Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Turner Street Horror, a Whitechapel Tragedy.

The Turner Street Horror

     31 Turner Street is situated on the corner with Varden Street. In 1896 it was an umbrella case manufacturers run by Mr Jacob Myers. Saturday 4th April 1896 started off like any other Saturday in the Myers/Levy household. Mr Myers had gone to the local Synagogue whilst his stepfather Mr John Goodman Levy had stayed at home. The only other person in the house was Mrs Annie Sarah Gale, Mr Levy's housemaid.
31,Turner St
    Mr Levy (aged 75) was on the ground floor, he was "crippled" in both hands and he was also quite deaf. Mrs Gale was, that morning, making the beds on the 3rd floor of the building and so neither of them saw or heard a man breaking into the back of the house.
    The intruder first made for the bedrooms in order to ransack them. Here he found Mrs Gale, who, judging by the smashed hand she received from the intruders hammer and the amount of blood splatter around the room, put up quite a resistance. Mrs Gale was beaten unconscious and then her throat was cut. The burglar searched the rooms for any valuables collecting a small hoard, he then knocked a hole in the ceiling finally gaining entrance to the roof. Here he stashed his ill gotten gains before reentering the building in search of more.

    Old Mr Levy probably didn't hear or see the burglar until it was too late, he tried to escape to the WC but he was too slow. The hammer split his skull then his throat was also cut with such ferocity his head was almost severed. The burglar stripped the body of several gold rings, a heavy gold watch and chain adding them to his booty on the roof.
    Who discovered the crime is open to debate, a young boy looking over the fence and catching a glimpse of Mr Levy's body then raising the alarm is one story. The other is Mrs Martha Lawton (Mr Levy's Cousin) went to the house to keep a lunch invitation, when she got no answer to her knocking she realised something was wrong and sought help. A ladder was found and a Mr Schafer looked over the wall, he caught sight of the burglar and called out to him. The burglar ducked out of view.

    It wasn't long before PC Atkinson gained entry to the premises, finding Mr Levy's body he went back to the street, a crowd was gathering, he sought help from Mr John Mocock (manager of the East London Observer) and another man. Soon PC Richardson was at the scene also, but not knowing how many assailants were in the house they started a careful search.
    As they cleared each floor they saw the awful mess the ransacking burglar had caused. Finally they reached the room in which the body of Mrs Gale lay, there was blood everywhere, including the ceiling. It was here the constables noticed the hole in the roof. Outside a huge crowd had gathered, some press reports say up to one thousand. Several in the crowd including PC Bacchus saw the burglar on the roof and brought the attention of the constables to this fact.

    Seeing he was trapped the burglar threw himself off the roof plummeting some 40 feet, he hoped to land within the crowd and therefore escape serious injury, he failed. A small girl was hit on the back, the burglar mostly hit the pavement breaking his arm, fracturing his leg and suffering a severe blow to the head resulting in concussion. Both were taken to the Royal London Hospital, the gold fell from his pockets and was retrieved. Meanwhile the investigation was getting underway under the supervision of Superintendent Mulvaney of H Division, Chief Inspector Drew and Chief Detective Inspector White. The heavily Blood stained hammer, knife and a chisel were found on the roof and in the fatal bedroom.
A large crowd gathered outside.

    The divisional surgeons soon finished their work and the bodies were removed. Wednesday the 8th April was to be the date of the inquest headed by Mr Wynne E. Baxter at the Coroners Court on Commercial Road. Police soon discovered the identity of the murderer, William Seaman, a violent ex-convict out on license with a very long charge sheet.
William Seaman

    In 1870 he was sentenced to 7 years for burglary, in 1876 he was sentenced to 14 years for violence and in March 1888 he was sentenced to 7 years for wounding with intent, he went into a chemists and asked for a hammer, when the chemist handed it over Seaman promptly hit him on the head with it! All of these offences were committed in Whitechapel, as you can imagine, the trial didn't last long. Seaman tried to say he was provoked by Mr Levy who allegedly owed him 70l, it didn't convince anyone, guilty, death.

    On Tuesday 9th June 1896 William Seaman was led out of his Newgate cell with two other capitally convicted felons. All three were trussed, hooded and launched into eternity by Mr James Billington assisted by Mr Wilkinson. The next day serial killer Amelia Dyer met the same fate at the hands of Mr Billington in Reading. The Life and Crimes of Amelia Dyer