22 December 1888
The body of Elizabeth Crowe, a spinster, aged about forty five years, was discovered brutally mutilated about the head, at daybreak yesterday morning in a by road off the highway from Ramsey to Laxey. A stone covered with blood, with which it is supposed the murder was committed, was found near. The body had been dragged into the ditch. The deceased lived alone in a farmhouse. No motive for the crime is known.
Yesterday morning Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for South east Middlesex, opened an inquiry at Poplar Town Hall into the circumstances attending the death of a woman unknown, whose body was discovered on Thursday morning in Clarke's yard, High street, Poplar.
Police constable Golding stated that at 4.15 a.m. on Thursday he was on duty in High street, Poplar. While he was passing Clarke's yard, in company of another policeman, he saw something lying in the yard. He found it to be the body of a woman. She was lying on her left side. The body was warm. The clothes were not disarranged. He went for the divisional surgeon, whose assistant came and pronounced life extinct. The body was removed to the mortuary. He found on it 1s in silver and 2d in bronze, together with a phial, which was empty. The woman had no hat on, and her hair was all rough and fell over her face. The witness did not see any one in High street. He could not find any marks if a scuffle having taken place. The features of the woman were familiar to him, and he believed she led an immoral life.
Thomas Dean, a blind maker, said that he passed through Clarke's yard late on Wednesday night. He did not notice the body then, as he must have done had it been there. His house was opposite in the yard, but during the night he heard no noise.
Mr. Matthew Brownfield, divisional surgeon of police, said that he made that morning a post mortem examination of the body. He found the body, which was that of a woman about thirty years of age, to be well nourished. Blood was oozing from the nostrils, and on the right side was a slight abrasion. On the neck he found a mark which had evidently been caused by a cord drawn tightly round from the spine at the back to the lobe of the left ear. He had since found that the mark could be produced by a piece of four fold cord. Beside that mark, the impression of thumbs and middle and index finders was plainly visible on each side of the neck. There was no sign of poison in the stomach. The cause of death, in the witness's opinion, was suffocation by strangulation. There were no signs of a struggle, except a mark on her cheek.
The Coroner - To what do you ascribe the fingermarks?
The Witness - I think they were made in her efforts to pull of the cord.
The Coroner - I think you said that the string had not gone right round the neck, but only from the spine to beneath the left ear travelling round by the throat. How do you account for that?
The Witness - I think the murderer must have stood behind the woman on the left hand side, and having the ends of the string round his hands, thrown the cord round her throat, and crossing his hands, so strangled her. Where the hands crossed would be just where the marks of the cord are absent. The cord being tight would prevent the woman calling out for help. I think it quite possible that the cord would be run through two holes or rings and then twisted by a turn of the wrist till death ensued.
Police Constable Thomas Costella said that his beat extended the whole length of High street, and took in the spot where the woman was found. He went on duty at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, and between then and the time the woman was found he passed the spot six times. On none of these occasions did he see anything to arouse his suspicions.
By the Jury - Besides the witness there was another constable who patrolled the left hand side of High street.
A Juror - Yes; but how often? I have seen a fight lasting over an hour take place in High street, and people screaming, without ever a constable appearing on the spot. The inhabitants of Poplar are left far more unprotected than the people of Whitechapel, and it is great wonder that more murders of this kind have not been done in the neighbourhood.
The Coroner said that it seemed very much as if a murder had been committed, and all the available evidence should be got before the jury concluded the case. Under those circumstances he thought it would be better to adjourn at this point and give his officer and the police time to make inquiries. The inquiry was therefore adjourned.
High street, Poplar, at the best of times when business is in full swing is not particularly well lighted. It is a dirty, narrow thoroughfare, and in the neighbourhood of Clarke's yard, as there are several private houses facing the street, the illumination is poor. Clarke's yard is a long narrow lane leading from the main thoroughfare down to some workshops and stables. It is about eight to ten feet wide, it is not lit up; one of the two gates which formerly kept out intruders at night has disappeared, and lately the yard has become a nuisance from a sanitary point of view, while it is much frequented by women of the unfortunate class. The tenants of the workshops and stables are usually passing up and down until close on midnight. But on the night of the murder no one seems to have gone through the yard after ten o'clock. At that hour it was moonlight, and certainly nobody was there then. The discovery was made at four o'clock in the morning, and the outrage had then not long been committed. The deceased was very poorly dressed, but had evidently been fairly good looking. It is thought she belonged to the unfortunate class of women who infest the streets late at night. Her death must have been brought about very quickly. The cord was evidently applied in the form of a tourniquet from the left ear, and with such suddenness as to prevent any cry escaping the poor creature's lips. She evidently struggled with her hands to free her neck from the cord and considerably bruised her neck, but the ground no trace of any scuffling, and the body was found in an open part of the yard within full view of and only twenty five feet from the entrance gate. Nobody living in the vicinity appears to have noticed any unusual sounds that night. The police passed the yard regularly on their beat at stated intervals of about half an hour, and none of the constables seems to have noticed the woman that night. It may be added that disturbances with abandoned women are of frequent occurrence in the locality, especially soon after midnight. The affair up to a late hour last night was still enshrouded in mystery, one of the chief difficulties of the police arising from the fact that the deceased is totally unknown. Two or three inquiries have already been made of the police by women who have missed companions, but all efforts at identification have proved futile. Some colour id given to the suggestion that "Jack the Ripper" has adopted a new style of assassination by a complaint recently made at Dalston Police court by a woman that a man had attempted to strangle her in a in a somewhat similar manner. The force of detectives in the Poplar district has now been considerably increased, and no efforts are being spared to clear up the mystery.