Arbour-square, Stepney, is one of those places, common enough in this mighty London of ours, which could hardly look cheerful under any possible circumstances. There is that dreary air of bygone respectability about it which reminds one so forcibly of the average London landlady, who is never tired of impressing upon her lodgers that she has seen better days and has come down in the world; an assurance which, as a rule, it is much easier to believe than that she had ever occupied a shabbier rung on the social ladder. In the one case there is some room for one's imagination to work; in the other case there is not. Well, the locale of the Thames Police-court has just that appearance of shabby-gentility which is so oppressive to the casual observer. Nor is this aspect a misleading one, for there was a time when this Court held sole jurisdiction over the great waterway from which it derives its name. All river cases, from pilfering to piracy, were formerly brought here for trial, and in the old days pirates were hung within its jurisdiction. It has a long record of notorious criminals upon its register, and the details of many a thrilling horror have broken the hush of its crowded, awe-struck audiences in the days that are no more.
This is all ended, or nearly so, and the snug houses within its vicinity, which were at one time the homes of prosperous lawyers and notaries, are now occupied by a humbler but probably more honest class of tenants.
I found in the course of a friendly chat with one of the "bobbies" on duty that he and his comrades are living in lively and hopeful anticipation of the capture of the Whitechapel murderer. The hopefulness, I have no doubt, was assumed as a professional compliment to the acumen of "the force" and an intimation to an outsider like myself that the monster must eventually fall into their hands. Judging from the confident air of my informant, I should say that the gentlemen (or is it a lady?) we call Nemesis was a blunderer compared with the detective department of the Metropolitan Police.
"When 'e is caught, sir, 'e'll be brought to this hyere court, and then, my hye! Won't there just be a rush to see 'im! Why, sich is the curiosity of folks, that they'll be a-coming, I shouldn't wonder, from the West-end in their kerridges, just to 'ave a look at 'im."
This prospect of the high price of "tips" for accommodation in the Court accounted for the liveliness of my friend's anticipation, but I did not think it worth while to remark it to him. Some men are hypersensitive.
Very sad were the surroundings of one poor creature who was placed in the dock yesterday. There was every evidence, too pathetic for words to describe, that Hannah Burley was suffering from a mind distraught. She stood, with wandering gaze and babbling tongue, while she was charges with being a wandering lunatic not being under proper control. At half-past four o'clock that morning Henry Stacey, 317 K, was on duty in Bow-road, close to Bow Church, when he saw the prisoner surrounded by a large crowd of persons. She walked to a house connected with Dr. Barnardo's Home. As she acted very strangely the constable questioned her, and her replies being very vague and unsatisfactory he sent for a doctor, who said that she was of unsound mind. Mr. Lushington put the prisoner back for the doctor's attendance, and she left the dock with a smiling wonder upon her face and in her troubled eyes.
It looked bad from the first for Mr. John Thurley, a rough-looking customer, who was charged with disorderly conduct and with assaulting Police constables 227 and 187 H. On Thursday evening the prisoner was creating a disturbance in (illegible)-street, St. George's and on Police constable 227 asking him to go away, he kicked him on the leg. Police constable 187 H came to his assistance, whereupon the prisoner butted him with great force in the face, causing his nose to bleed. -his Worship sentenced the prisoner to 14 days hard labour for the assault on the first constable, and to two months' hard labour for the assault on the second. John seemed puzzled for the moment in trying apparently to calculate why one policeman's nose was worth four times as much as a leg of another. He will have plenty of time on his habds to work out that interesting sum.
John Austin was charged with stealing a hand bag, containing 4s. 6d., a gold wedding ring, a silver pencil case, and other articles from the person of Mary Hankins, living in Patterson-street, Stepney. At six o'clock on Tuesday evening last week the complainant was walking along Skidmore-street, carrying a bag in her hand, when the prisoner snatched the bag and made off with it. She followed, but lost sight of him. She gave a description of the thief to the police. A week later Arthur Springthorp, 93 H, apprehended him. The prisoner, on being told of the charge, said "All right, I'll go; but what is a man to do if he can't get money enough for his lodgings?" Mr. Lushington very wisely transferred the task of answering that question to a jury by committing the inquirer for trial.
The man John Fitzgerald, who was arrested at Wandsworth, and who has been detained at the Leman-street Police-station on his own confession of having murdered Annie Chapman, in Hanbury-street, on the 8th inst., has been liberated, exhaustive inquiries having proved his statements to be entirely unfounded. Since Fitzgerald's release, yesterday, nothing further has transpired in connection with the recent tragedies.
"One who knows" writes as follows to the Times:
Your correspondent "Gamma" proposes that a number of philanthropic gentlemen should float a company for the purpose of buying up and improving the houses at present dedicated to vice and crime, and suggests that such a company would have every prospect of paying a good dividend.
Permit one who is well acquainted with the East-end slums to point out that the first step needful is the prosecution of the landlords of these rookeries of crime for keeping disorderly houses.
When the houses shall have been closed in consequence of such prosecutions, that will be purchaseable at a fair price that would, after improvement and reletting under conditions compatible with decency, yield a fair return to the philanthropic investor. If bought as "going concerns," the price would be simply prohibitive, for vice pays a higher rent than virtue, and the purchase money would be proportionate to the rental; while the large figure that would be paid by the philanthropist would only encourage the formation of new rookeries of vice to take the place of those suppressed.
The fact remains that the police must act before the philanthropist can step in.
Let an experiment be made in Dorset-street, Flower and Dean-street, and Thrawl-street, places made notorious in connection with the recent Whitechapel murders. In these streets, literally within a stone's throw of Toynbee-hall and the Rev. S.A. Barnett's Vicarage, are whole rows of so-called "registered" lodging houses, each of which is practically a brothel and a focus of crime. The police authorities uniformly refuse to prosecute the owners of such places as keepers of disorderly houses, although the fullest evidence is in their possession to insure conviction, and they always throw the odious duty of prosecution on the neighbours who may feel aggrieved. These cannot prosecute in the cases of the Whitechapel rookeries without risking their lives; for such is the lawless nature of the denizens of these places that they would certainly, and probably with impunity, wreck their vengeance on any private individual who would dare disturb them.
If the Home Secretary would give instructions for the simultaneous prosecution of the keepers of these nests of crime, the houses would be closed within a few weeks, and the owners would then gladly part with their bad bargains at a fair price to the philanthropic investor.
The suppression of these haunts of crime and the dispersion of their lawless population should be the watch-word and cry. -the Carthago delenda est, of every social reformer. That such a seething mass of moral filth and corruption should exist in our midst is a disgrace to our much vaunted civilisation, and a danger to the State.
At Dalston Police-court, yesterday, James Johnson, 35, a well-set, pale-complexioned, and clean-shaven man, with a strong American accent, giving his address as 18, Berdhurst-road, St. John's-hill, Wandsworth, and describing himself as a waiter, was charged wit assaulting Elizabeth Hudson by throwing her on the pavement, and threatening to stab her at Richmond-road, Kingsland.
The prosecutrix said that about two o'clock that morning she was proceeding home, when the prisoner accosted her, put his arm round her, and threw her upon the pavement. He then produced a long knife, and attempted to stab her. She screamed "Murder!" and "Police!" and then the prisoner ran away. The knife was about eight or ten inches long.
Alice Anderson, describing herself as a feather curler of the same address as Hudson, said between one and two that morning she was in the Kingsland-road, near the Lamb public-house, when the prisoner accosted her, and asked her if he could walk home with ther. She said she did not mind and the prisoner accompanied her along the road. At a dark spot, however, he put his arm round her waist and tried to throw her down. Witnesss succeeded in knocking at a door at the same time screaming "Murder!" The prisoner then ran away. A quarter of an hour later witness heard screaming some distance off, and on hastening up the road, she saw Hudson, who told her that the man had thrown her down and attempted to stab her.
The prisoner said it was untrue that he had a knife. Both the women ran after him, and Hudson attempted to steal from his pockets. He pushed her off, and she fell down.
Constable Nue, 460 J, said that at a quarter to two that morning he was on duty in De Beauvoir-square, when he heard screams of "Murder" and shouts of "Police." Witness then saw the prisoner running and stopped him. He said that two women had accosted him, and asked him to go down the mews in Richmond-road, and when he declined they screamed. The prisoner was searched at the station, but no knife was found upon him.
The prisoner said that the women had spoken untruthfully. He repeated the statement that the women had run after him. They asked for eggs and money. He could produce his friends if it were necessary.
Mr. Bros said he had better do so. He should put the case back until the afternoon. The magistrate then directed Inspector Holland to make inquiries as to the prisoner's character as speedily as possible.
Subsequently the prisoner was again placed in the dock, and Mrs. Seaton, his landlady, deposed that she had known him as a reasonable man for a long time. He was employed at Spiers and Pond's. When prisoner was asked what he had to say, he said he could only repeat his former statement, with the addition that he came over to Kingsland to see a friend, and not finding him, he went playing billiards. -Mr. Bros: Why did you run away?
Prisoner: Because I was ashamed of being mixed up in such a matter. Police-constable 16 J R said he knew the prosecutrix in this case as a disorderly woman, and had cautioned her not long not long before this matter occurred for accosting men.- Mr. Bros discharged the prisoner, remarking that he had got into an awkward scrape by his own silliness.
The police state, as an extraordinary circumstance, that when they went on duty, about half-past ten last night, they saw the word "Look' written in chalk on the pavement, on both sides of a lamp-post. Under the lamp-post was also written, "I am Leather Apron." Under this was drawn two figures- one of a woman and the other of man holding a knife in his hand. Again under this were the words, "Five more, and I will give myself up." The matter was treated as a joke at the time, but the officers say it is very strange that such a singular case should come to light so soon after.
The following new order has been issued by the Comissioners to the Metropolitan Police:
"In all cases in which drunken persons are arrested in or near public-houses the officer making the apprehension is to note and report any facts which may tend to prove where and under what circumstances the accused obtained the liquor; and in any case in which there is sufficient evidence of the sale of intoxicating liquor to a drunken person the particulars are to be reported, with a view to proceedings being taken against the publican concerned."