A ‘mad drunk’ Irishwoman defies the Westminster beak


At Westminster Police Court a ‘middle-aged Irish woman’ named Johanna Hearne was brought to the bar. PC Edwards (241A) was on his beat on Queen’s Road East, Chelsea, near the Chelsea Hospital at about 12.30 in the morning when he heard what he was a groan.

Crossing over he soon discovered Johanna hanging on the railways by a handkerchief. He struggled to free her and took her back the police station.

She was quite drunk and clearly attempting to end her own life. The magistrate asked how she could have managed such a thing and the policeman elaborated. She had apparently attached the hankie ‘by pieces of string and other things’ to the Chelsea Hospital’s railings.

It wasn’t easy to get her back to the station either, she struggled and was violent. Once there she tried to kill herself again and had to be subdued.

The justice, Mr Arnold turned his attention to the prisoner. ‘What have you to say for yourself?’ he asked.

‘Oh, I’ve got nothing to say. I was mad drunk’ replied Johanna with ‘an impudent laugh’.

Mr Arnold was not amused. ‘ shall not deal with you for the attempted suicide’ he said, but instead sentenced her to a 10s fine or a week in prison. ‘then I’ll do the seven days’ said a defiant Johanna.


[from The Morning Post, Wednesday, October 28, 1863]

NB on the faint chance that my good friend Simon is reading the may I take the opportunity to wish him a happy birthday. He was born 100 years to the day after this case reached the newspapers.

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