Reading through various newspaper reports from the 19th century, it quickly becomes apparent that murder was common place in the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields.
Indeed, the various accounts provide a rich vein of true crime stories to be mined by the crime historian.
The following story appeared in The Cork Examiner on Monday the 26th of June 1848:-
A French polisher named George Hart, otherwise Thomas Hart, was placed at the bar before Mr. Arnold for re-examination, charged upon his own confession with having been implicated in the murder of child named Henry Lazarus, the discovery of whose body in Tenter-street, Spitalfields, has been so repeatedly noticed.
On being placed in the dock the prisoner looked ghastly pale, and exhibited such complete prostration of his mental and physical powers, that being manifestly incapable of supporting himself, he was allowed to be seated throughout the proceedings.
HIS SURRENDER AND CONFESSION
The notes of the evidence adduced at the prisoner’s examination before Mr. Hammill, detailing surrender and partial confession made by the prisoner, were now read over.
Alderman, the gaoler, stated that, upon conducting him to the cell on the former day, the prisoner, who displayed the greatest anguish and apparent remorse, exclaimed in an earnest manner that, “he wished be was dead, and out of the world.”
He afterwards told him that he had only been four years in London, and that the whole time occupied in the commission of the murder did not exceed four or five minutes.
THE ANONYMOUS LETTER
Inspector Pasco said that he considered it necessary to place before the magistrate an anonymous letter that he had received some time before the surrender of the prisoner, bearing initials corresponding with those of the man whom the letter had declared to be the murderer.
This had now become of much importance, as the writer in the most positive manner retorted the charge upon the accused himself, whom he described so closely that this, combined with the prisoner’s own surrender, could leave little doubt of his identity with it.
This letter, with the omission of the initials and some useless repetitions, was in the following terms:-
“I have just parted company with the man who strangled the little boy.
I have promised to meet him at 10 o’clock tonight at Shoreditch Church.
I give you this information because he has lately told several persons in the neighbourhood that he intends to give himself up and split against me.
GO IN PLAIN CLOTHES
You had better go in plain clothes, if you go at all, and take him; his name is Tom Hart, and he lives in Fashion-street, Brick-lane.
He is dressed in a tweed coat, drab trousers, hat, and green handkerchief, and we sold the child’s clothes in Rosemary-lane.
Though I told him I would meet him at the church tonight, I, of course, shall not be there; but when he is once in custody I will appear against him and tell all about it, if I am promised a pardon and get part of the reward that is offered.
He a short man, about five feet four inches in height, and I know he will be at the church, as I promised to lend him some money to go on the tramp.
We met the little boy in Whitechapel, and took him to the arches on Commercial-street, where we tied a handkerchief round his neck, and done him, and placed the body where it was afterwards found.”
HANDBILLS IN CIRCULATION
The inspector added, that all the efforts of the police to obtain a clue to the writer of the letter in question had been hitherto unsuccessful.
He considered it most probable that he was not yet aware of the prisoner’s being in custody, or that the Government had promised a pardon to any accomplice, not being the actual murderer, the handbills to that effect had only been a few days in circulation.
HE KNEW NOTHING ABOUT IT
Mr. Arnold asked the accused if wished to add anything further to the statement he had already made, and at the same time cautioned him that he was not bound to say anything, he thought proper, as whatever he did say would be taken down as evidence?
The prisoner hesitated and then said sullenly, “I know nothing at all about it.”
Mr. Arnold next inquired if he had anything to urge against his recommittal upon the charge, and he answered shortly in the negative.
MINUTE AND LENGTHENED DETAIL
The prisoner was then remanded, but upon being removed to the cell requested to be furnished with writing materials, and it soon afterwards appeared that, upon Sergeant Sanders taking temporary charge of him, in the absence of the officer who had previously done so, he entered into minute and lengthened detail of the circumstances attending the transaction, together with, it was understood, certain other important disclosures, but it was not considered prudent by the police to give publicity to them in the present stage of the investigation.
CALM AND COLLECTED
Whatever these disclosures were, they appeared to have had a consoling effect upon the prisoner’s mind, as, instead of quivering in every limb, as he had previously done, he walked to the van with a firm step, and appeared perfectly calm and collected.