27 September 1888
Whitechapel and Spitalfields are always interesting neighbourhoods, and recent events have made them decidedly more interesting. They have afforded startling illustrations of the dreadful possibilities of life down in the unfathomable depths of these vast human warrens. At all times one who strolls through this quarter of town, especially by night, must feel that below his ken are the awful deeps of an ocean teeming with life, but enshrouded in impenetrable mystery. As he catches here and there a glimpse of a face under the flickering, uncertain light of a lamp-the face perhaps of some woman, bloated by drink and distorted by passion-he may get a momentary shuddering sense of what humanity may sink to when life is lived apart from the sweet health-giving influences of fields and flowers, of art and music and books and travel, of the stimulus of interesting enterprise, the gentle amenities of happy hours and intercourse with the educated and cultured. A momentary sense of what human nature may become may here and there flash in upon one as he gazes out upon the dark waters, but it is only when the human monster actually rises for a moment to the surface and disappears again, leaving a victim dead and disemboweled, that one quite realizes that that momentary scene is a dread reality.
Just for a few days the mass of the people at Spitalfields and Whitechapel themselves seemed to be realizing the awful possibilities of the nature that belonged to them. Thousands of them were really shocked and sobered, by that last tragedy especially. One could see in the people's faces, and could detect in their tones and answers, an indefinable something which told plainly that they had been horrified by a revelation. Many of course were terribly frightened. Mr. George Holland, whose remarkable work has been going on for so many years in premises occupying an obscure position in George-yard, Whitechapel-where it will be remembered one of these unfortunate women was found with thirty or forty stabs-says that the sensation has affected his institution very greatly. He has some hundreds of young women connected with his place, and many of them have been afraid to stir out after dark. He is under some anxiety, too, lest ladies who have been wont to come down there on winter evenings to teach and entertain his young people, should be deterred by this latest addition to the evil reputation of Whitechapel, and he is earnestly pushing on alterations in his premises which will give him a frontage out in the main road. On the other hand, Mr. Charrington, whose great place stands out boldly on the Mile-end highway a blaze of light and cheerfulness, thinks that people have more than ever thronged out of the dark and silent byways and back lanes into the broad pavement and into the glare of light thrown upon it by shops and public-houses and entertainments, and the innumerable hawkers and salesmen of one sort and another who line the "waste" along the Mile End-road. Since these outrages the dark places of Whitechapel and Spitalfields have undoubtedly been a little darker and stiller, and more depressing. Some streets have presented, even to those familiar with them, quite a desolate and deserted appearance after nightfall. But the nine-days' wonder has passed, the effect of the shock has visibly subsided, and people are beginning to move freely again.
Turn down this side street out of the main Whitechapel-road. It may be well to tuck out of view any bit of jewellery that may be glittering about; the sight of means to do ill-deeds makes ill-deeds done. The street is oppressively dark, though at present the gloom is relieved somewhat by feebly lighted shop-fronts. Men are lounging at the doors of the shops, smoking evil-smelling pipes. Women with bare heads and with arms under their aprons are sauntering about in twos and threes, or are seated gossiping on steps leading into passages dark as Erebus. Now round the corner into another still gloomier passage, for there are no shops here to speak of. This is the notorious Wentworth-street. The police used to make a point of going through this only in couples, and possibly may do so still when they go there at all. Just now there are none met with. It is getting on into the night, but gutters, and doorways, and passages, and staircases appear to be teeming with children. See there in that doorway of a house without a glimmer of light about it. It looks to be a baby in long clothes laid on the floor of the passage, and seemingly exhausted with crying. Listen for a moment at this next house. There is a scuffle going on upon the staircase-all in the densest darkness-and before you have passed a dozen yards there is a rush downstairs and an outsurging into the street-with fighting and screaming, and an outpouring of such horrible blackguardism that it makes you shudder as you look at those curly-headed preternaturally sharp-witted children who leave their play to gather around the melée. God help the little mortals! How can they become anything but savages, "pests of society," the "dangerous classes," and so on. How black and unutterably gloomy all the houses look! How infinitely all the moral and physical wretchedness of such localities as these is intensified by the darkness of the streets and the houses. It is wise and astute of Mr. Barnett to give emphatic expression to the cry that has so often been raised for "more light" for lower London. If in this one matter of light alone, the streets and houses of the West-end were reduced to the condition of the East, what would life become there! Oh, for a great installation of the electric light, with which, as the sun goes down, to deluge the streets and lanes, the dark alleys and passages, the staircases and rooms of this nether world. Homes would become cleaner, and more cheerful and attractive; life would become healthier, whole masses of crime would die out like toadstools under sunlight, and what remained would be more easily dealt with. The Cimmerian darkness of lower London indoors and out constitutes no small part of its wretchedness, and the brilliant lighting of the public-house gives it much of its attraction. Even the repute of many of these shady localities is due in great measure to their impenetrable gloom after nightfall. There are many of these doorways and staircases into which a stranger might venture with perfect impunity, and many of the people are harmless, well-meaning sort of folk, but they are all enshrouded in that murky obscurity which in the apprehension of adventurers from more favoured regions converts them all into possible assassins and thieves.
It is a relief to get out of this vile little slum and to work one's way back into the life and light of the great highway, with its flaunting shops, its piles of glowing fruit, its glittering jewellery, its steaming cook-shops, its flaring gin palaces and noisy shows, and clubs and assembly rooms, and churches and mission halls, its cheap jacks and shooting galleries, its streaming naptha lights and roar and rattle, and hurrying throngs and noisy groups, and little assemblies gathered together under the stars and the streets lamps, to listen to some expounder of the mysteries of the universe or of the peculiar merits of a new patent pill. Here are the newspaper contents-bills spread out at large with some of the newsvendor's own additions and amplifications, telling of new murders or further details of the old ones. The young man with a bundle of papers under his arm is evidently on the friendliest of terms with the neighbouring shoeblack. One or the other of them has picked up half a cigar, and the two are getting alternate pulls at it with evident enjoyment. Up in a retired corner there is a little mob gathered around an almost inanimate looking figure beating out with a couple of quills what he takes apparently to be music from a sort of home-made dulcimer. A few yards further on, a boy without any legs is the object of attention; and next comes a group thronging furiously round a four-wheel cab. Nothing can be seen, but as the vehicle drives off towards the hospital and the mob disperses it is generally understood that "she has been knocked about." The only question about which there seems to be any uncertainty is as to whether she is nearly dead or only very drunk. Nobody appears to be greatly concerned, and the people turn from this mild sensation to listen for a moment to a eulogy on the everlasting qualities of new trousers at nine and sixpence a pair. A hundred people at least are clustered round the salesman who descants hoarsely on the unrivalled qualities of his goods, and winds up by flinging a pair out into the crowd for closer inspection. A few yards further on there is a waxwork show with some horrible pictorial representations of the recent murders, and all the dreadful details are being [shouted] out into the night, and women with children in their arms are pushing their way to the front with their pennies to see the ghastly objects within. Next there is a show, in which ghosts and devils and skeletons appear to be the chief attractions; and near at hand is a flaring picture of a modern Hercules performing within. Then comes a gathering of some fifty or sixty people around a preacher, who is evidently desperately in earnest, but who somehow manages at every step to ruffle up the feelings of his congregation. He is what [a] cabby would call a harbitrary gent, and he comes it over his listeners just a little too strongly. "Never heard nobody go on like 'im in all my days," said a little dame on the fringe of the crowd. "There ain't nobody right but 'im and he's al'ays the same, a pitchin' into everybody. I declare there ain't no chance for none of us." Certainly the people round were sparring and fencing with him on all hands, and the controversy at one point ran so high that it looked as though the preacher would have to take off his coat and turn up his sleeves. Not fifty yards off was Mr. Charrington's great assembly-room, where Mr. Henry Varley, who looked to be mounted on a bank of flowers reaching half-way up the fine organ, was quietly haranguing some hundreds of people, the whole place looking bright and attractive, and the audience very attentive.
Out again into the great thoroughfare, back a little way past the roaring salesmen and the hideous waxwork, and round the corner. This opening here, where the public-house, the bar of which looks to be full of mothers with children in their arms, blazes at the corner, leads down to Buck's-row. Nobody about here seems at all conscious of the recent tragedy, the only suggestion of which is a bill in the public-house window, offering, on behalf of an enterprising newspaper, a reward of a hundred pounds for the conviction of the criminal. A little way down out of the public-house glare, and Buck's-row looks to be a singularly desolate out-of-the region. But there is a piano organ grinding out the "Men of Harlech" over the spot where the murdered woman was found; women and girls are freely coming and going through the darkness, and the rattle of sewing machines, and the rushing of railway trains, and the noisy horseplay of a gang of boys all seem to be combining with the organ-grinder to drown recollection and to banish all unpleasant reflection. "There seems to be little apprehension of further mischief by this assassin at large," was an observation addressed to a respectable-looking elderly man within a few yards of the house in Hanbury-street where the latest victim was found. "No; very little. People, most of 'em, think he's gone to Gateshead," was the reply.
SUMMING UP AND VERDICT.
IMPORTANT STATEMENT BY THE CORONER.
The inquest into the most recent of the four mysterious murders of unfortunate women in Whitechapel was resumed and concluded yesterday at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel-road.
Inspector Chandler having stated that there was no more evidence,
The Coroner (Mr. Wynne E. Baxter) summed up the case in the following terms:
-Gentlemen of the Jury, I congratulate you that your labours are now nearly completed. Although up to the present they have not resulted in the detection of the criminal, I have no doubt that if the perpetrator of this foul murder is eventually discovered, our efforts will not have been useless. The evidence given is now on the records of this court, and could be used even if the witnesses were not forthcoming; while the publicity given has already elicited further information, which I shall presently have to mention, and which, I hope I am not sanguine in believing, may perhaps be of the utmost importance. We shall do well to recall the important facts. The deceased was a widow, forty-seven years of age, named Annie Chapman. Her husband was a coachman living at Windsor. For three or four years before his death she had lived apart from her husband, who allowed her ten shillings a week until his death at Christmas, 1886. She had evidently lived an immoral life for some time, and her habits and surrounding had become worse since her means had failed. She no longer visited her relations, and her brother had not seen her for five months, when she borrowed a small sum from him. She lived principally in the common lodging-houses in the neighbourhood of Spitalfields, where such as she herd like cattle. She showed signs of great deprivation, as if she had been badly fed. The glimpses of life in those dens which the evidence in this case discloses is sufficient to make us feel that there is much in the nineteenth century civilization of which we have small reason to be proud; but you who are constantly called together to hear the sad tale of starvation, or semi-starvation, of misery, immorality, and wickedness which some of the occupants of the 6,000 beds in this district have every week to relate at coroner's inquests, do not require to be reminded of what life in a Spitalfields lodging-house means. It was in one of these that the older bruises found on the temple and on the chest of the deceased were received, in a trumpery quarrel, a week before her death. It was in one of these that she was seen a few hours before her mangled remains were discovered. On the afternoon and evening of Friday, the 7th of Sept., she divided her time partly in such a place, as 35, Dorset-street, and partly in the "Ringers" public-house, where she spent whatever money she had; so that between one and two on the morning of Saturday, when the money for her bed is demanded, she is obliged to admit that she is without means, and at once turns out into the street to find it. She leaves there at 1.45 a.m. She is seen off the premises by the night watchman, and is observed to turn down Little Paternoster-row into Brushfield-street, and not in the more direct direction of Hanbury-street. On her wedding finger she was wearing two or three rings, which appears to have been palpably of base metal, as the witnesses are all clear about their material and value. We now lose sight of her for about four hours, but at half-past five Mrs. Long is in Hanbury-street on her way from home in Church-street, Whitechapel, to Spitalfields market. She walked on the northern side of the road going westward, and remembers having seen a man and woman standing a few yards from the place where the deceased is afterwards found. And although she did not know Annie Chapman she is positive that the woman was deceased. The two were talking loudly, but not sufficiently so to arouse her suspicions. The words she overheard were not calculated to do so. The laconic inquiry of the man, "Will you?" and the simple assent of the woman, viewed in the light of subsequent events, can be easily translated and explained. Mrs. Long passed on her way and neither saw nor heard anything more of her, and this is the last time she is known to have been alive. There is some conflict in the evidence about the time at which the deceased was dispatched. It is not unusual to find inaccuracy in such details, but this variation is not very great or very important. She was found dead about six o'clock. She was not in the yard when Richardson was there at 4.50 a.m. She was seen talking outside the house at half-past five when Mrs. Long passed them. Cadosh says it was about 5.20 when he was in the back yard of the adjoining house, and heard a voice say "No," and three or four minutes afterwards a fall against the fence; but if he is out of his reckoning but a quarter of an hour, the discrepancy in the evidence of fact vanishes, and he may be mistaken, for he admits that he did not get up till a quarter past five, and that it was after the half-hour when he passed Spitalfields clock. It is true that Dr. Phillips thinks that when he saw the body at 6.30 the deceased had been dead at least two hours, but he admits that the coldness of the morning and the great loss of blood may affect his opinion; and if the evidence of the other witnesses be correct, Dr. Phillips has miscalculated the effect of those forces. But many minutes after Mrs. Long passed down Hanbury-street cannot have elapsed before the deceased became a mutilated corpse in the yard of No. 29, close by where she was last seen by any witness. This place is a fair sample of a large number of houses in the neighbourhood. It was built, like hundreds of others, for the Spitalfields weavers, and when hand-looms were driven out by steam and power, these were converted into dwelling for the poor. Its size is about such as a superior artisan would occupy in the country, but its condition is such as would to a certainty leave it without a tenant. In this place seventeen persons were living, from a woman and her son sleeping in a cat's-meat shop on the ground floor, to Davis and his wife and their three grown-up sons, all sleeping together in an attic. The street door and the yard door were never locked, and the passage and yard appear to have been constantly used by people who had no legitimate business there. There is little doubt that the deceased knew the place, for it was only 300 or 400 yards from where she lodged. If so, it is quite unnecessary to assume that her companion had any knowledge-in fact, it is easier to believe that he was ignorant both of the nest of living beings by whom he was surrounded, and of their occupations and habits. Some were on the move late at night, some were up long before the sun. A carman named Thompson left the house for his work as early as 3.50 a.m.; an hour later John Richardson was paying the house a visit of inspection; shortly after 5.15, Cadosh, who lived in the next house, was in the adjoining yard twice. Davis, the carman, who occupied the third floor front, heard the church clock strike a quarter to six, got up, had a cup of tea, and went into the back yard, and was horrified to find the mangled body of the deceased. It was then a little after 6 a.m.-a very little, for at ten minutes past the hour Inspector Chandler had been informed of the discovery while on duty in Commercial-street. There is nothing to suggest that the deceased was not fully conscious of what she was doing. It is true that she had passed through some stages of intoxication, for although she appeared perfectly sober to her friend who met her in Dorset-street at five o'clock the previous evening, she had been drinking afterwards; and when she left the lodging house shortly before two o'clock, the night watchman noticed that she was the worse for drink, but not badly so, while the deputy asserts that though she had evidently been drinking, she could walk straight, and it was probably only malt liquor that she had taken, and its effects would pass off quicker than if she had taken spirits. Consequently, it is not surprising to find that Mrs. Long saw nothing to make her think that the deceased was the worse for drink. Moreover, it is unlikely that she could have had the opportunity of getting intoxicants. Again, the post-mortem examination shows that while the stomach contained a meal of food, there was no sign of fluid and no appearance of her having taken alcohol, and Dr. Phillips is convinced that she had not taken any alcohol for some time. The deceased, therefore, entered the house in full possession of her faculties; although with a very different object to her companion. From the evidence which the condition of the yard affords and the medical examination discloses, it appears that after the two had passed through the passage and opened the swing-door at the end, they descended the three steps into the yard. On their left hand side there was a recess between those steps and the palings. Here a few feet from the house and a less distance from the paling they must have stood. The wretch must have then seized the deceased, perhaps with Judas-like approaches. He seized her by the chin. He pressed her throat, and while thus preventing the slightest cry, he at the same time produced insensibility and suffocation. There is no evidence of any struggle. The clothes are not torn. Even in these preliminaries the wretch seems to have known how to carry out efficiently his nefarious work. The deceased was then lowered to the ground, and laid on her back; and although in doing so she may have fallen slightly against the fence, this movement was probably affected with care. All was done with cool impudence and reckless daring; but perhaps nothing is more noticeable than the emptying of her pockets, and the arrangement of their contents with business-like precision in order near her feet. The murder seems like the Buck's-row case, to have been carried out without any cry. Sixteen people were in the house. The partitions of the different rooms are of wood. Davis was not asleep after 3 a.m., except for three-quarters of an hour, or less, between 5 and 5.45. Mrs. Richardson only dozed after 3 a.m., and heard no noise during the night. Mrs. Hardiman, who occupies the front ground-floor room, did not awake until the noise succeeding the finding of the body had commenced, and none of the occupants of the houses by which the yard is surrounded heard anything suspicious. The brute who committed the offence did not even take the trouble to cover up his ghastly work, but left the body exposed to the view of the first comer. This accords but little with the trouble taken with the rings, and suggests either that he had at length been disturbed, or that as the daylight broke, a sudden fear suggested the danger of detection that he was running. There are two things missing. The rings had been wrenched from her fingers and have not been found, and the uterus has been taken from the abdomen. The body has not been dissected, but the injuries have been made by some one who had considerable anatomical skill and knowledge. There are no meaningless cuts. The organ has been taken by one who knew where to find it, what difficulties he would have to contend against, and how he should use his knife so as to abstract the organ without injury to it. No unskilled person could have known where to find it, or have recognised it when it was found. For instance, no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been some one accustomed to the post-mortem room. The conclusion that the desire was to possess the missing abdominal organ seems overwhelming. If the object were robbery, the injuries to the viscera would be meaningless, for death had previously resulted from the loss of blood at the neck. Moreover, when we find an easily accomplished theft of some paltry brass rings and an internal organ taken, after, at least, a quarter of an hour's work, and taken by a skilled person, we are driven to the deduction that the abstraction of the missing portion of abdominal viscera was the object, and the theft of the rings was only a thin-veiled blind, an attempt to prevent the real intention being discovered. The amount missing would go into a breakfast cup; and had not the medical examination been of a thorough and searching character it might easily have been left unnoticed that there was any portion of the body taken. The difficulty in believing that the purport of the murderer was the possession of the uterus is natural. It is abhorrent to our feelings to conclude that a life should be taken for so slight an object; but when rightly considered, the reasons for most murders are altogether out of proportion to the guilt. It has been suggested that the criminal is a lunatic with morbid feelings. This may or may not be the case, but the object of the murderer appears palpably shown by the facts, and it is not necessary to assume lunacy, for it is clear that there is a market for the missing organ. To show you this, I must mention a fact which at the same time proves the assistance which publicity and the newspaper Press afford in the detection of crime. Within a few hours of the issue of the morning papers containing a report of the medical evidence given at the last sitting of the Court, I received a communication from an officer of one of our great medical schools that they had information which might or might not have a distinct bearing on our inquiry. I attended at the first opportunity, and was informed by the sub-curator of the Pathological Museum that some months ago an American had called on him, and asked him to procure a number of specimens of the organ that was missing in the deceased. He stated his willingness to give 20l. a-piece for each specimen. He stated that his object was to issue an actual specimen with each copy of a publication on which he was then engaged. He was told that his request was impossible to be complied with, but he still urged his request. He wished them preserved, not in spirits of wine, the usual medium, but in glycerine, in order to preserve them in a flaccid condition, and he wished them sent to America direct. It is known that this request was repeated to another institution of a similar character. Now is it not possible that the knowledge of this demand may have incited some abandoned wretch to posses himself of a specimen? It seems beyond belief that such inhuman wickedness could enter into the mind of any man, but, unfortunately, our criminal annals prove that every crime is possible. I need hardly say that I at once communicated my information to the Detective Department of Scotland-yard. Of course, I do not know what use has been made of it, but I believe that publicity may possibly further elucidate this fact, and therefore I have not withheld from you the information. By means of the Press some further explanation may be forthcoming from America, if not from here. Gentlemen, I have endeavoured to suggest to you the object with which this crime was committed, and the class of person who must have committed it. The greatest deterrent from crime is the conviction that detection and punishment will follow with rapidity and certainty, and it may be that the impunity with which Mary Ann Smith and Anne Tabram were murdered suggested the possibility of such horrid crimes as those which you and another jury have recently been considering. It is, therefore, a great misfortune that nearly three weeks have elapsed without the chief actor in this awful tragedy having been discovered. Surely, it is not too much even yet to hope that the ingenuity of our detective force will succeed in unearthing this monster. It is not as if there were no clue to the character of the criminal or the cause of his crime. His object is clearly divulged. His anatomical knowledge carries him out of the category of a common criminal, for that knowledge could only have been obtained by assisting at post-mortems, or by frequenting the post-mortem room. Thus, the class in which search must be made, although a large one, is limited. Moreover, it must have been a man who was from home, if not all night, at least during the early hours of the 8th of September. His hands were undoubtedly bloodstained, for he did not stop to use the tap in the yard, as the pan of clean water under it shows. If the theory of lunacy be correct (which I very much doubt) the class is still further limited; while if Mrs. Long's memory does not fail, and the assumption be correct that the man who was talking to the deceased at half-past five was the culprit, he is even more clearly defined. In addition to his former description we should know that he was a foreigner of dark complexion, over forty years of age, a little taller than the deceased, of shabby-genteel appearance, with a brown deer-stalker hat on his head, and a dark coat on his back. If your views accord with mine, you will be of opinion that we are confronted with a murder of no ordinary character, committed not from jealousy, revenge, or robbery, but from motives less adequate than the many which disgrace our civilization, mar our progress, and blot the pages of our Christianity. I cannot conclude my remarks, gentlemen, without thanking you for the attention you have given to the case, and the assistance you have rendered me in our efforts to elucidate the truth of this horrible tragedy.
The jury took only a few moments to consider their verdict, which they did without leaving the room.
The Foreman-We can only find one verdict, and that is "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown." We were about to have added a rider regarding the mortuary accommodation, but that having been done by the jury in the Buck's-row case we will allow the matter to stand as it is. We have one request to make. Having sat here for five days the majority of the jury wish to be exempted from attending any other inquests for at least two years.
The Coroner-We will endeavour to meet your wishes; but if there is any other important case-though I hope there won't be-I am sure you won't object to serving. The number of constant residents in Whitechapel is very limited, and the rule is that each shall serve if necessary once in three months.