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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, set within one square mile of the West End.
On Saturday 7th December 1872, Mary Ann Moriarty; a good, decent and hard-working mother of eight children, who struggled to protect her family whilst trapped in an abusive relationship with a violent angry drunk, had her life and pain ended by the blade of an axe.
As many photos of the case are copyright-protected, below are photos taken by me and to view the others, take a peek at my social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
I've added the location of 13 Granby Place, WC2 where Mary Ann Moriarty lived marked with a green !. It's by the "n" of 'Covent Garden'. To use the map, simply click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, such as King's Cross and Paddington, you can access them by clicking here.
I've also posted some photos to aid your "enjoyment" of the episode. These photos were taken by myself (copyright Murder Mile) or granted under Government License 3.0, where applicable.
Left to right: Wild Street Estate on the corner of Drury Lane and Kemble Street where 13 Granby Place once was (before the slum clearances of 1875), a example of a standard width alley in Covent Garden and the Feather Street slum off Drury Lane in the 1870's.
Ep71 – The Last Days of Mary Ann Moriarty
SCRIPT: Welcome to Murder Mile; a true-crime podcast and audio guided walk featuring many of London’s untold, unsolved and long-forgotten murders, all set within London’s West End.
Today’s episode is about the death of Mary Ann Moriarty; a good, decent and hard-working mother of eight children, who struggled to protect her family whilst trapped in an abusive relationship with a violent angry drunk, and with no way of escape, her pain was only ended by the blade of an axe.
Murder Mile is researched using the original sources. It contains moments of satire, shock and grisly details, and as a dramatisation of the real events, it may also feature loud and realistic sounds, so that no matter where you listen to this podcast, you’ll feel like you’re actually there.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 71: The Last Days of Mary Ann Moriarty.
Today I’m standing on Drury Lane, WC2; two streets south of lonely spinster Daisy Edith Wallis, one street east of the brutal baker Alexander Moir, two street south-west of the frozen pauper Charlie Chirgwin, two streets north-west of the murder or suicide of Italian banker Roberto Calvi, and just fifty feet from the home of Karl Taylor, the little-known The First Date Killer - coming soon to Murder Mile.
This is the Wild Street Estate; thirteen six-storey sandstone buildings covering a whole city block from Drury Lane to Wild Street to Kemble Street, all set around a central courtyard, and as one of the early Peabody Estates (built in 1881 by philanthropist George Peabody to provide clean and safe inner-city housing for the city’s poorest in the Victorian era), even today it still houses hundreds of families.
Hidden in the really shitty-part of Covent Garden – far from the surly servers serving lukewarm lattes for £8, the Opera House where poncy uptight-types feel cultured having watched a fat woman warble and the over-hyped street performers who have one hour to fill and two tricks to perform (so most of their act is about making you clap) – with no sun, no flowers and no joy, just long lines of monstrously drab flat-fronted high-rises, this side of Drury Lane is a real eyesore. So much so that even today I saw a tourist stop-dead in his tracks and gasp, as he realised there were no souvenir shops, no red phone-boxes and no “ye olde English”-looking buildings to take a selfie in front of, so he did a swift about-turn and headed back to the Covent Garden piazza to pose with one of fifty floating Yoda. Happy days.
Oddly, the Peabody Estate between Drury Lane, Wild Street and Kemble Street is old and interesting, as before the slum clearances of 1875, somewhere amongst what was once a dark and dirty rabbit’s warren of leaky lodging houses, cow-sheds and cess-pits stood 13 Granby Place. And although it has long-since been demolished, the area still hangs with an unpleasant sense of dread, terror and death.
As it was here, on Saturday 7th December 1872, having suffered yet another brutal beating at the hands of her drunk and abusive husband that – armed with an axe - the cruel and tragic life of Mary Ann Moriarty came to an end. (Interstitial)
In 1831, Mary Ann Donovan (known as Ann) was born near the town of Kilmallock (County Limerick) in the south-west of the Republic of Ireland, as the third eldest daughter of thirteen siblings.
Like many peasants who lived off the land, they were illiterate and poor. Eking out a hand-to-mouth existence - with peat moss on the fire, animal fur for clothes and eating only what they could grow - surviving in the rugged windswept wilds with a dearth of sunlight and a sodden boggy soil on a small-holding barely big enough to feed their family and few animals, they lived-off root-crops like potatoes.
In 1845, as an infestation of “potato blight” swept across Ireland; infecting every farm and family, as the British Parliament closed the borders, ceased all trades and caused the Irish economy to crash, The Great Famine saw four years of mass starvation, disease and emigration which killed over one million people (an eighth of the country’s population) and forced another million to flee.
After two years of hardship, the decimated and emaciated Donovan family had emigrated to England. But London in the late 1840’s was a far-cry from the farmlands of Limerick; with the hard stone streets a festering river of faeces, the acrid air thick with choking industrial fumes and the water so polluted that one Cholera outbreak would soon wipe out sixth of Soho in a single week, so living in a leaky flea-infested lodging house with five other families, the Donovan’s had survived starvation… but only just.
Having moved to London, although illiterate and unskilled, Mary Ann made the best of her new life.
By all accounts, Mary Ann was a good Catholic woman with solid morals, strong maternal instincts and a natural warmth which endeared her to others. Being fiercely protective of her family, having been a carer for her younger siblings since an early age, what she dreamed of most was becoming a mum.
In the spring of 1851, 20 year old Mary Ann Donovan married 23 year old Daniel Moriarty; a stocky, stout and thick-set Irish bricklayer with arms like tree-trunks, fists like prize-hams and a nose like a squashed spud having broken it in too-many fights, and although a fan of the drink, he worked hard.
During those first few years, married life was good but hard - as being Irish, poor and reliant on his wage - they moved from job-to-job and place-to-place, and although Mr & Mrs Moriarty tried to raise a family, being little and weak, the first two babies of their brood failed to survive their first year. But being devout Catholics, the couple had kept their faith and - soon enough - eight children followed.
By 1871, after twenty years of marriage, Daniel & Mary Ann were living at 3 Browns Buildings, just off Drury Lane, as with construction having begun on The Gaiety - a music hall on the corner of The Strand - they moved to Covent Garden. And with their eldest (17 year old Mary) in service as a maid, squeezed into just two tiny rooms was their eldest son Danny (aged 14), John (aged 10), Edward (aged 8), William (aged 5) and with a sixth on the way, with Mary Ann as a full-time mother, they struggled but survived.
She was the perfect mother; warm, kind and loving, with a big heart, abundant hugs and a bosom to match, and although ten pregnancies had more-than doubled her weight - with pale ruddy skin, red unkempt hair and ragged sack-cloth clothes – Mary Ann always put her babies first.
She adored being a mum, but married life was never bliss; as with her sweet smile broken by smashed teeth, her soft flesh mottled with purple welts and her greeny-blue eyes red-raw and puffy from years of tears, Mary Ann lived in fear. Before the year was out, the life of Mary Ann Moriarty would be over, all because of her violent husband, his addiction to drink and an axe (Interstitial).
By the summer of 1872, the Moriarty family had moved to 13 Granby Place; two tiny damp rooms on the second floor of a leaky tumbledown house, squeezed in a thin unlit alley hidden amongst a cramped chaotic mess of slums-lodgings, cow-sheds, coal yards and slaughter houses, with hundreds of people all sharing an airless rat-infested courtyard for washing, cooking, bathing and shitting.
Covent Garden was a bad place; as not only was it here that the first victims of The Great Plague of 1665 were recorded, just off Drury Lane, but being a theatre district, as a hotbed of boozers and brothels, it was awash with gangs of tricksters, pick-pockets and rapists. So bad had it become that the precursor to the Metropolitan Police Force - The Bow Street Runners - was established right here.
And although it was a hell-hole, for the Moriarty family, it was the best they could afford.
Scraping by on a meagre wage, Mary Ann made the very best of a dire situation; for her beloved family there was always fresh straw for the two beds they shared, hot food for their rumbling bellies and (being devoid of trees) she kept the log-fire burning by chopping-up old bits of discarded wood with her axe. But as hard as she tried, they never had enough, as Daniel always blew his wages on drink.
Daniel Moriarty was a drunken loutish brute. After three decades of chronic boozing, his fierce face was a bloated red mess, his gut was like a flatulent balloon, his glassy scowling eyes were vacant, and with his hard hairy knuckles all bruised and broken, although he had a family to feed, always being drunk, he never had a kind word to say, a penny to spare, or new clothes to warm his ragged family.
Not only was Daniel was a cruel husband, a bad father and a selfish drunk, he was also violent criminal.
In 1867, five years earlier, Daniel violently robbed an elderly couple in Covent Garden, beating them black-and-blue with his fists, breaking the man’s jaw and all for the sake of a few pennies. Sentenced to seven years in Millbank Prison, Mary Ann was left with no income, five kids to fend for and a sixth on the way. But being resilient, with a sympathetic landlord (George Beales) having taken pity on the good woman’s plight, she moved her family to cheaper lodgings at 13 Granby Place. Daniel served only three years in prison, he was placed on bail and returned to his wife, his kids, his job and his drink.
In April 1872, Daniel was sentenced to one month’s hard labour for what the court had termed as “ill-treating his wife”. Risking her own life, Mary Ann filed a complaint against her husband at Bow Street Police Station, as in one of his frequent drunken rages, the brute had rained down several heavy blows upon her - fracturing her eye-socket, cracking three ribs and breaking two fingers – as shielding her children with her arms and back, she defended her new-born baby with her body. Daniel served one month in prison, and fuelled by drink and resentment, again he returned home to his wife and his kids.
In June 1872, having boozed himself insensible at The Wheatsheaf pub on Stanhope Street, as a serial womaniser and brothel-botherer, at a little before tea-time, Daniel came home and demanded that his wife and six hungry kids wait outside in the street so he could fuck the whore that he had paid for.
In October 1872, at The Bull's Head pub on Vere Street, Daniel and his old pal John Sullivan had boozed themselves into an incapable stupor; a fight sparked-up, they were turfed-out and stumbled back to 13 Granby Place. Having forcibly ejected his family from their own home with a brusk “Woman! Out!”, Daniel grabbed a candlestick, knocked his pal to the floor and robbed him of twenty-three shillings.
Tried at Bow Street Police Court, Mary Ann gave evidence against Daniel - as being a violent ex-convict who had broken his bail terms – facing a prison sentence of up-to ten years for robbery, this was Mary Ann’s chance to escape. Only, with the victim (his “old pal” John Sullivan) having recanted his evidence, and later stating in court "I know nothing about it, I never saw the man”; Daniel Moriarty walked free.
On the bitter winter evening of Thursday 21st November 1872; with her eyes black and swollen like ripe avocados, her lopsided mouth a misshapen mess of broken teeth and with seven of her starving children in tow, including a malnourished toddler on her hip and a new-born at her breast – with both of her parents dead and her siblings scattered far and wide - 40 year old Mary Ann sought sanctuary at the Holborn City Road workhouse, having been kicked-out onto the icy streets by her husband.
Sadly, Mary Ann had become a familiar face at the workhouse, and although she was a neat and sober woman who worked hard (picking oakum) to earn a warm bed, dry clothes and hot food for her babies, as safe as the workhouse was, it wasn’t home. Having stayed for nine days, she knew this was just a brief respite from the beatings, and being reliant on her husband, she begged him to take her back.
On Tuesday 3rd December, Mary Ann returned to 13 Granby Place. Again Daniel was drunk, again Daniel was angry and again Daniel beat her; as with two broken fingers, a sprained wrist and the axe’s blade blunt – as the dark nights drew in - the wood was gone, the fire was out and his dinner was cold.
Mary Ann could have filed another complaint at Bow Street Police Court, but she didn’t.
On Wednesday 4th December, having squandered the bulk of his weekly wage at The Wheatsheaf and stumbled home drunk, as the petrified family sat in silence, too afraid to utter a single syllable for fear of feeling the hard slap of his rough hand, finding fault in anything she did, Daniel’s anger snapped. Being broken, bloodied and bruised, it was only after she had put her babies to bed with a reassuring hug and sweet kiss goodnight that (in private) she allowed herself to cry.
Again, Mary Ann could have gone to the Police, but she didn’t.
On Friday 6th December, one night before the murder, as Daniel and his pissed-up pals necked a few pots of ale at The Wheatsheaf, with the family famished, Mary Ann sent her son to beg his boozy father for money to buy bread. With a sharp slap, seven year old William was sent back empty-handed, and yet – oddly - staying till closing time, Daniel splashed out on a half-gallon jug of beer to take home.
Staggering passed his starving family, Daniel stumbled upstairs with his pal John Kaye and sunk several more beers. Gone midnight, with her kids unable to sleep owing to the banging and raucous cheers, Mary Ann asked Daniel to come home. Seething at her impertinence, he snapped “Woman! Out!”, but she didn’t leave. Fuming at her insolence, he spat “Out! Now!”, again she didn’t, but as his fast fists tightened, being too tired to give her the beating that he felt her cheek warranted, he hurled the half-full ceramic jug at her head, it smashed, split open a gash on her forehead and soaked her ragged clothes with a pint of warm stale ale. Being wet and humiliated, Mary Ann left and went to bed, and although Daniel was too drunk to follow her, by the next morning, he would not have forgotten.
The next day was Saturday 7th December 1872.
At 5:30am, Mary Ann rose her children; the older boys earned a half shilling-a-day as porters in Covent Garden, on route Edward lugged back a sack of coals for the fire, William struggled to chop-up wood with the badly blunted axe and Mary Ann nursed her two babies whilst she busied herself with a never-ending series of chores. They all worked hard for the sake of the family… all except Daniel, who snored.
That morning, as a demeaning part of her weekly routine, Mary Ann popped to see her sympathetic landlord – George Beales – to apologise for being late with the rent. He was a generous man, kind and compassionate, so had it not been for his big heart and the pleas of Mary Ann, her family would have been evicted weeks ago, but now being seven week’s behind, his patient streak had worn very thin.
They had to pay up now, or the family was out.
A bitter winter had begun; and as a Siberian wind blew down Drury Lane, it froze everything it touched; freezing the water-pumps shut, the washhouse solid, the icy cobblestones slick and dangling from the leaky roofs of Granby Place were lethally sharp sharps of ice. Being denied a home, food and money, if they were drenched by the rain and frozen by the wind, she knew her youngest wouldn’t last a day.
Daniel had the money, she knew that and (for the sake of her children) she needed it now. But by the time she had returned home, his bed was empty, his purse was missing and her husband was gone.
Nursing a blinding hangover, as plumes of stinky sweaty steam rose off the wheezing bulk of Daniel Moriarty; his guts gurgled, his arse parped and his gob burped, as with his heavy purse clinking with coins, he stumbled down Kemble Street and - to quell his throbbing head – staggered into the nearest pub. And there he stayed all day – at The Yacht, The Bull and The Wheatsheaf – necking back pots of beer, chugging back shots of rum, and only moving on when the obnoxious boozer was booted out.
Edward was nine years old and William was only six, and yet having raised her children well, Mary Ann trusted her boys implicitly to look after her young ones whilst she went in search of Daniel. She was alone, afraid and still black-and-blue from the beating she had received several night before.
By 2pm, Daniel was drunk again. Sat at the bar with his pals in The Wheatsheaf; the stocky, stout and powerfully built bricklayer slugged back a pot of beer clutched in his big bruised fist, and seeing his wife enter, he scowled “What?!”. Mary Ann pleaded “You have given me no money today", to which Daniel quipped "No, and I don't intend to give you any", spitting ale in her face as he laughed.
Although she shook, as she stared at the seething brutal drunk who had beaten her almost every day of her married life; with his selfishness once again risking the lives of her children, the hungry hole in her empty belly was replaced by a fire and - as a strong woman who had given birth eight times - Mary Ann Moriarty stood her ground, as she was angry, determined and unwilling to back down.
Publically shaming this bad dad and shitty husband in front of his cackling pals, Mary Ann shouted “Is this how you intend to treat your wife and children, is it?” Hammering home his faults, she let the whole bar know about the seven week’s rent and their eight kids, only he brushed off his wife’s blather with a "mind your own business woman, don't interfere with mine" and ordered another pint.
Only he couldn’t, as having heard enough and being absolutely disgusted at this man’s behaviour, Patrick (the landlord of The Wheatsheaf) turfed Daniel out of the pub and ordered him home.
Shortly afterwards, George Beales saw Mary Ann propping Daniel up as he stumbled home; spitting her name and swearing at his witch of a wife, as from his gurgling guts he spewed a steamy spray of hot sick onto the icy street. And with her face all filthy, looking as if she had fallen, as they disappeared into the darkness of Granby Place, he thought nothing more about it, as - for them - this was normal.
Moments later, their neighbour John Kaye found Mary Ann, all grubby and tired, slumped against the street door of 13 Granby Place - as with two broken fingers, a sprained wrist and three cracked ribs –this time, she couldn’t drag her spouse’s twenty stone slab of flab up two flights of stairs. Hearing her babies crying, John Kaye carried Daniel up to the room, popped him in an armchair and left for work.
At roughly 2:30pm, walking barely three hundred feet, Mary Ann arrived at Bow Street Police Station; with two kids, a toddler and a baby in tow; her filthy face speckled with fresh bruises, a bloodied lip and a swollen cheek, as (once again) she made another statement to the Police.
At around 3pm, Mary Ann returned home.
Daniel was drunk, furious and tense; knowing where she had been, he seethed "You lying bitch, you’ve been to Bow Street, as usual, I'll give you cause to go there”. As an ex-con who had broken bail and faced a harsher sentence, as Daniel grabbed Mary Ann’s hair, he pulled her closer and - as she fought to shield her screaming babies with her body – tightly gripped in his battered fist, Daniel held the axe.
(Silence). In this kind of neighbourhood where death was a daily event, violence was to be expected and screams were commonplace, as the heavy axe fell, nobody took any notice of Mary Ann Moriarty.
At 7pm, as John Kaye entered the drab gloom of 13 Granby Place, rising up the unlit stairs, the eerie silence was punctuated by stifled sniffles and muffled tears, and as he passed the second-floor landing, he saw the Moriarty kids, the eldest comforting the youngest, too afraid to re-enter the room.
With the boys safe, grabbing a candle, John lifted the latch and pushed open the stiff wooden door to the two-roomed lodging occupied by the Moriarty’s. Except for the flickering fire, the sitting room was dark, and as he approached – his shoes sticking to the congealed blood underfoot – slumped in an armchair he saw the black silhouette of a woman. Raising his candle, even by a shaky limited light, he saw her silent face was an unsightly mess of welts, lumps, cuts and gashes; and with fear in his voice he asked what he already knew to be true - "Mrs Moriarty? I'll be damned, if you ain't killed the man?"
Breathing rapidly, as the brilliant whites of her glistening eyes peeped through a thick crusty mask of dried blood - his blood - trembling with a mix of terror and euphoria, she stammered "Yes, I am the woman that done it, I had a reason for doing it, and a good job too". As lying on the floor, partially sprawled across the blood-soaked bed, with his head wrapped in a bedsheet was Daniel.
The Police arrived at 7:45pm. Tending to the motionless corpse, as Constable Firth pulled open the matted bedsheet, its sticky layers slowly pried apart to reveal a bloody mess which was once a man’s head, but now - like a pound of minced beef - it was split apart by six wounds, made by an axe.
After twenty-one years and eight children together; having endured an endless barrage of assaults, abuse, fear and broken bones - being failed by the legal system, ignored by society and condemned by her faith to live in an unbreakable marriage with a violent womanising thug – desperate to protect her babies, having snatched the axe, Mary Ann had finally escaped her brutal drunken husband…
…or so she thought. (End)
When red bubbles popped from the gaping holes of what was once his nose, as Daniel wasn’t dead but very much alive and still breathing, PC Firth hailed a cab and dashed him to hospital on The Strand.
Andrew Duncan, the surgeon at King’s College tended to his wounds; as with nine cuts, six fractures, a sliced-up nose, a split eye-lid and a partially severed ear, although Mary Ann had hit him repeatedly about the head with an axe - being blunt - he ended-up dazed but not dead. And oddly, with his pain lessened by the soporific excess of booze in his blood, his survival was described as miraculous.
Admitted to hospital on the 7th December 1872, having successfully had bone fragments removed from his brain and recovered well, on the 11th December 1872, he identified Mary Ann as his attacker. And although, two days later, Daniel Moriarty was dead, Mary Ann was charged with his murder.
On 13th January 1873, Mary Ann was tried at The Old Bailey. She was found guilty of manslaughter by provocation and was sentenced to eight years penal servitude, which she served in Woking Prison.
With both of their parents gone and no next-of-kin, being classed as adults, Mary & Danny were safe, and although Edward died just a few years later, being raised in Holborn workhouse, John & William lived long lives and died as old men, but the same could not be said for the toddler and the new-born.
And upon her release, although she would live for another nineteen years – as an unskilled, unmarried and penniless ex-convict – having escaped poverty, starvation, famine, alcoholism, abuse and assault, the last days of Mary Ann Moriarty were spent in the Woolwich Union Workhouse, where she died in 1901, alone and broken, her beloved babies cruelly taken from her, having fought to protect them.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
For all minty-flavoured murky milers, there’s more flabby gob dribble in the latest “phwoar-fest” after the break, but before that, here’s my recommended podcasts of the week. (PROMO)
A huge thank you goes out to my new Patreon supporter, who is Richard Fitzpatrick, I thank you. And a special thank you to Joerg Naserske who sent a kind donation to keep the podcast alive via the “Donate” button on the Murder Mile website. I thank you too.
Also, if you don’t know, iTunes finally created a ‘true-crime’ category and your very own Murder Mile is rocketing up the ranks. Very exciting. But, as always, we are battling against some really big shows, many of whom are made by well-funded professional radio-and TV-networks who (even though they have less than ten episodes, oddly they always appear in the iTunes Top 10 and on the front page of all your favourite podcast app’s). Hmm. Why is that? Well, I’ll let you into a little secret, they pay for it, and they pay well. Sadly small independent podcasts like Murder Mile can’t afford to blow the money we don’t have on that kind of advertising. I wish we could, but there is a way you can help? And it’s free. If you love Murder Mile, and want to keep the show alive (as the more listeners we get, the long we can keep going), if you can give Murder Mile a review on iTunes and your podcast app’, or simply click ‘five stars’, (even if you’ve done it before – don’t worry, they don’t check) that would really help and it would be hugely appreciated. Ssshhh. It’ll be our little secret. Wink.
As always, if you want to see what the murder locations look like, every Thursday I upload a blog for each episode, with a map, location videos, photos etc. There is a link to this in the show-notes.
Murder Mile was researched, written & performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
Credits: The Murder Mile true-crime podcast was researched, written and recorded by Michael J Buchanan-Dunne, with the sounds recorded on location (where possible), and the music written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name. Additional music was written and performed as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0.
The music featured in this episode include:
Sounds: (not made by me)
Sources: As no National Archive files on this case were available, I used the court transcripts from The Old Bailey and other verified sources. Oh, and some newspapers, if I had to :-)
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tor of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British podcast Awards 2018", and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk
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Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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