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by Robert Clack
By 1901 the murders committed by "Jack the Ripper" were slowly fading from the memories of the East End inhabitants. The murder of Elizabeth Roberts on the 26th November 1898 by her sister Kate Marshall brought "The Ripper's" name back into the public's attention only because Elizabeth Roberts was murdered in the room directly above 13 Millers Court, Dorset Street, where Mary Kelly was butchered on the 9th November 1888.
Dorset Street the scene of the last murder attributed to "Jack the Ripper", had changed little if at all by 1901, "The Cardiff Weekly News" of Saturday 1st June 1901 was of the opinion:
Dorset-street is a narrow, dirty street leading off Commercial-street, Spitalfields, and is one of those sordid thoroughfares which might with advantage to the community be swept out of existence.
Consists of dingy shops and common-lodging houses frequented by the poorest denizens of Whitechapel.
It was in one of these Common Lodging Houses in May 1901, that a 28-year old prostitute was horribly murdered. The enterprising editors of the day didn't waste any time linking this crime with the earlier unsolved murders committed by "Jack" with lurid headlines screaming from the page: "The Spitalfields Horror." "Is it another 'Ripper' murder." There was fear in the East End that maybe "Jack" had returned.
On Monday 27th May a telephone call was received by the City Police (Minories) informing them that a woman was admitted to the London Hospital on Sunday morning suffering from several stabs and was in a dying condition. The City Police were telephoned because Leman Street Police Station, under whose jurisdiction the London Hospital fell, was not on the telephone. A memo was sent to Leman Street Police Station. Local Inspector Thomas Divall of H Division in a report dated 28th May, takes up the story:
I beg to report that at 11 a.m 27th inst, the attached memo from City Police was received stating that a communication by telephone had been received from the London Hospital at 10.45 a.m stating that Ann Austin of 37 Dorset Street, Spitalfields was admitted to the above Hospital last night suffering from several stabs and was in a dying condition and asked Police at Leman Street to go to the Hospital at once.
P.S's Gould and Wensley at once went to the Hospital where they were nformed that at 9.35 a.m 26th inst, a woman giving the name of Annie Austin age 28 an unfortunate residing at 37 Dorset Street, Spitalfields had been brought to the above Hospital in H.C [Hansom Cab] No 10622 by a man name and address unknown suffering from stabs in the lower portion of her body, she was admitted to Sophia Ward, and on examination being made by Dr Edwyn Manners Ridge, House Surgeon, she was found to be suffering from ten stabs some superficial some an inch deep, one wound in the rectum and another in the womb all appeared to have been inflicted with a knife and in the Doctor's opinion considerable force must have been used to inflict the wounds in the rectum and the womb. She expired at 11.30 a.m 27th inst, Police were therefore unable to interview her, but shortly before she died she told Dr Ridge: "That on Saturday night she met a man in the street and took him to Dorset St, and slept with him, she was suddenly woke up early in the morning with a sharp pain, as if a knife had been run into her inside, she screamed and the man ran out of the house, she described him as a short man, dark hair and moustache, Jewish appearance."
On making inquiry at Dorset St, I ascertained that the deceased woman and a man occupied No. 44 bed at Crossingham Lodging House, No. 35 (not 37) Dorset Street, on the night in question Henry Moore, the deputy and his wife stated that they let the bed but are unable to describe the man and they also say that they were about the whole of the night, but heard nothing and it was not until 8.30 a.m 26th when their attention was called by a woman (who they profess not to know) to the groaning. They went to No. 44 where they found the deceased undressed lying on the bed with a quantity of blood on the sheets, they sent for Dr Dale, of Spital Square, who attended, and after examining the woman, advised her removal to the Hospital and told the deputy to inform the police. "Moore" sent the deceased to the Hospital in the cab previously mentioned in charge of Daniel Sullivan of 4 Paternoster Court, Spitalfields but failed to inform Police. A number of persons who were in the Lodging House on the night in question have been seen and interrogated but they have been most reticent in the matter in fact from the Deputy downwards it is evident that they have been doing their level best to baffle police.
Up to the present no information has been obtained as to who the deceased woman is. It, however, seems very clear that her assailent is some well known local character, otherwise the Deputy and the lodgers (the house being full) would not be so anxious to shield him, if he had been a stranger which they are evidently doing.
Every possible inquiry is being made to find the perpetrator of this crime and also to establish the womans identity.
Coroner Officers have been informed and the date of the inquest is not fixed.Thomas Divall L Inspt
A telegram was sent from H Division to All Stations on the 27th informing them of the crime:
Admitted to the London Hospital at 9 30 am 26th inst suffering from ten stab wounds including one in the rectum and one in the womb, since dead, a woman giving the name Annie Austin, an unfortunate, age 28, length 5 ft 4 in, medium build, complexion dark, hair black, eyes bluish grey, dress blue short blouse, black serge skirt, black twill petticoat, white cotton vest, black stockings, red knitted shawl, black sailor hat, lace boots, clothing much worn, stated that she resided at 37 Dorset St, Spitalfields, supposed caused by a man, short, dark, hair and moustache dark no side whiskers, of Jewish appearance.
When news of the murder started to appear in the newspapers from 28th May. William Austin a 43-year-old labourer of no fixed abode, but staying in the Battersea area, feared the dead woman might be his estranged wife. After going to Battersea Police Station with his concerns, he was told to go to Leman Street, where later that day he made the following statement:
On the 28th inst I went to the mortuary at London Hospital, and there identified the deceased woman, as my wife, we have been married eight years, and have had three children, two girls are now alive, Elizabeth age 4, and Francis age 3. We had been living at No. 37 Dorset St, for about 3 months.
On or about the 15th I found her in a public house, under the influence of drink in the company of some navvies, we had a quarrel and I left her on that date, taking Elizabeth with me, leaving Francis with her, she was addicted to drink and under its influence was quarrelsome. When I left. I paid Mrs McCarthy the rent that was due 2/-: I have never seen my wife or youngest child since then.
The Mrs McCarthy mentioned was the wife of John McCarthy, the same John McCarthy who rented 13 Millers Court to Mary Kelly. It should also be noted that the Crossingham Lodging House at 35 Dorset Street, was the same lodging house Annie Chapman was turned out of on the morning of her murder.
William Austin officially identified the body as Mary Ann Austin, and on the same day a post-mortem was held at the London Hospital mortuary. The post-mortem report hasn't survived but in the Metropolitan Police files is a letter sent by Doctor Franklin Hewitt Oliver, Divisional Surgeon for H and G Division, who conducted the post-mortem, a letter in which he briefly summarised the results of the post-mortem:
1, There were no evidence of a severe struggle having taken place (such bruising at there were, were trivial in character)
2, There were several small stabs around the margin of the anus and a penetrating wound of the vaginal (front) passage extending into the abdominal cavity
3, The appearance of the wounds had already undergone changes, resulting from the process of repair and of destruction, that it is difficult to form an opinion as to the character of the instrument used to produce them, in my opinion they might have been caused by a sharp pointed knife and probably were
4, The organs generally healthy (except for evidence of old standing syphilis) and death resulted from the injuries received
It should also be noted that according to "The Eastern Post" 1st June:
"It should be stated, also, with regard to the injuries found to have been inflicted upon the deceased that she was so extensively bruised as to suggest that she had been kicked all over the body".
And in Henry Moore's statement to the Police, he asked Doctor Dale what was the matter with Mary Ann Austin, and he said:
"It seems a funny affair, it looks as if something has been passed through her back passage and ground around".
The inquest into the death of Mary Ann Austin began on Wednesday 29th May, at the Stepney Borough Coroner's Court, Horseferry Branch Road, Limehouse. The inquest was presided over by Coroner Wynne E. Baxter. The inquest papers are presumed lost but as with most sensational cases, the journalists and newspapers were eager to write up all the sensational details for an eager public, and "The Eastern Post" (from which the following account is taken) was no different:
Mr Wynne E. Baxter opened an inquiry on Wednesday at the Stepney Coroner's Court concerning the circumstances attending the death of the woman. - Inspector Divall, of the Criminal Investigation Department, represented the police. - The first witness called was the husband of the deceased, William Austin, a big, handsome-looking man in corduroys, who upon taking the oath showed no sign of emotion. He said he had no fixed place of abode. He gave the deceased's age as 28, and said they were married about eight years ago. He was by trade a stoker, but had lately been doing navvy's work. - Have you seen the body in the mortuary? - Yes, sir. - Whose is it? - My wife's, sir. We last had a place of our own at Seaton-street, Chelsea. I think it was No. 2. That was twelve months ago. Since then we have been hay-making and fruiting. When we came back to London, I worked at Bow in a gas-works, and we lived at Kerby-street, Poplar, but we left in February. Then we went for three nights to a lodging-house in Dorset-street - not 35 - and next we took a furnished room in Dorset-square. I do not know the number, but it was over a fish shop. We had three children; one died, one I took, and one I left with the missus when we separated. She got "on the drink" and we quarrelled, and she said she could do better by herself then with me, and then I thought I would give her a trial. - Did you find her with men? - Yes, with navvies in public houses. Since I left her I have been living as best I could in Battersea. - When were you in Dorset-street last? - Last Thursday with my little daughter. We went to see if we could see my wife, or hear anything of her. I didn't see her, but I heard she had been slung out of her lodgings last Saturday week. - The Coroner. - Where did you sleep on Saturday night? - The Witness: I slept a little while in a van in Bridge-road, Battersea, but getting cold I walked about in Battersea. I was on Battersea Bridge at half-past five on Sunday morning. - The Coroner: Was your child with you on Saturday night? - The Witness: No, she was with Mrs. Smith, who lives near the chemical works at Battersea. She is still with Mrs. Smith. - How did you hear of wife's death? - Yesterday morning I heard of a murder in Dorset-street, and I was walking about in the afternoon, and I met an old mate who could read. We bought a paper and went into Battersea Park, and he looked down the paper and said, "What was your wife's name?" I said, Annie Austin. He said, "That's her. She's been killed." I said, "Good God, is it her?" and then I said "I don't think it's her, because it says nothing about the child." I was so upset that I went to Battersea Bridge-road Police-station, and they told me, to go to Leman-street Police-station. I borrowed 4d. and went to Leman-street, and afterwards to the London Hospital, where I saw the body of my wife. - Henry Moore said he was deputy at 35, Dorset-street, which was a common lodging-house. There were four single and 55 double beds in the house. There were four floors, and the deputy's room was close to the entrance with a pay office. Each floor was separated in cubicles, with wooden partitions, but the partitions did not go up to the ceiling. - The Coroner: Have you seen the body in the mortuary? - Yes, sir. - Had you seen the woman before? - No, sir. I helped to put a woman in a cab on Sunday morning, but I can't swear it is the same. - Well, but it might be the same? - Yes, sir. - Moore, in continuation, said he was on duty last Saturday night, when about 10 o'clock, a man came to the lodging-house and asked for a double bed. He had a woman with him, and they were shown to a cubicle, for which 1s. 6d. was paid. - Did you see the man? - Yes, he stood close to me. - What was he like? - I can give no description of him at all. - Was he tall or short? - About my height, I expect. Did he were a hat or cap? - I don't know. Was he dark or fair? - Dark, I think. - Did you notice his clothes? - No, sir. - Was he sober? - As a rule I do not take drunken people in. (Laughter.) - And the woman? I didn't notice her. - When did you lock the gate? - Between twelve and one o'clock when we were full. No one got out after that. The key is an ordinary one. - The Coroner: Then anyone could pick the lock? Bring the key here at the adjournment. - The witness added that he visited the first floor, where cubicle 44 is, at 2.30 and 4.30 a.m., but he heard no sound. He did not go to sleep all night, but he heard no cry, or anything to rouse his suspicion. If anyone had called out he must have heard it. He opened the gate at a quarter to six on Sunday morning, and up to that time no one had left the building. It was between eight and nine o'clock that he knew something was wrong in cubicle 44. A woman named Frances Davies told him she thought a woman was in a fit, and she heard groaning. Davies walked round until she found where the groans came from, and then witness sent his wife at once to see what was the matter. - Up to that time, how many had left the lodging -house? - I have no idea whatever. Perhaps half of them. - Moore went on to state that his wife came back and said she had seen the woman, and that there was blood about the bed. The witness then went up and asked what was the matter, but he could get no answer. He ran off for Dr. Dale, of Spital-square, and told him he believed a woman had been stabbed. The doctor came at once, and examined the woman. Witness asked him if it was a serious case, and he said, "Send for a cab and send her to the hospital at once." He also told witness the serious character of the injuries. Amy Day dressed the deceased, and she was removed to the hospital, accompanied by Daniel Sullivan. - The Coroner: Why didn't you send for the police; you knew an offence had been committed. - The Witness: I didn't know I had to. The doctor came to my mind first. When he told the manager about the matter he said that he (the witness) ought to have informed the police, but the witness could not say whether he did so himself. Questioned further, the witness added that the man was about 5ft. 7½in., but he could not tell his complexion - The Coroner: Do you mean to say no noise was heard? - Yes, sir. - Mrs. Maria Moore wife of the last witness corroborating her husband's evidence, said she heard no cries during the night. The witness described finding the deceased, who was naked, but covered over with the bed-clothes. There was blood about, and witness asked her what was the matter, and she replied, "I have been hurt." Witness asked her who did it, and she said "A man did it." The deceased made no other statement. - The witness was severely questioned by the coroner as to why the police were not sent for when she knew that another woman had been brutally injured. The only reason given by the witness was that the doctor did not tell her to do so. - The Coroner: You showed the couple upstairs. Can you describe the man? - The Witness: He was about 40, and was wearing a billy-cock hat. He was short, and of dark complexion. Austin was carried downstairs to the cab, and driven to the hospital. - The Coroner: Was she carried down carefully - very carefully? - The Witness: Yes. - The Coroner: You didn't roll her down the stairs? - The Witness: No. - The Coroner: It has been reported that the woman was thrown into the cab like a bundle of rags. - The witness denied this, and in answer to a juror said that she could not describe the man with Austin. - The Coroner: This woman has been about the neighbourhood for some months. Have you ever seen her before? - She is quite a stranger to me. - By the Jury: The man was not a foreigner. - Frances Davies, a laundress, stated that on Saturday last she occupied No. 12 bed on the third floor, going in the lodging-house about half-past twelve. She heard no noise during the night. She was going downstairs between eight and nine o'clock when she heard groans proceeding from No. 44 cubicle. She went in and saw the decreased with her head hanging over the side of the bed, and her hair over her face. The witness said, "What is the matter?" and deceased replied, "I have been stabbed." The witness removed the sheet, and saw that the bed was saturated with blood. There were indications that a struggle had taken place as the bedclothes were disarranged, and the bedstead moved out of its proper place. - The Coroner: That is important. - The witness, proceeding said that the deceased said she did not know who her assailant was. Witness's screams attracted the lodging-house deputy, Moore and his wife to the room, and deceased was then removed. - Dr. Cuthbert Dale, of 1, Norton Folgate, said that at 8.30 on Sunday morning a man came to his surgery and asked him to see a woman who had been stabbed in the abdomen. The witness accompanied the man to Dorset-street and found the woman still lying on the bed. He saw that the mattress was blood-stained, and asked the woman who had wounded her. She replied, "I do not know, he was a stranger. I have never seen him before." Later on she said, "I felt something sharp, and said to him, 'You have stabbed me.' He said, 'I have not.' I said, 'I can feel the blood,' and he replied, 'Oh, no.'" The witness, after examining her injuries, advised her removal to the hospital, and told one of the lodging-house officials to notify the police. He did not do this himself. - The Coroner: I think the police knew nothing about this until 36 hours after the occurrence. I think that after this occurrence you will see the desirability of notifying the police immediately. - The witness said he thought the hospital authorities would have communicated with the police. He did not at that time consider her condition serious. - Dr. Edwin Ridge, acting house physician at the London Hospital. said the deceased was admitted into the hospital at 9.35, on Sunday morning. He saw her at 10.15 when making his rounds. She was then unconscious, but not thinking her condition serious, he did not examine her further. The witness next saw her at nine o'clock the same evening, when she was placed under an anaesthetic and her injuries examined. He found seven severe cuts on her back, varying in depth from half-an-inch, and several other wounds in the front of her body. At 2.15 she recovered consciousness, and witness was able to question her. She said that a man had inflicted her injuries, and that she met him in the street. She described him as being not very tall, with dark hair, and a dark moustache, and no whiskers nor beard. She did not notice any marks upon him by which he could be identified, but she thought from his appearance that he was Jewish. In reply to a question as to whether she would be able to recognise her assailant again, she said, "I should not know him again if I were to see him." The witness then asked her how she was attacked. She replied "I don't know, I was suddenly woke up by a sharp pain, as if a knife had been run into me. I screamed out, and found the bed full of blood. When he saw what he had done, he ran out. If I knew where he was, I would give him to the police." She died at 11.30. - A juryman said it was a shame that the woman should have been allowed to remain in the hospital for so long without being seen by one of the medical attendants. - At this point the inquiry was adjourned.'The Eastern Post' Saturday 1st June 1901
A witness, who was not called at the Inquest or known to have given a statement to police, had this to say:
In conversation with the Press Association representative a man, giving his name as Bates, said: - "I followed Austin and a man into the house on Saturday night. At the door Austin's companion a short dark man of about 40 years of age, asked her to go to the public house in Dorset-street, and have a drink. She objected and they went upstairs. Austin's companion had a silver ring on his left hand, wore a grey check cap, and had a red and black scarf round his neck."'The Eastern Post' Saturday 1st June 1901
Also from 'The Eastern Post' same date:
Before she became unconscious, it is said, she made a statement to one of the attendants to the effect that she was stabbed in the back, but that she did not know who her companion was. Earlier in the evening, however, she is said to have told one of her acquaintances that she was going to meet a Russian.
After the inquest was adjourned, the investigation took a somewhat surprising turn, Maria Moore, turned up at Leman Street police station and informed Inspector Divall that William Austin was the man she saw with Mary Ann Austin on the night of the 25th May. Considering Maria Moore first told the police she was unable to describe the man and then told the inquest that the man she saw with May Ann Austin was a short man and William Austin was nearly 6ft. This was quite a startling accusation. And we shouldn't forget that Mary Ann Austin claimed not to have known who the man who stabbed her was. Inspector Divall had to act on this information, he had already told William Austin the previous day to notify Battersea Police Station of his address, which he did. Inspector Divall sent a telegram to Battersea Police Station, asking them to find and detain William Austin. Which they did.
Inspector Divall in a report dated 31st May, continues:
"Austin" (prisoner) was identified by Maria Moore as the man who was with the deceased in No. 44 cubicle on the night in question but for some reason she withheld that information from Police until about 8. pm same date [29th May]. Inquiry was at once made and shortly before midnight in company of P.S's Gould and Wensley I went to Battersea Police Station where I saw prisoner Austin detained inquires were at once made to find the persons who Austin previously alleged was in his company on the night in question the persons referred to were seen and there statements taken all of which were decidedly unfavourable to the prisoner moreover on his clothing being examined by Dr Kempster Div' Surgeon a spot of blood was found on Austin's cap and in the opinion of Dr Kempster may be blood from a woman's womb. The prisoner was taken to Leman St, Police Station identified from amongst ten other men by the witness Maria Moore, he was therefore charged by me with the murder of his wife Mary Ann Austin and taken before Hayden Corser esq.' at Worship St, Police Court 30th inst, who after hearing the evidence of Maria Moore remanded the prisoner in custody till 6th June.
If the arrest of William Austin wasn't surprising enough, Inspector Divall and his men were about to receive another surprise. While taking statements on the 31st May, Annie Baker, bed maker and Amy Day, a kitchen woman, both employed at the Lodging House. Both stated that Mary Ann Austin was stabbed in Cubicle No. 15 on the third floor, and not No. 44 on the first floor. Inspector Divall had no choice but to re-interview the other witness's. His report and the additional comments made by Superintendent Mulvany on the 1st June, gives a good insight of the relationship between the police and the inhabitants of Common Lodging Houses:
I beg to report that on 31st ult it came to my knowledge that the murder of Mary Ann Austin took place at No. 15 cubicle on the 3rd floor. Not as previously stated at No 44 cubicle, 1st floor. I at once in company with Dr Oliver, Div' Surgeon, visited No 15 Cubicle, there was blood on the North, South and West sides and on the floor of the Cubicle and there is not the slightest doubt that the murder took place there. I accordingly had the various witnesses at the station where they admitted that No 15 Cubicle was the place where the murder occurred, and stated that the reason they gave 44 was because Daniel Sullivan, brother to Mrs Crossingham, for reasons of his own to mislead police in stating that 44 was the Cubicle where it happened, and it was in order to screen him that they told lies respecting this.
Daniel Sullivan has not been seen or asked to give any explanation as it was thought better to leave him to give his account of the matter on oath before the Coroner on the 4th inst, where there will probably be other developments.Thomas Divall L Inspr
This shows how utterly unreliable these people are. The man Sullivan appears to have had the deceased woman removed from No 15 Cubicle on 3rd floor to No 44 Cubicle on 1st floor; & told the deputy to say she slept in 44, which was the Cubicle pointed out by the deputy's wife to Police as that in which deceased was stabbed.
It is not desirable to probe this matter further but to leave Sullivan to the Coroner as suggested who will be informed at once.J Mulvany Supt
Two more witness statements were taken on the 31st May, neither witness appearing at any of the inquests. The first one is from Emily Price:
Emily Price, age 38, an unfortunate, no fixed abode. Says: - On Saturday 25th inst. I slept in a double at Crossinghams lodging house, Dorset St. I cannot say what bed it was or what floor it was on, and could not recognise the place again if I saw it. In the early morning, I cannot say what time. I heard groaning, it was two doors from me, it was a woman, I called out to her and asked her what was the matter, she said nothing, but a man called out came into bed and dealt her a blow & I called out, "Oh you vagabond, what are you doing." he made no reply, but I heard the woman groan again, and all was quiet, until a woman brought her some water.
Perhaps it is not too surprising after reading her statement, that Emily Price wasn't called to the inquest. The second statement from Mary Coombs gives one of the few descriptions of what may have been Mary Ann Austin's possible murderer:
Mary Coombs, age 38, widow, charwoman, no fixed abode. Says: - On 31st Inst, I went to Leman St, Police Station, where I was shown a photograph of the deceased woman. I identify the photograph as that of a woman I saw between 8 pm & 9 pm on Saturday 25th inst, she was in the company of a man, who was a little taller than the deceased, he wore a dark brown moustache, no whiskers, and had the appearance of a working man. As far as I remember he wore a dark jacket & cap. I might know him again, the deceased was drunk and they were in Commercial Street going towards Dorset St.
Why, Mary Coombs was not called to any of the inquests or even to an identity parade is not known and there is no further mention of her in the police files.
As if Inspector Divall didn't have enough to do, he still had to follow other lines of enquiries, the telegram sent to All Stations on the 27th May, resulted in several leads, all of which needed to be followed.
On the 29th May, a man answering the description of Mary Ann Austin's murderer was reported as staying at a Common Lodging House at 90 Blackfriars Road. Police Sergeant John Gill was sent over from Leman Street to investigate. The man giving the name 'Lewis' arrived in England from Australia on the 25th May. He claimed to have been staying at a lodging house at 105 Commercial Road on the night in question, and P.S Gill after talking to a waiter at 105 Commercial Road found that he was telling the truth.
Police Sergeant Thowell was also sent to investigate a suspicious character, also staying at a Common Lodging House. This one was at 90 Camberwell Road. The person under suspicion had left the lodging house by the time Thowell arrived but according to the lodging house deputy, he was only suspected because he was pale looking and didn't talk to the other residents. He was described as about 35 years of age, ht 5ft 6 or 7, complexion pale, hair fair. Slight moustache ginger, wearing a light coat and cap, also scarf round neck, appearance of a labourer. This man was never found.
Yet another Lodging House Keeper had cause to be suspicious of one of his lodgers. Henry Gouldren, a lodging house keeper in Canning Town, walked into Canning Town Police Station at 12.45 am, on the 30th May, and stated that there was a stranger in the Lodging House who answered the description of the man wanted. P.C Cornish was dispatched to the Lodging House and brought back John McKenzie a 30 year old traveller. John McKenzie couldn't account for his movements on the night of Mary Ann Austin's murder, so he was sent by cab to Leman Street, and took part in a line up with William Austin. He was not identified by the witnesses Henry and Maria Moore and was allowed to go.
Charles White a 41-year-old traveller for Mr Barrett, 17 Old Montague Street, had an interesting tale to tell. And no he wasn't residing in a common lodging house. While walking through Finch Street from Brick Lane on the afternoon of the 28th May, he was accused by two women, Mary Ann Butcher, 40 of the Three Balls Lodging House and Annie Hickey 30, of the White House Lodging House, of murdering Mary Ann Austin. Mary Ann Butcher seized hold of him but he managed to free himself, on finding out that he was being followed by the women he went up to P.C 460 Shapland, and asked to be taken to the police station, which in this case was Commercial Street. The two women also went to the station. Charles White was quite willing to account for his movements and his employer Mr Barrett was sent for and confirmed his identity. His movements on the night of 25/26 May were satisfactorily accounted for, and after failing to be picked out of a line up with six other men by Mr and Mrs Moore he was allowed to leave.
On the night of the 29th May, James Schulty, a stonemason in the employ of Stepney Borough Council, walked into Edmonton Police Station offering important information regarding the murder of Mary Ann Austin. Schulty for reasons best known to himself would only give this information to Police Sergeant Bowers of Vine Street Police Station, who he claimed to know. P.S Bowers had no recollection of ever meeting Schulty, but an appointment was arranged at Schulty's work place. James Schulty failed to keep the appointment. A second appointment was arranged but again Schulty failed to show. However Police Sergeant Gill managed to track Schulty down and in a report dated 10th June, had this to say:
I beg to report having seen "James Schulty" of 22 St Marys Garden, Lower Edmonton, who states that about 3 pm. 28th ult, he was in the Princess Alice P.H. Commercial Street when he overheard a conversation between 3 men, one said, I tell you McCarthy was with her before the husband, another said what do you mean the Dorset St murder, he said yes and I know McCarthy was with her.
Schulty states that he is unable to describe the men, and there is little doubt that he has been drinking heavily, and was not at work on that account on two days prior to my interview, and his statement is therefore a very doubtful one.John Gill P.S.
A note in the margin by Superintendent Mulvany reads:
Seen, This is of no value 10/6 JM
Why James Schulty's information is so quickly dismissed is unclear. It's likely, but not certain that the McCarthy referred to was John McCarthy. William and Mary Ann Austin had up to the middle of May, stayed at 37 Dorset Street, which was owned by John McCarthy. And it was John McCarthy's wife who had thrown Mary Ann Austin out of her lodgings a week before she was murdered. It is unlikely that John McCarthy and his wife were even questioned by the police.
On the morning of Thursday 30th May, news was spreading through the East End that another woman was found dead in a lodging house, and following so closely on Mary Ann Austin's murder, news was quickly spreading that she too was also murdered. The rumours were quickly quashed when Doctor Frederick Kennard who examined the body, reported that she died from natural causes. The lodging house in question this time was 8 Whites Row, Spitalfields, and this lodging house like 35 Dorset Street, was also owned by William Crossingham, and it was the same lodging house where Annie Millwood was living when she was attacked in February 1888.
The Inquest into this woman's death was held the next day, again by Coroner Wynne E. Baxter. And while not having much relevance into who murdered Mary Ann Austin. The inquest did however show the effects her murder was having on the running of lodging houses, and the inquest also shows Coroner Baxter in a somewhat lighter mood:
The East London Coroner held an inquiry at Stepney, on Friday, concerning the death of a woman supposed to be Minnie Newman, aged 36, who was found dead in bed at a common lodging-house, 8, White's Row, Spitalfields, on Thursday. The discovery, following so closely on the crime in Dorset Street, gave rise at first to rumours of another murder. About eight weeks previously, a woman was found dead in this same lodging-house.
Mary Ann English, a widow, stated that she was a lodger at 8, White's Row, and knew the deceased. She last saw her alive on Wednesday in a publichouse. A fortnight ago deceased told witness that she had a child to support.
The Coroner: Did she ever tell you anything of her history?
Witness: I have been told that she had been a nurse at St. Bartholomew's Hospital and had married one of the doctors. Twelve months ago the deceased was in the Whitechapel infirmary as a result of her drinking habits.
Margaret Davis, the deputy, said that shortly after twelve o'clock on Thursday the deceased came to the lodging-house, accompanied by a man, and witness showed them up to the room. The man came down at five o'clock in the morning, but before he left witness took him back to see that the woman was all right.
The Coroner: That was an excellent idea. How long have you done such a thing? - Witness: I have always done that.
Or only since the other woman was found dead, and the man had disappeared? - I have never missed doing so.
The Coroner: I hope you never will. - Witness added that the woman was all right and the man left, but on going up again later she found the woman dead, and sent for the police.
The Coroner (surprised): Sent for the police? That is another capital idea: How long have you done that? - Witness made no answer.
Eliza Mappin said she occupied No. 30 opposite, and about five o'clock heard the deceased and the man talking.
The Coroner: You surely don't mean that you heard anything? I thought you were all as quiet as mice and didn't make a noise in a lodging-house, at least, that is what I understood from the evidence I heard the other day (laughter).
Barney Lipman, of 17, Dorset Street. Said he was the manager.
The Coroner: Anything to do with 35, Dorset Street? - Witness: I am general manager for the lot.
The Coroner: I may want to see you on Tuesday next, then (laughter). - Witness, continuing, said he was called after the woman had been found dead; he sent for the police and the doctor.
The Coroner: The police first. That is very surprising. How long ago is it since the other women was found dead at this house? - Witness: About eight or nine weeks.
The Coroner: I suppose that was about the average - one woman found dead about every eight weeks. If what Mrs. Davis tells us is true you are adopting a good principle to take the man back, and see if the woman is dead or alive, but, unfortunately, on the last occasion the man had gone, and how was that? - Witness: The woman neglected her duty. I have never let anyone out before seeing that all is right.
The Coroner: I am very pleased to hear you say so. I shall get you to repeat the statement next Tuesday.
Dr. Frederick Kennard, 139, Hanbury Street, deposed that the cause of death was syncope following epilepsy, and the jury returned the verdict of death from "Natural Causes."'The East London Advertiser' Saturday 8th June 1901
Because of the brutality of Mary Ann Austin's murder, comparisons were naturally made with the earlier 'Whitechapel Murders'. The 'Sun' dug up two ex-policemen who worked on the 'Whitechapel Murders', Inspector Reid and Detective McIntyre. The 'Sun' article was also printed in 'The East London Observer' Saturday 1st June:
The Whitechapel Murders.
The "Sun," in a special article discusses the Whitechapel murders as follows: - The "Ripper" has been spoken of during the last few days as a maniac surgeon. That he was a maniac the evidence goes to show. That he was a surgeon is contrary to the evidence. Reid, who was an exceptionally well-instructed officer, says, under this head, in the report we drew up together: - "The Ripper was a man with no skilled knowledge - not even the skill of a novice in butchery. In every instance the mutilation was clumsy in the extreme - was the hacking and tearing of a man in a frenzy, increasing in intensity as his work proceeded. It was said in the case of the woman Kelly that portions of the body were carried away. This was not true. Every body was found complete. It was simply hacked without any system or plan other than dictated by ferocity."
Another absurd theory was that the murders were the work of a left-handed man, who had seized his victim from behind. The evidence was quite contrary to this. In the throat-cutting the fiend had shown cunning. The position of the blood and the body showed that he had stood face to face with the woman, and had slashed her throat with his right hand from right to left, causing the blood to spurt away from him, so that he probably never had any blood stains on his clothes. One of the great difficulties of the case for the police was that it was a case of a maniac's cunning outwitting reason's methods. Every murder was committed in a dark, secluded spot, generally on private property, as in the case of the woman Austin, now under investigation. As no one ever saw the man except his victims, not the slightest evidence could be obtained as to his description.
"Ex-Detective McIntyre, who was at Scotland Yard, and engaged from there on the 'Ripper' inquires, has a theory which, while not comforting, is certainly consistent with reason and practical experience. McIntyre believes the 'Ripper' is still alive, and that during the long periods which elapsed between one murder and another he was in prison for some minor offence, five years and ten years' penal servitude are the most common sentences for felony. If the Ripper murderer was sent away for ten years for some offence shortly after the murder in Swallow Gardens in February, 1891, he would not be at liberty again. He would be certain to return to his old haunts, and if McIntyre were still in the detective he would suggest a thorough inquiry into the history of every convict who has returned home to Spitalfields after being in prison during the time the 'Ripper' murders have ceased. Ex-Detective Reid, on the other hand, is of the opinion that the man who committed the 'Ripper' murders has long since been dead, a victim to the consuming frenzy for mutilation, a frenzy which must have long ago destroyed the man, body and soul.
The inquest into Mary Ann Austin's murder was resumed on Tuesday 4th June. Not much in the way of new evidence was introduced, but as the newspaper reports show, it was more of a case of witnesses getting there stories right:
On Tuesday afternoon, at the Stepney Borough Coroner's Court, Mr. Baxter resumed the enquiry into the death of Annie Austin, aged 28,who was found in one of the cubicles in a common lodging-house at 35, Dorset-street, Spitalfields, on the morning of Sunday, May 26 The case has, excited the utmost interest which has been intensified by the arrest of the husband of the deceased, on a charge of murder, on which he now stands remanded at Worship-street Police-court. The prisoner was in court in charge of two warders, and bore himself with a confident, albeit modest air, readily rising in his place when called upon for the purpose of identification, but asking only one question throughout the whole of the long proceedings.
The Coroner exhibited a plan of the house, showing the position of the rooms and explained this to the jury.
The first witness called was Daniel Sullivan, a waterside labourer, of 4, Paternoster-row, Spitalfields, who said he looked after the house at that address which was in the occupation of single female lodgers. He also supervised other lodging houses in Whites-row and Dorset-street, all of them belonging to his brother-in-law, Mr. Crossingham. He was certain that Mr. Crossingham married his (witness') sister. He attended to all the lodging houses off and on and sometimes had charge of the lot.
The Coroner: Were you in charge of the lodging house at 35 Dorset-street on Saturday, 25th May?
Witness: I can't be sure.
The Coroner: Look here, Mr. Sullivan. I have you on your oath; were you there or were you not?
The Coroner: Was Francis Davis there?
Francis Davis was then called and in and confronted with witness, who acknowledged that he had seen her there at the time. He then said that Moore, the deputy, called him and said, "You are stronger than me, you might go and assist a woman into a cab." Witness did not wait for an answer but went upstairs and assisted a woman down into a cab waiting for her. Mr. Moore generally called a cab for anyone who was "queer." Witness thought that the room he went to was No. 44. He found the deceased standing up with the assistance of another woman. He took her by the arms and assisted her to the bottom of the stairs, whence he carried her to the cab. He was not told where to take her and did not know where they were going until he found himself at the London Hospital. The deceased did not speak at all while in the cab. - The Coroner: "A very mysterious journey; he did not know where they were going or why." - Witness said that the porter at the hospital gates asked what was the matter with the woman, and witness said it was a queer case.
The Coroner: I thought all "queer" cases were taken to the Old Bailey? Will you swear that you never told the porter that this was a stabbing case?
The Witness: I did not.
The Coroner: We shall hear a different story later on.
Witness said the porter called for assistance and took the deceased out of the cab. Witness stood at the door while they wheeled her inside the ward. The porter asked no questions except whether he knew the deceased, to which he answered, "No." It was not true that he told the porter that he would only answer the doctor's questions. He simply said he wanted to get away as he had work to attend to. The porter did not say, "You have brought her here and now you will have to stay and await the result." Witness then went with the porter on a lift to the first floor and into a ward. He saw the sister, who asked, Are you the man that brought the woman here?" and he replied, "Yes." The sister asked him to go a little further on in the ward and wait. Later on the sister again saw him and asked, "Do you know her, or any of her relations?" He said "No." She then told him there was no necessity for him to wait longer, so he left and returned to Dorset-street, where no enquiries were made, so he concerned himself no more about the case until he was summoned on this inquest. On Sunday afternoon three detectives came and asked witness to show them the room in which the woman was injured.
The Coroner: Is it a surprise to you if I tell you that the injuries were not inflicted in No. 44? Witness: several people have told me so.
The Coroner: Why did you not give notice to the police. Witness: I don't know. He had over nine years' experience in lodging house keeping, but he could not give any reason why the police were not informed.
The deputy (Moore) asked no questions about the police, nor could he suggest any reason why the clothing of the deceased woman had been destroyed, nor did he know she was sent to the hospital in other people's apparel.
The Coroner: Well, you are about the stupidest witness and most innocent witness I ever met.
Witness: I spoke the truth.
The Coroner: Well you are sailing very near the wind.
Sergeant Harry Woodley, 343 H. said he took the plans of the ground and first floor and of the ground and top floor (produced). They were drawn to scale and were accurate. The number of cubicles was correct. The height from floor to ceiling was 8ft. 6in., from the top of the partition to the ceiling was 21 inches, and there was a space of 6 inches between the bottom of the partition and the floor, so any noise might be heard either from the top or the bottom.
Maria Moore, wife of Henry Moore, deputy of 35, Dorset-street, contradicted her evidence given at the last hearing that being untrue. She now said she took deceased up to No. 15 cubicle on the 3rd floor, instead of No. 44 on the first floor, as she had previously stated. Others were sleeping on the 3rd floor, but it was not quite full. She took up the last lot between 1 and 1. 30 a.m. The gas was then put out, and the house became quiet. It was quite true that she heard no noise all through the night, and did not know anything was wrong until Francis Davis came down and said a woman was lying injured in No. 15. Witness went up at once and found the deceased lying naked on the bed which was not moved out from the wall. She did not notice any blood on the walls at the time. Deceased was only covered by the bed-clothes, her own clothes being at the foot of the bed. Deceased said she had been hurt, and that a man had done it, but no man was there. Blood was smeared about the floor in places. Witness left deceased with Amy Day, and went down into the kitchen. A doctor was sent for, and on his arrival witness went with him to the cubicle. The doctor was mistaken in saying he saw the woman on the first floor. Deceased was never in No. 44. Witness saw Sullivan and Amy Day taking deceased down from No. 15 double cubicle. Witness had said that deceased was in No. 44 for the purpose of screening Sullivan. She also showed the coroner and the police up to No. 44 so that they should not see the blood in No. 15. Amy Day dressed the deceased in her own clothes. She had an undervest with not much blood on it, and more than one petticoat when taken to the hospital. After deceased was gone an old cream-coloured petticoat was found in No. 15 as well as half a woman's silk handkerchief, and a red and green striped stocking. There was no blood on either.
The Coroner: I believe we shall have evidence that both the handkerchief and the stocking were covered with blood.
Witness said there was no blood on the walls as far as she saw.
The Coroner: Did Annie Baker take down the clothes and show them to you?
Witness: They were taken down and thrown away because they were covered with vermin and excrement. She went on to say she had sworn as to the identity of the man who went up with the deceased to No. 15. She recognised him in the waiting room at the enquiry last week before he gave evidence. She told Francis Davis as the man entered the room on that occasion, "That's the man who murdered the woman." By that time witness's husband had left the room to give evidence, but she told him as soon as he came back. They did not consult together, and under the circumstances she did not do anything in the matter until they got home, when she consulted Mr. Crossingham who told her to go to Commercial-street police station, where she saw the inspector on duty who took down her statement, and she was then taken to Leman-street police station. She recognised the man in court at the present moment (pointing to the prisoner who stood up). She had no doubt whatever that the prisoner in court was the man. On the Saturday night in question, however, he was not wearing the same clothes, but was wearing bricklayers boots, cord trousers, and a navy blue coat.
The Coroner: You said you recognised him as a short man, about 40 years of age.
Witness said she was taken to Leman-street police station the next morning and picked out the accused from among ten men.
The accused: Have you ever seen me in Dorset-street before?
Witness: Not until last week.
The Coroner: Can you understand the police being kept out of the facts? Why was Sullivan screened?
Witness: He don't order me about. Daniel Sullivan was the first man to show the police up to No. 44, and to protect him we all made 44 the room, so as to agree with what Sullivan had said. There was no blood in No. 44. All the blood described by witness as in No. 44 was in No. 15.
Francis Davis said she occupied No. 12 bedroom on the third floor at 35, Dorset-street on Saturday night, May 25th. She did not find deceased in No. 44 on the first floor as stated in her evidence at the last enquiry, but was told to say so by Moore. On the Tuesday morning following he said to witness: "You're all right now. You will have to go to Leman-street police station this morning, and if they say it is No. 15, you say it is No. 44, and stick to it." She did so, and repeated it at the inquest last Wednesday. On Friday she was told she had better say it was No. 15, as she was "bowled." She wished now she had said so at first. As a matter of fact the deceased was found in No. 15. When witness found her lying in that room she did not notice any blood on the walls as the place was so dark, but she noticed some blood on the floor. The rest of her evidence was true, except as to the number of the room and floor. Witness did not sleep in No. 12 all night, as she and her husband had "a few words" She left him trying to get into bed the worse for drink, and went and sat on the stone stairs leading to the roof. She went down again about 4 a.m. but heard no noise, and got to sleep about 5 a.m. She had had a glass or two, but did not think the matter was so serious or she would not have said what she did. She was in the waiting room all the time evidence was being given on the last occasion, and after Austin (the accused) had given his evidence, he came into the waiting-room. Mrs. Moore was near her at the time, and said to her "That's the man," as he came into the room. Witness said, "Why don't you say so?" She said no more but walked across the room and spoke to someone else. Nothing more was said until they got home, when they went into the kitchen and witness said, "It you are sure that's the man you ought to have said so while you were there."
Henry Moore, deputy of the lodging-house at 35 Dorset-street, was the next witness. He said that the statement which he made at the last enquiry as to the room being No. 44 was incorrect, the deceased not having been in that room. The mistake arose from Sullivan having taken three detectives up to No. 44, after which the witness told the other witnesses to say that it was No. 44 where the event occurred.
The Coroner: Was it true that the lodging house was full at 12.30, and if so how was it that your wife took the last couple up as late as 1.30?
Witness: I can't explain that. I have never associated with anyone down there, and have always been at my post. It was quite true that he told Sullivan what was the matter with the deceased, and that he drove off without knowing where he was going. Witness said his wife told him that Austin was the man when they were in the waiting room together. but he did not inform the police because he thought she was mistaken. At this point the witness turned pale and nearly fainted in the witness box, and his further examination was not proceeded with.
Annie Baker, of 2 Paternoster-row, Spitalfields, bedmaker at Mr. Crossingham's lodging houses, said she went into No. 35 Dorset-street, about 10.30 on Sunday morning, May 28th, for the purpose of making the beds. Witness met Amy Day on the steps, who said, "Do you know about the young woman who has been ill upstairs?" She also said afterwards that it was a bad job about the young woman. Witness asked, "What's the matter with her?" She replied, "Stabbed In the back," and said it occurred at the top of the house. Amy Day was the woman who dressed her. Witness went to the top of the house and into No. 15 double bedroom, where she noticed a quantity of blood on the floor. The bed and ticking were covered with blood, and the bed clothes were all of a heap at the foot of the bed. Witness could not tell from appearance of the bed whether two people had been sleeping there or not. She found an old green petticoat (torn) and a black stocking covered with blood, and much soiled, also an old red handkerchief. She took them downstairs and showed them to Mrs. Moore, who told her to throw them away. She threw them in the dustbin, which was cleared out on the Tuesday morning; the blood covered a large space on the floor. Witness did not notice any blood on the walls, but saw some finger marks. Mrs. Moore came up to the room and witness told her that a woman had been stabbed. Witness took the ticking off the bed and tried to wash the blood stains off the floor but failed. She never saw the accused man Austin before.
The Coroner said that the afternoon had been practically wasted, and he thought they had better adjourn at that point.
The enquiry was thereupon adjourned until Tuesday next, at 2 p.m.'The East End News' Friday 7th June 1901
Annie Baker's statement to the police on 31st May, adds a bit more detail to Mary Ann Austin's clothing that was left in the Cubicle:
I also found and [sic] old green petticoat, it was ripped down from the back seam and lying on the floor, one black stocking covered with human soil, also a dark red handkerchief, such as women wear round their necks, they were also on the floor.
The cab driver that took Daniel Sullivan and Mary Ann Austin to the London Hospital was found, he was Walter Levy of 54 Bedford Street, Commercial Road, E. His statement is undated but since his cab number was known to the police from the outset, his statement was probably made between the 28th and 31st May. His statement added nothing which was not already known.
The inquest was resumed on Tuesday 11th June. This time the inquest focused more on William Austin and his whereabouts on the night of 25th and 26th May, but first the porters at the London Hospital were called:
At Stepney Borough Coroner's Court on Tuesday, Mr. Baxter resumed his enquiry into the death of Annie Austin, 28, late of 35 Dorset-street, Spitalfields, who died in the London Hospital from wounds Inflicted upon her during the night of May 25.
The husband of the deceased woman, who now stands remanded at the Worship-street police-court, was present at the enquiry in charge of two warders, and looked much better and smarter than at the previous hearing.
Mr. Matthew H. Hale (solicitor) appeared for the accused, and Detective Inspector Divall conducted the case on behalf of the police.
The first witness was Arthur James Goss, porter at he London Hospital. He said that on Sunday, May 26, about 9.30 a.m., he was at the front door, being the only man on duty at the time. A four-wheeled cab drove up, with a man and woman inside. The man jumped out, and witness asked, "What is the matter?" The man replied, "A stabbing case." Witness got into the cab, and asked the woman where she was stabbed and she told him. He did not ask any more questions, but got the couch, and placed the woman upon it, and took her into the receiving ward. He then saw Sister Jacka, and told her it was a stabbing case. The sister then sent for Dr. Hilliard. Witness then Went to the man (now identified as Daniel Sullivan), who was standing in the corridor, and asked him "How did it happen?" Sullivan replied, "The man that did it got away." He added, "I want to get away, too, as I have some business to attend to." Witness told him he must stop to learn the result, and Sullivan replied that he would answer the doctor's questions as soon as he was asked. Witness went to the sister and told her that the man wanted to get away, and she said, "Don't let him go, by any means." Witness was then relieved by another porter.
William Samuel Kemp, who relieved the last witness, said he came on duty about 9.45 on Sunday morning and heard from his colleague that a woman had been stabbed. Witness saw Sullivan, and told him to go up with the woman to the ward, together with two porters. Witness did not see him again.
Mrs. Mary Hendry, of 21 Ford's-place, Church-road, Battersea, said she was living with Robert Smith, a painter, as his wife. She had known Austin only since Thursday, May 23, when she first saw him while she was cleaning her doorstep between 7 and 8 a.m. Austin was then walking up and down in front of the house, and was accompanied by a little girl about 6 years old. He came over to witness, and asked her if she could take the child for the day, as he had a day's work in the boat-yard, adding that he would pay witness when he finished work. Witness agreed to take the child for 1s. 6d, and Austin went away, leaving the child with her. He returned at 4.30, and asked witness whether she would take the child altogether. She told him she would let him know on Saturday, as she wanted to know what her husband thought about it. She had two children of her own, and the reason why she took charge of the child was that it looked very tired, and witness did not like to see it walking about. The accused man went away about 5 o'clock, and came again on Friday morning between 9 and 10, asking if the little girl was all right. On the Thursday, when he brought the child first, he said he had a wife who drank very much, and he could not live with her any longer. He did not say where she was, or where he last saw her, but said that he had another little girl, who was in the Infirmary. He told witness that his wife used to smash up his home, and lead him a dreadful life, but he did not say that she ever assaulted him, or that there had ever been any police-court proceedings. He said that if he met her at any time he would share his ha'pence with her, but he certainly would not think of living with her again. Austin seemed very fond of the child, and stayed chatting with her and witness for about half an hour. He then left, and witness saw him again the next morning (Saturday) between 10 and 11. - The Coroner "Are you quite sure of the time?" - Witness: "Quite sure." He took his little girl out for a walk, and about 4.30 p.m. witness's son brought her a message, saying, "The little girl's father wants to see you at the top of the street." She sent back to tell him to send the child down, and to call in the next day (Sunday). Austin called again on Sunday morning between 8.30 and 9 in the morning, and saw her husband. He said he could only obtain casual work, and. wished her husband to take the child, which he agreed to do on condition that he (Austin) would call and see her once a week, or oftener in case of sickness. There was no agreement as to payment. When Austin called on the Sunday morning, he was dressed in the same clothes which he wore on the Saturday, with a dark cap and a coloured handkerchief round his neck. He wanted to take the child out again, but they said they would take her out themselves. He then went away, not saying where he has slept the previous night. He came again on the Monday morning, and took the child for a walk, bringing her back again 6 p.m. Nothing was said on Monday about the Dorset-street murder, but on Tuesday afternoon when he returned with the child from a stroll, he brought a newspaper, and asked witness' son to read about the Dorset-street murder. The lad read the account and Austin said he believed it was his wife, as the description tallied, and added that he would go to Battersea police-station and make enquiries. He promised to return and let witness know. On his return he said he wanted to go to Spitalfields, but had no money, and witness lent him 4d. - In answer to Mr. Hall, witness said her house was only a few yards from the steamboat dock gates, and everyone who went into the yard had to pass her gate. When Austin called on Sunday morning witness was at breakfast with her husband. She corrected here previous evidence by saying that it was on Monday that Austin came with the paper, and on Wednesday he called again, and gave her 2s. The police came in the middle of the night, and took her statement, but she was too flurried to remember what she said exactly.
Richard Eldridge, of 27 Ford's-Place, Battersea, a general dealer, said he had known the accused since last summer, but only spoke to him in the street. On Saturday right, May 25th, witness saw him in the "Europa" public-house, in Church-road, Battersea. He had a little child with him at the time. Four of them gave him a shilling between them, and he sent his little girl to a neighbouring coffee shop for two slices of bread and butter. At 6 p.m. witness left the public-house with Austin and the child. He saw him again the same night between 10.15 and 10.30 standing on the doorstep of a coffee house in Church-road, Battersea, but the child was not with him then. He saw him next about 5.30 on Sunday morning, when he was going into the steamboat yard to look for work. He saw no difference in his clothes. They met again on Sunday at dinner time in the "Europa," when witness told him he thought he could get him some work. - By Mr. Hale: The boatyard was open every day in the week, including Sunday.
William Gregory, night watchman at the Steamboat Yard, Battersea, said he had known Austin as a stoker on board the boats for about three years while he was working in the dockyard. On Saturday Austin came into the band room as the clock was striking 5, and left again shortly after. On Sunday morning he came in again, and asked for a drink of water. Witness replied: "You know where the water is; go and get it yourself." Witness noticed some bits of straw on his coat, as if he had been sleeping out of doors. - By Mr. Hale: "It was just striking 5 by the Plumbago works clock when Austin came in."
John Allwood, labourer in the steamboat yard, said he saw Austin on the Saturday before Whitsuntide in the "George" bear-house in Bolingbroke-road, about 8.30 or 9 p.m. Witness left at 9, when there was a room full of People, and he did not recollect whether he left Austin there or not.
John Manley Taylor, who keeps a coffee-stall at the foot of Battersea Bridge on the Surrey side of the river, said he remembered having seen Austin before, but only casually. Three attacks of influenza had upset witness' memory, so that he was unable to recollect exactly what days Austin came to his stall. - By Mr. Hale: "Whatever day it might have been, when Austin came to the stall, a horsekeeper, named Pope, was here, and treated him to a penny cake, which he either ate or put in his pocket.
Dr. Frankland Hewett Oliver, divisional surgeon to the G and H divisions of police, said he was present at the post mortem examination of the deceased. He was acquainted with the evidence given by Dr. Ridge, and agreed with his description of the appearances and clothing, and also as to the cause of death. -The Coroner: "What sort of instrument were the injuries produced by?" - Witness: Probably some sharp-pointed instrument, but nothing could be ascertained as to its probable length or breadth. Witness afterwards saw at Leman-street police-station two sheets and some bed ticking, blood stains being most marked on all of them, especially in the centre. A considerable amount of blood must have been lost. On 31st May witness examined the cubicle at 35 Dorset-street, and found stains on the floor, and on all the four partitions, which gave to the naked eye the appearance of blood. None of the stains were very distinct, as an attempt had been made to wash them out. No finger marks were visible. Judging from the character and position of the wounds and the condition of the deceased woman, witness considered that the injuries were necessarily fatal from the first and that interference with them would only have hastened death. The wound would probably have caused a great amount of pain and shock. She would probably have called out unless she had been under the influence of alcohol or some narcotic.
The Coroner: I have not yet thought it necessary to get the contents of the stomach analysed, buts they have been preserved for that purpose if required.
Annie Baker, recalled, said that on Monday, 27th May, when the police came to the lodging house, she was on the second floor. She saw them measuring the wrong cubicle, but did not think it her duty to inform them.
The Coroner: What possible object can there be in trying to defeat the ends of justice?
Edith Maxwell, wife of a navvy, living at 35 Dorset-street, said she was out at work all day, and only slept in the house. Her room was No. 4 on the top floor, close to No. 14 and 15, which were known as "dark cubicles." On Saturday, May 25th, witness went to bed with her husband between 11 and 12 o'clock. During the night she heard a woman's voice in No. 15 distinctly say, "Leave me alone; don't you think you've done enough." Witness went to sleep, but if she had heard any one scream she would have been on the spot in a second. Witness was up and out by 8.30 the next morning (Sunday), and did not hear anything about the occurrence until she went into the "Queen's Head" Public-house in Commercial-street, where the event was being openly talked about. Witness had never seen either Austin or the deceased in Dorset-street.
After some discussion the enquiry was adjourned until Wednesday. June 19th, at 2 p.m.
After the rising of the Court, an affecting scene was witnessed, the accused man having obtained leave to see two of his sisters, one of whom brought in his youngest girl. At the sight of his relatives Austin broke down entirely, and the painful interview was mercifully curtailed by the warders.
Contrary to the usual temper of a crowd when a prisoner is being removed from the court, Austin met with anything but a hostile reception, being greeted by encouraging shouts instead of jeers and hisses. The demonstration was soon over, however, and the large crowd quietly dispersed.'The East End News' Friday14th June 1901
Before Coroner Baxter left the Court he spoke to Inspector Divall, he told him confidentially, that in conversation with the jury, they had intimated to him that the verdict would be an open one.
William Austin by now had been in custody for nearly two weeks. The only evidence against him was Maria Moores and spots of blood found on his clothes. The next day Thursday 13th, he was taken to the magistrates court at Worship Street:
At WORSHIP-STREET yesterday, WILLIAM AUSTIN, who was charged with the murder of his wife, Elizabeth [sic] Austin, by cutting and stabbing her in a lodging-house in Dorset-street, Spitalfields, on the morning of Sunday, May 26, was brought up on remand. Mr. Frayling said that he had to state, on behalf of the Public Prosecutor, that this was not a case which he proposed to take up. The prisoner had been arrested by the police for the murder of a woman in a common lodging-house in Spitalfields. The inquest had been proceeding since, but was not completed; and the evidence there given - mainly that of the woman Moore, wife of the deputy of the lodging-house - had been carefully considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and he thought it was not sufficient to go on with. Some observations had been made last week as to bloodstains found on the prisoner's clothing, but after examination there was no importance attached to them. Of course if the magistrate desired it the police would continue the evidence. Mr. Mead said that he knew nothing of the case which should make him desire to continue it, and he had entire confidence in the discretion of the Director of Public Prosecutions. On the statement now made he should direct the prisoner's discharge. Austin, without remark, at once left the dock and walked out of Court'The Times' Friday 14th June 1901
The fact that William Austin was discharged wasn't very surprising, what was surprising was that it took nearly two weeks to do so. Daniel Sullivan's conduct on the other hand had been very suspicious from the start and it wasn't until the last day of the inquest on the 19th June, that things were made a little if not completely clear. Also on the final day of the inquest, William Crossingham himself was called as a witness, mainly to explain the conduct of his employees'. A cutting from 'The Daily Telegraph' reporting the last day is preserved in the official police files:
Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, coroner for East London, yesterday resumed inquiry into the circumstances attending the death of Annie Austin, a married woman, who died in the London Hospital on Monday, May 27, from the effect of injuries inflicted with some sharp instrument, in a lodging house at 35, Dorset-street, Spitalfields, on the previous Saturday night. The police authorities were represented by Divisional-inspector Mulvaney of the H division, Detective-inspector Divall and Sergeants Wensley and Gould, of the Criminal Investigation Department.
William Crossingham, 64, Western-road, Romford, said he was the registered proprietor of several lodging houses, of which that at 35, Dorset-street was one. It was managed by his deputy, Henry Moore, and his wife. Daniel Sullivan was his brother-in-law, and sometimes acted for him. 35, Dorset-street was registered under the Common Lodging House Act, and Was subject to the regulations of that act. Witness was aware of Rule 8, which declared that no keeper of a lodging house shall allow persons of different sexes to occupy the same sleeping room except in the case of a married couple, but did not attempt to carry it out. If he were to ask a couple if they were married he would get insulted. He had between twenty to thirty regular lodgers before he was not allowed to take in children, but not so many now.
The Coroner; Have you had any reason to think it advisable that there should be any such provision as that the man and woman should leave together in the morning? - No, sir, I haven't.
Do you know that on March 20 a man and woman came to the lodging house at 8, White's-row, and were shown to a room by Daniel Sullivan, and that Sullivan next morning found the woman lying on her face in the bed? - Witness: In a fit.
And that the man had disappeared? - Yes.
Are you aware that on May 30 a married woman was shown to a room at 8, White's-row, and that in the morning she was found dead in bed? - Yes.
With these facts before you, do you not think it necessary to provide that the man and woman should leave together? - It could be done.
I did not ask that. Don't you think it advisable? - Yes, sir; it shall be.
Further examined, witness said he was aware that the police had been misled by Moore as to the number of the cubicle in which the murder was committed, but his instructions were that in all cases of accident the doctor should be first sent for and then the police. He supposed the reason why the police were misled was a desire to hush the matter up.
William Hitchmore, inspector of lodging houses under the London County Council, said he knew 35, Dorset-street, and had been through it at all hours of the night, except on Saturdays and Sundays. On ordinary nights fair order was maintained, and on the upper floor anyone making a noise could be heard though the whole room. It would not be possible for any woman to call out in pain without being heard by almost all the inmates. Witness had given every lodging house keeper or deputy verbal instructions to send for the police in the event of accidents, so that in this case Moore had disobeyed him.
Isabel Smith, widow, said she had occupied No. 1 cubicle on the third floor in the Dorset-street lodging house on and off since January, and was an inmate on Saturday, May 25. No. 15 cubicle was next to it, the heads of the two sleeping places being close together. Witness had had a few half-pints during the day, but nothing to speak of, and was not in a condition which would prevent her hearing any scuffle. She awoke about four in the morning, and went to sleep again soon after. Beyond deep breathing in the next cubicle she heard nothing until between six and seven o'clock, when she heard a sound as of someone moaning; but it was not loud, and she paid no attention to it until Amy Day, who slept in a neighbouring cubicle, asked her if that was she moaning. That led to inquiry, and Annie Austin was found in No. 15 cubicle. She said she had been stabbed by the man who had accompanied her, but could not say how long the wound had been inflicted, as she had only just wakened. A doctor was at once sent for, who ordered the woman to be removed to the hospital in a cab, and the police to be notified of the case. It would be very difficult to unbar the front door without making a noise, and it was usually kept barred till six o'clock on Sunday morning.
Examined as to the movements of Daniel Sullivan, witness said that so far as she knew he did not sleep in Dorset-street, but she had occasionally seen him there in the morning. Deceased must have been the worse for drink or otherwise insensible when the injuries were inflicted.
Amy Day, another lodger, also spoke as to the occurrences of the Sunday morning at 35, Dorset-street. She awoke about five o'clock in the morning, and went downstairs for some water. The gate at the foot of the stairs was locked, and the deputy had to come from the office to unlock it. He locked it again after her when she returned upstairs. She heard no unusual noise until she got up, when her attention was caught by the sound of moaning, and the deceased woman was attended to. Witness believed that if there had been any scream in the night she would have heard it.
Daniel Sullivan was recalled, and the coroner. Addressing him said. I think you ought to tell us where you slept on the Saturday night before Whit Sunday - At 10, Paternoster-row, off Dorset-street. I went there about half-past eleven o'clock, and left in the morning about seven o'clock. Timothy Batty slept in the same bed with me.
Timothy Batty corroborated this evidence.
The coroner, in summing up the case, said that although at first suspicion was directed against the husband by reason of the evidence of Mrs. Moore, yet it was uncorroborated, and was contradicted by an alibi which though not perfect could not be accepted as without weight. Taking the injuries as medically described, it was difficult to say whether they were inflicted as the result of mania or with the intention to kill; but still, with whatever intention the wounds were given, if the result was death the verdict must be one of murder. He had been impressed that day with the evidence given by the witnesses who were fellow lodgers in the same room as that occupied by the deceased woman. One witness, who had given her evidence with honesty and frankness, had spoken to the impossibility of any unusual noise being made during the night without its being heard by the other inmates, and she had also indicated how it was possible - if the deceased woman was drenched in drink, or otherwise in a comatose state - for the injuries to be inflicted at a comparatively early hour and the man to go downstairs without being challenged before the gates at the foot of the stairs was barred. Undoubtedly the police had been purposely misled as to the cubicle in which the woman was found. They had been referred to forty-four instead of to fifteen. He himself was referred to forty-four on his visit. The only explanation given for this was that it was done to screen Sullivan. Why should he be screened? It almost presupposed him to be a party to the violence; but it did not seem to be any more the case than that Sullivan made a false statement to the police in the first instance, probably to mislead them, and that everybody else felt bound to stick to his lie. He (the coroner) did not know that it meant more than that. It had thrown a halo of suspicion round Sullivan, and he gathered that the people of the neighbourhood seemed to regard Sullivan as the man who was with the deceased on the night in question. For that reason he had called Sullivan and his bed-fellow to show where be actually did sleep on the night in question, but if any suspicion should attach to him he had only to thank his own incautious and improper action.
The jury, without leaving the box, returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person unknown, at the same time expressing their sense of the intelligent activity displayed by the police in obtaining all the evidence possible.'The Daily Telegraph' Thursday 20th June 1901
A Report written on the 24th June, by Inspector Divall explains that additional statements by Amy Day, Isobel Smith and Daniel Sullivan were taken the day before the inquest on the 18th. Inspector Divall also explained that there was no evidence to suggest that Mary Ann Austin was drunk when she entered the lodging house. Inspector Divall comments on the witnesses from the lodging house were frank and brutal:
From the first to the last we have to deal with a class of witnesses that are as low as they can well possibly be and it is difficult to know when they are speaking the truth, in some instances they lie without any apparent motive.
Although we never despair I fear that nothing further can be done to elucidate this mystery and the perpetrator of this crime unfortunately goes unpunished as a result of the scandalous conduct of nearly the whole of the witnesses in this case.
Two days later Superintendent Mulvany took pen to paper and wrote a report summarising the case up to that point and recommending Inspector Divall and his team for a commendation.
With no new information forthcoming, enquiries came to a standstill. Witnesses and informants were still being called upon from time to time, but nothing new in the way of information was obtained. Then in August, out of the blue a letter was received at Scotland Yard from the Cardiff Police, a letter which not only blew the case wide open, but the shockwaves could even extend back to 1888:
Central Police Station
August 25th 1901
To The Head Constable
I beg to report that
I have been informed by a Mrs Clarke of No. 36 May Street that she has had living with her in apartments a man and woman and from conversations that she has had with the woman, Mrs Clarke is of an opinion that the man is guilty of some crime committed within the Metropolitan Police district. The man gave the name of George Neating describes himself as a shoeing smith but during the time he stayed at May Street he never did any work but lived entirely upon his wife's earnings as a seamstress, and if the wife should happen to be short of money and unable to supply Neating with some edible that he may have fancied, he would pounce upon her and beat her unmercifully, the wife would then seek the protection of the landlady from her husbands violence. On one of these occasions Mrs Neating confided in Mrs Clarke and told her that Neating was a member of the Metropolitan Police at the time of the Whitechapel Murders and that when he had done wrong or anything had happened on his beat he would hide himself among the tombstones of Stepney Churchyard, and that he was subsequently dismissed from the force through drunkenness. Mrs Neating is of a weak disposition, looks half starved and entirely under the influence of her husband. Her maiden name was Mabel Wyn daughter of a Mr Wyn (fitter) Havelock Street, New Swindon.
Wyn visited his daughter when she was living at May Street and he told Mrs Clarke that he had done his best to try and induce his daughter to separate herself from her husband because he was of the impression that his son-in-law was a murderer. On the date of the murder of a woman at a lodging house at Spitals Court some short time ago. Neating left Cardiff and is supposed to have gone to London he was absent from his home for a fortnight and on his return his wife mentioned about the murder of which reports was then appearing in the local papers, he became very excited said to his wife "Shut your bloody mouth or that will be your end if you are not careful".
From enquiries made, an excursion train left Cardiff for London on the date referred to and its thought amongst Neating's associates that he availed himself of this opportunity of getting to London. He is an associate of betting men and its surmised that if he had backed a winning horse about this particular time he could have reached London by an earlier train. At the enquiry of this murder a witness stated that a man of Jewish appearance accompanied the murdered woman to her cubicle and the description of Neating is of the following, age about 40 years, very dark hair, complexion of Jewish appearance, 5ft 10 inches high, has a cataract growing over one of his eyes. Was wearing when leaving Cardiff on this particular date a rusty colour suit of black material, carried a brown leather bag. It is now strongly suspected that Neating is the person who accompanied the ill-fated woman to her cubicle on the date mentioned.
I am Sir
Your obedient Servant
Wm Price Act. Det.
W. Scott Chief Inspt
Exciting stuff. Enquiries were at once made within H, J and K Divisions for any information relating to George Neating but no one by that name had ever served with the Metropolitan Police. Even the name George Keating was checked but with no success. And on the 31st August, Inspector Divall asked Maria Moore to Leman Street Station, and he wrote about this meeting in a report dated 2nd September:
I beg to report that I saw Mrs Moore at 6 pm 31st ult at this station and without telling her the particulars of the information I further interrogated her and asked her if she could identify the man who committed the murder or his photograph and she without hesitation said "No".
The man "Neating" is evidently of a bad lot and his photograph may be of use to Police some time to come.
No man by the name of George Neating has been attached to this Division
It is clear by the Cardiff letter that George Neating no longer resided at 36 May Street. His present whereabouts were unknown. Cardiff Police tried but failed to obtain a photograph of Neating and on the 5th September wrote to the Swindon Police, to try and obtain further information. Unfortunately the results of that letter are unknown; in fact there is no further mention of Neating anywhere in the Police files after the 5th September. So the question remains did the Metropolitan Police find him? The answer is probably not. A check of the 1901 census for 36 May Street, Cardiff reveals the residents as:
John Clarke, head age 65
Sarah Clarke, wife age 67
George Netting, age 33, Boarder, Blacksmith, born Plymouth, Cornwall.
Mable Netting, age 27, born Newport, Monmouth.
Violet Netting age 11 months, born Cardiff, Glamorgan.
And a look at the Births, Marriages and Deaths registers for 1900 reveal that Violet was registered as Violet Georgina Netting. So his correct name was George Netting, but unfortunately despite extensive searches of police records no George Netting can be found having served with the Metropolitan Police. The father of George's wife was found living in Swindon in 1901. His name was Oliver Wynn and in the 1891 census Mabel was living in Cardiff with her father unmarried. I checked the marriage records from 1891 to 1901 and there was no trace of any marriage between George Netting and Mabel Wynn. The only Mabel Wynn to have been married in this period, was in 1896 to Francis Charles C' Annesley, and it is clear by the marriage certificate that this is the incorrect Mabel Wynn.
I have made a check of the East London newspapers between 1887 and 1890 and the Cardiff and East London newspapers from August to December 1901 without any success. A possible George Netting was found in the 1891 census by Casebook poster Robert Charles Linford. The details of this George Netting:
12 Paget Street, Cardiff. Age 36, Blacksmith, lodger, single, born Plymouth, Devon.
There were only four George Nettings born between 1855 and 1870. One we can discount as he was born in Medway, Kent. The other three are:
George Henry Netting born St Germans, Devon, December quarter 1854.
George Edward William Netting born Stoke Damerel, Devon, June quarter 1859.
George John Richard Netting born Plymouth December quarter 1864.
The first on the list is the George Netting found by Robert Charles Linford. The third according to the 1881 and 1891 was living in Devonport which is next to and in1897 merged with Stoke Damerel, Plymouth and then called just Devonport. This George Netting was married in 1891 to a Caroline. They had two children aged 7 and 5 years, so he is unlikely to be the one we are searching for. The second on the list is so far untraced.
Despite extensive searches, at this moment in time George Netting is a complete mystery.
It wasn't until the 28th October, that the next report was written:
I beg to report that very exhaustive inquires have been made and informants have been interviewed from time to time but I regret to say that not the slightest information has come to light. "Moore" the ex. Deputy is in the Bethnal Green Infirmary (nearly dead) suffering from Phthisis.Thomas Divall, L Inspt
Nearly dead was right, because by the end of the year Henry Moore was dead, cause of death was Phthisis. His wife Maria Moore was living in 10 Paternoster Row. When Inspector Divall spoke to her on 30th December he had this to say about her:
She adheres to her previous statement that she cannot identify the man who slept with Mrs Austin, on the night of the murder, nor can she throw any further light on the matter. I have also kept in touch with persons who use the lodging house and live in the precincts but up till the present not the slightest information can be obtained.
Superintendent Mulvany added:
I am afraid nothing further can be done in this case; any statement made by Mrs Moore would be almost valueless& she is now the only person who could throw any light on the matter as far as we know.
The case was officially closed on the 14th February 1902 in a report written by Inspector Divall and counter signed by Superintendent Mulvany:
I beg to report that since the return of these papers every possible inquiry has been made to obtain further facts in this case but I regret not the slightest clue has come to light.
The man "Austin" has not been seen since the 14th June last, the day after he was discharged at the Police Court, when he was compensated for the damage done to his clothing by the Treasury Expert.
In conclusion was Mary Ann Austin a victim of "Jack the Ripper"? The answer is probably not, as the mutilations between the accepted victims of "Jack the Ripper": Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly are of a very different nature, and in fact there is more of a resemblance to the two earlier murders sometimes alleged to have been committed by "Jack": those of Emma Smith and Martha Tabram. Emma Smith was attacked by three youths at the junction of Osborn Street and Wentworth Street on the night of 2nd April 1888, she had a blunt instrument forced into her vagina. Martha Tabram was attacked on the night of 6th August 1888, she was stabbed thirty-nine times. While it's possible that Martha Tabram may have been a victim of "Jack", it is very unlikely he would have gone from multiple stabbings to mutilating his victims and then back to multiple stabbings again. There is no doubt that the murderer of Mary Ann Austin was disturbed, by Mary Ann herself, and we can only speculate as to how far her murderer had planned to carry on his attack. Also, would "Jack" take someone into a crowded lodging house and murder them? There is evidence that Mary Ann's murderer didn't want to take her into the lodging house but to a public house instead, possibly under false pretences. He may have found the urge to kill was too overwhelming.
While it is unlikely that Mary Ann Austin was murdered by "Jack the Ripper", there is always the possibility that her murderer was responsible for one or more of the earlier murders that were at one time attributed to "Jack", but this is speculation.
From the 28th October onwards, there is no mention of George Netting anywhere in the Police Files. Was he ruled out of the police inquiry? Did they actually find and question him? It is quite clear that he was a very nasty piece of work, and it is important to know what happened to him and also to trace his whereabouts in the autumn of 1888.
The only thing we can be certain of in all of this is what was echoed at the outcome of the inquest:
Murdered by person or persons unknown.
Acknowledgements & Sources
I would like to thank Caroline Ann Morris for proof reading this article and for offering advice and assistance. I would also like to thank the following for their help and advice: Robert Charles Linford, Natalie Severn, Chris Phillips, David O'Flaherty, Robert J. McLaughlin and the staff of the Tower Hamlets Local History Library
Mary Ann Austin
'The East End News' Friday 31 May 1901, Friday 7 June 1901, Friday 14 June 1901 and Friday 21 June 1901.
'The East London Advertiser' Saturday 1 June 1901, Saturday 8 June 1901, Saturday 15 June 1901 and Saturday 22 June 1901.
'The East London Observer' Saturday 1 June 1901
'The Eastern Post' Saturday 1 June 1901 and Saturday 8 June 1901.
'The Penny Illustrated Paper' Saturday 8 June 1901.
'The Times' Thursday 30 May 1901, Monday 3 June 1901, Wednesday 5 June 1901, Wednesday 12 June 1901, Friday 14 June 1901 and Thursday 20 June 1901. '
The Daily Telegraph' Thursday 20 June 1901.
'The Illustrated Police News' Saturday 8 June 1901.
The census returns from 1861 to 1901
'The Complete History of Jack the Ripper' by Phillip Sugden, Robinson 1994.
'Jack the Ripper A-Z' by Paul Begg, Martin Fido and Keith Skinner, Headline 1996.
'The Whitechapel Dossier: Dorset Street and Miller's Court' by The Viper, Ripper Notes and Casebook: Jack the Ripper, Dissertations.
The following Metropolitan Police files were searched for information regarding George Netting:
MEPO 4/339, 21/21, 333-334, 335-336, 337-338, 390, 391, 394, 395, 398, and 399
And thanks to Dan Norder for publishing this article in 'Ripper Notes' number 24, October 2005.