A gun-toting burglar in the Hornsey Road

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The Hornsey Road, c.1900

At about 3 o’clock in the morning of the 31 October 1898 two men clambered over the back wall of a property in Hornsey Road and attempted to break in through a window. The property was a pawnbrokers belonging to Mr Lawrence situated at number 368 (near Tollington Park and what is now the Arsenal stadium). The pair had a ladder but their actions woke Mr Lawrence’s housekeeper who raised the alarm.

The would-be burglars (James Long and William Marlow) turned tail and ran. Two police officers were close by having hurried to the scene and both gave chase, blowing their whistles. This summoned more officers to the pursuit but Marlow managed to slip away through the park.

Long was not so lucky. As he sprinted into Palmerston Road he ran ‘full tilt against Constable Baxter, who seized him, and asked him where he was going’. The former ticket-of-leave man was not beaten yet however. Reaching behind his back he pulled a revolver and thrust it against the policeman’s stomach.

PC Baxter might have been forgiven for letting go of his captive but instead he ‘knocked his arm up, and after a struggle’ wrestled the firearm from him. The newly arrested Long was then marched to the station.

Marlow was soon picked up at 479 Hornsey Road by detectives acting on information and the pair were presented at the North London Police Court. The court heard that two women that lived at the Hornsey Road address and who cohabited with the men, gave evidence that the pair had gone out at eight that night and Marlow turned on his mate in the dock, accusing him of ‘putting him away’.He told the police inspector ‘if it wasn’t for the fact that I was living in the same house as Long, you wouldn’t have suspected me!’

Inspector Mountfield said that both men had been identified by the officers who were involved in the chase. A local milkman appeared to confirm that he had found two dark lanterns and a pair of ‘burglar’s jemmies’ abandoned in a garden in Victor Road. Inspector Mountfield added the forensic information that the jemmies had traces of yellow paint that matched that on Mr Lawrence’s window frames.

Long denied he had taken place in the burglary and also tried to deny threatening PC Baxter with a revolver. No one was fooled by the pair’s bluster and both men were sent to trail at Old Bailey. On the 21st November that year both men appeared at the Central Criminal Court where they were convicted of burglary. Both confessed to a number of other offences and Long was additionally charged with ‘shooting with intent to do grievous bodily harm’. He was sentenced to ten years’ penal servitude, Marlow was sent away for five.

[from The Standard, Monday, November 14, 1898]

‘a terrible tale of drunkenness and cruelty’

In May 1890 Allen McLucas appeared at the North London Police Court charged with threatening to murder his sister-in-law, Sarah Ann. McLucas was described as a 47 year-old traveller living in South Hornsey. Sarah Ann deposed that the prisoner had visited her and when she answered the door he had rushed at her, grabbing her around the throat and ‘put a razor to it, saying he intended that for her’. Fortunately she managed to wriggle free and escaped in to the back garden and was helped over a wall by her neighbours.

When he was arrested he was found to have a revolver in his pocket.

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At the hearing McLucas’ wife told the court ‘a terrible tale of his drunkenness and cruelty’. McLucas admitted to deserting from the 11th Hussars some 12 years earlier and she claimed she had done everything possible to shield him from prosecution for that act. However in return she had suffered greatly; ‘Many times I have had to run for my life’, she said, and ‘only on the 1st of this month I got out of the bedroom window in [her] nightdress’ and sought shelter with her neighbours.

Allen McLucas pleaded for forgiveness and even promised to return to his regiment and face the consequences. His wife was prepared to forgive him but was not prepared to take him back without ‘protection’ from the court. The magistrate offered him freedom if he could find sureties willing to answer for his behaviour for the next six months. He couldn’t and so he was taken away, to be remanded in prison for his wife and her sister’s safety.

It is sometimes assumed that domestic violence was rife in nineteenth-century London and that this was a working-class problem. Men got drunk and beat their wives; the police ignored it and only occasionally did the state do anything about it. In reality the police courts are full of domestic violence cases, which suggests that women were prepared to use them – even if it may have been a last resort. The law was not entirely impotent and some justices took a very dim view of male violence, particularly when directed at the ‘weaker’ sex.

Hopefully Sarah Ann managed to make a new life away from her abusive spouse but that in itself was hard in the period before a benefit system. Far too many Victorian wives (of all classes it has to be said) simply put up with it; those that fought back, or ran away, risked a much worse fate as the depressingly large number of domestic murders attests.

[from Daily News , Tuesday, May 13, 1890]