17th November 1861


On Wednesday evening, an inquest was held on the body of M Ernest Becker, aged 60, a German artist, who, through distress, committed suicide by blowing out his brains.

The deceased resided at 88 Charlotte-street, Fitzroy-square, where he occupied apartments as a sleeping room and a studio. He had formerly been in affluence, but latterly his circumstances changed and although he possessed pictures to the value of upwards of £100, he set such store by them that he would not part with them on any consideration. He thus became steeped in the deepest poverty.

About four o’clock on Monday afternoon, a loud report of fire-arms was heard proceeding from M Becker’s apartment. On entering, the body of the unfortunate gentleman was found lying on the hearth in front of the fire-place, with his head literally blown to atoms, and a large pistol lying nearby. The ball had passed completely through the deceased’s head, and lodged in the style of the middle room door.

Verdict, temporary insanity.


George Randell, a dirty-looking man, who described himself as a painter and stated that he was 50 years of age, was charged with being in a dwelling house at 9 Hornsey-street, with intent to commit a felony.

On Sunday evening, a lodger returned from church and knocked on the door. Before it was opened, she heard a disturbance in the house as of some person scrambling up the stairs. When the servant opened the door, she appeared quite flustered, and this, coupled with the state of disarray of her clothing, caused some suspicion, and after supper, every room in the house was searched.

Under the bed in the female servant’s room, the prisoner was found lying at full length with his coat and boots off. There was no doubt that the prisoner had been in the house several times before. The servant admitted that she let the prisoner in the house frequently.

Mr Barker discharged the man, telling him that, as a married man, his conduct was very disgraceful and he had better be careful not to be found in such a predicament again.


Last Thursday evening a robbery on a large scale was committed at the house of Mr W J Barker, surveyor, 29, Bessborough-gardens, Vauxhall Bridge-road. At about half-past-six Mrs Barker and some friends went to the theatre, leaving Mr Barker and the servant, Mary Newell, only in the house. Shortly afterwards, Mr Barker went out, stating that he should return home between nine and ten o’clock. On his doing so he knocked for a long time without obtaining an answer.

He noticed that although the gas was burning in different parts of the house, the light in the passage was extinguished. Finding it impossible to obtain admission, Mr Barker applied to Mr Allen, his next neighbour, and this gentleman entered the house by a back window, which was found open.

A most extraordinary scene presented itself. In the passage stood a pail, containing a red fluid, which was supposed to be blood. Near it lay two parts of a poker, which had been broken in two and to which adhered blood and hair, which was presumed to belong to the servant girl.

The whole house was in confusion, the articles of furniture having been strewn about in every direction. Mr Barker, not being able to find his servant, repaired to the police-station in Rochester-row, and Mr Humphreys, an inspector of the B division, immediately accompanied him back to the house. Diligent search was then made for the servant, but she was nowhere to be found. It was evident, by two bonnets belonging to her being in their places, that she must have left or been taken from the house without one.

On entering the parlour a quantity of plate was found packed up ready for removal, and in the drawing room a valuable clock was in the same condition. In the bedroom several trinket boxes also were found empty, whilst the drawers had been cleared of their contents. The servant’s boxes had been emptied, and her clothes and some letters strewn about the room. It seemed as though an entrance to the house had been effected by a back window into the hall, as a pane of glass was broken near the fastening, and the window was found open.

Upon a close examination, it was evident to Mr Humphreys that the pane of glass had been broken from the inside, and that, coupled with the circumstance that only the drawers containing valuable property had been opened, led him to the conclusion that the servant girl, far from being murdered, had committed the robbery, perhaps with an accomplice.

In the course of a few hours Mr Humphreys ascertained that a cab had taken up a young man with a large box in the form of a settee, a large portmanteau, and a carpet-bag from Mr Barker’s, at a quarter to nine on the evening in question, and had proceeded to the Eastern Counties Railway, where he had been seen walking up and down the platform for an hour, smoking cigars. It was next ascertained that the young man, who had picked up a companion in the train, had slept at the White Hart at Brentwood that night, declining to have part of a double-bedroom with his companion. Next morning he proceeded alone to Great Yarmouth.

Michael John Sheen, a detective officer, was sent after the man. It was certain that the box in the form of a settee had been taken from Mr Barker’s, and was among the luggage conveyed with the passenger, but who he was there was nothing to show. The cigar-smoking negatived the notion that it could possibly be Mary Newell.

The young man, having arrived at Great Yarmouth, took apartments at No 10 Row 136, calling himself Mr Heath (the name of a gentleman residing with Mr Barker). Producing his card, he stated that he had come to Yarmouth to fill the situation of clerk in an insurance-office. He made himself very agreeable, chatted and smoked, and ordered his dinner at late hours. Having dressed himself in a suit of the gentleman’s clothes whom he personated he took his landlady to the theatre, and on Sunday to church.

In the afternoon, Sheen found where the settee had been taken to. He called at the house and told the landlady that he would wait to see her gentleman lodger, who was then out. In the course of an hour he came home. He entered smoking a cigar, and was at once discovered to be Mary Newell. The officer then told her his business, and brought her to town on Tuesday.

The prisoner was placed in the dock of the West police-court, in the attire in which she had been captured—another suit of Mr Heath’s—wearing one of his shirts and Wellington boots. She had cut her hair short, the more closely to resemble a man. She buried her face her hands and endeavoured to hide herself from the gaze of those present. In the course of the day clothing of a more feminine nature was procured for her.

The prisoner was sentenced to hard labour for 18 months.

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