TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 1888
Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for South-East Middlesex, yesterday 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.
Would you have heard it if there had been one? - Yes, sir.
Where did you go between twenty minutes past twelve and one o'clock? - I and my mate went to the front of the road.
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.
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, 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.
The Central News says: "Another desperate assault, which stopped only just short of murder, was committed upon a woman in Whitechapel, on Saturday night. The victim was leaving the Foresters' Musichall, Cambridge-heath-road, where she had been spending the evening with a sea captain, when she was accosted by a well-dressed man, who requested her to walk a short distance with him as he wanted to meet a friend. They had reached a point near to the scene of the murder of the woman Nicholls, when the man violently seized her by the throat and dragged her down a court. He was immediately joined by a gang of women and bullies, who stripped the unfortunate woman of necklace, earrings, and brooch. Her purse was also taken, and she was brutally assaulted. Upon her attempting to shout for aid one of the gang laid a large knife across her throat, remarking, 'We will serve you as we did the others.' She was, however, eventually released. The police have been informed, and are prosecuting inquiries into the matter, it being regarded as a probable clue to the previous tragedies."
Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, coroner, resumed his inquiry yesterday into the circumstances attending the death of Mary Anne Nicholls, who was found murdered in Buck's-row, Whitechapel, early on Friday morning. Evidence was given by several of the police-officers who have been engaged in the investigation. Inspector Helson said the clothes were not cut, and there were no indications of a struggle having taken place. He was of opinion that the body had not been carried to Buck's-row, but that the murder had been committed on the spot. Among the other witnesses were a carman, who said he saw the body at half-past three in the morning, and informed a policeman; and a lodging-house keeper in the neighbourhood, who said she saw the deceased alone and very much the worse for drink at half-past two. The inquest was adjourned for a fortnight.