4 September 1888
The inquest on the body of Mary Ann Nicholls, aged 42, who was found murdered under shocking and mysterious circumstances in Buck's row, Whitechapel, at a quarter to four on Friday morning, was resumed yesterday by Mr. Wynne Baxter and a jury at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel road.
Inspector Jno. Spratling, of the J division, deposed that he first heard of the murder about half past four on Friday morning while he was in Hackney road. He went to Buck's row, where he saw Police Constable Thain, who pointed out the spot where the deceased had been found. The witness there noticed a slight stain of blood on the footpath. The body had been removed to the mortuary in Old Montague street. Both officers went there and found the body on an ambulance in the yard. It had been placed there because the keys, which had been sent for, had not yet arrived. While waiting the witness took a description, which he completed when the mortuary had been opened and the remains moved into it. He then found the injuries to the abdomen, and therefore he sent for Dr. Llewellyn. When Dr. Llewellyn arrived he made an examination lasting about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour. The witness was not present when the body was stripped.
Detective Sergeant Enright - That was done by two of the workhouse officials.
The Coroner - Had they authority to strip the body?
The Witness - No, sir. I gave them no instructions to strip it. In fact, I told them to leave it as it was.
Sergeant Enright - The clothes belonged to the workhouse.
The Coroner - I don't object to their stripping the body, but we ought to have evidence about the clothes.
The witness, resuming his evidence, said he returned to the mortuary about noon on Friday and found the body stripped and the clothes lying in a heap in the yard. They consisted of a reddish brown ulster, with seven large brass buttons. That was apparently an old garment. The brown linsey dress looked new. There was a grey woollen petticoat and a flannel one, all belonging to the workhouse. Pieces bearing the words "Lambeth Workhouse, P.R." (Prince's road), had been cut out by Inspector Helson, with a view to tracing the body. There was blood on the upper part of the dress body, and also on the ulster. Nowhere else, excepting a little on some linen, that might have been done after the removal of the body from Buck's row. He saw no blood on the back of the dress or of the ulster. When he first saw the body the clothes were fastened. The stays did not, however, fit tightly, and he was able to see the wounds without unfastening them. Between five and six o'clock the same morning he directed Police Constable Cartwright to examine the neighbourhood where the deceased was found, including the walls, the yards, and the adjoining railway. About six hours later he personally examined Buck's row and Brady street, which ran across the row, but found no blood marks anywhere. Subsequently, in company with Sergeant Godley, he examined the East London and District Railway lines and embankment; as also the Great Eastern Railway yard and other places in the neighbourhood, but found nothing. He was informed that a carman named Green, working at the stables against the gate of which the body was found wiped up the blood there. There was a watchman at the Great Eastern railway yard. His box was fifty or sixty yards from the place where the body was discovered, but he had heard nothing particular on the night of the murder. The witness visited half a dozen persons living in the same neighbourhood, but none had noticed anything suspicious. One of them, Mrs. Purkiss, was out of bed about the time the body was found, and her husband declared that had there been any screaming in Buck's row they must have heard it. Another of these persons, Mrs. Green, could have looked from her window down upon the spot where the murdered woman was discovered; but nothing had aroused her attention.
Replying to members of the jury, the witness said that Constable Neil was the only one whose duty it was to pass through Buck's row in the course of his ordinary duty; but another passed along Brady street and would be more or less within hearing distance from time to time. Is it your opinion that the woman was murdered with her clothes off or on?
The Witness - With them on, undoubtedly.
A juryman remarked that the body remained in the mortuary yard till the children from St. Mary's School could see it.
The Witness - No, sir. It was taken into the mortuary itself about five o'clock or twenty minutes past.
Henry Tomkins, horse slaughterer, 12 Coventry street, Bethnal green, said he was in the employ of Mr. Barber, and was working in the slaughter house, Winthrop street, from between eight and nine o'clock on Thursday night till twenty minutes past four o'clock on Friday morning. He and his fellow workmen generally went home after ceasing work, but that morning they did not do so. They went to see the dead woman because Police constable Thain had passed the slaughter house about quarter past four and told them that a woman had been murdered in Buck's row. Two other men besides the witness had been working in the slaughter house. They were James Mumford and Charles Britten. He and Britten had been out of the slaughter house previously that night - namely, from twenty minutes past twelve till one o'clock, but not afterwards till they went to see the body. The distance from the slaughter house to the spot where the deceased was found was not great, Buck's row being behind Winthrop street, and both running in the same direction.
The Coroner - Is yours noisy work?
The Witness - No, sir; very quiet.
The Coroner - Was it all quiet on Friday morning, say after 2 o'clock?
The Witness - Yes, sir, quite quiet. The gates were open, and we heard no cry.
The Coroner - Did any one come to the slaughter house that night?
The witness replied that nobody passed except the policeman.
The Coroner - Are there any women about there?
The Witness - Oh, I know nothing about them. I don't like 'em.
The Coroner - I don't ask you whether you like them. I ask whether there were any about that night?
The Witness - I did not see any.
The Coroner - Not in Whitechapel road? The Witness - Oh, yes, there, of all sorts and sizes. It's a rough neighbourhood, I can tell you.
The Coroner - If anybody had called for assistance from the spot where the deceased was found would you have heard it in the slaughter house?
The witness replied that it was too far away. When he arrived in Buck's row with the intention of seeing the deceased, the doctor and three or four policemen were there. He believed that two other men that he did not know were there also. He waited till the body was taken away, but that was not long. Ten or a dozen people came up before it was done. He heard no statement as to how the deceased came into Buck's row.
The Coroner - Have you read any statement in the newspaper that there were two people besides the police in Buck's row when you arrived?
The witness - I can't read, sir.
The Coroner - Then did you not see a soul from one o'clock on Friday morning till quarter past four, when the policeman passed your slaughter house? - No, sir.
A Juryman - Did you hear any vehicle pass the slaughter house?
The Witness - No.
Would you have heard it if there had been one? - Yes, sir.
Where did you go between twenty minutes past twelve and one o'clock? - Me and my mate went to the front of the road.
Is not your usual time of leaving off work six o'clock in the morning and not four? - No, it is according to what we have to do. Sometimes we finish at one time; sometimes at another.
What made the constable call to tell you about he murder? - He called for his cape.
Inspector Joseph Helson said he first received information about the death of Mary Ann Nicholls at 6.45 on Friday morning. Between eight and nine he visited the mortuary, where he saw the body with the clothing still on it. The dress was fastened in front with the exception of two or three buttons, and the stays were also fastened. They were attached with clasps, and were fairly tight , but short. There was blood in the hair and about the collars of the dress and ulster, but none at the back of the skirts. There were no marks on the arms such as would indicate a struggle, and no cuts in the clothing. All the wounds could be seen while the stays were on the body, and could, in the witness's opinion, have been inflicted without the removal of that garment. The only suspicious mark in the neighbourhood of the place where the body was found was one spot, which might have been blood, in Brady street. A juryman - Did the body look as if it had been brought dead to Buck's row?
The Witness - No, I should say the offence was committed on the spot.
Police constable Mizen said that about a quarter to four o'clock on Friday morning he was at the corner of Hanbury street and Baker's row, when a carman passing by in company with another man said, "You are wanted in Buck's row by a policeman; a woman is lying there." The witness went to Buck's row, where Police constable Neil sent him for the ambulance. At that time nobody but Neil was with the body. On returning with the ambulance he helped to put the deceased upon it.
A juryman - Did you continue knocking people up after Cross told you you were wanted?
Witness - No. I only finished knocking up one person.
Charles A. Cross, carman, said he had been in the employment of Messrs. Pickford and Co. for some years. On Friday morning he left home about half past three to go to work, and passing through Buck's row he saw on the opposite side something lying against a gateway. In the dark he could not tell at first what it was. It looked like a tarpaulin sheet, but walking to the middle of the road he saw it was the figure of a woman. At the same time he heard a man about forty yards away coming up Buck's row in the direction witness had himself come. He stepped back and waited for the newcomer, who started on one side, as if he feared that the witness meant to knock him down. The witness said, "Come and look over here. There's a woman." They both went across to the body, and the witness took hold of the hands while the other man stopped over her head to look at her. The hands were cold and limp, and the witness said, "I believe she's dead." Then he touched her face, which felt warm. The other man placed his hand on her heart, saying, "I think she's breathing, but it's very little if she is." He suggested that they should "shift her," meaning in the witness's opinion that they should seat her upright. The witness replied, "I am not going to touch her." The woman's legs were uncovered. Her bonnet was off, but close to her head. The witness did not notice that her throat was cut, as the night was very dark. He and the other man left the deceased, and in Baker's row they saw the last witness whom they told that a woman was lying in Buck's row. The witness added, "She looks to me either dead or drunk," and the other man remarked, "I think she's dead." The policeman answered, "All right." The other man left witness soon afterwards. He appeared to be a carman, but the witness had never seen him before.
The Coroner - Did you see Police constable Neil in Buck's row?
The Witness - No, sir. I saw no one after leaving home, except the man that overtook me, the constable in Baker's row, and the deceased. There was nobody in Buck's row when we left. The Coroner - Did the other man tell you who he was?
The Witness - No, sir. He merely said that he would have fetched a policeman but he was behind time. I was behind time myself.
A juryman - Did you tell Constable Mizen that another policeman wanted him in Buck's row?
The Witness - No; because I did not see a policeman in Buck's row.
William Nicholls, printer's machinist, Coburg road, Old Kent road, said the deceased was his wife, but they had lived apart for eight years. He last saw her alive about three years ago and had not heard of her since. He did not know what she had been doing in the meantime.
A juryman - It is said that you were summoned by the Lambeth Union for her maintenance, and you pleaded that she was living with another man. Was he the blacksmith that she had lived with?
The Witness - No; it was not the same. It was another man or men. I had her watched. It was seven years ago.
In reply to further questions, the witness said that he did not leave his wife. She left him, but had no occasion for doing so. If it had not been for drink she would have been all right.
Emily Holland, a married woman, said she lived at 18 Thrall (sic) street, a common lodging house. The deceased lived there about six weeks, but was not there during the last ten days. About half past two last Friday morning the witness saw the deceased coming down Osborne street into Whitechapel road. She was alone, and was intoxicated. She told the witness that where she had been living recently they would not let her in because she could not pay. The witness tried to persuade her to go home with her, but the deceased refused, and added, "I have had my lodging money three times today, and have spent it." She then went away along Whitechapel road, saying that she was going to get money to pay for her lodgings. The witness did not know what she did for a living, or whether she stayed out late at night. She seemed a very quiet woman, and kept herself to herself. She always seemed as if some trouble were going on. When she left the witness at the corner of Osborne street and Whitechapel road she said that she would not be long before she was back.
Mary Ann Monk, an inmate of Lambeth Workhouse, testified that she last saw the deceased about seven weeks ago in a public house in New Kent road. She had previously seen her in the workhouse, but had not the least knowledge of her acquaintances.
The inquiry was adjourned till the 14th inst., at two o'clock, the clothes of the deceased being taken to the mortuary in order that the jury might examine them.
Notwithstanding every effort, the police engaged in investigating the murder have up to the present time to confess themselves baffled, their numerous inquiries having yielded no positive clue to the perpetrator of the crime. At the conslusion of the inquest Detective Inspector Abberline and Detective Inspector Helson resumed their investigations, but they have not elicited any new facts of importance. A large number of constables are engaged upon the case. Crowds of spectators continue to visit the scene of the murder in Buck's row. The funeral of the deceased woman will probably take place tomorrow.
The coroner's inquiry into the mysterious murder in Whitechapel was resumed yesterday, but although a considerable amount of evidence was given, none of it revealed the perpetrators or the cause of the crime. The inquiry was adjourned till the 17th inst.