24 October 1888
The inquest on the body of the Berner street victim, concluded yesterday, has disposed of what may be regarded in a rather peculiar sense as another romance of crime. The first part of the verdict unfortunately could be no more than "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown." In the second part the jury found that the murdered woman was "the widow of John Stride, carpenter." It will be remembered that at the opening of the inquest some three weeks ago, a respectable looking woman came forward with the extraordinary story that the body was that of her sister, Elizabeth Watts. She at the same time gave a marvellous account of a presentiment by which she was led to examine the remains at the mortuary. As she lay in bed on Sunday morning, at about the time when the victim must have been under the assassin's knife, she felt the pressure of three kisses on her cheek, and even heard them, and, by that ghostly warning, she knew that something was wrong with her sister, Elizabeth Watts. She hurried to the mortuary, and there identified the remains, though she candidly admitted the absence of one mark which she expected to find. The story might have supplied a new subject of inquiry for the Psychical Society, but for the appearance of Elizabeth Watts at the inquest yesterday. Mrs. Watts, or, as she has now become, Mrs. Stokes, stoutly asserted that she was alive, and it was impossible to disbelieve her. She complained bitterly, and not without reason, of the manner in which her character had been taken away, for it ought to be added that her sister had alluded to her as a person of the same way of life as the murdered woman. She at the some time urged a touching plea for her "expenses." They ought to be granted to her, if only to clinch proof that she is decidedly a being of this world.
The inquest on the body of Elizabeth Stride, who was recently murdered in Berner street, Whitechapel, was concluded yesterday. The additional evidence taken had reference to the identity of the deceased. On a previous occasion Mrs. Malcolm, of Eagle street, Holborn, stated that the victim was her sister, Elizabeth Stokes, but Elizabeth Stokes now came forward to prove that her sister had been mistaken. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown, and also found that the deceased was the widow of John Stride, a carpenter.
The Prince of Wales has appointed Colonel Robert Nigel Fitzhardinge Kingscote, C.B., Receiver General of the Duchy of Cornwall, vice the Right Hon. Sir John Rose, Bart., G.C.M.G., deceased. Yesterday morning Prince Albert Victor and his host, Lord Egerton of Tatton, hunted with the North Cheshire hounds. There was a hoar frost during the night, but the sun shone brilliantly during the day.
There were three separate applicants to Mr. Horace Smith for process against a woman who had threatened to rip them all up. The first applicant was the husband of the woman, who said she had been several times confined in a lunatic asylum, and at the present time was behaving most strangely. She had threatened applicant and his daughter that she would rip them up, as a consequence of which he sent for the relieving officer and parochial doctor to certify as to her insanity. When these officials arrived his wife locked herself in a bedroom and talked through the door, the result being that the medical officer said he (applicant) ought to be ashamed of himself for sending for him. Since then his wife had been more violent than ever. Next came the landlord of the house, who complained of the woman in question creating a disturbance outside his house and causing a large crowd to assemble. She had threatened to rip him up. Mr. Smith: I cannot help that; if the husband lives in your house she has a right to be where he is. The third applicant was a lady neighbour, who also had been threatened with the ripping process. Mr. Smith: Take a summons for threats, and we will see what she says.
THE BERNER STREET INQUEST
The coroner's inquiry into the death of Elizabeth Stride, who was murdered at Berner street, Whitechapel, early on Sunday morning, the 30th ult., was resumed yesterday at the Vestry Hall, Cable street, before Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, Coroner for East Middlesex, and a jury. Evidence given at the previous sitting a fortnight ago showed that the body of the woman, still warm, was found in a yard off Berner street, near a Socialist club, about one o'clock in the morning, three quarters of an hour before the discovery of the murder of Mrs. Eddowes in Mitre square. At the previous sitting evidence was given by Mrs. Malcolm to the effect that deceased was her sister, and that she was married Mr. Watts, son of a wine merchant of Bath, but had latterly led a dissipated life, and that she had regularly contributed to her support up to the week of the murder. She added that she had a presentiment of the crime, because while lying in bed at the hour of the occurrence she felt a peculiar pressure. At the inquest yesterday Mrs. Watts herself appeared and flatly contradicted the statements of her sister. It was further shown that the murdered woman was the widow of a carpenter. Public excitement seems to have abated, and the inquiry was but thinly attended.
Mr. F. Reid, inspector or police, deposed - Since the last sitting I have made inquiries and examined the books of the Sick Asylum, Bromley, and find therein an entry of the death of John Thomas Stride, carpenter, of Poplar, on the 24th October, 1884. The nephew of Stride is here to give evidence. I have also seen Elizabeth Watts, whose sister is now married and resides in Tottenham. She informed that the whole of Mrs. Malcolm's statement us false, that she had not seen her sister for years, and believed her to be dead. It was not true that she saw her sister on the Monday before the murder. I have directed her to appear here as a witness today, and she promised to attend.
Police Constable Walter Stride - I recognise the photograph as that of the person who married my uncle, J.T. Stride, in 1872 or 1873. He was a carpenter, and the last time we saw him he lived in East India Dock road, Poplar.
Elizabeth Stokes, 6 Charles street, Tottenham, wife of Joseph Stokes, brickmaker, said - I was formerly married to Mr. Watts, wine merchant, Bath.
The Coroner - He is dead?
Witness - I have a letter which I wish to show you. (Witness was much agitated and said that the case had excited her greatly.) Mrs. Malcolm, of Eagle street, Red Lion square, Holborn, is my sister.
The Coroner, having read the letter handed to him, said it purported to have been written by "W.Y.Z" on board ship, and stated that the woman's husband was alive. To witness: Are you on friendly terms with your sister? - I have not seen her for years. She has given me a dreadful character, and said I was the curse of the family. I have not received a penny from her.
Her evidence is false? - All false. I can tell you the names of all of us. There were Matilda, Thomas, James, Mary , and Elizabeth. I am positively sure that Mrs. Malcolm is my sister, who has given these cruel statements.
A Juror: That must have been a mistake. Instead of referring to you, she must have referred to some other person.
Another Juror: She referred to a sister with a crippled foot, and this person has a crippled foot.
Witness - It was not I that kept a coffee shop and was a disgrace to the family. It is infamy and lies, and I am truly sorry to think I have a sister in my family that has given me such a terrible and dreadful character. I hope the country at large will clear my character.
The Coroner - You have contradicted the statements.
Witness - It has put me to dreadful trouble. I am only a poor woman, and my husband, who is a cripple, is now outside. Why should my sister be allowed to tell such terrible falsehoods?
A Juror - We did not know at the time they were falsehoods.
Witness - You can see.
Coroner - We can see now.
Witness - I hope you will allow me my expenses.
The Coroner - Is Mrs. Malcolm here?
Officer - No, sir.
The Coroner, in summing up, remarked upon the coincidence between the habits of the murdered woman and those of the person described by Mrs. Malcolm. If her evidence was correct, there were points of resemblance which almost reminded one of "The Comedy of Errors." Both had been courted by policemen; they bore the same Christian name, and were of the same age; both lived with sailors; both at one time kept coffee houses in Poplar; both were nicknamed "Long Liz"; both were said to have children in charge of their husband's friends; both were given to drink; both lived in East end common lodging houses; both had been charged with drunkenness at the Thames Police Court; both had escaped punishment on the ground that they were subject to epileptic fits, although the friends of both are certain that this was a fraud; both had lost their front teeth; and both were leading very questionable lives. The murdered woman, it appeared, was born in Sweden in 1843, but having resided in England 22 years could speak English fluently with a little foreign accent. At the time of her death she could have but a few pence in her pocket. It was shown that the man with whom she was seen shortly before was about five feet seven inches in height, and wore dark clothes, including an overcoat which reached nearly to his heels. There was no one among her associates to whom any suspicion attached, and it was not shown that she recently had a quarrel with any one. The ordinary motives of murder - revenge, jealousy, theft, and passion - appeared to be absent from this case, while it was clear from the accounts of all who saw her that night, as well as from the post mortem examination, that she was not otherwise than sober. In conclusion the Coroner, while expressing regret that the time and care bestowed in the inquiry had not eventuated in a result which would be a perceptible relief to the metropolis - the detection of the criminal - was bound to acknowledge the great attention which Inspector Reid and the police had given to the case.
The jury found a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown," and that the murdered woman was the widow of John Stride, carpenter.