British Executions

John Esmond Murphy

Age: 21

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 6 Jan 1909

Crime Location: Office of Cartnell and Schlitte, 84 Shaftesbury Avenue, London

Execution Place: Pentonville

Method: hanging

Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint


John Esmond Murphy was convicted of the murder of Frederick George Wilhelm Maria Julius Schlitte 47 and sentenced to death.

He stabbed and shot him in the office of Cartnell and Schlitte, 84 Shaftesbury Avenue, London on 7 November 1908.

John Murphy had been an electrical engineer up until March 1908 after which it appeared that he lived mainly on the prostitution of his sister who had a child and had been deserted by her husband. He had been hard pressed for money and it was noted that his sister was ill at the time and had recently undergone an operation for a tumour on her skull on 7 November 1908. She had a flat in Maida Vale and John Murphy had a room nearby on Shirland Road in Paddington for which he paid 6s a week.

Frederick Schlitte was a partner in the firm of Cartmell and Schlitte, money changers at 84 Shaftesbury Avenue. It was a small one room shop twelve feet square and divided by a grille on the edge of a counter and a door at the far end. They had between £1500 and £2000 in cash and notes in the shop. From the street nothing could be seen behind the counter and to see anyone in the public part of the shop a person would have to peer through the glass door. It was also noted that a large sum of gold was also displayed in the shop window in 12 or 14 bowls.

John Murphy had been practising with a revolver at a shooting gallery in Haymarket during the two months before the murder.

On 6 November 1908, John Murphy told his landlady, to whom he owed arrears, that he would be getting his pay the next day and would settle his debts. That same afternoon he went out and bought a revolver and some cartridges from a shop in Haymarket. It was noted that he fired 25 shots with the revolver before buying it as it was not the make that he had asked for. He also a took a new knife from which he had filed away the maker's name. It was noted that after having bought the revolver John Murphy was absolutely without means and was in arears with his landlady.

The next day, after watching the shop and waiting for an opportunity when only Frederick Schlitte was there he went in and levelled the revolver at him. It was thought that Frederick Schlitte then made for a door at the far end of the counter and that John Murphy then fired through the door and hit Frederick Schlitte in the chest. They then had a struggle during which it was thought that Frederick Schlitte had tried to defend himself with a heavy cheque perforator. During the struggle, John Murphy stabbed Frederick Schlitte six times. However, Frederick Schlitte managed to throw a brass weight through the window and a man came in. Throwing the brass weight through the window had been a plan at the shop in the event of a robbery.

Shortly before John Murphy had gone into the shop, another man had been in the shop looking at a directory. He said that as he went out he saw a man going in and that then, as he was walking down the street he heard the brass weight crash through the window and said that he then went back into the shop and saw John Murphy and Frederick Schlitte fighting. He said that he then called for assistance and said that John Murphy then ran off.

Whilst running off, John Murphy stabbed a carter and a policeman that tried to stop him. However, he was then caught and taken calmly to the police station where he was charged with attempted murder.

Frederick Schlitte later died on 9 November 1908.

At his trial John Murphy claimed to be insane based on the hereditary predisposition of his parents who both died in India and who were said to have been epileptic. He also said that he had been having pains in his head. He also cited an incident of memory loss and what was described as an example of trifling absent-mindedness, in which he had gone off on his bicycle and found himself in a place other than where he had been intending to go. He also referred to strange conduct relating to a time when he had been found under his sister's bed at 12.15am with a razor. However, it was thought that he had actually been waiting for his sister to bring home a man who he was then going to blackmail.

However, prosecution witnesses said that they found no evidence of insanity or epilepsy.

The police report stated that there was no doubt that the crime was a carefully planned and boldly executed attempt at robbery by a desperate man driven by his sister's illness to find other means of a livelihood in which he was prepared to commit murder if necessary.

see National Archives - HO 144/898/173376