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A Piece of Apron, Some Chalk Graffiti and a Lost Hour
by Jon Smyth

  • Was the portion of Eddowes apron actually in Goulston St. at 2.20am?
  • Did the killer only use the apron to wipe his hands?
  • Was the Goulston street graffiti old or new?

Contentious issues that may never be satisfactorally answered. But if we look more closely at the evidence we can at least arrive at an acceptable solution.

For instance, P.C. Alfred Long stated the portion of apron was not there at 2.20am when he passed Wentworth Model Dwellings in Goulston Street. This statement has been questioned by many who point out that seeing as how the portion of apron was taken from Eddowes in Mitre Square, and the murder had been committed between 1.35-1.44am. Then the discovery of this piece of evidence at 2.55am, approx 1500ft and 3 streets away raises serious concerns. Why a gap of over an hour?

Obviously, the small portion of apron was simply overlooked by P.C. Long on his earlier pass along Goulston St. or at least that is a more satisfactory explanation

There has never been any doubt that the portion of apron came from Catherine Eddowes. Dr Frederick Gordon Brown, the City Police Surgeon stated on the first day of the Inquest, held on Thursday October 4th, that "......My attention was called to the apron - it was the corner of the apron with a string attached. The blood spots were of recent origin - I have seen a portion of an apron produced by Doctor Phillips and stated to have been found in Goulston Street. It's impossible to say it is human blood, I fitted the piece of apron, which had a new piece of material on it, which had been evidently sewn on to the piece I have - the seams of the borders of the two actually corresponding - some blood and apparently faecal matter was found on the portion found in Goulston Street"

Dr F. G. Brown described the portion of apron still with the body as 'it was the corner of the apron with a string attached'.

Also, The Daily Telegraph, Oct 2nd, '....while throwing a light upon the movements of the murderer after he quitted Mitre Square, an important piece of evidence was obtained yesterday. When the body was examined there was a piece of white coarse apron still attached to it. The missing portion was discovered yesterday in Goulston Street....'

And the last item in the police list of Eddowes belongings was ' 1 piece of old white apron'. These remaining references do not seem to describe a large portion of apron, as might be expected, the smaller piece presumably being the portion found in Goulston St. But maybe we've presumed wrong.

In fact there had been no mention of Eddowes cut apron until the body was being stripped in Golden Lane mortuary, it may not have been obvious that she was wearing an apron until the body was at the mortuary.

Any contemporary photographs showing East end women of the period clearly show that the type of apron was large, with a bib from the waist to the neck, with the bulk of it extending from the waist down to the ankles.

This type of apron was wrapped around the body, from the waist to the ankles, almost meeting at the back. Taking a measure from the waist down, we have 30-36" and to wrap around at the back at ankle level, would be something like 36" wide. This lower section (from the waist, down) of apron was in the order of 9 square feet of material, not including the bib portion.

So, how big was this portion of apron found in Goulston Street?

We happen to have one account of a statement by Detective Sergeant Halse:

'When I saw the dead woman at the mortuary I noticed that a piece of her apron was missing. About half of it. It had been cut with a clean cut. When I got back to Mitre Square I heard that a piece of apron had been found in Goulston Street. I went there with Detective Hunt to the spot where the apron had been discovered. There I saw some chalk writing on the wall. I stayed there and I sent Hunt to find Mr McWilliam.'

- (Jones & Lloyd, The Ripper File - pg 126)

Also, Sir Henry Smith, though heavily critisized for being inaccurate in some statements, was at least known to be present for this report:

'By this time the stretcher had arrived, and when we got the body to the mortuary, the first discovery we made was that about one-half of the apron was missing. It had been severed by a clean cut'.

- (Sir Henry Smith, From Constable to Commissioner - pg 152)

P.C. Long had found 'about half of it' or, if we allow for a little error in judgement on the high side we have 5-6 square feet, and if we allow for error on the low side, something in the order of 3-4 square feet. That is a sizable piece of cloth.

So how is it that he could not see it the previous time when he passed the same location at 2.20am?

Where was this piece of apron found, exactly?

Even a piece this large in the shadows up against the wall and definitely black with dirt might be hard to see at night, and why did P.C. Long look inside the open entry way of the building?. The entry was not lighted. So how did he see, not only the dirty piece of cloth, but the chalk writing too?

The answer to these questions will be known when we find the exact location of the graffiti, where was it written, on what portion of wall?

Detective Halse said at the inquest ' I saw some chalk writing on the black facing of the wall' and as recorded in The Daily Telegraph, Oct 12, 'The writing was on the black bricks, which formed a kind of dado, the bricks above being white'

P.C. Long reported ' ....about 2.55am I found a portion of a womans apron which I produced, there appeared blood stains on it one portion was wet lying in a passage leading to the staircases of 108 - 119 model dwelling house. Above it on the wall was written in chalk - the jews are the men that will not be blamed for nothing...'

There have been a few suggestions over the years, that it must have been inside the entryway, otherwise P.C. Long would have seen the apron from the street. And as it was recorded that white walls were above the writing, it has been assumed the graffiti was low down, some even suggest very low down, all erroneous assumptions.

In a confidential memorandum from Sir Charles Warren to Henry Mathews, we find specific mention of the location:

Subject: 'The writing on the wall'

     '...I accordingly went down to Goulston Street at once before going to the scene of the murder; it was just getting light, the public would be in the streets in a few minutes, in a neighbourhood very much crowded on Sunday mornings by Jewish vendors and Christian purchasers from all parts of London.

     There were several police around the spot when I arrived, both Metropolitan and City. The writing was on the jamb of the open archway or doorway visible to anybody in the street and could not be covered up without danger of the covering being torn off at once.....'

So, here we have it, on the jamb of the open doorway, which also indicates the location of the large piece of apron, being below the graffiti, at the foot of the jamb, and just as noticable to anyone passing along the sidewalk.

Now we have a better idea of why P.C. Long stated quite firmly at the inquest '...I passed that spot where the apron was found about 2.20am the apron was not there when I passed then'

Also Detective Halse said at the inquest '...about 20 past 2 I passed over the spot where the piece of apron was found I did not notice anything'

Although the above is not conclusive, it does appear that a larger than previously thought, piece of apron was found in a very exposed spot at the edge of the sidewalk (footpath). And it was not there at 2.20am ....which does not sit well with some, mainly because it is not a tidy solution, and people prefer tidy solutions. So, where was the apron between 1.44am and 2.55am? ....if we give P.C. Long the benefit of the doubt then we must conclude the apron was with Jack.

This puts an entirely different light on the matter, because that means Jack may well have lived in the immediate area. He may have taken the apron to his 'place' and the apron was cut large enough to carry away the organs that he removed, he had to carry them away in something, why not the cut-off apron?

The uterus would be about the size of a small orange, warm and wet with blood, actually blood running out of it so wrapping it up in a folded cloth makes perfect sense. P.C. Long said the piece of apron was 'wet', but with us knowning that it had rained that night, and Lawende actually said it was raining at 1.30am, we can believe that the bottom edge of her apron was wet with rain as Eddowes walked. But if it was wet with blood (as reported in The Daily Telegraph, Oct 12, 1888) then what would make it so?

If you have blood-stained hands, and you wipe them on a cloth you dont easily wet the cloth, but only badly stain it. Blood is not wet like water and does not soak in as easily, so if the portion of apron was wet with blood then something may have been leaking into the cloth for a few minutes to make it that way.

Jack may have sliced off a sizeable portion of apron, dropped the organs in it, wrapped them up and took the bundle to his 'place', removed the contents then returned to the streets to deposit the piece of apron some place distant from where he lived. How else do we account for the lost 'hour' in the journey of the apron.

It was the press who started the suggestion that the killer had used the cloth to wipe his hands and then cast it aside as he fled the scene. This was the most likely explanation at the time, except for a small detail, Goulston street is several streets away from Mitre Square, and does not quite fit the idea of Jack wiping his hands and discarding the rag in the first available doorway.

Look at any map of the area between Mitre Square & Goulston Street, the many turns he made and streets he crossed, covering over 1/3rd of a mile, 1500ft, this is a long way to be running while wiping his hands and a very conspicuous figure he would make too. But carrying a folded bundle would attract less attention. If Jack had fled the area with a rag just to wipe his hands the rag would have been deposited somewhere in the Hounsditch & Stoney Lane area. It doesnt take that long to wipe blood from your hands.

If Jack left Mitre Square by St James Place, he would be crossing the square about 100 ft, to the northern passage exit, then up the passage, 55 ft, (still wiping his hands) then diagonally across St James Place, passing the all night manned mobile Fire station and the nightwatchman at the roadworks, about 120 ft, then eastward along little Duke Street passing several houses, (still wiping his hands) crossing Hounsditch then along Stoney lane passing about 40+ houses (still wiping his hands) to Middlesex street, about another 850 ft, still carrying the rag presumably not finished wiping his hands. Turning right running down Middlesex street for about 100 ft passing another 6 houses, then left, eastward again along New Goulston street until the end, another 250 ft. At this point he crosses the road and presumably discards the rag in the doorway of 108-119 Goulston street.

Quite the distance considering he was only 'supposedly' wiping his hands.

And what about the graffiti?...was it wrote by Jack?

At the Eddowes Inquest, Detective Halse said '...the writing had the appearance of being recently written...', then in The Daily Telegraph, Oct 12, in response to a question of "why did you say it seemed to have been recently written?" Halse responded, "it looked fresh, and if it had been done long before it would have been rubbed out by the people passing..." Graffiti of all kinds was not unusual, in fact it had proliferated since the murder of Annie Chapman, so there is no reason to think of this as anything special.

The actual wording was under dispute from the very start due to the fact it was erased before it could be photographed.

The spelling of the word 'Jews' has been open to question and even at the inquest there were 4 different recorded versions of it. So any theory that requires a particular spelling of the word is on shakey ground to begin with. On page 38 of the Eddowes Inquest papers we have 3 different spellings, line 6 = Jews, line 16 = Jewes, line 21 = Juews (Jeuws?). Then on page 42 = Juwes (Jewes?)

And as mentioned before, the actual wording was disputed, Det. Daniel Halse recorded it as 'The Jews are not the men that will be blamed for nothing' as opposed to P.C. Long's version '...The Jews (Juews) are the men that will not be blamed for nothing...'. There were other versions less well known but these two are the ones mentioned at the inquest. And as Long said, '...I copied the words from the wall into my report - I could not say whether they were recently written - I wrote down into my book and the Inspector noticed that Jews was spelt Juews, there was a difference between the spelling...'

Halse said he noted it down before it was erased, but here we have Long stating not only that he recorded it before it was erased but the fact it was witnessed by the Inspector. And the Inspector read his notes and apparently compared what was recorded with what was on the wall. So bearing that in mind, who's version would we feel was likely to be the most accurate? an unwitnesed version by Halse or a witnessed version by Long?

The graffiti was not emblazoned across the wall as we might expect by a notorious flamboyant killer out to strike fear into the neighbourhood. Halse reported: "There were three lines of writing in a good schoolboys round hand. The size of the capital letters would be about 3/4 in, and the other letters were in proportion"

What is unsettling to me is these low income neighbourhoods, where people never roam more than a street or two, they know everything about their immediate surroundings, all the neighbours, all the gossip and because they pass in and out of this doorway several times a day, they will be intimate with the graffiti.

Det. Halse: '....when Detective Hunt returned inquiry was made at every door of every tenement of the model dwelling-house, but we gained no tidings of anyone who was likely to have been the murderer...'

And City Solictor, Mr Crawford: ' to the premises being searched, I have in court members of the City police who did make a diligent search in every part of the tenements, the moment the matter came to their knowledge....'

This aside from the Met. police search and the obvious newspaper hounds interviewing and chasing the public for any leads,.....why didn't any one of those locals, or anyone living in the building tell the police or the press that the graffiti was there yesterday, or it had been there a couple of days, or it was there last week?

Not one comment to the police or press from anyone......we might ask ourselves, why?

We might not like the idea of a piece of apron and a few lines of graffiti appearing at the same spot on the same night. This might imply a connection, and any connection might not fit in with our preconceived notions of who Jack was. The locals, neighbours and tenents, these people knew their surroundings, if this graffiti was old, if any one resident or neighbour had seen it before on the doorway wouldnt they have mentioned it to someone?

So, although we have not solved anything we at least may have a better perspective on the events of that morning, which may lead us in another direction, if the apron indeed was not there at 2.20am, if Jack took it for something more than just to wipe his hands on, and if he went 'to ground', then returned to the streets some time later to drop it in another doorway, could he have scribbled some graffiti as a 'red herring' ....just for jolly?,...wouldnt you?.

Related pages:
  Catherine Eddowes
       Home: Timeline - Catherine Eddowes 
       Dissertations: Anything But Your Prayers: Victims and Witnesses on the N... 
       Dissertations: By Accident or Design? A Critical Analysis of the Murder... 
       Dissertations: Catherine Eddowes: Wolverhampton and Birmingham 
       Dissertations: Double Trouble: Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes 
       Dissertations: Grave-Spitting & Other Tall Tales 
       Dissertations: Hyam Hyams 
       Dissertations: May My End A Warning Be: Catherine Eddowes and Gallows Li... 
       Dissertations: Stephen White, Amos Simpson and Eddowes' Shawl 
       Dissertations: The Funeral of Catherine Eddowes 
       Dissertations: The Marking of Catherine Eddowes 
       Message Boards: Catherine Eddowes 
       Official Documents: Catherine Eddowes's Inquest 
       Official Documents: Mitre Square - Census Listings 
       Press Reports: Alderley and Wilmslow Advertiser - 5 October 1888 
       Press Reports: British Daily Whig - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: City Press - 10 October 1888 
       Press Reports: City Press - 13 October 1888 
       Press Reports: City Press - 17 October 1888 
       Press Reports: City Press - 3 October 1888 
       Press Reports: City Press - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Daily News - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Daily News - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Daily News - 2 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Daily News - 4 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Daily News - 5 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Daily News - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Daily Telegraph - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Daily Telegraph - 5 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Daily Telegraph - 9 October 1888 
       Press Reports: East London Advertiser - 13 October 1888 
       Press Reports: East London Advertiser - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: East London Observer - 13 October 1888 
       Press Reports: East London Observer - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Eastern Post - 13 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Echo - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Echo - 11 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Echo - 2 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Echo - 3 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Echo - 4 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Echo - 8 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 10 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 11 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 20 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 3 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 4 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 5 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 9 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening Standard - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Frederick News - 2 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Freemans Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser - 1 Octo... 
       Press Reports: Freemans Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser - 12 Oct... 
       Press Reports: Freemans Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser - 2 Octo... 
       Press Reports: Freemans Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser - 3 Octo... 
       Press Reports: Freemans Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser - 4 Octo... 
       Press Reports: Freemans Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser - 5 Octo... 
       Press Reports: Freemans Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser - 6 Octo... 
       Press Reports: Illustrated Police News - 20 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Illustrated Police News - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Irish Times - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Irish Times - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Irish Times - 2 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Irish Times - 3 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Irish Times - 4 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Irish Times - 5 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Irish Times - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Irish Times - 8 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Lloyds Weekly News - 30 September 1888 
       Press Reports: London Evening News - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Macclesfield Courier and Herald - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Manchester Guardian - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Manitoba Daily Free Press - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Montreal Daily Star - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Montreal Daily Star - 3 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 11 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 2 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 4 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 5 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 8 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 9 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Munster News - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: New York Times - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: North Eastern Daily Gazette - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: North Eastern Daily Gazette - 3 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 01 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 03 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 04 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 05 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 06 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 11 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Penny Illustrated Paper - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: People - 14 October 1888 
       Press Reports: People - 7 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Philadelphia Times - 3 December 1888 
       Press Reports: Police Gazette - 19 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Police Gazette - 5 October 1888 
       Press Reports: St. James Gazette - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: St. James Gazette - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: St. James Gazette - 4 October 1888 
       Press Reports: St. James Gazette - 5 October 1888 
       Press Reports: St. James Gazette - 8 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Star - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Star - 11 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Star - 3 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Star - 4 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Star - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times - 11 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 1 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 16 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 2 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 3 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 5 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 9 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Trenton Times - 23 May 1892 
       Press Reports: Weekly Herald - 5 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Woodford Times - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Woodford Times - 5 October 1888 
       Ripper Media: Catherine Eddowes: Jack the Ripper Victim 
       Victims: Catherine Eddowes 
       Victims: Catherine Eddowes: Her Last Known Movements and Discovery... 
       Victorian London: Mitre Square 
       Witnesses: Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown 
       Witnesses: Emily Birrell 
       Witnesses: James Blenkingsop 
  Goulston Street
       Dissertations: A Curious Find in Goulston Street 
       Dissertations: Off the Wall 
       Dissertations: The Goulston Street Graffito Debate 
       Victorian London: Goulston Street 
       Dissertations: Jacob the Ripper? 
       Official Documents: Warren's Report to the Home Secretary - 6 November 1888 
       Press Reports: Daily News - 13 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Echo - 13 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 17 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 8 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 08 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 1 December 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 6 December 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 15 October 1888 
       Ripper Letters: Ripper Letters