Eastern Argus & Borough of Hackney Times.
Saturday, 8 September 1888.
INQUEST AND LATEST PARTICULARS.
The elucidation of the awful tragedy that took place in Buck's Row, Bethnal Green, last Friday morning, and which we published within a few hours of its occurrence, seems to be as far off as ever. The inquest was held on Monday, by Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, at the Working Lads' Institute. The evidence of the police was first taken but very little was elicited from them, with the exception of the finding of the body by police-constable Neil. Inspector John Spratling, of the J Division, Bethnal Green, was examined, but it transpired that he was in Hackney Road at half-past four when he first heard of the occurrence. He proceeded to Buck's Row, where he saw Police-constable Thain, who showed him the spot where the body was found. He noticed a slight stain of blood on the footpath, but the body had been removed to the mortuary in Old Montague Street. He examined it there and saw the intestines were exposed by injuries to the lower part of the body. He noticed no blood marks on the legs; and the skin was clean, though he did not think it had been washed. This witness sent for Dr. Llewellyn, who arrived quickly, and made an examination; he found the lower extremities of the body quite warm, and this points to the fact that deceased was alive at two o'clock or thereabouts, a supposition which is confirmed by several who say they saw her at the time near Whitechapel Church. The Coroner placed great stress on a part of Inspector Spratling's evidence with reference to her stays, as to the manner in which they were fastened. The witness was Sergeant Godley and police-constable Cartwright, had made a long and careful survey of the spot where the body was found, but nothing relating to the crime was discovered. He was told that a carman working at the stables against the gate of which the body was found had wiped up the blood there. A watchman at the Great Eastern Railway yard, 50 or 60 yards from this spot, had heard nothing particular on the night of the murder, and several persons living in the neighbourhood, close enough to hear anything unusual, said nothing had occurred to attract their attention. Detective-Inspector J. Helson gave a description of how he found the body, and clothing at the mortuary. He said he noticed that the dress was fastened in front, with the exception of two or three buttons, and the stays were fastened. There was blood in the hair, and about the collars of the dress and ulster, but he saw none at the back of the skirt. He found no marks on the arms such as would indicate a struggle, and in his opinion all the wounds could have been made with the clothes on. A carman in the employ of Messrs. Pickford & Co., named Charles A. Cross, who found the body said: "I left home about half-past 3 on Friday morning to go to work, and in passing through Buck's Row, saw something lying against a gateway. I could not tell in the dark what it was at first; it looked to me like a tarpaulin sheet, but stepping into the road, I saw that it was the body of a woman. Just then I heard a man - about 40 yards off - approaching from the direction that I myself had come from. I waited for the man, who started on one side as if afraid that I meant to knock him down. I said "Come and look over here, there's a woman." We then went over to the body. I took hold of the hands of the woman, and the other man stooped over her head to look at her. Feeling the hands cold and limp, I said "I believe she's dead;" her face felt warm. The other man put his hand on her heart, saying, "I think she's breathing, but it is very little if it is." The man suggested that we should move her, but I would not touch her. He then tried to pull her clothes down to cover her legs, but they did not seem as if they would come down. I did not notice that her throat was cut."
On being further questioned, this witness said the deceased looked then as if she had been outraged, and had gone off in a swoon. William Nicholls [Nichols], a printer's machinist, of Coburg Road, Old Kent Road, said the deceased was his wife from whom he had been separated eight years. Emily Holland, a married woman, living at a common lodging house in Thrawl Street, Spitalfields, also gave evidence, and said she saw the deceased at 2.30 on Friday morning going down Osborne street to Whitechapel Road. She was staggering along drunk, and was quite alone. She did not know whether deceased had any male acquaintance as she was very reserved, and had never seen her quarrel with anybody. When the deceased left this witness at the corner of Osborne Street she said she would not be long before she was back. The inquest was afterwards adjourned until Monday, the 17th inst., when Detective-Inspectors Abberline, Spratling, Helson, and Detective Sergeant Enright, who are earnestly following up every slightest point, hope to give further evidence. In the meantime the jury are to view the clothing again, which is still at the mortuary. The scene of the tragedy has been visited during the week by thousands of persons who possess a morbid interest for anything savouring the mysterious, though after dusk the dark and gloomy purlieus of this neighbourhood are more deserted than ever; timid women will not venture down the lanes and courts, and even men pass through at a quick pace, especially as since then another assault was committed at the same spot.
During the week the three men who are engaged at the slaughter house in Winthorp Street, have been annoyed by persons continually chalking on the door posts, "This is where the murder was done." The three slaughter-house men, two of whom gave evidence at the inquest have indignantly repudiated this slanderous insinuation.
The funeral of the unfortunate victim took place on Thursday afternoon. The body had previously been got away from the mortuary by means of a ruse, an immense crowd following an empty hearse, while the removal was being made at the back. The coffin was of polished elm and bore the inscription, "Mary Ann Nicholls, aged 42, died Aug. 31st 1888."
No arrests have yet been made, though the officers in charge of the case have undoubtedly got a clue, but not such as the senseless rumours of the past week have promulgated.
Several evening contemporaries published on Tuesday a sensational account of a woman, who on leaving the Foresters Music Hall on the previous Saturday night, was accosted by a "well-dressed man" who eventually took her within a few yards of the spot in Buck's Row, where the brutal murder took place last Friday, and there robbed and assaulted her with the aid of a gang who came out of a court. This veracious account also stated that this gang threatened to "serve her the same as they did the other" if she was not quiet and wound up by saying this would be a good clue for the police to work up the murder with. There appears now to be no foundation for this "news". It originated, no doubt, from the fact that on Sunday, John Hummerstone, a labourer, living at 11, Key Street, which is in the vicinity of Buck's Row, savagely assaulted a woman named Smith with whom he had been living. He knocked her about in a brutal manner and then struck her with a knife. He was charged at Worship Street Police Court on Monday and remanded. On Tuesday he was again brought up at this court, and then a woman named Jess, living at 13, Key Street, gave evidence that she witnessed the assault, but she was afraid before of giving evidence.
The prisoner was then sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour.