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The Witness: How well do we know him?
by Dave Yost
The witness may be classified as a necessary evil, because he is human, after all. No one witness is able to present a full and complete account of what happened, and no witness is 100 percent accurate in his statements; even though, there are times when a witness believes himself to be 100 percent truthful. Yet, being truthful and being accurate are two different things. Case in point is Mrs. Mary Malcolm; she was most likely being truthful when she informed the Coroner's court that the Berner Street victim was her sister; albeit, her testimony was anything but accurate with respect to the victim's identification.
Nevertheless, despite such difficulties, like that which Malcolm's information might create, the modern researcher is required to determine a witness's accountability, just like the contemporary authorities were. Hence, over the years, the witness and his information have become many things to many people. Deciding on a witness's accountability will invariably ask the question, How well do we know the witness? How the w itness is viewed, used, and sometimes contorted will help shape the theories and thoughts about this case, as a whole, and about the individual murders, themselves.
Upon studying this case, many types of witnesses come to light: from those who refused to come forward, to those who knew very little, to those who falsified information, to those whose information had a bearing on the case. In the list that follows, a quick overview on some witnesses, their actions, and, in some cases, their potential motives are presented:
Mary Ann Connolly spoke to police then went into hiding, forcing the police
to re-locate her so she could view the line-ups of soldiers.
The soldiers involved with Connolly and Tabram never identified themselves, despite the line-ups.
The soldier who spoke with PC Barrett never identified himself, despite the line-ups.
Alfred Crow testified at the Tabram inquest, offering the potential that Tabram might have been dead prior 3:30 am.
Despite police efforts to locate the unknown man who traveled through Buck's Row while Dr Llewellyn examined Nichols's body, no record shows that this person ever came forward.
The man, who accosted Emily Walter, never came forward.
Emmanuel Violenia voluntarily went to the police, offering only false evidence, possibly merely to view a dead body.
Albert Cadoche voluntarily went to the police the evening of the Chapman murder, testifying at the inquest, offering conflicting times with Long.
Schwartz's second-man never came forward, even though no police suspicion was attached to him.
Schwartz's first-man never came forward, possibly fearing complicity in Stride's death.
Schwartz voluntarily made a statement at the Leman Street Police Station the evening of the Stride murder, but no known official record indicates that he testified at the inquest.
James Brown testified at the Stride inquest, presenting virtually no useful information, but adding potential confusion about when some of the events occurred.
Matthew Packer did only speak to police and reporters, altering his statement nearly ever time he re-told it, but never testified.
Fanny Mortimer spoke with reporters but did not go to the police, providing conflicting information about the events between 12:30 am and 1:00 am.
Mary Malcolm testified at the Stride inquest, presenting erroneous information about the victim.
Philips Kranz testified at the Stride inquest, opining that Diemschutz might have disturbed the killer.
The police located Lawende, Levy, and Harris the morning of Eddowes's murder: Lawende identified Eddowes only by her clothes and was viewed as a crucial witness by the City Police. Harris did not testify, claiming he knew nothing, and Levy offered very little at the inquest.
PC Long testified at the Eddowes inquest, adding confusion about the wording of the graffito.
Joseph Barnett testified at the Kelly inquest regarding identification and history of Kelly. The court accepted his statements, but, today, some doubts about his honesty/accuracy have been cast.
John McCarthy testified at the Kelly inquest, confirming the identification of the victim.
Caroline Maxwell testified at the Kelly inquest, offering conflicting information about the time of death.
Maurice Lewis provided reporters with information similar to Maxwell's, but he did not testify at the Kelly inquest.
The primary advantage the modern researcher has over his contemporary counterpart is 20-20 hindsight, looking back in time with almost "god-like" powers, already knowing what a witness will do, virtually from one day to the next in some instances. Yet, even this insight affords today's investigator with little else, but angst and frustration if not much is known about the witness; and, entire theories can be derived by how a single witness is projected, (i.e., exalting one witness over others or degrading a particular witness).
Despite our general removal from the Victorian East End and its living conditions, contemporary witnesses acted and felt like people of today. This might seem to be an obvious statement, but it is one that can be easily overlooked. There were approximately 160 some odd newspapers circulating at the time of the murders, ranging from penny pieces, to weekly journals, to multi-page daily publications; some were morning papers, others sold in the evening; and, some published their articles the day an event happened. (The Daily Telegraph for example was on the streets by 10am.) Witnesses were not ignorant closet-cases, isolated from local happenings; they read the papers, talked about current events with their friends and neighbors, like people do today. They were also influenced by the information they talked about, read about or heard about - information that was factual, distorted, or a mere rumor.
In this particular context, the question, How well do we know the witness, does not refer to knowing when the witness had a birthday, where he lived during the autumn of 1888, or what he liked to have for breakfast. In this instance, knowing refers to understanding why the witness might have done what he did. Or, more succinctly, What might have influenced the witness to either come forward or offer the statements that he presented? The following are a few witnesses who had some form of impact on the case; sometimes by providing usable information; other times by presenting information, which has stirred modern thinking.
William Stevens - (Chapman)
Prior the start of the inquest, press statements were already made about Stevens:
"Frederick [sic] Stevens, another young man
living at 35, Dorset-street, states that deceased did not leave the
house until one o'clock. He had drunk a pint of beer with her at
half-past twelve." (Star 8 Sep pg3)
"According to the statement of Simpson and Stevens, two young men who knew the deceased at Dorset-street, she returned to the lodging-house at twelve o'clock, saying that she had been to see some friends at Vauxhall." (DT 10 Sep pg3)
"She came in soon after twelve (midnight), when she said she had been
over to her sister's in Vauxhall. She sent one of the lodgers for a
pint of beer, and then went out again, returning shortly before a
quarter to two." (DT 11 Sep pg3)
"A portion of an envelope was found near her head, which contained two
What was on the envelope? - On the back there was a seal with the words, embossed in blue, "Sussex Regiment." The other part was torn away. On the other side there was a letter "M" in writing.
A man's handwriting? - I should imagine so.
Any postage stamp? - No. There was a postal stamp "London, Aug. 3, 1888." That was in red. There was another black stamp, which was indistinct.
Any other marks on the envelope? - There were also the letters "Sp" lower down, as if some one had written "Spitalfields." The other part was gone. There were no other marks." (DT 14 Sep pg3)
"as she was handling the box [with two pills]
it came to pieces. She took out the pills and picked up a piece of
paper from the kitchen floor near the fireplace, and wrapped the pills
up in it." (MEPO 3/140, f19-20)
"I last saw her alive at twenty minutes past twelve on the morning of
Saturday, Sept. 8. She was in the kitchen. She was not the worse for
drink...Shown a piece of an envelope, witness said he believed it was
the same as she picked up near the fireplace. Did not notice a crest,
but it was about that size, and it had a red postmark on it. She left
the kitchen, and witness thought she was going to bed."
(DT 20 Sep pg2)
Edward Stanley - (Chapman)
On 10 September, The Daily Telegraph reported information about Edward Stanley:
"For some time past she had been living occasionally with a man named
Ted Stanley, who had been in the militia, but was now working at some
neighbouring brewery. Ted Stanley was a good-tempered man, rather tall,
about 5 ft. 10 in., fair, and of florid complexion. He was the last man
in the world to have quarrelled with Chapman, nor would he have injured
her in any way. At the beginning of the week the deceased had been rather
severely knocked about in the breast and face by another woman of the
locality through jealousy in connection with Ted Stanley, and had been
obliged to go to the casual ward or infirmary. As a regular means of
livelihood she had not been in the habit of frequenting the streets, but
had made antimacassars for sale. Sometimes she would buy flowers or
matches with which to pick up a living. Farmer [sic] was perfectly
certain that on Friday night the murdered woman had worn three rings,
which were not genuine, but were imitations, otherwise she would not
have troubled to go out and find money for her lodgings. The police,
on the statement of Farmer, are making a vigilant search for the mother,
sister, and brother-in-law. A man named Chapman, from Oxford-street,
has been found, but he proves to be no relation.
"It has been ascertained that the deceased woman did wear two rings at the time of her death. They were of brass. One was a wedding ring, and the other a keeper of fancy pattern." (DT 10 Sep pg3)
"Chapman told me that she was with some other man, Ted Stanley, on
Saturday, Sept. 1. Stanley is a very respectable man."
(DT 11 Sep pg3)
"The Foreman of the Jury: Reference has been made to the Sussex Regiment
and the pensioner. Are you going to produce the man Stanley?
Witness [Chandler]: We have not been able to find him as yet.
The Foreman: He is a very important witness. There is evidence that he has associated with the woman week after week. It is important that he should be found.
Witness [Chandler]: There is nobody that can give us the least idea where he is. The parties were requested to communicate with the police if he came back. Every inquiry has been made, but nobody seems to know anything about him.
The Coroner: I should think if that pensioner knows his own business he will come forward himself." (DT 14 Sep pg3)
"The police were yesterday [14 Sep] in
communication with the pensioner
Edward Stanley, who is known to have been frequently in the company of
the murdered woman, Chapman. Last night Stanley, who is a man of
forty-seven years of age, attended at the Commercial-street Police-station,
and made a statement, which was taken down by Inspector Helson. His
explanation of his proceedings is regarded as perfectly satisfactory, and
as affording no possible ground for associating him in any way with the
recent outrage. In view of his relations with the deceased woman, Stanley
felt considerable diffidence in coming forward, but after the expressions
of opinion by the coroner at the inquest on Thursday, he placed himself in
indirect communication with the police. It was by arrangement that he
subsequently proceeded to Commercial-street Police Station. Stanley has
given the police a full account of his whereabouts since he last saw the
deceased woman, which was on the Sunday preceding the murder
(DT 15 Sep pg3)
"When did you last see her alive? - On Sunday, Sept. 2, between one and
three o'clock in the afternoon.
Was she wearing rings when you saw her? - Yes, I believe two. I could not say on which finger, but they were on one of her fingers.
What sort of rings were they - what was the metal? - Brass, I should think by the look of them."
"Did you call at Dorset-street on Saturday, the 8th, after the murder? - Yes; I was told by a shoeblack it was she who was murdered, and I went to the lodging-house to ask if it was the fact. I was surprised, and went away.
Did you not give any information to the police that you knew her? You might have volunteered evidence, you know? - I did volunteer evidence. I went voluntarily to Commercial-street Police-station, and told them what I knew.
The Coroner: They did not tell you that the police wanted you? - Not on the 8th, but afterwards. They told me the police wanted to see me after I had been to the police." (DT 20 Sep pg2)
Elizabeth Long - (Chapman)
Early Saturday morning [8 Sep], Mrs. Long passed by a couple, who stood just East of #29 Hanbury Street:
"On Saturday, Sept. 8, about half past five o'clock in the morning, I
was passing down Hanbury-street, from home, on my way to Spitalfields
Market. I knew the time, because I heard the brewer's clock strike
half-past five just before I got to the street. I passed 29,
Hanbury-street. On the right-hand side, the same side as the house, I
saw a man and a woman standing on the pavement talking."
(DT 20 Sep pg2)
"As soon as the murder was known there came a rush of people from the
market and the houses, and in charge of an inspector the body was removed
to the mortuary." (Star 8 Sep pg2)
"For several hours past the occupants of the adjoining house have been charging an admission fee of one penny to people anxious to view the spot where the body was found. Several hundreds of people have availed themselves of this opportunity, though all that can be seen are a couple of packing cases from beneath which is the stain of a blood track." (Star 8 Sep pg3)
"The whole of the East End up till a late hour on Saturday night was in a state of consternation, at the latest and what undoubtedly is the most horrible of a series of murders which have taken place within so small an area and during so short a period. All day nothing else was talked of, even by men who are hardened to seeing a great deal that is brutal. Strong, buxom, muscular women seemed to move in fear and trembling, declaring that they would not dare to venture in the streets unaccompanied by their husbands." (Manchester Guardian 10 Sep)
"Early yesterday morning [10 Sep]
information was received which gave a clue to the supposed offender's
whereabouts [Leather Apron].
Accordingly at a quarter to nine Sergeant
Thicke proceeded to Mulberry-street, Commercial-road East...Piser himself
opened the door when Detective Thicke knocked...exclaimed, "Mother, he has
got me," or used words to that effect. The detective told him for what
purpose he came, but put no questions, and Piser offered no explanation,
and made no resistance. He was led to Leman-street Police-station
unperceived until close to the door of the station, when the cry was
raised "Leather Apron!" and, as usual, there was a hostile demonstration.
When interrogated the police admitted that they had arrested him, but
the day passed without the prisoner having been charged."
(DT 11 Sep pg3)
"At the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel-road, yesterday morning [10 Sep], Mr. Wynne Baxter opened an inquiry into the circumstances attending the death of Annie Chapman, a widow, whose body was found horribly mutilated in the back yard of 29, Hanbury-street, Spitalfields, early on Saturday morning [8 Sep]. The jury viewed the corpse at the mortuary in Montague-street, but all evidences of the outrage to which the deceased had been subjected were concealed. The clothing was also inspected" (DT 11 Sep pg3)
"It has transpired that a man, whose name is not forthcoming, but who
is described as middle-aged, with the look of a negro or half-cast,
saw the deceased woman in Hanbury-street, early on the morning of
Saturday last, the day of her death. She was with two men who had
not been traced." (DT 12 Sep pg3)
"On Monday [10 Sep] Mr. Samuel Montagu,
M.P., had an interview with
Chief-inspector West respecting the offer of a reward of £100."
(DT 12 Sep pg3)
"A discovery which, it is believed, throws considerable light upon the movements of the murderer immediately after the committal of the crime was made yesterday afternoon. A little girl [Laura Sickings] happened to be walking in the back garden or yard of the house, 25, Hanbury-street, the next house but one to the scene of the murder, when her attention was attracted to peculiar marks on the wall and on the garden path. She communicated the discovery to Detective-Inspector Chandler, who had just called at the house in order to make a plan of the back premises of the three houses for the use of the Coroner at the inquest, which will be resumed to-day." (DT 12 Sep pg3)
"A woman named Mrs. Durrell [sic Long]
made a statement yesterday
[12 Sep] to the effect that at about half-past five o'clock on the
morning of the murder of Mrs. Chapman she saw a man and a woman
conversing outside No. 29, Hanbury-street, the scene of the murder,
and that they disappeared very suddenly. Mrs. Durrell was taken to
the mortuary, and identified the body of Chapman as that of the woman
whom she saw in Hanbury-street."
(DT 13 Sep pg3)
"A woman named Durrell has volunteered the statement that about half-past five on Saturday morning she saw a man and woman, the latter of whom she subsequently, on viewing the body, declared to be the deceased, conversing outside No. 29, Hanbury-street. Should her testimony be verified the fact will be established that the crime was committed between half-past five and six." (DT 13 Sep pg4)
"At the Thames Police-court, yesterday
[18 Sep], Charles Ludwig, 40, a
decently-attired German, who professed not to understand English,
and giving an address at the Minories, was charged with being drunk
threatening to stab Alexander Finlay, of 51, Leman-street, Whitechapel -
Prosecutor said that at three o'clock on Monday morning he was standing
at a coffee-stall in the Whitechapel-road, when Ludwig came up in a state
of intoxication. The person in charge of the coffee-stall refused to
serve him. Ludwig seemed much annoyed, and said to witness, "What are
you looking at?" He then pulled out a long-bladed knife, and threatened
to stab witness with it."
"Constable John Johnson, 866 City, deposed that early on Tuesday morning [18 Sep] he was on duty in the Minories, when he heard loud screams of "Murder!" proceeding from a dark court. The court in question leads to some railway arches, and is a well-known dangerous locality. Witness went down the court, and found the prisoner with a prostitute. The prisoner appeared to be under the influence of drink. Witness asked what he was doing there, and he replied, "Nothing." The woman, who appeared to be in a very agitated and frightened condition, said, "Oh, police-man, do take me out of this." The woman was so frightened that she could then make no further explanation. Witness got her and the accused out of the court, and sent the latter off. He walked with the woman to the end of his beat, when she said, "Dear me! he frightened me very much when he pulled a big knife out!" Witness said, "Why didn't you tell me that at the time?" and she replied, "I was too much frightened." He then went and looked for the prisoner, but could not find him, and therefore warned several other constables of what he had seen, and also gave a description of the prisoner...Mr. Saunders said it was clear the prisoner was a dangerous man, and ordered him to be remanded for a week."
"Considerable excitement prevailed in the neighbourhood owing to the report that the prisoner was connected with the recent murders in Whitechapel, and that some important discoveries would result from his capture."
"Prisoner was then at the top of Commercial-street in company with a woman, whom he was conducting in the direction of the Minories. "I took no notice of this at the time," added Finlay, "except to remark to the coffee stall-keeper, 'there goes a swell with a racketty one.' I alluded to the appearance of the two people, for whereas the woman was evidently not of very good character, the man was well dressed; he had on a frock coat and tall hat, and altogether looked what I should call 'a broken down masher.' In about a quarter of an hour, however, the woman ran back in a state of fright, as it seemed." Inspectors Abberline and Helson and Detective-Sergeant Thicke were engaged yesterday afternoon in making inquiries into the prisoner's antecedents and the probabilities of his connection with the East-end tragedies, but they decline to state whether they have formed any theories as to his guilt. The general opinion in the East-end, however, is that the right man has not yet been got hold of, and that the prisoner was labouring under the effects of excitement and drink combined." (DT 19 Sep pg3)
"I saw the woman's face. Have seen the deceased in the mortuary, and I
am sure the woman that I saw in Hanbury-street was the deceased. I did
not see the man's face, but I noticed that he was dark. He was wearing
a brown low-crowned felt hat. I think he had on a dark coat, though I
am not certain. By the look of him he seemed to me a man over forty
years of age. He appeared to me to be a little taller than the deceased.
Did he look like a working man, or what? - He looked like a foreigner.
Did he look like a dock labourer, or a workman, or what? - I should say he looked like what I should call shabby-genteel.
Were they talking loudly? - They were talking pretty loudly. I overheard him say to her "Will you?" and she replied, "Yes." That is all I heard, and I heard this as I passed. I left them standing there, and I did not look back, so I cannot say where they went to.
Did they appear to be sober? - I saw nothing to indicate that either of them was the worse for drink.
Was it not an unusual thing to see a man and a woman standing there talking? - Oh no. I see lots of them standing there in the morning.
At that hour of the day? - Yes; that is why I did not take much notice of them." (DT 20 Sep pg2)
|German||"looked like a foreigner"|
|40 years old||"seemed to me a man over forty years of age"|
"I did not see the man's face,
but noticed that he was dark"
described as having "dirty habits,"
as being "well dressed,"
and as a "broken down masher"
There is little doubt that shortly before the murder, Chapman and a man were seen by Long, and her information is important, indeed. However, it must be asked if Long's testimony was tainted by the news account of Ludwig's arrest? (Because Ludwig was in jail at the time of the double event, he was eventually released with no suspicion attached.)
Leon Goldstein - (Stride)
On the Monday following Stride's murder, it was reported that Mrs. Fanny Mortimer saw a man pass by, carrying a black bag:
"the only person whom I had seen pass through the street previously
was a young man carrying a black shiny bag, who walked very fast from
the direction of Commercial-road. He looked up at the club, and then
went round the corner by the Board School."
(DT 1 Oct pg5)
"The man with a black shiny bag who was wanted for having been seen in
Berner-street under suspicious circumstances just before the murder
turns out to be a respectable man who fully explains his conduct."
(Star 3 Oct pg2)
"Reports have been circulated this week of a man having been seen in the streets with a black bag about the time of the murders; but suspicion was removed by a young traveller named Goldstein coming forward and stating that he was in Berner-street." (Lloyd's Weekly News 7 Oct pg7)
George Hutchinson - (Kelly)
On Friday morning, 9 November, Mary Jane Kelly's body was found in her room.
"Another appalling murder was committed in the East-end yesterday morning
[9 Nov]. At a quarter to eleven, the body
of a woman named Mary Jane Kelly was found dead in a room of the
ground floor of 26, Dorset-street, the entrance to which is from
Miller's-court. Her throat had been cut from ear to ear, and the
body had been mutilated in the most revolting manner, the nature of
the injuries leading the police to believe that the perpetrator is the
man who recently committed the crimes of a similar character in the same
neighbourhood. A post-mortem has been made, but the official results are
not stated. The hour at which the deed was done can only be conjectured,
as the last evidence of the woman being alive was at one o'clock in the
morning, when she was heard singing. There is absolutely no clue to the
murderer." (DT 10 Nov pg4)
"Another terrible murder, accompanied, as in previous cases by hideous circumstances of mutilation and dismemberment, has spread new panic among the population of East London." (DT 10 Nov pg5)
"Yesterday [12 Nov], at the Shoreditch
Town Hall, Dr. Macdonald, M.P., the coroner for the North-Eastern
District of Middlesex, opened his inquiry relative to the death of
Marie Jeanette Kelly, the woman whose body was discovered on Friday
morning, terribly mutilated, in a room on the ground floor of 26,
Dorset-street, entrance to which was by a side door in Miller's-court."
(DT 13 Nov pg5)
"When I went into the court, opposite the lodging-house I saw a man with
a wideawake. There was no one talking to him. He was a stout-looking man,
and not very tall. The hat was black. I did not take any notice of his
clothes. The man was looking up the court; he seemed to be waiting or
looking for some one."
(DT 13 Nov pg5)
"At 6 pm 12th George Hutchinson of the Victoria Home Commercial Street
came to this Station and made the following Statement."
(MEPO 3/140 f227-229)
"I beg to report that an inquest was held this day at the Shoreditch
Town Hall before Dr. Macdonald M. P. Coroner on the body of Marie
Jeneatte Kelly found murdered at No. 13 Room, Millers Court, Dorset
Street, Spitalfields. A number of witnesses were called who clearly
established the identity of deceased. The Coroner remarked that in his
opinion it was unnecessary to adjourn the inquiry and the jury returned
a Verdict of 'Wilful Murder against Some person or persons unknown'.
"An important statement has been made by a man named George Hutchinson which I forward herewith. I have interrogated him this evening and I am of opinion his statement is true." (MEPO 3/140 f230-232)
One final aspect, which should be mentioned, is about the inquests, themselves. Beginning with Emma Smith's, the inquests grew in the public eye:
The Emma Smith inquest was one day, barely receiving several paragraphs
The Tabram inquest lasted two days, receiving minimal coverage. (In fact The Daily Telegraph did not even cover the first day.)
The Nichols inquest ran for four days, nearly spanning all of September (3 to 24 Sep).
The Chapman inquest lasted five days, lasting from 10 to 27 September.
The Stride inquest was five days, covering almost the whole of October (1 to 24 Oct).
The Eddowes inquest took two days, (4 and 11 Oct), but came under The City's jurisdiction.
The Kelly inquest was one day (12 Nov).
The foregoing demonstrates some interesting aspects about some witnesses - possibly about a favorite witness, or about a key witness, possibly raising additional questions: Some witnesses never came forward, even though no suspicion was attached to them. Some witnesses readily went to the police upon learning of the murder. Some witnesses required a little prompting to come forward, even though they might have spoken with reporters prior the start of the inquest. Some witnesses had little if anything of value to offer. And, some provided information that was (and still is) important to the case. Yet, all the witnesses are necessary to tell the whole story. Despite what they offered (or did not offer) for the modern researcher to ponder over, they acted as they did. They acted as we would. They acted out of human nature without any grand scheme. How well do we know the witness?