East London Observer
Saturday, 29 September 1888.
A Clue to the Murderer.
The Coroner's Theory.
On Monday, the jury who met at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel, to finally "inquire into" the cause of the death of Mary Ann Nicholls, came to the conclusion that she had been murdered by some person or persons unknown, in Buck's-row, and on Wednesday afternoon at the same place, the jury having charge of the inquest on the body of Mrs. Annie Chapman, who was murdered in Hanbury-street, recorded a similar verdict. Prior, however, to the latter verdict being given, Mr. Wynne Baxter the coroner, addressed to the jury, a long summing up which practically embraced all three cases - the cases of Martha Tabram, who was murdered at George-yard, of Mary Ann Nicholls, who met her death at Buck's-row, and of Annie Chapman, who was found murdered in the yard of 29 Hanbury-street. That summing up was clear and exhaustive, and contained a theory regarding the probable motive of the murders which seems of all the theories that have been advanced, the one that accords in every way with the character of the murders. Said the Coroner: "The brute who committed the offence did not even take the trouble to cover up his ghastly work, but left the body exposed to the view of the first comer. This accords but little with the trouble taken with the rings, and suggests either that he had at length been disturbed, or that as the daylight broke a sudden fear suggested the danger of detection that he was running. There are two things missing. Her rings had been wrenched from her fingers and have not been found, and the uterus has been removed. The body has not been dissected, but the injuries have been made by some one who had considerable anatomical skill and knowledge. There are no meaningless cuts. It was done by one who knew where to find what he wanted, what difficulties he would have to contend against, and how he should use his knife, so as to abstract the organ without injury to it. No unskilled person could have known where to find it, or have recognized it when it was found. For instance, no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been some one accustomed to the post-mortem room. The conclusion that the desire was to possess the missing parts seems overwhelming. If the object were robbery, these injuries were meaningless, for death had previously resulted from the loss of blood at the neck. Moreover, when we find an easily accomplished theft of some paltry brass rings and such an operation, after, at least, a quarter of an hour's work, and by a skilled person, we are driven to the deduction that the mutilation was the object, and the theft of the rings was only a thin-veiled blind, an attempt to prevent the real intention being discovered. Had not the medical examination been of a thorough and searching character, it might easily have been left unnoticed. The difficulty in believing that this was the real purport of the murderer is natural. It is abhorrent to our feelings to conclude that a life should be taken for so slight an object: but when rightly considered, the reasons for most murders are altogether out of proportion to the guilt. It has been suggested that the criminal is a lunatic with morbid feelings. This may or may not be the case: but the object of the murderer appears palpably shown by the facts, and it is not necessary to assume lunacy, for it is clear that there is a market for the object of the murder. To show you this, I must mention a fact which at the same time proves the assistance which publicity and the newspaper press afford 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, I received a communication from an officer of one of our great medical schools, that they had information which might or might not have a distinct bearing on our inquiry. I attended at the first opportunity, and was told 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 that organ that was missing in the deceased. He stated his willingness to give £20 for each and explained that his object was to issue an actual specimen with each copy of a publication on which he was then engaged. Although he was told that his wish was impossible to be complied with, he still urged his request. He desired them preserved, not in spirits of wine, the usual medium, but in glycerine, in order to preserve them in a flaccid condition, and he wished them sent to America direct. It is known that request was repeated to another institution of a similar character. Now, is it not possible that the knowledge of this demand may have incited some abandoned wretch to possess himself of a specimen? It seems beyond belief that such inhuman wickedness could enter into the mind of any man, but unfortunately our criminal annals prove that every crime is possible. I need hardly say that I at once communicated my information to the Detective Department at Scotland-yard. Of course I do not know what use has been made of it, but I believe that publicity may possibly further elucidate this fact, and, therefore, I have not withheld from you my knowledge. By means of the press some further explanation may be forthcoming from America if not from here."
To the Editor of the East London Observer.
SIR,--One cannot read the horrors of these atrocities without feeling that they disgrace our boasted civilization, and that all should try to some extent to make them impossible in the future. These poor creatures are wandering about seeking the means to provide them with shelter from the night, and a place to sleep and forget for the a time the horrors of their every-day life, and meet a fearful death. Think of it you who have daughters whose life must be prolonged long after you have passed away, and subjected to all the vicissitudes of this ever-changing life. I appeal to many who are engaged in missionary efforts, as they are termed, among the heathen abroad, to remember the still worse heathens at home. Such deeds as we read of, that are being committed in our very midst, outshine in horror and brutality anything ever done in savage lands - much of it too bad to print. I want to suggest and help to carry out a remedy, by which the homeless and shelterless may at least have a shelter free of cost.
"Oh! It was pitiful!
Near a whole city full,
Home she had none."
In Paris such shelters are provided at the cost of the municipality. They are large sheds in different parts of the city, open at dark and suitably warmed, with benches, a shelter simply, and a seat of rest. Some friends of mine have offered to subscribe £250 towards building such a shelter in the East End of London, and permanently maintaining it, if four other benevolent individuals will provide an equal sum, or guarantee the balance which may be required to establish it. If you will allow any gentlemen to send their names to you, sir, who are willing to serve on the Committee, or in any way assist, and thus begin the matter, you will be doing a public service. - I am, yours faithfully,