British Executions

George Robertson

Age: 44

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 28 Mar 1899

Crime Location: Goldsmith Street, Drury Lane, London

Execution Place: Newgate

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


George Robertson was convicted of the murder of 4-year-old Mary Kenealy and sentenced to death.

He stabbed and anally assaulted her and then cut her throat at 9 Goldsmith Street in Drury Lane, London on Monday 23 January 1899.

He had been involved with a drinking bout during which it was said he had become sexually excited and that as a result he later ravished Mary Kenealy and then murdered her to hide his crime.

Mary Kenealy was found dead with what were described as horrible wounds on the stairs of her home after which George Robertson disappeared from the neighbourhood.

Shortly after he saw a friend who he met some distance away who he told that he had got into some trouble with a man and was going away.

When he was arrested in Canning Town he denied that he was George Robertson. However, his clothes were found to be bloodstained.

George Robertson had been a dwarf and a street flower vendor. When he was in the dock at the Old Bailey, he was described as a diminutive creature whose head barely reached up to the dock.

The court heard that for the previous three or four years that George Robertson had been living very poorly, sleeping out of doors, and at times working for a woman who was an inmate at 9 Goldsmith Street, where the murder took place, where he was better fed. Mary Kenealy had also lived at 9 Goldsmith Street.

On the night before the murder, Sunday 22 January 1899, there was a drinking bout at the sauce house during which George Robertson was thought to have probably have freely indulged in alcohol, the drinking bout continuing through to the forenoon of the next day.

It was suggested by a doctor that the conversation and other matters during the drinking bout might have contributed to sexual excitement on the part of George Robertson, as was evidenced by the 10-year-old daughter of the woman he worked for who said that he said to her, 'Kiss me before you begin', adding that she became frightened by his words and manners and rushed out of the room, only to be followed by George Robertson to the door.

Another doctor said that he fully agreed with the first doctor, stating, 'that after the drinking debauch on 23rd January, George Robertson was seized with a brutal lust, that he assaulted Mary Kenealy and the murder was done in consequence', no doubt to prevent discovery of his outrage.

It was heard that there was no evidence to show that George Robertson had been in a state of irresponsibility from drink and that he had known what he had done as when Mary Kenealy's mother first saw him he was endeavouring to conceal the result of his crime, kneeling at the foot of the bed in the other woman's room with a pail beside him and wiping up smeared blood from the floor.

Mary Kenealy's mother said, 'He did not appear stupid when I spoke to him, he appeared very sensible'.

A shoeblack that George Robertson spoke to about an hour after the murder said that George Robertson had been very white and trembling, and said nothing at the trial as to him having looked drunk, however, at the magistrates he said that he had been 'trembling as if he were drunk'.

However, another person that he spoke to said that he said to George Robertson, 'You look as if you had had some beer' to which he said George Robertson replied, 'I have had some', after which he followed up with a lie about having had a fight with a big man.

Mary Kenealy's Mother

Mary Kenealy's mother said that she lived on the third floor at 9 Goldsmith Street, above the woman for whom George Robertson worked for.

She said that on Monday 23 January 1899 at 1.30pm that she was looking out of her window when she saw Mary Kenealy playing out in the street with her 6-year-old brother.

She said that at about 2.30pm the woman's husband from the rooms beneath her came to see her and that in consequence she went down the stairs to the second landing where she saw her 14-year-old son with Mary Kenealy in his arms. She said that she noticed that there was dry blood on her face, ears and hair. She said that she then took her into her arms and then noticed a wound on her neck after which a neighbour took Mary Kenealy to King's College Hospital.

She said that she heard Mary Kenealy groan twice but that other than that she gave no other signs of life.

She said that she then saw spots of blood on the stairs leading to the woman's house and that when she opened the door she saw George Robertson kneeling at the foot of the bed with a pail beside him and wiping up some smeared blood on the floor.  She said that she then asked George Robertson, 'What has my Mary done in here. Has the woman fallen on her or has she fallen from a chair? Tell me so that I can tell the doctor'.

However, she said that George Robertson replied, 'She has not been in here'.

Mary Kenealy's mother said that she then went up to her own room and put on her shawl and then went downstairs into the street. She said that whilst she was standing at the door that George Robertson came down the stairs and looked at her. She said that she then noticed a spot of blood on one of his boots and that she then said to him, 'You villain, look at the blood on your boot, you must know something about it', and that he said either, 'No, no', or 'Nothing of the kind', but couldn't remember which.

She said that he then walked a few steps up the street and then began to run. She later noted that when she spoke to him that he didn't appear stupid, adding that he appeared very sensible.

Mary Kenealy's mother said that she then went to the hospital and found that Mary Kenealy was dead.

She later noted that many people lived in her house, with four families living in the four rooms on her floor and different families living below.

16 Year Old Son

The 16-year-old son of the woman who lived on the second floor of 9 Goldsmith Street that George Robertson occasionally worked for said that he first knew George Robertson three days after Christmas, stating that he used to come to their house four or five times a week and used to help him dress and call him up, noting that he had hurt his hand. He later added that he never noticed anything odd about George Robertson and that he used to polish his boots.

He said that he worked at a printers and left their room on 23 January 1899 at 8.25am to go to work at which time George Robertson and his mother had been in the room when he left.

He said that he came back at 2.30pm and that as he was going up the stairs he saw a child lying on the stairs in a pool of blood. He said the child, Mary Kenealy, had been lying at the turn of the stairs by the window, lying on her back with her head downwards and covered with her clothes. He said that at the window he saw an insurance man writing in a book and that he then put Mary Kenealy in a sitting position and heard her moan and then went upstairs to the third floor and opened the door and saw Mary Kenealy's mother there with her son.

He said that she then came downstairs with him and that they then recognised Mary Kenealy and that he then went to the hospital with her.

He noted that he had not up until that time seen George Robertson since he left in the morning.

He said that when he got back from the hospital at 3.30pm that he found two table knives in the room, one of which he noticed looked as though it had been wiped, noting that it was the one that his mother used to part walnuts.

He said that he also noted that the floor had been wiped up and that blood had been on it, noting that there was a pail in the room with a cloth in it which seemed to have been used for wiping the floor and that the water in the pail was coloured red.

When he was later shown a pair of boots he said that they had once been his and that he had left them under his bed but that he had told George Robertson a few days before 23 January 1899 that he might have then as they were too small for him.

Mary Kenealy's 14-Year-Old Brother

Mary Kenealy's 14-year-old brother said that he saw George Robertson earlier in the morning in the yard with two fowls at about 9.30am on 23 January 1899 and that the last time he saw Mary Kenealy was at about 1.20pm, playing in the street with her brother. 

He said that his brother then came into the room and that the last person to come in was the 16-year-old son from the second floor. He said that the 16-year-old son came in about half-an-hour after his brother and that he then ran down the stairs and saw Mary Kenealy on the stairs.

He said that he afterwards saw George Robertson on the stairs and heard him say that Mary Kenealy had not been in their room, noting that he told him that she had and that George Robertson replied that she had not.

He said that when George Robertson began to run up the street that he followed him but could not catch him and lost sight of him in Shaftsbury Avenue.

Woman From First Floor

A woman who lived on the first floor said that she took Mary Kenealy to the hospital and that she died on the way in her arms.

Woman From Second Floor

The woman that lived on the second floor for whom George Robertson occasionally worked for said that she first got to known him when she was selling at the Marble Arch in the summer of 1898 when he used to look after the cabs.

She said that he came to her room on the morning of Xmas Day, at which time her son was just coming out of hospital, having hurt his hand. She said that she told George Robertson that he might come every morning to help her son dress and to clean his boots for him.

She said that George Robertson told her that he was living in a Salvation Army Shelter in the Edgeware Road and that after that he came as a rule every morning about 7am and that she gave him a bit of food now and then and some money.

She said that on the Sunday, 22 January 1899 that the baby of another woman who lived on the same floor was being christened and that they had a little drink.

She said that on 23 January at about 10.30am that she went upstairs to see Mary Kenealy's mother and stayed with her until 1pm at which time she went back down to her room and found George Robertson there lighting his pipe. She noted that before she went upstairs at 10.30am that George Robertson had told her that he would be going away about dinner time and that she had said to him, 'If you do, turn the key in the door'.

She said that she left her room again at 1.30pm and went back upstairs, leaving George Robertson in her room, with no one else there, noting that the floor then had been nice and clean.

10-Year-Old Daughter

The 10-year-old daughter who also lived in the room on the third floor said that she came home from school at 12.30pm for her dinner and went into her mother's room and found George Robertson there. She said that her dinner was some boiled rice and that as she was beginning to eat it that George Robertson said to her, 'Kiss me before you begin'. She said that she then rushed out of the room, but that George Robertson followed her to the door. She noted that no one else had been in the room at the time.

She noted that she dropped the spoon and had no dinner that day. She said that he had never asked her to kiss him before.


The shoeblack that saw George Robertson at the Marble Arch at 3.30pm said that he had been talking to another man when George Robertson came up to them and said, 'I must clean out of this, I have got a job as ship's cook at Bristol'. He said that George Robertson then took the other man aside and spoke to him after which he went off down Bayswater Road. He noted that George Robertson's boots looked as though they had been recently washed and that he was very white and trembling.

Other Man At Marble Arch

The other man that had been with the shoeblack at Marble Arch said that when George Robertson came up to them that he said to him, 'You look as if you had had some beer', and that George Robertson said that he had had some and then told him that he had got himself into trouble and had been fighting with a big man and took up a poker and laid open his skull and that he believed that he had killed him. He said that George Robertson then pointed to his left coat sleeve and said, 'Look here, blood' and also pointed to blood on other parts. He said that George Robertson then said, 'I must clear off from this, I am going to Bristol'.

He noted that George Robertson had had a full moustache at the time and the hair on the other parts of his face was three or four days of growth.


A detective said that at 8.15pm on 25 January 1899 that he went to Leaders Lodging House in Crawford Street, Canning Town and saw George Robertson. He said that he asked him his name and he replied, 'George Robertson'. He said that he then asked him whether he was also known as Georgie or 'Little Titch' and he replied, 'No, I have never heard of them'. He said that he then asked him if he knew where Goldsmith Street, Drury Lane was and that he replied, 'No'. He then asked him where he slept on the Monday night and George Robertson replied, 'In a lodging house at the back of Leman Street Police Station'. He said that he then asked him when he came to Canning Town and he replied, 'Yesterday between three and four in the afternoon'.

The detective said that he then said, 'I am not satisfied with your explanation and shall take you into custody on suspicion of murdering Mary Kenealy on the 23rd', to which George Robertson replied that that was unfortunate for him.

The detective noted that he was clean shaven and that his moustache was cut close.


The doctor that carried out the postmortem on Mary Kenealy said that he found three bruises on her face and on the left side of her neck there was a deep cut, two inches in depth, that had severed an artery and that the loss of blood had caused her death. he said that he also found bruises on her head.

He said that immediately inside her anus there was a small slit about half an inch long and that higher up the anus there was a scratch that went through the mucus membrane, noting that the scratch had been distinct from the slit and had been half an inch beyond it. He said that the slit and the scratch were not due to any natural cause and that a man's nail might have caused them, but that he didn't think that it was probable and that he thought that it was more probable that they were caused by dilation with the finger and then by the use of a knife.  He added that there was also a third wound between the first two which looked like a stab wound and was half-an-inch long.

When the doctor later examined the knife he said that he thought that the wound in the anus had been caused by it.


However, another doctor, who said he had great experience with diseases of the mind, that examined George Robertson, said that when he examined his right hand that he found that the nail on his inside finger was strong and rather long and round almost to a point and that he thought that it was probably the case that the injuries to Mary Kenealy's rectum had probably been caused by it.

The doctor said that he also spoke to George Robertson about the crime but that he denied murdering Mary Kenealy, saying that when he arrived that morning he had some whisky and went to sleep and was later woken up by Mary Kenealy's mother. He also denied having run off or having had blood on his clothes. He also denied having spoken to the shoeblack or his friend and when he was told about the blood on the floor he said that he could offer no explanation.

Trial and Execution

At his trial George Robertson's defence stated that people of diminutive stature were often persons of weak intellect and that as such, often subject to outbursts of violent temper. However, doctors that examined him stated that there was nothing to suggest that he was or had been insane at the time of the murder.

George Robertson was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey on Tuesday 21 March and executed at Newgate Gaol on 28 March 1899.

It was said that after his condemnation that he made little allusion to his crime and that almost to the last he was very callous and partook heartedly of his meals. However, he was said to have been very restless during the Monday night and to have eaten sparingly on the Tuesday morning and when he was pinioned he offered not the slightest resistance. His death was said to have been instantaneous and when the black flag was run up a crowd outside the prison loudly cheered.

Goldsmith Street is now called Stukeley Street. It was described as having been in a squalid part of Drury Lane.

see National Archives - HO 144/276/A60893

see Weymouth Telegram - Tuesday 07 February 1899 (picture)

see Nelson Chronicle, Colne Observer and Clitheroe Division News - Thursday 30 March 1899

see Illustrated Police Budget - Saturday 04 February 1899

see National Library of Scotland