In the four a.m. darkness of a day in July 1858, Eliza Simpson, a married woman of Keate Street in London, shrieked “Murder.” A labourer in the house she occupied, along with her husband, ran to discover Michael Murphy kicking her with his wooden leg.

“If you come near, you black b….., I will serve you the same,” said Murphy.

As Eliza tried to escape down the stairs, her attacker threw her down from one landing to the next. She died a week later from brain injuries.

Covent Garden Flower Women
Photo by John Thomson via Wikimedia Commons

At the time, Eliza was recovering from a black eye, inflicted in unknown circumstances about five weeks earlier. She had drunk three half-pints of porter on the day of the attack and it was claimed that she was “in the habit of drinking.”

A few days after the attack another woman punched her in the face as she smoked a pipe in the local Spitalfields public house, The White Swan. Next day, she died without the benefit of medical help.

The man with a wooden leg, Michael Murphy, was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment for manslaughter.

What was she doing with Murphy at 4 a.m? Was she a prostitute? Where was her husband, and why was she attacked?

The Old Bailey Online answers none of these intriguing questions.

I’d love to know if anyone can tell me any more.


2 thoughts on “Crime and Justice in Victorian London: Unsolved Mysteries

  1. I do love an unsolved mystery! There is something compelling about them, isn’t there? Tantalising, too, because even if you can think of a possible explanation, you will never know if you are right. My own favourite unsolved mystery concerns a young mother who was hanged at the beginning of the last century for killing her child, even though the evidence against her was circumstantial at best. I do wonder what the truth was behind that story.


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