East London Advertiser
Saturday, 29 September 1888.
It is not often that a coroner has the opportunity for such lucid remarks as those made by Mr. Wynne Baxter at the inquest on the woman murdered in Spitalfields. As a rule an inquest is one of the most formal affairs possible; but the present case is one of exceptional interest, and certainly the facts unveiled and the theory built up upon them lift this inquiry far above the rank of the commonplace "quest". No mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been some one accustomed to the post-mortem room. So much is certain. But the inadequacy to the motive is what makes the crime so incomprehensible to most of us. Considerable light, however, has been let in on this part of the subject by a circumstance which Mr. Wynne Baxter communicated to the jury. The curator of the Pathological Museum, it appears, had been called upon by an American who required exactly the portions of the body missing from the murdered woman in order to illustrate some medical publication, and he was willing to pay £20 for each specimen. "Is it not possible," asks the coroner, "that the knowledge of this demand may have incited some abandoned wretch to posses himself of a specimen?" It is, indeed, more than probable that such was the case, and the incident seems to throw a feeble ray of light on what has hitherto been a dark and inscrutable mystery. The crime seemed utterly purposeless. If the object appears inadequate now, such an objection must arise from those who do not know for what slight reasons murder is committed. The motive almost always appears out of proportion to the danger, and it is just this blundering want of balance between means and end which affords the principal safeguard in the way of detection. Much is to be hoped from the publicity that will be given by the Press to this latest revelation, which really would appear to merit the title of a "clue". One had got almost weary of a word so often abused by being made to stand for what meant nothing and led nowhere.
CLOSE OF THE INQUESTS.
THE STARTLING REVELATIONS.
THE CLUES AND ARRESTS.
The inquest on the body of Mary Ann Nicholls [Nichols], who was murdered in Whitechapel on the 1st inst., was resumed and concluded on Saturday. - The only further evidence taken was that of Thomas Eades, the signalman, who had previously deposed to having seen a man carrying a knife near the scene of the murder. Eades now testified that since last giving evidence he had identified John James of Hackney, as the man whom he had seen with the knife. - The coroner observed that the man in question was a well-known harmless lunatic, and then proceeded to sum up. After commenting strongly on the absence of a public mortuary in Whitechapel, where it was so greatly required, he proceeded to recall to the minds of the jury the salient facts of the case. Referring to the case of Chapman, on whose body an inquest was still pending, he said the similarity of the injuries in the two cases was considerable. There were bruises about the face in both cases; the head was nearly severed from the body in both cases; there were other dreadful injuries in both cases; and those injuries had again in each case been performed with anatomical knowledge. Dr. Llewellyn seemed to incline to the opinion that the abdominal injuries were first, and caused instantaneous death; but if so, it seemed difficult to understand the object of such desperate injuries to the throat, or how it came about that there was so little bleeding from the several arteries, that the clothing on the upper surface was not stained, and, indeed, very much less bleeding from the abdomen than from the neck. Surely it might well be that, as in the case of Chapman, the dreadful wounds to the throat were inflicted first, and the others afterwards. This was a matter of some importance when they came to consider what possible motive there could be for all this ferocity. Robbery was out of the question, and there was nothing to suggest jealousy; there could not have been any quarrel, or it would have been heard. He suggested to them as a possibility that the two women might have been murdered by the same man with the same object, and that in the case of Nicholls the wretch was disturbed before he had accomplished his object, and having failed in the open street he tried again within a week of his failure, in a more secluded place. If this should be correct the audacity and daring were equal to its maniacal fanaticism and abhorrent wickedness. This surmise might or might not be correct, but one thing was clear - that a murder of a most atrocious character had been committed. - The jury, after a short consultation, asked permission to retire, and after 20 minutes' absence returned into court with a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown. A rider was added expressing the full concurrence of the jury with the coroner's remarks as to the need of a mortuary for Whitechapel.
The inquest on the body of Annie Chapman, who was murdered in Hanbury-street, Spitalfields, on September 8th, concluded on Wednesday, when Mr. Wynne Baxter, the coroner, summed up. Having narrated the details of the case, he proceeded to say that the conclusion that the desire was to possess the missing part seemed overwhelming. If the object was robbery, the injuries to the viscera were meaningless, for death had previously resulted from the loss of blood at the neck. Moreover, when they found 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, they were driven to the deduction that the abstraction of the missing portion was the object, and the theft of the rings only a thinly-veiled blind. It was abhorrent to their feelings to conclude that a life should be taken for so slight an object; but, when rightly considered, the reasons for most murders were altogether out of proportion to the guilt. It was not necessary to assume lunacy, for it was clear that there was a market for such things. To show them this he mentioned a fact which at the same time proved the assistance which publicity and the newspaper press afforded 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 he received a communication from an officer of one of the great medical schools that they had information which might or might not have a distinct bearing on the inquiry. He 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 part that was missing in this body. He stated his willingness to give £20 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. It was known that this request was repeated to another institution of a similar character. Now, was it not possible that the knowledge of this demand might have incited some abandoned wretch to possess himself of a specimen? He at once communicated his information to the Detective Department at Scotland-yard. By means of the Press some further explanation might be forthcoming from America. Surely it was not too much even yet to hope that the ingenuity of the detective force would succeed in unearthing this monster. It was not as if there was no clue to the character of the criminal or the cause of his crime. His object was clearly divulged. His anatomical knowledge carried 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. If the assumption be correct that the man who was talking to Chapman at half-past 5 was the culprit he was even more clearly defined. In addition to his former description they should know that he was a foreigner of dark complexion, over 40 years of age, a little taller than the woman, of shabby-genteel appearance, with a brown deer-stalking hat on his head, and a dark coat on his back. If their views accord with his they would be of opinion that they were confronted with a murder of no ordinary character, committed not from jealously, revenge, or robbery, but from motives less adequate than the many which still disgraced our civilisation, marred our progress, and blotted the pages of our Christianity. - The jury at once returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.
Nothing was talked about in the East End on Wednesday, after the publication of Mr. Wynne Baxter's summing up, but the startling revelation he had made with regard to the application at the Pathological Institute for specimens of the organism which was missing in the corpse of the last victim of the Whitechapel murderer. The revelation seemed to shed some light as to the motive for the crime, and there were not wanting those who came hastily to the most apparent conclusion to be drawn. Inquiries at the London Hospital, the nearest medical institution to the scene of the murder, have elicited the fact that no applications of the kind referred to by the coroner have recently been made to the warden or curator of the pathological museum attached to it. On Thursday morning the public were again startled by the sensational announcements in the early evening papers as to the capture of the murderer. Up to the present, however, general opinion attaches little importance to the circumstances. It appears that a man giving the name of John Fitzgerald surrendered at Wandsworth Police-station on Wednesday night, and made a statement to the inspector on duty to the effect that he was the murderer of Annie Chapman, in Hanbury-street, Whitechapel. He was afterwards conveyed to Leman-street Police-station. The man, who is a plasterer or a bricklayer's labourer, says he has been wandering from place to place, and is believed to have been more or less under the influence of drink lately. His description does not tally with that given at the inquest by witnesses of a certain man seen on the morning of the murder. It seems that Fitzgerald first communicated the intelligence to a private individual, who subsequently gave its purport to the police. A search was made, and the man was discovered in a common lodging-house at Wandsworth; he is known to have been living recently at Hammersmith. His self-accusation is said to be not altogether clear, and it is even reported that he cannot give the date of the murder, so that the authorities are disinclined to place much reliance on his statements. The efforts of the Mile End Vigilance Committee have not by any means been abated and the gentlemen who have the work in hand meet constantly at the "Crown" in the Mile End-road. A further letter has been addressed by Mr. B. Harris to the Home Secretary, requesting an interview for the purpose of laying before him more freely the facts and position of the matter. But as yet no reply has been received. The subscriptions are coming in slowly, and the reward fund now amounts to between £60 and £70, to which Mr. F. Wootton Issacson, M.P., has contributed £10, and Mrs. Sarah Lane, of the Britannia Theatre, £3 3s. A preliminary reward of £50 has been offered by the committee, and the bills producing the fact are out now. In the event of the money subscribed not being required for the purpose of a reward the amounts will be returned to the respective donors, or disposed of as they may direct. The murder at Gateshead, which was at first connected with the crimes in Whitechapel, has now altogether been disassociated with the latter. The police and detective force are still busily engaged in following up the latest clues, but with what success is unknown, as they are extremely reticent upon the course they are pursuing.
MORE POLICE FOR LONDON.
The Economist remarks that the Whitechapel scare has directed attention to a defect in the London police which calls for the attention of the House of Commons, which, it must be remembered, is the only governing council in such matters for the whole of the metropolis. The present police force is obviously inadequate to the complete performance of duties which it is highly expedient should be performed. London, in the sense used when we speak of its police, is a considerable nation, and one so situated, owing to the immense wealth it possesses, and the concentration of its citizens in a wilderness of streets, alleys, courts and tenement houses, that it requires an unusual amount of watching. The watching cannot be carried out by the 13,000 men at present employed. A number of these men are detached for duties which are not those of watchman, and another number quite disproportionate to the whole, are employed in carefully patrolling the richer districts. This is a necessity, because the grand and permanent motive of ordinary crime is plunder, and those who plunder, naturally assail chiefly the districts in which much gain is to be obtained. Necessary, however, though it be, the watching of property involves the absorption of policemen, and, as a consequence, neither the outskirts of the town nor the low, crowded and vicious districts within it are sufficiently guarded. There is scarcely any preventative force at all, and even when a crime has been committed the police arrive so late that criminals have every advantage in their efforts to get away. This does not matter greatly in the lower districts in the daytime, because the rough population can for the most part be trusted to take care of itself, but it does matter seriously at night, when Whitechapel is almost as deserted as Belgravia, and in the suburbs it matters at all times, suburban houses being deserted for the most part by their male protectors from nine till five.