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The Battle of Rosemary Street: Old Cardiff’s Wildest Mob Chase | John F. Wake

It was 1907, and Edward was around 18 years old. He was said, variously, to be a Swede, a German, and a Russian Finn, but we know he was off a ship in the Bute Docks. He had gotten himself to the Hayes and was worrying two young girls. A policeman passed and Edward uttered to him some gibberish about money and girls.

What followed then resulted in numerous serious injuries and a street chase through old Cardiff. He pulled out a long knife and, after brandishing it about, made off with two policemen after him. Anyone who got in his way he stabbed at, resulting in several injuries.

He ran over the Hayes Canal Bridge and into Millicent Street. It was said now that the chasing mob was around forty or fifty people. Anyone who tried to grab him was stabbed.

He ran through Mary Ann Street into Bute Terrace, then Adam Street, Pellett Street (remember the butchers there, once the houses had been demolished) and over the GWR bridge into Newtown.

This man must have been superbly fit, or panic running, as by now the following mob was reaching between 50 and 100 people. He pushed people away from him, wildly stabbing his knife at them, and some he hit.

He ran into Pendoylan Place then Rosemary Street. A woman was standing near a lamppost; before she could move, Edward stabbed the knife down on her, but hit the post instead. According to witnesses sparks flew as the knife hit.

Timothy Donovan was going home to 23 Ellen Street, he looked to help but Edward’s knife slashed him down the cheek causing a deep wound that was 11” long.

Donovan fell to the side, and then Billy Sullivan of 9 North William Street attempted to grab the madman. He was stabbing at Billy and he caused numerous wounds to his face and arms. Danny O’Brien of 5 Roland Street got into it too, but received a long stab wound to his arm. Others had received the same treatment.

Whilst the Newtown men were trying to stop Edward (and getting badly injured along the way) the mob had caught up and, with the use of a brick brought Edward to his knees, whereby they all jumped in and held him down, punching and kicking. No need, he was almost unconscious.

Many of the wounded were lying on the pavement in Rosemary Street, bleeding. Walking wounded were everywhere. The police started pulling the men off the prostrate ‘madman’, who bore the scars of serious assaults. He was put on a cart and taken to Bute Street police station. The wounded followed on other carts, some unconscious.

The famous Dr Buist attended and treated all initially at the station, including the assailant. A large crowd had gathered outside in Bute Street and were shouting for blood. The story was that the madman had tried to make advances to two young girls in the Hayes and wanted them for 5/–. He was refused and lunacy had overcome him.

There was a shock to come for all involved at the Quarter Sessions a month or so later. The GBH charges against him, the riotous behaviour, the woundings, the assaults etc., were laid and evidence heard.

A shock result was to come at court. Photo credit: David Veksler

The result: ‘Not guilty’. The prisoner was acquitted and released.

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The Battle of Rosemary Street: Old Cardiff’s Wildest Mob Chase | John F. Wake

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