This article originally appeared in Ripper Notes. Ripper Notes is the only American Ripper periodical available on the market, and has quickly grown into one of the more substantial offerings in the genre. For more information, view our Ripper Notes page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripper Notes for permission to reprint this article.
'Considerable Doubt' and the Death of Annie Chapman
By Wolf Vanderlinden
Wolf Vanderlinden is the Associate Editor of Ripper Notes.
" Very grave doubt now exists as to the exact time when the woman Chapman was murdered."
- The Daily News
17 September, 1888
There is a finite amount of evidence surrounding the Whitechapel murders at our disposal. It's what we do with that finite amount that is sometimes curious. Put ten "Ripperologists" in a room to discuss the "facts" of the case and chances are there is very little that they will actually agree upon. This is not surprising since all theorists tend to pick and choose from the small pile of known evidence those bits and pieces that they believe are meaningful or important to their own theory. Evidence that tends to go against their theories or beliefs, or at least that muddies the waters, is discarded, downplayed or discredited. Sometimes even the most basic conventionally accepted facts surrounding the case are arrived at by a seemingly arbitrary process. Take the time of death of Mary Kelly for instance. When discussing the time of death of Mary Kelly we have a series of opinions and eyewitness reports at our disposal:
Dr. Thomas Bond stated that Kelly died between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m.; Mary Ann Cox stated that she heard Mary Kelly singing in her room a little after 1:00 a.m.; George Hutchinson said that he saw her alive at 2:00 a.m.; Sarah Lewis claimed to have heard a cry of "murder" a little before 4:00 am while Elizabeth Prater first told the police that at about 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. "I heard screams of murder about two or three times," then, at the inquest, changed that to a single "cry of 'Oh! Murder!...' I did not hear it a second time" which she heard sometime between 3:30 and 4:00, although it could have been "after 4, probably"; Dr. George Bagster Phillips apparently thought that Kelly had died sometime between 5:15 and 6:15 (although it could be argued that he actually meant between 7:30 and 8:30); Caroline Maxwell saw Kelly standing outside the entrance to Miller's Court and stated that she actually talked to her sometime between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. and then saw her once more about 20 to 30 minutes later; Maurice Lewis claimed to have seen her drinking in the Britannia just after 10:00 a.m., while Thomas Boyer found the body at around 10:45 that morning.
Most of this information is conflicting, some is dubious, and some appears to be out and out lies, but somehow Mary Kelly's time of death has become fixed at 4 o'clock on the morning of the 9th of November, 1888. Exactly why is unclear, nor does this time seem to be supported by the evidence, but it has become one of Ripperology's sacred cows.
What of Elizabeth Prater's ever changing story? It is important to note that she originally told the Daily Telegraph1 that "she had heard nothing during the night," but her testimony supports that of Sarah Lewis and thus helps to fix the time of death at 4:00 a.m. Any critical opinion regarding her truthfulness is simply brushed aside.
Caroline Maxwell's consistent and unshakable testimony, however, does not support the arbitrary time chosen for Kelly's death so, as a witness, she must either be a) lying, b) confused, c) mistaken, or d) drunk.
The Whitechapel murder case, unfortunately, offers other examples of this type of selectivity regarding the evidence and its possible meaning. Perhaps one of the most blatant examples also surrounds a question of time of death, that of Annie Chapman.
So, when did Annie Chapman die?
Stupid question. Everyone knows that she was murdered at around 5:30 on the morning of the 8th of September, 1888.
How do we know this?
Another stupid question. We have two eyewitness reports which fix the time of death at roughly 5:30. Yes, we do have a conflicting medical opinion from Dr. Phillips which suggests the time of death took place at 4:30 a.m. or even earlier, but a third eyewitness was able to positively refute this. Besides, Dr. Phillips amended his opinion at the inquest. And don't forget that Coroner Wynne Baxter believed and supported the testimony of the three witnesses over that of Dr. Phillips. It was thus Baxter, having heard all the evidence, who fixed the time of death at 5:30 am in his summing up to the jury at the inquest. Case closed.
Perhaps... but remember we are looking at the selective use of evidence here. The eyewitness accounts have been looked at only one way and that not very critically. Worse, some authors have provided dubious laymen's opinions regarding the medical evidence to support their views. I offer an alternate view of that evidence or, at least, I don't try to brush aside conflicting stories and seeming lies apparent in that evidence.
Annie Chapman's Final Hours
" It is considered difficult to believe that a woman who was so well known in the district cannot be traced for four hours."
- The Star
13 September, 1888
Annie Chapman was born Annie Eliza Smith in Paddington around September in either1840 or 1841. She was thus 47 or 48 years old when she died. She married John Chapman, a coachman, in 1869 and they had three children. The two of them separated in either late 1881 or in 1882 and Annie went to live in London's East End. She was described in a police report written after her death as being five feet tall, stout with dark wavy hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. She was also dying of what appears to have been a tubercular disease which would have killed her sooner rather than later had not events transpired as they did.
At about midnight on the 8th of September, Annie Chapman entered Crossingham's lodging house at 35 Dorset Street. She was next seen by William Stevens, a painter, in the kitchen of the lodging house at about 12:20 a.m.. Stevens described Chapman as being "not the worse for drink." She was feeling poorly and sent Stevens out for a pint of beer which they drank together in the kitchen at around 12:30. Stevens stated that Chapman left the lodging house at around 1:00 a.m., probably to buy some food.
By 1:30 to 1:45 a.m. she had returned to the kitchen and sat eating a potato. She was asked about money for her bed and she told Timothy Donovan, the deputy of the lodging house, "I have not sufficient money for my bed. Don't let it. I shan't be long before I am in." She stood at the front doorway for a couple of minutes and then left going through Little Paternoster Row, into Brushfield street, before turning right towards Spitalfields Church. The time was around 1:50 a.m. Her body was discovered, only a five or ten minute walk away, in the backyard of No. 29 Hanbury Street exactly four hours later.
What she did during those four hours remains a mystery, even though newspaper reports indicate that the police had been thorough and systematic in their attempts to fill in the blanks of that morning. There were stories of Chapman being seen in the Ten Bells on the corner of Commercial and Church Streets, sometimes misidentified as the Bells in Brick Lane, at 5:00 a.m., however the barmaid couldn't confirm this and another witness, who was an employee of the pub, failed to identify her body in the mortuary.2
No one was able to positively state that they had seen her alive after John Evans, the night watchman at Crossingham's, watched her leave the lodging house. No one, that is, except one woman.
The Coroner's Witnesses: Mrs. Long/Durrell/Darrell
" Mrs. Darrell does not think she could identify the couple."
- The Daily News
12 September, 1888
Her name was given in the newspapers as Mrs. Durrell, some reports stated Darrell, but she identified herself at the inquest as Mrs. Elizabeth Long. This is yet another example of a woman who had more than one name, as had the victim, which can be accounted for by the vagaries of East End marital relationships.
Her story is a simple one. She lived at 3 or 32 or 198 (sources vary) Church Row and was the wife of a cart minder at Spitalfields Market where she also worked. At about 5:30 a.m. she was passing down Hanbury street coming from her home and on her way to work. She was sure of the time because she heard the brewer's clock in Brick Lane strike half past five just before she turned on to Hanbury. She was walking on the north side, the same side as number 29, and passed a man and a woman standing on the pavement talking. The man's back was turned to her while the woman faced her. Long heard the man ask "Will you?" to which the woman replied "Yes." She walked on past them and continued on to the market, arriving there a few minutes after 5:30. That, in a nutshell, is her evidence.
On its own, Mrs. Long's story is meaningless. It does not jive with the medical opinion for time of death which placed Chapman's murder at several hours before Mrs. Long walked past number 29. However, because it is bolstered by the testimony of another witness, it has been taken to be more important than it normally would be. Let's look a bit more closely at Mrs. Long's evidence.
First of all Long stated that she paid little attention to the couple on Hanbury Street and why would she? She was on her way to work and had no reason to scrutinize let alone remember the people she passed that morning. Coroner Baxter apparently wondered at this point and attempted to find some reason why her testimony, on its own, should be believed.
"Was it not an unusual thing to see a man and a woman standing there talking?" he asked, evidently trying to figure out if it was the unusualness of people on Hanbury Street that drew her attention.
"Oh no. I see lots of them standing there in the morning." was her reply.
"At that hour of the day?" again trying to find some reason why she would specifically remember these two people.
"Yes; that is why I did not take much notice of them." 3
By her own admission, then, she had paid very little attention to the two but she was supposedly able to positively identify Chapman's body as that of the woman she had so casually passed.
Think of this point. She had walked past a woman, a stranger to her, not really paying any attention to her, and yet she was supposedly able to identify this woman as she lay dead and drained of colour in a mortuary shell? Add to this the damning fact that Mrs. Long took three days before she finally came forward. It wasn't, therefore, until the 11th of September that she spoke to the police and at that time stated that she "does not think she could identify the couple."4 Add to this the fact that she was not actually taken to the mortuary and shown Chapman's body until the next day, the 12th,5 and thus after the passing of four days one would assume that events would not be as fresh in her memory.
It is also a wonder that Mrs. Long was able to pinpoint the location on Hanbury Street where this couple was standing. Several authors, when discussing the testimony of Mrs. Long, place the pair "close against the shutters of No. 29," this taken from the inquest news report from the Times. It would seem that they were seen just about to enter the passage which lead to the scene of the murder, an observation that adds to the belief that this was actually Annie Chapman and her killer. Unfortunately the Times coverage of Mrs. Long's testimony is incorrect on this point and, in fact, is filled with errors. What she actually stated was that the two were "standing only a few yards nearer Brick Lane from 29, Hanbury Street."6 In effect the couple was standing in front of number 31 Hanbury Street, and, as Mrs. Long merely walked on without paying any further attention to the two, we have absolutely no idea where they went after she passed. Amelia Richardson stated during her testimony that "you can open the front and back doors of any of the houses about there. They are all let out in rooms. People are coming in or going out all the night." 7 The couple could have, therefore, entered into number 31 or even 33 or 25, or they could have just walked down the street together.
There were some newspaper reports that stated the couple had "disappeared" 8 or "disappeared very suddenly" 9 which would tend to support the assumption that they had entered the passageway to the back yard of number 29. Mrs. Long's own inquest statement, however, clearly disproves this. "I left them standing there, and I did not look back, so I cannot say where they went to" 10 she testified.
Those who firmly believe that Mrs. Long had actually seen Annie Chapman that morning must then assume that the man with her was her killer and therefore Jack the Ripper. She described this man thus:
"I did not see the man's face, but I noticed that he was dark. He was wearing a brown low-crowned felt hat. I think he had on a dark coat, though I am not certain. By the look of him he seemed to me a man over forty years of age. He appeared to me to be a little taller than the deceased.
The Coroner: Did he look like a working man, or what?
Long: He looked like a foreigner.
The Coroner: Did he look like a dock labourer, or a workman, or what?
Long: I should say he looked like what I should call shabby-genteel." 11
As Annie Chapman was only 5 feet tall her companion must have been about 5 ft 2 to 4 inches in height, any more than that and he couldn't be described as being "a little taller". He was dark, apparently Jewish (foreign), and middle aged. Granted, she only saw the man from behind and she wasn't really paying any attention but this description does not match a more reliable possible sighting of the killer.
It is a matter of personal belief, selectivity if you will, but when I think of the description of Jack the Ripper I think of that offered by Joseph Lawende of the man seen with a woman standing in front of Church Passage on the night Catherine Eddowes was killed. Lawende described the man as being fair complexioned; age about 30; height about 5 ft. 9 inches; of medium build with a fair mustache and having a sailorly appearance. Clearly, unless one wants to endorse Patricia Cornwell's Jack of many disguises theory or Peter Turnbull's many Jacks, these two men were not one and the same.
There is not much of Mrs. Long's account which seems to offer positive credible proof that she had seen Annie Chapman alive and standing talking with her killer at 5:30 on the morning of the 8th. However, Long's story has been bolstered by testimony from another witness. A witness whose own story seems to dovetail with that of Long's. Taken together, their evidence supposedly explains the events surrounding the death of Annie Chapman.
" he may be mistaken, for he admits that he did not get up till a quarter past five"
- The Daily Telegraph
27 September, 1888.
Albert Cadosch, a carpenter, lived at number 27 Hanbury Street, right next door to number 29. He told a simple and believable story regarding the events he witnessed to on the morning of the 8th of September.
He said that he got up at about 5:15 that morning and then, after a brief period, went out to the backyard, where the outhouse or privy was situated. The time was then about 5:20 he thought. It was when he was returning to the house, some minutes later, that he heard a voice say the word "No" just as he was going through the door. He returned to the yard about three or four minutes later. He was asked if he had returned out of curiosity but he denied this and explained that he had recently been in the hospital and had had an operation, one which apparently necessitated multiple trips to the washroom first thing in the morning. After some short period of time he again returned to the house and this time heard "a sort of a fall against the fence which divides my yard from that of 29." 12 He paid little attention and carried on through the house and out onto the street on his way to work. He saw no one on Hanbury Street and claimed that it was 5:32 a.m. as he walked past Spitalfields Church, some 3˝ or 4˝ blocks away from his lodgings.
So what's wrong with this testimony? Firstly, there are problems with the noises he heard. Although most authors state as a matter of fact that he had definitely heard the voice which said "No" coming from the backyard of number 29 Cadosch wasn't actually sure of this. What he said was "I should think it came from the yard of No. 29. I, however, cannot say on which side it came from." 13 Or, to put it more clearly, "He could not be sure that it came from the yard of No. 29." 14 It could, therefore, have come from number 25 or some other yard and had nothing to do with the murder of Annie Chapman.
He also stated that every now and then he heard people in the yard of number 29 and when asked about the "fall" against the fence responded "they are packing case makers, and now and then there is a great case goes up against the palings," adding "I was thinking about my work, and not that there was anything the matter." 15
Once again we have a witness who wasn't really paying attention to what was happening around him because he was trying to get to work. One has to wonder wether he was right about noises coming from number 29 or whether he was mistaken and merely equated the sounds as coming from that yard because he had heard noises coming from there in the past.
It is also interesting to note that Albert Cadosch stated that he had heard no other sounds other than the one word and the "fall" against a fence.
The Coroner: "Had you heard any noise while you were at the end of your yard?"
The Coroner: "Any rustling of clothes?"
This is interesting because of the layout of the two houses, 27 and 29. The passageways that led to the two respective backyards were situated side by side. This means that, if the activity that Cadosch claims that he had heard was actually caused by the murder of Annie Chapman, then he was literally only two or three of feet away from the murderer and his victim! Yet he heard no other noises and couldn't tell exactly from where the voice came from even though when he heard it, just as he walked through the back door, he was closest to where Chapman's body was discovered. Also, the killer must have possessed an incredible amount of cool daring, or a total lack of disregard for his own safety, if he continued the attack on his victim even though there were obvious signs of someone moving about in the adjacent yard only feet away. All of this does not seem plausible.
Secondly, there is trouble with the entire time frame between Cadosch's and Mrs. Long's stories.
Albert Cadosch claimed that the activity he heard, supposedly the actual murder itself, happened between 5:20 and sometime before he left the house, say 5:30. Elizabeth Long claimed that she saw Annie Chapman alive and talking to a man on Hanbury Street just seconds after 5:30. They can't both be right and as the two tales don't really dovetail at all, this is a problem that casts doubt on one or both of these witnesses.
The easiest course of action at this point is to just ignore the discrepancy in times or to attempt to explain it away. Wynne Baxter admitted in his summing up during the inquest that "there is some conflict in the evidence about the time at which the deceased was despatched. It is not unusual to find inaccuracy in such details, but this variation is not very great or very important." 16 He resolved the issue in his mind by suggesting that perhaps if Albert Cadosch "is out of his reckoning but a quarter of an hour, the discrepancy in the evidence of fact vanishes, and he may be mistaken, for he admits that he did not get up till a quarter past five, and that it was after the half hour when he passed Spitalfields clock." 17
Baxter's reasoning makes little sense considering that whatever Cadosch heard, he heard before 5:30 that morning and thus several minutes before Mrs. Long turned onto the street. In order for the two times to mesh, or at least to be driven together like the proverbial square peg hammered into the round hole, Mrs. Long must have been off by fifteen or twenty minutes since she has to be placed in Hanbury Street at about the time that Cadosch awoke.
One theory has it that instead of hearing the brewery clock strike the half hour, it actually struck the quarter hour and so Mrs. Long was merely mistaken about the time.
Forget for a moment that Mrs. Long would probably have heard this clock strike on every working day but somehow didn't realize that it struck the quarter hour. Also forget that she stated at the inquest that she arrived at the market a few minutes after 5:30 which would mean that the two blocks she had to cover between Hanbury Street and work would have to have take her fifteen minutes to cover! The real problem with this neat solution is that it doesn't take into consideration how clocks actually work.
Some clocks strike the half hour as well as the hour (a single bong signifying the half hour) while some clocks give you hour, quarter hours and half hour. These clocks, the type that it is suggested the brewery had, do not strike, they chime. A good example is the Westminster clock which chimes four notes to signify the quarter hour; eight notes signify the half hour; twelve notes the three-quarter hour and sixteen notes the top of the hour. This is followed by the bonging of the hour. This is not just a possible confusion over a single note or bong but confusing the difference between four notes and eight. It is difficult to see how Mrs. Long was unable to distinguish the difference between 5:15 and 5:30 on such a clock.
But of course something must explain how the two witnesses could be so off on their times. There must be some rational and logical explanation. There are many and some of those are that one or both of them were a) lying, b) confused, c) mistaken, or d) drunk.
In the end, given the basic facts offered to us, there is a disturbing discrepancy between what Elizabeth Long and Albert Cadosch said. If we take into consideration the medical opinion of Dr Phillips that Annie Chapman died at 4:30, and possibly earlier, then neither are to be believed and the discrepancies between their stories are meaningless.
Ah, but you forget that a third witness was able to prove that Phillips was wrong. He was actually in
the yard of number 29 at about 4:50 that morning and he saw no body. How do you explain that?
Of course we are talking about...
" Considerable doubt is being thrown on the evidence of John Richardson, who stated that he was almost on the exact spot where the body was found at a quarter to five on Saturday morning"
- The Star
13 September, 1888
John Richardson, a market porter, was described as a tall, stout man, with a very pale face, a brown moustache, and dark brown hair. He was shabbily dressed in a ragged coat, and dark brown trousers. He explained that there had been a robbery of the cellar at number 29 Hanbury Street and some tools (two saws and two hammers) had been stolen. The door to the cellar was in the back yard where Richardson's mother operated a packing case business. He stated that after the robbery it was his habit on market days to go around to Hanbury and check to see if the padlock was still secure. On non-market days, apparently, he just didn't bother. This was his reason, therefore, for entering the back yard of number 29 at between 4:45 and 4:50 a.m. He said that there was no body in the yard at that time. Indeed, he claims to have sat down on the second step in order to cut a piece of leather from off his boot and would have been sure to have seen a body lying splayed out in front of him and only inches away from his foot. But we are getting ahead of our selves here.
Inspector Joseph Chandler was the first policeman on the scene when he was informed of the murder at 6:10 a.m. He interviewed John Richardson at about 6:45 that morning and was told "he had been to the house that morning about a quarter to five. He said he came to the back door and looked down to the cellar, to see if all was right, and then went away to his work.
The Coroner: Did he say anything about cutting his boot?
The Foreman of the jury then made the point that it was possible that the back door, which opened outwards into the yard and towards where the body was lying, obscured the body from view to one just standing at the top of the stairs. If, however, Richardson had gone down into the yard he was bound to see it. Chandler could only reiterate his earlier testimony and answer that Richardson had told him that "he did not go down the steps, and did not mention the fact that he sat down on the steps and cut his boot." 19
What Chandler was led to believe was that Richardson's visit was quick and cursory, that he merely opened the backdoor and took a brief glance down to his right as he stood at the top of the steps and saw that the lock was still on the cellar door and then went off to work. If this first story was true then it is doubtful that Richardson would have noticed the body of Annie Chapman lying in the yard to his left. By the 10th of September, however, Richardson seems to have changed his story and it was reported that "Richardson sat down on the steps to cut a piece of leather from his boot." 20 This second story was repeated to the coroner when the market porter testified at the inquest two days later on the 12th.
"I went to 29, Hanbury street, between 4.45 a.m. and 4.50 a.m. on Saturday last. I went to see if the cellar was all secure, as some while ago there was a robbery there of some tools. I have been accustomed to go on market mornings since the time when the cellar was broken in....
The Coroner: Did you go into the yard?
Richardson: No, the yard door was shut. I opened it and sat on the doorstep, and cut a piece of leather off my boot with an old table knife, about five inches long. I kept the knife upstairs at John street. I had been feeding a rabbit with a carrot that I had cut up, and I put the knife in my pocket. I do not usually carry it there. After cutting the leather off my boot I tied my boot up, and went out of the house into the market. I did not close the back door. It closed itself. I shut the front door." 21
Which of the two versions was correct? Which version is to be trusted? Most writers on the subject simply ignore the discrepancies. Those who have at least pointed them out usually blame Chandler for some ineptitude or dereliction of duty. Author Philip Sugden, for example, believes that Chandler simply misunderstood what Richardson was saying. He points out that Chandler did not thoroughly question Richardson on the day of the murder and, according to the inspector's movements, could only have spent a few minutes talking to him so that the inspector's understanding of Richardson's evidence was "erroneous." This would presuppose that Chandler could not understand the importance of Richardson's story or that he was in too much of a hurry to get to the mortuary to really care. Surely another interpretation is that Chandler spent only a little time talking to him because he simply saw nothing of importance in Richardson's testimony. It is perhaps significant to note that it was apparently unnecessary to actually go into the yard in order to see the lock on the cellar door. The coroner asked John's mother, Amelia Richardson, if she understood that her son actually went down to the cellar door to check the lock. Her response was "No, he can see from the steps." 22 This would seem to suggest that a quick glance from the top of the stairs was all that was needed and explain why the story of Richardson's cobblery was added. He had no reason to actually go into the yard.
There is another piece of evidence, however, that seems to support Chandler's version of Richardson's story or at least shows that Richardson didn't tell the story of sitting down on the steps until some days later. The Star on the 8th of September reported "at a quarter to five the body was not in the yard, Mrs. Richardson's son John, a man of 33, having passed through the yard at that time to see if the cellar door was safe." In the same newspaper John Richardson was interviewed and stated "This morning, as near as I know, it was ten minutes to five o'clock when I entered the backyard of 29. There was nobody there. Of that I am sure."
On the day of the murder, therefore, John Richardson made no mention of sitting down on the steps and cutting a piece of leather from his shoe. This is virtually the same story that he told Chandler and thus some doubt is thrown on Richardson's later version of events. There is even more damning evidence which goes against Richardson's story.
The fact that Richardson stated that he had been in the yard where a murder had been committed, and that he had with him a knife, was a significant admission not lost on the coroner. He questioned the porter about the knife and finally ordered him to go and get it, which Richardson did accompanied by a constable. He returned and was recalled to the witness stand. The knife he produced was a rusty and blunt little dessert or table knife with half the blade broken off and no handle. The coroner, who examined the blade, wondered how such an implement could be used to cut boot leather and Richardson amazingly stated "as it was not sharp enough he had borrowed another one at the market" 23 to do the job.
This is a not insignificant change to his story. What he had been saying unequivocally up until this point was that he had "sat on the doorstep, and cut a piece of leather off my boot." 24 He even went into some detail about his actions stating "after cutting the leather off my boot I tied my boot up, and went out of the house into the market." 25 He stated quite clearly on more than one occasion that he had cut the leather from his boot. He even added a wholly unnecessary comment that he tied his boot up, but nowhere had he mention that in fact he had been unsuccessful in cutting the offending leather. Remember, this is the only reason that Richardson was deemed an important witness - his claim that he sat down on the steps and cut a piece of leather from his shoe - and now he had changed his story.
Sugden states that Richardson was "the crucial witness" and that he "had nothing to hide" and "he stated his evidence clearly and unequivocally" 26 which is not all together true. Richardson seems to have changed his story more than once so he was hardly "unequivocal." As for having nothing to hide, this is true insofar as he was probably (though who really can say) not actually involved in the murder. He does certainly seem to go from one story of very little import to another where he becomes "the crucial witness." He wouldn't be the first person who perjured themselves in order to appear more important than they actually were and he did become important. He has certainly become the witness relied upon to discredit Dr. Phillips. It is safe to say that, without John Richardson's chaffing boot, Phillips' estimate of the time of death would destroy Mrs. Long's dubious eyewitness and Cadosch's earwitness testimonies, thus placing the murder sometime between 2:00 and 4:30 a.m..
In the end it was Coroner Baxter who decided to believe the three witnesses over the testimony of two professional men, Dr. Phillips and Inspector Chandler. It is thus Baxter's opinion, and it must be remembered that he was a lawyer not a medical man, that has seduced most writers on the case. This belief, however, was not shared by the police who were actively investigating the murders.
The Police View: Dr. Phillips
" doubtful evidence points to some thing between 5:30 and 6: - but medical evidence says about 4 o'cl."
The official Scotland Yard position seems to have been to trust the opinions and evidence of two of its own. Inspector Chandler's evidence, taken at face value and without resorting to impugning the man, cast serious doubt on Richardson's truthfulness. This led to police suspicion against the market porter. How was it, exactly, that he did he not see the body if, as he said, he had sat on the steps? Was he lying? And if so, why? Chief Inspector Swanson's report of 19 October, 188828 tells us that the police, rather than seeing him as the crucial witness, saw him as a serious suspect.
"If the evidence of Dr. Phillips is correct as to time of death, it is difficult to understand how it was that Richardson did not see the body when he went into the yard at 4:45 a.m. but as his clothes were examined, the house searched and his statement taken in which there was not a shred of evidence, suspicion could not rest upon him, although police specially directed their attention to him."
The police were obviously depending upon Dr. Phillips' opinions and his standing as a reliable medical expert when directing the course of their investigations. To the detectives working on the Chapman murder, Dr. Phillips' estimated time of death made Long and Cadosch irrelevant.
This sentiment is also expressed in Swanson's report. After listing the actions of the police during the investigation, Swanson was forced to admit that "Up to the present the combined result of those inquiries did not supply the police with the slightest clue to the murderer" thus damning Mrs. Long's description of the man she had seen with no praise at all. Swanson continues, "Again if the evidence of Mrs. Long is correct that she saw the deceased at 5:30 a.m. then the evidence of Dr. Phillips as to probable time of death is incorrect. He was called and saw the body at 6:20 a.m. [sic] and he then gives it as his opinion that death occurred about two hours earlier, viz: 4:20 a.m. hence the evidence of Mrs. Long which appeared to be so important to the Coroner, must be looked upon with some amount of doubt, which is to be regretted."
This "doubt" apparently soon became the conviction that Mrs. Long's testimony was worthless. By the end of 1888, for example, Inspector Walter Andrews stated "The police are perfectly powerless, no one ever having seen the murderer except the victims." 29 Sir Melville Macnaghten said very much the same thing in his 1894 "Memoranda", stating, "no one ever saw the Whitechapel murderer" , although in his draft copy he adds, "unless possibly it was the City P.C. who was a beat [sic] near Mitre Square."
It is now time to look at Dr. Phillips' opinions about the time of death of Annie Chapman, opinions that were supported by Scotland Yard. The doctor was called to number 29 Hanbury Street at 6:20 a.m. and arrived there at 6:30. He then immediately examined the body in situ and observed a couple of things important to us. He stated "the body was cold, except that there was a certain remaining heat, under the intestines, in the body." He also observed that "stiffness of the limbs was not marked, but it was commencing." At the post mortem, conducted at 2:00 that afternoon, he also observed that "the stomach contained a little food." It is doubtlessly from the first two observations that Dr. Phillips made his estimate of the time of death.
Chandler's report, dated on the day of the murder, said, "The Doctor pronounced life extinct and stated the woman had been dead at least two hours." 30 Later at the inquest he responded to a question about the time of death of Annie Chapman by stating "I should say at least two hours, and probably more" but there was a caveat to this statement, which has been used to explain away Dr. Philips' estimation. The doctor added "but it is right to say that it was a fairly cold morning, and that the body would be more apt to cool rapidly from its having lost the greater portion of its blood." Does this disqualify Dr. Phillips' time frame for the murder? No, it doesn't. The doctor was merely stating the obvious and not changing his estimate of time of death.
Estimating time of death has been called more of an art form than an exact science. It is difficult, with what we have to work with, to know exactly what Dr. Phillips had observed and what exactly were the variables surrounding the death of Annie Chapman. A few things can be gleaned from pathology texts, such as the fact that rigor mortis generally begins two to four hours after death. Many things can affect the onset of rigor but generally the two to four hour period is consistently espoused in the literature. In the case of Annie Chapman, Dr. Phillips observed that rigor mortis had just begun when he examined the body at 6:30 that morning. This alone would explain his opinion that Chapman had been dead for at least two hours.
As I have said, however, several things can hasten or lengthen the time it takes rigor to appear. I have noticed that more than one author writing on the Chapman murder has misunderstood this fact. For some reason authors have confused the fact that subjecting the body to cold temperatures will not hasten rigor but instead will retard its onset, will in fact slow it down. It is correct to say, therefore, that the coldness of Chapman's body would cause a delay in the appearance of stiffening and thus point to a time greater than two hours for her time of death. This fact is apparently reflected in Dr. Phillips' inquest testimony.
Food in the stomach is also an interesting indicator of when Annie Chapman was murdered. Chapman had no money at 2:00 a.m. so in order for her to have eaten sometime after that she must have found a client and, rather than pay for her bed, bought food and then kept walking the streets. Also, it would seem that whoever sold her this food decided not to come forward when the police were diligently making inquiries about Annie's last four hours. This seems doubtful and we will have to stick to the facts as we know them. 31 We know that she was seen eating a baked potato at sometime between 1:30 and 1:45 a.m. This, presumably, was her last meal or at least we have no concrete evidence to suggest that she had eaten anything after this time. Dr. Phillips states that there was still some food in her stomach so her last meal was only partially digested at her time of death so how long does it take for a meal of potatoes to fully digest?
Dr. Robert Court, who contributed to a discussion about this issue on the Casebook: Jack the Ripper website several years ago, asked colleagues in the pathology department this very question. His personal opinion was that it would take about an hour for a potato to be fully digested but was told that "a time of less than half-an-hour was realistic." One forensic pathologist that I talked to told me that a small meal of potatoes would be fully digested "in about an hour to an hour and a half," 32 while another told me "this small solid meal would take some time like 2 3 hours, 'let us say' to be digested." 33 Here we have a range of between half an hour to three hours for Annie Chapman's meal to have become fully digested, which would suggest that as the food was only partially digested at death the range for estimated time of death falls somewhere after 1:30 to1:45 a.m., the last time we know she ate, and sometime before 4:30 a.m. or, the time offered by Dr. Phillips.
The final observation offered us by Dr. Phillips is the coldness of the body. In effect the doctor stated that the body was stone cold except for some "remaining heat" in the abdominal cavity underneath the intestines. It is to this observation which he added the caveat at the inquest that the body could have cooled faster because of the conditions. What he didn't do was suggest that this had caused him to reevaluate his estimated time of death. He certainly didn't offer any support for Mrs. Long and Albert Cadosch's testimonies.
Phillips' caveat was apparently stated in so offhand a manner that it didn't leave an impression on everyone. At least one jury member, the foreman, remarked aloud at the inquest that the time stated by Elizabeth Long as to when she had seen Annie Chapman alive was not consistent with the time of death stated by the doctor. The coroner answered sharply that "Dr. Phillips had since qualified his statement" 34 or, "qualified it very much," according to the Daily News. This was not true, as the police opinion shows, and in contrast to Coroner Baxter's beliefs was a report in the Times which stated after Dr. Phillips had testified "Dr. Phillips's positive opinion that the woman had been dead quite two hours when he first saw the body at half-past 6, throws serious doubt upon the accuracy of at least two important witnesses, and considerably adds to the prevailing confusion." 35 (emphasis mine)
It is interesting to note that there were contemporary medical men who shared Dr. Phillips' view. Dr. Bond, for example, wrote "In the four murders of which I have seen notes only, I cannot form a very definite opinion as to the time that had elapsed between the murder and the discovering of the body.... In Buck's Row, Hanbury Street, and Mitre Square three or four hours only could have elapsed." 36 Not a ringing endorsement, but he doesn't say that it was within an hour either.
The unnamed writer for the Lancet is more interesting. He gave his opinion that "We confess to sharing Mr. Phillips' view that the coldness of the body and commencing rigidity pointed to a far longer interval between death and discovery than [5:30 a.m.]; but, as he remarked the almost total draining away of the blood, added to the exposure in the cold morning air, may have hastened the cooling down of the body." 37
It should be noted that this writer also adds a caveat to the loss of heat in the body but, more importantly, still begins by supporting Dr. Phillips' opinion of a far longer period between death and discovery of the body. The caveat is added, as Phillips added his, to suggest that there was a possibility that they could be off on their calculations regarding the time it would take the body to become cold, not that they believed that they actually were off.
How long would it take for the heat of a human body to drain away almost completely? Certainly the time would be affected by the loss of blood. I was told "Remarks made regarding the body cooling faster in exsanguination are generally true. Disembowelment would hasten cooling significantly as well." 38 But how fast and how significantly would this happen? We do have a contemporary comparison which can be made.
The murders of Annie Chapman and Catherine Eddowes were committed under similar conditions. Both bodies were found outside and with their clothing hiked up, although it is arguable that Eddowes was in a more open location and her body exposed more to the air. Both women were killed on nights with cool temperatures, although the night that Eddowes was murdered was a couple of degrees cooler. Both bodies had been extensively mutilated but Eddowes' more so. Both had lost a lot of blood.
In the Eddowes case the medical opinion is backed up by the impossibility of error. The victim was seen alive talking to her killer at 1.35 a.m. and then found dead at 1.45 a.m. We have Constable Watkins testimony that there was no body lying in Mitre Square at 1.30 and medical and police opinion that she was killed where she was found. We also have Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown's observations after he examined the body.
Dr. Brown stated that he was called to Mitre Square shortly after 2:00 a.m. and arrived there at around 2:20. By this time Catherine Eddowes had been dead for roughly forty minutes. Brown observed that "the body had been mutilated, and was quite warm - no rigor mortis." 39 We can thus say that, after roughly forty minutes, a body with extensive mutilations that was found under cool outdoor conditions was examined and described as being "quite warm." How do we reconcile this with the idea that the body of Annie Chapman was found to be almost completely cold after only the passing of twenty more minutes? We can't. It is very difficult to believe that in under twenty minutes almost all body heat would have dissipated into the morning air. This would be the work of a couple of hours, not minutes. Again, that observation is more in line with Dr. Phillips' opinion as to the time of death of Annie Chapman.
We have "two households both alike in dignity" here. On the one hand Coroner Baxter and his three witnesses: Richardson, Cadosch and Long. On the other, the police with Dr. Phillips and, to a lesser extent, Inspector Chandler. From these witnesses two opinions were formed as to the time of death of Annie Chapman. The question is: which opinion is correct?
The coroner's witnesses are not without their problems. There are issues of credibility and truthfulness but, somehow, these issues are ignored and Richardson, Long and Cadosch have been given the benefit of the doubt. All three are believed, much like Elizabeth Prater is, because they are part of a storyline that would be weakened if any one of them was to be dismissed. Basically they form a house of cards which is pleasant to look at just so long as one doesn't wonder at the flimsy construction. From them we are given a time of death at around 5:30 a.m. and a description of the killer which matches no other description given. We are also left to wonder at a bloodstained murderer who has killed in daylight and then walked the streets which were already busy with human traffic. Jack the daring, self-confident and self-assured assassin.
The police witnesses, Dr. Phillips and Inspector Chandler, have not been given the benefit of their experience or expertise. This started when Coroner Baxter dismissed Chandler by stating, "He is really not the proper man to have been left in charge." 40 This animosity continued when the coroner openly quarreled with Dr. Phillips over the amount of detailed medical testimony that should be given or withheld at the inquest. Baxter won that round but Phillips probably got his revenge by making sure that the Kelly inquest was taken out of Baxter's hands and placed in Dr. Macdonald's care. In the end Baxter's opinion, as a lawyer, was that Dr. Phillips' medical opinion was wrong. And so it goes today.
If, however, Dr. Phillips was not wrong, what are we left with? A killer who murdered at a time consistent with the deaths of Martha Tabram and Polly Nichols. A killer who was less daring than some have imagined because the household at number 29 Hanbury Street was asleep when he and his victim entered the backyard and the darkened streets relatively empty when he exited. A killer who was not a short, middle aged Jew. Also, if one considers Montague John Druitt to be a viable suspect, then the fact that he played for the Blackheath Cricket Club against the Brothers Christopherson at 11:30 that morning on the Rectory Field in Blackheath does not rule him out. He would have had roughly eight hours before the match started to compose himself.
There is one more interesting observation. If you believe that the killer murdered Annie Chapman at 5:30 that morning, you have to wonder at his bloodstained appearance as he walked the bustling streets on a market morning. I don't mean that he would be covered in blood but certainly his hands would have been bloody and merely wiping them would not make them clean. He took a huge and seemingly unnecessary risk since there was a water tap just feet away from him in the backyard at Hanbury Street. A tap which he didn't use. Perhaps he was afraid that the sound of flowing water might draw attention. There was, however, a convenient pan of water lying just underneath the tap and all he had to do was to dip his hands into the pan. He didn't do this either. Why? Perhaps it was because he didn't see the tap or the pan in the complete darkness that enveloped the yard at about, oh, let us say 3:30 to 4:30 a.m.? A time consistent with Dr. Phillips' opinion on the time of death.