A CAST OF THOUSANDS
BY CHRISTOPHER SCOTT
The case of Colicott occurred in the same year as that of Thomas Cutbush (q.v.). Indeed, the two cases have been confused both in press reports at the time and other accounts since. Colicott was arrested for attacks on a number of young women in the Kennington area, which involved the victims being stabbed from behind. In the confidential memorandum that Melville Macnaghten prepared in response to articles in The Sun newspaper regarding Cutbush, Macnaghten states that Cutbush was acting in imitation of Colicott.
He wrote: "This Cutbush, who lived with his mother and aunt at 14 Albert Street, Kennington, escaped from the Lambeth Infirmary (after he had been detained only a few hours, as a lunatic) at noon on 5th March 1891. He was rearrested on 9th idem. A few weeks before this, several cases of stabbing or 'jobbing' girls behind had recurred in the vicinity and a man named Colicott was arrested, but subsequently discharged owing to faulty identification. The cuts in the girls' dresses made by Colicott were quite different to the cut made by Cutbush (when he wounded Miss Johnson) who was no doubt influenced by a wild desire of morbid imitation."
So who was this Colicott that Cutbush was supposed to be imitating? First there is the matter of his name. In press reports and census data I have seen his name rendered as Colicott, Colocitt and even Calcutt. In fact, the correct spelling was Colocott and his full name was John Edwin Colocott. In the reports of the court proceedings, his name is given as Edwin Colocitt. He is listed as being 26 in 1891 (although it is listed as 24 in another report) and living in Aldebert Road.
There is no Aldebert Road in London anymore, although there is a Aldebert Terrace in South Lambeth, near where his crimes were committed. In a bit of a legal oddity, his sentencing was delayed until details of Cutbush's crimes were known, as they were so similar in nature. Aldebert Terrace finally enabled me to track down Colicott and get fuller details about him. The family details in 1891 read as follows:
43 Aldebert Terrace, Lambeth, London
John Thomas Colocott aged 51
Born Southwark, London
Hannah Colocott aged 50
Born Islington, London
John E Colocott aged 27
Born Kingsland, London
There is a column on the census form to note any disability - John Colocott is noted
as "Weak Intellect"
There is an account in an American newspaper of Colocott's arrest and trial. This appeared in the Centralia Enterprise and Tribune (Wisconsin) dated 14 March 1891and names the main witness as one Myers who chased and arrested him.
HAD A MANIA FOR BLOOD
Juvenile Jack the Ripper Sent to a London Asylum
London, Feb. 7.
A companion fiend to Jack the Ripper, only on a somewhat lesser scale, was sent to Broadmoor insane asylum today, there to be confined during what is known as "Her Majesty's pleasure," and which practically means life. His name is Edward Colocitt, and he is the young son of a wealthy jeweler of this city.
Some time ago the police authorities commenced to receive numerous complaints from young women in the western suburbs to the effect that while out after dark they were approached by a young man who came suddenly up behind them, and stabbed them in the back with a sharp instrument about the thickness of an awl.
Extra detectives were put on duty in the districts from which the complaint came, but for some time without result. A couple of weeks ago, however, a furniture dealer noticed Collocitt standing behind a couple of young ladies in a suspicious manner, and determined to watch him. Suddenly he made a step forward, and gave one of the young women three stabs with his right hand in the back.
Then he took to his heels, but was followed by Myers, the man in question, and arrested. After the fact of his incarceration was made known nineteen women identified him as their assailant. Six of these gave evidence in court, and the doctors testified that all of them had one or more clean cut, punctured wounds on portions of their anatomy immediately below the hip joint, and which had evidently been made by a very pointed awl.
A weapon of this kind was thrown away by Collocitt while he was being pursued. It was testified that the total number of his victims was over sixty. The jury promptly found him guilty, but, on account of his wealthy connections, the plea that he was of weak intellect had its effect, and instead of going to the penitentiary he was committed to the lunatic asylum. One feature of his mania consisted of his selecting as victims plump young girls between the age of 14 and 18.
The 1871 census entry for the family gives their address at that time as 85 Falmouth Road, St Mary Newington, Lambeth, London.
John T Colocott aged 31 born Lambeth
Hannah J Colocott aged 29 born Islington
John E Colocott aged 7 born Kingsland, Middlesex
There is no mention in the 1871 census of "weak intellect."
The sentencing of Colocott is described in this press account:
21 MARCH 1891
"Edwin Colocitt, 26, was brought up to receive
sentence, having been convicted at the February
Session of maliciously wounding Maude Kerton and
several other young women by stabbing them with some
sharp instrument. Mr. Torr prosecuted for the
Treasury; and Mr. Lowe defended. After a consultation
between counsel, Mr. Somes bound the prisoner over to
come up for judgement when called upon. He accepted
the father's and uncle's sureties each in £100, with a
proviso that a competent attendant should be engaged,
who would be responsible for prisoner's safe conduct.
The father also engaged to exercise such care and
supervision over the prisoner as to protect the public
from the possibility of any repetition of the offense."
Colocott was never considered a suspect in the Whitechapel murders. His only interest lies in the confusion that arose between him and Thomas Cutbush who was stated by the Sun newspaper to be the Whitechapel killer. Although Colocott suffered from some form of mental incapacity and certainly behaved in an alarming and potentially dangerous, and although his conduct must have been distressing and frightening for the young ladies who attracted his attention, there has never been any suggestion that he has any direct bearing in the cases of the murders attributed to the Ripper.