Duncan Campbell

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Witness at Frances Coles' inquest.

A sailor, residing at 55 Leman Street at the time of his appearance at the inquest. On 13th February 1891 he was staying at the Sailor's Home in Well Street (today's Ensign Street) when he claimed to have bought a knife from James Sadler. In his testimony, he said:

"On Friday, the 13th of February, I was staying at the Sailor's Home, Well-street. Between 10:15 and 10:30 I came down from my bedroom and stood by the fire in the hall. A man came in at that moment and sat on a seat by the fire. He got up and said, "Mate, I am nearly dead. I have been out all night and I got robbed. I am dying for a drink." He produced a knife."

The knife was produced and Campell identified it as the one. He continued:

" He [Sadler] said, "Will you buy it?" I gave him a shilling and a bit of tobacco for it. That was what he asked for it. He took the knife out of his right-hand pocket. I took the knife and looked at it, and said, "This is not an English knife." I opened the big blade. He said, "No, I bought it abroad." I said, "Where?" and he replied, "In America." I kept the knife and put it in my pocket. He went straight out into Leman-street. There were two doors, one leading into Dock-street and one into Leman-street. He was only with me about five or six minutes. About 11 o'clock I heard that a murder had been committed. After hearing of the murder I opened the big blade, but noticed no blood. I washed it in a basin of clean water and then wiped it on a dirty towel. I looked at the water and found it was slightly salmon coloured. I put the knife in my pocket and then went up to bed and slept till half-past 3. I kept the knife until Saturday afternoon, and then, being short of money, I went to Mr. Robinson in Dock-street, and asked him to lend me 6d. till the Monday, when I would pay 9d. for it. He replied that he would buy the knife for 6d. and sell it back again on the Monday for 9d. I gave him the knife and took the 6d., and said I would buy it back on the Monday for 9d. When the man sold the knife to me on the Friday he said, "It has cut many a model," and I thought he meant ship's models. On Sunday evening I was talking with some sailors in the home and told them about buying the knife. I then went off to the Leman-street police-station, arriving there after 10 o'clock. I saw two police-sergeants, and gave a description of the man I had seen on the Friday morning in the hall. I then went with the two sergeants to Mr. Robinson's. He produced the knife to the police immediately, and Sergeant Ward took possession of it. We then went back to Leman-street station, and I was taken downstairs to a cellar lighted with gas. There I saw 15 or 16 men, mostly sailors. I was told to pick out the man who had sold me the knife. The men were ranged in a semicircle, and I started from and found him on the left-hand corner. I went up to him and looked at the peak of his hat, and then saw the scar over his left eye. The man who sold me the knife had a scar over his eye.

"The hall is dark by the fire. The man had a cap on and kept it on. The sergeants asked me a great many questions. They did not ask me whether he had a scar or not; I told them that myself. They asked me how tall the man was, and I said a little taller than myself. My eyesight is not very good, and the light in the room was bad when I picked the man out. The man had a cloth peaked cap, which was right down over his eyes. I am sure it was not a glazed peak. The scar on the man was over the right eye. When I saw the man on the Friday morning he did not take his cap off. I could see the scar when he had his cap on. I was not sure it was the man until I saw the scar. There were other men there with the same sort of beard, which is a very common one amongst seamen. It is the American style. I had a doubt about the man until I saw the scar. No one told me the man had a scar before I saw him at the station.

(By the CORONER) - I did not think the water was coloured with blood.

(By Mr. Mathews) - I did not use the knife from the time I bought it till I washed it.

(By the CORONER) - If the knife had been rusty it would have made the salmon colour that I speak of. "[1]


  1. Inquest report, The Times, 24th February 1891