East London Observer
Saturday, 17 August 1889.
THE WHITECHAPEL MURDER.
The Inquest on the Latest Victim is Finished,
But the Jury Return an Open Verdict,
And the Coroner Describes East London
The final scene in the history of the latest Whitechapel tragedy took place on Wednesday morning, when Mr. Wynne Baxter, the coroner for South-East Middlesex, his jury, and a crowd of reporters and onlookers assembled at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel, for the purpose of finishing the the (sic) adjourned inquest into the circumstances attending the murder of Alice Mackenzie, who, it will be remembered, was discovered horribly mutilated on the morning of July 17th, in Castle-alley, Whitechapel.
Mr. George B. Phillips, divisional surgeon of police, was re-called, and in his calm, deliberate sort of way, deposed: On the occasion of my making the post-mortem examination, the attendant at the mortuary, on taking off the clothing, removed a short clay pipe, which one of them threw upon the ground, by which means it was broken. I had the broken pieces placed upon a ledge at the end of the post-mortem table, but they have disappeared, and, although inquiry has been made for them, they have not been found, I am informed. The pipe had been used. It did not come from a pocket; it fell out of the deceased's clothing. The attendants were two men I have often seen there before, but the old man I have been in the habit of seeing there was absent, and, I was informed, was ill. There were one or two marks about the abdomen, which you did not hear about before. They were five in number, and were, with one exception, situated on the left side of the abdomen. The largest one was the lowest; the smallest one was the exceptional one mentioned, and typical of a finger-nail mark. They were discoloured, and, in my opinion, were caused by the finger-nails and the thumb-nail of a hand. I have, on subsequent examination, assured myself of the correctness of the conclusion.
The Coroner: Did you form any opinion as to how long the deceased had been dead when you saw the body? -It is very difficult to form an opinion, but I should think she had not been dead half an hour. Very possibly it was a much shorter time.
Are you of opinion that death was caused while the woman was lying on the ground and on her back? -Yes.
The injuries to the abdomen, would they have been caused after death do you think? -Yes.
Have you formed any opinion from the character of the wound in the neck as to the position of her assailant? -Probably he was on the right side of the body.
Was the instrument used a sharp one? -Yes. It must have had a short and pointed blade.
I think you discovered that the first cut was comparatively unavailing? -Whether it was the first or the second cut that was unavailing I am unable to say.
The important cut - whether first or second - would it prevent the victim from crying out? -Probably it would, from the immediate shock. I have already pointed out, however, that the whole of the air-passage was uninjured. Of course she could have cried out before she was placed on the ground.
Are the bruises you mention as being over the collar-bone likely to have been caused by the pressure of a finger? -Yes.
Were there any marks suggestive of pressure against the windpipe? -No.
Did you detect any skill in the injuries? -A knowledge of how effectually to deprive a person of life, and that speedily.
The injuries to the abdomen, were they in a similar position to those you have seen in the previous cases? -No. The injuries to the throat were also dissimilar.
The Foreman: Do I understand that the pipe is a different one from that referred to previously? -Yes. I believe it fell from somewhere about her waist. It did not come from her hand.
Was the instrument used similar to that used by butchers? -Well, butchers use so many different kinds that I could not say. It certainly was not so large as the ordinary slaughter knife.
Would the finger-nail marks on the body be those of her own hand or those or somebody else? -The conclusion I came to was that it was the pressure of another hand. I should think the lower nail mark was produced by a broad nail. The typical mark must have been produced by a pointed nail. I think the marks were caused after the throat was cut.
Then Inspector Reid who had sat all this time beside the Coroner, listening carefully to the witness's evidence, intimated that that was all the fresh evidence bearing on the case to be produced.
Upon that, Mr. Baxter, running his hands through his hair - a pre-occupied habit into which he has fallen - said they had now come to an end of the inquiry. No fresh evidence was forthcoming, though it had been necessary to adjourn the inquiry in case new facts should be brought to light in the interval. There did not seem to be any doubt as to the identity of the woman. Alice Mackenzie had apparently been living in that neighbourhood for some ten or twelve years, but where she came from - whether from Peterborough or not - it was impossible to say. The character of the woman was variously described. The witness M'Cormac, with whom she had been living latterly, stated that she was a hardworking, industrious woman, and faithful to him. There was grave doubt about this description, however. She was in all probability one of the lowest kind of prostitute. There was evidence that tended to show that at the time of her death she was the worse for drink. The two women standing in Flower and Dean-street saw her between half-past eleven and twelve o'clock, and that was the last time she was seen, as far as the evidence was concerned. A constable was in Castle-alley at 12.25, and the body was not there then. It was found there at 12.50, so that in the interval of 25 minutes the woman must have met with her death. There were plenty of persons who would have heard any scream or noise during this period, but no one actually, a far as they knew, did hear anything. In this respect the case was similar to those that had preceded it. There were other points of similarity. The various victims lived in lodging-houses; they were apparently prostitutes; they were the worse for drink; their bodies were found lying down, and the injuries were all of a similar character, speaking generally, death being caused by a severance of the arteries in the neck, and the abdomen being mutilated. Of course this did not conclusively show that all the crimes had a common author; but it was clear that if in the present case the murder was not by the same person as the preceding ones, it was an imitation of them. There was as far as they knew - and this was another point of resemblance between the various crimes - an utter absence of motive. He thought they would agree with him that the police had acted with caution, ability, and discretion, but their action had all been unavailing. They were as far as they ever were from knowing why these unfortunate women were murdered, and who their murderer was; and under these circumstances they could do nothing but return an open verdict. But with all this light thrown upon the character of the Spitalfields neighbourhood it was to be hoped that something would be done to make such crimes as this impossible. It must now be patent to all the world that there was in this district a class of people such as could not be found in such numbers in any other part of London, or of any other city; and the question arose, "Should this state of things continue?" It was not a matter for them to deal with; it was for a higher power to suggest a remedy; but it certainly appeared to him that there were two ways in which the problem ought to be attacked. Firstly, it ought to be attacked physically. Anyone who knew Spitalfields and its vicinity must feel that the houses there were, many of them, unfit for habitation. They must be cleared away and fresh ones built. Of course, there were the main streets, which were some of the finest in London; and possibly anyone coming from the West End and only seeing those spacious thoroughfares, might come to the conclusion that all that was said about the deplorable condition of the East End was an exaggeration. It was the wretched little alleys and bye-streets that needed to be pulled down. These were physical alterations that were needed. Then there was the moral question. The population was, as he had said, of the same character - not varied like that of a moderate-sized town or village, where each person had an influence upon everyone else. It was a seething population of some twenty thousand persons, none of whom were capable of elevating each other. Of course, he knew that the opinion was held that it was proper that this particular class of persons should be all kept together rather than be distributed over the town; but if they were to be kept together in this way he maintained that every effort ought to be made to elevate them. He was constantly struck by the fact that the efforts of all charitable and religious agencies were comparatively unavailing there. It was true that a great effort had been made - of late years especially - for the moral development of the East End, but the effort was perfectly inadequate. One found a single church for 21,000 inhabitants, and if one went a few hundred yards westward, one found a church for almost every dozen inhabitants. If one went still further to the westward, one entered districts where such a thing as a poor man was unknown. He trusted that as a result of the recent revelations, every one of the West End parishes would have a mission localized in the East End. Unless something like this were done, it was utterly impossible that these dreadful crimes could be put a stop to. Cases of starvation were constantly coming under his notice.
The jury, after a brief deliberation, returned a verdict to the effect that Alice Mackenzie was murdered, though by whom there was no evidence to show. The foreman added that the jury endorsed every word that had been said by the Coroner with reference to the condition of the East End. The alleys and courts there were nothing more nor less than harbours for vice and filth. Castle-alley itself was an especially bad instance of such bye-ways, and the jury desired the Coroner to communicate with the local authorities and state their opinion that steps should be taken to open Castle-alley at the point where it joined Whitechapel High-street, and that steps should further be taken to prevent its remaining in its present filthy condition.
The Coroner said he should not fail to do as requested, and so the proceedings closed.
The Whitechapel Murderer on the Stage. --Jack the Ripper will be able to do what no other assassin has been in a position before him to achieve. Having still complete liberty of action, he can, if it please him, go and behold himself as the hero of a drama. Messrs. Xavier Bertrand and Louis Clairan have written a play entitled "Jack l'Eventreur," in which the Whitechapel fiend is the principal character; and this piece is to be produced in a day or two at the Chateau d'Eau Theatre in Paris. The legendary Jack will assuredly be wanting in ordinary human curiosity if he fails to avail himself of one of the numerous cheap trips to the French capital, in order to see for himself what a couple of ingenious French playwrights, well versed in the physiology of crime and criminals, have made for him. Seeing what French writers habitually do when they touch English subjects, some of the characters and incidents in "Jack l'Eventreur" will doubtless be very amusing to such English tourists as may happen to stroll into the Chateau d'Eau Theatre to see the play. East London will of a certainty be vested with attributes of a new and startling sort. Quite recently there appeared a serious article in the Gaulois, in which Whitechapel was spoken of as the locality where "le cher Charles Dickens" lived and died. When "able editors" thus err, what is to be expected from playwrights, who at least may claim the poet's privilege of license?
A very interesting ceremony took place in connection with the above association at the "Paul's Head," Crispin-street, Spitalfields on Monday last, when three presentations were made to Mr. George Evans, Mr. Ivan Gelder and Mr. M. Martin, the inspector, the hon. secretary, and the sergeant of the Vigilance Committee respectively. The presentations took the form of a framed portrait of the leading vigilance men. Appropriate speeches were made by Mr. Stead, president of the society, and Messrs. Evans, Gelder and Martin in acknowledging the gifts. The proceedings terminated with the pleasures of harmony.