Monday, 24 September 1888
On Saturday, Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, coroner for the South-Eastern division of Middlesex, resumed his adjourned inquiry at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel-road, respecting the death of Mary Ann Nichols, who was found brutally murdered in Buck's-row, Whitechapel.
William Eade, recalled, stated he had since seen the man whom he saw with the knife near the Foresters'-hall. He had ascertained that his name was Henry James, and that he did not possess a wooden arm.
The CORONER said the man James had been seen, and been proved to be a well-known harmless lunatic. As there was no further evidence forthcoming he would proceed to sum up. Before commencing the few remarks that he proposed to make to the jury, he should, he was sure, be only reflecting their feelings if he first returned his thanks to the committee of the Working Lads' Institute for the use of such a convenient room for the purposes of this inquest. Without their assistance, they would have been compelled to conduct this inquiry in a publichouse parlour - inconvenient and out of harmony with their functions, for Whitechapel not only did not possess any coroner's court, such as have been erected in St. Luke's, Clerkenwell, the City, and most of the West-end parishes, but it was without any town-hall or vestry-hall, such as were used for inquests at St. George's, Shadwell, Limehouse, and Poplar. To the Working Lads' Institute committee, therefore, he felt they were under obligations deserving of public recognition. The jury would probably have been surprised to find there was no public mortuary in Whitechapel. He had been informed that there was formerly one, but that it was demolished by Metropolitan Board of Works when making a new street, and that compensation was paid to the local authorities, who have never yet expended it on the object of the trust. Perhaps he had been misinformed, but this he did know, that jury after jury had requested the coroner to draw attention of the sanitary authorities to the deficiency, and, hitherto, without success. They deemed it essential for the health of the neighbourhood; and surely if mortuaries were found necessary at the West-end, there must be stronger reasons for them here, in the midst of so much squalid crowding. But this inconvenience had been felt in other ways in this inquiry. In the absence of a public mortuary, the police carried the body of the deceased to the deadhouse belonging to the workhouse infirmary. It was admittedly not ornate in appearance, and was not altogether suited for the purpose to which it had been applied; but they must not forget that such mortuary was a private structure, intended solely for use by the Union authorities, and that its use on other occasions had been allowed only by the courtesy of the guardians, but that only proved the necessity for a public mortuary. Had there been a public mortuary there would also have been a keeper, whose experience would have shown the advisability of the body being attended to only in the presence of the medical witness. He himself trusted now that the attention of the authorities had again been called to this pressing matter, the subject would be taken into serious consideration, and the deficiency supplied. Referring to the facts in the case before him, the Coroner said the deceased had been identified by her father and her husband to have been Mary Ann Nichols, a married woman with five children, and about 42 years of age. She was of intemperate habits, and left her husband eight years ago on account of drink. The husband had not seen or heard of her for three years. She had evidently formed irregular connexions, but still lived under her father's roof for three or four years, and then either to avoid the restraints of a settled home, or in consequence of her own misconduct, she left her father, who had not seen her for more than two years. She was in the Lambeth Workhouse on several occasions, at Christmas last and again in April. While there last she was fortunate enough to find a lady in Wandsworth willing to take her into her house as a domestic servant and at the time she wrote her father a letter, which held out some promise of reform; but her fresh start did not appear to have lasted long, for she soon afterwards left her situation in great disgrace. From that time until her death it was pretty clear that she had been living an intemperate, irregular, and vicious life, mostly in the common lodging-houses in that neighbourhood. There was nothing in the evidence as to the movements of the deceased on the day before her death, except a statement by herself that she was living in a common lodginghouse, called the White House, in Flower and Dean-street, Spitalfields; but he believed her movements had been traced by the police, and were not considered to have any connexion with her death. On Friday evening, the 31st of August, she was seen by Mrs. Holland - who knew her well - at the corner of Osborn-street and Whitechapel-road, nearly opposite the parish church. The deceased woman was then much the worse for drink and was staggering against the wall. Her friend endeavoured to persuade her to come home with her, but she declined, and was last seen endeavouring to walk eastward down Whitechapel. She said she had had her lodging money three times that day, but that she had spent it, that she was going about to get some money to pay her lodgings, and she would soon be back. In less than an hour and a quarter after this she was found dead at a spot rather under three-quarters of a mile distant. The deceased was first discovered by a carman on his way to work, who passed down Buck's-row, on the opposite side of the road. Immediately after he had ascertained that the dark object in the gateway was the figure of a woman he heard the approaching footsteps of a man. This proved to be Paul, another carman. Together they went to the woman. The condition of her clothing suggested to them that she had been outraged and had fainted. She was only just dead, if life were really extinct. Paul says he felt a slight movement of her breast, and thought she was breathing. Neither of the carmen appeared to have realized the condition of the woman, and no injuries were noticed by them; but that, no doubt, was accounted for by the early hour of the morning and the darkness of the spot. The carmen reported the circumstances to a constable at the corner of Hanbury-street, 300 yards distant, but although he appeared to have started without delay, he found another constable was already there. In fact, Constable Neil must independently have found the body within a few minutes of the finding of it by the two carmen. The condition in which the body was found appeared to prove conclusively that the deceased was killed on the exact spot in which she was found. There was not a trace of blood anywhere, except at the spot where her neck was lying. That appeared to him sufficient to justify the assumption that the injuries to the throat were inflicted when the woman was on the ground, while the state of her clothing and the absence of any blood about her legs equally proved that the abdominal injuries were inflicted while she was still in the same position. Nor did there appear any grounds for doubt that, if deceased was killed where she was found, she met her death without a cry of any kind. The spot was almost under the windows of Mrs. Green, a light sleeper. It was opposite the bedroom of Mrs. Purkiss, who was awake at the time. Then there were watchmen at various spots within very short distances. Not a sound was heard by any. Nor was there evidence of any struggle. This might have arisen from her intoxication, or from being stunned by a blow. Again, the deceased could not have been killed long before she was found. Constable Neil was positive that he was at the spot half an hour before, and then neither the body was there nor was any one about. Even if Paul were mistaken in the movement of the chest, Neil found her right arm still warm, and even Dr. Llewellyn, who saw the body about a quarter of an hour afterwards, found the body and lower extremities still warm, notwithstanding the loss of blood and abdominal injuries and that those extremities had been uncovered. It seemed astonishing, at first thought, that the culprit should escape detection, for there must surely have been marks of blood about his person. If, however, blood was principally on his hands, the presence of so many slaughter-houses in the neighbourhood would make the frequenters of that spot familiar with blood-stained clothes and hands, and his appearance might in that way have failed to attract attention while he passed from Buck's-row in the twilight into Whitechapel-road and was lost sight of in the morning's market traffic. He himself thought they could not altogether leave unnoticed the fact that the death the jury had been investigating was one of four presenting many points of similarity, all of which had occurred within the space of about five months, and all within a very short distance of the place where they were sitting. All four victims were women of middle age; all were married and had lived apart from their husbands in consequence of intemperate habits, and were at the time of their death leading irregular lives and eking out a miserable and precarious existence in common lodging-houses. In each case there were abdominal as well as other injuries. In each case the injuries were inflicted after midnight, and in places of public resort where it would appear impossible but that almost immediate detection would follow the crime, and in each case the inhuman and dastardly criminals were at large in society. Emma Elizabeth Smith, who received her injuries in Osborn-street on the early morning of Easter Tuesday, the 3rd of April, survived in the London Hospital for upwards of 24 hours, and was able to state that she had been followed by some men, robbed and mutilated, and even to describe imperfectly one of them. Martha Tabram was found at 3 a.m. on Tuesday, the 7th of August, on the first-floor landing of George-yard-buildings, with 39 punctured wounds on her body. In addition to these and the case under the consideration of the jury there was the case of Annie Chapman, still in the hands of another jury. The instruments used in the two earlier cases were dissimilar. In the first it was a blunt instrument, such as a walking stick; in the second some of the wounds were thought to have been made by a dagger, but in the two recent cases the instruments suggested by the medical witnesses were not so different. Dr. Llewellyn said that the injuries on Nichols could have been produced by a long-bladed instrument moderately sharp. Dr. Phillips was of opinion that those on Chapman were by a very sharp knife, probably with a thin, narrow blade, at least 6in. to 8in. in length, probably longer. The similarity of the injuries in the two cases was considerable. There were bruises about the face in both cases, the head was nearly severed from the body in both cases, and those injuries, again, had in each case been performed with anatomical knowledge. Dr. Llewellyn seemed to incline to the opinion that the abdominal injuries were inflicted first, and caused instantaneous death; but, if so, it seemed difficult to understand the object of such desperate injuries to the throat, or how it came about there was so little bleeding from the several arteries, that the clothing on the upper surface was not stained and the legs not soiled, and that there was very much less bleeding from the abdomen than from the neck. Surely it might well be that, as in the case of Chapman, the dreadful wounds to the throat were first inflicted and the abdominal afterwards. That was a matter of some importance when they came to consider what possible motive there could be for all this ferocity. Robbery was out of the question, and there was nothing to suggest jealousy. There could not have been any quarrel, or it would have been heard. The taking of some of the abdominal viscera from the body of Chapman suggested that that may have been the object of her death. Was it not possible that this may also have been the motive in the case they had under consideration? He suggested to the jury as a possibility that these two women might have been murdered by the same man with the same object, and that in the case of Nichols the wretch was disturbed before he had accomplished his object, and, having failed in the open street, he tried again, within a week of his failure, in a more secluded place. If this was correct, the audacity and daring was equal to its maniacal fanaticism and abhorrent wickedness. But that surmise might or might not be correct; the suggested motive might be the wrong one; but one thing was very clear - that the injuries were of such a nature that they could not have been self-inflicted, that no imaginable facts could reduce that to evidence of manslaughter, and that a murder of a most atrocious character had been committed.
The jury, having considered in private, returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown." They also thanked the Coroner for the remarks made with reference to the mortuary and for the very able way in which he had conducted the case.