3 September 1888
THEORY OF THE CRIME
Up to a late hour last evening the police had obtained no positive clue to the perpetrator of the latest of the three murders which have so recently taken place in Whitechapel. The murder committed in the early hours of Friday morning of the woman now known as Mary Ann Nicholls has so many points of similarity with the murders of the two other women in the same neighbourhood - one, Martha Turner, as recently as 7th August, and the other less than twelve months previously - that the police admit their belief that the three crimes are the work of one individual. All three women were of the same class, and each of them was so poor that robbery could have formed no motive for the crime. The three murders were committed within a distance of 200 yards of each other. In the earliest case a thrust into the body sufficed to cause the victim's death, in the second some 30 stabs were inflicted before Martha Turner was left to die on the door steps of the model dwellings in George yard, and in the latest case the woman was so violently attacked that she was nearly disembowelled. These facts have led the police almost to abandon the idea of a gang being abroad to wreak vengeance on women for not supplying them with money. Detective Inspector Abberline, of the Criminal Investigation Department, and Detective Inspector Helson, J Division, are both of opinion that only one person, and that a man, had a hand in the latest murder. It is understood that the investigation into the George Yard mystery is proceeding hand in hand with that of Buck's row. If any doubt existed as to the identity of the murdered woman after the evidence of her father at the inquest - a report of which will be found below - it was removed to the satisfaction of the police in Saturday night. The husband visited the mortuary, and on viewing the corpse, identified it as that of his wife, from whom he had been separated eight years. He stated that she was nearly 44 years of age, but it must be owned that she looked nearly ten years younger, as indeed the police at first described the body. The husband, who was greatly affected, exclaimed on recognising the body, "I forgive you, as you are, for what you have been to me." He removed one element of doubt in the case - i.e. whether she had been assaulted and her teeth knocked out, as stated, prior to being murdered. The absence of the front teeth was, he said, of old standing. Mr. William Nichols, who lives near Old Kent road, is a journeyman printer.
Inspector Helson, at an interview yesterday evening, said that the report that blood stains were found leading from Brady street to Buck's row was not true. The place was examined by Sergeant Enright and himself on Friday morning, and neither bloodstains nor wheel marks were found to indicate that the body had been deposited where found, the murder being committed elsewhere. Both himself and Inspector Abberline, indeed, had come to the conclusion that it was committed on the spot. That conclusion was fortified by the post mortem examination made by Dr. Llewellyn. At first the small quantity of blood found on the spot suggested that the woman was murdered in a neighbouring house. Dr. Llewellyn, however, is understood to have satisfied himself that the great quantity of blood which must have followed the gashes in the abdomen flowed into the abdominal cavity, but he maintains his opinion that the first wounds were those in the throat, and they would have effectually prevented any screaming. The blood from those wounds Inspector Helson considers was held by the dress and the ulster, and it is evident, from that view of the matter, that the woman was lying on her back when her throat was cut. It is, moreover, considered unlikely that the woman could have entered a house, have been murdered, and have been removed to Buck's row within a period of an hour and a quarter. The woman who last saw the deceased alive - and whose name is Nelly Holland - was a fellow lodger with the deceased in Thrawl street, and is positive as to the time being 2.30. Police constable Neil, 79 J, who found the body, reports the time as 3.45. Buck's row is a comparatively secluded place, having tenements on one side only. There is little doubt that the constable was watched out of the street on his previous round. He has been severely questioned as to his "working" of his "beat" on that night, and states that he was last on the spot where he found the body not more than half an hour previously - that is to say, at 3.15. The "beat" is a very short one, and, quickly walked over, would not occupy more than twelve minutes. He neither heard a cry not saw a soul. Moreover, there are three watchmen on duty at night close to the spot and neither one heard a cry to cause alarm. It is not true, says Constable Neil, who is a man of nearly 20 years' service, that he was called to the body by two men. He came upon it as he walked, and, flashing his lanthorn to examine it he was answered by the lights from two other constables at either end of the street. These officers had seen no man leaving the spot to attract attention, and the mystery is most complete. Nevertheless, the utmost efforts are being used, a number of plain clothes men being out making inquiries in the neighbourhood, and Sergeants Wright and Godley have interviewed many persons who might, it was thought, assist in giving a clue. The inquest is to be resumed today, but must rather hamper the action of the police, whose whole time is required to trace any information whilst the scent, if any, is still fresh. The deceased, it is understood, will be buried tomorrow.
On Saturday afternoon Mr. Wynne Baxter, coroner for East Middlesex, opened the inquest at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel.
Edward Walker, an old man, residing at 16 Maidwood street, Albany road, Camberwell, said that he was formerly a smith. To the best of his belief the body at the mortuary was that of his daughter, whom he had not seen for three years. He recognised it by the general appearance, the loss of some front teeth, and a small mark on the forehead, caused when the deceased was a child. She was 42 years old. About 22 years ago she was married to a man named William Nicholls, who was still alive. He was a printer's machinist. He and the deceased had been living apart for seven or eight years. The witness last heard of his daughter last Easter, when she wrote to him the following letter from a home in Wandsworth in which she had just before obtained a situation as domestic servant:
I just write to say you will be glad to know that I am settled in my new place, and going on all right up to now. My people went out yesterday, and haven not returned, so I am left in charge. It is a grand place inside, with trees and gardens back and front. All has been newly done up. They are teetotallers and religious, so I ought to get on. They are very nice people, and I have not too much to do. I hope you are all right and the boy has work. So goodbye for the present,
Answer soon, please, and let me know how you are.
He replied to this letter, but had not heard from his daughter since. He last saw her alive in June,1888. She was apparently respectable then, but he did not speak to her. It was at a funeral. He was not friendly with her. She lived with him three or four years ago, and after a few words she left him. He did not know what she did afterwards. She was not particularly sober, and that was why they did not agree. He did not think she was fast. He had no idea of such a thing. She did not stay out particularly late at night. The worst he had seen of her was her keeping company with females of a certain class. After she wrote to him from Wandsworth he sent a kind letter back to her but did not see or hear anything of her until he was called to view the body. He had kept her letter because it was his habit to keep letters. It was not the case that he turned her out of doors. She had no cause to be "like this." He had always had a home for her. She had separated from her husband because he "turned nasty" over another man. Her husband left her, and took another woman to live with. The deceased had had five children, of whom the eldest, a young man, was 21 years old, and the youngest 8. the eldest was living with the witness, and the other four children with their father. He believed that three or four years ago the deceased lived with a man who kept a smith's shop in York street, Walworth. He did not know that she had lived with any other man; but on one occasion the parish of Lambeth summoned her husband for her maintenance. His defence was that she was living with another man. She denied it, but the summons was dismissed. Until he heard of the murder he did not know that she had left the situation at Wandsworth. Just before taking it she was in Lambeth Workhouse. He knew of nothing likely to throw light on the inquiry. He was not aware that she had any enemies. She was always too good for that. Her only fault was being too good.
Police constable John Neil deposed that on Friday morning at a quarter to four o'clock he was going down Buck's row, Whitechapel, from Thomas street to Brady street. Not a soul was about. He was round there about half an hour previously, and met nobody then. the first thing he saw was a figure lying on the footpath. It was dark, but there was a street lamp on the opposite side some distance away. The figure was lying alongside a gateway, of which the gate, nine or ten feet high, was locked. It led to some stables belonging to Mr. Brown. From the gateway eastward the houses began, and westward there was a Board School. All the houses were occupied. The deceased's left hand was touching the gate. Directly he turned his lantern on the body, he noticed blood was oozing from the woman's throat. She was lying on her back with her hands beside the body, the eyes wide open, the legs a little apart, and the hands open. Feeling her right arm he found it quite warm. Her bonnet was beside her on the ground. Without disturbing the body he called a constable who was passing along Brady street. He came, and the witness said to him, "Here's a woman has cut her throat. Run at once for Dr. Llewellyn." He did so, and the witness seeing another constable pass along Baker's row, sent him for the ambulance. Dr. Llewellyn came in about ten minutes. In the meantime the witness rang the bell at Essex Wharf on the opposite side of the street. A man appeared at a window, and, in answer to a question, said he had not heard any unusual noise. Sergeant Kirby afterwards came and knocked at the door of New Cottage, adjoining the gateway. Mrs. Green answered from an upper window, and said that she had not heard any unusual noise. When the doctor came he pronounced life extinct. The deceased was then placed on the ambulance and taken to the mortuary. There Inspector Spratling came to take a description of the body, which he found was disembowelled. They found no money on the women; only a comb, a small piece of looking glass,and a white handkerchief, unmarked. When the witness found the body, there was a pool of blood beneath the neck. He had not heard any noise that night. On the contrary, the place was unusually quiet, and nothing had aroused his suspicion. It was quite possible for anybody to have escaped through Brady street into Whitechapel road, or through a passage into Queen's buildings. He never saw the deceased before finding her dead. A quarter of an hour previously he was in Whitechapel road, where he saw some people apparently going to market, and some women.
Replying to jurymen, the witness added that he examined the place where he found the deceased, and saw no track of blood. It did not strike him that somebody might have brought the body in a trap, with the intention of throwing it on to the adjoining railway line. There was a slaughterhouse near, in Winthorpe (sic) street, and two men who had been working there all night, and whom he knew well, came into Buck's row while the body was being put on the ambulance. They made no observation. With the exception of a man who had passed down Buck's row while the doctor was present, they were the first of the general public to arrive. They had just finished work, and were on their way home. He had just seen them and another man at work in the slaughter-house when he passed it, about twenty minutes past three o'clock.
Dr. Llewellyn, 152 Whitechapel road, deposed that on Friday morning about four o'clock he was called up by a policeman with whom he went to Buck's row. He there found the deceased lying on her back with her throat deeply cut; there was very little blood on the ground. She had apparently been dead about half an hour. He was quite certain that the injury to her throat was not self inflicted. There was no mark of any struggle either on the body or near where it was found. About half an hour afterwards he was sent for again for the police, and going to the mortuary to which the body had been carried, found most extensive injuries on the abdomen. At ten o'clock that (Saturday) morning, in the presence of his assistant, he began a post mortem examination. On the right side of the face was a recent and strongly marked bruise, which was scarcely perceptible when he first saw the body. It might have been caused either by a blow from a fist or by the pressure of the thumb. On the left side of the face was a circular bruise, which might have been produced in the same way. A small bruise was on the left side of the neck, and an abrasion on the right. All must have been done at the same time. There were two cuts in the throat, one four inches long and the other eight, and both reaching to the vertebrae, which had also been penetrated. The wounds must have been inflicted with a strong bladed knife, moderately sharp, and used with great violence. It appeared to have been held in the left hand of the person who had used it. No blood at all was found on the front of the woman's clothes. The body was fairly well nourished and there was no smell of alcohol in the stomach. On the abdomen were some seven cuts and stabs, which the witness described in detail. Nearly all the blood had been drained out of the arteries and veins, and collected to a large extent in the loose tissues. The deceased's wound were sufficient to cause instantaneous death.
Questioned by jurymen, the witness said the deceased was a strong woman. The murderer must have had some rough anatomical knowledge, for he seemed to have attacked all the vital parts. It was impossible to say whether the wounds were inflicted by a clasp knife or a butcher's knife, but the instrument must have been a strong one. When he first saw the body life had not been out of it more than half an hour. The murder might have occupied four or five minutes. It could have been committed by one man so far as the wounds were concerned.
This being the whole of the evidence to be taken that day, Inspector Abberline asked for an adjournment of some length,, as certain things were coming to the knowledge of the police, and they wished for time to make inquiries.
The coroner replied that he should like to hear on Monday the two butchers who had been referred to, as well as evidence as to the departure of the deceased from the situation at Wandsworth.
Inspector Abberline - The butchers have been summoned.
Inspector Helsby remarked that the deceased's departure from her situation at Wandsworth had to do with a case of larceny. The evidence for which the Coroner asked should be produced. A juryman - Can we have the husband?
Inspector Abberline - Yes, sir.
The inquest was then adjourned till today (Monday)
Mr. Henry T. Tibbatts, 24 Artillery lane, Bishopsgate street Without, writes us with reference to this murder:- I contend, as an East end man, having business premises within a stone's throw of Whitechapel Church, that our police protection is shamefully adequate, and that the scenes that hourly and daily are enacted in this locality are a disgrace to our vaunted progress. I myself have witnessed street fights amounting almost to murder in the neighbourhood of Osborn street, Fashion street, &c., and never at any of these critical periods are the police to be found. Only within the last few days has a most disgraceful scene been enacted close to my own gates in Spitalfields, but then as ever the police were conspicuous by their absence, and such things are of common occurrence. It is quite time some one spoke out plainly. I have waited long enough, hoping that some of out representatives in the parish might take the matter up, but the time has arrived when I for one will no longer remain quiet. I only hope that this may be the means, with your valuable assistance, of calling attention to an altogether extraordinary condition of affairs.
An inquest on the body of Mary Ann Nicholls, aged 42, who was found in Buck's row, Whitechapel, early on Friday morning murdered under shocking and mysterious circumstances, was opened on Saturday at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel, by Mr. Wynne Baxter. The witnesses examined were Edward Walker, father of the deceased; Constable Neil, who found the body, and Dr. Llewellyn. The latter said that the wounds had apparently been inflicted by a lefthanded person, and that the murderer or murderers must have had some rough knowledge of anatomy as they had attacked vital parts. This was the nearest approach to a clue which the evidence yielded. The inquiry was adjourned till today.
It will be with the most painful interest that the public will read this morning the evidence given before Mr. Wynne Baxter on the dreadful murder in Whitechapel. Few occurrences of the kind have ever created greater sensation, and the sensation is not likely to be allayed, at least in the neighbourhood of the murder, until the mystery which at present surrounds it has been dispelled, and the criminal discovered. The identity of the wretched victim may be considered fully established, and the very fact that she is shown to have belonged to the same unhappy class as the two women previously butchered under similar circumstances of brutality and mystery adds, if possible, to the horror of the occurrence. It tends to show that the three murders are not isolated crimes, but are the work of the same hand or the same gang of assassins; and until some light shall have been thrown upon the tragedy the people of Whitechapel may reasonably feel apprehensive that any night fresh horrors may be perpetrated in their midst. It would be in some respects a relief if the theory suggested in the first thrill of dismay should be established by the evidence - the theory, that is, that some homicidal maniac has done this deed. For the credit of human nature one would if possible like to believe that only some madman could have committed such an outrage. A theory has been mooted that this murder, like the two preceding ones, must have been the work of an organized "High Rip" gang, who are supposed to have been for some time past blackmailing unfortunate women, and punishing them with murderous violence those who did not comply with their demands. We fervently hope that such an explanation is but the outcome of the vagueness and mystery in which this ghastly event is shrouded. Almost any conceivable solution of the enigma would be less horrible than to discover that there are in our midst incarnate fiends capable of doing such deeds for the sake of what they can extract from such victims. As will be seen from what we print in another column, there is another, and what we think is a more probable theory, viz., that all three sanguinary deeds are by one and the same hand.
With this return of the police to the one man theory is revived the hope that for the credit of humanity the assassin will be found to be some maniac. The story of such close to such a life is both mournful and humiliating, and may well abate somewhat the self complacency with which we are apt to comment on the criminal phenomena of other peoples. The woman's history is melancholy in the extreme. Some twenty two years ago she was a young bride, married to a respectable mechanic, and became the mother of children who, if we may judge by the account of the lad who on Saturday visited the mortuary and recognised his mother, are now creditable members of society. After fourteen years or so of respectable home life, there came about a separation, and from that time forth the career of the unhappy woman was evidently one of deepening degradation, of drunkenness, and infamy, an outcast from all her friends, oscillating between the workhouse ward, the common lodging house, and the street pavement. No life, however, is too wretched to be beneath the protection of the law; and the utmost exertions of the police are called for to secure the obviously needed protection to all life and property in Whitechapel. Without the evidence of such earnest exertions the people of the neighbourhood in which these three secret murders have occurred within five months might be well excused if they betrayed some nervous excitement, and at whatever cost we trust that everything that can possibly be done for public security and reassurance will be done. We publish this morning a letter from a resident in the locality calling attention to what he believes is the neglected condition of this part of London. The police force is a large one, but few persons who have not gone into a little statistical calculation can be at all aware how thinly they can be dispersed over the vast extent of London at the best of times, and under the best management. It is extremely difficult even with 14,000 men to give all the protection desirable, and all over London there are neighbourhoods from which such letters might probably be written with equal justification. At the present moment, however, it is impossible to deny that Whitechapel has special claims on the vigilance of the force.