Victorian London - Crime - Violence, murders and assaults - The Southwark Murder (Jane Soper)

The Times, Thursday, October 20, 1875


Yesterday the jury returned a verdict of "Wilful murder aganist some person or persons unknown in respect of the death of Mrs. Soper, who, as previous reports in The Times have shown, was struck on the head by an intended robber, and from this blow death ensued. The inquest was held at Guy's Hospital, before Mr. Payne, the City and Southwark Coroner, the case being watched for the Metropolitan Police Commissioners by Superintendent Garforth, and for the City Police Commissioner by Inspector Wickham. It will be remembered from the reports given in these columns that before 9 o'clock on Sunday morning, the 12th of September, the police (a City police-constable being sent from London-bridge and other constables from St. George's Church) found Mrs. Soper, the housekeeper to Mr. Turner, wholesale confectioner and baker, of 151, Borough High-street, had been attacked by a man who had gained admission through the private door in King-street, by stating that he came for bread from "the Cannon-street Hotel," and that the man had decamped on her raising an alarm, first striking her a blow on the head which caused her death, and gagging her by stuffing a handkerchief into her mouth. The evidence on the previous occasion showed that the man, whoever he was, left a false beard and whiskers in the passage, but was not seen to go from the house. A man was seen at the door by Goole, a ginger-beer seller, who stands at the corner of Union-street, Borough, on Sunday mornings; and Goole stated that he heard cries of murder down the street, and on going down the Street to find out whence they came he saw a policeman also looking about. Goole said he could not find out where the cries came from, and he returned to his stall. Police-constable W. Cooper, 300 M, now called, stated that be went on the beat on the north side of King-street (that side opposite to Mr. Turner's private door) at 6 o'clock in the morning of the occurrence, and left at 10. Another policeman was on duty on the south side. The witness said be heard no cries of "Murder" in King-street on that morning, and did not look about the house or its neighbourhood to ascertain whence any such cries came. Constable Robert Ferris, 308 M, who was on duty at the time on the south side of King-street, stated that he did not hear any such cries as described by the witness Goole. The witness saw the man Goole at the ginger-beer stall but neither saw anybody go to Mr. Turner's house or leave it. Robert Binning, 273 M, stated that he was called about 9 o'clock on the Sunday morning to Mr. Turners house, and on going there saw a City policeman, 801. Having ascertained the facts of the case from the City policeman, and that the woman had been sent to the hospital, the two of them searched the house. There was no key in the lock (the deceased woman made a statement to the effect that the intended robber took it away), and on the stairs were two separate patches of blood about the size of the palm of the hand; there was blood on the walls, blood on the oilcloth of the floor, on the door, and on the lock. There were scratches on the floorcloth as of a scuffle, and the fastened shopdoor leading from the passage had marks upon it as of a chisel, showing that attempts had been made to force it. The woodwork was chipped. No one was found in the house, and every part was searched. Sidney Longhurst, City police-constable 801, stated that at a quarter past 8 o'clock on this Sunday morning he was on duty on London-bridge, and some young men in passing said, "A woman has been stabbed in the Borough," and they added that a policeman was there. He went to Mr. Turner's house, and saw there a crowd of people, a cab at the door, and Policeman 310 M inside with the wounded woman. While the woman was being taken to the hospital by 310 M witness remained, and no one left the house while he was there. Then Binning came, and together they searched the house. The false whiskers and beard found in the passage had been taken by Constable 310. Thomas Compton, a baker in the employ of Mr. Turner, stated that he slept at the house on the Saturday night previous to the Sunday morning in question, and left the house with another baker at a quarter past 8 in the morning. The only persons who slept there were Mr. Orams, who represented Mr. Turner, the other baker named Crawley, and the deceased. Mrs. Soper let them out on Sunday morning, and was then in her usual good health and spirits, and Mr. Orams was at the door going out too. (Mr. Orams previously gave evidence that he went to catch a train a little after 8 30.) Crawley went away, and witness went to a coffeehouse in King-street to get some breakfast. No one was then near the house. When he came out of the coffeehouse he noticed a man standing at his master's door - a man who had his back to witness, but witness could see that the man had a long beard and whiskers. The man had on dark clothes and a dark felt hat, and he was pulling his hat on when witness passed. Witness fancied that he was a man whom he had seen in Union-street, but he did not know him at all. Witness heard no screams and heard nothing of the affair until he returned. George Crawley, the other baker who slept in the house, and left on Sunday morning, the 12th, said it was well known among the workmen on the premises that the money was banked on every Saturday. He confirmed the witness Compton's evidence about their passing out together on Sunday morning, and going different ways. He said he did not see anybody about when he left, and did not notice the ginger-beer man. Six months ago, he said, Mr. Turner used to supply the Cannon-street Hotel with bread, and the used to be regularly delivered by a man who had left Mr. Turner's employ.  Witness had never seen the false whiskers and, shown the handkerchief which was used to gag deceased (it was covered with blood), he said he had never, to his recollection, seen it before, and the previous witness, recalled, said he had not seen it that he knew. Chief inspector Druscovitch, of the Scotland-yard detective force, gave evidence showing that no one could have left the house by a window where blood was found, and the blood there was caused by the poor woman crawling there to cry out for the police. The coroner summed up the case, and said this was a matter in which the authorities were likely to offer a reward. The jury at once returned the verdict recorded - that of Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.

Times, October, 1875

The Times, October 29, 1875

THE MURDER IN THE BOROUGH - The Government have offered a reward of 100, to which Mr. Turner of 151, High-street, Borough, has added another 100, to any person who shall give such information and evidence as shall lead to the discovery and conviction of the person who, on the 12th ult., inflicted mortal injuries upon Miss Jane Soper, housekeeper to Mr. Turner. The following is the description of the suspected person:- "About 40 years of age, 5ft 8in. or 9in., broad muscular man, long arms, fair black trousers, clean boots; seen to come from St. George's Church, Borough, and turn into King-street at 8.20 a.m. on the day mentioned above; took with him a large door-key, and left behind false black whiskers about 7in. long, and moustache; had the appearance of a waiter or baker." Information may be given to Superintendent Williamson of Scotland-yard, or any of the metropolitan stations.

Times, October, 1875