Assault on Braintree Workhouse Porter

Essex Herald - Saturday 13th July 1889

Saturday, July 13, 1889



On Monday last, John Ketley was again brought before the Braintree Magistrates charged with attempting to murder George Chandler, porter at the Braintree Workhouse. The magistrates present were H. R. G. Marriott, Esq, chairman, and Col. S. G. Savill; and there were also in court Capt. Showers, Chief Constable for the county; Mr. W. Southcott, a Member of the Braintree Board of Guardians; and Mr. F. Smoothy and Mr. J. H. Nicholas, who watched the case on behalf of the guardians. Supt. Elsey produced a plan of the workhouse.

George Hodges, an inmate of the workhouse, deposed: On the 28th of June I was quartered in the hospital; the prisoner was there; he was sitting on a settle in the yard when a boy came to him and asked him go to bed; the prisoner said to the boy, "Where is the porter?" The prisoner and the boy then went away together; the following evening I saw Ketley in the hospital yard, and when he left he went in the direction of the place where he slept.

The prisoner said he had no questions to ask. The witness's evidence was entirely false, because no one knew what he had been doing that evening.

Joseph Nowell, the master of the Workhouse, deposed to hearing the prisoner say, on the 25th of June, that he would swing for the porter. He continued: On Thursday night the prisoner was brought back to the workhouse by P.c Chapman; I was present when Ketley, Chapman, and Chandler were in the entrance hall together; the prisoner's conduct was menacing; I cannot remember the exact words used, but he threatened the porter; on the following Saturday evening I went to the passage near the kitchen, and saw the porter leaning against the passage wall covered with blood; he appeared badly injured; I sent at once for Dr. Taylor and the police; the porter was insensible; the place where I found him was on the way from the hospital to the receiving ward; I never heard the porter in any way aggravate the prisoner; his whole conduct was kind to all the inmates.

Alfred Algar, an inmate, repeated the evidence he gave last week, as to finding the porter leaning insensible against a wall smothered with blood and dust.

Mr. T. Taylor, medical officer of the Braintree Union Workhouse, deposed to being called to see Chandler. I found him, witness continued, in his own room; he was covered with blood and was incoherent and could understand nothing that was said to him; he was constantly vomiting; had three contused wounds on the forehead, a very severe wound on the right side of the back of the head, two severe wounds meeting on the left side of the back of the head, four wounds immediately below the top of the head, and four on the top — in all fourteen wounds; he was grazed on the forehead and on the upper part of the nose, and had a contusion over the left eye; his life has been in extreme danger; and is still in danger; he is certainly not fit to move; he has no knowledge of the cause of his injuries; the wounds were apparently inflicted by a blunt instrument similar to the one produced.

Supt. Elsey here produced a formidable-looking weapon, the centre pin of a round iron pig trough, whereupon the prisoner exclaimed "That is the thing that did do it."

George Wallis, another inmate, deposed to seeing Ketley get over the wall of the "Shoemaker's yard," on to the roof of the tramps' ward, and disappear over the outer wall; a few seconds afterwards witness saw him running across the fields in the direction of Mr. Mott's farm; the prisoner had the porter's straw hat in his hand; witness had never heard the porter aggravate the prisoner in any way.

John Spooner, fishmonger, of Braintree, stated: On the 25th June I saw the prisoner in the Market-place; he asked me if I would buy a watch and albert; I said it all depended on what they were like. He said "I have not got them in my possession now, but shall have between now and week's end;". I saw no more of him till about five minutes to eight on the Saturday night, when I was at the Lion and Lamb Inn; Ketley then went past, and a young man, standing in the bar, called him back and asked him to drink; Ketley took the mug in his hands, and I then saw blood on them; the young man said me, "Do you see his hands bleeding?" Ketley had a handkerchief on his hands; when he turned to leave Ketley touched me on the shoulder and said, "I've got that watch now, you can see it if you come with me;" I followed him down to the Great-square, and he began to make some rambling statement, and I then left him.

The Prisoner: What he is saying against me is all false.

Witness: I followed him down to the Cattle Market and saw him offer a watch and albert chain for sale; he held them up and said, "Will anybody buy these?" He went away towards the back of the Ship Inn.

The Prisoner: That is nearly all false, sir; I went in to get a drink of beer; you might as well hang me at once.

Harriet Nash, who keeps a lodging-house at the back of the Ship beerhouse, said: On the 29th of June, about eight in the evening, I was against my front door; I saw the prisoner coming from the Market-place in great haste towards me; he said, "I have done it! I have done it! may I go and wash the blood off my hands?" he went round the back and washed his hands; after he had washed he said to me," I will give myself up like a man," and went towards the Market-place; a few days previous to the 29th of June the prisoner was at my house, and he told me then that he would do something to get 20 years or be hung; I said, "Don't be silly, there's plenty of work about;" he said, "I know nothing about work, I am tired of my life."

The Prisoner: I don't remember saying anything about getting 20 years, but I believe the woman has spoken the truth.

P.s. Barnard repeated his evidence as to the prisoner giving himself up to him, and added: About a quarter past one on Sunday morning I visited the prisoner in his cell; he asked me if I how how the porter was; I said, "Very bad;" he said, "I hope he'll get over it, he took more of it than I thought he would." The same day Supt. Elsey and I examined the clothing which Ketley had worn and found blood on the coat, trousers, vest, and shirt; on Monday morning 

P.c. Chapman, a man named Creek, and myself found the iron produced in Mr. Smith's field at the back of the workhouse.

Superintendent Elsey deposed to charging the prisoner with the attempted murder of Chandler; the prisoner said, "I must put up with it; he egged me on to it;” he  afterwards said that the iron found was not the piece he meant to it with; the piece he meant to do it with was in the closet; witness went to the closet and found under the slates the piece of iron now produced; it was a piece of a furnace bar.

P.c. Chapman said that on Sunday, June 30th, the prisoner was under his charge at the station, when he said, "The first blow I struck he fell on his belly; I hit him several times more; he then turned his head and looked at me and said 'Don't;'" on Thursday, June 27th, about 11 at night, by instruction, witness went to the Workhouse yard and there found the prisoner; witness said, "What are you doing here at this time of night?" and the prisoner replied, "That ----- little ------! I will let that little ------ know all about this;" witness then went to the door with him, and the prisoner said "I will kill that ----- little ------."

The prisoner, in reply to the charge, said: I have reason to say that the porter was getting other paupers to go against me; the labour-master told me that he heard that I was going to do something to him instead of doing it to the porter; he said, "I hope you will tell me when you are going to do it;" I told him it was false what he had heard about me, and that they were telling him this to make it worse for me, and I said afterwards I would not just put up with it; I had reason to say that some one had been getting these men to say something false about me.

The Chairman: John Ketley, you are committed to take trial at the next Assize.

The prisoner: Very well, sir.

The court was crowded during the hearing of the case.