The West Ham Abduction Case

In late February, 1890, George Richards was arrested and charged with abducting 16 years old Eleanor Mary Riches.

It transpired that, in January, 1889, he had persuaded her to go with him to a house in Islington where they rented a room as man and wife, and where Richards told the landlady that he was a newspaper reporter with The Manchester Guardian, who had been sent to London to look for Jack the Ripper.

His claim, as it transpired, was a complete fabrication, and, since the story received widespread coverage in the papers, The Manchester Guardian was compelled to publish a full rebuttal of his claim, saying that he had never worked for the paper and that he had no connection to the paper at all.

CHARGE OF ABDUCTION AT PLAISTOW

The Illustrated Police News featured news of his arrest, and of his subsequent court appearance, in its edition of Saturday, 1st March, 1890:-

“On Friday, at West Ham Police-court, George Richards, twenty-two, of 14, Maud-road, Plaistow, was charged with unlawfully taking Eleanor Mary Riches, a girl under the age of eighteen years, from the custody and care of her parents on January 11th, and against their will.

NEAR THE MURDER SCENE OF AMELIA JEFFS

The prisoner’s arrest on Thursday night created some stir in the district, for Maud Road is only about one hundred yards from where the girl Amelia Jeffs, who was recently found murdered, had lived, and it was rumoured that the murderer had been arrested.

An illustration showing Amelia Jeffs leaving home.
Amelia Jeffs Leaves Home, From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright of The British Library Board.

SARAH RICHES TESTIMONY

Sarah Riches, the wife of John Riches, the mother of the girl, living at 3, Valetta-grove, said that her daughter was seventeen years of age on October 19th last.

Up to January 11th, 1889, she had resided at home with the witness.

On the morning of January 11th last year, her daughter left the house about nine o’clock in the morning without saying anything to her, and she did not see her again till January 24th, when she returned.

THE GIRL’S EVIDENCE

The girl Eleanor Mary Riches said that she first became acquainted with the prisoner in November, 1887, when she was invited to his house on Guy Fawkes night to see his brother’s fireworks.

The next night he met her in the street and kissed her.

He walked with her to her mother’s door and told her not to say anything about what had occurred.

He went away after that, and she did not see him again for three or four months.

HE SAID HE WOULD TAKE HER AWAY

Some time afterwards, he said that he was going to take her away, and she said that she would not go.

Nothing more was said until the night before she went away, when, on the Monday, he told her to be ready to go with him the next morning.

She refused, but he insisted.

On the Thursday morning (January 11th) she went as arranged and met him as he was leaving his house.

He said that his wife was upstairs in bed with the baby.

HE PERSUADED HER TO GO

She told him that she could not go, but when they went into the house together he persuaded her, and they walked to Stratford Market.

Here, he asked her if she had any money, and she said that she had not.

He had a bag of chessmen, and said that he would have to leave them for the tickets.

THEY SPENT TIME IN LONDON

He got the tickets, and they went to Liverpool Street Station.

They went to St. Paul’s and to a shop there, and then to the Guildhall.

THEY TOOK A ROOM IN ISLINGTON

He left her there for a time  – about three hours, and they then went to Islington.

They went to a house in Liverpool-road, and stayed there all night.

She stayed with him for thirteen days, until she left him.

On the Wednesday night before she left, he did not come “home” until twelve o’clock at night, and he then told her that her mother was advertising and sending out circulars for her to come home. He said that unless she went home her mother would come and fetch her and send her to a reformatory. He had not told her to go home before that.

SHE RETURNED HOME

She had pawned a gold ring that she had for food. She also pawned a jacket that the prisoner had bought her, and then she went home.

The prisoner knew her age.

He had told her that he was married.

THE PRISONER’S TESTIMONY

Prisoner: “I have made no attempt to evade arrest; I’ve been in the district.”

Detective-sergeant Forth: “Yes, possibly you were; but in a great number of houses. I had watched one in Queen Street.”

Prisoner: “Well, times are bad, not as they were.”

He was then remanded.”

ANOTHER NEWSPAPER ACCOUNT

The Tower Hamlets Independent And East End Local Advertiser also reported on the case in its edition of  Saturday, 1st March, 1890, and published the evidence given by the landlady at he house in Islington where the couple had stayed:-

WEST HAM ABDUCTION

George Richards, 22, living in Maud Road, Plaistow, was charged on remand at the West Ham Police-court, on Wednesday, with unlawfully taking Eleanor Mary Riches, a girl under the age of 18 years, from the custody and care of her parents on January 11th, 1889, and against  their will and consent with intent to commit an offence.

THE MOTHER’S TESTIMONY

Mrs. Sarah Riches said that her daughter would not be 18 years of age until October 19th next.

On the evening of January 11th, she left and said nothing about where she was going.

She knew that her daughter used to visit the prisoner’s house, but she was not aware that she did so every night.

THE GIRL’S EVIDENCE

Eleanor Mary Riches, the prosecutrix was then called.

She said that she first became acquainted with the prisoner in November, 1887,  when she went to his house to see his brother’s fireworks.

The next night, he met her in the street and kissed her.

When she said that he was a married man and ought not to do that, he said that he wasn’t married.

For three or four months she did not see him, and then after she went to his house they were constantly together.

Towards the end of 1888, he asked her how she would like to live with him, and she, thinking that he was joking, said that she would like to. Three or four days later he put the proposition again, but she refused to entertain it.

He, however, insisted, and, on January 10th, he told her to meet him the next morning at Plaistow Railway Station.

On the 11th of January, 1889, she went to his house, and he told her that “his wife” was upstairs in bed with the baby.

She did not want to go with him, but he persuaded her.

They went to London. They were about town some time and then they went to a house in Islington.

On Tuesday, when he went home, he said that her mother had been advertising for her, and that if she did not go home she would come and take her to a reformatory.

The next day she went home.

THE LANDLADY’S TESTIMONY

Elizabeth Thompson said that she let a part of her house to lodgers.

In January, 1889, the prisoner and the girl came to her house, and occupied together a bedroom is her house as man and wife.

The prisoner said that he was a reporter and that he had come from Manchester, and had been sent to London to look for Jack the Ripper.

They went away on a Wednesday, a week and three days after they came.

The girl gave her age as 19.

The prisoner, after being formally cautioned, reserved his defence.

He was committed for trial.”

HE WAS FOUND GUILTY

On  Tuesday, 3rd March, 1890, George Richards appeared at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey), charged with “Unlawfully taking Eleanor Mary Riches, aged sixteen, out of her father’s possession, with intent, etc.”

He was found guilty, and the judge sentenced him to twelve months hard labour.