The Murders Of Mary And Annie Browne

In March, 1869, a horrible murder took place in Poplar, the victims of which were a mother and daughter.

The Dublin Evening Mail broke the news of the atrocities in its edition of Friday the 5th of March 1869:-


A frightful murder has just been discovered –  two women, a mother end her daughter, having had their throats cut. T

The deceased were Mary Browne and Anne Browne.

Her daughter kept a tobacconist shop in High Street, Poplar. They had a lodger named John Bradshaw, who is said to have been carrying an intrigue with a young married woman.

One of the Brownes discovered the lady’s letters, and sent them in a parcel to her mother with a note.

Bradshaw is supposed to have discovered what had taken place, and, in revenge, he murdered both the women.

The shop was forced open yesterday, having been closed since Tuesday night, when the bodies were discovered.

Bradshaw committed suicide on Wednesday morning at fresh lodgings which he had taken.

The discovery of the two women's bodies.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday 13th March 1869. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The Western Times, on Tuesday the 9th March 1869, published a full report on the revelations from the inquests into the deaths:-

The inquests on the two unfortunate women, Mrs. Browne and Annie Browne, her daughter, murdered in Poplar; and on Bradshaw, their supposed murderer, was commenced on Friday.

Mrs. Browne, it appears, was the wife of a Frenchman, from whom she was separated, and against whom she held a magisterial protection.

The evidence taken was chiefly as to the discovery of the bodies after the murder.


From that of Harriet Emberson, who lived as his wife with Bradshaw, it would seem that after committing the murder on Tuesday night Bradshaw returned to his domicile at about one on Wednesday morning and went to bed.

Nothing transpired from which she could surmise anything of the dreadful tragedy which had just been enacted.

He was very restless, and he arose two or three times during the night. She saw him once looking intently at her; she asked him why he did so, and he replied that she was sleeping so calmly that he did not like to disturb her.


The next morning while at breakfast he complained of illness and left the room.

Emberson shortly after heard a groan and on going into the next room she found him dead with his throat cut.

An illustration showing Bradshaw's suicide.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday 13th March 1869. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Nothing was formally placed before either jury as to the cause of this appalling crime, but it was proved that certain locks which Bradshaw had taken with him when he left his lodgings on Tuesday at Bow were found in the house of Mrs. Browne, the deceased.


In the case of Bradshaw, a verdict of felo-de-se was returned, and the other inquest on the two women was adjourned till the following day (Saturday) when the inquest was resumed on the two murdered women.


Ann Munro was the first witness.

She saw a man whom she believed Bradshaw in Mrs. Brown’s shop the night preceding the murder.

Jobn Nicholson, gas fitter, said:-

I knew Bradshaw well, as also Mrs. Browne and her daughter.

Mrs. Browne came to my house last Sunday evening.

An Illustration of the house where the murder took place.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday 13th March 1869. Copyright, The British Library Board.


She told me that Bradshaw had received some letters from Mrs. Littlepage, and threw them to her to read.

Mrs. Littlepage was a Miss Owen before she married.

Miss Browne said that Bradshaw, after throwing the letters to her, had put them all into one pocket, and had put four postage stamps on the outside of the cover, and having written an address to a member of Mrs. Littlepage’s family, requested her to post them. She, however, refused, Saying that she did not wish to be mixed with the family.


Bradshaw then put the packet of letters into his pocket, saying that it did not matter; he would post them himself.

Miss Browne also told me that Bradshaw had had words with her mother, and shook his fist at her in a passion, and subsequently smashed some property belonging to her.”


Mrs. Kate Littlepage, the person referred to, and represented by Bradshaw as having written the letters, was here brought into court.

She was dressed in deep mourning and wore a thick crape veil, which entirely hid her features, and which she did not remove.

Having been sworn she said:-

“I reside at 19, Barking-road, and am married to Charles Littlepage, who, when I married him, was a marine store dealer. My husband is now at sea.

I know a man named Bradshaw, and saw him last yesterday week at my own house. He was a friend of the family. He left there about a quarter to two o’clock, in the afternoon.”


Two letters were here produced, dated from witness house – No. 18, Barking-road.

Witness:- “I deny having written those letters. They are not in my handwriting, nor do I know whose handwriting they are.”

[A photograph of the witness was produced].

“Bradshaw, when he was at my house last Friday week, took that photograph out of my album, as well as another of my father. I do not know Bradahaw’s writing. I have a brother named Joe, for whom Bradshaw has interested himself to get articled. I never sent anyone with a letter to Bradshaw’s house.”


The Coroner (Mr. J. Humphreys):-  “Here is a letter which purports to have been written by you to Bradshaw.”

Having requested the witness to examine the letter, he read as it follows:-

“Bromley E. Jan 14, 1869

Dear Mr. Bradshaw

I thought you would have been round this evening, but out of sight out of mind. Will you come round and dine tomorrow to meet Miss Grubb?

Miss Arnold cannot come.

I had a letter from Mr. L. the same as usual.

Joey called at Browne’s tonight to see if you were in. I must now conclude.

With kind regards, yours sincerely,



The Witness:- “I know nothing whatever about the letter. I never promised to have my carte de visite taken to give to Bradshaw.

I know a Miss Grubb and a Miss Arnold.

One day a letter came for me when Bradshaw was present and he copied the handwriting, showed it to me, and said, “You see I can copy handwriting.

I believe that Bradshaw wrote the letter produced himself.

Bradshaw was in the habit of visiting us, and he dined at my mother’s house in January.


The Coroner:- “I  perceive you are in mourning, and I suppose when you write you use black-bordered paper?”

Witness:- “Yes.”

The Coroner read two other letters of a somewhat similar character, written on paper with a black border.

The witness still persisted that she did not write the letters. She added that she had never been alone with Bradshaw.


Mrs. M’Guiness, the sister-in-law of Mrs. Littlepage, received the packet of letters. They were, she said, in Mrs. Littlepage’s handwriting.

Henry Owen, brother of Mrs. Littlepage, said Mrs. M’Guiness wanted to damage the character of his sister.

He denied that the letters were in the handwriting of his sister.

Mrs. M’Guiness said that her sister also recognised Mrs. Littlepage’a handwriting.

A Mr. George Fishpounell, who said he was acquainted with the handwriting of Mrs. Littlepage, stated that the letters were not in her handwriting.


Evidence was then called in reference to blood stains on Bradshaw’s clothes, which appeared different from that of his own.

The medical evidence went to show that the wounds could hardly have been inflicted by the deceased (Mrs. Browne and her daughter) themselves.


This being the whole of the evidence, the coroner summed up at considerable length, connecting the deceased man Bradshaw with the crime from the circumstances which had been brought to light, although there might appear an absence of sufficient motive for such dreadful revenge.

With regard to the letters and Bradshaw’s connection with Mrs. Littlepage, there had been great discrepancy in the evidence, but it could hardly be imagined, as suggested, that any man would sit down and write letters purporting to be from a woman to himself.

Possibly, so far as that inquiry was concerned, these letters were not of very high importance, but they might be so in another inquiry.


Of one thing, however, he thought the jury could have but little doubt on their minds, and that both these deceased females had met with their deaths at the hands of another person, and that that person was no other than Bradshaw, on whom a jury had already in reference to his own suicide returned a verdict of fel-de-se.

The jury returned a verdict, “that Mary and Annie Browne were wilfully murdered by John William Bradshaw.”