13 September 1888
Horror upon horror's head accumulates. We are distracted from the East End murders by the mystery of the Thames. It is considered certain that the woman's arm and hand found in the river are relics and proof of a further tragedy. The divisional Police Surgeon, Dr. Neville - a Macroom man, by the way - has distinctly declared that the limb could not have been severed with a dissecting knife or by anybody having the least knowledge of anatomy. It must, he believes, have been cut off from the body with a heavy weapon, and from other than scientific motives. This is about all we know, and it is already anticipated that this is all we shall know about the matter. The calculated probability is that the police, having worked through the usual clues leading nowhere, and the customary information which proves worthless, the baffled authorities, as often happens, will arrive at the conclusion that the incident has its origin in the dissecting room, and will give out their view for the public acceptance as if it were based upon ascertained facts. John Bull - good, easy man - takes readily enough, as a rule, what Hawkshaw, Macnab, and the other able detectives tell him when they fail to get on the scent, much less to run down the vermin. They make quite a fuss about alleged bloodstains, which were supposed to show that the murderer had escaped over the rails, it turned out that the stains were not the effect of blood at all.
THE RESUMED INQUEST
EVIDENCE OF "LEATHER APRON"
The inquest on the body of the unfortunate woman, Nannie Chapman, also known as Annie Sivey, who was so brutally murdered and mutilated in Hanbury street, on Saturday morning, the 8th inst., was resumed this afternoon at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel road, by Mr Wynne Baxter.
Mr Fontaine Smith, a respectable man of about 35 years of age, said he was a printers' warehouse man and a brother of the deceased Annie Chapman. He evidently felt somewhat unnerved, and gave his evidence in a low tone of voice. He said he had seen the body, and recognised it as that of his eldest sister. She was the widow of John Chapman, a coachman who had lived at Windsor. She had been separated from her husband for about three years. She was 47 years old. I saw her alive a fortnight ago in Commercial street, where I met her promiscuously. Her husband died at Christmas 1886. When I met her she recognised me first, and I gave her a few shillings. She didn't say where she was living or what she was doing. She said she wanted the money for lodging. I knew nothing about her associates.
The next witness gave his name as James Kent, packing case maker. He had some of the diffidence of the previous witness but spoke out in a loud and clear manner. He came in his working dress, with a blue handkerchief twisted round his neck. He had not much of importance to say, but his answers to the Coroner had the merit of lucidity. "I work," said he, "for Mr Bailey, 23 Hanbury street. I go to work at six o'clock. On Saturday last I arrived at the place about ten minutes past six. The gate was open, but I waited a minute or two as I usually do. While waiting an elderly man called me. I believe his name is Davis. He came out of his house and ran into the road. He said, 'Men, come here.' I and James Green went to 29 Hanbury street. There were others standing about. I went to the passage and saw a woman lying in the yard between the back door steps and partition. Her head was against the house, and her body was flat on the ground. Her feet were towards our premises where I am employed. I did not examine her. I did not go down the steps into the yard. No one went in until Inspector Chandler arrived. She was dead. She had some kind of handkerchief round her throat, which seemed soaked in blood. I saw no blood running but she was smeared with blood - her face and hands - as if she had struggled. Her hands were in front of her, as if she had been struggling - as if she had fought for her throat. Her legs were wide apart, and on them were marks of blood. I did not notice whether there was blood on the clothes. I was too much frightened to notice very particularly. It seemed as if her inside had been torn out. (Sensation). I went then to look for a policeman, and I had some brandy. Next I went to the shop and got a piece of canvas to throw over the body. By that time a mob had assembled and the police inspector had arrived. Green went to the yard with me, but afterwards went and looked over the wall.
James Green, also a packing case maker working for Mr Bailey, then stepped forward on the invitation of the Coroner. In answer to the coroner, he gave his evidence, entirely supporting that of Kent, with whom he had been when they were called by Davis. His testimony was not very important except that it corroborated that of the preceding witness.
Mrs Amelia Richardson, 29 Hanbury street, Spitalfields, was then brought in. On being sworn, she kissed the book, and proceeded to say that she rented the house in Hanbury street. "I carry on business there," she went on, "and employ there my son, aged 37, and a man named Francis Tyler. Tyler should have come to work at 6 o'clock but he did not come until 8. I sent for him. He was often late when work was slack. My son also works at the market. He went through our yard soon after 5 o'clock, but there was nothing then. About 6 o'clock my grandson, Thomas Richardson, aged 14, went down to see what was the matter as there was so much noise in the passage. He came back and said, 'Oh, mother, there is a woman murdered.' I went out and saw the deceased in the yard. There was no one in the yard at the time, but there were people in the passage. Soon afterwards a constable arrived and took possession of the place. So far as I know he was the first person to go into the yard. I occupy the first floor front. My grandson also slept in the same room. I went to bed at half past 9. I was very wakeful, and was awake half the night. I woke at 3, and only dozed afterwards. I heard no noise during the night. The first floor back was occupied by Mr Waker, an old gentleman, together with his wife and son. The son is an imbecile. On the ground floor there are two rooms occupied by Mrs Hardiman and her son, aged 16. Mrs Hardiman keeps a cat's meat shop. The son goes out with the cat's meat. I occupy the back parlour for the cooking and on Friday night I had a prayer meeting there. When I went to bed I locked that room up. It was still locked in the morning. John Davis and his family occupy the third floor front. An old lady occupies the back room on that floor. The house is practically open all night, and although I have property there I am not afraid. There are never any robberies there. I am not the owner of the house. I can hear anyone going through the passage, but I heard nobody on Saturday.
A Juryman - You mean to say you could hear them if you were awake? Witness - Yes. Of course there is noise and bustle on market mornings. I heard no cries on Saturday.
By the Coroner - It is customary for people to go through the house. They go to the back yard, but I always hear them. Some people go through who have no business there. I still adhere to the fact that I heard nobody go through on Saturday morning. If anybody had gone through he must have walked purposely quietly.
Mrs Hardiman, who occupied the ground floor front room at 29 Hanbury street, said she was asleep all Friday night and did not go through the passage into the yard that night.
John Richardson, a porter in Spitalfields Market, living in John street, said he travelled for his mother in the packing case business. On Saturday morning at 20 minutes to 5 he went to 29 Hanbury street to see if the cellars were all secure. He found the front door closed and opening it, and going through the passage to the back door he sat on the back door step to cut a piece of leather off his boot with a long knife that he had in his packet. He did not go into the yard. After two minutes he went back through the passage and closing the front door left. Was not quite daylight, but he could see all over the place. If the deceased had been lying in the yard then he could not have failed to notice the body, as he sat close to where it was afterwards found. He saw the body there about 6 o'clock from the next yard. He had been there all hours of the night, and had seen many strangers there. He had often turned them out.
Mrs Richardson (recalled) explained that her son while in the cellar wore a leather apron, which on Thursday last she found in the cellar, and took out to wash. She put it under the tap in the yard, and left it there. It was found in the yard on Saturday morning.
John Piser, 29 Mulberry street, the man who was apprehended on Monday, was then brought in. When he gave his name there was quite a sensation.
On the officer approaching to administer the oath Piser produced his own Bible, put his hat on his head, and swore "by Jehovah." In answer to the coroner he spoke in a subdued manner, but with clearness and deliberation, admitting that he was known as "Leather Apron." He had been, he said, at Mulberry street since Thursday, and arrived there then "from the West End of the town" upon which the coroner remarked sotto voce, "We shall have to get a better address than that presently." He had, he said, kept indoors at Mulberry street by advice, as he was the object of false suspicions, and he feared he would be torn to pieces.
The Coroner then went on to question him closely as to his previous movements, and there was some vagueness in his answers which will be best shown in the following exact note of his evidence:-
To the Coroner - I am a shoemaker.
Are you known as "Leather Apron?" Yes, sir.
Where were you on Friday night? At 22 Mulberry street. I went there on Thursday night, I came from the West End of the town. I reached Mulberry street at about 11 o'clock. My brother and step-mother live at 22 Mulberry street. I remained indoors there until I was arrested by the police on Monday at 9 a.m. I never left the house during that time. I remained indoors as I was the object of false suspicions. My brother advised me to remain indoors.
The Coroner - It was not the best advice.
Piser - I should have been torn to pieces if I had gone out. I am not now in custody. I wish to clear my character.
Where were you on the Thursday before you came to Mulberry street? I was in the Holloway road.
I think you had better say where you were? On that Thursday, August 30, I was staying at a common lodging-house called the "Round House," Holloway road. I slept there. I went in about a quarter past 2 on Friday morning. I left it the same day about 11 a.m.
Where were you before 2 o'clock on Friday morning? At 11 o'clock on Thursday night I had my supper at the same house. Previous to that I went to Seven Sisters road. I saw the reflection of a fire, and on meeting two policemen asked them where it was. They said it was at the Albert Docks. When I returned to the lodging-house and paid for my bed, I went in to the kitchen and sat down for a little while. I soon after went to bed. I got up at 11 o'clock. On last Thursday the 8th inst., I came from a lodging house in Westminster.
The Coroner - I think it is only fair to say that these statements can be corroborated.
Sergeant William Thicke said, on Monday last I went to 22 Mulberry street and arrested Piser, whom I had known as "Leather Apron" for many years. He was released from custody last night at 8.30.
John Richardson (recalled) produced the old table knife - a small and rusty specimen.
After some further evidence the inquest was adjourned until to-morrow.
No further arrests have been made in connection with the murders. The bloodstained paper found in Bailey's packing-case yard, abutting on the back of the garden of No 25 Hanbury street, has been handed to police experts for chemical analysis. The woman Darrell has identified the body of the murdered woman Chapman as that of the woman whom she saw talking to a man outside No 29, the scene of the murder, about half-past five on Saturday morning. This corroborates other witnesses, and leaves little doubt that the murder was committed between half-past five and six o'clock, in almost broad daylight.
Pigott, who was arrested at Gravesend, is still in Whitechapel Infirmary. Dr Lardner cannot yet express a decided opinion as to his state of mind and he will probably remain in the institution for some days. A policeman is in charge of him, but otherwise there is nothing to distinguish his case from that of any other patient.
A man was arrested on suspicion at Holloway to-day, but on being medically examined was found to be of unsound mind and was sent to the workhouse infirmary.
This afternoon, Dr Thomas Neville, divisional surgeon, visited the mortuary at Ebury Bridge, Pimlico, for the purpose of minutely examining the arm found in the Thames on Tuesday. The limb at present will remain at the mortuary awaiting the orders of Mr Troutbeck, the district coroner, who has been officially informed of the discovery, but it is improbable that an inquest will be held. The Thames police are making every endeavour to find other portions of the body if there are any in the river, and the officers of the Criminal Investigation Department are making inquiries. The authorities still believe a murder has been committed.
The Thames police were engaged for several hours this afternoon in dragging the river between Pimlico Steamboat Pier and London and Brighton South Coast Railway Bridge, between which points the arm of the woman was found yesterday. A careful examination was also made of the timber rafts floating in the river, but no discovery of human remains was made. It is the opinion of the river police that the arm was dropped over the embankment, which at night is darker than most thoroughfares owing to the numerous trees now in full leaf, and little frequented. The arm is still in the mortuary, and will be further examined by surgical experts. In regard to the theory that the arm might have been thrown on to the river by a medical student with a view to create a scare, our representative called at one of the chief London hospitals to-day. He was assured that the arm could not possibly have been removed by a student from any hospital dissecting room. Students are allowed to dissect only in the room set aside for that purpose. Under the Act of William IV, hospitals and medical schools are allowed to receive unclaimed bodies for the purposes of dissection, but 48 hours notice has to be given after death to the Inspector under the Act before the body can be removed from the place of decease, and then only after a certificate of death has been given. The bodies, after being dissected, must be buried in consecrated ground and within six weeks a certificate of burial must be forwarded to the Inspector. Under no circumstances are students allowed to take portions of bodies to their own homes; in fact they would be liable under the Act to heavy penalties for doing so.