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Welcome to the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, all set within and beyond the West End.
EPISODE TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY-ONE:
On Sunday 31st of July 1904, at roughly 12:30am, a fight broke out near the doorway of 23 Greek Street in Soho between two young men; Edward Devanney and Raphael Ciclino. Amidst a mele of fists and drunken yells, although its witnesses spoke of the shouts they’d heard and blows they’d seen, it seems strange that no-one saw the truth.
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The location is marked with a dark grey coloured exclamation mark (!) near the words 'Soho', among the mess of markers. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other maps, click here.
SOURCES: This case was researched using some of the sources below.
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE
Welcome to Murder Mile.
Today I’m standing on Greek Street in Soho, W1; a few doors south of William Crees‘ deadly dose of syphilis, a few doors west of Susan Latterney’s Stockholm syndrome, a few doors up from Joe Gynane’s drug-fuelled murder spree, and a few steps from the hobo tax-collector - coming soon to Murder Mile.
At 23 Greek street currently stands a five-storey office block, with the shell of Pleasant Lady Jian Bing’s Chinese street-food stall below and the stench of avocadoes and falafel coming from the production companies above. And with a horrible pebble-dashed façade like a statue’s been sick, a set of nasty white windows reminiscent of a 1980s comprehensive, and its graffiti covered wall wreaking of wee-wee, it’s so ugly, it looks like an architect sat on a box on Meccano and thought “meh, that’ll do”.
Back in 1904, at 23 Greek Street stood a provisions shop called Dearden’s ran by the Dearden family, and above, in a modest three-storey terrace house was their home with space for several lodgers.
On Sunday 31st of July 1904, at roughly 12:30am, a fight broke out near the doorway of 23 Greek Street between two young men; Edward Devanney and Raphael Ciclino. Amidst a mele of fists and drunken yells in a brawl which risked one man’s execution and another’s death, although its many witnesses spoke of the shouts they’d heard and blows they’d seen, it seems strange that no-one saw the truth.
My name is Michael, I am your tour guide, and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 231: The Good Samaritans.
Drinking and fighting are nightly staples of most cities, as once the pubs are shut, a puke of insensible idiots, incapable of rational thought after they’ve had a whole pint of ‘happy juice’, grunt like flatulent pigs as their lonely braincells command sovereign-ringed fists to pummel another Neanderthal’s head.
Some say good riddance to these dregs of society…
…but sometimes, there can be more to a fist fight than at first glance.
The night of Saturday 30th of July 1904 was a hot one, as steam rose from a recent downpour on the streets, and with the air sticky, it seemed like the only way to quell the city’s temper was by drinking.
25-year-old Edward Thomas Devanney was a superintendent at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square. Holding down a steady job and living in a one-roomed lodging on New Compton Street, he had no real plans for the future, as he was all about Saturday nights out with his pals, with a few pints and a fight.
Described as a ne’er-do-well, a yob, an oaf and a lout, he wasn’t the best blessed with brains, and once he’d got a few pints inside of him, he didn’t care who got hurt, as it was all about his pride and his fun.
With a conviction for stealing a purse and a watch, he served 8 months hard labour. Having not learned his lesson, he stole another watch and served another 12 months. And with 12 more months for more theft, and 12 more months for the assault of a policeman, he’d spent 4 of his 7 adult years in prison, and – having shat his life away – he was unlikely to deviate from a path of theft, drink and violence.
But then again, morons will always be morons.
Having finished his shift at the Hippodrome, Edward did what he always did and headed out to Soho for a few pints with his pals; Arthur Langley, Edward Lynch and his brother-in-law James Albert Lee.
As a 32-year-old labourer with scars, tattoos and cut knuckles, Arthur Langley had served nine years plus for theft, burglary and assault. But having realised he had wasted a third of his life, having almost gone straight, he hadn’t been arrested in five years. As for the other two, Edward Lynch was a local tailor who – being red-faced and a bit too loud – was prone to brawling but rarely got into any trouble, and James Lee, who – as a sober man – often stood quietly at the back, as tall and thin as a bean pole.
And not being much of a drinker, James tried his best to keep his brother-in-law out of trouble…
…and although he would try, he would not always succeed.
Finishing his shift at the Hippodrome at 11:30pm, during which (as he often did) he had got pissed, Edward met up in a pub on Shaftesbury Avenue with Edward Lynch, Arthur Langley and James Lee, where it is said he swigged back three pints, until the pub called ‘last orders’ at just gone midnight.
Booted out of the beverage shop and (almost certainly) singing a dirty little ditty about an impressively bosomed girl called Sally, the lads headed into Soho, and – for reasons which were never explained – they slunk to 23 Greek Street, where one of the Hippodrome’s super’s called Freddy Hopkins lodged.
With their drunken bravado echoing across the deserted street, at about 12:30am, although the shop was shut and lights in the lodging above were out, Edward banged hard, and rang the bell incessantly.
Waking Maud Dearden with a start, the landlord’s 18-year-old daughter said she heard “singing and banging… men shouting, and what sounded like a something being smashed”, and with their raucous braying unsettling the sleeping children, Maud stormed downstairs, her little sister cowering behind.
Among the dark of the hallway, as a light burst in from outside owing to the broken front door hanging off its hinges, all she saw was the sinister silhouettes of three men; Devanney, Lynch and Langley. As a petite young woman wearing just her nightdress, she should have been scared, but being so used to their obnoxiousness, all she saw was a bunch of slurring intoxicated arseholes staggering around like their hips were made of jelly and demanding “where’s Hopkins… where’s that fat bastard got to?”.
This wasn’t a robbery and this wasn’t an assault, this was just three drunks being dickheads.
With this being her home and her family, Maud ushered these mashed menaces out, hissing “no, you’ll have to go, he’s sleep, come back tomorrow”, and with bean-pole frame of James Lee – as motionless and vague as ever, and almost silently blending in with the streetlamps – as he slowly shepherded the rear two outside - “come on lads, home time I think” - at that point Edward was still trying to get in.
When questioned by the Police, Edward Devanney said “we rang the bell, but did nothing more to get in. Miss Dearden came down... I asked for Hopkins... she tried to stop me going upstairs. That’s it”.
But as the lads congregated outside of 23 Greek Street…
…a dark and sinister stranger approached.
As Freddy Hopkins peered from his window, too cowardly to confront the commotion below, he’d tell the court “I saw a foreign man come round the corner”. Stocky like a bulldog, strutting like a peacock, and as stiff as a seething cobra ready to strike, dressed entirely in black, the dark Italian spat furiously.
Having never seen him before, the lads had no idea what he wanted, as in an indecipherable gibberish, the Italian shoved Edward hard - “’ere what’s he saying?”, “nah f**k off mate”, “leave it out”, “I don’t f**king know who he is, nutjob is what”, “are you mad or summat?”, “who the f**k does he think he is bossing me about in my country, it’s a bloody liberty innit?”, “he must be a nutter, bloody eyeties”.
But with this foreigner’s fists balled like the heads of two sledgehammers, although they didn’t speak the same language – spoiling for a fight – as James ushered Lynch and Langley across the street to safety, Edward and the ‘foreigner’ got stuck in, knocking seven shades of shit out of each other.
As I say, morons will always be morons.
Their fisticuffs only lasted a minute at best, maybe two, and with both men pummelling each as much as the other; nobody won, nobody lost, face was saved and with James separating the two, they both went about their ways shouting obscenities from ever-increasing distances - “vaffanculo”, “f*ck you”.
And as they walked in different directions – not doubt regaling their pals with a bullshit version of this pathetic little spat – for Edward, although fuming, he’d had a good night, a few pints and a fight.
It had begun as quickly as it had ended…
…or, at least, that’s what they thought.
Having walked up Greek Street, going the wrong direction, Edward recalled “after eighty yards I said I was going home, and I went back down towards Old Compton”, as he lived on New Compton Street.
But as they approached the corner, there he was, the ‘foreigner’, right outside of 23 Greek Street.
With the Italian facing the other way, and Edward still fuming, instead of letting it be, being nothing more than a drunken lout “I got up to him and struck him with my fist two or three times”. As he often did, James tried his best to break-it-up, shouting "don't a fool, come away", but Edward was in deep.
Punching fast and hard, although Edward had the upper hand being a few inches taller, all it took was a single mistake for his life to change forever. As having put the wrong foot in the wrong place at the wrong time, as he tripped over a kerbstone, “I slipped to the ground; and next, he was on top of me”.
With the Italian raining down punches and Edward giving him sharp thumps to the gut, the two men pounded on, their bleeding fists slamming into each other’s bodies, as James tried to split them apart.
As a mele of flying limbs and furious grunts, it was impossible for any witness on this partially lit street to see what had happened; as some saw fists, others only saw feet, some said several men were at it, others said it was just the two. And although several witnesses were heard to cry "don't two him" and “no blades, come on, play fair”, some saw a knife being pulled, and whereas others saw nothing.
Rising to his feet and fearing retaliations from the angry men who surrounded him, as the Italian fled, Lynch recalled “he rushed across the road. Devanny got off the ground and went after him”. Running down Old Compton Street, “Devanney overtook him and struck him once in the face”, but hearing a cry of “Police! Help” from one of the eyewitnesses, as the Italian headed west, the lads headed east.
Bleeding from a swelling eye, spitting bloodied spittle and limping ever more profusely as he staggered down Charring Cross Road, with his adrenaline still pumping, it was only as he took a moment to catch his breath, being aided by pals Lynch and Langley, that Edward realised that he had been stabbed.
With blood over his hands, and pooling down his legs in a never-ending torrent, with a knife wound to his right buttock, but also his groin - a soft plateau of flesh containing vital arteries and veins - they caught a cab and sped to Charing Cross Hospital. Immediately admitted to casualty and given the very best available treatment for his wounds, a few hours later, 25-year-old Edward Thomas Devanney…
…was discharged from hospital and made a full recovery.
Mercifully, although he had two knife wounds; one an inch long to his right buttock, and the other in the lower part of his abdomen, having only punctured the skin, these superficial wounds were stitched and dressed, and – with no long-term damage to his vital organs - Edward left and went about his day.
The fight had been bloody and brutal, but no-one had died…
…no-one. At least, not yet.
Like Edward, he didn’t know that he’d been stabbed, but seeing him stumble away from a raging crowd on Greek Street, a taxi driver drove him straight to Charing Cross Hospital. With a seemingly superficial wound to his abdomen, it was stitched and bandaged, but as he drifted in and out of consciousness, with the blade having punctured his intestines, the tall thin frame of the patient grew paler and sicker.
As his own guts had poisoned him, knowing he was unlikely to recover, the doctor said, "you know you’re going to die?" and having mumbled "yes", a few minutes later, 22-year-old James Lee was dead.
He hadn’t drank, he hadn’t argued, he hadn’t fought, as being a quiet sober man, this good Samaritan had simply stepped in to break up the fight, and yet the blade meant for Edward had ended his life.
That night, in a dingy little lodging at 14 Arthur Street in West Brompton, James’ murderer returned.
As the dark foreigner entered his gloomy hovel, pulling from his bloodied pocket a bone-handled clasp knife, before stashing the evidence in his drawer, he wiped the blade clean with a rag and a sharpener.
Only this was not a callous killer impassive having taken a life, this was a man in panic. 32-year-old Italian Raphael Ciclino was so perturbed by his own actions, that when his landlady (Rosina Martin) came to deliver his breakfast in the morning, she’d state “the door was shut, the room was empty and the bed was dirty as if somebody with muddy clothes had lain on it, and someone had been sick”.
Those who knew him said that Raphael wasn’t an uncouth lout, but “a quiet and reserved gentleman who was sober, peaceful and was no bother to anyone”. He didn’t drink or fight, he just worked.
The next morning, being too terrified to flee but also too poor to not earn, Raphael returned to his job as a kitchen porter at the French Club on Lisle Street. Having misplaced his hat, although his tatty old waistcoat now sported a new hole and several fresh stains which no-one knew was blood, what made the cooks laugh was his black eye, as ‘apparently’ this stout little man had got into a fight. (laughs)
(Banter) “who gave you that then, your missus?”, “men did it, Englishmen”, “ah yeah, right, and how many men we talking?”, “six, maybe ten, I not know”, “ha, six he says, maybe ten, my speckled arse”.
He worked his shift as best he could, washing dishes with shaking hands and getting ribbed about his fight, but with his description circulated through Soho, it was only a matter of time until he was caught.
On the morning of Monday the 1st of August, Raphael Ciclino was arrested at the French Club having been pointed out by the cowardly Freddy Hopkins. Taken to Vine Street police station, when Detective Inspector Drew stated, “I am charging you with stabbing two men in Greek Street, one of whom has since died”, barely able to converse in broken English, Raphael looked lost. And although it didn’t take an interpreter (who would later arrive) to translate “no fight; me no knife", although that was clearly a lie, his defence was not going to be easy, as the Inspector replied, “sorry mate, I don’t speak French”.
So many details would be lost in translation…
…and yet, ironically, that was how the fight had begun.
The evidence against Raphael was overwhelming.
Examined by Dr Mitchell, with extensive bruises to his jaw, nose, legs, knees and the back of his head, the Police surgeon would state “he had been very badly mauled”, and although clearly shocked at how deadly this brawl had been, although he shook and he cried and he repeatedly vomited, there was no denying that – regardless of how remorseful he was now – that fight had led to a man’s death.
In his lodging, the Police found the knife hidden in the drawer. With a reddish-brown film on the blade from where he had wiped it clean, although an attempt to destroy evidence was seen by the Police, on the bloodied specks which remained, lay a black fluff matching his pocket’s lining and a sprinkling of tobacco identical to the brand he smoked. And with Dr Ludwig Freyberger confirming that the blade was the same size as the one which had stabbed James to death, Raphael was as good as guilty.
Back at Vine Street police station, against a line-up of ten stocky men of Italian appearance, Raphael was picked out by Edward Devanney (his victim and brother-in-law of the deceased), their boozy pals Arthur Langley and Edward Lynch, Freddy Hopkins the coward and Maud Dearden of 23 Greek Street.
Questioned with an interpreter present, although he gave a piecemeal statement in a mix of excitable Italian and broken English, repeatedly asserting “I had no knife, only my hands, everyone see that”, even though no-one could recall seeing a knife (not even Edward), it didn’t help that he had lied.
Charged with the wounding of Edward Devanney and the wilful murder of James Lee, as two men who he didn’t know and had never met until that moment, the impact of his actions were so overwhelming, that on two occasions, as he sat inside his prison cell, Raphael would attempt to take his own life.
Using whatever he could find, in the first instance, he ripped off the buttons from his jacket and (made of highly toxic lead and decorated with lethal-levels of an arsenic-based paint) he swallowed them. In the second instance - having survived owing to quick-witted officers - he strangled himself using his own coat sleeves, and running fast, he ran head-first into the cell’s stone wall until he fell unconscious.
Suffering little more than bruises, cuts and a concussion, his suicide attempts would prove futile…
…but what had driven this quiet little man to stab a stranger he didn’t even know?
The night of Saturday 30th of July 1904 was a hot one, as steam rose from a recent downpour on the streets, and with the air sticky, it seemed like the only way to quell the city’s temper was by drinking.
But not for Raphael. Being a sober man, although he was sat in the Swiss Hotel on Old Compton Street with Joseph Berger a cook from the French Club, there was no argument to rile his temper and no excess of drunk to cloud his judgement, as having supped a small wine, he left the pub at 12:30am.
His plan was to head off home to bed after a 14-hour shift; he was alone as his pal had said ‘goodbye’, he was walking west towards Charing Cross Road to get his bus, in his pocket he carried a tin of tobacco (as he smoked) and a bone-handled knife (as being porter and often a cook, many men in his line of work carried the tools of their trade with them), and he only stopped because he heard a scream.
It was a woman’s scream.
Turning off Old Compton Street onto Greek Street, to the side of the provisions shop, he saw the petite frame of 18-year-old Maud, her front door hanging off its hinges, her little sister cowering behind her, and - surrounded by drunken louts - no-one was coming to her aid, not even cowardly Freddy Hopkins.
Raised well, unlike others who would have walked by, although he wasn’t a brawler, Raphael came to this lone woman’s aid and - rightly - reprimanded Edward who was trying to force his way back in. He was just a stranger, but he was the good Samaritan that Maud needed in her moment of fear. Only, with no-one having a clue what he was saying - “’ere what’s he saying?”, “are you mad or summat?”, “who the f**k’s he think he is bossing me about in my country?”, “must be a nutter, bloody eyeties” – Raphael would state “I saw a man strike a woman. I spoke to him, but he did not understand me”.
And there sits the irony, as at that moment, there wasn’t one good Samaritan, but two. As with both Raphael Ciclino and James Lee trying to stop Edward and protect Maud, these two quiet men had stepped in when others hadn’t, but unable to understand the other, details were lost in translation.
Initially fleeing as he was scared, the only reason Raphael returned to 23 Greek Street was because he worried about Maud. Having crossed paths, the only reason James was stabbed was because he was protecting Edward. And the only reason that Raphael pulled a knife was because fearing for his life, as the drunken lout called Edward Devanney had sunk a few pints and was spoiling for a fight. (End)
By the end of the month, on 31st of August 1904, before Judge Denman, 32-year-old Raphael Ciclino was tried at the Old Bailey on the charge of malicious wounding and murder. From the witness box and through a translator, he would claim he was set upon by Edward, but also Lynch, Langley and later attacked by James Lee, that as he hadn’t a knife in his possession, he’d defended himself with his fists.
Unable to decide who was telling the truth as the evidence confirmed that someone had stabbed both men, as none of the witnesses had seen a knife and even Edward would state “I cannot say for certain who stabbed him”, with the defence claiming provocation, a jury took ten minutes to find him guilty of manslaughter. Sentenced on 15th September, Raphael Ciclino was given eight years' penal servitude.
And with Edward seen as one of the victims, no charges of assault, intimidation, criminal damage or violence were brought against him, and – never changing his ways – he continued living his life like a drunken oaf; who stole to suit his needs, who terrorised young girls to make himself feel big, and as a loser, who got into pathetic fights with strangers over nothing, all because his life was worthless.
James Lee was buried in Westminster, having only lived 22 years of his young life. Raphael served his sentence and returned to his family in Italy. Two good Samaritans who risked their lives for a stranger.
The Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast has been researched using the original declassified police investigation files, court records, press reports and as many authentic sources as possible, which are freely available in the public domain, including eye-witness testimony, confessions, autopsy reports, first-hand accounts and independent investigation, where possible. But these documents are only as accurate as those recounting them and recording them, and are always incomplete or full of opinion rather than fact, therefore mistakes and misrepresentations can be made. As stated at the beginning of each episode (and as is clear by the way it is presented) Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast is a 'dramatisation' of the events and not a documentary, therefore a certain amount of dramatic licence, selective characterisation and story-telling (within logical reason and based on extensive research) has been taken to create a fuller picture. It is not a full and complete representation of the case, the people or the investigation, and therefore should not be taken as such. It is also often (for the sake of clarity, speed and the drama) presented from a single person's perspective, usually (but not exclusively) the victim's, and therefore it will contain a certain level of bias and opinion to get across this single perspective, which may not be the overall opinion of those involved or associated. Murder Mile is just one possible retelling of each case. Murder Mile does not set out to cause any harm or distress to those involved, and those who listen to the podcast or read the transcripts provided should be aware that by accessing anything created by Murder Mile (or any source related to any each) that they may discover some details about a person, an incident or the police investigation itself, that they were unaware of.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
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