Trapp, in Lower Grosvenor-street.
The deceased was my wife. I should say her age was about 46. She had been separated from me 15 or 16 years. I do not know where she lived of late. I have not seen her for two years past. My children have not seen her for seven years.
The deceased used to annoy me if I met her in the street. Her sister just informed me of the murder. I never heard that anyone had threatened to do her any injury. My daughters live with me. One is 19, the other 21.
I have seen the body of the deceased. (This witness was very much affected whilst giving his evidence.)
SARAH CROOK’S EVIDENCE
Sarah Crook examined:- I am the sister of the deceased. I live at No. 55, Seymour-street, St. Pancras.
The last time I saw her, about a week since. She lived at No. 2, Church-street, St. Giles’s. It was on Saturday last that I saw her in company with Ann Scholes, who lodged in the same house with her. Scholes represented herself to be a single woman.
I frequently saw my sister in October. She told me that she lived with the man who is supposed to have murdered her. She said that she lived very comfortably with him. I said, “Mary, I am surprised that you can content yourself to live in the manner you do.”
The deceased in October last told me that she had parted with the man she had been living with. She said his name was Mellen. I think his Christian name was John. He was a smith by trade. I saw him at Marylebone police-station on Tuesday last.
THE WRONG MAN?
Mrs. Palmer, recalled:- I was at the Marylebone police-station on Tuesday. I saw a man in custody; he was not in the least like the person who came to the house with the deceased on Monday night. I know that person had lived with the deceased, but I am certain he was not the man I saw on Monday night.
INSPECTOR RAWLEIGH’S TESTIMONY
Inspector Rawleigh here informed the coroner that there were witnesses in attendance who saw the suspected murderer on Monday night, and he asked them if they could tell him where he could find the deceased.
Mr. Wakley thought it would be better not to call them, as it would only be an advertisement to the murderer.
THE SALE OF THE KNIFE
Mr. Henry Oldham, examined. I am a cutler in High-street. Holborn. I sold the knife on the table to a man on Monday evening last, about ten minutes before ten o’clock. The man asked the price of the cheapest carving knife I had. I showed him three knives. He selected the one now produced, and he paid me a shilling for it.
The man was in the shop for about two minutes. I had no conversation with him.
I have no doubt whatever that the knife is the same that I sold to a man on Monday night.
THE MAN DESCRIBED
I should say the man was about five feet four or five feet five inches high, and proportionate in his person. He was dressed in a dark frock coat and cloth trousers. I did not notice any other part of his dress. I should say he had rather large features, and sallow complexion; he appeared sober. I think I should know him again.
By the Coroner:- What age do you think he was?
Witness:- I should say not more than 21; I think from 19 to 21; his voice was like that of a boy’s. I had never seen the man before. I should say that his dress was dirty and shabby.
I have seen the man who was taken to Marylebone police station; he is not the same person who bought the knife.
CONSTABLE ALLEN’S EVIDENCE
John James Allen stated:- I am a constable in the police, division E.
I was at the station-house, George-street, on Monday evening, about eleven o’clock. The door was open. I saw a man run from the direction of the house where the murder was committed.
He ran towards High-street.
I should say the man was about five feet six inches in height and wore a cap with a peak. I did not see his features. I think I have seen him in the neighbourhood before, and I should know him again. I have no doubt the man had on a dark velvet coat.
About six minutes after he passed the station house, the witness Palmer came and said that a man had stuck a woman at No. 11, George-street.
I immediately, in company with policeman Willis, went to the house.
We saw the murdered woman. There was a knife sticking in the back of the neck behind the ear. I pulled it out with some difficulty; it stuck very hard. I should say it was several inches deep in the neck. The woman was not dead at the time I first saw her, but she did not speak, and died shortly afterwards.
The man who ran by me I should think was about 30 years of age.
THE INQUIRY ADJOURNED
At this stage of the proceedings, Mr. Wakeley said that he should now adjourn the inquiry, without naming any particular day or hour for resuming it. His object in doing this was to prevent any conflict between the coroner and the police magistrates. By adopting this course there would be no difficulty, if the suspected party was apprehended, of having him brought before them without delay.
A juryman inquired if they should receive notice when they were to assemble again?
The Coroner:- Yes, certainly, and I shall give directions to the police not to lose a single moment in letting me know if they succeed in capturing the suspected party.
The inquiry was then adjourned.
Notwithstanding the exertions of Inspectors Shackel and Haynes, aided by the whole body of the detective force, as well as most of the inspectors of the metropolitan police, no clue has yet been obtained to the murderer of Mary Brothers, alias Tibb, alias Tape.”