Unsolved Murders

Daniel Sullivan

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 24 Aug 1908

Place: Royal Oak, Thames Place

Source: www.oldbaileyonline.org

Daniel Sullivan was killed in a robbery. Two men were tried for his manslaughter but the case against them was dropped although they were convicted of robbery.

Daniel Sullivan had been drinking earlier in the Horn and Chequers pub in Thames Place, Poplar on 24 August 1908. He was seen there between 3.15pm and 3.30pm with several other people by the landlord who said that he saw some of the group skylarking and had asked them to stop.

He was described as being quite sober although having had a little drink. A labourer said that he saw the two men charged with his manslaughter rubbing Daniel Sullivan down and said that Daniel Sullivan then left. However, he said that he then saw the two men charged with his manslaughter wink at each other and follow Daniel Sullivan out. The labourer said that he then followed the men out and saw them ahead of him walking down Thames Place. He said that about 5-10 minutes later he saw the two men that were charged with Daniel Sullivan's manslaughter coming round by the Horn and Chequers pub again, noting that they were walking very sharp. He said that he then went round to the Royal Oak pub and then saw Daniel Sullivan lying outside in the road.

A hairdresser's assistant said that he had been out to the Enterprise pub in Limehouse with Daniel Sullivan and the two men charged with killing him after which they went round to the Horn and Chequers pub where they had a few drinks. He said that whilst they were there was some scuffling or a bit of fun going on between them and said that he remembered one of the men feeling his waistcoat and tapping him about and that it made him rather suspicious but said that he didn't take much notice at the time. He said that after leaving the Horn and Chequers pub, as he was walking up Thames Place to a urinal, the two men charged with manslaughter and Daniel Sullivan were behind him and that when they got to the Royal Oak pub one of the men charged put his arm round his neck and threw his head back. He said that he could not see what was going on, but heard the sound of a blow and a man falling. He said that after a few seconds he recovered, and saw the two men going away towards Vinesta Wharf and then saw Daniel Sullivan lying under the window of the Royal Oak pub. The hairdresser's assistant said that he then went round Thames Place, thinking that the two men had gone to the river to take a boat but saw nothing of them and returned to the Royal Oak pub where a policeman then came up. The hairdresser's assistant said he could not say how much money he had had on him but said that while one of the men had had him by the throat he had felt a hand in his trousers pocket, but said that he did not lose any money as his pocket was very deep and that the man didn't feel down far enough.

A blind maker that had been outside the Royal Oak pub said that he saw one of the men charged and another man struggling with the hairdresser's assistant and said that he then saw Daniel Sullivan come up to the three men, by which time he said that the hairdresser's assistant was on the ground and that one of the two others struck Daniel Sullivan, who then fell backwards to the ground. He said that the two men then shook Daniel Sullivan by the arm, and then dragged him from the road and set him up against the side of the Royal Oak pub, and went away in the direction of the Thames. He said that when he saw the hairdresser's assistant struggling with the two men he had no doubt that he was being robbed.

The manager of the Enterprise in Limehouse said that he saw one of the men that was charged outside the Royal Oak pub and said that he said to him, thinking that he had killed Daniel Sullivan, that he thought that he ought to be ashamed of himself and said that the man replied, 'Well, if I had never hit him he would have hit me'. The manager of the Enterprise said that the man didn't say, 'He hit me first and I hit him back'.

A detective said that at about 4pm on the afternoon of 24 August 1908 he saw the men charged walking very fast indeed from the direction of the Royal Oak pub. He said that he then went to the Royal Oak pub and saw Daniel Sullivan lying on his back, unconscious. He said that he had a mark on his face under the left eye and a bruise at the back of his head and that he was then taken to the police station and then to the hospital.

The two men were arrested shortly after.

The first man was arrested in Commercial Road just after 5pm.

The other man was also arrested in Commercial Road  shortly after at 8.45pm and told that he was to be charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Daniel Sullivan to which the man replied, 'I don't see how you can charge me, if two men gets fighting and I stand there, how can you charge me for standing there?'.

A policeman said that when the two men were being detained in the cells he heard the first man say to the second man, 'We shall only get a month or two for this, I will tell you what to say when you get up there'.

Another policeman said that he heard the second man say to the first, 'Was you identified by that chap that was with him?', to which the first man replied, 'No, I was identified by another chap who was standing there at the time', to which the first man then replied, 'Oh, we can do him'.

A policeman said that when he said to the first man, 'You have been identified for being concerned with another man in assaulting a man named Daniel Sullivan, who is now seriously ill at Poplar Hospital, you will be detained for causing grievous bodily harm, and probably a more serious charge will be preferred against you', the man replied, 'All I want is to be treated fair. I don't reckon I had a fair identification. I was not there, and know nothing about it'.

When the second man was charged he said, 'I know that the other man and Sullivan had a fight. Sullivan hit the other man, and he hit him back. He fell down on the kerb and I picked him up and sat him with his back against the wall, and then we both came away'.

Daniel Sullivan was taken to the Poplar Hospital at about 5pm on 24 August 1908 in an unconscious condition and died just after midnight without regaining consciousness.

His post-mortem stated that his death was due to shock combined with pressure on the brain due to haemorrhage. An assistant surgeon said that Daniel Sullivan's skull was fractured at the base and that there was a bruise in the scalp above and behind his left ear and also a bruise over his left eye. The assistant surgeon said that death was due certainly to the fracture of the skull which might have been caused by a fall on to a granite road.

The judge said that it would be difficult to convict the second man unless the prosecution could proved a concerted attempt by him and the other man to rob the hairdresser's assistant. It was heard that the hairdresser's assistant had declared that the blow that knocked Daniel Sullivan down was struck while the second man attempted to rob him (the hairdresser's assistant) which would show a concerted action, but that another person had sworn that, when Daniel Sullivan was struck, the struggle with the hairdresser's assistant was over and he was standing in the road. It was then asked if the jury would be likely to accept the statement of the hairdresser's assistant, who had certainly been drinking, against that of the other person, who had been perfectly sober?, and the prosecution admitted that the evidence did not suffice to prove the case as he had opened it but noted that there was still another indictment on which the two men could be tried for, that being assault and attempt to rob, and that the prosecution would accept the intimation of the judge’s opinion and offer no further evidence on the charge of manslaughter or murder.

The two men were then found not guilty of manslaughter.

The two men were then tried for the other charges.

The first man said, 'On August 24 I was not in the Enterprise. I went to the Horn and Chequers with the second man. After we arrived the hairdresser's assistant and Daniel Sullivan and two others came in. The hairdresser's assistant, who was not sobor, started skylarking about. He and Daniel Sullivan were wrestling. The hairdresser's assistant's hat fell off. The second man picked it up and handed it to the hairdresser's assistant, who took hold of the second man's wrist and started wrestling with him. The Governor came and stopped it. It is untrue that I 'rubbed down' the hairdresser's assistant. I never touched him. I did not know whether he had any money or not, in fact, somebody asked him to stand treat and he said he had no money. Later he and Daniel Sullivan left the bar. It is not true that I and the second man winked at each other. We left the house just after the hairdresser's assistant and Daniel Sullivan and went down Thames Place. We were standing together when the hairdresser's assistant came up and said to the second man, 'Give us your hand. Shall I show you a new grip?', and they started wrestling. Then Daniel Sullivan came up and said, 'It's nonsense for you to talk about wrestling'. I started laughing. He said, 'Who are you laughing at?', and he gave me a blow in the mouth. I then got to close quarters with him and as I struck him he fell down. After that me and the second man picked him up and set him against the wall. The second man said to me, 'We will go away, or there will be trouble'. With that we walked away. I never struck the hairdresser's assistant, I never put a finger on him'.

When the second man gave evidence in court he said, 'I was not in the Enterprise on August 24. I saw the hairdresser's assistant on that day in the Horn and Chequers. I was in that house with the first man. The hairdresser's assistant was wrestling with Daniel Sullivan. His hat fell off. I picked it up and handed it to him, and he then got playing about with me, trying my wrist. I tried to twist his wrist, but I could not. I swear that I never 'rubbed him down'.  I did not know whether he had any money on him or not. I had heard him say in the bar that he was broke. As to the occurrence outside the Royal Oak, the hairdresser's assistant came up to me and said, 'I will show you a new grip'. I laughed at him. We took wrists, and he pulled me as he was the stronger man. I never assaulted him. I saw Daniel Sullivan come up to the first man and, after a little jangle, Daniel Sullivan struck the first man and the first man struck back and Daniel Sullivan fell. I picked him up, the first man lending me a hand, and we placed him against the side of the public-house. I said to the first man, 'He's all right'. I had no idea the man was in the state that he was'.

Both of the men were then found guilty of robbery.

Many convictions were then proved against the men and it was heard that their speciality in crime was the robbery of drunken persons and they were known to the police as very dangerous characters.

The first man was sentenced to three years' penal servitude whilst the second man was sentenced to 18 months' hard labour.


see Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 7.0, 24 December 2012), September 1908, trial of CHARLES HOGSDON, (30, stoker) RICHARD COCKLIN, (25, labourer) (t19080908-43).

see Tower Hamlets Independent and East End Local Advertiser - Saturday 29 August 1908

see London Evening Standard - Saturday 12 September 1908

see East London Observer - Saturday 05 September 1908