MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 1888
On Saturday Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for South-East Middlesex, opened an inquiry at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel-road, into the circumstances attending the death of a woman supposed to be Mary Ann Nicholls, who was discovered lying dead on the pavement in Buck's-row, Baker's-row, Whitechapel, early on Friday morning. Her throat was cut, and she had other terrible injuries.
Inspector Helston, who has the case in hand, attended, with other officers, on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department.
Edward Walker deposed: I live at 15, Maidwell-street, Albany-road, Camberwell, and have no occupation. I was a smith when I was at work, but I am not now. I have seen the body in the mortuary, and to the best of my belief it is my daughter; but I have not seen her for three years. I recognise her by her general appearance and by a little mark she has had on her forehead since she was a child. She also had either one or two teeth out, the same as the woman I have just seen. My daughter's name was Mary Ann Nicholls, and she had been married twenty-two years. Her husband's name is William Nicholls, and he is alive. He is a machinist. They have been living apart about seven or eight years. I last heard of her before Easter. She was forty-two years of age.
The Coroner: How did you see her?
Witness: She wrote to me.
The Coroner: Is this letter in her handwriting?
Witness: Yes, that is her writing.
The letter, which was dated April 17, 1888, was read by the Coroner, and referred to a place which the deceased had gone to at Wandsworth.
The Coroner: When did you last see her alive?
Witness: Two years ago last June.
The Coroner: Was she then in a good situation?
Witness: I don't know. I was not on speaking terms with her. She had been living with me three or four years previously, but thought she could better herself, so I let her go.
The Coroner: What did she do after she left you?
Witness: I don't know.
The Coroner: This letter seems to suggest that she was in a decent situation.
Witness: She had only just gone there.
The Coroner: Was she a sober woman?
Witness: Well, at times she drank, and that was why we did not agree.
The Coroner: Was she fast?
Witness: No; I never heard of anything of that sort. She used to go with some young women and men that she knew, but I never heard of anything improper.
The Coroner: Have you any idea what she has been doing lately?
Witness: I have not the slightest idea.
The Coroner: She must have drunk heavily for you to turn her out of doors?
Witness: I never turned her out. She had no need to be like this while I had a home for her.
The Coroner: How is it that she and her husband were not living together?
Witness: When she was confined her husband took on with the young woman who came to nurse her, and they parted, he living with the nurse, by whom he has another family.
The Coroner: Have you any reasonable doubt that this is your daughter?
Witness: No, I have not. I know nothing about her acquaintances, or what she had been doing for a living. I had no idea she was over here in this part of the town. She has had five children, the eldest being twenty-one years old and the youngest eight or nine years. One of them lives with me, and the other four are with their father.
The Coroner: Has she ever lived with anybody since she left her husband?
Witness: I believe she was once stopping with a man in York-street, Walworth. His name was Drew, and he was a smith by trade. He is living there now, I believe. The parish of Lambeth summoned her husband for the keep of the children, but the summons was dismissed, as it was proved that she was then living with another man. I don't know who that man was.
The Coroner: Was she ever in the workhouse?
Witness: Yes, sir; Lambeth Workhouse, in April last, and went from there to a situation at Wandsworth.
By the Jury: The husband resides at Coburg-road, Old Kent-road. I don't know if he knows of her death.
Coroner: Is there anything you know of likely to throw any light upon this affair?
Witness: No; I don't think she had any enemies, she was too good for that.
John Neil, police-constable, 97J, said: Yesterday morning I was proceeding down Buck's-row, Whitechapel, going towards Brady-street. There was not a soul about. I had been round there half an hour previously, and I saw no one then. I was on the right-hand side of the street, when I noticed a figure lying in the street. It was dark at the time, though there was a street lamp shining at the end of the row. I went across and found deceased lying outside a gateway, her head towards the east. The gateway was closed. It was about nine or ten feet high, and led to some stables. There were houses from the gateway eastward, and the School Board school occupies the westward. On the opposite side of the road is Essex Wharf. Deceased was lying lengthways along the street, her left hand touching the gate. I examined the body by the aid of my lamp, and noticed blood oozing from a wound in the throat. She was lying on her back, with her clothes disarranged. I felt her arm, which was quite warm from the joints upwards. Her eyes were wide open. Her bonnet was off and lying at her side, close to the left hand. I heard a constable passing Brady-street, so I called him. I did not whistle. I said to him, "Run at once for Dr. Llewellyn," and, seeing another constable in Baker's-row, I sent him for the ambulance. The doctor arrived in a very short time. I had, in the meantime, rung the bell at Essex Wharf, and asked if any disturbance had been heard. The reply was "No." Sergeant Kirby came after, and he knocked. The doctor looked at the woman and then said, "Move her to the mortuary. She is dead, and I will make a further examination of her." We placed her on the ambulance, and moved her there. Inspector Spratley came to the mortuary, and while taking a description of the deceased turned up her clothes, and found that she was disembowelled. This had not been noticed by any of them before. On the body was found a piece of comb and a bit of looking-glass. No money was found, but an unmarked white handkerchief was found in her pocket.
The Coroner: Did you notice any blood where she was found?
Witness: There was a pool of blood just where her neck was lying. It was running from the wound in her neck.
The Coroner: Did you hear any noise that night?
Witness: No; I heard nothing. The farthest I had been that night was just through the Whitechapel-road and up Baker's-row. I was never far away from the spot.
The Coroner: Whitechapel-road is busy in the early morning, I believe. Could anybody have escaped that way?
Witness: Oh yes, sir. I saw a number of women in the main road going home. At that time any one could have got away.
The Coroner: Some one searched the ground, I believe?
Witness: Yes; I examined it while the doctor was being sent for.
Inspector Spratley: I examined the road, sir, in daylight.
A Juryman (to witness): Did you see a trap in the road at all?
A Juryman: Knowing that the body was warm, did it not strike you that it might just have been laid there, and that the woman was killed elsewhere?
Witness: I examined the road, but did not see the mark of wheels. The first to arrive on the scene after I had discovered the body were two men who work at a slaughterhouse opposite. They said they knew nothing of the affair, and that they had not heard any screams. I had previously seen the men at work. That would be about a quarter-past three, or half an hour before I found the body.
Henry Llewellyn, surgeon, said: On Friday morning I was called to Buck's-row about four o'clock. The constable told me what I was wanted for. On reaching Buck's-row I found the deceased woman lying flat on her back in the pathway, her legs extended. I found she was dead, and that she had severe injuries to her throat. Her hands and wrists were cold, but the body and lower extremities were warm. I examined her chest and felt the heart. It was dark at the time. I believe she had not been dead more than half-an-hour. I am quite certain that the injuries to her neck were not self-inflicted. There was very little blood round the neck. There were no marks of any struggle or of blood, as if the body had been dragged. I told the police to take her to the mortuary, and I would make another examination. About an hour later I was sent for by the Inspector to see the injuries he had discovered on the body. I went, and saw that the abdomen was cut very extensively. I have this morning made a post-mortem examination of the body. I found it to be that of a female about forty or forty-five years. Five of the teeth are missing, and there is a slight laceration of the tongue. On the right side of the face there is a bruise running along the lower part of the jaw. It might have been caused by a blow with the fist or pressure by the thumb. On the left side of the face there was a circular bruise, which also might have been done by the pressure of the fingers. On the left side of the neck, about an inch below the jaw, there was an incision about four inches long and running from a point immediately below the ear. An inch below on the same side, and commencing about an inch in front of it, was a circular incision terminating at a point about three inches below the right jaw. This incision completely severs all the tissues down to the vertebrae. The large vessels of the neck on both sides were severed. The incision is about eight inches long. These cuts must have been caused with a long-bladed knife, moderately sharp, and used with great violence. No blood at all was found on the breast either of the body or clothes. There were no injuries about the body till just about the lower part of the abdomen. Two or three inches from the left side was a wound running in a jagged manner. It was a very deep wound, and the tissues were cut through. There were several incisions running across the abdomen. On the right side there were also three or four similar cuts running downwards. All these had been caused by a knife, which had been used violently and been used downwards. The wounds were from left to right, and might have been done by a left-handed person. All the injuries had been done by the same instrument.
The inquiry was adjourned till to-morrow.
Up to a late hour last night the police had no clue whatever to the mystery, and had made no arrests.
Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, coroner, opened an inquest at the Whitechapel Working Lads' Institute on Saturday, into the circumstances attending the death of Mary Ann Nicholls, who was discovered lying dead in Buck's-row early on Friday morning. Edward Walker identified the body as that of his daughter. She had been married twenty-two years, but left her husband seven or eight years ago, and he was still alive. Evidence was given by the constable Neil, who discovered the body, and by Mr. Henry Llewellyn, surgeon, who described the wounds, and the inquiry was adjourned. No arrest has yet been made in connection with the tragedy.