The Eastern Post & City Chronicle
Saturday, 8 December 1900.
POLICEMAN FATALLY STABBED IN UNION STREET.
INQUEST AND FUNERAL
FUND BEING RAISED FOR THE WIDOW.
Early on Saturday morning, Police-constable William Ernest Thompson, 240 H, of Leman-street station, was fatally stabbed while endeavouring to disperse some persons who were quarrelling at the junction of Union-street, Whitechapel and Commercial-road. In connection with the crime, a cigar maker, named Barnet Abrahams, has been arrested, and is under remand from the Thames Police-court.
Shortly after one o'clock in the morning Thompson, whilst going his round, was attracted to the junction of the roads by sounds of quarrelling. Going to the spot he found some men and women standing around a coffee-stall engaged in a loud altercation. The officer told them not to continue the dispute, but to move on. After some difficulty he seems to have succeeded in getting the disputants away in the direction of Gower's-walk. There, however, the quarrel was resumed, and Thompson, in the execution of his duty, again endeavoured to move them along. Precisely what happened then it is at present impossible to say. But almost immediately after the constable had gone up to the group, loud shouts were heard, and the blowing of a police whistle followed. Within a few minutes Constable Brooke, 100 H, ran up, and was horrified to find his fellow officer bleeding from wounds in the neck, and struggling with a man. Brooke sounded his whistle for more assistance, and secured the man, who turned out to be Abrahams, and handed him over to the custody of some other officers, who conveyed him to Leman-street police station, where he was subsequently charged by Detective-inspector Divall. Meanwhile attention was given to Thompson. A hasty examination showed that he had two terrible wounds inflicted in the throat. He had
from the loss of blood. A cab was procured, and Thompson was conveyed upon it with all dispatch to the London Hospital. On arrival at that institution, however, life was pronounced extinct. The body was then taken to the hospital mortuary, where it now awaits the inquest.
The murdered constable is spoken of in all quarters as a respected, zealous officer. His home is at Stepney Green, and he leaves a wife and four children. He has been in the force about eleven years, and discovered "Jack-the-Ripper's" last murder in Swallow-gardens, Royal Mint-street. On that occasion - in February, 1891 - he was commended by the authorities for his smartness. He was exceedingly popular with his comrades, who describe him as courageous and willing, but a most inoffensive man, not inclined to be quarrelsome or interfering. It is probable that in addition to the gratuity which the family of a policeman who dies doing his duty receives from the authorities, a subscription will be raised among the men of the H division for Mrs. Thompson, who has been terribly affected by the death of her husband.
At the Thames Police Court on Saturday, before Mr. Dickinson, Barnet Abrahams, 41, a cigar maker, and an English Jew, residing at 50 Newark-street, Whitechapel, was charged with feloniously killing and slaying Police-constable Ernest Thompson, 240 H, by stabbing him in the neck with a knife, while in the execution of his duty. - Mr. Deakin, instructed by Mr. Ben Cooper, of the Cigar Makers' Union, of which he is a member, defended. - The prisoner is a man of small stature, with prominent cheekbones. He is suffering from two black eyes, a broken nose, an injured ear, and told his solicitor there were bruises all over his body. - Mr. Deakin said it was impossible to adequately go into the matter that day, and therefore he suggested that only short evidence should be taken. - Constable 100 H deposed that at 20 minutes past one o'clock that morning he was on duty in Commercial-road, when he heard the blowing of police whistles. He
of the sound, and at the corner of Union-street he saw Constable Thompson holding the prisoner on the ground. The officer was bleeding terribly from a wound in the neck. With the assistance of other constables Thompson was got into a cab and taken to the London Hospital. On the way he breathed frequently, but when within about 50 yards of the hospital he gave one long breath, and on arriving at that institution he was examined by Dr. Hilyard, who pronounced life extinct. - Detective-inspector T. Divall, H division, stated that when he charged the prisoner, he first said, "Do you understand English?" and the accused replied, "Well." The witness then said, "I am an inspector of police, and am going to charge you with feloniously killing and slaying Constable Thompson by stabbing him in the neck with this knife," at the same time pointing to a long pocket knife covered with blood. The prisoner said, "Then I am charged with maliciously killing?" The witness answered, "You are charged with feloniously killing." Abrahams said, "It is quite possible. I don't remember anything about it. I had no cause to do an injury to anyone." - Mr. Frayling, from the Treasury, who happened to be present in court in another case, said that on the next occasion his department would take charge of the case. - Mr. Dickinson remanded the prisoner, who made no remark.
On Monday night Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the East London coroner, opened his inquiry at the London Hospital into the circumstances surrounding the death of Ernest Thompson, a police-constable (240) late attached to the H division, who was murdered in Commercial-road, Whitechapel, on the early morning of Saturday last. Barnett Abrahams, 32, a cigar maker, of 50, Newark-street, Mile End, who was arrested immediately after the crime, stands remanded from the Thames Police Court on a charge of killing the deceased. The accused man was present in court in the custody of two warders, and still bore a number of marks of violence about his face. He was represented by Mr. C. Deacon [sic], solicitor. The Chief Commissioner of Police was represented by Chief Inspector Divall, of the H division. None but those immediately interested in the inquiry were allowed to remain in court.
The first witness called was Albert Thompson, residing at 41, Deverell-street, New Kent-road, who said he was a police-constable - 245 N. The deceased was his brother, and resided at 1, Prince's-street, Mile End Old Town, and was 32 years of age. He had been in the police force about 12 years. The witness last saw him alive on Thursday week, when he was in the best of health and spirits.
Dr. Francis Hilliard, house-surgeon, deposed that the deceased was brought to the hospital at 1.35 a.m. on Saturday morning last. The witness examined the body, and found life extinct. He had a punctured wound in the left side of the neck. The witness had since made a post-mortem examination of the body, by the coroner's order, and externally found an old scar on the chin, and also a recent graze. There was the punctured wound on the left side of the neck, already mentioned, about three-quarters of an inch long, and the tissues of the neck were infiltrated with blood. The wound was downwards and inwards, and the weapon passing deeply, had transfixed the internal jugular vein, and the common carotid artery was severed. The haemorrhage had been very extensive. Death was due to the injuries described.
The Coroner (showing the witness a long-bladed penknife): Do you think the injuries could have been caused by this?
The witness: Yes, certainly.
By a Juror: There was only one wound inflicted. A shorter man than the deceased could have inflicted that without difficulty had the deceased been in a standing position.
The coroner said that was all the evidence he proposed to take, and the inquiry was adjourned.
At the resumed inquest on Tuesday, William Butcher, a coffee-stall keeper, of Silver-street, Mile End, stated that at about half-past one on Saturday morning, whilst in Commercial-road, Whitechapel, he noticed accused walking slowly towards Stepney on the same side of the road as himself. He was about a yard from Union-street, outside Morrison's-buildings, when he first passed him. The deceased was behind him about ten yards. The witness spoke to him for a while and then walked away. The prisoner was then walking across the road. Soon after leaving the policeman the witness heard a scuffle, and on looking round, saw the prisoner and the constable struggling on the pavement right opposite Morrison's-buildings. The witness hastened to inform his son, who kept a coffee-stall near by Church-lane. There were loud shouts, and then another constable came up. When the witness saw the deceased and the accused struggling there was no one else near them. The witness did not think Abrahams was under the influence of drink; he seemed to walk perfectly straight. - The Coroner: Did you see anything in the accused's hands as you passed him? - No, and I did not hear any words pass between the deceased and the accused. - The witness added that Abrahams was quite alone when he first saw him. When the struggle was going on, and before the other constable came up the deceased blew his whistle. Soon afterwards more whistles were blown. - Mr. Deakin: When you saw Abrahams first did you notice any injuries on his head? - The Witness: No, I did not see any. The witness was sure no words passed between the deceased and Abrahams during the time he was speaking to the constable. It was about a minute after he left the deceased that he first heard the struggle. - By Mr. Deakin: Before the struggle
in the roadway, and I saw no blows struck before the two men fell. I saw nothing whatever done by the accused to the deceased. - Mr. Deakin: And you were looking at them during the latter part of the struggle? The Witness: Yes. The witness added that the dead constable was uppermost during the struggle. The witness went to his son's coffee-stall, and told him there was a row going on, and he advised him not to go near. The witness then saw some constables cross the road. There was no one else near the two men when they were struggling. In the witness's opinion, the accused was not under the influence of drink, judging from the way he was walking - his gait was perfectly straight. The witness had known the deceased for some time past, and was sure that he was sober. When they were speaking no reference was made to the accused. After the police crossed over, whistles were blown, and a crowd gathered. He did not see anything in the accused's hand, neither did he hear any words exchanged. It was perfectly light at the spot. - By the Jury: There was nothing special in the manner of the accused that attracted the witness's attention. He did not see a truncheon in the deceased's hand. He heard the deceased blow the whistle before the others crossed the road.
William Butcher, - son of the previous witness, said that at the time of the tragedy he was in charge of the coffee-stall in Church-lane. He saw the deceased on his beat a few minutes after the stall had been opened, and saw the accused about one o'clock in the morning. He came to the stall with two women, and ordered some coffee, eggs, and bread and butter for them. He had nothing himself. After they had had their refreshment they went away towards Aldgate. Prior to that time there had been no noise, and then the witness heard Abrahams laughing and singing. The deceased came up from the direction of Union-street, and ordered the accused away. Abrahams said, "What have I done?" and the deceased said, "Move on." The deceased went towards Union-street, while the women went towards Aldgate. The deceased followed behind Abrahams. The deceased did not stop until he reached Morrison's-buildings, when he stood still. Abrahams walked some little distance further on before he stopped. When both were standing still they were some few feet from each other. Just after the accused walked towards the deceased, and the latter walked towards Abrahams. Then they closed and both fell. The witness did not see if there was a struggle before they fell; neither could he say whether they fell on the pavement or on the roadway. He heard the deceased blow his whistle, and then a number of other constables came up. - The Coroner: Did Abrahams, when you saw him, appear to be under the influence of drink? - He did not. - Did you see any knife used at any time? - No. There were no marks of injury on Abrahams' face when he was at the stall with the two women.
in any way. - Mr. Deakin: When the constable told the accused to move off, what did he say? - "Go away," and he went away. Abrahams as he was walking away asked what he had done. - And did the constable strike him a blow on the point of the chin? - I did not see it. - Are you prepared to swear that the constable did not strike him? - The witness said further that when Thompson ordered Abrahams away he (witness) was inside the stall, and could not quite see what went on. When they moved off he got outside to see what was happening, and he saw no blows at all but there was time whilst he was getting out of the stall for three or four blows to have been struck. - The Coroner: Did you hear any blows struck? - Witness said he did not.
Police-constable Harry Woodley, 343 H, produced a capital plan, which he had prepared to scale, showing the Commercial-road, and the various points connected with the tragic occurrence.
William Thomas Ellis, a cab-washer, residing at 12, Quilter-street, Bethnal Green, said he saw the two women and the accused at the coffee-stall singing and laughing. The witness went away, and on his return noticed that the women had left, and that the deceased was driving the accused in the opposite direction. - The Corner: In what way? - The Witness: Well, he was pushing him. - How far did he push him? - As far as the brewery gates. The witness added that soon afterwards he saw them meet close together, and fall to the ground. Whilst kneeling on the accused, the deceased blew his whistle, and other constables came up. The witness did not see any of the constables draw their truncheons, but saw some of them with their truncheons out. - The Coroner: Did you see any of them strike the accused? - The Witness: No, sir. The witness added that he saw that Abraham's face was bleeding, but could not say where the blood came from.
Albert Timms, police-constable, 100 H, said that about 1.20 on the morning of the tragedy, he was on duty at the corner of Batty-street, when he heard a police whistle, and hurried in the direction of the sound. On reaching the corner of Union-street, he saw Police-constable Blackett [sic] and Police-constable Atkinson. The deceased was kneeling on the accused, who was on his back. The deceased was holding his collar by the left hand and the sleeve of his coat with the right hand. The witness heard Police-constable 414 H say, "It is Thompson's blood," and on looking at the deceased's neck saw
from a cut. The deceased was unconscious, but his grip of the accused was so tight that it took the witness and the other constable several seconds before they could release his hands. A cab then drove up, and the deceased was placed inside. The witness undid his great-coat, and found his whistle in its usual place. The deceased breathed several times, but died when within about 50 yards of hospital, after giving one deep breath. The witness spoke to the deceased just before, but received no answer. - By the Jury: The deceased's truncheon was also in its usual place. The witness did not hear the accused make any remark, but he struggled for his liberty. - By Mr. Deakin: The witness was sure there were no bruises on the accused when he was on the ground; of that he was positive. The witness could not account for the accused's injuries at all. - The Coroner: I think that will be explained later.
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, William Ward, a waterside labourer, of Leyes-road, Custom-house, stated that he was in Commercial-road at 12.40 on Saturday morning last, and met Thompson at the corner of Union-street. The witness had been a warder of Pentonville, and therefore knew Thompson. He stood speaking to the deceased at the corner of Union-street for about twelve minutes, and while there seven men and two women created a disturbance by shouting and using bad language and singing. Thompson went to them and ordered them away. Thompson threatened to take the men into custody and six of them moved away. Abrahams, who was there, called the witness and the constable a foul name, and the witness assisted the constable to disperse them. Abrahams was with two women, and asked Thompson why he pushed him, but the witness and the constable moved to the other corner again. The six men then returned, and with Abrahams and the women, made a united rush at Thompson. Six men were again dispersed, and went across Commercial-road.
In answer to the coroner, Inspector Divall stated that every effort had been made to trace the women, but without avail.
Police-constable Zieba Beckett, 414 H, deposed that on Saturday morning he left Leman-street police-station about 1.20, in company with six other officers, in order to escort five prisoners to Arbour-square station. On reaching Commercial-road one of the other police-constables said, "Joe, run, there is a constable in trouble." The witness looked across the road, and saw the deceased and a man struggling opposite Morrison's-buildings, adjoining Union-street, and at once went across. The two stopped struggling when the witness got about ten yards from the men, and he then noticed blood spurting from the left side of the constable's neck. Abrahams' back was turned to the witness. The witness at once blew his whistle for assistance, but up to that time no whistle had been sounded. The deceased did not blow his whistle either before or after that, but other whistles were blown. Thompson and Abrahams fell to the ground after the witness noticed the blood,
When the witness reached them, blood was pouring from Thompson's neck over the prisoner, who was on his back on the ground. The constable had his right knee on the man. Thompson exclaimed to the witness, "I am done. He has stabbed me. Hold him," and then fell over on his left side, still clutching the prisoner's coat with both hands. Abrahams tried to rise, and the witness tried to loosen Thompson's grip with one hand, and with the other held Abrahams down.
The Coroner: Did he struggle? - Yes, sir. Police-constable Timms then arrived and assisted in getting Thompson's hands free from Abrahams' coat. - What were you doing? - I got the prisoner to his feet, and as he was still very violent. I drew my truncheon. I dealt him a heavy blow on the left shoulder. Another policeman at the same time struck him in the face with his fist. We then took him to Leman-street police-station. There was no one near Thompson and Abrahams when the witness first saw them struggling.
Police-constable Hurding, 51 H R, deposed that he was in charge of one of the prisoners going to Arbour-square, when he noticed Thompson struggling with Abrahams. He went across with his prisoners and rendered what assistance he could. He was positive that when he first saw Abrahams there were no injuries to his face. When Abrahams was got on to his feet he commenced to struggle, and a number of roughs who gathered round threatened the officer with violence. Police-constable Beckett then struck Abrahams a blow on the left shoulder with his truncheon, and as that did not quieten him, Police-constable Atkinson struck him a blow with his fist between the eyes. He then calmed down and was taken to the station. After that the witness found the pocket-knife produced, with the blade open, just on the spot where the prisoner had been lying.
Evidence was next given as to the lighting arrangements in the immediate neighbourhood of the tragedy.
Walter Atkinson, 231 H, another constable, gave similar evidence, and said that he struck the accused with his fists twice in the face. - Mr. Deakin: For what reason? - Witness: Because he had done an injury to my colleague. - You admit that as the sole reason? - Yes, I do.
Police-constable Tittle, 400 H, said that he was one of the constables in charge of prisoners, and when passing through Commercial-road, saw the deceased on the footway, and the accused about three yards from him. The deceased stepped off the footway, and walked towards the accused, who at the same time stepped towards the deceased. When within striking distance, the witness saw the accused
above his head, and apparently strike the deceased on the left side of the head. The deceased immediately seized the accused by the collar of his coat with both hands. A struggle ensued, and the deceased, and the deceased threw the accused on his back falling on top of him. The witness ran to the spot, and found Thompson to be bleeding from a wound on the left side of his neck. The witness subsequently saw Police-constable Hurding pick up the knife (produced). The deceased was placed in a cab, and removed to the hospital. Abrahams, after a struggle, was taken into custody. - By the Coroner: Blows might have been struck, but the witness did not see them. The deceased did not strike Abrahams first. - By Mr. Deakin: The witness did not see the accused battered with a truncheon. He did not see everything that happened, his immediate attention being occupied by the deceased.
Inspector Thomas Divall said that at seven o'clock on the morning he saw Abrahams at Leman-street police-station. After receiving a reply from him that he understood English, he formally charged him with killing the deceased by stabbing him with a knife whilst in the execution of his duty. The witness showed him the knife, remarking, "with this knife," and the accused nodded his head and said, "Then I am charged with maliciously killing?" and the witness replied, "You are charged with feloniously killing." After a pause, the accused said, "It is possible, but I don't remember anything about it; I had no cause to do any injury to anybody." - By Mr. Deakin: The witness could not say what the accused meant by nodding his head. The witness did not caution the accused, as it had been legally held not to be necessary.
Sergeant Frederick Wensley, of the H division, stated that he was present at the station when Abrahams was charged by the last witness (Divall). The witness heard the accused make the reply to the charge as above. Whilst taking a description of Abrahams, he said, "I did do it, it was an unlucky minute for me." He paused, and then added, "May his soul rest in peace;" after a further pause he added, "I regret it, but it can't be helped." - By Mr. Deakin: These statements were quite voluntary on the part of the accused. Police-constable Gallyer, 462 H, who was also present, corroborated his statement.
The adjourned inquest is being held to-day (Friday) as we go to press.
Beneath a dull and threatening grey December sky all that remained of the unfortunate constable was interred on Thursday last at Bow Cemetery. The plot of land where the deceased officer sleeps his last sleep was purchased by the H Division in the time of Superintendent Arnold for the interment of officers who had died on duty or from injuries received whilst on duty. Thompson's remains complete a pathetic and interesting quartette, and, as was only to be expected, his comrades in the force, speaking of course in its larger sense of comradeship, turned up in great numbers to pay a last tribute to one whom the Bishop of Stepney rightly called a "martyr to duty." Nearly 2,500 of the Metropolitan Police were present in uniform and were supported by a squad of 20 of the City Police, under Sergeants Bowles and Tapp, a similar number of the dockyard police division, and about a score of firemen. The bands of the H Division under the charge of Inspector Weidner, of the L Division under Inspector Fleming, of the Y Division under Chief-Inspector Bantruck, with their pipers were in attendance. Among the large number of officers present were Chief-Inspector Croft, H Division, who had charge of the arrangements; Sub-divisional Inspectors Pickett, Hider, and Holland (H), Mountfield and Collins (Y), Cousin (A), Wallace (J), Waite (S); Inspectors Davis, McSweeney, Hall, Merritt, Weidner, Cockshaw and Hatcher (H), Hamlin (B), Smith (C), G. Hudson (A), J. Holland (L), Evans (G), Fleming (L); Chief-Inspector Clark (V), etc. An enormous number of wreaths had been sent, all of the most elaborate and costly design. From his comrades at Arbour-square came a beautiful harp with a broken string, the work of Mr. J. Newman of Commercial-road. Nearly every division of the Metropolitan Police sent handsome wreaths, including P Division, N, J (2), Leman-street subdivision, Y Division, K, Limehouse sub-division, Bow sub-division, H, Shadwell sub-division, Thames, Commercial-street, L Division (2), Islington, S. Fulham, Paddington, Forest Gate, M.F.B. C District, City of London Police, G and T Division, Brixton, X Division, Bermondsey-street, Albany-street, Marylebone-lane, Bow-street, Blackheath, R Division, and Notting Dale. The coffin was carried on the shoulders of six of the deceased comrades, about eighteen others following, carrying wreaths, into Christ Church, Watney-street, to the strains of the Dead March, played by the L Division band. The H Division band met the body at the church with the "Adeste Fideles," and the clergy present were:- The Bishop of Stepney, Revs. F. J. Hobbins, A. E. Dalton, J. A. Faithful, E. C. Carter, W. Muirhead, F. Lewis Jones, F. W. Townshend. The Rev. F. J. Hobbins conducted the first part of the burial service, and the Rev. A. E. Dalton read the lesson, and the Bishop of Stepney gave a short address. Addressing the congregation, he said he had come there to show his sympathy. They were engaged in one common work, the kingdom of God was a kingdom of order, and they were comrades in work. Their brother had died as bravely as any soldier in South Africa, and had left them the inspiring sense of a soldier who had died at the post of duty. To those left behind there was the comfort of the old Christian message, "Death is not the end; there is another world." This old message was the only one to cheer us. They must also show their practical sympathy. The dear ones left behind must not be unprovided for, and he was certain both rich and poor would respond. Assuring them again of his deep sympathy, the bishop concluded his brief eloquent address. The funeral cortege was headed by the bands, who played in turn, "Dead March," the "Adeste Fideles," and Chopin's "Marche funebre" and consisted of a four-horse hearse, followed by an open carriage loaded with wreaths, and four closed carriages containing the mourners, who included Mrs. Thompson (widow) and two children, Mrs. Dowsett, Mr. Thompson (father), Miss Thompson (sister), Mr. George Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. Clark, etc. Proceeding by way of Pattison-street, Clark-street, past the Thames Police-court, Oxford-street, High-street, Harford-street and Bridge-street to Bow Cemetery, each side of the road being lined by the police who formed in the procession, which took nearly 20 minutes to pass one spot. At the graveside the concluding portion of the service was finished by the Rector of Whitechapel, and in the dark of a December evening, the final obsequies were rendered to Police-constable E. C. Thompson.
Major Gordon, M.P., asks us to publish the following appeal:- "The undersigned hope that you will allow them space for an appeal in your paper on behalf of the widow of the late Police-constable E. Thompson. She is left with four children under four years of age, the youngest being only a few months old. We understand that she will receive a small pension from the Police Fund, but this will not be sufficient to maintain her and her little children. Police-constable Thompson died in the execution of his duty and we venture to hope that his widow will not be allowed to want. Subscriptions will be gratefully received and acknowledged by the vicar of the parish, the Rev. F. Hobbins, 25 Stepney-green, E., and may be paid to the account of the "Thompson Fund," London and South-Western Bank, Stepney Branch, 368, Commercial-road, E., or to the London and Westminster Bank, Whitechapel-road, E. We, as a committee, will undertake the application of any funds so received. - Yours faithfully,
W. EVANS-GORDON, M.P.,
for Stepney Division;
STUART M. SAMUEL, M.P.,
for the Whitechapel Division, Tower Hamlets;
F. JOHN HOBBINS,
Vicar of Christchurch, Stepney;
J. A. FAITHFUL,
Rector of Whitechapel,
E. C. CARTER,
Vicar of St. Jude's, Whitechapel."