The Official Miss Cass Enquiry

In our previous blog we looked at the arrest and court appearance of Miss Elizabeth Cass, who was arrested by Police Constable Endacott on the 28th June 1887. The next day she appeared in court charged with soliciting for purposes of prostitution. Although Mr Newton, the Magistrate dismissed the charge, he made it clear that he was convinced she had been out for immoral purposes and, in so doing, effectively labeled her as a common prostitute. (If you missed the installment you can read it here.)

Mr Newton’s assertion that the fact she had been out on Regent Street late at night caused massive press and public outrage. The matter was even raised in Parliament and the Home Secretary ordered an investigation into the matter.


The inquiry into Police Constable Endacott’s behaviour opened at Scotland Yard on Monday 11th July 1887.

An illustration showing the hearing into the Cass case.
The Official Inquiry Into The Cass Case. From The Pall Mall Gazette, 21st July 1887. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The following Sunday Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper reported on the hearing and opened with a brief summary of the events that lay behind it:-

“At Scotland-yard, on Monday, Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of Police for the metropolis, commenced the inquiry promised by the Government into the conduct of Police-constable Endacott in arresting Miss Elizabeth Cass, milliner, 19, Southampton-row, Bloomsbury, in Regent-street, about 10 o’clock on June 28; taking her to a police-station, describing her as a “common prostitute,” bringing her up before Mr. Newton, at the Marlborough-street police-court next morning, swearing that he had known her as a Regent-street “walker” for six weeks, and had seen her that night accost three gentlemen, one of whom complained to him about it.

All these statements Miss Cass indignantly denies. She had only, she asserts, been in London a fortnight, had never been in Regent-street before Coronation night, when she left home to make some purchases, and had certainly not accosted or spoken to any gentleman as the policeman alleged.”


Mr St. John Wontner, who was representing PC Endacott, complained that his client had made his statement on oath, whereas other witnesses [such as Madame Bowman] hadn’t and wouldn’t be testifying on oath. If, he said, what his client had said, was proved to be untrue then he would be liable to criminal prosecution.

He went on to remind the hearing that:-

“…this was also an inquiry into the conduct of Miss Cass and her employer, and he did not know how far, if  he had the materials, he should be allowed to cross-examine Miss Cass as to her credit, or as to her past history.”


Quite what Mr St. John  Wontner meant when he spoke about Miss Cass’s “past history” soon became apparent.

The police, it seems, were wiling to go to any lengths to uncover any scandal in Miss Cass’s past that might back up Endacotts’s assertions of her moral turpitude.

To that end “a searching enquiry” into her background had been made by the police in Miss Cass’s native Stockton, and this had, apparently, turned up a few skeletons lurking in her closet.

According to The Lancaster Gazette, in its issue of Saturday 23rd July 1887:-

“Miss Cass…said she was engaged to be married before she came to London to Mr William Thomas Langley, and was still engaged to him.

She had a gentleman friend at Shoolbred’s [a drapery store on Tottenham Court Road], named Suttle, who came from Stockton. She did not go out to meet him on the night in question, but to see the preparations for the illuminations and to buy a pair of gloves.

In re-examination, witness denied that any impropriety had ever taken place between herself and her friend at Shoolbred’s.

Mr Wontner [who was representing PC Endacott] then proceeded to cross-examine Miss Cass as to her movements on the evening of her arrest, but no fresh facts were elicited.”


Police Constable Endacott was then called to give evidence, in the course of which, an unsavoury skeleton from his past was revealed, and was subsequently reported by The Lancaster Gazette:-

“Police-constable Endacott said that while at Staverton he got a young woman, named Rogers, into trouble.

A bastardy summons was taken out, but he settled the case before it came into court. The girl was living with her brother, who was a miller, and he lodged there. He had never got any other girl into trouble.”


He was then questioned as to the order of events that led up to his arrest of Elizabeth Cass:-

“[He] adhered to his statement respecting Miss Cass. He denied Miss Cass’s statement as to the conversation at the time of the arrest, and said that Miss Cass had exclaimed, “You need not show me up. I am not like a regular girl.”

He also told the enquiry that, prior to the arrest, a man had come into the police station and had made a statement that he knew Miss Cass by sight and by name, and stated that he had seen her and a married woman walking the streets together. The man had given him his card, as well as the name of the married woman, but Endacott could neither remember her name nor that of the man.

He also said that a man named Mr Reeves, a jeweller’s shop manager, had also told him that he knew Miss Cass as a streetwalker, and that he had been home with the married woman who, it was alleged, was with Miss Cass on the night that Endacott had arrested her.


This led Sir Charles Warren to observe that it would be “desirable to show what instructions the constables had with, regard to arrests in general.”

According to Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper:-

“Mr. Staples, the chief clerk, read an order of August last in which it was laid down that a constable had the inherent right of apprehending any person who had committed any offence without a warrant, when it was probable that the offender might escape in the event of not being arrested.

The police order with regard to bail enjoined that in the case of a person whose address was known, and who was charged with only a small offence; the person arrested should not be placed in the cells, except in certain cases.”

Warren was also anxious to know if it was customary for the police to bring a charge against a woman based on the testimony of just one man?

In reply, Superintendent Cutbush stated that,”The custom is for the evidence of the constable to be accepted, and many hundreds are convicted on the testimony of the constable.”


An illustration showing Police Constable Endacott.
Police Constable Endacott. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.

Inevitably, the subject of Police Constable Endacott’s honesty and integrity was raised – and, in this respect, his superior officer, Inspector Wyborne, proved more than happy to testify to his good character and his zealous (some might say over-zealous) pursuit of streetwalkers.

His glowing testimonial was reported in Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper:-

“Endacott was a married man with three or four children, and had always borne a good character during his 12 years’ service in the force. He might bring in three or four charges a week of this description. Habitual frequenters of the street would know the constable, and would not solicit in his presence.

Witness would expect the vicinity to be clear half an hour after Endacott had gone on duty.

The regular street-walker stood a less chance of being arrested than one unknown, because these women turned down side streets when they saw the officer.

He was aware that Endacott had been commended on several occasions for his zeal.

He had never known Endacott bring a charge of this character before without its being sustained.

He was a man upon whose accuracy and truthfulness he could thoroughly rely.”


On the very day that the official enquiry opened The Dundee Evening Telegraph reported that Miss Cass now had an unexpected ally in the form of Queen Victoria. Furthermore, it reported that Miss Cass was rapidly becoming something of a national celebrity:-

“An unexpected friend for Miss Cass has suddenly appeared.

The Queen has desired Mr Matthews to furnish her with all detail of the incident, and the form the inquiry is to take.

Miss Cass is following in the wake of all distinguished personages.

Her portrait is to appear in a society journal.”


Evidently, the enquiry was receiving conflicting reports on exactly what had happened on the night of the 28th June 1887, so either Miss Cass or PC Endacott was lying.

To that end, several members of Madame Bowman’s household were called to give evidence to prove that Miss Case had been out alone.

According to the report in The Lancaster Gazette:-

“It was arranged that the policeman who took down the statements of Reeves and the other man should be present on Friday, and that Reeves and the other man should be invited to attend the court. The case was  again adjourned.”


The inquiry resumed the following day, and James Wheatley was called to give evidence. The Manchester Courier, reported his testimony as follows:-

“James Wheatley….stated that he saw Endacott taking Miss Cass to the police-station. He followed, as he fancied he recognised the girl. She was walking coolly with him.

Miss Cass was called into the inquiry-room, and Wheatley said he recognised her as the girl he saw Endacott taking to the station.

Pressed by Mr. Grain whether be had ever seen her before, he said that he was rather doubtful now. He would not like to swear.”


Tellingly, when asked why he believed Miss Cass to be a prostitute, James Wheatley replied:- “I do not believe Miss Cass to be a prostitute; but I believe the young woman she was with to be a prostitute.”


Detective-inspector Robson was then called and he stated that he went to the shop in Great Portland-street, and saw a man named Reeves. He had a conversation with him.

Reeves told him that a Mrs. Frampton, who lived in Carlisle-street, had informed him that her friend Eliza had been locked up, and that he knew her friend Eliza was named Elizabeth Cass. Reeves had since been taken to Carlisle-street, but had failed to point out the house where Mrs. Frampton lived.

Miss Cass was recalled, and denied that she knew anybody named Frampton nor had she been in any house in London, except Madame Bowman’s and Mrs. Tompkins’s.

Mrs Tompkins was called, and stated that Miss Cass’s conduct while in her employ was in every respect satisfactory.


A French woman, who objected to her name and address being published, said that she saw two girls accost a gentleman in Regent-street on the night of Miss Cass’s arrest.

All the female witnesses were then asked to come into the inquiry-room and, as they entered, she exclaimed, in a low tone, “The second,” which was Miss Cass.

Miss Cass denied ever having seen or of knowing the Frenchwoman.

Mr. Grain [acting for Miss Cass] proceeded to cross-examine the French woman as to her business and various other matters.

The Frenchwoman, replying to Mr. Wotner, said she was sure that the girl who was arrested by the policeman was soliciting gentlemen, as she saw her holding one by the arm.

She also stated that, at the moment when the constable came up to the girl, she still had hold of the gentleman’s arm, and the other girl, who bad been with her, ran away.”


With James Wheatley unwilling to swear on oath that he had, in fact, seen Miss Cass on Regent Street before the night in question, and the mysterious French Lady apparently being anything but a reliable witness, the case now hinged on Mr Reeves, the Jeweller’s shop manager, who, so Endacott had testified, had informed him that he knew Miss Cass as a streetwalker.

Indeed, Detective Inspector Robson, who had interviewed Reeves, told the inquiry that Reeves had told him that Elizabeth Cass had accosted him several times in Regent Street and Great Portland Street.

The only problem was, Reeves failed to answer his summons to appear before the enquiry, and police attempts to locate him had failed. Reeves had simply disappeared.

The Pall Mall Gazette duly sent a reporter round to his place of employment, Relph the Jeweller’s at 63 Great Portland Street. Of Reeves there was no sign. The reporter, however, did meet his employer, Mr Relph and, in its edition of July 22nd 1887, it reported his statement:-

“Early this morning – before the commencement of the adjourned inquiry – Relph received a note, with the keys of the premises, asking him to come to the shop. He only arrived about noon, and found the shutters up and shop closed. It is Reeves’s business to open the shop at nine o’clock.

What had become of him Mr. Relph could form no idea; he saw from the papers, however, how Reeves’s name was mixed up in the inquiry, and a statement attributed to him that he knew of Miss Cass familiarly, and had been with the married lady spoken of in connection with Miss Cass.

It seemed possible that Reeves had been sent for to substantiate at the inquiry the statements reflecting on these ladies.

This, however, was not so – the inquiry has been adjourned on account of his absence.

This lends probability to Mr. Relph’s belief that Reeves has decamped.

He thinks that Reeves made the statement foolishly in chatting with Endacott, who is on that beat and drops in sometimes, and that he has run away from the necessity of committing himself on oath to what was only a young man’s Byronic affectation of being deeply versed in vice and having an intimate acquaintance with its professors.

Endacott would naturally wish to fall back even on so loose a statement, though Reeve, could only have identified Miss Cass from his description. Such are the views of Reeves’s employer.”


Evidently, the police case was rapidly losing its momentum. Wheatley had proved unable to say for certain that he had seen Miss Cass in Regent Street at any time prior to the night of her arrest; and Reeves had disappeared. The only one of their witnesses who seemed able to back up Endacott’s account was the mysterious French woman.

But then, on the last day of the enquiry, she too showed herself to be as unreliable as the other police witnesses.

Her name, it transpired, was Madame Petrie – although Mr Grain, acting on behalf of Elizabeth Cass, pressed her as to what her real name was. The belligerent Madame Petrie  insisted that that was her real name and then demanded to know why, having promised her at her previous appearance that her name would not be made public, he had gone and done just that.

Mr Grain pressed her as to her real name and suggested that she was in fact known under several false names, and that she was, in fact a Belgian lady by the name of Picard who was “known” to the police.

The direction of Mr Grain’s questioning was that this witness’s evidence had been “got up” by the police in order to assist the constable.

This led to a series of angry and abusive outbursts – or as one newspaper put it “a flood of language” – from the witness that ended with her pointing at Mr Grain and informing the court that she “would not answer that man anymore.” In the end, her language proved so offensive that she was asked to leave the room!

By the end of her evidence it was apparent that, as with all the other witnesses that the police had produced, she was, to say the least – thoroughly discredited. (You can read the fall report of her testimony here).


Just when it seemed that it couldn’t get any worse for the police, a witness by the name of Mr Walford was presented, who stated that he had been walking along Oxford Street on the night of Miss Cass’s arrest and that he had seen her walking ahead of him shortly before her arrest. He was emphatic that she had been on her own, not in the company of any other young woman, and that she had most certainly not approached any men.

As he watched, he saw Police Constable Endacott come up to her, take her by the arm and then lead her off along Great Portland Street in the direction of the police station.

There was, he said, no immediate reason for the policeman to have arrested her, since she hadn’t been doing anything illegal at the time. He told the hearing that he hadn’t intervened because he didn’t know what she had been arrested for and presumed she must have been wanted for an offence she had committed previously.


Following appearances by several other witnesses, Sir Charles Warren announced that the hearing was now concluded.

It is safe to say that the police came out of the case looking very murky indeed, not only in the way that Miss Cass had been treated at the time of her arrest, but in the lengths they had gone to to blacken her character and in the witnesses, such as the mysterious Madame Petrie, who, it seems, had been put forward to give false testimony in a last desperate bid to clear Endacott of any wrongdoing.

Despite police efforts to disparage her, Miss Cass left the hearing without a stain on her character, and later that year she went on to marry William Thomas Langley.

In August 1887, her supporters announced that they were bringing a  charge of perjury against Police Constable Endacott, and later that year, he was tried at the Old Bailey, although he was found not guilty.


At the end of July 1887, The Graphic, summed the case up thus:-

“We have yet to wait for the Report, but the inquiry instituted before Sir Charles Warren can scarcely be called a success. There was a great deal of hearsay and irrelevant evidence; there was some unseemly squabbling between a witness, a barrister, and the Assessor; while, worst of all, nothing has been clearly proved one way or the other.

What the public wanted to know was whether Endacott was justified in arresting Miss Cass, or whether he made a grievous mistake and took up the wrong woman.

Judging by the evidence adduced, this question remains still without a decisive answer, although Sir Charles Warren may decide otherwise.

On the whole it may be fairly said that the advantage lies with Miss Cass.

No attempt was made to impugn the unexceptionable character she received from her employer and from those who had known her before she came to London; while on the other hand the witnesses brought forward to justify the constable’s action showed themselves untrustworthy under examination, and would probably have been deemed still less entitled to credibility if Mr. Grain had been allowed a freer hand in his questioning.

Further revelations will, no doubt, be made if, as asserted, Endacott is to be prosecuted for perjury by Miss Cass’s friends.

As regards the recent official inquiry, there may possibly be no precedent for an investigation of a more searching character, but bold men make precedents, and if the Home Secretary had decided that the inquiry should take place before a regular Judge, all witnesses being examined on oath, a more satisfying if not a more decisive result would almost certainly have taken place.

It is a curious reflection that the Ministers of one of the most powerful Sovereigns in the world – on whose Empire the sun never sets – should have had their popularity seriously affected by two such humble individuals as a police-constable and a dressmaker.”