There has been much of a discussion as to what extent Stride was lying on her left side in Dutfields Yard. Though the main witnesses, Spooner, Lamb, Johnston, Blackwell and Phillips, state that she was lying on that left side of hers, it has always been a matter of some debate.
One of the major points of discussion has been the testimony given by the fourth witness to have seen her of the five mentioned above, taken in chronological order, Dr Blackwell. The reason is that his testimony does not seem to tally with what was stated by the other four.
I have always regarded this a riddle. Since the witnesses number one, two, three and five all speak of what seems to be the same position, it would be odd in the extreme if Blackwells wordings on the case were to disclose another position of the body.
And indeed, it does not. In fact, it makes perfect sense, it corroborates the testimony given by the other four, and it finally should lay to rest any discussion whether Stride was completely on her left side or not!
Let us begin by lying Stride gently down on her left side, as was stated by the witnesses. It was P C Lamb who used this wording at the inquest, “she looked as if she had been gently laid down”. I will return to this point later on.
We have a fixed distance, reported at the inquest, between her face and the wall of the IWMEC house – about six inches, as stated by PC Lamb. The legs were drawn up, and the knees were described by Johnston as being closer to the wall than the head. We also have had pointed out to us by both doctors that her feet lay very close to the wall. “The feet almost touched the wall”, is how Blackwell describes it. Of the boots, according to Lamb, only the soles were visible.
To me, this suggests that she was lying more or less completely on her left side. And all five witnesses mentioned here confirm that she was indeed on her side, through their respective inquest testimony.
Now, we know that Mrs Mortimer pointed out that Strides legs were drawn up, “as in pain”. This would mean that they were drawn up very much. They would probably have reached, or even passed, the ninety-degree angle with the body.
The left arm was under the body, as stated by Lamb, and the right arm lay across the chest, or perhaps some way further down – Phillips states that the arm was across the belly of Stride, which would imply that it was either just that or at least deep down on the chest.
This is how I suggest that Stride lay, on her left side, close to the wall. Please observe how the body lies, as Blackwell suggested, in an oblique angle to the wall!
I would like to return to the former quotation by P C Lamb at this point. What was it he had said? “She looked as if she had been gently laid down.”
The other canonical victims – except perhaps Kelly – had one thing in common. They had apparently been overpowered and killed so quickly that they may not even have known what hit them. Thereafter it seems they had been lowered to the ground by the killer, before he set about cutting their throats and mutilating them. But of Nichols, Chapman and Eddowes, nobody stated that it seemed that they had been laid down gently. This probably owes to the fact that they were left face up, and in at least the cases of Chapman and Eddowes, with their legs obscenely parted.
Stride must have given a totally different impression; lying on her side, her legs drawn up, she must have looked like somebody restfully sleeping.
There is one more thing to observe and ponder about this. It is often thought that Jack the Ripper did not cut the throats of his victims as they were lying flat on their backs – instead he may have turned them over on their left sides to at least some extent, in order to avoid blood spurts from their neck incisions. How much of a tilt he would have given the body is of course open to debate, but there is one clear pointer that he did not turn the victims over to a complete lie on their sides. In the case of Annie Chapman, there was the fence on the backyard. And Chapman obviously lay too close to that fence to enable more than a gentle tilt to her left, perhaps only by turning the head in that direction. I would suggest that the fact that Stride was found completely on her left side is a strong pointer that the Ripper was not her killer. There would have been no practical use of such a position to meet any need of his.
What Blackwell said about Strides position at the inquest was recorded by the Daily Telegraph thus:
“The deceased was lying on her left side obliquely across the passage, her face looking towards the right wall. Her legs were drawn up, her feet close against the wall of the right side of the passage. Her head was resting beyond the carriage-wheel rut, the neck lying over the rut. Her feet were three yards from the gateway. Her dress was unfastened at the neck. The neck and chest were quite warm, as were also the legs, and the face was slightly warm. The hands were cold. The right hand was open and on the chest, and was smeared with blood. The left hand, lying on the ground, was partially closed, and contained a small packet of cachous wrapped in tissue paper.”
It has been recorded by some papers that Stride, according to Blackwell, lay “completely across the passage”. This has, of course, further added to the confusion.
To begin with, it should be stated that the difference between “obliquely” and “completely” must owe to a mishearing of Blackwell. The versions were recorded at the same occasion, and as Blackwell only said one of these things, it must have been “obliquely”. The simple reason for this is that he also stated that Stride had her face turned towards the wall. And that you cannot achieve lying completely across the passageway.
Now, let´s move on. The next obstacle is the passage mentioning the carriage-wheel rut. And to explain how that comes into play, we must ask ourselves a very simple question that has been overlooked when trying to solve the riddle of the Blackwell testimony.
We know that the width of the passageway leading in to the yard was about 280 centimetres (being a Swede, I will deal with Swedish measures; sorry about that…!). And the question that we must ask ourselves is simply: Why?
Why was the passageway that wide?
The answer is every bit as simple as the question: To allow for broad vehicles to gain access to the yard.
When we think about Blackwells rut, most people have Diemschutz´s pony and cart in mind. An estimation of the width between its wheels would be perhaps somewhere around 120-130 centimetres or so. And thus we tend to think of “the carriage-wheel rut” as something that is to be found a fair way out from the wall.
Now, Diemschutz´s cart would have been a light one, leaving shallow traces in the mud. But the yard had been named after Arthur Dutfield´s factory for making carriages and carts! Dutfields business had moved to Pinchin Street before the murder, though some sources, like for example the Evening News, state that it was still in the yard. On the 1:st of October 1888, they wrote: “The first murder discovered was that in the little yard in Berner-street, off Commercial-road. About a hundred yards down Berner-street, on the right hand side, are the rooms of the International Working Men's Educational Society, a club used principally by Russians, Poles, and Jews generally. Adjoining is the entrance to the yard, where Messrs. Walter Handley and Co., sack manufacturers, and Mr. Arthur Dutfield, van and cart builder, carry on business.”
Now, who would sport an impressive carriage if not a carriage-maker? In the photo section of Casebook there is even a picture of a large carriage on Berner Street, taken by William Stewart in 1938. I suggest that we imagine something along these size lines, with a sign on each side, proclaiming “Arthur Dutfield – carriage maker of Berner Street” in bright colours.
Mr Dutfield would of course have had that carriage built at his very own factory, and he would have measured the passageway beforehand, to see how big a carriage he could drive through the passage and out through the gates.
In the yard there were also other business conducted; there was a sack manufacturer, that may have used a large carriage to distribute his products. Under all circumstances, a large carriage would have left an impressive and deep rut on the ground of the yard. And the rut made by such a large carriage, either as a ground imprinted memory of Arthur Dutfields establishment or by some other broad vehicle, would have been what Blackwell saw and spoke of at the inquest, not the rut produced by Diemschutz´s cart.
If the span between its wheels was somewhere around 200, 210 centimetres, and if it was driven into the yard with the wheels at the same distance from the walls, it would leave around 35-40 centimetres to the wall on each side where Stride lay. And with Strides face at a distance of six inches from the wall, and with her body in an oblique angle to the wall, her neck would have been resting at just about that distance of 35-40 centimetres from the wall – straight over the rut. Moreover, her head would be resting “beyond the carriage-wheel rut”, exactly as Blackwell put it, if we remember that Blackwell was looking at Stride from a position to the left of her, further out in the passageway!
This drawing shows how it all must have looked in the yard. I once again quote how Blackwell described at the inquest what he had seen: “The deceased was lying on her left side obliquely across the passage, her face looking towards the right wall. Her legs were drawn up, her feet close against the wall of the right side of the passage. Her head was resting beyond the carriage-wheel rut, the neck lying over the rut.”
Please notice that there would in all probability have been ample space for Diemschutz´s cart to pass without coming in contact with Strides body. And as Diemschutz was quoted in the Illustrated Police Journal of October 6, 1888, he stated: “My pony is rather shy, and as I turned into the yard it struck me that he bore too much to the left-hand side, against the wall.”
At this point, it would also be useful to see what exact position of Strides mysteriously bloodied right hand we should expect, given a scenario with Stride completely on her left side. I offer two photos of a female figure, one taken from exactly above the body (and yes, those are my feet showing...), and one taken with the camera pressed against the wall beyond the woman in the picture, that is further back than it would be possible to get a view from if you were to use your eyes.
Please note that the back of the hand and the inside of the wrist are completely hidden from sight in both pictures! This owes to the fact that if the arm was lying over Strides chest, and if Stride was completely on her side, gravity would ensure that the weight of the arm pulled it towards the ground. And as it reaches the ground, it will bend at the wrist, leaving the back of the hand facing slightly downwards. Therefore, the blood on Strides hand would have been almost impossible to spot, even in good visibility conditions. In Dutfields yard, it was no surprise whatsoever that the blood was left unnoticed up til the moment when Blackwell lifted the arm and hand from the body. Spooner, Lamb and Johnston would have had to do the same to enable them to spot the blood, and there is nothing in the evidence suggesting that they did. Lamb obviously chose Strides left hand, clearly visible and with the inside of the wrist turned up, to feel for her pulse. This is strengthened by the words on the matter at the inquest, recorded by the Daily Telegraph:
”Coroner: Up to this time had you touched the body?
Lamb: I had put my hand on the face.
Coroner: Was it warm?
Lamb: Slightly. I felt the wrist, but could not discern any movement of the pulse. I then blew my whistle for assistance.
Coroner: Did you observe how the deceased was lying?
Lamb: She was lying on her left side, with her left hand on the ground.
Coroner: Was there anything in that hand?
Lamb: I did not notice anything. The right arm was across the breast.”
Notice how P C Lamb speaks of the left hand only as he addresses the coroner. It is not until after he has testified about his doings, that he offers some information on Strides other arm: ”The right arm was across the breast”. And significantly, as he never even saw the right hand, he chooses to speak of the right arm only, not the hand. This fact applies to all three witnesses that saw and touched Stride prior to Blackwell: They speak not of the right hand, only of the right arm. This of course also goes to suggest that Edward Johnston made exactly the same choice as did Lamb, when it came to feeling for Strides pulse: the left one, the one that was readily there, with the inside of the wrist up and within easy reach.
Finally, these are the quotations about Strides position on the side, given by the five main witnesses, and recorded by the Times.
“Deceased was lying on her side, and her left arm was lying under her.” (P C Lamb)
“The body was lying on one side, with the face turned towards the wall.” (Spooner)
“The deceased was lying on her left side.” (Blackwell)
“I was shown the figure of a woman lying on her left side.” (Johnston)
As for Phillips, his statement in he Times is “The body was lying on the near side, with the face turned towards the wall.” Thus we have no mentioning of whether she lay on her side or not in this case, and we have to move on to the report in the Daily Telegraph, where Dr Phillips is as precise as are indeed all of the other main witnesses: “The body was lying on its left side.”