East London Observer
Saturday, 20 July 1889.
BY A GHASTLY CRIME
More Mysterious than Ever.
Fullest and Latest Details.
The murder fiend is at his terribly ghastly work again. Countless pens are taken up again to write up the details of a mysterious and horrible crime in Whitechapel; and the heart of the nation is again harrowed by revolting stories of murder and mutilation. But what is there new to be said. Everything is on the same lines with the series of barbarous atrocities of last year - so nearly, indeed, does the crime tally with its ghastly predecessors that for all purposes we might as well tear out from the journals of that date a column or two describing one of last year's murders, alter a name here and a street there, and the sad tale would be complete. Here is the story of the latest work of the Whitechapel fiend in all its bareness:
In the early hours of Tuesday [sic] morning - at about ten minutes to one, in point of fact - when a dark, dreary drizzle had set in, and the streets were cleared of almost all but the wretched, homeless outcasts, Police-constable Andrews, 272 H, while walking round his beat, and passing through Castle-alley, Whitechapel, saw a woman lying on the ground, about five feet from Messrs. King's premises. The officer at first thought the woman was the worse for drink, or one of the many outcasts who nightly frequent the alley to seek a shelter. On turning his light down he was horrified to find a woman lying on her back with a terrible gash in her throat. The skirt and petticoat were turned up, and the constable could see that there were gashes about the abdomen, but these did not appear to be very deep. Andrews blew his whistle, and directly afterwards several officers appeared upon the scene. The constables, acting upon instructions, did not shift the body from the position in which it was found until after Dr. George Bagster Phillips, divisional surgeon, and Dr. Brown had examined it. They, however, felt the face, which was warm, thus proving that the murder had been committed but a very short time before the constable discovered the body.
The doctors, together with several inspectors and detectives attached to the H Division, were quickly on the spot, and the former, having examined the body, pronounced life extinct. They then took minute details of the position of the corpse, which was lying in a pool of blood, and the appearance of the surrounding buildings. The body was then conveyed on a stretcher to the Whitechapel mortuary, in Old Montague-street, where the police took a description of the deceased. She appeared to be a woman of about 40 years of age, and evidently had been a member of the poorest class of unfortunate women who infest the principal thoroughfares of the East End. She was about five feet five inches in height, of fair complexion, with dark-brown hair. A tooth was missing, and in this respect the case bears a singular resemblance to those of the two other women who were murdered in Buck's-row and Hanbury-street, as each of these had a tooth missing. There was no covering to the head. The deceased woman was poorly dressed, and one of the nails of a finger of the left hand is partly cut off.
The scene of the murder is probably one of the lowest quarters in the whole of East London, and a spot more suitable for the terrible crime could hardly be found, on account of the evil reputation borne by this particular place, and the absence of any inhabitants in the immediate vicinity. Castle-alley, which is within a quarter of a mile of the scenes of the other murders, is principally composed of workshops, and is about 180 yards in length. The thoroughfare itself is blocked up, both day and night, with tradesmen's carts and wagons and costermongers' barrows, while on the opposite side to the workshops or store-houses is a high dead wall, above which, however, are the windows of some dwelling houses. This alley, which is entered by a passage, not more than a yard in width, between Nos. 124 and 125, Whitechapel-road, is entirely shut off from view of the main road, and would hardly be observed by the ordinary passer-by. At the end of the passage are the Board School and Whitechapel wash-houses, and the thoroughfare, from that end, leads into Newcastle and Wentworth-streets, both of which are principally occupied by foreign Jews and the frequenters of common lodging-houses. Although the houses in these two streets are densely populated, the people generally enter them from the Spitalfields end, especially at night time, on account of the dark and lonely nature of Castle-alley, as well as the evil reputation it has always borne among the respectable portion of the inhabitants. The vans and other vehicles which crowd the thoroughfare, notwithstanding the fact that the alley is lighted with three lamps, afford ample cover and secrecy for crime and violence. The exact spot where the body of the unfortunate woman was found was between two wagons, which were fastened together with a chain, outside the premises of Messrs. King and Sons, builders. Right against the wagons was a street lamp, and it was against this the body of the murdered woman was discovered by the police officer. The murderer, on account of the narrowness and intricacy of the surrounding thoroughfares, would have no difficulty in getting away unobserved; and if, as is believed, he is residing in one of the dozens of common lodging houses or small houses almost within a stone's throw of the spot where the deed was committed, he would have no trouble in concealing his identity after making his escape. The woman's character, the nature of the wound, and the scene of the crime, naturally connect this murder with the seven similar murders of last year.
As soon as the murder was discovered a cordon of police was drawn round the spot, and the lodging-houses in the surrounding streets were searched, but with no satisfactory result. The news of the crime rapidly spread, and within an hour Mr. Monro, Commissioner of Police, and Col. Monsell visited the place, and personally superintended the measures taken to effect the capture of the murderer. Within two hours a number of detectives from Scotland-yard were busily engaged in making inquiries into the case, and otherwise assisting Detective-Inspector Reid, the head of the Criminal Investigation Department officers, attached to the H Division. It is only a short time since a large number of officers in the division, who had been specially engaged in watching the district since November last, were withdrawn, and these have already resumed their former work. Constable Andrews passed through Castle-alley, from the time he went on night duty until he found the body, every quarter of an hour, and just before the discovery a police sergeant passed the spot, and neither officer saw anything unusual. This clearly proves that the murder was committed but two or three minutes before the body was found, and the approach of the constable probably caused the murderer to take flight. There is no doubt the murderer enticed his victim to the spot, and the absence of any blood, except where the body was found, proves the deed to have been committed on that spot.
During Wednesday a large number of persons connected with common lodging-houses in the district were taken to the mortuary for the purpose of identifying the body, and although many of them stated that they knew the woman well by sight, they did not know her name. The excitement in the neighbourhood was considerable as soon as the news spread, and during the whole of Wednesday large crowds assembled in Castle-alley and in front of the gates of the yard in which the mortuary is placed. Three men who were found in the neighbourhood of the murder were taken to the Leman-street Police-station, but after being detained for some time, they were liberated, as soon as their accounts of themselves could be verified. Since the last murder the police have continued to receive letters purporting to come from "Jack the Ripper", and only three weeks since one was received in which the writer stated that it was his intention "to resume operations in July."
About two o'clock the woman was identified by John McCormack as Alice M'Kenzie with whom he had been living for the last six or seven years.
On Wednesday and Thursday there was repeated a scene rendered only too familiar during the latter part of last year - Mr. Wynne E. Baxter seated in the hall of the Working Lads' Institute, with a big jury, and a bigger crowd of reporters around him, vainly seeking to get at the slightest clue of the murderer. The same old evidence was repeated. Policemen were called, and almost mystified, declared that they had passed through the alley just previous, and just subsequent to the murder; associates of the victim from the lodging-houses were called to pull aside the veil of decency, and to tell a gaping world of how their fallen sisters live; and finally, the doctor was called to go over the same old horrible story of fanatical mutilation. Beyond the fact that the murderer seems to have cut and hacked his victim with diabolical fury, but one other important item was revealed. It was, that when the body was removed, the portion of the pavement thus uncovered was found to be perfectly dry, whereas it was drizzling with rain during the greater part of the night; and as the rain came on, as near as can be judged, at about twenty minutes to one o'clock, that time may pretty safely be averred to be the hour at which the foul crime was committed. The body, which lies at the wretched, foetid shed in Eagle-place, Montague-street - which has at various periods contained the bodies of nearly all previous victims - will be buried at Plaistow Cemetery on Monday afternoon.
Considerable excitement was caused in the East End on Wednesday afternoon by a serious stabbing affair. A man whose name is at present unknown, and who was lodging with a Mrs. Margaret Jones, Usher-road, Old Ford, stabbed her in the head with a carving-knife. The wound was a severe one, and the woman was taken to the London Hospital, where she now remains. Her assailant appears also to have injured his hand with the knife, and he too was taken to the hospital, but, not being sufficiently closely watched, suddenly absconded, and has not since been discovered.