(b. 1856), Warrant No. 67481.
Joined MEPO 1883. Retired 1908.
P.C. Thomas Barrett was the first policeman to arrive at the scene of the Martha Tabram murder in George Yard Buildings, on 7 August 1888. John Reeves had informed Barrett about the murder soon after he initially discovered it, at around 4.50am. Barrett went to see Tabram's body and immediately sent for Dr. Killeen.
Barrett's testimony at the inquest on 9 August was covered by the East London Advertiser that following Saturday:
Police-constable Thomas Barrett, 26 (sic) H, was the next witness. He deposed that on Tuesday, August 7th, he was on duty about quarter to 5, and his attention was called to deceased by last witness. He went to the spot, and found a woman lying on her back in a pool of blood. She was dead. He sent another constable for a doctor, and on the arrival of Dr. Keeling, of Brick-lane, he pronounced her dead. There were no marks on the staircase. The body was not moved before the doctor arrived. Her hands were lying by her side, clenched up, and there was nothing in them. Her clothes were torn and completely disarranged, the bosom of the dress being torn away. She was in such a position as to lead him to infer that someone had been with her. Her clothes were thrown upwards. He did not know who she was or anything about her.
The East London Observer also carried Barrett's testimony, though they were much more specific in stating that Barrett believed that the positioning of Martha's body indicated "recent intimacy." The Observer described Barrett as "a young constable who gave his evidence very intelligently."
After Mary Ann Connolly testified that she and Martha had been in the company of a guardsman and a corporal on the night of the murder, P.C. Barrett remembered an encounter he'd had with a "private of the Guards" at around 2am that morning. An official report dated 16 August 1888 (MEPO 3/140 ff. 44-48) describes this encounter:
Pc 226H Barrett, who was on duty in George Yard on the night of the murder stated that about 2 am 7th he spoke to a private of the Guards in George Yard, who informed him that he was waiting for his mate who had gone away with a girl. The P.C. stated that he should know the private again.
Barrett and Connolly's testimony seemed to indicate a Grenadier guardsmen, so a series of identity parades were set up at the Tower of London and Wellington Barracks, in the hopes that one or both of the witnesses could identify the soldier[s] they'd seen that night.
A detailed description of the events surrounding P.C. Barrett and the various identity parades he attended is given in a report by Inspector Edmund Reid, dated 24 September (MEPO 3/140 ff. 52-59):
24th day of September 1888.
SUBJECT Murder in George Yard
Re inspection of Guards at the Tower, and Wellington Barracks. I beg to report that I attended at the Tower on the 7th ultimo with P.C. 226.H. Barrett the officer who was on duty in George Yard on the night of the murder, and who stated that he saw, and spoke to a guardsman at 2 am in George Yard on 7th. I saw the Sergeant Major and explained to him my business, he at once conducted the P. C. to the Guardroom where he was shown several prisoners but the P.C. failed to identify any one of them stating as his reason that they were not dressed. I then arranged to have a parade of all the privates and corporals who were on leave on the night of the 6th, at 11 am 8th. On that date I attended with the P. C. and directed him to be careful as to his actions because many eyes were watching him and a great deal depended on his picking out the right man and no other. The P. C. was kept round by the Sergeants Mess until the men were on parade when I directed him to walk along the rank and touch the man he saw in George Yard, if he was there. I with the Officers then walked away and the P.C. passed along the rank from left to right until he reached about the centre when he stepped up to a private wearing medals and touched him. I went and met the P.C. coming towards me when he told me he had picked out the man. I told him to be certain and have another look when he returned to the rank, passed along and picked out a second man about 6 or 7 away from the first. I asked him how he came to pick out two when he replied, the man I saw in George Yard had no medals and the first man I picked out had. I directed him to stand away...
The two men that the P.C. pointed out were then taken to the orderly room, and the others dismissed. On arriving at the orderly room the P. C. stated that he had made a mistake in pointing out the man with medals who was allowed to leave the room at once without his name being taken, and the other gave the name of John Leary. He was asked by me to account for his time on the night of the 6th. He at once stated that he and private Law went on leave in the evening and went to Brixton they stopped there until the Public Houses closed then he (Leary) went to the rear and when he returned he missed Law he looked about for him and not finding him started off to Battersea, and Chelsea, came along past Charing Cross into the Strand, where he met Law about 4.30 am, they both walked along until they got to Billingsgate where they had a drink and came into barracks at 6. Private Law was then sent for, and on his being questioned as to his movements on the night of the 6th he made a statement which agreed in every particular with that which had been made by Private Leary. They were unable to give me the name of any person to whom I could refer. I felt certain in my own mind that P. C. had made a great mistake and I allowed the men to leave the orderly room...
Inquiries were made to find some other person who saw the deceased and Pearly Poll with the privates on the night of the 6th but without success, and Pearly Poll and the P.C. having both picked out the wrong men they could not be trusted again as their evidence would be worthless.Edmund Reid L. Inspector
Jno West Actg Supt
Inspector Reid apparently lost all interest in P.C. Barrett as a witness, but a summary report written by Chief Inspector Donald Swanson in September 1888 (MEPO 3/140 ff. 36-42) includes a description of Barrett's soldier:
2am.7th.Augt. Police Constable 226H. Barrett saw a soldier - a grenadier age 22 to 26. height 5 ft 9 or 10. compl. fair, hair dark, small dark brown moustache turned up at ends. with one good conduct badge. no medals. in Wentworth Street; and in reply to the PC he stated he was waiting for a chum, who had gone with a girl.
MEPO 3/140 ff. 36-42
MEPO 3/140 ff. 44-48
MEPO 3/140 ff. 52-59
East London Advertiser - 11 August 1888
East London Observer - 11 August 1888
The Jack the Ripper A-Z (Begg, Fido and Skinner)
Jack the Ripper: The Uncensored Facts (Begg)
The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook (Evans and Skinner)