Comfortably-off Mary Emsley, a widow, still went about every week collecting her rents, even though she was 70. So robbery seemed the obvious motive when her body was found at her home in Grove Road, off the Mile End Road in Stepney, in August 1860.

“She sometimes used agents to collect some of her rents,” her odd-job man James Mullins, 58, told police. “One of them could have killed her.”

But the police were much more interested in Mullins himself. He had been seen near the widow’s home on the night of the murder, although his two sons provided him with alibis. He was arrested and charged with murder.

At the Old Bailey two months later the judge said the case against Mullins came down to whether the jury believed the sons and his motivation for naming an agent as the killer. The jury weren’t convinced, and found him guilty.

Sentencing Mullins to death, the judge said that he thought the case against him had not been fully made out in court, but nevertheless he believed he was guilty. Mullins was accordingly hanged on Monday, November 19th, 1860, outside Newgate Prison. Many believed he was innocent, not least among them Mullins himself.