September 26th 1817 was a Friday. A Mr Owen went to visit his sister at her home in Gibraltar Row, Prospect Place, St George’s Fields, where she lived with her husband, Mr Jones. Here the maidservant Mary Berry let him in, whereupon Owen burst into the kitchen where the couple were eating and proceeded to attack Mr Jones with a large knife, resulting in large wounds to the head and neck. Mrs Jones and the maid attempted to pull Owen off, resulting in wounds to their hands and arms. With blood still dripping from her wounds, the maid ran into the street screaming for help.
A former sailor by the name of Hopkins heard her cries and rushed to her aid together they ran back into the building. Here they found Owen kneeling on his brother-in-law, the later now bleeding from several wounds including a deep cut to the abdomen. Hopkins managed to dislodge and disarm Hopkins and dragged the injured Jones into the street. Owen then produced a second knife and leapt upon his own sister, first plunging the blade between two ribs, then slashing open her forehead, and then shoving the knife into her mouth ripped the side of her face open to the ear and also split her tongue wide open. The maid rushed to the aid of her mistress but was also set upon and with cuts to Mary Berry’s arms.
Although both women were quite faint through loss of blood they somehow managed to drag themselves into the street and the protection of their neighbours, who took them into their own homes to await medical attention, albeit the likelihood of their successful recovery was, at best, slight. By now the large and powerfully-built Owen had barricaded himself inside the house loudly threatening anyone in earshot the, too, would be butchered should they attempt to gain access. This violent individual was now defending himself against at least two hundred individuals in the street.
When the police arrived they planned to storm the building. With volunteers aplenty armed with pokers, clothes-props and bludgeons, a vast number entered through the windows and doors both front and rear, even bringing ladders to crash through upstairs windows. Appearing at one of the upstairs windows, Owen was seen whetting one knife on the other until felled by (of all things) a clothes-prop and subsequently pounded by a multitude of fists and weaponry – although he continued to fight back ‘mightily’ until disarmed. With cuts to both hands, the now overpowered Owen was tethered at hands and feet with strong rope and carried bodily from the place, albeit still ranting and raging like a madman.
The injured were taken to St Thomas’s Hospital while, with his now wounds bandaged, Owen imprisoned. Later it was revealed this horrendous attack was started by Mr Jones when he sued Mr Owen for custody of Owen’s two young sons, believing they would be better off living with the Jones family. Owen had won the case and retained custody of his children, but the stress and worry had resulted in the death of his wife (just how this came about is not recorded). It had been earlier of the day of the attack that her funeral had taken place and, having been taken to the house of a friend where they had given him food and drink, the now drink-enraged Owen had gone into a frenzy as none had ever seen in the city of Lichfield.