Wednesday, 14 November 1888
Yet another addition has been made to the long list of Whitechapel tragedies, and still without the faintest clue being found to the perpetrator. On Friday morning, about half-past ten o'clock, just as the city had decked itself in flags and garlands for the Lord Mayor's Show, a shocking discovery was made at Miller Court, Dorset-street, Spitalfields. A young man named Bowyer called at one of the rooms for the rent due to his master from an "unfortunate" named Maria Jane Kelley. Failing to make anyone hear, and finding the door locked, he went and informed his employer, who went back with him to the house, and putting his hand through a broken pane in the window pushed back the blind, when the horrid spectacle of a murdered woman met his gaze. The police were quickly summoned, and burst open the door. A terrible scene presented itself. The body of the woman, perfectly nude, was stretched out on the little bed, the clothes on which were saturated with blood. The unfortunate woman had been cut and hacked by the assassin's knife in a manner which was revolting beyond all description. The fiendish assailant was not content with taking the life of his victim by severing the head from the body, but he had exercised an infernal ingenuity in despoiling the corpse of its human semblance. Both ears and the nose had been cut off, and the flesh of the cheeks and forehead peeled off; the breasts were cut away, evidently with a sharp knife, and placed on the table near the bed. The abdomen had been ripped open and disemboweled, portions of the entrails laying about the bed, the liver being placed between the legs. Both thighs had been denuded of flesh, laying bare the bones, and the excised portions laid on the table. One arm was almost severed from the trunk, and one hand thrust inside the empty cavity of the abdomen. Medical assistance was immediately summoned, and a description of the discovery telegraphed to all the metropolitan police-stations in the terse sentence: "The woman is simply cut to pieces." Within a very short time half a dozen cabs arrived in Dorset-street from Whitehall, conveying detectives from the Criminal Investigation Department, among them being Inspectors Abberline and Reid. Never before had so many men been despatched to the scene of a murder from Whitehall. The scene in the narrow courtway leading to the house was one of extraordinary excitement. The whole space was closely packed with detective officers, and quite a small army of plain-clothes constables was located in Dorset-street within an astonishingly short space of time. Dr. Phillips, the divisional surgeon of police, soon arrived, and was followed by Dr. Bond, of Westminster, divisional surgeon of the A Division, and Dr. J. R. Gabe, of Mecklenburgh-square, and two or three other surgeons. They made a preliminary examination of the body, and sent for a photographer, who took several photographs of the remains. Meanwhile the excitement in the neighbourhood was spreading, until the dwellers in the immediate locality became worked up into a perfect frenzy. Women rushed about the streets telling their neighbours the news, and giving utterance in angry voices to expressions of rage and indignation. Notwithstanding the stolid reticence of all the police engaged at the scene, the main facts of the crime soon became common knowledge, and, spreading far and wide, drew a great concourse of the people to the thoroughfare from which the court runs. Great efforts were made at first to keep the side of Dorset-street clear in the vicinity of Miller-court, in the expectation that bloodhounds might have to be employed; but though it is understood that a telegram asking for them was sent to Sir Charles Warren, they were not sent.
The Central News states, upon indisputable authority, that no portion of the murdered woman's body was taken away. A post-mortem examination was held by the medical authorities summoned by the police, and the surgeons did not quit their work until every organ had been accounted for, and placed as closely as possible in its natural position. In the case of his Mitre-square victim, a woman picked up in the street and murdered in the open air, the murderer's motive in endeavouring to render the features unrecognisable can readily be understood. But he could scarcely suppose that the identity of a woman renting the room as a regular lodger, and well known in the immediate locality of the crime, would fail to be capable of comparatively easy proof. It is therefore assumed by experts that the cutting off of the nose and ears and the slashing of the cheeks in this case were done in a transport of mad ferocity to which monomanics are often subject.
Considerable doubt prevails as to the time at which the murder was committed. The discovery was made at half past ten o'clock, and it was at first stated that the woman had been seen as late as eight o'clock that morning, when she went to fetch some milk. That, however, appears to be a mistake, and the opinion of medical men who have examined the body is that in all probability the crime was committed between two and three o'clock in the morning. A woman named Kennedy, who was, on the night of the murder, staying with her parents at a house situated in the court immediately opposite the room in which the body of Mary Kelly was found, states that about three o'clock on Friday morning she entered Dorset-street on her way home. She noticed three persons at the corner of the street near the Britannia publichouse. There was a man - a young man, respectably dressed, and with a dark moustache - talking to a woman whom she did not know, and also a female poorly clad, and without any head gear. The man and woman appeared to be the worse for liquor, and she heard the man say, "Are you coming?" whereupon the woman, who appeared to be obstinate, turned in an opposite direction to which the man apparently wished her to go. Mrs. Kennedy went on her way, and nothing unusual occurred until about half an hour later. She did not retire to rest immediately she reached home, but sat up, and between half-past three and a quarter to four she heard a cry of "Murder" in a woman's voice proceed from the direction in which Mary Kelly's room was situated. As the cry was not repeated, she took no further notice of the circumstances until the morning, when she found the police in possession of the place, preventing all egress to the occupants of the small houses in this court. When questioned by the police, she made a statement to the above effect. She has since supplemented that statement by the following: -"On Wednesday evening, about eight o'clock, I and my sister were in the neighbourhood of Bethnal-green-road, when we were accosted by a very suspicious-looking man about 40 years of age. He was about five feet seven inches high, wore a short jacket, over which he had a long top-coat. He had a black moustache, and wore a billycock hat. He invited us to accompany him into a lonely spot, as he was known about there, and there was a policeman looking at him." She asserts that no policeman was in sight. He made several strange remarks, and appeared to be agitated. He was very white in the face, and made every endeavour to prevent them looking him straight in the face. He carried a black bag. He avoided walking with them, and led the way into a very dark thoroughfare, at the back of the workhouse, inviting them to follow, which they did. He then pushed open a small door in a pair of large gates, and requested one of them to follow him remarking, "I only want one of you," whereupon the women became suspicious. He acted in a very strange and suspicious manner, and refused to leave his bag in possession of one of the women. They became alarmed at his actions, and escaped, at the same time raising an alarm of "Jack the Ripper." A gentleman who was passing intercepted the man, while the women made their escape. Mrs. Kennedy asserts that the man whom she saw on Friday morning with the woman at the corner of Dorset-street resembled very closely the individual who caused such alarm on Wednesday night, and that she would recognise him again if confronted with him.
A gentleman engaged in business in the vicinity of the murder stated on Sunday that he was walking through Mitre-square at about ten minutes past ten on Friday morning, when a tall, well-dressed man, carrying a parcel under his arm, and rushing along in a very excited manner, ran into him. The man's face was covered with blood splashes, and his collar and shirt were also blood-stained. The gentleman did not at the time know anything of the murder.
The young man, with whom the deceased had recently been living, gave himself up to the police on Friday, and was able satisfactorily to account for his movements on Thursday night. A pilot-coat found in the deceased's room has also been accounted for.
The inquest on the body was held at the Shoreditch Town Hall, on Monday, before Dr. Macdonald, M.P. Describing the proceedings, the Daily News says: The first witness was Joseph Barnet [Barnett]. He had lived with the deceased for a year and eight months, and appeared to be in pretty full possession of all the main facts in the unhappy woman's history. A very deplorable history it proved to be. She had been married at 16 to a Welsh collier, who was killed in an explosion. She had then gone to Cardiff with a cousin, who, the witness said, had been the cause of her downfall, and from there had come to London, to a Madam somebody in the West-end. A gentleman had then taken her to France, and from France, after a short time, she came over to Ratcliff Highway. Subsequently she had lived with two men in succession, to the latter of whom she had been greatly attached. He (the witness) had met her casually in Whitechapel, they had had a drink together, and arranged the compact which seems to have held good till the 30th of last month, when, out of compassion, she had taken into her room an immoral woman, and over this they quarrelled and parted. The main interest of this man's story runs in the gruesome light it threw on a profligate career of eight short years. It did nothing [to] elucidate the mystery of her death, nor indeed did any of the evidence given. Through the phantasmagoria of the Coroner's Court there did indeed flit figures, probably more or less apocryphal, of men who might have done the deed. One doleful-looking little body, with a negress-type of features, told how she and and another had been frightened by a mysterious stranger who had tried to lure them by the offer of money into a retired spot; but they both took to their heels and ran away. Not much importance was to be attached to this testimony, probably, nor to that of one or two others who had seen men under suspicious circumstances. Perhaps the most sensational bit of evidence tendered was that of a garrulous young woman who, with some dramatic force, imitated by voice and action a sort of nightmare cry of "Oh! murder!" which she declared she had heard just after she had been woke up by her kitten rubbing its nose against her face about half-past three or four o'clock on the morning of the murder. It was a faintish cry, she said, as though somebody had woke up with the nightmare, and though the evidence must be taken with the reserve that should attach to all such testimony, the time at which she believes she heard the cry would tally very well with all the circumstances of the case, and it is not impossible that that really was the death gasp of the poor woman in the clutches of her murderer. Some confirmation is added to this supposition by the evidence of another witness, Sarah Lewis, who lived a short distance off, but had had some falling out at home, and went to stay the night with a friend at Miller's-court, where she sat and dozed in a chair. She woke up about 3:30 by Spitalfields Church clock, and a little before four o'clock - agreeing with this with the other witness - she also heard one cry of "Murder!". She, however, says it was a loud shout, whereas another witness, who was awake the whole of the night, and who believes she must have heard any such cry if it had been made, swore that she heard not a sound. As to the evidence of the woman Caroline Maxwell, who swore that she saw the deceased at eight or nine o'clock on Friday morning, that is regarded by the police as merely an error of date. No doubt she did see the woman, and spoke to her as she stated, but on Thursday morning instead of Friday. Nothing was said as to the probable time of the murder, but we have reason to believe that the conclusion arrived at by several medical men who were on the spot shortly after the discovery of the body was that the deed had been done certainly not later than six or seven on Friday morning, and it might have been a good deal earlier. Inspector Abberline, of the Scotland-yard detectives, in reply to questions as to the probable reason of certain articles of clothing having been burnt in Kelly's grate, expressed his belief that they had been burnt to light the murderer in his ghastly work. Dr. Phillips's evidence was conclusive as to the cause of death. It had resulted from the severance of the right carotid artery; and, after the throat had been cut, the body, said the doctor, must have been removed from one side of the bed to the other. As to the mutilation of the body, no evidence was given beyond that of the death wound; and, as Dr. Phillips's evidence was absolutely conclusive as to the cause of death, and the police had no testimony to produce indicating the criminal, Dr. Macdonald put it to the jury whether it was necessary to go any further. He did not wish unduly to influence them, but all they had to do was to determine the cause of the woman's death, and if they thought that had been sufficiently proved, there would be no occasion for an adjournment. After a brief deliberation the jury came unanimously to the conclusion that they had carried the inquiry far enough, and that the matter might now be left in the hands of the police. They accordingly returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown."
On Monday evening the police received information of a most important nature, which not only establishes a clue to the perpetrator of the Dorset-street murder, but places the authorities in possession of an accurate and full description of a person who was seen in company with the murdered woman during the night on which she met her death. A man, apparently of the labouring class, but of a military appearance, who knew the deceased, on Monday night lodged with the police a long and detailed statement of an incident which attracted his attention on the day in question. The following is a summary of the statement, and it may be said that notwithstanding examination and re-examination by the police, the man's story cannot be shaken, and so circumstantial and straightforward were his assertions that the police believe they have at length been placed in possession of facts which will open up a new line of investigation, and probably enable them to track the criminal. This man states that on the morning of the 9th instant he saw the deceased woman, Mary Janet Kelley, in Commercial-street, Spitalfields (the vicinity where the murder was committed), in company with a man of respectable appearance. The man was about 5 feet 6 inches in height, and 34 or 35 years of age, with dark complexion and dark moustache curled up at the ends. He was wearing a long dark coat trimmed with astrachan, a white collar with black necktie, in which was affixed a horseshoe pin. He wore a pair of dark gaiters with light buttons, over button boots, and displayed from his waistcoat a massive gold chain. The highly respectable appearance of this individual was in such great contrast to that of the woman that few people could have failed to remark them at that hour of the morning. This description, which substantiates that given by others of the person seen in company with the deceased on the morning she was killed, is much fuller in detail than that hitherto in the possession of the police, and the importance they attach to this man's story may be imagined when it is mentioned that it was forwarded to the headquarters of the H Division as soon as completed by a special detective. Detective Abberline, Nairn, and Moore were present when this message arrived, and an investigation was immediately set on foot.
An inquiry has been made to elicit the facts with reference to the non-employment of bloodhounds immediately the tragedy of Dorset-street was discovered. It appears that, at Sir Charles Warren's request, Mr. Brough, the well-known bloodhound breeder, of Scarborough, was communicated with shortly after the Mitre-square and Berner-street outrages, and asked to bring a couple of trained hounds up to London for the purpose of testing their capabilities in the way of following the scent of the man. The hounds were named Burgho and Barnaby, and in one of the trials Sir Charles Warren himself acted as the quarry, and expressed satisfaction, at the result. Arrangements were made for the immediate conveyance of the animals to the spot in the event of another murder occurring, and in order to facilitate matters Mr. Brough, who was compelled to return to Scarborough, left the hounds in the care of a friend of his, Mr. Taunton, of Doughty-street, who was entrusted with their custody pending the conclusion of the negotiations which had been opened for the ultimate purchase of the dogs. Sir Charles Warren, however, would not give any definite assurance on this point, and Mr. Brough insisted on resuming possession of the animals. One of them, Burgho, was sent to a show at Brighton, the other remaining in Mr. Taunton's custody. About a fortnight ago this gentleman received a telegram from Leman-street Police-station, asking him to bring the dog to assist in discovering the perpetrators of a burglary in Commercial-street. The police then admitted that subsequently to the burglary they had been all over the premises, and Mr. Taunton pointed out to them that it was absurd to expect that the bloodhounds could accomplish anything under such conditions. The owner of the dogs, on learning these facts, telegraphed peremptorily insisting that Barnaby should be returned to him at once, having in view the danger of the hound being poisoned if it was known that the police were employing it to track burglars - and Mr. Brough had no guarantee of compensation in case of the animal suffering maltreatment. From these circumstances it will be seen that there has been no trained bloodhound in the metropolis at any time during the past fortnight. The Whitechapel officials themselves were not aware of this fact, for their first thought on receiving the intelligence of the murder was to leave the room absolutely undisturbed until the hounds should be brought on the scene, and it was only when they learnt that there were no bloodhounds to be had that an entrance was effected into the chamber.
Mrs. McCarthy, the wife of the landlord of the house where the murder occurred, has received a postcard bearing the Folkestone postmark, and signed "Jack Sheridan, the Ripper." In bad spelling and equally bad caligraphy, the writer said, "Don't be alarmed. I am going to do another; but this time it will be a mother and daughter." The postcard, unlike any of the previous communications of a similar character, was written in black ink, and the writing did not bear any resemblance to that of previous communications. It was at once handed over to the detectives.
Replying to a question addressed to him by Mr. Conybeare, in the House of Commons on Monday, the Home Secretary announced that Sir Charles Warren, on the 8th inst., tendered his resignation as Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and the resignation had been accepted.
The Press Association learns "on the highest authority" that the relations between Sir Charles Warren and the Home Office have for some time been strained. The action of the department in reference to the resignation of Mr. Monro caused the first serious difference of opinion. Sir Charles took exception to certain of the methods of the Assistant Commissioner, and he intimated to Mr. Matthews that either he or Mr. Monro must resign. A few days afterwards Mr. Monro's resignation was announced. Sir Charles complains that Mr. Monro's resignation was accepted without consultation with him, and that prior to the Home Secretary's statement in the House of Commons on Monday evening he (Sir Charles Warren) was not even aware of the reason assigned by his subordinate for severing his connection with Scotland-yard. Since Mr. Monro's transference to the Home Office matters have become worse. Sir Charles complains that, whereas he has been saddled with all the responsibility, he has had no freedom of action, and in consequence his position has become daily more unbearable. Although Mr. Monro has been no longer in evidence at Whitehall-place, he has to all intents and purposes retained control of the Criminal Investigation Department. Indeed, Mr. Matthews on Monday evening admitted that he was deriving the benefit of the advice of Mr. Monro in matters relating to crime, and was in communication with him at the present time on the subject of the organization of the detective staff. This division of authority Sir Charles Warren has strenuously fought against. He maintains that if the Commissioner is to be responsible for the discipline of the force instructions should be given to no department without his concurrence. Latterly, in spite of the remonstrances of Sir Charles Warren, the control of the Criminal Investigation Department has been withdrawn more and more from Whitehall Place. Every morning for the last few weeks there has been a protracted conference at the Home Office between Mr. Monro, Mr. Anderson, and the principal detective inspectors, and the information furnished to the Commissioner in regard to those conferences has been, he states, of the scantiest character. These facts will explain how, apart from any other consideration, it was impossible for Sir Charles Warren, holding the views he did in regard to the functions of the Commissioner, to continue in command. The reproof of the Home Secretary last week in reference to the article in Murray's Magazine completed the rupture. Sir Charles thereupon took counsel with his friends, and immediately tendered his resignation to the Home Secretary. On Monday morning his books and papers were removed from the Commissioner's office, and this was the first intimation in Whitehall-place that he had relinquished the position.