Wednesday 12 January 2011

Daily Mirror Report 1905 - Murder of the Farrows- Deptford High Street.

Murder of the Farrows, Daily Mirror Report 1905

March 28th (first article)


Aged manager brutally slain by trio of ruffians

Under circumstances dramatic enough to be conceived by Poe or De Quincey, three masked men callously murdered an old man and inflicted terrible injuries upon his wife in Deptford High Street early yesterday morning. The victims are Mr and Mrs Farrow, the guardians of a prosperous little oilshop, and the motive which led the criminals to murder was the little hoard of a few pounds which represented a week’s takings.

It was at eight o’clock that the crime was discovered, and quickly upon the discovery came evidences of how it had been committed. The errand-boy coming to his work as usual at eight o’clock found the red shutters still up and the house in quietness. He could not understand it, shook the door, peered through the keyhole, and finally, frightened at the silence, sought a neighbour.


Together they forced a way in at the back. They came into the little sitting-room. Upon the floor lay the aged manager. He had been pitiably used, and lay there unconscious, and as they bent over him the last fluttering breath came and the old man was dead. Upstairs was his wife. She also had suffered at the hands of the murderers, but fortunately, although unconscious, there was still hope.

Before Scotland Yard had sent commissioner McNaughton and Inspector Fox with an expert photographer, the keen eyes of the police had discovered a remarkable trace of the criminals. Carelessly thrown aside were three black masks made out of a woman’s stocking. In addition, in various places there were finger-prints, proving beyond doubt that three men were concerned in the crime. From some incoherent sentences whispered by Mrs Farrows at the Seamen’s Hospital last night the whole story of the crime was put together.
Just as the narrow high street began to show signs of life about six o’clock three men walked to the little oil shop. They stopped a moment and once advanced alone. He rapped sharply on the closed door with his knuckles. Presently the old man came down, partially dressed, thinking it was an early customer. He opened the door, and the stranger, apologising, asked if he could be supplied with some painter’s materials, size, and whitelead.


Mr. Farrow opened the door wider for the man to pass in. Inside, in the dark little shop, there was a quick moment and a horrible blow given. The old man, infirm and worn out, sunk unconscious immediately. The other two men came into the shop, and all three men put on masks. Quickly they ransacked the shop and the till, and passed into the sitting room beyond. but the old man had recovered slightly, and staggered after them, faithful to protect his master’s goods. There was a scuffle, and he fell again. But his wife had heard the sounds of movement and called. One of the three rushed upstairs and struck Mrs. Farrow as she sat up wonderingly in her bed. Then there was another hasty search. The men discarded their masks and two of the criminals emerged from the shop. The third waited a minute or two and then followed, closing the door on its spring lock. Here is the best description available of the two men: -

1) Age between twenty-five and thirty, 5ft. 6in. to 5ft. 7in. in height. Had round face, dark moustache, and wore a hard felt hat and a blue serge jacket, the collar of which was turned up. He had on a white collar, suggesting he was not a member of the “muffler brigade.”

2) Age about twenty-four. 5ft. 5in. to 5ft. 6in. in height. Light brown hair. Dressed in rather shabby brown jacket suit, grey cap, and brown boots.

April 21st (second article)


Scornful laughter at verdict of coroner’s jury


Without a sign of apprehension or remorse, Alfred and Albert Stratton, the brothers accused of the foul and brutal murder of old Mr and Mrs Farrow in a shop in High-street, Deptford, yesterday heard a verdict of “wilful murder’ returned against them by a coroner’s jury. Callous and defiant, they burst into scornful laughter when the foreman announced the result of the jury’s brief deliberation- only fifteen minutes. They walked out of court with as much bravado as they had shown on entering, about half-an-hour before the coroner’s arrival. While waiting, seated between two warders, they had whistled snatches of popular tunes, stamping their feet on the floor as though they were in the gallery of some cheap place of amusement. There were low murmurs of applause in court- quickly suppressed, of course- when the verdict was announced. But to these the accused seemed utterly indifferent. The replies of Chief Inspector Fox to a few questions from the coroner, Dr. Oswald, had concluded the evidence. He said it would be possible to study from the street the internal part of the shop and the habits of the occupants.


The Coroner: You have heard that Alfred Stratton had his hands injured. Have you found if those injuries were caused at any time before Monday, March 27? (the day of the crime). – Yes, I have it on reliable authority that his hands were injured before March 27. Alfred Stratton (standing up): I offered to have my hands examined when I was arrested. ..Inspector Fox: Stratton did not make the request. The injuries consisted only of a number of abrasions, and did not render him helpless. He said that the abrasions were caused by a fight with another man, but I have ascertained that they were caused by knocking a woman about. Dr. Oswald had the evidence taken at the opening of the inquest, before the Strattons were arrested, read to the prisoners, and then summed up.

“This tragedy,” he said, “will probably impress upon London tradesmen the advisability of iron rails before their windows instead of shutters. These rails would allow people passing to look through, and thus would further the detection of nefarious acts.”

Undoubtedly robbery was the only motive for this crime. The presence of the masks made it possible that there were three persons engaged in the robbery, but that opinion was not borne out by the evidence. Though a vast crowd assembled in Deptford High-street to see the two young fellows led hand-cuffed to the prison van on their return to Brixton Gaol, there was no demonstration.

May 3rd (third article)


Dramatic incidents mark the close of the trial

Judge solemnly warns the prisoners not to expect mercy. The inexorable Law has once more avenged the crime of murder. The two brothers, Alfred Stratton and Albert Ernest Stratton, both on the threshold of manhood, have forfeited their lives for killing old Thomas Farrow and his wife, Anne Farrow, in their oilshop at Deptford High-street. At the Old Bailey on Saturday the two days’ trial ended in the Jury returning a verdict of guilty against both men, and Judge Channell, assuming the black cap of doom, pronounced the capital sentence. In fulfilling his direful duty the Judge’s voice quavered, and there was a note of pathos in his words: -

“But one sentence is known to the law. It is not my sentence.” In that remark one heard an echo of the Scriptures: - “Vengeance is mine. I will repay.” The Judge concluded with the solemn formula: -
The sentence of the Court upon each of you is that you be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and that there you be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and- may the Lord have mercy on your souls.

“Amen,” said the chaplain in a low voice, bowing his head.


The brothers stood to hear their fate, looking blankly in front of them, evidently prepared for the worst, with consciences so seared that they could not feel their position acutely.
Without scanning the gallery, where many who knew the Strattons were seated, the unhappy brothers were quickly removed from the dock, to be taken to Wandsworth, where three clear Sundays will be allowed them, in the humane words of the Judge, to make the best use of that time remains to them in the world.
In awed silence the audience, including many well-dressed women, had followed every syllable of the closing stages of the trial, scanning the faces of the accused with the curiosity customary in such cases. If they twitched their hands the circumstance was noted. But visible signs of emotion were few and slight. What impressed observers most was the indifference of the brothers on to the other; associates in crime they were now for ever estranged, since the law had found them out.


Alfred Stratton, the elder-brother, fought hard for his life in the witness-box. So far from committing the murders, he said, he was never in Thomas Farrow’s shop; he and his brother were at home at the time; and he never uttered the suggestive words to Albert: “Shall we go out tonight or leave it till another night?”
When he read an account of the murder it simply interested him as a local affair. In a despairing argument he told Mr. Muir, the prosecuting counsel, that he did not believe the “masks” supposed to have been worn by the murderers- were found under the mattress of Albert’s bed.  “It was a put-up job.” He surmised a woman’s spite at the bottom of it.

An attempt was made to discredit the police evidence based on the thumb-marks on the cashbox. Professor Garston said he had been employed by the Home Office as an instructor in identification by finger-print, but the Judge dismissed his evidence as “untrustworthy”.  Defending the elder brother, Alfred Stratton, in a speech of two hours, it was argued by Mr. Rooth that the case rested on theory and surmise. No living human being saw the murderous deed done.

For Albert, the younger brother, Mr. Morris mentioned suggestively that the verdict of “Not Proven” in Scots Law did not operate in England. The rest remained with the jury, who returned to a hushed court with their verdict of “Guilty” after two hours’ deliberation.

The Judge then, after a painful pause, put on the black cap and, warning the prisoners not to hope for mercy in this world, pronounced the death sentence.

Manchester Guardian, May 8 1905, p3

The Deptford Murders

Prisoners Sentenced to Death
The trial at the Old Bailey, London of the brothers Alfred Stratton (23) and Albert Stratton (21), labourer and seaman respectively on the charge of murdering Thomas Farrow and his wife at an oil shop in High Street Deptford, was concluded on Saturday before Mr Justice Channell.The murders were apparently committed about seven o’clock in the morning by men by men wearing masks, made from stockings which they left behind. It was stated on the first day of the trial that the prisoners had been known to have masks of that kind, and that they were away from home a the time of the murder having gone out late at night. The prosecution also sought to prove that a finger-print found on Farrow’s cashbox must have been caused by Alfred Stratton, that the prisoners were seen hurrying away from the oil shop soon after the murder must have been committed, and that a sum of £2. 2s 6d. which had been dug up since, and which admittedly belonged to Alfred Stratton, was part of the money stolen by the murderers. It also appeared that he gave away a brown jacket after it was announced that one of the murderers wore a jacket of that colour. Mr R D Muir and Mr Bodkin conducted the case for the prosecution; Mr Harold Morris appeared for Albert Stratton, and Mr HG Rooth and Mr Curtis Bennett for his brother. Edward Russell a milk boy and Henry A Jennings, a milkman, gave evidence as to seeing two men run away from the shop, but they could not say whether the prisoners were the men or not.
Ellen Stanton said that about twenty minutes past seven on the morning of the murder she saw two men running up High Street, Deptford. One of the men she recognised as the prisoner Alfred, by reason of his being a man to whom her ‘”soldier lover” used to nod. Later she gave information to the police and identified Alfred as one of the men she saw running away.

Mr Bodkin: ......looking at the prisoner Albert can you say whether he is or is not the man who was with Alfred?
.....I could not tell you.

Finger-prints evidence

Inspector Collins, chief of the finger-print department at Scotland Yard, explained the method of comparing finger-prints, and said with regard to his general experience he found that finger-prints did not alter during many years. In the present case the inner part of a cash box found at the house where the murder took place was handed to him and he took a photograph of a fingerprint found upon it. The fingers of the murdered man and woman and Sergeant Deacon, to whom the box was handed, were examined, but they did not agree with the impression on the box. Subsequently he took an impression of the fingers of the prisoners, when they were arrested, and found that the impression of the right thumb of the prisoner Alfred Stratton compared with that on the cash box. Mr Rooth asked questions with regard to the impression on the cash box with a view to showing that it differed from that taken of the prisoner’s thumb in material points. The witness conceded that in one case there was a very slight difference. The difference could be caused with the pressure of the finger.

Counsel: Then if that is the case, what is the use of this so-called system? – You must remember that in one case the impression was produced by a “sweaty” finger and in the other by ink. The jury intimated that they wished to put the apparatus to a practical test. Several took impressions of the fingers and at the finish the judge said he thought they should tell the court what they had found. The jury said that they found that pressure made a difference.
The Defence
Mr Rooth called Alfred Stratton, who said that after he had gone to bed on the Sunday night after the tragedy a tap came to the window. He got up, and found his bother, who asked him for some money for his lodging. Witness replied that he had none, and asked him to wait a while till he came out. He dressed, but when he went out he found that his brother had gone. He found him eventually at the top of Regent Street. He and his brother went home about three o’clock. Cross examined by Mr Muir he denied all knowledge of or connection with the crime... how do you account for the masks which were found under the bed at Mrs Tedman’s? I don’t believe they were found. It was a put up job. Dr John George Garson, an expert in the system of finger-print identification was called by the defence to rebut certain points in the evidence of police officials... he said there were points of difference in the impressions... he had read the evidence of Inspector Collins at the police court, portions of which he considered nonsense.

Mr Muir: And did you on the same day write to the Director of Public Prosecutions offering your services – Yes.

How do you justify writing two such letters? I am an independent witness.

The Judge: I should say after having written such letters, an absolutely untrustworthy one. You write offering to give evidence when you had never seen either of the impressions. Had you asked to be allowed to see the impressions before offering to give evidence upon them the letters would have been all right? Dr Garson: that is what I meant.

Mr Morris spoke on behalf of Albert Stratton. He point out that the gaoler Gittens said he had heard a statement said to have been made by Albert – in which Albert was alleged to have stated, “I reckon he (his brother) will get strung up and I shall get ten years. He led me into this” – on April 4, and did not write that down until the 18th. On that date he said that he read it to two persons, yet those two persons did not remember it. Was it a likely thing that they would forget such a matter?

The Judge in summing up, referring to the photos of the prisoner Alfred’s fingers, remarked that if it was true that there were such differences as had been stated between people’s finger-marks, then there was an extraordinary resemblance between the two photos. Yet he was of opinion that the jury would not like to act on that evidence alone. The jury returned at 10.10 with a verdict of guilty against both prisoners. They had nothing to say, and sentence of death was passed. The judge imported them to make good news of the time remaining to them, as he could hold out no hope that the sentence would not be carried out.

The Deptford Murders, April 21, 1905, p5
Verdict Against the Stratton’s

The inquest in connection with the deaths of Thomas Farrow (71) and Anne Farrow (65), who were murdered at 34 High Street, Deptford, was concluded yesterday. Albert and Alfred Stratton, the two men under arrest in connection with the tragedy, when brought into court about half an hour before the opening of the proceedings, assumed an air of bravado. They whistled snatches of popular tunes, keeping time by stamping their feet on the floor. Inspector Fox, replying to the Coroner, said that anyone standing outside the shop, 34 High Street, could get a view of the inside and study the habits of those living there. The inspector added that he had it on reliable authority that Alfred Stratton’s hands were injured before the day of the murder. Alfred Stratton here stood up and said that he was offered to have his hands examined when he was arrested. Inspector Fox said that Stratton did not make the request. The injury consisted of only a number of abrasions, and did not render him helpless. He had said that the abrasions were caused by a fight with another man, but witness had ascertained that they were caused by assaulting a woman.

The Coroner said that one of the practical lessons to be drawn from the tragedy was the advisability of tradesmen having iron rails before their windows instead of shutters. These rails would allow people passing to look through and would allow the detection of anyone inside engaged in nefarious acts. Dealing with the circumstances of the crime, he said he thought it was clear that there were two persons engaged in it, although the evidence did not preclude the possibility of a third. If only one person was engaged, then he must have been a glutton for masks. He did not think it was probably that the murder was committed by any of the alien criminals which the country freely admitted.
The jury, after an absence of fifteen minutes, returned a verdict of wilful murder against both the Stratton’s.

On hearing the verdict the accused laughed.


Anonymous said...

Dear ODH,

Do you know if the Farrows where buried in Brokley & Ladywell Cemetery? Then known as Deptford/Lewisham Cemetery. Friends of the cemetery( Foblc) undertake bi-monthly guided walks & the Stratton case has been alluded to as a story for future walks. I was told that the Farrows lie in unmarked section nr to the monument to Jane Clouson?


Mike Guilfoyle( Foblc)

Andy said...

Hi Annon,

The only references I can find with the Farrow name in B & L Cemetry at grave 8189 are as follows:

William Henry FARROW 1898 73yrs Father
Arthur FARROW 1895 9yrs Son
Elizabeth FARROW 1888 55yrs Sister
Ann FARROW 1913 81yrs Mother

Anonymous said...

I am a student of Bsc Biology with minor forensic science.
I have a presentation to do on " the case of the Farrow Murders, involving brothers Alfred and Albert Stratton"
I found the story but i did not get any picture of the crime scene or the fingerprints from any web site.
It will be of great help if i could get some picture involving the case.

thanks you