Saturday, 14 September 1889
The Press Association learns that a woman was on Tuesday morning found murdered and mutilated, under circumstances similar to those attending previous outrages in the same locality in Backchurch-Lane, Whitechapel.
The Central News says a woman, believed to have been a prostitute, was found in Backchurch-lane, off Cable-street, St. George's-in-the-East, early on Tuesday morning. The arms and head were completely severed from the body, and she was fearfully disemboweled. The police and doctors believe it is the work of "Jack the Ripper," and the worst of the series of East London atrocities.
Murder sits enthroned (says a later report) again at Whitechapel, and on Tuesday morning the whole of the East-end was panic-stricken by another startling crime. A woman, as in the numerous previous cases, was the victim. A reporter was early on the spot, and got some important details despite the reticence of the police. At twenty minutes past five the body, bereft of legs and head, was found by a policeman,
in the railway arches at Pinchin-street, Backchurch-lane. Appearances justify the assumption that the murder had recently been committed, though it appears not improbable that the fiendish act was perpetrated at another scene, and the trunk carried to Pinchin-street for disposal. Only the body and arms were there.
It was consequently impossible to judge of the age of the victim. The head was severed close to the shoulder, and the legs were cut off right up to the body. The scene of the discovery is close to the spots where the previous murders were committed which have made Whitechapel hideous. Backchurch-lane turns to the right out of Commercial-road, and at the end the railway crosses it. The arches, with one exception, have gates, and are used, as is commonly the case, for stabling and storage. It was in the solitary arch without a door that the body was found, wrapped in a sack. There was
or mark of struggling. A few stray pieces of straw, a scrap of waste paper whirled in by the wind - this was all. On the other side of the railway line were other high, dark, damp, vaulted, unused arches, but they seem to give no clue. A panic again seems to have stricken the whole neighbourhood. In the early morning excited women and curious men gathered in small knots discussing the latest tragedy - by far the worst of any of the terrible series. At St. George's Mortuary, morbid curiosity drew a crowd of slatternly young women, eager if possible to catch a glimpse of the ghastly body. The police would admit having no clue, and they refused all information. The cordon of men drawn around the spot one and all professed
of a single detail. Nor was their chief at Leman-street one whit better. When the reporter explained his business he tempted him to take a seat and wait, remarking that he was busy just then - taking the story of a man evidently complaining of assault, if the mark on his eye was any criterion. Afterwards he advised the newspaper man to go to the Chief Commissioner, and ultimately refused point blank to afford any information.
Immediate information of the discovery was sent to the Commissioner of Police by special signal, and Mr. Monro with Colonel Monsell, at an early hour inspected the scene. The police investigations were committed to Chief-Inspector Swanson, assisted by Inspector Reid, Inspector Moore and other officers. During the day Inspector Tunbridge, who had the charge of the Battersea case, was also in the district. The mutilated remains were taken in an ambulance to the St. George's Mortuary, where they were seen by Dr. Gordon Brown (surgeon to the City Police), Dr. Hibbert (one of the Westminster Hospital surgeons), and by Mr. Clarke; but it was decided in the absence of the divisional surgeon of police, to defer the post-mortem examination until his return to town, which was expected hourly. From external observation, however, it was agreed that the deceased had been a well-built woman, 5ft. 3in. in height, and between 30 and 40 years of age. The measurement across the extended arms was 5ft. 4in., and round the chest 31 3/4 in. The body was absolutely unclothed, but a portion of a linen undergarment, much stained, had been thrown upon it. There were no marks to lead to identification, except a singular partially-healed semi-circular wound, with a flap of skin adhering, on the index finger of the right hand. This wound might have been caused by a bite or by a nail. It was noticed that both elbows were discoloured, and there were post-mortem marks round the waist, produced apparently by a rope. The head had been removed, together with the legs from the hips, but the arms were intact. The latter were not developed muscularly, and the hands, long and slender, with filbert-shaped nails, showed no signs of recent hard work. No ring marks were detected, and nothing was noted which would indicate the woman's position in life, or her calling, although an opinion was expressed that she might have been a factory hand or rope-worker. The abdominal injuries were an imitation of what have been recorded in previous Whitechapel murders, but scarcely so fiendish in their character. The medical opinion was that death had taken place four or five days previously, and it is understood that the doctors also arrived at the conclusion that the dissecting-knife had been used by a left-handed person, who possessed considerable anatomical knowledge as well as physical strength. This peculiarity has been commented upon in former instances. No hacking was observable, and it was remarked that a saw had been employed as well as a knife. Until the post-mortem examination should be complete it was not possible to say in what manner the woman had come by her death, or whether she had been subjected to an illegal operation. The police, until possessed of expert testimony on this and other points, refused to commit themselves to any theory, but the resemblances to the facts disclosed in connection with the Rainham, Whitehall, and Battersea mysteries, were too remarkable to be overlooked by them.
A number of theories respecting this supposed crime have been discussed. Some people are inclined to believe that the miscreant who threw Whitechapel into a state of terror last year, and is supposed to have resumed his operations in July, has determined to show that he can defy detection, and wishes to surpass in atrociousness anything which he has yet attempted. But it is admitted that if this version be correct then the hitherto generally-accepted theory that the Whitechapel murderer is a man possessed with some fearful form of uncontrollable mania falls to the ground, unless it is possible to assume that on occasion he could so bridle his passion that he might in cold blood, and at his leisure, proceed to the mutilation and dismemberment of his victims. It will also be recollected that the Whitehall and subsequent Thames mysteries were occupying the public mind at the same time as some of the former Whitechapel murders, and no connection between them was then traced. Tuesday's discovery bears a very close resemblance to the West-end cases, the mode of procedure having been almost identical, whilst the strong point of difference is the change of locality. If the Chelsea dissector is still at work, and his motives were never made clear, he must, it is thought, have purposely removed his quarters to the East-end, or have conveyed the body which he wished to get rid of thither, with the intention of availing himself of the reputation of the undiscovered murderer, and to prevent a search being made for him in other parts of London. He may have taken this step, when he found that it was impossible, decomposition having set in, safely to dispose of the remains in any other way, but nevertheless he ran great risks of detection, for Whitechapel, owing to the dock strike, has latterly been full of police by day and by night. One circumstance which is favourable to the detectives is that if the man came from the West-end to the East of London he must have had a cart or a cab, as he could not have carried a bulky package in the dead of night without being noticed. It is considered that he had sufficient reasons for concealing the identity of the woman by removing the head; but, although the same precaution was adopted in the Battersea case, the police, mainly by means of the clothing, succeeded in proving that the woman had belonged to the lowest class, and was pretty well known. This matter appears to have led the author of the Pinchin-street mystery to destroy any clue which clothing could afford.
Last week a letter was found at the rear of the East London Hospital announcing the intention of the writer to perpetrate another murder immediately. The document was handed to the police; but no importance was attached to it in view of the number of such productions which have found their way into the hands of the authorities. On Tuesday night another letter was found in Whitechapel containing the following words: "I told you last week I would do another murder." Inquiries are being made to test the similarity of the writing.
The inquest on the dismembered trunk of a woman found in Pinchin-street was opened on Wednesday morning by Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, at the Vestry Hall, Cable-street. The proceedings created no public interest in the neighbourhood, only the jury, police, and reporters being present, and there being no assemblage of people round the door.
Police-constable Pennett was the first witness. He said he was on duty on Monday night at ten o'clock. Nothing of an unusual character attracted his attention. His beat lay through Pinchin-street, and took him half-an-hour or a trifle over to go through. He entered Pinchin-street from Christian-street, through Backchurch-lane, and occasionally down Frederick-street, underneath the arches where the stables were, and which was a very dark place. About twenty-five minutes past five in the morning he was going round his beat as usual, when going across the road towards the arch to look in the archway he saw the body. He always looked in the archway as he passed. At first sight it looked like a bundle such as some of the Jews threw away in the night time. There were three arches abutting on Pinchin-street, two of which were closed in. The one where he saw the body was open, having had the wooden fencing taken away, leaving only the uprights and cross-pieces remaining. He could, therefore, easily see the bundle, and did see it before he crossed the road. There was another entrance to the waste land on the other side of the arch from Backchurch-lane. That was a cart entrance, with gates. On reaching the bundle he found it was four or five yards in the archway, measuring from the footpath. The shoulders were towards Backchurch-lane, near the wall of the arch. He saw that instead of being a bundle, it was the trunk of a woman's body, quite nude, except for some dirty pieces of linen upon it. He noticed that the head had been taken from the body; and that the two legs were missing. It was a dusty place, but he noticed no marks of wheels near the body. Nor did he see any marks of blood. He waited a minute, and then a man came along with a broom, and he sent this man to fetch another constable. The man went away, and in a few minutes a sergeant and a constable came up. On their arrival he sent for Inspector Pinhorn, who arrived in a few minutes. The inspector directed a search of the arches. No one had passed in the meantime. Two men, who had the appearance of sailors, were found asleep in the arch furthest from the lane. In the middle arch, next to where the body was found, was a shoeblack lying on the stones. He also was asleep. The men were taken to Leman-street Police-station and detained. The last time he had passed the arch before seeing the body was shortly before five o'clock. He looked in the arch, and was satisfied that the body was not there. Day was then breaking. During the night he had not seen anyone with a bundle or costermonger's barrow, but he saw a costermonger's barrow in an adjoining street left out for the night. Within half an hour of the discovery Dr. Phillips' assistant had arrived, and shortly after six the body was removed to the mortuary. He could not say if the arches were frequently used for sleeping purposes, as he had been put upon the beat that night for the first time.
In answer to a question, the witness said he had no doubt that the body had been carried there in a sack and then taken out. It had been done carefully, because there was no dust or dirt upon it. If he had seen anyone carrying a big bundle at night, he should have stopped him. Every constable would do so. At ten o'clock at night he met a man who asked him to call him at five o'clock. He did so. It was on passing down Pinchin-street next time that he found the body. The man he called lived in Ely-place.
Inspector Pinhorn was the next witness. He said that on being called to the spot, he had the street cleared of people who had stopped at the gates, but there were still others passing on to their work. He sent the two sailors and the shoeblack to the lock up. There they were questioned. Two of them said they went there at four o'clock, and saw nothing then. They all said they had heard no noise during the night. People frequently used the arches to sleep in; and people of that class would be well aware of the probability of sleepers being there. The arch was fully opened to the roadway.
The Coroner: That is a curious state of things, as the whole of the ground is well-paved except this.
The Witness: I do not know about that, as the hoarding is of a temporary character not very high.
The Coroner: But this is in a very different state of repair.
The Witness: Yes, the hoarding has been entirely pulled down.
The Coroner: Do you know if any constable in the district saw anyone with a bundle that night?
Witness: None of them saw anything to excite suspicion?
In further examination, witness said the condition of the body was such as it would have been had it been carried in a sack.
The inquest was then adjourned, the coroner stating that Dr. Clark, who first saw the body, was engaged at the Old Bailey, and could not attend this morning. Tuesday, the 24th inst., at 10 o'clock, was fixed for the resumption of the inquest.