East London Observer
Saturday, 1 September 1888.
While the George-yard horror in all its sickening and revolting details is still before the minds of the people of Whitechapel, there has just been acted in the same district another tragedy, which bids fair not only to equal that of George-yard, for the horrible manner in which the victim has met her death, but also for the mystery which seems to surround the manner in which she was murdered, and, indeed her whole history.
It seems that on Friday morning Police-constable Neale [Neil], 97 J, was on his beat at about half-past four, in the neighbourhood of Buck's-row. It was then just after half-past four, and, in the early light of day he discovered lying on the pavement just outside the high brick wall which surrounds the Essex Wharf, the form of a woman. She was lying on her back, with hands that were tightly clenched, and presenting altogether the appearance of one who had died in the greatest agony. She was wearing a little black straw bonnet, battered almost out of recognition, and placed at the back of her head. Around her was a cloak - a threadbare garment that had once been red, but was now a dull, dirty colour. It was open in front, and the black bodice of her dress was thrown slightly open, revealing a horrible gash more than an inch in diameter, extending from one ear to the other, and completely severing the windpipe, which protruded from the deep wound. Constable Neale at once called for assistance, and with the help of some scavengers who were cleaning the roads at the time, managed to carry the body to the mortuary, which is situated in the Pavilion Yard close by. Mr. Edmunds, the keeper of the mortuary, was in attendance, and assisted by the officer and the scavengers, undressed the poor creature and placed her in one of the black coffins lying about the mortuary.
The news of the terrible tragedy spread like wild-fire amongst the inhabitants of Buck's-row and the neighbourhood, who, filled with morbid curiosity, surrounded Eagle-place, the entrance by which the body was taken into the dead-house. The Whitechapel Mortuary is a little brick building situated to the right of the large yard used by the Board of Works for the storage of their material. Accompanied by Mr. Edmunds, the keeper, our reporter visited the temporary resting place of the victim on Friday morning. The first evidence seen of the tragedy on arriving in the yard was a bundle of what were little more than rags, of which the woman had been divested, and which were lying on the flagstones just outside the mortuary. They consisted of a dull red cloak already mentioned, together with a dark bodice and brown skirt, a check flannel petticoat which bore the mark of the Lambeth Workhouse, a pair of dark stockings, and an old pair of dilapidated-looking spring-side boots, together with the little and sadly battered black straw bonnet, minus either ribbons or trimmings. Contrary to anticipation, beyond the flannel petticoat, and with the exception of a few bloodstains on the cloak, the other clothing was scarcely marked. The petticoat, however, was completely saturated with blood, and altogether presented a sickening spectacle. Entering the deadhouse, with its rows of black coffins, the keeper turned to the one immediately to the right of the door, and lying parallel with the wall. Opening the lid, he exposed the face of the poor victim. The features were apparently those of a woman of about thirty or thirty-five years, whose hair was still dark. The features were small and delicate, the cheek-bones high, the eyes grey, and the partly opened mouth disclosed a set of teeth which were a little discoloured. The expression on the face was a deeply painful one, and was evidently the result of an agonizing death. The gash across the neck was situated very slightly above the breastbone; it was at least six inches in length, over an inch in width, and was clean cut. The hands were still tightly clenched. The lower portion of the body, however, presented the most sickening spectacle of all. Commencing from the lower portion of the abdomen, a terrible gash extended nearly as far as the diaphragm - a gash from which the bowels protruded. There were no rings upon the fingers, and no distinguishing marks either about the face or the body.
The body, with the exception of the face was covered with a white sheet and a blanket.
Inspector Helson, of Leman-street, had called earlier, and had taken a description of the woman, together with a list of the articles of clothing. On finding the Lambeth Workhouse mark, he immediately proceeded there, but, up to the time of going to Press, he had not gleaned any authoritative information regarding the identity of the woman. She was unknown either to Police-constable Neale, or any of the officials, as a frequenter of the neighbourhood, and altogether the identity like that of the victim of the George-yard tragedy, seems likely for a time to be shrouded in mystery. Several people who were waiting outside the mortuary claimed to have had friends or acquaintances missing, but when put to the test, the descriptions failed to tally with that of the murdered woman.
There is absolutely no room for doubt that the woman has been the victim of a foul crime. It might have been within the bounds of possibility for a woman to have inflicted the wound across the throat, but the terrible abdominal wound could never have been self-inflicted. Moreover, the wound in the throat, which was evidently the first inflicted, was quite sufficient of itself to have caused almost immediate death. But, while there is, as we have said, but little doubt as to the woman having been murdered, there seems to be but little motive for the murder. Robbery was certainly not the motive, for the victim appears to have been in extreme poverty. Like poor Martha Tabram, of George-yard, then, the poor "unknown" appears to have been the victim of some fiend. Indeed, the inhabitants of Buck's-row, among whom the murder was the sole topic of conversation on Friday morning, go so far as to assert that the very similar manner in which both the victims have met their death - both in the dead of night, both with wounds of a most revolting character, and both without any apparent motive - point to the murderer of Martha Tabram having been the murderer also of the poor unknown of Buck's-row. Near the scene of the murder are the Essex Wharf and several private houses, mostly inhabited by the poorer classes, who have either come home very late at night, or have to go out very early in the morning, and yet nobody appears to have been aware of having heard any screaming or other sounds likely to fix the time at which the tragedy was perpetrated - probably judging from the appearance of the dead woman at the time she was found, about two or three o'clock on the Friday morning. The probability is that although the victim did scream, yet, so used are the inhabitants there to drunken brawls and cries of "Murder," that they took no notice of it, and that the murderer, whoever he is, thus escaped undetected.
Mr. Banks, the coroner's officer, viewed the body early on Friday and communicated the particulars to Mr. George Collier, the coroner, who will probably hold the inquest some time to-day (Saturday).
A more minute examination of the body shows the height of the victim to be five feet two inches. The hands are bruised and bear evidence of having engaged in a severe struggle. There is the impression of a ring having been worn on one of the deceased's fingers, but there is nothing to show that it had been wrenched from her in a struggle. Some of the teeth appear to have been knocked out, and the face is bruised on both cheeks, and slightly discoloured. People living near the scene of the murder all concur in saying that they heard no screaming at about the time of the murder. Mrs. Purkiss, who lives in Essex Wharf, states that although she was suffering from extreme nervousness, and failed to sleep during the night, yet she heard nothing to attract her attention.
The wounds seem to have been inflicted with a large pocket knife.