A suspected murderer captured and a fatal accident exposed

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In a break from the daily ‘doings’ of the Metropolitan Police courts I thought I’d take a look at ‘other news’ on the same page of the papers this day in 1873. Following the reports from Guildhall, Mansion House, Westminster, Marylebone and the Worship Street Police courts came the story of the ‘Coram Street Murder’. This reported the killing of Harriet Buswell, a London prostitute, found dead in her bed, and the arrest of a suspect in the village of Pirbright near Guildford, in Surrey.

The man, named Joveit Julien, was a Frenchman and had raised suspicion while drinking in a pub. On being searched he was found to have ‘three napoleons and several other pieces of money’ along with papers suggesting he had tickets to travel to New York but hadn’t made that trip. Despite claiming he couldn’t speak English he was more than capable of reading a wanted poster issued by the police which offered a £200 reward. He was arrested and an interpreter found so that the police investigating the murder could question him. However, the report continued, when two witnesses failed to identify him the authorities were forced to let him go.

Perhaps this was an all too common example of suspicion falling upon a foreigner? However, later in the month a German – Dr Gottfried Hessel – was formally charged with Harriett’s murder at Bow Street Police court. Hessel was discharged for lack of evidence but no one else was ever prosecuted for the murder of the woman.

Meanwhile in London and on Lambeth side of the Thames the paper reported that a ‘fatal accident’ had occurred. A builder named Bass had visited a wharf belong to a Mr Beaumont. Darfield Wharf, was close by the Lion Brewery at Charing Cross Bridge, and the builder had gone there in search of mouldings. The wharf manager West took him to see his stock that was held below a loft used to store oats.

Another man, the foreman Harris, was about to go along with the pair when his wife called him back to fetch her the key to a coal cellar. Her domestic request saved his life.

The loft was old and probably creaking under the weight of oats stored there. With a sickening creak the ceiling gave way and 50 tons of oats landed on the wharf manager and his customer. Harris shouted for help and all hands rushed to try and clear the rubble from the stricken men.  The men from Bennett’s hay and straw wharf nearby also downed tools to come and help and within moments there were ’40 men engaged in clearing away the mass of rubbish’.

One small boy was pulled from the wreckage, miraculously unharmed, but the two men trapped under the fall were not so lucky. West had been hit on the head and died instantly, Bass had suffered a broken leg, snapped just above the knee and must have passed away in considerable agony. Mr Bass’ pony had also been under the loft when it collapsed and it too was dead.

It was a terrible tragedy which today would have provoked an investigation into health and safety. The Victorians however, were no so big on H&S so one can only hope the parish did their best for the families of the men that died.

[from The Morning Post,  Friday, January 10, 1873]

A pantomime villain is hissed out of court

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Horace Moore was a blackguard. He was the sort of character that might have  appeared in a Dickens novel and, at the end of his court appearance in December 1887, the watching public treated him accordingly.

Moore wasn’t in court for anything criminal he had done, in fact he wasn’t in the dock at all. He had chosen to go to court to prosecute a man that had assaulted him but it was the circumstances surrounding the assault – and the reason for it – that earned him the opprobrium of the public gallery.

Horace Moore was the son of a hay and straw dealer and lived at home on the Harrow Road. From this we might ascertain that he was a young man, probably in his early twenties. In November 1887 he was ‘walking out’ with a young lady named Miss Battrum. Horace’s brother was engaged to the girl’s sister and the couple had met at Yarmouth earlier that year.

As Horace and his companion strolled together on the 27 November Mrs Battrum (the young woman’s mother) came up behind and overtook them. She stopped, raised her umbrella, and struck Horace repeatedly over the head with it. Words were exchanged and Mrs Battrum led her daughter away.

The very next day Horace was having his shoes cleaned by a shoeblack on the Harrow Road when Mr Thomas Battrum marched up to him. He said he had insulted his wife the previous day and then hit him on the head with his fist, ‘which knocked his hat off and sent him staggering’. It was this assault which prompted the summons to Marylebone Police court.

So what had merited this seemingly unprovoked attack on a young man walking out with his girlfriend? Under cross examination by Battrum’s lawyer the truth gradually began to emerge that Horace Moore was the sort of person that enjoyed the company of women but was very far from being any father’s ideal son-in-law.

At the time Moore had met Miss Battrum at Yarmouth he had just the subject of a civil prosecution in which he had lost. He had been found to have seduced a young woman named Miss Bosher who was under 16 years of age. For that he was made to pay compensation of £250.

This was not his first offence although it may have been the first one for which he was successfully prosecuted. Miss Bosher had testified that Moore had told her he had been accused of seducing a Miss Goddard but added that ‘nothing came of it so it would be all right’.

Moore denied this and also denied ‘having ruined a Miss Taylor or any one of the name’. He wasn’t engaged to Miss Battrum he explained to Mr Cooke (the sitting magistrate) ‘he was simply walking out with her as a friend’.

The assault had been violent and he had lost the sight in one eye as a result of it. The court could not ignore the violence but Mr Cooke was not about to let a father’s defense of his daughter’s reputation earn him anything more than a slap on the wrist. What he had done was simply what any man might have done faced with the revelation that his daughter was dating such a dishonest and predatory young man.

The magistrate told Buttram that ‘no man had any right to commit an assault, no matter what the misconduct of another might be’, and then fined him sixpence, an entirely nominal sum for the builder to pay, and refused to award any compensation to Horace Moore. As the young man left the court ‘he was hissed’ like the villain in a Victorian melodrama. With a bit of luck the publication of his name by the papers would alert his future victims (or at least their fathers) to steer clear of his romantic advances.

[from The Standard, Friday, 9 December, 1887]

Tyson and Henry Cooper in the dock at Southwark

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My apologies if the headline caught you but after all that is what headline writers do. This isn’t a story about two boxing legends but instead a tale of fraud in 1870s London.

In late March 1872 George Tyson, alias George Tyler, alias Henry Cooper (I’m not making this up, honest) was brought before the Police magistrate at Southwark charged with ‘obtaining two rick cloths, value £32, from Messrs. Cox and Williams, late Benjamin Edgington, under false and fraudulent pretences’.

The firm’s lawyer opened the prosecution by recounting how, almost a year earlier, a man calling himself Tyson had called on the firm and said he required a rick cloth to protect his hay. The firm were told that he was an established customer of theirs and a respectable farmer at Reigate and that he could be found ‘in the directory’.

Mr Cox, on behalf of the firm, explained that they had checked their books and discovered they had a customer called Mr Tyson at Reigate and so, reassured, they duly despatched two cloths. However, when the invoice they sent was not paid and all the reminders ignored, they began to realise the whole thing was ‘a swindle’.

Mr Cox had met Tyson when he had come to London but had not seen him again until, by chance, he saw him getting into a cab at London Bridge station. He immediately called over a nearby policeman, explained the situation and helped make the arrest. Tyson was bailed on his promise to attend the Southwark court the following morning, but failed to show up in court and then disappeared.

A warrant was then issued for his arrest which came into the hands of inspector Matthew Fox of M Division, Metropolitan Police. On the Friday before this court appearance a man walked into Fox’s station house asking for help. Mr Lucy was a ship owner who had recently let a property to a man named Cooper. On visiting the property he was surprised to see Cooper loading up all his possessions as if was about to leave. The property was let for three years, at a rate of £53 a year (about £2,500 in today’s money) but it seemed Copper was leaving in a hurry. When the inspector called on him he also found it was full of commercial property (not described in court) which seemed to have come from an unknown manufacturer.

It all seemed a little fishy and given Tyson (or Cooper’s) propensity to avoid court appearances the inspector asked for him to be remanded so he could pursue his investigations. The report noted that ‘the prisoner ( who took the matter very coolly), said it was merely a matter of debt’. Regardless of this the magistrate acquiesced to the policeman’s request and Tyson/Cooper spent at least the next few days in gaol.

In early April Tyson was tried at the Old Bailey for fraud. It emerged that his wife had kept the house Lucy had let him and that when the landlord tried to extract the rent from him he was met by several fierce dogs. When Inspector Fox had tried to arrest him at the house he two had ben confronted by a least one ‘savage’ dog. Tyson had struggled with the officer and resisted arrest.

The jury were convinced that at least one fraud had taken place and the prisoner was convicted and then sentenced to five years’ penal servitude. One wonders, if when he got out he adopted yet another pseudonym and, like Evelyn Waugh’s Solomon Philbrick, lived to con another day.

[from The Morning Post, Tuesday, March 26, 1872]

P.s I’m delighted that the BBC have made a TV draw from my favourite Waugh novel: Decline and Fall starts on BBC1 next Friday (at 9pm).