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Sarah Fleming

Witness at Frances Coles' inquest.

Born c.1834 in Chester. Estranged wife of plasterer William Fleming (b.1827) and deputy of Spitalfields Chambers, the lodging house at 8 White's Row[1]. She appeared on the third day of the Coles inquest.

She said she had known the deceased woman as Frances and that she had stayed at the lodging house on various occasions over the preceding eight months. Coles had come into the lodging house at about 10.30pm, 12th February 1891, whereupon she was joined by a man who she later identified as James Sadler.

She was then subjected to further questioning as her evidence appeared to contradict that of Charles Guiver, but agree with that of Samuel Harris:

Mr. Mathews. - You spoke to him, I believe. Did you notice the condition of his face?

Witness. - He was very dirty, as if he had fallen on the ground.

Mr. Mathews. - Did you notice any blood on it?

Witness. - No. He asked if he could go into the kitchen, and I said he could not, as strangers were not allowed. When I had turned my back he passed me and went down into the kitchen.

Mr. Mathews. - Did you see him afterwards sitting in the kitchen?

Witness. - Yes. I saw him sitting by the side of Frances. It was 11 o'clock when he came in, but I did not see him go out.

Mr. Mathews. - Did you see the woman Frances leave the house?

Witness. - Yes, she went out about 12 o'clock. I saw her go through the street door.

Mr. Mathews. - Are you sure it was Frances?

Witness. - Yes. She passed my office, and I saw her face.

Mr. Mathews. - Did you ever see her again alive?

Witness. - No, Sir.

Mr. Mathews. - Your evidence is in direct conflict with the evidence of Gyver, but is at one with the evidence of Harris. How long were you in your office?

Witness. - Till 4 o'clock, and I can see everybody who comes through the passage.

Mr. Mathews. - Did you see the man come back that night?

Witness. - Yes. He came about 3 o'clock on Friday morning. He came up to the office and asked if he could go into the kitchen, and I said "No." He said "Why not?" and I replied, "Strangers are not allowed." He then said I was a hard-hearted woman. He had been robbed of his money in Ratcliff-highway.

Mr. Mathews. - Was his face cut and bleeding?

Witness. - Yes. He had a cut on the right cheek and under the left eye. He said he had been knocked down and kicked about, and that, besides stealing his money, they had robbed him of his watch, but it was only a common one.

Mr. Mathews. - What did you say further?

Witness. - I said that if I let him stop in the kitchen they might think his injuries had been done in the house. I told him to go out, and, as he still hung about the door, I called the watchman to put him out, but Sadler then walked away.

Mr. Mathews. - You spoke of the injuries just now. Did you notice if his head was cut?

Witness. - I don't know. There was blood running down both cheeks, but not a great quantity.

Mr. Mathews. - Did you notice his hands at the time?

Witness. - He turned his pocket out to show he had no money and I then saw blood on the palm of his right hand.

The CORONER. - What did the man say when he came back?

Witness. - He asked if the young woman Frances was in, and I said I had not seen her since she went out at 12 o'clock. It was after that that he asked to be allowed to go into the kitchen. On Sunday I identified Sadler at the Leman-street Police Station as the man who had been at the lodginghouse on the 12th inst.

Mr. Lawless. - When the man came back was he sober?

Witness. - No. He was very drunk[2]

It appears that Sarah and her husband were back together by the time of the 1891 census (less than eight weeks later) as they were then both registered at 8 White's Row. She was described as a charwoman.


  1. Census reports 1891
  2. Inquest report, The Times, 21st February 1891

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