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Inquest: Pinchin Street Torso
Day 1, Wednesday, September 11th, 1889
(The Times, Thursday, September 12th, 1889)

    Yesterday [11 Sep] Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for the South-Eastern Division of the County of London, opened his inquiry at the Vestry Hall, Cable-street, St. George's-in-the East, concerning the death of a woman unknown, a portion of whose remains was found under a railway arch in Pinchin-street, Whitechapel, on Tuesday morning [10 Sep].

    Detective Inspectors E. Reid and Moore watched the case on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department.

    The jury having viewed the body, which was lying in the St. George's mortuary,
Police-constable William Pennett, 239 H, deposed: - I went on duty at 10 o'clock on Monday night. Nothing attracted my attention that was unusual. I was on a regular beat during the night and morning. I had to go through Pinchin-street about every half-hour. I entered it from Christian-street and Backchurch-lane. I occasionally turned down Frederick-street to where the stables were. I then returned to Pinchin-street. Once or twice I cut it short, and simply went into Backchurch-lane. About 25 minutes past 5, I came from the direction of Christian-street to Pinchin-street. I went across the road from the northern side, in the direction of the railway arch, and had no particular reason for so doing. As I was crossing I saw, in the arch, something that appeared to be a bundle. The arch, which was filled with stones belonging to the Whitechapel District Board of Works, led on to a piece of waste ground, on which were three arches abutting onto Pinchin-street. Two of these arches were closed in with fencing to some considerable height. In front of the arch that I first referred to there remained only the uprights of some fencing, which had been taken away. The archway had a large quantity of paving stones in it, and these were piled up. There was also a carriage entrance to the arch from Backchurch-lane. The bundle was, I should say, from four to five yards in the archway, measuring from the pavement. The bundle was near the wall of the arch, on the western side. On going up to it I found that it was a portion of a human body. It was covered by two or three pieces of rag, but what these were I could not say at the time. With the exception of these it was naked. I noticed that the head had been taken from the body, and that the legs were missing. The trunk was lying on the stomach, with the shoulders towards the west. It was very dusty inside the arch, but I did not notice any marks of wheels or footprints. I do not think the impression of footprints would show. There were no clots of blood about. I did not blow my whistle, as I thought it might cause a crowd to assemble. Knowing it was a lifeless body I waited a minute or two. A man came along with a broom on his shoulder. I said to him, "You might go and fetch my mate at the corner." He replied, "What's on, governor?" I answered, "Tell him I have got a job on. Make haste." The man then went up Backchurch-lane towards the adjoining beat. I next saw two constables running towards me. Constable 205 H was acting sergeant at the time, and he was the first to get up to me, and Constable 115 H was behind him. I said to 205 H, "You had better go and see the inspector, as there is a dead body here." He ran away in the direction of the station, and 115 H remained with me. It was not very long before I saw Inspector Pinhorn, who at once gave directions for the arches to be searched.
THE CORONER. - Had you seen any one pass at that time? No; I made a search and found two men; apparently sailors, asleep in the last arch. They were a short distance apart from one another. They were in the farthest of the three arches from Backchurch-lane. In the middle arch there was a shoeblack lying on the stones. He was also asleep, and I woke him up. Only one of the sailors was asleep. I am not certain whether the other one was asleep or not, as he had a pipe in his mouth. The three were taken to the station.
[Coroner]Did they make any statement? - They made none to me.
[Coroner]Can you fix the time when you passed this place before? Before 5, Sir. I am sure of that, as I called a working man just before 5. At that time I was on the northern side of Pinchin-street. I looked into the arch on that occasion, and at the time day was breaking. Had the body been there then I should have seen it.
[Coroner]You did not see it? - No, Sir.
[Coroner]After you left Pinchin-street on that occasion, in which direction did you go? Up Backchurch-lane and into Ellen-place. From there I got round to Christian-street.
[Coroner]Did you see any one with a bundle? - No, Sir. I did not see a costermonger's cart about. I saw a barrow in Spildts-street. It had a board on it, and had been there the whole time I was on duty. I saw no other cart or vehicle about, with the exception of those coming out of Christian-street, which belonged to Messrs. Fairclough. These started soon after 4 o'clock in the morning. I did not see any of these come down Pinchin-street. These vans went in all directions, and I can't say if any of them went into Cable-street.
[Coroner]What time did the doctor arrive? - Dr. Clark, assistant divisional surgeon, arrived within half-an-hour after I found the body. It was after 6 o'clock when the body was removed to the mortuary.
[Coroner]Is this arch often used for sleeping purposes? - I cannot say. It was the first time I have been on the beat. There was a change of duty.
By the jury. - I should think the body had been carried to the arch in a sack or something of that description, and then taken out and placed where it was found. Had it been dragged along I should have seen marks of a trail in the dust.
The Foreman. - Did the ground appear to have been disturbed? - No. Had the body been "shot" out the neck would have been covered with dust. There was no appearance of any dirt on the blood [sic].
By Inspector Reid. - There were a lot of stones as well as dust in the arch, and had there been a struggle there I might not have seen any signs of its having taken place.
[Coroner]Had you seen a man carrying a bundle, would you have stopped him? - Certainly, and any other constable would have done the same. We stop all suspicious persons. I only called up one person that morning, and he asked me to call him between 10 and 11 on the previous night. He asked me to call him all the week at the same time. That is a very common occurrence on some beats.

Inspector Charles Pinhorn, H Division, said, - Shortly after half-past 5 on Tuesday morning I was called to the railway arch, and went to the spot at once. When I arrived two constables were there, and I ordered and assisted in a search. Statements were taken from the men who were found in the arches. I had the street cleared of persons who were passing through on their way to work. The statements of the men, with the exception that the body was not there when they entered the arches, had no bearing on the case. Two of the men went into the arch at 4 in the morning, and the other one at 2 o'clock. The arches were used by casuals, and as far as possible they were prevented from doing so by the police. Night after night people were turned out. The class of persons who used the arches and were accustomed to the neighbourhood would know there was a probability of persons being in the arches. The ground belonged to the Whitechapel District Board of Works, and was got in exchange for another piece of ground. It was used for stone-breaking. The police had no right there, as it was private property. At the same time all isolated spots were searched during the night-time by the police. The arches were fully open to the road, but, with the exception of this one, were guarded with some hoarding, which, however, was only of a temporary character. No constable on duty near the spot on Tuesday morning saw any one with a bundle. A bundle of that nature, if seen, would have certainly attracted attention. Costermongers' barrows would not have been passing in that direction, but in quite another direction. Those going to Spitalfields Market would not leave until after 6 o'clock. A general search of the whole neighbourhood had taken place, but up to the present time there was no clue at all. The men found in the arches stated that they saw no bundle when they entered, but their condition might have been such as to cause them not to notice it, even supposing it to have been there. There was a lamp about 9ft. away, and the light from it would have been sufficient to show the bundle during night-time. The condition of the trunk was such as it would have been had it been carried in a sack. The arms were close to the body and the hands close to the abdomen. The left hand was evidently resting where the gash was. There was no dust or sawdust on the back. The body was lying breast downwards. The chemise was entire, although at first site it had the appearance of being in pieces, as it had been cut open from top to bottom. The arm holes were cut right up to the neck. There was no name on the garment or lettering of any kind.
By the jury. - I do not think the costermongers' barrows commence their return from Billingsgate before half-past 5. The men who were found in the other two arches would have to pass the one in which the body was found. The front of the arches near Pinchin-street where the men were found was some 30 yards from the spot where the body was discovered by the constable.
Detective-inspector Reid said: - I have interrogated the three men myself, and have no doubt they were drunk when they entered the arch. Inquiries are being made about all the barrows in the neighbourhood.
THE CORONER said Dr. Clark was at the present time engaged at the Old Bailey, and Dr. Phillips had not yet concluded his examination.

He [The Coroner] proposed that the inquiry should be adjourned until Tuesday the 24th inst. This was accordingly done.


Day 2, Tuesday, September 24th, 1889
(The Times, Wednesday, September 25th, 1889)

    Yesterday [24 Sep] Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for the South-Eastern Division of Middlesex, resumed his adjourned inquiry at the Vestry Hall, Cable-street, St. George's-in-the East, respecting the finding of the body of a woman, unknown, under a railway arch in Pinchin-street, St. George's, on the 10th inst.

    Superintendent T. Arnold and Detective-inspectors Moore and E. Reid watched the case on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department.
Mr. J. Clarke, surgeon, said - I am assistant to the divisional surgeon. A little before 6 a.m. on the 10th inst. I was called by the police to Pinchin-street. Under a railway arch there, about 8 ft. from the road and about 1 ft. from the right wall of the arch, I saw the trunk of a woman, minus the head and legs. It was lying on its anterior surface, with the right arm doubled under the abdomen. The left arm was lying under the left side. The arms were not severed from the body. There was no pool of blood, and there were no signs of any struggle having taken place there. On moving the body I found that there was a little blood underneath where the neck had lain. It was small in quantity and not clotted. The blood had oozed from the cut surface of the neck. Over the surface of the neck and the right shoulder were the remnants of what had been a chemise. It was of common length and such a size as would be worn by a woman of similar build to the trunk found. It had been torn down the front, and had been cut from the front of the armholes on each side. The cuts had apparently been made with a knife. The chemise was bloodstained nearly all over, from being wrapped over the back surface of the neck. There was no clotted blood on it. I could find no distinguishing mark on the chemise. Rigor mortis was not present. Decomposition was just commencing. The body was lifted, in my presence, on to the ambulance and taken to the St. George's mortuary by constables. On re-examining it there I found the body appeared to be that of a woman of stoutish build, dark complexion, about 5ft. 3in. in height, and between 30 and 40 years of age. I should think the body had been dead at least 24 hours. Besides the wounds caused by the severance of the head and legs, there was a wound 15ins. long through the external coat of the abdomen. The body was not bloodstained, except where the chemise had rested upon it. The body had not the appearance of having been recently washed. On the back there were four bruises, all caused before death. There was one over the spine, on a level with the lower part of the shoulder blade. It was about the size of a shilling. An inch lower down there was a similar bruise, about the middle of the back, also on the spine, and that was a bruise about the size of a half-a-crown. On the level of the top of the hip bone was a bruise 2 1/2ins. in diameter. It was such a bruise as would be caused by a fall or a kick. None of the bruises were of old standing. Round the waist was a pale mark and indentation, such as would be caused by clothing during life. On the right arm there were eight distinct bruises and seven on the left, all of them caused before death and of recent date. The back of both forearms and hands were much bruised. On the outer side of the left forearm, about 3in. above the wrist, was a cut about 2in. in length, and half an inch lower down was another cut. These were caused after death. The bruises on the right arm were such as would be caused by the arms having been tightly grasped. The hands and nails were pallid. The hands did not exhibit any particular kind of work.

Dr. George Bagster Phillips said, - I live at 2, Spital-square, and am divisional surgeon. I first examined the body at 6 o'clock on the day the remains were found. I confirm, so far as I have observed, the evidence given by my colleague, Mr. Clarke, who was present when I first examined the body. The next morning at 10 o'clock, in the presence of Dr. Gordon Brown and Mr. Hibberd, I further examined the body. Having described the nature of the cuts by which the head and limbs had been separated, witness continued:- The marks on the fingers had fairly healed, and had evidently been in a process of healing for some time previous to death. The pallor of the hands and nails is an important element in enabling me to draw a conclusion as to the cause of death. I agree with the remarks of Mr. Clarke as regards the marks on the arms. I found the length of the trunk to be 2ft. 2in., and the measurement round the nipple 34in., and below the breast 31 3/4in. The length of hand was 6 1/2in. The weight of the body, taken with a balance which was not exactly accurate, was 67lb. There was throughout the body an absence of blood in the vessels. The right lung was adherent, except at the base; the left lung free, and, taking them both together, fairly competent. All the other organs, except the spleen and the liver, were fairly healthy. The live weighed 50oz. In my opinion it was diseased and fatty before death.
THE CORONER. - Did the stomach show any irritation? - It did not strike one with any particular disease, or the presence of any poison. I believe that death arose from loss of blood. I believe the mutilation to have been subsequent to death, that the mutilations were effected by some one accustomed to cut up animals or to see them cut up, and that the incisions were effected by a strong knife 8in. or more long.
THE CORONER. - Is there anything to show where the loss of blood occurred? - Not in the remains; but the supposition that presents itself to my mind is that there was a former incision of the neck, which had disappeared with the subsequent separation of the head.
THE CORONER. - The loss of blood could not have come from either the lungs of the stomach? -Certainly not the stomach, and I could not trace any sign of its coming from the lungs. I have a strong opinion that it did not.
[Coroner] The woman did not die of phthisis? - There was no tubercle, but the top part of the lung was diseased. The draining of the blood from the body was such that it must have been a main artery that was severed? - Undoubtedly; and was almost as thorough as it could be although not so great as I have seen in some cases of cut throats.
By the jury. - What I found in the stomach was fresh plums. I have no reason for thinking that the person who cut up the body had any anatomical knowledge.

Michael Keating said, - I live at 1, Osborn-street, Brick-lane, and am a licensed shoeblack. On the night of the 9th inst. between 11 and 12 o'clock, I went to sleep in the railway arch in Pinchin-street. I went there because I had not the price of my lodgings. When I went there I did not see any one, and neither did I see anything under the arch. I was not sober. I do not remember noticing anybody in particular, but there were some people about Pinchin-street when I went in. I soon fell asleep, and was not awoke during the night. The police woke me up, and when I came out of the arch I noticed the trunk of a body in the next arch. An inspector was in the act of covering it up with a sack in which I kept my blacking-box. I could not say if I was sober enough to have noticed the body if it had been there when I went in. I did not go into the railway arch in which it was found. I do not remember any one else coming into the arch in which I was, but when I woke I saw two more men coming out of the other side. I had never slept there before. I happened to be passing by, and, finding the arch open and thinking it was a quiet place, I went in to have a sleep.

Richard Hawke stated, - I am a seaman, and live at St. Ives, in Cornwall. I was paid off in London some seven or eight weeks ago, and have since been in Greenwich Hospital. I came out of the hospital last Monday fortnight, and at the time had no money. I walked up to London, and knocked about the streets until 20 minutes past 4 the next morning. I then went to have a rest under the railway arch. At that time I did not know the name of the street. It was very dark at the time. I was not exactly sober. I had about three pints of beer about shutting-up time. I know the time because a policeman who was close by told me. When I entered the arch I did not see anything. I think I lay down on the right-hand side of the arch in which I slept. There was another man with me when I went in, and he was in just about the same condition. To get to the arch in which we slept we had to go through the one in which the body was found, and did not see anything there at that time. The other man with me was a seaman, and I picked him up in a publichouse somewhere near the Sailor's Home. During the night I did not see or hear any one, and I was awoke by the police.

Jeremiah Hurley deposed, - I live at 10 Annibal-place, Annibal-street, and am a carman, and am in the employ of John Smithers, of Well-street. A policeman called me at 5 o'clock, and I am always called in that manner. When there is a change of policemen they continue to call me. I have to be at work at half-past 5. On the morning of the 10th inst. I left home at 25 minutes to 6. As I was coming round Phillip-street into Pinchin-street I saw a man, who had the appearance of a tailor, standing at the corner of Pinchin-street. The man appeared as though he was waiting to go to work. I saw no one else until I got to the arch where the body was lying. I there saw an inspector and an officer in plain clothes. At that time the body had been found.

Detective-Inspector Henry Moore said, - I have charge of this case under the direction of Superintendent Arnold. I produce a plan of Pinchin-street and surrounding neighbourhood, and it is an accurate one. The red cross on the plan denotes the position in which the body was found. Every effort had been made to identify the body, but without success. There was nothing to show how the body came there or who placed it in the position in which it was found. I have had the chemise that was found on the body cleansed, and I now produce it. (The chemise was 37in. in length, common material, and stitched, but certainly not by an experienced needlewoman. It had evidently been home-made by a poor person.)

The CORONER here read a statement taken down by the police from the man who was sleeping with Hurley, and it simply corroborated the latter's evidence.

The CORONER. - I should like to ask Dr. Phillips whether there is any similarity in the cutting off of the legs in this case and the one that was severed from the woman in Dorset-street? Dr. Phillips. - I have not noticed any sufficient similarity to convince me it was the person who committed both mutilations, but the division of the neck and attempt to disarticulate the bones of the spine are very similar to that which was effected in this case. The savagery shown by the mutilated remains in the Dorset-street case far exceeded that shown in this case. The mutilations in the Dorset-street case were most wanton, whereas in this case it strikes me that they were made for the purpose of disposing of the body. I wish to say that these are mere points that strike me without any comparative study of the other case, except those afforded by partial notes that I have with me. I think in this case there has been greater knowledge shown in regard to the construction of the parts composing the spine, and on the whole there has been a greater knowledge shown of how to separate a joint.

The CORONER, in summing up, observed that they had not been able to produce any evidence as to the identity of the deceased, but the evidence of both medical gentlemen engaged in the case clearly showed that the unfortunate woman had died a violent death. It was a matter of congratulation that the present case did not appear to have any connexion with the previous murders that had taken place in the district, and the body might have, for ought they knew to the contrary, been brought from the West-end and deposited where it was found.

The jury at once returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown."


Related pages:
  Pinchin Street Torso
       Dissertations: The Thames Torso Murders of 1887-89 
       Message Boards: The Pinchin Street Murder 
       Press Reports: Decatur Daily Despatch - 11 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Decatur Daily Despatch - 12 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Decatur Daily Republican - 12 September 1889 
       Press Reports: East London Advertiser - 14 September 1889 
       Press Reports: East London Advertiser - 21 September 1889 
       Press Reports: East London Advertiser - 28 September 1889 
       Press Reports: East London Observer - 14 September 1889 
       Press Reports: East London Observer - 28 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Eastern Post - 14 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Eastern Post - 28 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Freeborn County Standard - 19 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Galveston Daily News - 12 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Gettysburg Complier - 17 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Lima Daily Times - 11 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Lima Daily Times - 12 September 1889 
       Press Reports: New York Herald - 11 September 1889 
       Press Reports: New York Times - 11 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Newark Daily Advocate - 25 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Olean Democrat - 12 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Times - 11 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 12 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 13 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 14 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 25 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Trenton Times - 10 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Trenton Times - 11 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Trenton Times - 12 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Walthamstow and Leyton Guardian - 14 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Williamsport Sunday Grit - 15 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Woodford Times - 13 September 1889 
       Press Reports: Woodford Times - 27 September 1889 
       Victims: The Pinchin Street Murder 
       Victorian London: Pinchin Street 
       Witnesses: John Arnold