A Murder in Inge Street

When I was just over the age of sixty these events took place in Inge Street around the first week in January 1904. I can recall the tale based on newspaper reports from the time.

Martha Eliza Simpson was an attractive 21yr old, who used her charms to earn a living as a prostitute. Known to her friends as “Pattie”, Martha despite her profession also had a special man in her life. It was Christmas time, 1903 that she first encountered a 25yr old general dealer who called himself Charlie Hammond although his real name was Charles Samuel Dyer. At first, Dyer moved in with Martha at her lodgings in Hurst Street, but in mid January 1904, he took lodgings at a small cottage at 2/21 Inge Street opposite the Queen’s Tavern pub, and Martha moved in with him there.

One of Martha’s closest friends was Margaret Moran, who lived at 15 Birmingham Place on Bristol Street. Indeed, Martha had lodged with Margaret’s mother in Hurst Street, and the two women had been close ever since. Martha often called at Margaret’s house where there were two lodgers, John Moran, no relation to Margaret and Arthur Lockley.

At some time after 1.15pm on Wednesday 3rd of February 1904 Martha Simpson called on Margaret Moran at Birmingham Place, after chatting for a few minutes, the two women walked to Martha’s cottage where they arrived at 2pm and saw Charles Dyer. The three had some dinner after which Dyer went out for a drink or two. Martha and Margaret stayed in Inge Street until around 7.30pm, when Dyer returned and handed some clothing to Martha, asking her to pawn them for him. Martha and Margaret went to the pawnshop, pledged the items and headed back towards Inge Street. On their way, they met Dyer and Arthur Lockley one of Margaret Moran’s lodgers. The two were going to the pub when they met Martha in the street, she handed Dyer the shilling she had received from the pawnshop. Dyer took the money and both men continued to Cutler’s pub on the corner of Hill Street and Station Street.

At 8.45pm Margaret and Martha called Dyer out of the pub and Martha asked him for some money for drink, Dyer handed over 3 pennies, and then returned to his pint. The two women walked on to another pub in Old meeting Street, it was there that Martha met up with another man who treated them both to a drink, Margaret Moran left the pub at 11pm not wishing to cramp Martha’s style and returned home. Half an hour later Martha appeared at the house in Birmingham Place with the young man, he and Martha went upstairs where no doubt business took place, in all the young man stayed for about 15 min before leaving, and as he strolled out of the house, Dyer and Lockley arrived. Although Dyer was the worse for wear he was friendly enough towards the people of the house and when he and Martha left close on midnight there was still a pleasant atmosphere.

However, Martha and Dyer had not been gone more than 10 minutes when he reappeared, white faced, and threw himself into a chair in Margaret Moran’s house before crying out, “Oh Maggie! I’ve done it. Save her if you can.” Even by the gloom of the candlelight which flickered in the room, Margaret could see there was blood streaming down Dyer’s fingers. Something terrible must have happened back at Inge Street and without seeking further clarification, Margaret together with both her lodgers, ran to the house Martha Simpson shared with Dyer. There they found Martha sitting in an armchair, a massive gaping wound in her throat and blood pouring down her clothes. She was already beyond all help.

There had been a witness to Dyer’s flight back to Birmingham Place, Police Sergeant Godfrey Hodgkins. He was on duty at the corner of Essex Street and Bristol Street and as he spoke to one of his officers, Constable Thomas Parnham, he saw Dyer running up Essex Street. As the sergeant watched, Dyer turned into Bristol Street before vanishing down the alley, which led to Birmingham Place. Even as Sergeant Hodgkins started to follow, down the narrow alley, Margret Moran, Arthur Lockley and John Moran came running past him down Essex Street. Hodgkins continued down the alley until he came to a house where the door had been left open. There he found Dyer, still sitting in the chair, and after taking brief details at what had taken place at Inge Street, Hodgkins took Dyer into custody.

The sergeant escorted Dyer to the police station. On the way Dyer remarked “I struck her on the head with a poker and then drew the razor across her throat. I gave 3/6 for it” Upon arrival at Moor Street Police station Dyer was cautioned. Information then arrived that Martha Simpson has been found dead and Dyer was charged with her murder. To that he replied, “Correct, I plead guilty”

At his trial at Birmingham assizes Mary Ann Bayliss, Margaret Moran’s sister, said that at about 11:30pm on Feb 3rd she went with a man friend and a woman named Alice Tatlow to the house in Birmingham Place. Everyone there seemed to have been drinking. Bayliss stated that at one stage, Martha had stood up to give her a drink of whiskey, but Dyer hit her and knocked her back into the chair, saying, “catch that!” Martha climbed to her feet but Dyer hit her again knocking her under the table before pulling a razor from his pocket and hissing “I will put this across you tonight.” When the two women left the house Martha was still under the table and called out to Maggie Moran, “Maggie, Maggie don’t let me go home tonight, he’ll murder me.”

The defence called no witnesses, but relied on a plea by Dyer that he was sorely provoked, and that Martha had picked up a poker and lashed out, and that he defended himself with the razor.

The jury retired at 4.20pm and took an hour and a half to decide that Dyer had realised what he was doing and was therefore guilty as charged, and the sentence of death by hanging was confirmed.

Dyer rose very early on the morning of Tuesday April the 5th, 1904, and ate a breakfast of poached eggs, toast and tea. By the appointed hour of 8 o’clock a crowed of between 700 and 800 people had gathered outside the prison gates at Birmingham and Charles Samuel Dyer was hanged by William and John Billington. Later that morning Dyers body was buried within the prison walls in a plain black coffin.

Ed: Credit to Alan Dugmore for this insight into early 20th century life in the courts around Hurst Street.