11 December 1888
"General" Booth, as head of the Salvation Army, has made a bold proposal to the Government in regard to the prevailing distress and to the chronic misery and vice of London. In a memorial to the Home Secretary he suggests that the Government should aid the Army in its Rescue work and in the provision of Food and Shelter Depots by a grant of £15,000. The principle on which the Salvation Army has hitherto successfully dealt with the more degrading kinds of want, that drive women to prostitution and men to crime, is that of stepping between the tempter and the worst temptation, by the supply of the absolute necessaries of life at an absolutely nominal cost. At the West India Dock shelter homeless and hungry wanderers may lie down in a clean and well warmed room for a penny a night, and find something to eat at prices ranging from a farthing to a penny. The head of the Army wishes to extend this system to the whole metropolis, and indeed to other large cities, and he has received a gratifying assurance that the best attention of Mr. Matthews will be given to his proposal. The principal novelty of it, as we understand, is that it completely does away with the painful and degrading tests of the casual ward which make so many prefer the street itself to the shelter supplied by public charity. Mr. Booth's first object, however, is to enable the destitute to avoid the common lodging houses. Should the Government fail him, he may probably get the money from the public if he is able to satisfy them with the guarantees of the perfect success of his scheme which he has already offered to Mr. Matthews. We have the winter before us, and some new thing has to be done, as the old ones have so signally failed.
Last evening an extraordinary attempt at murder was made in Bermondsey upon a young girl, who is now lying in Guy's Hospital in a critical condition. Between half past four and five o'clock a man entered the refreshment shop of Mr. James Whiting, 17 Spa road, Bermondsey, and ordered a cup of tea. He was attended to by a girl about 15 years of age, named Lucretia Pembroke, who is described as tall for her years, pleasant and looks and manner, and bearing a very good character. It seems that the girl inquired of her customer whether he would like some bread and butter, and upon his replying in the negative she turned towards the door leading from the shop to the sitting room behind. As soon as she had moved a sufficient distance from the man to be unable to observe his action, he went to the front door, fastened it, and before the girl realised his intent, crept behind her, seized her by the back of the neck, and cut her throat, inflicting a wound extending from a point just clearing the windpipe to the right ear, the lobe of which was struck off. At the time of the occurrence Mrs. Whiting was the only other person in the house besides the girl and her assailant, and she had a few minutes previously gone upstairs preparatory to making ready for her tea trade in the shop. She heard a scream, ran downstairs, and found the girl in the back room in a pool of blood. The woman unlocked the front door and got into the street, where she found a police constable. The officer entered the house, and was followed by some men who had heard the outcry. A search was made of the back premises, without finding the assailant, and the injured girl was removed to Guy's Hospital. Her wound was found to be a very serious one, and it appeared doubtful whether she would live long enough to make a statement. In the evening, however, she was seen by Detective sergeants Bradford and Haigh from Bermondsey street Police station, and was able to detail to them certain facts which subsequently led to the arrest of a man named William Atkins, who is better known in the neighbourhood as "Silly Billy," and has lately lodged in Limasol street, close to the place where the crime was committed and not far from the residence of the girl's parents, who live at No 9 Spa road. The allegation of the girl against Atkins is that he entered the shop and called for tea, which she served him. She had a moment's conversation with him and then was returning to the room behind when he seized her and cut her throat with a penknife. Mrs. Whiting states that the man must have left the house by the back door and that he had taken the precaution of securing not only the front door, but all other communications on the ground floor. The man in custody knew Lucretia Pembroke because he frequently came to the place for refreshment and he had many times had food given him when out of work. He did odd jobs about the neighbourhood, and not long since was employed at some whitewashing in Whiting's house. A neighbour of the Whitings, who was in her shop at the time, heard some disturbance going on in the back yard of the adjoining house, and got out in time to see a man leap on to a stable roof and drop into a tanyard. She could not, however, identify him. The man Atkins was arrested in Spa street, and on being taken to the station and charged with attempted murder, asked, "Is she dead?" He was told that the girl was not dead, and he made no further observation. It was stated in the neighbourhood of the crime that he was known to be irresponsible for his actions, but his demeanour at the police station did not indicate any mental aberration. The accused will be brought before the magistrate at Southwark Police court this morning.