Home Site Map Back

Bell's Weekly Messenger

London Ancestor logo

(No.1828, Sunday, April 10, 1831)

Between eleven and twelve o'clock on Wednesday it was discovered that an aged female, named Elizabeth Markham, who for several years kept a small broker's shop at the corner of Elizabeth street and North street, Dog row, Bethnal green, had been murdered in her own house. About the time above-mentioned one of her sons was passing the house, in company with a man of the name of Moxey, and being, as he says, surprised at seeing the doors and windows closed, he forced his way into the house, when the unfortunate woman was found dead, with her skull fractured in many places, and her person and the floor about her covered with blood. She was partly suspended by a jack-line from the latch of a door, which led from the kitchen to a small yard attached to the house. On examining the rooms up stairs, all the drawers, presses, and cupboards were found to be ransacked, and stripped of their property. There were also two beds, the one which the deceased lay on, and another, taken away, together with the bed-clothes, and various other articles of property. The last time she was seen alive was on Monday afternoon, and, from the circumstance of the house being closed during the whole of Tuesday, in the same manner as it was on Wednesday morning, there is little doubt but that the murder was perpetrated on Monday night. In consequence of some suspicions being entertained against the son, be has been taken into custody, together with a porter named Clarke, who was in the employment of the deceased.

On Thursday Samuel Dexter, son to the deceased, and the above-named Clarke. underwent an examination at Lambeth street Police Office, when the following evidence was adduced:—

Drew, an inspector of police, said, that on the day before, at twelve o'clock, he went to the house of deceased, and saw her lying in a small kitchen, with several wounds on her head and face, and a quantity of blood on her person and on the floor near to where she lay. He found that the drawers and chests up-stairs bad been ransacked of a quantity of property, and that two beds had also been taken away. He questioned the prisoner Dexter as to when he last saw deceased alive, and he said it was at least a fortnight. He had since examined his clothes, and found that the lining of his hat, and the corner of the handkerchief which he wore on his neck, were considerably stained with blood. He had also found a wooden roller near the body, with which he had no doubt the murder had been committed.

Robert Moxey deposed, that between 11 and 12 o'clock he was passing near the house of the deceased, and seeing a crowd about the door, he went up and asked what was the matter; on which the prisoner Dexter replied, that his mother had hung herself: he then rushed into the shop and on looking into a small closet, he observed the deceased in a recumbent position, with a cord tied tightly round her neck, and made fast to the latch of a back door. He instantly cut her down, and perceiving that the body was dreadfully mutilated, he sent for the police. Dexter was then present, and told him that he was obliged to force open the door, and that he called out several times for his mother before he saw her. Witness was, however, of opinion that he must have seen her the moment he entered the shop.

Robert Birch deposed, that on Sunday evening he passed the house of the deceased, and saw the prisoner Dexter and another man standing at the door. They were in conversation at the time, and he heard the former say, that so help him God if he could not get in by any other way, he would walk up the black ditch (a common sewer), from which there is an entrance to the deceased's premises, and that if he could neither get money nor goods, he would have her. Dexter, at the time, perceiving that witness was listening, became uneasy, and he and his companion were about to separate, when the former said, " There is only one place in the house where I think there is any money, and that's in the clock. Mind you don't disappoint me. Be here at the time appointed." They then went away. Witness passed the house on Monday night at ten o'clock, and saw Dexter come out with a bed on his shoulders. He could swear to the other prisoner as being the person whom he had seen with Dexter on Sunday night.

Anne Carr said, that she lived next door to the deceased, and that she and her sister had been frequently annoyed by the disturbances in the house. About three weeks since a man, who used to come there, knocked the deceased down, and dragged her about as if by the hair of her head. She cried out "Murder! " and told her assailant that he might as well murder her right out, as he had often threatened, as kill her by inches as he was doing. The man replied, that if she did not give him money or the papers, he would certainly treat her in the manner she before stated. The deceased said she would do neither, for that she would rather suffer death than that he should have the produce of her hard earnings, at least during her life-time, and that, as he used her so cruelly, she would not open the door to him for the future. He said that this would not prevent his coming, as, if he got in by no other means, he would obtain an entrance by the black ditch. Witness heard no particular noise on Sunday or Monday: but during the greater parts of those days and evenings they were from home.

Henry Tuddenham, apprentice to Dexter, was then called, and stated, that on Wednesday morning he passed the deceased's house with the prisoner; he rapped at it once or twice hastily, and then pushed it open, and entering the shop, exclaimed— "Mother, Mother.—Oh! she is murdered!"

Dexter in his defense, denied having stated to Drew that he had not seen his mother for the last fortnight. He was remanded until Monday. He is son to the deceased by a former husband, and about 40 years of age.

Inquest on the Body.

On Friday forenoon, Mr. Baker, the Coroner, and a jury composed of the parochial officers and the most respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood, assembled at the Lord Collingwood, Collingwood street, Dog row, to inquire into the circumstances attendant on the above barbarous murder.

The evidence of the three first witnesses called, namely, John Markham, the son of the deceased; Anthony Rawlings, her son-in-law; and William Lincoln, a relative of hers, was not at all important to the case, as it merely related to the property and habits of the deceased. It appeared that the former consisted in two low old houses, one of which she lived in, 40l. in the Finsbury Savings bank, and some articles of furniture in her shop and dwelling-house. She was of a very close penurious disposition, and was scrupulously attentive in her attendance at places of worship on the sabbath, and frequently on week days; but none of the witnesses could say whether or not she had any money in her house or possession.

Mr. F. Agar, a surgeon, stated that, by the request of the parochial authorities of Bethnal green, he had examined the body of the deceased. There were two extensive wounds on the top of the head; the one of a circular form, and extending 2½ inches in diameter, the other was a little more to the right, of about two inches in length, and half an inch in depth. From the violence with which they were inflicted, the skull was much fractured, and two small bones were forced into the brain. There were other wounds, but those that he had described were the cause of her death. He (Mr. Agar) was satisfied that the deceased did not die from strangulation, but from the cause described.

Coroner.—Do you think it was possible for the deceased to have inflicted these wounds herself? I do not.

Mr. Bellingham, another surgeon, corroborated the evidence of Mr. Agar.

John Cox, who keeps a chandler's shop close to the house of the deceased, said that on Tuesday evening, about four o'clock, a man, with a basket on his arm, called at his house, and asked him if he had noticed or seen the old woman at the broker's shop that day, as it was rather unusual that her shop should be closed all day. Witness said that he did not see her; and added that there was nothing unusual in the shop being closed for a day or two, and the inquirer went away. When the alarm of the murder was given on Wednesday, he thought he saw the same person, then apparently in grief, that called at his shop on the Tuesday evening to inquire about the deceased, but he could not speak with confidence. He was not acquainted with the person of Samuel Dexter, nor had he seen him since he was taken into custody.

In a reply to a juror—The witness said that the basket which the man had who called on him, was similar to those used by painters and plumbers.

The examination of this witness not concluding until half-past eleven o'clock, and there being several others to be yet examined, the inquest was adjourned until Monday. The room throughout the day and night was crowded with persons anxious to hear the investigation.