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The Borough Mystery: continued

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Secret London
Murder Ballads

"I took the man to be perfectly sober," he continued. "The gentleman did not stagger, but looked round wild, as if he did not know where he was going. [.] His face was florid and he looked worried." Rothwell's guess was that Roberts and Kirwan had planned to sit quietly together in the gardens for a few minutes, but that the children's persecution forced them to abandon this idea. Instead, they walked straight through Redcross Gardens and out the other side into Redcross Way.
Roberts led Kirwan back to the One Distillery, where Waller, Balch and Noble were again seen lurking outside. This time, when the couple emerged, they walked on past Whitecross Street towards Southwark Bridge Road. Someone had chased the children away by this time, but the three would-be muggers and Kelly were still following.

'The gent did not stagger, but looked round wild, as if he did not know where he was going.'

At about 1:20pm, Roberts and Kirwan stopped on a patch of waste ground where Union Street met Southwark Bridge Road, and that's where Kelly decided to abandon the chase. "When I last saw the doctor, he was drunk," Kelly said. "The gentleman appeared to be drunk and could hardly stand." Asked why he hadn't found some policemen when he saw how vulnerable Kirwan had made himself, Kelly replied, "Because I don't like them enough'. (9)
Waller and the others must have got rid of Roberts at this point, because there was no sign of her when they bundled Kirwan into a Whitecross Street pub called The Lord Clyde at about 1:30pm. Henry Lee, who was already drinking in there at the time, found himself caught up in the murder trial that followed, but seems simply to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. (10)
Elizabeth Knight, the landlady at The Lord Clyde, said Kirwan sat on a bench opposite the bar, closely flanked by Waller and Balch. Noble ordered a jug of beer, and Kirwan produced a sovereign and a sixpence from his pocket to pay for it. Another drinker at the bar that day saw Noble take the coins from Kirwan's hand, pay for the beer with the sixpence, and slip the remaining sovereign into his own pocket.
Noble poured a glass of beer from the jug for Kirwan, which he drank. The others drank a mouthful or two for the sake of form, but clearly their real purpose was to pour as much beer into Kirwan as possible. Noble moved to fill the doctor's glass a second time but Kirwan rebelled, sweeping it off the table to shatter on the floor in a splash of spilt ale. Noble tried to explain this away by saying Kirwan was "my uncle from the country", and quickly paid Knight tuppence for the smashed glass.
Questioned at the coroner's hearing, Knight said she didn't know if the three men had slipped anything into either the jug of ale or into Kirwan's individual glass. "They drank after the deceased, but I do not know whether from the same glass or not,' she added.
Watching all this was George Williams, a local pharmacist, who'd had a good deal of experience treating problem drinkers while he was in the army. "The gentleman appeared dazed, as if on the borders of delerium tremens or recovering from its effects," Williams said. "He seemed to be recovering from a bout of drinking. He was not sober, nor could it be said that he was actually drunk. He had a dark overcoat open, and I could see a gold chain."
After the incident with the smashed glass, Knight called her husband over to make sure Noble and his friends behaved. When Waller saw him approaching, he decided it was time to leave, and the four men got to their feet. "Waller said, 'Let us go out,' and they filed out," Williams recalled. "The gentleman went in the centre of two men, I believe Waller and Noble, and the other two were behind." The second of these two men following on was Lee, but another witness said he got no further than The Lord Clyde's doorway, and watched the others walking away up Whitecross Street from there.
"The doctor remained in the house from 1:30pm till about 2:10," Knight said. "He seemed sober, but sleepy, as though he had been up all night. When going out, he seemed to need assistance, as if he was in pain, from the the way he held his hand." Later she added: "Only one pot of beer was had. Both the deceased and the men seemed to be in deep conversation. The deceased was perfectly sober. When he went out, he was bent as if in pain." (11)
Looking out of her window at 5 Whitecross Street, Emma Smith saw the group of four men approaching the entrance passageway to a pub called the George IV. The pub itself fronted on to Southwark Bridge Road, but could also be reached through this narrow, partially-covered and shadowy alley from Whitecross Street. The passage was just wide enough for one person to pass at a time, and led back about four or five yards to the George IV's rear door.
"Two men were on one side of the deceased, and one on the other," Smith said. "They were all arm-in-arm and humming to themselves. They looked as if they were out for a day's spree, had had a drop and got dazzled. They were walking towards the passage."
Two of the local children were watching too. Lizzie Williams, 10, and John Wentworth, 13, both lived in Whitecross Street, and Wentworth was tending his donkey cart there when the men passed. Williams, who knew there'd been a spate of muggings in Whitecross Street recently, immediately guessed what Kirwan's captors had in mind. "I called Mrs Sweeney and said, "I think those three men are going to rob that gentleman," she said. (12)
"They were coming from the Lord Clyde," Lizzie Williams continued. "Waller had hold of the gentleman's right arm, Balch had hold of his left. They were telling the gentleman to sing 'Ta-ra-ra boom-de-ay'. The gentleman appeared very tired. His feet were dragging along the ground. His face was white. He was leaning forward, supported by his umbrella, and the men were holding him up as they walked along. He looked like a man who wanted to go to sleep. His eyes were half-closed." (13)
Wentworth gave exactly the same account. "The gentleman was leaning over," he said. "He was leaning forward, and would have fallen if he had not been supported. They went towards the passage and said 'Sing up' to the gentleman, but he did not sing. They entered the passage."

Waller and Balch dragged Kirwan a few feet into the passage, while Noble stood guard at the Whitecross Street end. Williams and Wentworth watched as Noble glared frantically up and down the street, but they could see nothing of what was going on behind him. Given some privacy at last, Waller grabbed Kirwan's neck with his right hand, twisting the doctor's tie as he squeezed, and placed his left hand over Kirwan's mouth to block any screams. Balch produced a knife, intending to stab the doctor, but succeeded only in accidentally nicking Waller's chin before their victim collapsed to the ground.
The three men went quickly through Kirwan's pockets, grabbing anything of value they could find, and then fled through the George IV out into Southwark Bridge Road on the other side. Susannah Sweeney, the local milk carrier Williams had called earlier, watched them run north towards Union Street and beyond.
Now the two children had a clear view into the passage. "I saw someone with white cuffs on lying on the ground," Williams said. "A man rolled up there like a ball on the ground. I called Mrs Smith and she called the potman. Other people came. The police came and sent for an ambulance." Smith added: "I saw the gentleman doubled up on the ground about a yard-and-a-half up the passage. I saw no umbrella, chain or ring. [His] head was between his legs his right leg under him and his left leg out."
The potman from the George IV who Smith alerted was called John Tagg, and the policeman he fetched from nearby Flatiron Square was PC Ovens. Both Tagg and Smith confirmed Kirwan was still breathing when they found him, but that he died as he was being lifted on to the hand-cart ambulance that would take him to Guy's Hospital. William Carling, the house surgeon at Guy's, confirmed Kirwan was already dead when the ambulance arrived there at 3:00pm.
"The cartilage making up the larynx was broken on the right side," Carling said. "The tongue bone was also broken. About this part of the neck, especially on the right side, there was a good deal of blood. Deceased died from asphyxia, due to strangulation." (14)
The police circulated descriptions of Waller, Balch and Noble, together with a list of Kirwan's missing property, and these produced their first result at 8:00pm. Two police sergeants called Thomas Divall and William Gentle were on patrol in the Marshalsea Road when they saw Waller hurrying along, pulling on a pair of yellow kid leather gloves as he went. They arrested him on suspicion of the killing and took him to Southwark Police Station to be searched.

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