“I have come to marry your daughter,” the Russian sailor told James Maguire. “If she refuses me I will buy a revolver and blow her brains out!”
Oscar Mattson, 26, had been away at sea. His ship had returned to North Shields on August 10th, 1900, and he looked forward to having sex again with 19-year-old Mary Maguire, who he called Minnie.
He had saved enough to marry, as he had promised he would when he last saw her. She hadn’t taken this too seriously. She had heard much the same thing from other sailors who enjoyed her services as a prostitute.
But Oscar meant business. Collecting his pay, he told his ship’s captain, “I’m getting married and I won’t be back.”
He saw Mary later that day and took her to a theatre. But the evening didn’t go quite as he’d planned, and the next day he set out to buy a revolver. The pawnbroker he approached, however, refused to serve him, telling him to come back when he was less excitable. Oscar left after buying a black handkerchief.
He was coming down the stairs from Mary’s room when her friend Rebecca Varty called to see her on AUGUST 13th. He invited Rebecca to go for a drink with him, but she replied, “No, I’m going upstairs.”
He shrugged, pushed past her and left the house.
Knocking on Mary’s door, Rebecca was surprised to receive no response. She discovered the reason when she pushed the door open and saw her friend lying dead on her bed, a black handkerchief tied tightly round her neck, her tongue protruding, her eyes wide open.
Meanwhile Oscar Mattson had gone to a pub for a drink. Then he approached two men and asked them to take him to the police. “I have killed her. I have done it, I have done it,” he kept repeating as they took him to the police station.
It transpired that he had discovered that Mary Maguire was a prostitute. Furthermore, she had stolen his money. They had a row, she spat in his face and told him to get out, and in his fury he had strangled her.
His trial ended with his conviction and the death sentence. “Can I be executed in the shortest possible time – say two or three days?” he asked the judge.
“The law will take its course,” the judge told him.
And that course brought a reprieve. Released 21 years later, Oscar Mattson returned to Russia and no more was heard of him.