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Inquest: Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols

Day 1, Saturday, September 1, 1888
(The Daily Telegraph, Monday, September 3, 1888, Page 3)

On Saturday [1 Sep] Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for South-East Middlesex, opened an inquiry at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel-road, into the circumstances attending the death of a woman supposed to be Mary Ann Nicholls, who was discovered lying dead on the pavement in Buck's-row, Baker's-row, Whitechapel, early on Friday morning. Her throat was cut, and she had other terrible injuries.

Inspector Helston, who has the case in hand, attended, with other officers, on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department.

Edward Walker deposed: I live at 15, Maidwell-street, Albany-road, Camberwell, and have no occupation. I was a smith when I was at work, but I am not now. I have seen the body in the mortuary, and to the best of my belief it is my daughter; but I have not seen her for three years. I recognise her by her general appearance and by a little mark she has had on her forehead since she was a child. She also had either one or two teeth out, the same as the woman I have just seen. My daughter's name was Mary Ann Nicholls, and she had been married twenty-two years. Her husband's name is William Nicholls, and he is alive. He is a machinist. They have been living apart about seven or eight years. I last heard of her before Easter. She was forty-two years of age.
The Coroner: How did you see her?
Witness
: She wrote to me.
The Coroner: Is this letter in her handwriting?
Witness
: Yes, that is her writing. The letter, which was dated April 17, 1888, was read by the Coroner, and referred to a place which the deceased had gone to at Wandsworth.
The Coroner: When did you last see her alive?
Witness: Two years ago last June.
The Coroner: Was she then in a good situation?
Witness: I don't know. I was not on speaking terms with her. She had been living with me three or four years previously, but thought she could better herself, so I let her go.
The Coroner: What did she do after she left you?
Witness: I don't know.
The Coroner: This letter seems to suggest that she was in a decent situation.
Witness: She had only just gone there.
The Coroner: Was she a sober woman?
Witness: Well, at times she drank, and that was why we did not agree.
The Coroner: Was she fast?
Witness: No; I never heard of anything of that sort. She used to go with some young women and men that she knew, but I never heard of anything improper.
The Coroner: Have you any idea what she has been doing lately?
Witness: I have not the slightest idea.
The Coroner: She must have drunk heavily for you to turn her out of doors?
Witness: I never turned her out. She had no need to be like this while I had a home for her.
The Coroner: How is it that she and her husband were not living together?
Witness: When she was confined her husband took on with the young woman who came to nurse her, and they parted, he living with the nurse, by whom he has another family.
The Coroner: Have you any reasonable doubt that this is your daughter?
Witness: No, I have not. I know nothing about her acquaintances, or what she had been doing for a living. I had no idea she was over here in this part of the town. She has had five children, the eldest being twenty-one years old and the youngest eight or nine years. One of them lives with me, and the other four are with their father.
The Coroner: Has she ever lived with anybody since she left her husband?
Witness: I believe she was once stopping with a man in York-street, Walworth. His name was Drew, and he was a smith by trade. He is living there now, I believe. The parish of Lambeth summoned her husband for the keep of the children, but the summons was dismissed, as it was proved that she was then living with another man. I don't know who that man was.
The Coroner: Was she ever in the workhouse?
Witness: Yes, sir; Lambeth Workhouse, in April last, and went from there to a situation at Wandsworth.
By the Jury: The husband resides at Coburg-road, Old Kent-road. I don't know if he knows of her death.
Coroner: Is there anything you know of likely to throw any light upon this affair?
Witness: No; I don't think she had any enemies, she was too good for that.

John Neil, police-constable, 97J, said: Yesterday morning I was proceeding down Buck's-row, Whitechapel, going towards Brady-street. There was not a soul about. I had been round there half an hour previously, and I saw no one then. I was on the right-hand side of the street, when I noticed a figure lying in the street. It was dark at the time, though there was a street lamp shining at the end of the row. I went across and found deceased lying outside a gateway, her head towards the east. The gateway was closed. It was about nine or ten feet high, and led to some stables. There were houses from the gateway eastward, and the School Board school occupies the westward. On the opposite side of the road is Essex Wharf. Deceased was lying lengthways along the street, her left hand touching the gate. I examined the body by the aid of my lamp, and noticed blood oozing from a wound in the throat. She was lying on her back, with her clothes disarranged. I felt her arm, which was quite warm from the joints upwards. Her eyes were wide open. Her bonnet was off and lying at her side, close to the left hand. I heard a constable passing Brady-street, so I called him. I did not whistle. I said to him, "Run at once for Dr. Llewellyn," and, seeing another constable in Baker's-row, I sent him for the ambulance. The doctor arrived in a very short time. I had, in the meantime, rung the bell at Essex Wharf, and asked if any disturbance had been heard. The reply was "No." Sergeant Kirby came after, and he knocked. The doctor looked at the woman and then said, "Move her to the mortuary. She is dead, and I will make a further examination of her." We placed her on the ambulance, and moved her there. Inspector Spratley came to the mortuary, and while taking a description of the deceased turned up her clothes, and found that she was disembowelled. This had not been noticed by any of them before. On the body was found a piece of comb and a bit of looking-glass. No money was found, but an unmarked white handkerchief was found in her pocket.
The Coroner: Did you notice any blood where she was found?
Witness: There was a pool of blood just where her neck was lying. It was running from the wound in her neck.
The Coroner: Did you hear any noise that night?
Witness: No; I heard nothing. The farthest I had been that night was just through the Whitechapel-road and up Baker's-row. I was never far away from the spot.
The Coroner: Whitechapel-road is busy in the early morning, I believe. Could anybody have escaped that way?
Witness: Oh yes, sir. I saw a number of women in the main road going home. At that time any one could have got away.
The Coroner: Some one searched the ground, I believe?
Witness: Yes; I examined it while the doctor was being sent for. Inspector Spratley: I examined the road, sir, in daylight.
A Juryman (to witness): Did you see a trap in the road at all?
Witness: No.
A Juryman: Knowing that the body was warm, did it not strike you that it might just have been laid there, and that the woman was killed elsewhere?
Witness: I examined the road, but did not see the mark of wheels. The first to arrive on the scene after I had discovered the body were two men who work at a slaughterhouse opposite. They said they knew nothing of the affair, and that they had not heard any screams. I had previously seen the men at work. That would be about a quarter-past three, or half an hour before I found the body.

Henry Llewellyn, surgeon, said: On Friday morning I was called to Buck's-row about four o'clock. The constable told me what I was wanted for. On reaching Buck's-row I found the deceased woman lying flat on her back in the pathway, her legs extended. I found she was dead, and that she had severe injuries to her throat. Her hands and wrists were cold, but the body and lower extremities were warm. I examined her chest and felt the heart. It was dark at the time. I believe she had not been dead more than half-an-hour. I am quite certain that the injuries to her neck were not self-inflicted. There was very little blood round the neck. There were no marks of any struggle or of blood, as if the body had been dragged. I told the police to take her to the mortuary, and I would make another examination. About an hour later I was sent for by the Inspector to see the injuries he had discovered on the body. I went, and saw that the abdomen was cut very extensively. I have this morning made a post-mortem examination of the body. I found it to be that of a female about forty or forty-five years. Five of the teeth are missing, and there is a slight laceration of the tongue. On the right side of the face there is a bruise running along the lower part of the jaw. It might have been caused by a blow with the fist or pressure by the thumb. On the left side of the face there was a circular bruise, which also might have been done by the pressure of the fingers. On the left side of the neck, about an inch below the jaw, there was an incision about four inches long and running from a point immediately below the ear. An inch below on the same side, and commencing about an inch in front of it, was a circular incision terminating at a point about three inches below the right jaw. This incision completely severs all the tissues down to the vertebrae. The large vessels of the neck on both sides were severed. The incision is about eight inches long. These cuts must have been caused with a long-bladed knife, moderately sharp, and used with great violence. No blood at all was found on the breast either of the body or clothes. There were no injuries about the body till just about the lower part of the abdomen. Two or three inches from the left side was a wound running in a jagged manner. It was a very deep wound, and the tissues were cut through. There were several incisions running across the abdomen. On the right side there were also three or four similar cuts running downwards. All these had been caused by a knife, which had been used violently and been used downwards. The wounds were from left to right, and might have been done by a left-handed person. All the injuries had been done by the same instrument.

The inquiry was adjourned till to-morrow [sic, ('today', 3 Sep)].


Day 2, Monday, September 3, 1888
(The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday, September 4, 1888, Page 2)

Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for South-East Middlesex, yesterday [3 Sep] resumed his inquiry at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel-road, into the circumstances attending the death of the woman Mary Ann Nicholls, who was discovered lying dead on the pavement in Buck's-row, Baker's-row, Whitechapel, early on Friday morning last.

Inspectors Helston and Aberline attended for the police; whilst Detective- sergeant Enright, of Scotland-year, was also in attendance.

Inspector John Spratling, J Division, deposed that he first heard of the murder about half-past four on Friday morning, while he was in Hackney-road. He proceeded to Buck's-row, where he saw Police-constable Thain, who showed him the place where the deceased had been found. He noticed a blood stain on the footpath. The body of deceased had been removed to the mortuary in Old Montague- street, where witness had an opportunity of preparing a description. The skin presented the appearance of not having been washed for some time previous to the murder. On his arrival Dr. Llewellyn made an examination of the body which lasted about ten minutes.
Witness said he next saw the body when it was stripped.
Detective-sergeant Enright: That was done by two of the workhouse officials.
The Coroner: Had they any authority to strip the body?
Witness: No, sir; I gave them no instructions to strip it. In fact, I told them to leave it as it was.
The Coroner: I don't object to their stripping the body, but we ought to have evidence about the clothes.
Sergeant Enright, continuing, said the clothes, which were lying in a heap in the yard, consisted of a reddish-brown ulster, with seven large brass buttons, and a brown dress, which looked new. There were also a woollen and a flannel petticoat, belonging to the workhouse. Inspector Helson had cut out pieces marked "P. R., Princes-road," with a view to tracing the body. There was also a pair of stays, in fairly good condition, but witness did not notice how they were adjusted.
The Coroner said he considered it important to know the exact state in which the stays were found.
On the suggestion of Inspector Aberline, the clothes were sent for.
The Foreman of the jury asked whether the stays were fastened on the body.
Inspector Spratling replied that he could not say for certain. There was blood on the upper part of the dress body, and also on the ulster, but he only saw a little on the under-linen, and that might have happened after the removal of the body from Buck's-row. The clothes were fastened when he first saw the body. The stays did not fit very tightly, for he was able to see the wounds without unfastening them. About six o'clock that day he made an examination at Buck's- row and Brady-street, which ran across Baker's-row, but he failed to trace any marks of blood. He subsequently examined, in company with Sergeant Godley, the East London and District Railway lines and embankment, and also the Great Eastern Railway yard, without, however, finding any traces. A watchman of the Great Eastern Railway, whose box was fifty or sixty yards from the spot where the body was discovered, heard nothing particular on the night of the murder.
Witness also visited half a dozen persons living in the same neighbourhood, none of whom had noticed anything at all suspicious. One of these, Mrs. Purkiss, had not gone to bed at the time the body of deceased was found, and her husband was of opinion that if there had been any screaming in Buck's-row they would have heard it. A Mrs. Green, whose window looked out upon the very spot where the body was discovered, said nothing had attracted her attention on the morning of Friday last.
Replying to a question from one of the jury, witness stated that Constable Neil was the only one whose duty it was to pass through Buck's-row, but another constable passing along Broad-street from time to time would be within hearing distance.
In reply to a juryman, witness said it was his firm belief that the woman had her clothes on at the time she was murdered.

Henry Tomkins, horse-slaughterer, 12, Coventry-street, Bethnal-green, was the next witness. He deposed that he was in the employ of Messrs. Barber, and was working in the slaughterhouse, Winthrop-street, from between eight and nine o'clock on Thursday evening till twenty minutes past four on Friday morning. He and his fellow workmen usually went home upon finishing their work, but on that morning they did not do so. They went to see the dead woman, Police-constable Thain having passed the slaughterhouse at about a quarter-past four, and told them that a murder had been committed in Buck's-row. Two other men, James Mumford and Charles Britten, had been working in the slaughterhouse. He (witness) and Britten left the slaughterhouse for one hour between midnight and one o'clock in the morning, but not afterwards till they went to see the body. The distance from Winthrop-street to Buck's-row was not great.
The Coroner: Is your work noisy?
Witness: No, sir, very quiet.
The Coroner: Was it quiet on Friday morning, say after two o'clock?
Witness: Yes, sir, quite quiet. The gates were open and we heard no cry.
The Coroner: Did anybody come to the slaughterhouse that night?
Witness: Nobody passed except the policeman.
The Coroner: Are there any women about there?
Witness: Oh! I know nothing about them, I don't like 'em.
The Coroner: I did not ask you whether you like them; I ask you whether there were any about that night.
Witness: I did not see any.
The Coroner: Not in Whitechapel-road?
Witness: Oh, yes, there, of all sorts and sizes; its a rough neighbourhood, I can tell you.
Witness, in reply to further questions, said the slaughter-house was too far away from the spot where deceased was found for him to have heard if anybody had called for assistance. When he arrived at Buck's-row the doctor and two or three policemen were there. He believed that two other men, whom he did not know, were also there. He waited till the body was taken away, previous to which about a dozen men came up. He heard no statement as to how the deceased came to be in Buck's-row.
The Coroner: Have you read any statement in the newspapers that there were two people, besides the police and the doctor, in Buck's-row, when you arrived?
Witness: I cannot say, sir.
The Coroner: Then you did not see a soul from one o'clock on Friday morning till a quarter-past four, when the policeman passed your slaughterhouse?
Witness: No, sir.
A Juryman: Did you hear any vehicle pass the slaughterhouse? - No, sir.
[Juryman?] Would you have heard it if there had been one? - Yes, sir.
[Juryman?] Where did you go between twenty minutes past twelve and one o'clock? - I and my mate went to the front of the road.
[Juryman?] Is not your usual hour for leaving off work six o'clock in the morning, and not four? - No; it is according to what we have to do. Sometimes it is one time and sometimes another.
[Juryman?] What made the constable come and tell you about the murder? - He called for his cape.

Inspector Jos. Helson deposed that he first received information about the murder at a quarter before seven on Friday morning. He afterwards went to the mortuary, where he saw the body with the clothes still on it. The dress was fastened in front, with the exception of a few buttons, the stays, which were attached with clasps, were also fastened. He noticed blood on the hair, and on the collars of the dress and ulster, but not on the back of the skirts. There were no cuts in the clothes, and no indications of any struggle having taken place. The only suspicious mark discovered in the neighbourhood of Buck's-row was in Broad-street, where there was a stain which might have been blood.
Witness was of opinion that the body had not been carried to Buck's-row, but that the murder was committed on the spot.

Police-constable Mizen said that at a quarter to four o'clock on Friday morning he was at the crossing, Hanbury-street, Baker's-row, when a carman who passed in company with another man informed him that he was wanted by a policeman in Buck's-row, where a woman was lying. When he arrived there Constable Neil sent him for the ambulance. At that time nobody but Neil was with the body.

Chas. Andrew Cross, carman, said he had been in the employment of Messrs. Pickford and Co. for over twenty years. About half-past three on Friday he left his home to go to work, and he passed through Buck's-row. He discerned on the opposite side something lying against the gateway, but he could not at once make out what it was. He thought it was a tarpaulin sheet. He walked into the middle of the road, and saw that it was the figure of a woman. He then heard the footsteps of a man going up Buck's-row, about forty yards away, in the direction that he himself had come from. When he came up witness said to him, "Come and look over here; there is a woman lying on the pavement." They both crossed over to the body, and witness took hold of the woman's hands, which were cold and limp. Witness said, "I believe she is dead." He touched her face, which felt warm. The other man, placing his hand on her heart, said "I think she is breathing, but very little if she is." Witness suggested that they should give her a prop, but his companion refused to touch her. Just then they heard a policeman coming. Witness did not notice that her throat was cut, the night being very dark. He and the other man left the deceased, and in Baker's-row they met the last witness, whom they informed that they had seen a woman lying in Buck's-row. Witness said, "She looks to me to be either dead or drunk; but for my part I think she is dead." The policeman said, "All right," and then walked on. The other man left witness soon after. Witness had never seen him before.
Replying to the coroner, witness denied having seen Police-constable Neil in Buck's-row. There was nobody there when he and the other man left. In his opinion deceased looked as if she had been outraged and gone off in a swoon; but he had no idea that there were any serious injuries.
The Coroner: Did the other man tell you who he was?
Witness: No, sir; he merely said that he would have fetched a policeman, only he was behind time. I was behind time myself.
A Juryman: Did you tell Constable Mizen that another constable wanted him in Buck's-row?
Witness: No, because I did not see a policeman in Buck's-row.

Wm. Nicholls [Nichols], printer's machinist, Coburg-road, Old Kent-road, said deceased was his wife, but they had lived apart for eight years. He last saw her alive about three years ago, and had not heard from her since. He did not know what she had been doing in the meantime.
A Juryman: It is said that you were summoned by the Lambeth Union for her maintenance, and you pleaded that she was living with another man. Was he the blacksmith whom she had lived with?
Witness: No; it was not the same; it was another man. I had her watched.
Witness further deposed that he did not leave his wife, but that she left him of her own accord. She had no occasion for so doing. If it had not been for her drinking habits they would have got on all right together.

Emily Holland, a married woman, living at 18, Thrawl-street, said deceased had stayed at her lodgings for about six weeks, but had not been there during the last ten days or so. About half-past two on Friday morning witness saw deceased walking down Osborne-street, Whitechapel-road. She was alone, and very much the worse for drink. She informed witness that where she had been living they would not allow her to return because she could not pay for her room. Witness persuaded her to go home. She refused, adding that she had earned her lodging money three times that day. She then went along the Whitechapel-road. Witness did not know in what way she obtained a living. She always seemed to her to be a quiet woman, and kept very much to herself.
In reply to further questions witness said she had never seen deceased quarrel with anybody. She gave her the impression of being weighed down by some trouble. When she left the witness at the corner of Osborne-street, she said she would soon be back.

Mary Ann Monk was the last witness examined. She deposed to having seen deceased about seven o'clock entering a public-house in the New Kent-road. She had seen her before in the workhouse, and had no knowledge of her means of livelihood.

The inquiry was then adjourned until Sept. 17.


Day 3, Monday, September 17, 1888
(The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday, September 18, 1888, Page 2)

Yesterday [17 Sep], at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel-road, Mr. Wynne Baxter, coroner for the North-Eastern District of Middlesex, resumed his inquiry relative to the death of Mary Ann Nicholls, the victim of the Buck's-row tragedy, on Friday morning, Aug. 31.

Dr. Llewellyn, recalled, said he had re-examined the body and there was no part of the viscera missing.

Emma Green, who lives in the cottage next to the scene of the murder in Buck's- row, stated that she had heard no unusual sound during the night.
By the Jury: Rough people often passed through the street, but she knew of no disorderly house in Buck's-row, all the houses being occupied by hardworking folk.

Thomas Ede, a signalman in the employ of the East London Railway Company, said he saw a man with a knife on the morning of the 8th.
The coroner was of opinion that this incident could have no reference to the present inquiry, as the 8th was the day of the Hanbury-street murder. He would, however, accept the evidence.
Witness then said: On Saturday, the 8th inst., at noon, I was coming down the Cambridge-heath-road, and when near the Forester's Arms I saw a man on the other side of the street. His peculiar appearance made me take notice of him. He seemed to have a wooden arm. I watched him until level with the Forester's Arms, and then he put his hand to his trouser's pocket, and I saw about four inches of a knife. I followed him, but he quickened his pace, and I lost sight of him.
Inspector Helson, in reply to the coroner, stated that the man had not been found.
Witness described the man as 5 ft. 8 in. high, about thirty-five years of age, with a dark moustache and whiskers. He wore a double-peaked cap, a short dark brown jacket, and a pair of clean white overalls over dark trousers. The man walked as though he had a stiff knee, and he had a fearful look about the eyes. He seemed to be a mechanic.
By the Jury: He was not a muscular man.

Walter Purkess [Purkiss], manager, residing at Essex Wharf, deposed that his house fronted Buck's-row, opposite the gates where deceased was discovered. He slept in the front room on the second floor and had heard no sound, neither had his wife.

Alfred Malshaw [Mulshaw], a night watchman in Winthorpe-street, had also heard no cries or noise. He admitted that he sometimes dozed.
The Coroner: I suppose your watching is not up to much?
The Witness: I don't know. It is thirteen long hours for 3s and find your own coke. (Laughter.)
By the Jury: In a straight line I was about thirty yards from the spot where the deceased was found.

Police-constable John Thail [Thain] stated that the nearest point on his beat to Buck's- row was Brady-street. He passed the end every thirty minutes on the Thursday night, and nothing attracted his attention until 3.45 a.m., when he was signalled by the flash of the lantern of another constable (Neale). He went to him, and found Neale standing by the body of the deceased, and witness was despatched for a doctor. About ten minutes after he had fetched the surgeon he saw two workmen standing with Neale. He did not know who they were. The body was taken to the mortuary, and witnessed remained on the spot. Witness searched Essex Wharf, the Great Eastern Railway arches, the East London Railway line, and the District Railway as far as Thames-street, and detected no marks of blood or anything of a suspicious character.
By the Jury: When I went to the horse-slaughterer's for my cape I did not say that I was going to fetch a doctor, as a murder had been committed. Another constable had taken my cape there.
By the Coroner: There were one or two working men going down Brady-street shortly before I was called by Neale.

Robert Baul [Paul], 30, Forster-street, Whitechapel, carman, said as he was going to work at Cobbett's-court, Spitalfields, he saw in Buck's-row a man standing in the middle of the road. As witness drew closer he walked towards the pavement, and he (Baul) stepped in the roadway to pass him. The man touched witness on the shoulder and asked him to look at the woman, who was lying across the gateway. He felt her hands and face, and they were cold. The clothes were disarranged, and he helped to pull them down. Before he did so he detected a slight movement as of breathing, but very faint. The man walked with him to Montague-street, and there they saw a policeman. Not more than four minutes had elapsed from the time he first saw the woman. Before he reached Buck's-row he had seen no one running away.

Robert Mann, the keeper of the mortuary, said the police came to the workhouse, of which he was an inmate. He went, in consequence, to the mortuary at five a.m. He saw the body placed there, and then locked the place up and kept the keys. After breakfast witness and Hatfield, another inmate of the workhouse, undressed the woman.
[Coroner] The police were not present? - No; there was no one present. Inspector Helson was not there.
[Coroner] Had you been told not to touch it? - No.
[Coroner] Did you see Inspector Helson? - I can't say.
[Coroner] Was he present? - I can't say.
[Coroner] I suppose you do not recollect whether the clothes were torn? - They were not torn or cut.
[Coroner] You cannot describe where the blood was? - No, sir; I cannot.
[Coroner] How did you get the clothes off? - Hatfield had to cut them down the front.
A Juryman: Was the body undressed in the mortuary or in the yard? - In the mortuary.
The Coroner: It appears the mortuary-keeper is subject to fits, and neither his memory nor statements are reliable.

James Hatfield, an inmate of the Whitechapel Workhouse, said he accompanied Mann, the last witness, to the mortuary, and undressed the deceased. Inspector Helson was not there.
[Coroner] Who was there? - Only me and my mate.
[Coroner] What did you take off first? - An ulster, which I put aside on the ground. We then took the jacket off, and put it in the same place. The outside dress was loose, and we did not cut it. The bands of the petticoats were cut, and I then tore them down with my hand. I tore the chemise down the front. There were no stays.
[Coroner] Who gave you instructions to do all this? - No one gave us any. We did it to have the body ready for the doctor.
[Coroner] Who told you a doctor was coming? - I heard someone speak about it.
[Coroner] Was any one present whilst you were undressing the body? - Not as I was aware of.
[Coroner] Having finished, did you make the post-mortem examination? - No, the police came.
[Coroner] Oh, it was not necessary for you to go on with it! The police came? - Yes, they examined the petticoats, and found the words "Lambeth Workhouse" on the bands.
[Coroner] It was cut out? - I cut it out.
[Coroner] Who told you to do it? - Inspector Helson.
[Coroner] Is that the first time you saw Inspector Helson on that morning? - Yes; I arrived at about half-past six.
[Coroner] Would you be surprised to find that there were stays? - No.
[Coroner] A juryman: Did not you try the stays on in the afternoon to show me how short they were. - I forgot it.
The Coroner: He admits that his memory is bad.
Witness: Yes.

The Coroner: We cannot do more. (To the police): There was a man who passed down Buck's-row when the doctor was examining the body. Have you heard anything of him?
Inspector Abberline: We have not been able to find him. Inspector Spratley, J Division, stated he had made inquiries in Buck's-row, but not at all of the houses.
The Coroner: Then that will have to be done.
Witness added [Spratling] that he made inquiries at Green's, the wharf, Snider's factory, and also at the Great Eastern wharf, and no one had heard anything unusual on the morning of the murder. He had not called at any of the houses in Buck's-row, excepting at Mrs. Green's. He had seen the Board School keeper.
The Coroner: Is there not a gentleman at the G.E. Railway? I thought we should have had him here.
Witness: I saw him that morning, but he said he had heard nothing.
The witness added that when at the mortuary he had given instructions that the body was not to be touched.
The Coroner: Is there any other evidence?
Inspector Helson: No, not at present.
The Foreman thought that, had a reward been offered by the Government after the murder in George-yard, very probably the two later murders would not have been perpetrated. It mattered little into whose hands the money went so long as they could find out the monster in their midst, who was terrorising everybody and making people ill. There were four horrible murders remaining undiscovered.
The Coroner considered that the first one was the worst, and it had attracted the least attention.
The Foreman intimated that he would be willing to give 25 himself, and he hoped that the Government would offer a reward. These poor people had souls like anybody else.
The Coroner understood that no rewards were now offered in any case. It mattered not whether the victims were rich or poor. There was no surety that a rich person would not be the next.
The Foreman: If that should be, then there will be a large reward.
Inspector Helson, in reply to the coroner, said rewards had been discontinued for years.

The inquiry was then adjourned until Saturday.


Day 4, Saturday, September 22, 1888
(The Daily Telegraph, Monday, September 24, 1888, Page 3)

On Saturday [22 Sep] Mr. Wynne E. Baxter resumed the inquest upon the body of Mary Ann Nicholls, aged forty-seven, the victim in the Buck's-row murder, one of the series of Whitechapel tragedies. The inquiry was held at the Working Lads' Institute.

Signalman Eades was recalled to supplement his previous evidence to the effect that he had seen a man named John James carrying a knife near the scene of the murder. It transpired, however, that this man is a harmless lunatic who is well known in the neighbourhood.

The Coroner then summed up. Having reviewed the career of the deceased from the time she left her husband, and reminded the jury of the irregular life she had led for the last two years, Mr. Baxter proceeded to point out that the unfortunate woman was last seen alive at half-past two o'clock on Saturday morning, Sept 1, by Mrs. Holland, who knew her well. Deceased was at that time much the worse for drink, and was endeavouring to walk eastward down Whitechapel. What her exact movements were after this it was impossible to say; but in less than an hour and a quarter her dead body was discovered at a spot rather under three-quarters of a mile distant. The time at which the body was found cannot have been far from 3.45 a.m., as it is fixed by so many independent data. The condition of the body appeared to prove conclusively that the deceased was killed on the exact spot in which she was found. There was not a trace of blood anywhere, except at the spot where her neck was lying, this circumstance being sufficient to justify the assumption that the injuries to the throat were committed when the woman was on the ground, whilst the state of her clothing and the absence of any blood about her legs suggested that the abdominal injuries were inflicted whilst she was still in the same position. Coming to a consideration of the perpetrator of the murder, the Coroner said: It seems astonishing at first thought that the culprit should have escaped detection, for there must surely have been marks of blood about his person. If, however, blood was principally on his hands, the presence of so many slaughter-houses in the neighbourhood would make the frequenters of this spot familiar with blood- stained clothes and hands, and his appearance might in that way have failed to attract attention while he passed from Buck's-row in the twilight into Whitechapel-road, and was lost sight of in the morning's market traffic. We cannot altogether leave unnoticed the fact that the death that you have been investigating is one of four presenting many points of similarity, all of which have occurred within the space of about five months, and all within a very short distance of the place where we are sitting. All four victims were women of middle age, all were married, and had lived apart from their husbands in consequence of intemperate habits, and were at the time of their death leading an irregular life, and eking out a miserable and precarious existence in common lodging-houses. In each case there were abdominal as well as other injuries. In each case the injuries were inflicted after midnight, and in places of public resort, where it would appear impossible but that almost immediate detection should follow the crime, and in each case the inhuman and dastardly criminals are at large in society. Emma Elizabeth Smith, who received her injuries in Osborn-street on the early morning of Easter Tuesday, April 3, survived in the London Hospital for upwards of twenty-four hours, and was able to state that she had been followed by some men, robbed and mutilated, and even to describe imperfectly one of them. Martha Tabram was found at three a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7, on the first floor landing of George-yard-buildings, Wentworth-street, with thirty-nine punctured wounds on her body. In addition to these, and the case under your consideration, there is the case of Annie Chapman, still in the hands of another jury. The instruments used in the two earlier cases are dissimilar. In the first it was a blunt instrument, such as a walking-stick; in the second, some of the wounds were thought to have been made by a dagger; but in the two recent cases the instruments suggested by the medical witnesses are not so different. Dr. Llewellyn says the injuries on Nicholls could have been produced by a strong bladed instrument, moderately sharp. Dr. Phillips is of opinion that those on Chapman were by a very sharp knife, probably with a thin, narrow blade, at least six to eight inches in length, probably longer. The similarity of the injuries in the two cases is considerable. There are bruises about the face in both cases; the head is nearly severed from the body in both cases; there are other dreadful injuries in both cases; and those injuries, again, have in each case been performed with anatomical knowledge. Dr. Llewellyn seems to incline to the opinion that the abdominal injuries were first, and caused instantaneous death; but, if so, it seems difficult to understand the object of such desperate injuries to the throat, or how it comes about that there was so little bleeding from the several arteries, that the clothing on the upper surface was not stained, and, indeed, very much less bleeding from the abdomen than from the neck. Surely it may well be that, as in the case of Chapman, the dreadful wounds to the throat were inflicted first and the others afterwards. This is a matter of some importance when we come to consider what possible motive there can be for all this ferocity. Robbery is out of the question; and there is nothing to suggest jealousy; there could not have been any quarrel, or it would have been heard. I suggest to you as a possibility that these two women may have been murdered by the same man with the same object, and that in the case of Nicholls the wretch was disturbed before he had accomplished his object, and having failed in the open street he tries again, within a week of his failure, in a more secluded place. If this should be correct, the audacity and daring is equal to its maniacal fanaticism and abhorrent wickedness. But this surmise may or may not be correct, the suggested motive may be the wrong one; but one thing is very clear - that a murder of a most atrocious character has been committed.

The jury, after a short consultation, returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.

A rider was added expressing the full coincidence of the jury with some remarks made by the coroner as to the need of a mortuary for Whitechapel.

We thank Alex Chisholm and Casebook Productions for allowing us to use their transcriptions of the inquests.


Related pages:
  Polly Nichols
       Home: Timeline - Mary Ann Nichols 
       Dissertations: Old Wounds: Re-examining the Bucks Row Murder 
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       Press Reports: Atchison Daily Globe - 3 September 1888 
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       Victims: Mary Ann 'Polly' Nichols 
       Victims: Testimonies of Charles Cross and PC John Neil 
       Victorian London: Buck's Row 
       Witnesses: Henry Tomkins, James Mumford and Charles Brittain