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Was Cutbush Framed?

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Was Cutbush Framed?

Post by Karen on Fri 24 Jun 2011 - 8:55



At the London County sessions, on Tuesday, Thomas Cutbush, aged 27, clerk, was arraigned on a charge of maliciously wounding Florence Grace Johnson and attempting to wound Isabella Fraser Anderson in Kennington.
- On the case being called, M. de Michele, who had charge of it for the Crown, said the only difficulty was as to whether defendant was competent to plead, by reason of the state of his mind; but Dr. Gilbert, the medical officer of Holloway prison, was in court, and would enlighten the Bench upon the matter.
- Dr. Gilbert was then called, and he stated that after carefully observing the accused he was convinced that although not absolutely insane, he was sufficiently so not to understand the gravamen of the charge brought against him, and was quite incompetent to plead.
- The jury thereupon issued a pronouncement to that effect, and the defendant was ordered to be detained during her Majesty's pleasure.
On Thursday, Mr. George Kirk, of 1A, Paternoster-row, E.C., solicitor, wrote as follows to the Daily Chronicle: - "My attention has been called to a report in your paper of the case of Thomas Cutbush, who was charged with maliciously wounding at the London County sessions (Newington sittings) on the 14th inst. In this it is stated - "Another scare was created by defendant stabbing a young female in Kennington with a toy dagger." As this is liable to create the impression that the defendant was guilty of the charges made against him, I write to explain that I (defendant's solicitor) had a large number of witnesses present on defendant's behalf to establish his innocence, and I was advised by eminent counsel, whom I had instructed to defend him, that his acquittal was almost a matter of certainty. Owing, however, to the action of the Crown in raising the issue of insanity first, the case was not gone into, although the defendant's friends were most anxious to have his innocence established. The circumstances are sufficiently painful to them without having it assumed and published that defendant was guilty of the crimes imputed to him, which there is good reason to believe he did not commit."
It will be remembered that in February a young man of 26, named Edwin Colocott, was arrested in the Clapham-road by a furniture dealer, named Charles Myers, and taken to the police-station. It was alleged that the accused was seen to push against some young women. At the trial on March 20, four young women gave evidence that at various times they had been struck from behind by some sharp instrument, their clothes being punctured and smothered in blood, and all of them suffering more or less from haemorrhage. They picked out the accused from among others at the police-station, but none of them were prepared to swear he was the man who assaulted them. The defence was that it was a case of mistaken identity. Stress was also laid upon the fact that the utmost search had failed to find a knife, and there was no proof whatever that the prisoner had been in the habit of carrying one. The jury, however, found him guilty, and, on a plea that he was of somewhat weak intellect, sentence was postponed until the next sessions. The accused remained in Holloway, and the medical officer there, Dr. Gilbert, subsequently said he did not think the prisoner's condition sufficient to warrant him in giving a certificate for his detention in a lunatic asylum. He considered him perfectly harmless and inoffensive. The judge (Mr. Somes) with the consent of the solicitor for the Treasury, agreed to the bail of the prisoner's father and uncle being accepted for young Colocott to be brought up for judgment when called upon. The father of the prisoner, while gladly agreeing to this arrangement, is still of opinion that the poor young fellow knows nothing whatever of the alleged offences, and is indeed a victim of mistaken identity.
Looking to the liberation of Colocott as a virtual recognition of his innocence, and finding that the family of Cutbush are disposed to say that that young man is in no way implicated in the offences, we have deemed it fit to make further inquiries into the case, which is of a very remarkable character. Throughout the winter considerable alarm has prevailed against the young women of Brixton, Clapham, Stockwell, Kennington, and the surrounding districts at the continual reports of persons being stabbed. The police stations were inundated with complaints, and in all cases the stabbing was said to have been done by a young man, who, after committing the offence, made off very rapidly. It can scarcely be expected that the public will feel satisfied with one accused person being tried, convicted, and then liberated; and another sent to a lunatic asylum without any full or proper inquiry. Where the guilt lies it is impossible for us to say. Matters of much concern have come to light, and we commend these points to the speedy attention of the solicitor for the Treasury, and hope all who can throw any light upon the stabbing will give the earliest information to the police. There will be a general agreement with the regret of Mr. Kirk that he was not able to enter into the defence of his client.
When Cutbush was brought up at Lambeth police-court Miss Florence Johnson, aged 16, residing with her parents in Fentiman-road, Clapham-road, stated that while walking along Kennington-park-road on March 5 she suddenly received a blow from behind, and felt that she had received some injury. On turning round she saw a man running away. Upon reaching home her garments were found to be cut through, and subsequently at the police-station Dr. Farr discovered a clean cut wound on the lower part of her back. Miss Johnson subsequently went to Peckham House Lunatic asylum, and there identified Cutbush as the man who had assaulted her.
Another witness, Isabel Fraser Anderson, aged 18, living in White Hart-street, Kennington, said on March 7 she was walking with a female friend in Kennington-road, about a quarter-past ten o'clock. She felt her dress pulled from behind, and then heard a sound as if the dress was being torn. She saw a man run across the road. She complained to a Mr. Smith, who pursued the man, but failed to catch him.
Robert Smith, clerk, said on March 7 he heard the last witness call out, and then she told him what had happened. He went into Princes-road and there saw a young man about 50 yards ahead running. Witness pursued him through several streets, but lost sight of him. He would not swear to the prisoner.
John Barton, milkman, said that on the night of March 7th he was at a dairy in Princes-road. He was in the yard when the prisoner ran from the road into the yard. The prisoner said he had been larking with some girls, and that some young men were after him to pitch into him, and that he had run into the yard for protection. The prisoner was allowed to remain for about a quarter of an hour, having concealed himself in a coal cellar.
Inspector Race deposed that when the prisoner was arrested, he said, "Is this for the Mile-end job? I mean the public-house next to the Syndicate (Synagogue), where I just missed her that time. They took me to be of the Jewish persuasion, and I got away." When charged at the station the prisoner made no reply. The dagger produced was given witness by the prisoner's aunt.
Serjeant M'Carthy stated that after the remand the prisoner said to his mother, "I am all right - they can't do anything with me. The sheath was only found on me." The aunt then said, "Tom, we have given the knife to the police. Do tell us where you bought it?" He replied, "Oh, you booby! They only found the sheath upon me."
A reporter learns that up to some four years ago Cutbush was a clerk, but excessive study is said to have unhinged his mind, and he ceased to follow any regular occupation. He lived with his mother and aunt at Kennington, people in comfortable circumstances, and did very much as he pleased. Early in March his state of mind was such that the parochial authorities were communicated with, and he was taken to the workhouse with a view to his being sent to a lunatic asylum. At seven o'clock on the morning of March 5 Cutbush was received at the workhouse, but at noon of the same day, attired only in his nightshirt, he escaped by scaling a wall some 12 feet in height. Entering a house near at hand by the back door he found clothes, boots, and a hat. After dressing himself in these he walked quietly out by the front door and returned home. He then disappeared again, and a few days afterwards was arrested at seven o'clock in the morning as he was attempting to scale the garden wall of his mother's house. He was again handed over to the parish authorities, and by them sent to the Peckham House asylum. During the inquiries which were being made by the police on behalf of the guardians, Inspector Race came into possession of the dagger referred to. This, although described as a "toy," is really a very formidable weapon, the sharp blade, tapering to a point, being nearly six inches in length, and also having a kind of strong sword-hilt. The black handle is knotted, seven points on either side being tipped with pearl. It bears the name of a well-known maker, and similar knives are exposed for sale at the East-end. The point of the dagger has a stain upon it, believed to be blood. As it was exactly the kind of weapon supposed to have been used by the miscreant who stabbed young women round Brixton, the suspicions of the police were excited. Witnesses were taken to the Peckham asylum, with the result already known.
In the face of these discoveries it is earnestly to be hoped that, in justice to the accused as well as for the satisfaction of the public, some means will be found for conducting an exhaustive inquiry into the whole circumstances of what is at present a great mystery. Helpless as Cutbush now is, as described by Dr. Gilbert, "not absolutely insane, but sufficiently so not to understand the charge brought against him"; and for the sake of his widowed mother, we have no wish to say one word to unduly press the case against him. The charge against young Colocott at first appeared very strong, but, as there are now ample and weighty means for believing him to be entirely innocent, so there may be facts which can be brought forward to show that Cutbush is another unhappy victim of damaging circumstances. What we plead for is inquiry, so that justice may be done, the innocent freed from suspicion, and the doubts of the public set at rest. For it is idle to deny that, in certain police circles, and among those who have had to inquire into the Brixton mystery, there is a growing feeling that it may in the end prove to be in some way connected with the darker and more tragic mysteries of the East-end. Cutbush has for some time past been known to the authorities. At one time he wrote a number of letters to a member of the Government, urging him to bring in a bill which shall render it illegal for medical practitioners to dispense their own medicines. This is believed to have had its origin in a delusion that the doctor who was treating him for a particular disease was endeavouring to poison him. For the last three or four years Cutbush has been studying medical works and, according to the testimony of a friend, he was a diligent reader of The Lancet. After his arrest some torn pieces of thick paper or cardboard were found in one of his overcoat pockets, and, upon being pasted together, these were found to present diagrams of women. They were brought up by the police at the police-court. One represented the trunk of a woman, with the walls of the stomach thrown open and the intestines exposed, and another was of a still more remarkable character, being partially drawn in red ink. Cutbush was for some time employed at a tea-merchant's near the Minories, and subsequently he canvassed the East-end on behalf of the Directory, which, of course, made him well acquainted with the district.
That the sudden disposal of the case at the sessions this week is not satisfactory, is shown by some inquiries made of a medical gentleman deeply skilled in the treatment of lunatics, by our reporter yesterday. "I think," said this authority, "they treated Cutbush rather badly in not allowing him to plead." On the remark being made that he was insane, the answer was, "Yes, of course he was, but he seemed to understand what was said to him." While under control we understand that he has not displayed any violence. At the asylum he is said to have "seemed very dazed, and as though he were under a great cloud." His conversation was very incoherent as a rule, but at times he spoke rationally. It is a curious circumstance that he always denied that he knew anything whatever of Whitechapel. He appeared very frightened when the young women were taken to the asylum to identify him.
A Lloyd's reporter had an interview last evening with Miss Haines, the aunt of Cutbush, who made the following statement: - My nephew was taken ill about two years ago, and was attended by a Doctor B_____. I don't know what was the matter with him, but I think it was a cold. He was very ill after taking the medicine, and wished to bring an action against the doctor. About that time Lord Grimthorpe proposed to introduce a bill to prevent doctors dispensing their own medicines, as in America, and my nephew went to him and cited his own case. He studied a good deal, and was accustomed to sit up very late at night reading. It was after that he became rather strange. He never went out at night, except to post his letters. He, perhaps, went for a little walk, but he was never out after 12. As to the stabbing cases we had witnesses. If we had been allowed to call them at the sessions to prove his innocence. On the 8th of March the parochial authorities, with whom we had communicated, sent five men to the house at seven o'clock in the morning, when my nephew was in bed. He was very much alarmed. He was taken to the St. Saviour's infirmary at Newington, where he was stripped. We were going to send him to the asylum as a paid patient. He escaped from the infirmary with only his undervests and socks on, followed by a crowd. He went into a school three streets off, and got a piece of cretonne, and covered himself over. He then got over the wall, and entered the house occupied by Mrs. D_____ . Mrs. D______ and the other occupants of the house were standing at the street-door looking at the crowd. Mrs. D______ was a tailoress, and he might have had a new suit if he had liked, but he only took an old pair of trowsers, a brown coat, and an old pair of boots with the soles nearly off. He got a hat from the house and got out of the house. He went wandering about and went to Hyde-park corner, where he knew he was likely to see his mother. He saw his mother get into a 'bus and he followed it. His mother got out of the 'bus and entered a tramcar. She had to wait a few minutes for the car, and that gave him time to catch up to her. He tapped at the window, and his mother turned round and saw a wretched, deplorable-looking object, and did not recognise him. That was about 20 minutes past eight. He then went down Birdcage-walk, and along the Embankment to the City Temple, where he spoke to Mr. Clark, the sexton, about five minutes past nine. Mrs. Clark gave him some water, and he spoke to her about Dr. Parker. He had been accustomed to attend Dr. Parker's lectures. He walked away. Mrs. Clark saw him in Fleet-street just before ten o'clock. He then went to the Salvation army barracks in Queen Victoria-street, and asked them if he could lie down. They told him that he ought to have called before five. He stayed on the Embankment until it struck 12, and then walked home. The stabbing case in the Kennington-road is said to have occurred on that night at half-past eight or nine, but you see my nephew was at the City Temple at nine. He couldn't have got from Hyde-park-corner to Kennington, and go to the City Temple between half-past eight and nine, could he? He came home from the Embankment, and we stayed up with him until four o'clock in the morning. We attended to his feet, and he had a bath and changed his clothes. I turned the clothes he had taken off out, and there was nothing in his pockets then except a little bit of tobacco. There was no knife in his pocket then, and he could not have bought one because he had not a half-penny in the world. He had half-a-crown in his pocket when he was taken away, but they took that from him at the infirmary. He promised us that if we went to bed he would go to sleep in the chair, and his mother gave him 10s. to go to Margate, and told him that she would send him more directly he wrote to say that he was there, or would come down to him. We went upstairs, but we had hardly got up when we heard a heavy tread outside in the street. We thought he would be frightened, and went downstairs and found he had gone. We heard nothing more of him until six o'clock on Saturday night, when we got a letter from a gentleman at Camden-town, saying he had met a gentlemanly young man who, he thought, was suffering from delusions, and who told him he was going to Hampstead-heath. He wanted the writer of the letter to hide him from men who were running after him, for they were going to murder him. My nephew came home that night about a quarter-past twelve, but went away again at four o'clock in the morning. He came in at one o'clock to dinner, and stayed until seven o'clock in the evening. He went to sleep, and I took the knife out of his pocket. I first saw it in his pocket on the Saturday night, but was afraid to take it out. He wandered about until half-past seven on Monday morning, when he was arrested by the police. He was arrested at the street door. We did not hear until the Tuesday of these charges, and I saw my nephew at the asylum, and asked him where he had got the knife. He then told me that he had bought it in the Minories, and I found afterwards that he had bought it at Messrs. D______'s. I had given the knife up before that - on the Sunday - to the police. It was perfectly bright then; not a mark nor a speck on it. I pointed that out to the police at the time. From nine o'clock until a quarter-past ten my nephew - on the Saturday night - was at Cotton's wharf in Tooley-street. It was on that night that one of the young women says she had her dress pulled at Princes-square, when they chased a man into the milk yard. The young woman says it was about nine o'clock. A man can't be in two places at once, can he? My nephew is only 25, and not 27, as stated in the papers. We had a number of witnesses, and we could have proved everything that I have told you.

Source: Lloyd's Weekly London Newspaper, April 19, 1891, Page 9

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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