In mid November 1888, with London still reeling from the gruesome details concerning the recent Jack the Ripper murder of Mary Kelly, which had taken place on the 9th November 1888, an attack took place in South London which had certain hallmarks of the Whitechapel murders, with the notable exception that, in this case, the victim survived and the perpetrator was arrested.
Reynolds’s Newspaper reported the story in its issue of Sunday November 18th, 1888:-
THE REAL JACK THE RIPPER
“At Southwark Police Court, Collingwood Hilton Fenwick, twenty-six, described as of no occupation, but said to be of independent means, was charged before Mr. Wyndham Slade with stabbing Ellen Worsfold, an unfortunate.
The prosecutrix, a good-looking girl of nineteen, stated that about one o’clock the other morning she met the prisoner in the Westminster Bridge Road, and he accompanied her to her lodgings at 18, Ann’s Place, Waterloo Road.
On arriving there he gave her half a crown.
HE ATTACKED HER
He then came close to her and stabbed her in the abdomen.
Crying out for help, she pushed him away, and made for the door, but he intercepted her, put his back against it, and prevented her from going out, at the same time pointing a small penknife at her in a threatening manner.
She then found herself bleeding very much, and also saw blood on her assailant’s hands.
JIM PETERS INTERVENES
A young man, named Jim Peters, lived in the next room, and she called to him.
The prisoner then said, “Let me go.”
Witness replied that she would not do so until the arrival of a policeman, whereupon the accused immediately opened the door and ran down the stairs, she following.
Peters came out, and they both pursued Fenwick, Peters catching up to him in Tower Street, Waterloo Road, where the defendant gave up to him a knife (a small pearl-handled one-bladed penknife).
DETAINED BY THE POLICE
He was then detained until the arrival of Plain Clothes Constable Bettle, 95 L, who took the prisoner into custody.
Peters deposed that on hearing the girl’s cries he came out of his room without stockings or boots, and ran after the accused.
When he got up to him he was afraid to go near him, because from what the girl told him he was afraid he was encountering “Jack the Ripper.”
Fenwick gave him up the knife produced, and said if he would let him go he would give him a sovereign; but he held him until the constable took charge of him.
DR. FARR’S EVIDENCE
Dr. Frederick W. Farr, acting divisional surgeon of the L division, stated that he had examined the prosecutrix at the Kennington Road Police-station, and he found her to be suffering from a punctured wound half an inch long, which entered the flesh in the lower part of the abdomen. There had been great loss of blood. Although the wound was not serious, it would be a long time before it healed.
WHAT FENWICK TOLD THE POLICE
Constable Bettle deposed that when the prisoner was given into his charge he said, “I have made a great fool of myself. I have made a mistake which will be a warning to me for a long time to come.”
The accused had been drinking.
A MAN OF INDEPENDENT MEANS
Inspector Jackson, who had charge of the case, stated that Fenwick was a man of means, living on his income, and had hitherto borne a good character.
The prisoner – who seemed to feel his position acutely, and when the doctor gave his evidence looked perfectly staggered and nearly fainted – was remanded for a week in custody.”
HIS OLD BAILEY TRIAL
On Wednesday December 12th, 1888, Collingwood Hilton Fenwick, was tried at the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey) for maliciously wounding Ellen Worsfold.
Since there was little doubt that he had carried out the attack, the defence resorted to calling witnesses who testified as to the character of the defendant.
It was stated at the trial that he was the “son of Mr Fenwick, late a member of the firm of Messrs. Aspinall and Fenwick, solicitors of Liverpool.”
However, in view of the evidence, there was little that the defence could really do and Fenwick was found guilty of unlawful wounding.
No sooner had I gone to press, so to speak, with the above article than I was contacted by How Brown of JTR Forums, who points out that, according to the Old Bailey online transcripts of the case, Fenwick was in fact found nor guilty of the offence.
Although there isn’t a great deal in the transcript – the actual facts of the case are listed as “unfit for publication” – the Old Bailey online certainly does say that he was found “Not Guilty.” You can read the transcript here.
Thanks to How Brown for that.
What is interesting is that the newspaper accounts say he was found guilty, and one paper, The Aberdeen Press and Journal, actually states that he was given a sentence of twelve months hard labour.
WHICH ACCOUNT IS CORRECT
This discrepancy has two explanations.
Either, the Old Bailey transcript is wrong, or the newspapers of the day misreported the verdict.
Given that the newspaper accounts seem to have originated from a single news agency report, the latter is a major possibility, albeit, as How brown so rightly points out – “You know how it is…Nothing is easy in Ripperology!”