The Horrible Affair at Newcastle, 1844

SUMMARY: A lawyer propositions a soldier, is arrested and thrown into jail, but he escapes with the connivance of the jailer, who is subsequently tried for helping him to escape, but who is acquitted and judged to be merely careless in his duties. A manhunt fails to recapture the lawyer.

Monday 22 January 1844

One of those peculiar offences, indicating the unnatural obliquity or the revolting depravity which the propensities of our common humanity occasionally assume, the consideration of which excites sensations of a most painful and humiliating description, namely, the perpetration of an horrible and unnatural crime, has just been attempted to be committed in this town; and in the commission of it there are strong suspicions existing in the minds of the inhabitants here, that a gentleman of highly respectable family connexions in the country, and holding an important office connected with the Government, in execution of which he has temporarily resided here, is inculpated. At this incipient stage of the proceedings, however, when the case, so far as it regards the individual alluded to, is only matter of public rumour, it would be highly imprudent to mention the name of the party implicated in so horrible a transaction. The offence was attempted to be committed on Tuesday evening last on a soldier belonging to an artillery regiment stationed here; and the following is a substantially correct statement of the circumstances connected with it:–
          The acquaintance of the offender and the soldier was commenced in the street here on Tuesday afternoon last, when an appointment was made to meet at 7 o'clock in the evening of that day in Grey-street. The soldier in the interim acquainted police-constable Mason with this appointment, which he regarded as being of a suspicious character, and by arrangement, at the appointed time, the officer hovered in the street. The gentleman and the soldier met at the time agreed on, and then repaired together to the Star and Garter inn, where they had some liquor; from thence they proceeded to a secluded place called the Leazes, situated in the immediate vicinage of the town, the officer dogging their steps at the same time. Arrived at the place just mentioned, the horrible attempt alluded to was made upon the soldier by his companion. The soldier immediately called upon the police, who thereupon burst from his concealment, and, with the assistance of two gentlemen who were walking near the spot, secured the offender, and conveyed him to the police station,whence he was removed to the Manors Station, and locked up for the night. He refused to give his name. About 5 o'clock on the following morning, through the cupidity or negligence of a man named Carter, the police constable, who had him in charge, the prisoner contrived to make his escape, and up to this time has eluded all attempted to recapture him. The policeman (Carter) states, in his defence, that the offender (now no longer the prisoner) called for a drink of water about a quarter before 5 o'clock, which he went to the back part of the station-house to get for him, but omitted to turn the key of the cell in which the prisoner was confined, and on his return with the water the prisoner was gone. A gentleman precisely answering the description of the offender had been staying for about ten days at the Queen's Head Inn in this town, in the discharge of functions under an act of Parliament; and on Tuesday evening last, about 7 o'clock, he left the inn, stating that he was going to the theatre. The waiter at the inn sat up till about 2 o'clock on the following morning awaiting his return, up till which time he did not come in. Before 5 o'clock, however, on the same morning, the gentleman came to the inn in great haste, and requested his luggage to be taken to the coach-office, as he was going to Darlington by the coach at 5 o'clock, which request the waiter obeyed, and the fugitive started by the 5 o'clock coach for Darlington. At noon on Wednesday, seven hours afterwards, an inspector of police was despatched by the mail in pursuit of him. Another policeman was subsequently sent off in another direction; but no tidings of their success have as yet arrived here. Carter has been in custody ever since.
          To-day, at 12 o'clock, a full meeting of the magistrates, consisting of Mr. Alderman Potter, Mr. Alderman Batson, Mr. W. Loraine, Mr. James Archibold, Mr. Joseph Crawhall, and Mr. Alderman Nicholl, was held at the police-office here to determine what steps were to be taken in regard to the policeman Carter, but the representatives of the press were excluded from their consultation. I learnt, however, at the close of their deliberations, that it was their determination to prefer an indictment against Carter at the forthcoming sessions on the charge of aiding in the prisoner's escape.
          After the magistrates had returned into the public office, Carter was brought before them; and Stephens, the superintendent of police, having deposed that sufficient information had been colleced to lead to the belief, in his mind, that Carter had wilfully and corruptly assisted in the escape of the prisoner, but that the chain of circumstances was not yet in that complete and conclusive state which he had no doubt it would eventually assume, Carter was remanded until Tuesday next, the magistrates refusing the prisoner's offer to put in bail.
          The individual charged with the offence is a man about 45 years age, and if he is the person who was staying at the Queen's Head, of which there is not the slightest doubt here, he is supposed to reside in a large town in one of the midland counties, where he has a wife and a family. (Evening Mail)

Wednesday 24 January 1844

In my communication to you yesterday, respecting the perpetration, or the attempt at perpetration, of an unnatural crime in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, I forebore, as much as I consistently could with a wish to present a clear narrative of the circumstances connected with the transaction, to mention the name of the party suspected of its commission, partly from a strong disinclination to be a party to the aggravation, by means of such publicity, of the pain and grief which intelligence of the affair must occasion to the feelings of the unhappy man's family connexions, and partly because his guilt was only matter of conjecture; strong and irresistible it is tue, but still only conjecture. This secrecy, however, if there was any real necessity for it, is no longer maintanable, two of the Newcastle newspapers of this day having spoken out on the matter; and I have now to inform you, on the authority of those newspapers, that the name of the individual suspected of the commission of the offence, and for whom an active pursuit is being made, is George Louis, who is described as a barrister and an assistant tithe comimssioner. Considering the enormity of the offence, that it is so easily charged, and the negative so difficult to be proved, I shall refrain from stating in detail the grounds of suspicion against Mr. Louis, the more so as I can only do so on public rumour. No intelligence has yet arrived of his recapture. He left Newcastle on Wednesday morning at 5 o'clock, and has been traced to Darligton, whence some incertitude prevails as to whether he proceeded by railway southward, or where otherwise.
          With respect to Carter, the police constable, out of whose custody the person charged with the offence escaped, he is to be brought up before the magistrates on Tuesday, when the evidence against him will be gone into, and if it is thought capable of sustaining the charge of his having wilfully permitted the prisoner's escape, he will be committed for trial for the offence, which is an indictable one. I had the cell shown to me yesterday from which the prisoner escaped and the labyrinth of passages, and staircases, and rooms through which he made good his exit into the main street, and upon the supposition of gross negligence on the part of Carter, his (Carter's) statement is not wholly inconsistent with innocence. On the other hand, the distance is so very short, not being more than a few yards, which he had to traverse in going to fetch water for the prisoner, and commands moreover a view of the doorway which the prisoner must have passed through on his way out, that one can scarcely think it possible for him not to have seen the prisoner escape; and it is stated in one of the papers to-day that Carter gave no alarm of the prisoner's escape until 20 minutes afteer 5 o'clock in the morning; and the coach by which the supposed offender left newcastle started at 5 o'clock precisely. (Evening Mail)

Friday 26 January 1844

THE HORRIBLE AFFAIR AT NEWCASTLE. – The Government Police Gazette contains the following in relation to this extraordinary affair:– "Absconded on the 17ith instant from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, George Louis, barrister-at-law, and also an assistant tithe commissioner. He stands charged on a magistrate's warrant with meeting another man to commit an unnatural offence. He is forty-five years of age, has grey hair, and is of gentlemanly appearance. Whoever will apprehend him shall be rewarded for their trouble. Information to be given to the police of Newcastle-upon-Tyne." (Morning Post) (This announcement was reprinted in innumerable newspapers.)

Saturday 3 February 1844

The Horrible Affair at Newcastle.
I am informed that one of the officers despatched in pursuit of Mr Louis, the individual who is suspected of the attempt to commit an unnatural offence there recently, the particulars of which appeared in the Times of Monday last, has returned from London unsuccessful. The Tyne Mercury of January 23 states that a letter, dated London, was received from Mr Louis on Friday last, addressed to a gentleman in Newcastle, apologizing for his not fulfilling a professional engagement. Carter, the turnkey, charged with aiding the escape of the prisoner, would be brought up before the magistrates again on Tuesday, and would in all probability be committed for trial. (Bucks Gazette)

Friday 8 March 1844

JAMES CARTER was charged with negligently permitting the escape out of his custody of a person, said to be unknown, charged with an unnatural offence. Carter, at the time, was a policeman, and on the night of the apprehension of the person in question was the reserve man at the Majors Station, he received him into his custody about 9 o'clock, and at 3 o'clock on the following morning the person was seen in the cell by sub-inspector Scott. About 20 minutes past 5, Carter gave the alarm, saying that the person had escaped. A search instantly took place, but without effect. Carter's explanation of the circumstance was, that the prisoner in the cell requested him to stir the fire and to get a drink of water, while doing which he left the cell door unlocked.. On his return, the prisoner had gone. Mr Wilkins defended Carter with considerable ingenuity. After an absence of about two hours, the jury returned with a verdict finding Carter guilty of the carelessness, but not to the extent charged in the indictment. This verdict the judge declared to be incomplete. The jury again retired, and soon afterwards agreed upon a verdict of "Not guilty." (Newcastle Courant)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given. (Many reports were repeated verbatim across several newspapers, but I have not included them all.)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Horrible Affair at Newcastle, 1844", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 4 October 2016 <>.

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