British Executions

George Woolfe

Age: 21

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 6 May 1902

Crime Location: Tottenham Marshes, London

Execution Place: Newgate

Method: hanging

Executioner: William Billington


George Woolfe battered and stabbed his girlfriend Charlotte Cheeseman 21 to death at Tottenham Marshes in London on 25 January 1902.

Her body was found by a polisher that had been out playing football on Tottenham Marshes on 26 January 1902 after his football went into a ditch.

She was found with terrible injuries to her head, face and hands.

It was thought that he had deliberately taken her there by tram car in order to get rid of her.

He had previously ended their relationship by writing her a letter terminating their affair as well as writing a letter to her employers falsely accusing her of dishonesty. She responded by writing back and forgiving him. He had also previously assaulted her and it was said that two men were looking for him to punish him for it but that they later made up.

On the night of 25 January they were seen together in a couple of pubs, the Rosemary Branch and he Park Tavern after which it was submitted that they had gone out onto the Tottenham Marshes where he stabbed her several times with a chisel.

The Rosemary Branch public house was in Hoxton whilst the Block Tavern was in Tottenham, ten minutes from the crime scene.

The Rosemary Branch public house was about 500 yards from the nearest tramway line and in sight of it.

George Woolfe was arrested two weeks later when he was found serving in the army under an alias.

It was noted that the case was one of purely circumstantial evidence and that there were certain links wanting in the chain. However, it was noted that George Woolfe had helped considerably in establishing his guilt by making contradictory statements and telling lies.

They had previously kept company for two years or so and George Woolfe had admitted to having been intimate with Charlotte Cheeseman.

Charlotte Cheeseman had lived at 10 Avebury Street in Hoxton.

Letters were found that indicated that Charlotte Cheeseman thought that she was pregnant and that she had told George Woolfe about it on 13 January 1902.

However, George Woolfe had said that Charlotte Cheeseman was lying.

Earlier, around Christmas, George Woolfe and Charlotte Cheeseman had a quarrel during which George Woolfe struck Charlotte Cheeseman inflicting injuries to her face and it was noted that shortly after that George Woolfe became aware that Charlotte Cheeseman's former lover, a soldier and her brother were after him to punish him for the assault.

It was heard that a witness had seen George Woolfe on 26 December 1901 about and had expressed to him his surprise that he was considering that the two men were after him and said that George Woolfe pulled out a piece of file from his pocket, sharpened at one end, and said that he could defend himself with that. It was noted that it was considered that such a weapon could have inflicted the injuries from which Charlotte Cheeseman died.

However, it was heard that George Woolfe and Charlotte Cheeseman seemed to have made up their differences and to have walked out together every night from 11 January 1902 until the day of the murder on 25 January 1902 when they were seen together in the Rosemary Branch public house sometime between 9pm and 9.15pm by a woman and the barman. The barman said that he knew both George Woolfe and Charlotte Cheeseman and had seen them both in the pub before, saying that they came in two or three times a week and sometimes more.

The barman said that he heard of the murder on the following Monday and recalled that on the previous Saturday, 25 January 1902 that he had seen George Woolfe and Charlotte Cheeseman in the pub. He said that they came in and that George Woolfe gave the order for two drinks, but could not say what. He said that it was between 9pm and 9.30pm, noting that he had just come down from supper a few minutes before 9pm. He said that they were in the public bar, the bar with two doors.

It was also heard that a tram conductor on a car travelling between Moorgate Street and Manor House, Finsbury Park, also saw George Woolfe jump on his car followed by a woman later that night. When the tram conductor was asked how he was able to distinguish George Woolfe from all the hundreds of people that rode his car, he said, 'I was going to object to him getting on the car as he had had a drop too much'. He said that his tram passed over Rosemary Branch Bridge and that its scheduled stop there was 8.55pm and at Manor House at 9.21pm and that on that night they were running on time.

It was also heard that a stableman at the Park Hotel, which was ten minutes’ walk from the scene of the murder, identified George Woolfe as a man that he had seen in the Park Hotel public house at about 10pm on 25 January 1902. Whilst he was unable to pick him out from a number of photographs, he picked George Woolfe out as the man that he had seen from an identity parade made up of 14 men. He was also able to describe Charlotte Cheeseman and identified her body at the mortuary. His evidence was corroborated by another man although it was noted that a third man denied that George Woolfe was the man that they had seen in the Park Hotel, although the police report noted that his evidence contradicted itself and that other witnesses were recalled to demonstrate how untrustworthy his evidence was.

The stableman said, 'On night of 25 January I was in the middle bar public house. There were two people in the bar when I went in. A young man and a young woman. I remained 10 minutes with them in the bar. I left first. I left at 10 minutes past 10 as near as I can say. The young man was sitting on a chair and the young woman sitting on another chair. There were 3 chairs only there. I was standing facing them in the corner between the partition and the bar. I was in the corner. He was sitting in this way looking up at the young woman like that. He never spoke to her. His head on his hand the whole time. I only noticed them and the girl had a green jacket and a felt hat, a light skirt and umbrella with a green knob. It was like that. The jacket is like the one produced and the hat is the same.'.

It was also heard that a signal engine driver also said that he saw a couple leaving the Park Hotel and walking off towards the scene of the murder.

It was reported that no one saw George Woolfe on the return journey, but it was heard that he was seen with his father at about 11.55pm coming up the street in Hoxton. They were said to have gone for a drink and to have then had a fight during which George Woolfe said that the man that he fought fought like a woman and scratched his face. However, at the trial the prosecution submitted that in all probability that the scratches where inflicted by Charlotte Cheeseman defending herself. The man that he fought gave evidence saying, 'I struck him with my closed fist on the side of his face, he scratched me but I did not scratch him. My hand was always closed in striking him'.

On the following morning, Sunday morning, George Woolfe went to Charlotte Cheeseman's house to ask where Charlotte Cheeseman was and the woman there said that she thought that Charlotte Cheeseman had been with him and then asked, 'Did you not see her last night', to which George Woolfe said 'No. I went to the World's Fair', and then further explained his scratches on his face by ascribing them to the fight with the other man.

However, it was determined then that on the Monday morning he left his home and enlisted in the army under a false name and giving a false description of his employment.

Then, at the trial, George Woolfe threw away his previous statement that he had made to the woman regarding not having seen Charlotte Cheeseman on the night of the murder and said that he had seen her at mid-day and had then parted with her at 3.15pm and then remained home until 6pm and then met her shortly after that time, saying that she was then wearing his sister's jacket which he had stolen and that they had then gone for a drink, but that he had refused to take her to the Britannia Theatre because he was 'hard-up', and said that he left her outside the public house while he went to the urinal and that when he came back out she was gone.

The police report noted that it seemed likely that that part of George Woolfe's story probably referred to what happened at the Park Hotel when the man had seen a girl waiting outside while George Woolfe had gone round the corner to use the urinal.

George Woolfe said that after finding that Charlotte Cheeseman had gone that he then went to the World's Fair.

However, it was noted that George Woolfe contradicted himself again by saying that when he came out of the World's Fair at 10.35pm that he went to the Block Tavern, arriving at 11.10pm and saw a man there but did not speak to him as he was drunk. The police report stated that the man contradicted that statement, saying that he was there, but that he did not see George Woolfe and that he was not drunk. It was further noted that the Block Tavern, which was between 200 and 300 yards from where George Woolfe lived was a small public house and that it would have been unlikely that George Woolfe could have seen the man without the man seeing him. It was further noted that George Woolfe had said that he had left the Block Tavern at some point after arriving to look for his father but returned where he had another drink, went out of the side door and into the middle door where he stayed until 11.50pm.

The man said that he had arrived at the Block Tavern at 11.15pm and had stayed for 25 minutes.

In George Woolfe's statement he said, 'I saw a man there, I know him. I did not know his name at the time'. The man confirmed that he knew George Woolfe, saying that his wife knew him and his friend.

Charlotte Cheeseman's body was examined by two doctors.

The first doctor was called out as soon as Charlotte Cheeseman's body was found at 11.30am on 26 January 1902.

The second doctor examined Charlotte Cheeseman's body after it was exhumed.

However, they differed as to the time of death after the wounds were inflicted.

The first doctor said that when he found her body it showed some signs of warmth and that he thought that her wounds had been repeated quickly, one after the other, but that her death had been gradual because blood was not great in quantity, and concluded that she had been dead about 8 hours, or possibly more.

However, the second doctor said that her body had been in a good state of preservation and that he thought that Charlotte Cheeseman had died in a few moments and that if so that she must have been dead for more than 12 hours before the first doctor had arrived.

Police evidence showed that the distance between the Rosemary Branch Tavern and the Park Hotel, thence to the scene of the murder and back to George Woolfe's home, could have been travelled within the alleged times, that being between 9pm at the starting point and 11.55pm, George Woolfe's return, but without very much time to spare.

In the summing up in the police report it was stated that there was unbounded identification of George Woolfe and Charlotte Cheeseman being in company at the Rosemary Branch Inn at 9pm by two witnesses that knew them both well. It was then noted that there was the evidence of the tram-car driver en route  and then the identification by two witnesses of them at the Park Hotel in Tottenham, which was within 10 minutes of the murder scene.

It was noted that the identification of Charlotte Cheeseman was certainly stronger than the evidence touching on George Woolfe but noted that it had to be balanced with the evidence of the man that denied that George Woolfe was the man that had been with the girl at the Park Hotel, with it being additionally noted that it had been shown that his evidence was of such a shifty nature that no weight needed being attached to his wavering statements.

However, it was further noted that given the undoubted evidence as to the woman at the Park Hotel at about 10 o'clock and the finding of Charlotte Cheeseman's body in the near vicinity, that very fact alone bore out most strongly against George Woolfe, for there was only bare time for her to have made the journey from the Rosemary Branch to the Park Hotel within the time and that she was never known to have gone out with any other men (except her previous boyfriend, but that was over) and as such it was likely that in such as short time, starting out with George Woolfe, that she would changed partners and gone with a strange man to the Park Hotel.

It was further submitted in the summing up in the police report that George Woolfe's lies to his sister, his enlisting on the Monday with a false name and occupation, the possession of a weapon such as might have inflicted the wounds (sharpened chisel) and the improbability and contradictions of his story, all taken together with the fact that there was no doubt at George Woolfe was the man that she had been with that it was not conceivable that he had not taken her to the secluded spot in Tottenham Marshes with the premeditated purpose of getting rid of her by murder.

Other evidence was heard from a man that had worked with George Woolfe at Carlisle & Cleggs in Graham Street where he attended a paper staining machine and where George Woolfe was a labourer. He said that George Woolfe had been working there for the previous 15 months up until January 1902 and said that between 13 and 16 January 1902 he had spoken to George Woolfe frequently about Charlotte Cheeseman saying that George Woolfe had told him that he was in serious trouble about her. He said that George Woolfe told him that he had given her a good hiding and that her brother and others were outside ready to give him one. He added that George Woolfe told him she Charlotte Cheeseman was 6 weeks gone and that he should get quit of her. He said that by 16 January 1902 that George Woolfe had  said that he had made it up with Charlotte Cheeseman and that on 18 January 1902 that he told him that he had been to a music hall with her and that on the Friday he would see her waiting for him at the corner of the street, and said that when he looked on the Friday he saw Charlotte Cheeseman at the corner of the street waiting for him.

George Woolfe's work colleague said that on Monday 20 January 1902 that George Woolfe told him that he was going to get married and that he was going to take a half day holiday and ramble round the Lea, but his colleague said that if he did that he would be discharged, to which he said George Woolfe replied that he didn't care if he was discharged.

George Woolfe was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey and executed at Newgate on Tuesday 6 May 1902. He was the last person to be executed at Newgate and his executioners were William Billington and John Ellis.

see National Archives - CRIM 1/73/4, HO 144/578/A63257

see Western Daily Press - Wednesday 07 May 1902

see Herts & Cambs Reporter & Royston Crow - Friday 18 April 1902

see Bromyard News - Thursday 20 March 1902

see Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette - Tuesday 06 May 1902