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 A Ripperologist Article 
This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 5, March 1996. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.
by Jon Ogan

Of all the women murdered in that Autumn of 1888, the least known is Martha Tabram, otherwise known as Turner. She was a woman typified in the subsequent murders. But perhaps more interest would have been shown in her case if it were not wrongly assumed that she had been killed with a bayonet. But first to the background, and events leading up to the murder.

In 1888, August Bank Holiday Monday fell on the sixth. Throughout the night the celebrations went on in typical Bank Holiday spirit. More particularly, in Whitechapel where two women were helping two soldiers celebrate the event. One of the women - Pearly Poll Connolly - had set herself up with a corporal; her friend had been paired off with a private. From at least 10.00 p.m. the foursome had been drinking around the Inns and Taverns of Whitechapel. But for the women, their work may have begun much earlier. At 11.00 p.m. they were seen drinking together in the "White Swan" Public House on Whitechapel Road by her friend's sister-in-law, Anne Morris. Forty-five minutes later the two women separated each with her prospective client. Connolly left with the corporal to go d._4n an alley for what was coyly referred to as "immoral purposes". Her friend left with the private, entering George Yard Buildings for a similar purpose. Connolly never met up with her friend again.

For some, the night's celebrations were slowly winding down and the revellers were leaving the taverns to find refuge in their beds. For others not even the Holiday would break the monotonous drudgery of life. One such person was the unemployed John Saunders Reeves, resident of 25, George Yard Buildings. At 4.50 a.m., Reeves descended the communal stairway looking for work. On the first floor landing, he came across the body of a woman "lying in a lake of blood". Her clothing had also been disarranged.

The local bobby, Pc. 226 H. Barrett, found that the woman had been ferociously stabbed. He at once searched the stairway, but found no trace of weapon, or of blood leading up or down from the spot. Evidently she had been murdered where she lay.

Dr. Timothy Keleene, the local physician, was astonished to find no fewer than 39 stab wounds on the neck, body and private parts. One account has them separated into 9 in the throat; 17 in the breasts; and 13 in the stomach. But Keleene's official disclosures at the Inquest are even more accurate. "The left lung was penetrated in 5 places, and the right lung was penetrated in 2 places. The heart, which was rather fatty, was penetrated in one place and would be sufficient to cause death. The liver was healthy but was penetrated in 5 places. The spleen was penetrated in 2 places and the stomach, which was perfectly healthy, was penetrated in 6 places." Keleene added ominously, "Whoever it was knew how and where to cut." He believed that two weapons had been used, perhaps simultaneously. One was a narrow bladed dagger-like instrument. But the other posed more problems. It must have been strong enough to have broken the sternum. The reasoning went, that it must have been a bayonet.

Pc. Barrett remembered a soldier he had seen in Wentworth Street at 2.00 a.m. He was a Grenadier, 22-26 years of age, 5ft 9 or 10 inches tall, fair complexioned with a small brown moustache turned up at the ends. He had no medals, but wore one good conduct badge on his tunic.- When challenged by the constable the soldier said he was waiting for a "chum who had gone off with a girl." One report stated that he was seen in the building itself. However, a married couple called Mahoney had been down the steps and out of the building at the time, but had seen neither body nor soldier.

Another potential witness was licensed cab-driver Albert Crow. At 3.30 a.m. he had finished his night's work and was heading up the stairway to his room. On the first floor landing, Crow encountered "something". Concluding it was a tramp, sleeping rough, he decided to let it lie and went on to his own bed in room 37. But Chief Inspector Donald Swanson believed that although it was common for tramps to sleep out on stairways, he felt sure that the "something" Crow saw was indeed the murdered woman.

But as yet, she still remained unidentified. Well, at least not formally. The description release: "Age 27, Length: 5ft 3 inches. Complexion and Hair: Dark. Dres:;: Green skirt, brown petticoat, long black Jacket, brown stockins and side sprung boots, black bonnet." turned up three possible victims. The most likely was a woman named Withers, but fortunately she was found alive and well the following day.

In the meantime, the officer handling the case, Inspector Edmund Reid, arranged for an identity parade to be held at the Tower including all the men out on leave over the Bank Holiday. His aim was for Barrett to pick out the man he saw loitering around George Yard Buildings.

In addition to the constable two other witnesses were located. A mother and daughter from Aldgate called Guildhawk, said they saw a man from the Guards and a woman, together on the day before the murder. They failed to pick out anyone from the row. Barrett on the other hand picked out two. After the constable was warned by his superior that a great deal depended upon his actions he was directed along the rank. The first chosen he admitted was a mistake on account of his medals. The man he saw had none, so the Guardsman was released without further questioning. The second, Pte. John Leary, was asked to account for his movements on the Monday night. His alibi involved another soldier called Law. Leary said they headed for Brixton on the Bank Holiday. They remained in the area until the taverns closed.. Just before they left the last inn, Leary went outside to the rear. When he returned Law had gone. He looked around trying to find him, but couldn't see him, so headed off towards Battersea, alone, by way of Charing Cross and the Strand. At 4.00 a.m. he caught up with Law on the Strand, walked towards Billingsgate, had a last drink and returned to Barracks at 6.00 a.m. Law, who was questioned separately, was able to substantiate his friend's statement and both men were allowed to leave the orderly room.

One soldier who did not appear in Reid's line-up was the absent-without-leave Pte. Benjamin who had been missing since the Sunday night. Benjamin re-appeared on the Tuesday, directly after the identification parade. At once, Reid took possession of his clothing, bayonet and a statement. According to Benjamin he spent the weekend's impromptu leave at his father's hotel at Kingston-onThames. Enquiry was made at the Canbury Hotel and Mr. Benjamin verified his son's statement.

On Thursday, the ninth Pearly Poll finally came forward to tell the Police what she knew of the events and the victim's name: Martha Turner. The following day another parade was arranged at the Tower's Barracks. Connolly agreed to attend, but when Sgt. Caunter of CID went to her address at Crosingham's Lodging House on Dorset Street she could not be found. When she was located a second parade was fixed for 11.00 a.m. on the thirteenth. This time Connolly did appear, but failed to pick out anyone. Instead she boldly asserted: "They are not here, they had white bands around their caps." This meant the two men Connolly saw were from the Coldstream Guards, a totally different regiment from the Tower-based Guards.

Yet another parade was arranged for the fifteenth, this time at the Wellington Barracks, and it appeared to have had some success.

Connolly picked out two men. One, whom she believed to be the corporal was in fact a private called George, and had two good conduct badges to his name. The second man she identified as the victim's companion was another private named Skipper. But Reid's optimism was short lived. George was able to prove that he had been at home, on the Hammersmith Road from 8.00 p.m. of the Monday and only left at 6.00 a.m. the following morning. There was another such failure in the "suspects" case. Skipper was found to have returned to Barracks at 11.00 p.m. and did not leave the compound. The books kept in the Guardhouse confirmed this and Skipper was eliminated from Reid's enquiries.

Several days later - sometime between the inquest's adjournment on the tenth to its resumption on the twenty-third - a Danish sailor and husband to the deceased, Henry Tabram, came forward. Now resident at 7 River Terrace, East Greenwich, he confirmed the identification as Martha Tabram (which should remain as her "official" name because the couple were married). They had been separated for thirteen years so her husband could add little more.

A more recent acquaintance was Martha Tabram's landlady.' The Police report, written in longhand, gives her name as something like Sunhurst. But Tom Cullen writing in his book: "Autumn of Terror" renders it as Bousfield. Both sources agreed on her address as 4 Star Place, a narrow street running off the southern side of Commercial Street. Tabram lived there for some four months, along with her co-habitee Henry Turner whose name she then took, leaving six weeks before her murder. The Turners "knocked" Bousfield for the rent and disappeared.

Subsequent Police enquiries turned up another address and a new name. After her hasty departure from Star Place, she lived at no. 19 George Street under the name of Emma, thus avoiding any further contact from her former landlady. it was an astonishing coincidence that the name Emma and an address on George Street, admittedly not no. 19, were both the name and address used by one of the other alleged Ripper victims, Emma Smith. Her murder was to be attributed to different hands, "hands" being the operative word.

After so many false starts, Reid was forced to abandon the idea of identity parades. Reid's report to his superiors admitted that since both witnesses had picked out wrong men, that even if another positive identification could be made their evidence would be "worthless", and his investigation ground to a halt. The two soldiers were never found, nor did they come forward.

A perfect circumstantial case could be built up against Connolly's soldier, one which had stood for over one hundred years.

One: Tabram had been seen in the company of two soldiers by a number of eyewitnesses.

Two: She had gone off alone with one of the men.

Three: Tabram had been killed with something thought to have been a bayonet.

Almost unshakable, but if we look at numbers one and two first, a different picture begins to emerge. The length of time between the soldier last being seen with the victim, and the discovery of her body was 4 and 3/4 hours, which gave Tabram ample time to have entertained her companion and to have found another. Mary Kelly had done this. At 11.45 p.m. on the night of her murder, she was seen with Widow Cox's blotchy-faced individual. At 2.00 a.m. she was seen with Hutchinson's stereotyped music hall villain. Two totally different men.

Careful analysis of Stride's movements on the night of the "double-event" similarly point to her having more than one client over her last few hours and it is certain that these were not the only women.

Swanson, too, believed that it was possible. Even though police enquiries were unable to find anyone who had seen the deceased with anyone other than the soldier, he said: "From the lapse of time, it is possible that she might have been."

The chief protagonist in the "soldier theory" is Sir Melville Macnaghten, although not drafted in to head the CID until 1889 a year after the murders. His writings, moreover, the 1894 memo have still been the final say on the subject, particularly over the number of murders and those now infamous three suspects. In the paragraph on Tabram's murder he reviews the old ground, the soldier, the victim's friend Connolly. But then his account deviates from the facts. He states that the two soldiers had been arrested. But Connolly "failed or refused to identify, and the two soldiers were eventually discharged." This seemed to indicate that Reid had found the two men. Clearly, he had not. Both Connolly and Pc. Barrett had failed to recognise anybody in the line-ups; there was never enough evidence to arrest any soldier. Macnaghten had also tactfully drawn a veil over the constable's shortcomings.

In respect to part three of the circumstantial case, the bayonet, Macnaghten too had his say. He described that "the body had been repeatedly pierced" - a curious expression to use - "PROBABLY by a bayonet." That assumption was wrong. Although no P.M. report remains, a short note appended to a Home Office document gives the revised official view that "some of the wounds are so narrow that a bayonet WAS FIRST suspected as the weapon. BUT bayonet wounds are quite UNMISTAKABLE". Indeed Keleene hinted as much that the murder weapon may have been some sort of surgical instrument.

All of which makes sense, if a soldier had killed Tabram in a fit of rage, then only one weapon - his bayonet - would have been used. But of course, Tabram had been killed with two separate knives. TWO SEPARATE KNIVES, that alone suggests premeditation. Hardly the work of someone who kills in a drunken rage. If then, Macnaghten's notes have been shown to be "faulty", and they remain the only source attributing Tabram's murder to a different culprit, there is now every reason to include her name in the list of victims killed by Jack the Ripper. Indeed, the circumstantial evidence can be taken one step further. The date fits in with one particular suspect, a surgeon in fact, called Puckeridge. He was released from a Lunatic Asylum on August 4th, three days before Tabram's murder. The suspect appears in the Home Office file in a letter written by Sir Charles Warren to the Home Secretary's assistant, Mr. Ruggles-Brice. Sir Charles added: "We are still- looking for him." But that is a different story.


At the initial stage of the police investigation the murder was seen to be included in the Whitechapel murderer's tally. However, it should be added that the (unlikely) case of Emma Elizabeth Smith - was similarly linked to this crime series. It was only with the publication of Macnaghten's memoranda that her, case lost favour in the eyes of more recent investigators.

There are several points that would appear to suggest a link with the "bona fide" Whitechapel Murders.

1) A Bayonet was not the murder weapon, as indicated in the Home Office annotation: "Some of the wounds are so narrow that a bayonet WAS FIRST suspected as the murder weapon. BUT bayonet wounds are QUITE UNMISTAKABLE.

2) Neither Connolly nor the constable was able to satisfactorily recognise the man.

3) The dates of the murder fit into a "rostered" pattern of crimes as with subsequent murders.

The only drawback has been the apparent lack of extensive abdominal mutilations characterised in the Nichols (et al.) murders. Pc. Barrett described the victims' clothing as being "turned up as far as the centre of the body, leaving the lower part of the body exposed". Barrett believed that sexual intercourse had taken place. However Doctor Keleene revealed that "from appearances sexual intercourse had NOT taken place".

More importantly, Dr Keleene noticed the presence of a wound three inches long and an inch deep, in the "lower portion of the body".

Therefore, the clothes were disarranged solely to carry out the mutilations. The offences featured are highly indicative that Tabram/Turner was the Whitechapel Murderer's first victim.


Home Office Files A 49301 Series.
Mepol Files 3/140 (Victim's File)
The Times, August 10th 1888
Autumn of Terror - Tom Cullen

Related pages:
  Jon Ogan
       Dissertations: The Third Man 
  Martha Tabram
       Home: Timeline - Martha Tabram 
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       Press Reports: Bradford Observer - 14 August 1888 
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       Victims: Martha Tabram 
       Victorian London: George Yard 
       Witnesses: Mary and William Bousfield 
       Witnesses: P.C. Thomas Barrett