The Eastern Post & City Chronicle
Saturday, 29 September 1888.
SUMMING UP AND VERDICT.
IMPORTANT STATEMENT BY THE CORONER.
The inquest into the most recent of the four mysterious murders of unfortunate women in Whitechapel was resumed and concluded on Wednesday, at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel Road.
Inspector Chandler having stated that there was no more evidence.
The Coroner (Mr. Wynne E. Baxter) summed up the case in the following terms: - Gentlemen of the Jury, I congratulate you that your labours are now nearly completed. We shall do well to recall the important facts. The deceased was a widow, 47 years of age, named Annie Chapman. Her husband was a coachman living at Windsor. For three or four years before his death she had lived apart from her husband, who allowed her 10s. a week until his death at Christmas, 1886. She had evidently lived an immoral life for some time, and her habits and surroundings had become worse since her means had failed. She no longer visited her relations, and her brother had not seen her for five months, when she borrowed a small sum from him. She lived principally in the common lodging-houses in the neighbourhood of Spitalfields, where such as she herd like cattle. She showed signs of great deprivation, as if she had been badly fed. The glimpses of life in those dens which the evidence in this case discloses is sufficient to make us feel that there is much in the nineteenth century civilisation of which we have small reason to be proud; but you who are constantly called together to hear the sad tale of starvation, or semi-starvation, of misery, immorality, and wickedness which some of the occupants of the 5,000 beds in this district have every week to relate at coroner's inquests, do not require to be reminded of what life in a Spitalfields lodging-house means. It was in one of these that the older bruises found on the temple and on the chest of the deceased were received, in a trumpery quarrel, a week before her death. It was in one of these that she was seen a few hours before her mangled remains were discovered. On the afternoon and evening of Friday, the 7th of September, she divided her time partly in such a place as 35, Dorset Street, and partly in the Ringers' public-house, where she spent whatever money she had; so that between one and two on the morning of Saturday, when the money for her bed is demanded, she is obliged to admit that she is without means, and at once turns out into the street to find it. She leaves there at 1:45 p.m. She is seen off the premises by the night watchman, and is observed to turn down Little Paternoster Row into Brushfield Street and not in the more direct direction of Hanbury Street. On her wedding finger she was wearing two or three rings, which appear to have been palpably of base metal, as the witnesses are all clear about their material and value. We now lose sight of her for about four hours, but at half-past five Mrs. Long is in Hanbury Street on her way from home in Church Street, Whitechapel, to Spitalfields Market. She walked on the northern side of the road going westward, and remembers having seen a man and woman standing a few yards from the place where the deceased is afterwards found. And although she did not know Annie Chapman, she is positive that that woman was deceased. The two were talking loudly, but not sufficiently so to arouse her suspicions. The words she overheard were not calculated to do so. The laconic inquiry of the man, "Will you?" and the simple assent of the woman, viewed in the light of subsequent events, can be easily translated and explained. Mrs. Long passed on her way, and neither saw nor heard anything more of her, and this is the last time she is known to have been alive. 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. She was found dead about six o'clock. She was not in the yard when Richardson was there at 4:50 a.m. She was talking outside the house at half-past five when Mrs. Long passed them. Cadosh says it was about 5:20 when he was in the back yard of the adjoining house, and heard a voice say "No," and three or four minutes afterwards a fall against the fence; but if he 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. It is true that Dr. Phillips thinks that when he saw the body at 6:30 the deceased had been dead at least two hours, but he admits that the coldness of the morning and the great loss of blood may affect his opinion; and if the evidence of the other witnesses be correct, Dr. Phillips has miscalculated the effect of those forces. But many minutes after Mrs. Long passed down Hanbury Street cannot have elapsed before the deceased became a mutilated corpse in the yard of No. 29, close by where she was last seen by any witness. This place is a fair sample of a large number of houses in the neighbourhood. It was built, like hundreds of others, for the Spitalfields weavers, and when handlooms were driven out by steam and power, these were converted into dwellings for the poor. Its size is about such as a superior artisan would occupy in the country, but its condition is such as would to a certainty leave it without a tenant. In this place 17 persons were living, from a woman and her son sleeping in a cat's-meat shop on the ground floor, to Davis and his wife and their three grown-up sons, all sleeping together in an attic. The street door, and the yard door were never locked, and the passage and yard appear to have been constantly used by people who had no legitimate business there. There is little doubt that the deceased knew the place, for it was only 300 or 400 yards from where she lodged. If so, it is quite unnecessary to assume that her companion had any knowledge-in fact, it is easier to believe that he was ignorant both of the nest of living beings by whom he was surrounded, and of their occupations and habits. Some were on the move late at night, some were up long before the sun. A carman named Thompson left the house for his work as early as 3:50 a.m.; an hour later John Richardson was paying the house a visit of inspection; shortly after 5:15, Cadosh, who lived in the next house, was in the adjoining yard twice. Davis, the carman, who occupied the third floor front, heard the church clock strike a quarter to six, got up, had a cup of tea, and went into the back yard; and was horrified to find the mangled body of the deceased. It was then a little after 6 a.m.- a very little, for at 10 minutes past the hour Inspector Chandler had been informed of the discovery while on duty in Commercial Street. There is nothing to suggest that the deceased was not fully conscious of what she was doing. It is true that she had passed through some stages of intoxication, for although she appeared perfectly sober to her friend who met her in Dorset Street at five o'clock the previous evening, she had been drinking afterwards; and when she left the lodging house shortly before two o'clock, the night watchman noticed that she was the worse for drink, but not badly so, while the deputy asserts that though she had evidently been drinking, she could walk straight, and it was probably only malt liquor that she had taken, and its effects would pass off quicker than if she had taken spirits. Consequently, it is not surprising to find that Mrs. Long saw nothing to make her think that the deceased was the worse for drink. Moreover, it is unlikely that she could have had the opportunity of getting intoxicants. Again, the post-mortem examination shows that while the stomach contained a meal of food, there was no sign of fluid and no appearance of her having taken alcohol, and Dr. Phillips is convinced that she had not taken any alcohol for some time. The deceased, therefore, entered the house in full possession of her faculties; although with a very different object to her companion. From the evidence which the condition of the yard affords and the medical examination discloses, it appears that after the two had passed through the passage and opened the swing-door at the end, they descended the three steps into the yard. On their left hand side there was a recess between those steps and the palings. Here a few feet from the house and a less distance from the paling they must have stood. The wretch must have then seized the deceased, perhaps with Judas-like approaches. He seized her by the chin. He pressed her throat, and while thus preventing the slightest cry, at the same time produced insensibility and suffocation. There is no evidence of any struggle. The clothes are not torn. Even in these preliminaries the wretch seems to have known how to carry out efficiently his nefarious work. The deceased was then lowered to the ground, and laid on her back; and although in doing so she may have fallen slightly against the fence, this movement was probably effected with care. Her throat was cut in two places with savage determination, and the injuries to the abdomen commenced. All was done with cool impudence and reckless daring; but perhaps nothing is more noticeable than the emptying of her pockets, and the arrangement of their contents with business-like precision in order near her feet. The murder seems, like the Buck's Row case, to have been carried out without any cry. Sixteen people were in the house. The partitions of the different rooms are of wood. Davis was not asleep after 3 a.m., except for three-quarters of an hour, or less, between 5 and 5:45. Mrs. Richardson only dozed after 3 a.m., and heard no noise, during the night Mrs. Hardman, who occupies the front ground-floor room, did not wake until the noise succeeding the finding of the body had commenced, and none of the occupants of the houses by which the yard is surrounded heard anything suspicious. The brute who committed the offence did not even take the trouble to cover up his ghastly work, but left the body exposed to the view of the first comer. This accords but little with the trouble taken with the rings, and suggests either that he had at length been disturbed, or that as the daylight broke, a sudden fear suggested the danger of detection that he was running. There are two things missing. The rings had been wrenched from her fingers, and have not been found, and the uterus has been taken from the abdomen. The body has not been dissected, but the injuries have been made by some one who had considerable anatomical skill and knowledge. There are no meaningless cuts. The organ has been taken by one who knew where to find it, what difficulties he would have to contend against, and how he should use his knife so as to abstract the organ without injury to it. No unskilled person could have known where to find it, or have recognised it when it was found. For instance, no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been some one accustomed to the post-mortem room. The conclusion that the desire was to possess the missing abdominal organ seems overwhelming. If the object were robbery, the injuries to the viscera would be meaningless, for death had previously resulted from the loss of blood at the neck. Moreover, when we find an easily accomplished theft of some paltry brass rings and an internal organ taken, after, at least, a quarter of an hour's work, and taken by a skilled person, we are driven to the deduction that the abstraction of the missing portion of abdominal viscera was the object, and the theft of the rings was only a thin-veiled blind, an attempt to prevent the real intention being discovered. The amount missing would go into a breakfast cup; and had not the medical examination been of a thorough and searching character it might easily have been left unnoticed that there was any portion of the body taken. The difficulty in believing that the purport of the murderer was the possession of the uterus is natural. It is abhorrent to our feelings to conclude that a life should be taken for so slight an object; but when rightly considered, the reasons for most murders are altogether out of proportion to the guilt. It has been suggested that the criminal is a lunatic with morbid feelings. This may or may not be the case, but the object of the murderer appears palpably shown by the facts, and it is not necessary to assume lunacy, for it is clear that there is a market for the missing organ. To show you this, I must mention a fact which at the same time proves the assistance which publicity and the newspaper Press afford in the detection of crime. Within a few hours of the issue of the morning papers containing a report of the medical evidence given at the last sitting of the Court, I received a communication from an officer of one of our great medical schools that they had information which might, or might not, have a distinct bearing on our inquiry. I attended at the first opportunity, and was informed by the sub-curator of the Pathological Museum that some months ago an American had called on him, and asked him to procure a number of specimens of the organ that was missing in the deceased. He stated his willingness to give £20 a-piece for each specimen. He stated that his object was to issue an actual specimen with each copy of a publication on which he was then engaged. He was told that his request was impossible to be complied with, but he still urged his request. He wished them preserved, not in spirits of wine, the usual medium, but in glycerine, in order to preserve them in a flaccid condition, and he wished them sent to America direct. It is known that this request was repeated to another institution of a similar character. Now it is not possible that the knowledge of this demand may have incited some abandoned wretch to possess himself of a specimen. It seems beyond belief that such inhuman wickedness could enter into the mind of any man, but unfortunately, our criminal annals prove that every crime is possible. I need hardly say that I at once communicated my information to the Detective Department at Scotland Yard. Of course, I do not know what use has been made of it, but I believe that publicity may possibly further elucidate this fact, and therefore I have not withheld from you the information. By means of the Press some further explanation may be forthcoming from America, if not from here. Gentlemen, I have endeavoured to suggest to you the object with which this crime was committed, and the class of person who must have committed it. The greatest deterrent from crime is the conviction that detection and punishment will follow with rapidity and certainty, and it may be that the impunity with which Mary Ann Smith and Ann Tabram [sic] were murdered suggested the possibility of such horrid crimes as those which you and another jury have recently been considering. It is, therefore, a great misfortune that nearly three weeks have elapsed without the chief actor in this awful tragedy having been discovered. Surely, it is not too much even yet to hope that the ingenuity of our detective force will succeed in unearthing this monster. It is not as if there were no clue to the character of the criminal or the cause of his crime. His object is clearly divulged. His anatomical knowledge carries him out of the category of a common criminal, for that knowledge could only have been obtained by assisting at post-mortems, or by frequenting the post-mortem room. Thus, the class in which search must be made, although a large one, is limited. Moreover, it must have been a man who was from home, if not all night, at least during the early hours of the 8th of September. His hands were undoubtedly bloodstained, for he did not stop to use the tap in the yard, as the pan of clean water under it shows. If the theory of lunacy be correct (which I very much doubt) the class is still further limited; while if Mrs. Long's memory does not fail, and the assumption be correct that the man who was talking to the deceased at half-past five was the culprit, he is even more clearly defined. In addition to his former description we should know that he was a foreigner of dark complexion, over 40 years of age, a little taller than the deceased, of shabby-genteel appearance, with a brown deer-stalker hat on his head, and a dark coat on his back. If your views accord with mine, you will be of opinion that we are confronted with a murder of no ordinary character, committed not from jealously, revenge, or robbery, but from motives less adequate than the many which disgrace our civilisation, mar our progress, and blot the pages of our Christianity. I cannot conclude my remarks, gentlemen, without thanking you for the attention you have given to the case, and the assistance you have rendered me in our efforts to elucidate the truth of this horrible tragedy.
The jury took only a few moments to consider their verdict, which they did without leaving the room.
The Foreman: We can only find one verdict, and that is, Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown. We were about to have added a rider regarding the mortuary accommodation, but that having been done by the jury in the Buck's Row case we will allow the matter to stand as it is. We have one request to make. Having sat here for five days the majority of the jury wish to be exempted from attending any other inquests for at least two years.
The Coroner: We will endeavour to meet your wishes; but if there is any other important case - though I hope there won't be - I am sure you won't object to serving. The number of constant residents in Whitechapel is very limited, and the rule is that each shall serve if necessary once in three months.
A man giving the name of Fitzgerald on Thursday gave himself up at the Wandsworth Police Station for the murder of Annie Chapman in Hanbury Street, Whitechapel. The man is a plasterer or a bricklayer's labourer. He says he has been wandering from place to place, and is believed to have been more or less under the influence of drink lately. His description does not tally with that given at the inquest by witnesses of a certain man seen on the morning of the murder. It seems that Fitzgerald first communicated the intelligence to a private individual, who subsequently gave its purport to the police. A search was made, and the man was discovered in a common lodging-house at Wandsworth. He is known to have been living recently at Hammersmith. His self-accusation is said to be not altogether clear, and it is even reported that he cannot give the date of the murder, so that the authorities are disinclined to place much reliance on his statements. If the confession is found to contain any semblance of truth the prisoner will be charged before a magistrate.
As a consequence of the startling statement made by the coroner in his summing up at the inquest, public interest in the fate of the unfortunate Annie Chapman has been stimulated afresh. The clue afforded by the coroner is, of course, being followed up by the police, who have now had the information in their position for a week, but it has not transpired whether it has yet led to any tangible result. The inquiries of the police would necessarily extend to America, and on that account it may be some time before fresh facts could be in the hands of the public. An important point yet to be made clear is as to whether the object of the murderer was the same in the cases of the woman Nicholls and of Annie Chapman. The coroner in the former case, when he summed up last Saturday, appeared to think that it was, and at the time of expressing that opinion he must have been in receipt of an important communication from the sub-curator of the Pathological Museum attached to one of the metropolitan hospitals, to which he referred in his summing-up on the body of Annie Chapman. The opinion he expressed last Saturday regarding Nicholls' case thus carries weight.
The "shabby genteel'' man who was seen in Chapman's company shortly before her murder is being sought for, but up to the present it would appear without success.
From inquiries made at some of the great medical institutions it has been ascertained that requests similar to that of the American gentleman have before been made; but the peculiar conditions attaching to the requests could not possibly be complied with, unless the operation were performed before or immediately after death. Ever since the coroner communicated the facts to the police authorities no stone has been left unturned to follow up the clue, and active inquiries are still proceeding.
The Law Journal says: The summing-up of the coroner in the Whitechapel case, although at certain points, particularly when he communicated the information given to himself personally, somewhat sensational, on the whole promoted the true function of a coroner's inquest, which is as near an approach to a proceeding in rem as is known to common law. The regular course would have been to have summoned the person who gave the information as a witness, and the coroner's own evidence, not on oath, of what was told him was technically out of order. Possibly to summon the witness would not have encouraged the production of further evidence, and no doubt the able exposition of the coroner of the case as it now stands is a valuable contribution towards justice, and from one point of view a relief to the public mind. Everyone will be glad to know that Whitechapel, whatever its shortcomings, cannot be held in any sense responsible for this murder, except in so far as it happened to afford conveniences for the execution of its horrible motive.