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The Pinchin Street Murder

Possibly Lydia Hart

On September 10, 1889, at 5:15 AM, a female torso was discovered by P.C. William Pennett under a railway arch in Pinchin Street, covered by an old chemise. The body, missing both head and legs, was already heavily decomposed, as the stench was the first thing the constable noticed. Immediately, the P.C. summoned assistance and proceeded to arrest three men (including Michael Keating and Richard Hawke) who were found sleeping under nearby arches. They were later cleared of the crime.

Later investigations by Sergeants William Thick and Stephen White along with Sergeant George Godley came across some bloodstained clothing in Batty Street, but little or nothing was made of it. An interesting extract from the London edition of the New York Herald claims that a man named John Cleary informed the night editor on the night of September 7 that there was a murder in Back Church Lane (from which runs Pinchin Street). Later, a statement was taken from a John Arnold, a newsvendor of Charing Cross, saying he was John Cleary. He continued to say that after leaving the King Lud pub, he had been told by a soldier in Fleet Street, "Hurry up with your papers. Another horrible murder in Backchurch Lane." He then went to the Herald to share his findings. The soldier he described as between 35 and 36 years of age, 5ft 6ins, fair complexion and moustache, and he carried a parcel. No one by this description was ever taken into custody concerning the murder.

The abdominal region of the body was heavily mutilated, and it was reported that the handiwork was eerily reminiscent of the Ripper's work; at least one account states that the womb was missing. The identity of the woman was a mystery, as the only clues were the facts that her arms and hands were "well formed and showed no signs of manual labour." Still, the police came to the conclusion she was a factory worker.

The name Lydia Hart soon arose in the press (World, New York, September 11, 1889) as the identity of the woman, as she was a prostitute who had been missing for some days. The identity was never proven.

The estimated date of death was given as September 8, 1889 (the one-year anniversary of Annie Chapman's death; a fact which did not escape James Monro's report). Donald Swanson's report added that there was an "absence of attack on genitals as in series of Whitechapel murders." The incident was eventually not chalked up as a Ripper incident.

Sir Melville Macnaghten, who worked on the Pinchin Street Murder, wrote the following in his now famous memoranda:

On 10th Sept. '89 the naked body, with arms, of a woman was found wrapped in some sacking under a Railway arch in Pinchin St: the head & legs were never found nor was the woman ever identified. She had been killed at least 24 hours before the remains, (which had seemingly been brought from a distance,) were discovered. The stomach was split up by a cut, and the head and legs had been severed in a manner identical with that of the woman whose remains were discovered in the Thames, in Battersea Park, & on the Chelsea Embankment on 4th June of the same year; and these murders had no connection whatever with the Whitechapel horrors. The Rainham mystery in 1887, & the Whitehall mystery (when portions of a woman's body were found under what is now New Scotland Yard) in 1888 were of a similar type to the Thames & Pinchin St crimes.

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