The Eastern Post & City Chronicle
Saturday, 14 February 1891.
ANOTHER HORRIBLE TRAGEDY IN WHITECHAPEL.
Another of the series of terrible crimes which have been connected with East London during late years was committed at an early hour this (Friday) morning. The revolting features which have characterised most of these murders hitherto were happily absent; but the circumstances of the crime, the character of the victim, and the mysterious features by which the deed is environed, undoubtedly place it in the same category. The time chosen by the murderer, the locality, and the precautions taken to escape detection are in all respects similar to those followed on previous occasions.
It appears that shortly after two o'clock this (Friday) morning - at 15 minutes past the hour as nearly as can be ascertained - Constable 240 H, while passing through an archway of the Great Eastern Railway, which leads from Swallow-gardens to Orman-street, two thoroughfares running parallel with the Whitechapel-road, but lying more towards the river, observed a woman extended on her back in the centre of the thoroughfare. He had passed the spot fifteen minutes previously and there was no one there. On approaching and turning his lamp on the prostrate figure he was horrified to find that the woman lay in a pool of blood, which was flowing from a terrible wound in the throat extending literally from ear to ear. He at once blew his whistle for assistance, and was joined within a few minutes by Police-constable 327 H, whose beat is adjoining. The woman gave no signs of life, but the body was quite warm, and the policeman felt that the pulses were beating faintly.
Further assistance was soon brought to the spot by whistling, and a man was despatched to the residence of Dr. Philip [Phillips], the surgeon to the division, who resides near at hand. In the meantime, acting in accordance with instructions issued during the panic at the East-end, nearly two years ago, the police allowed the body to remain in the position in which it was discovered, and took careful note of the surroundings so as to be in possession of any availing clue.
The woman appeared to be from twenty-five to twenty-seven years of age, and lay in the roadway, her feet crossed one over the other, and towards the footpath. She was bareheaded, and while one arm was stretched by her side, the other was bent towards the breast. By her side lay a black crape hat, and in the pocket of her dress were several pieces of black lace or crape and a vulcanite earring. Strange to say, a second black crape hat lay partly hidden in the folds of her dress. An old striped stocking and a comb were also found in her pocket.
By this time Dr. Philips had reached the scene, and after a short examination pronounced that the woman, although not quite dead, was expiring fast. As a matter of fact, she expired before preparations could be made to move her on a stretcher, which had been brought from the Leman-street Police-station. When the medical man pronounced life to be extinct the body was conveyed to the Whitechapel mortuary, where it lies to await an inquest.
The intelligence of the murder was telegraphed to the adjacent police-station as soon as the body was found, and within a comparatively short time Superintendent Arnold, Inspector Reed [Reid], and a number of detectives and police were on the scene investigating the crime. There is no doubt that the murder was deliberately planned.
Swallow-gardens and Orman-street are two thoroughfares, narrow, boldly-lighted, and at the early hour of the morning rarely traversed. The buildings are partly dwelling houses, partly warehouses or storerooms. The arch, which was the actual theatre of the crime, is about fifty yards in length, and while fairly lighted at each end by lamps, the centre remains in deep shade. It was in the centre, where the shadow lies deepest, that the deed was committed. One side of the archway is walled up by a hoarding, the space enclosed being used as a builder's store. The place is notorious as a resort of women of the unfortunate class, despite the efforts of the police to keep them away. In fact, two women were arrested for loitering at this spot earlier in the night by one of the constables who assisted to remove the body.
The deceased was known to the local police as an 'unfortunate,' who was in the habit of frequenting the locality, and had been seen about Leman-street early in the evening. It is surmised that she could not have been long in the company of her murderer, at least in the vicinity of the place where the deed was committed, as one of the Great Northern Railway men employed as a shunter passed through the archway at a few minutes past two o'clock, and saw no one about then. A City detective also passed some minutes later without perceiving anything amiss. The theory of the police is that the deceased was lured into the archway and at once murdered, and that the perpetrator of the crime was prevented from committing further outrages on the body by some one approaching.
It was at first considered singular that no money should have been found upon the body, but this point is cleared up by the fact that in the course of an examination of the arch and its approaches, made by the police after the body was removed, 2s. were found concealed on the ground behind a pipe used for carrying off the rain water from the railway. No other article was discovered in the neighbourhood which was thought to have any connection with the crime.
Shortly before five o'clock Chief Inspector Swanson, of Scotland-yard, arrived, and with Inspector Arnold, made a searching examination of the spot where the body was found, and the ground adjoining, as well as the walls of the railway arch and the wooden hoarding. In previous crimes of this nature writings have been found on walls in the vicinity, but in the present case no marks of any kind were observed. By the direction of Mr. Swanson the pool of blood in the roadway was washed away after a portion had been collected and preserved, probably for analysis. The archway was then opened for traffic, the crowd of railway men and others, who had been about from an early hour, being allowed to pass to and fro freely. The case has now been placed in the hands of Chief Inspector Swanson, who will conduct the further investigations.
An early intimation of the crime was conveyed to Mr. Macnaghten, Chief Superintendent of the Eastern police district, and he arrived at Leman-street Police-station soon after five o'clock. After a consultation with Superintendent Arnold he gave instructions as to the course to be pursued by the police.
The following is the official description of the murdered woman as entered upon the police books: Age, about 25; length, 5ft.; eyes and hair brown, complexion pale. Dress, a black diagonal jacket, dress black, satin bodice, white chemise and drawers, button boots, black ribbon round neck, black vulcanite earrings and black earring in pocket, black crape hat and ditto found in folds of dress. In pocket three pieces of black crape, one old striped stocking, and a comb. The clothing of the deceased was considerably worn and dirty, and the lobe of the left ear bore a mark as if at some former time an earring had been torn out of it violently. The body was fairly well nourished.
The body is now at the mortuary, where it will remain until an inquest has been held. The coroner for the district will be informed of the murder, and will name the day to open the inquiry. The police will endeavour to secure the identification of the deceased, and as she is known by sight to many of the officers in the Tower Hill as well as in the Whitechapel district, it is anticipated that little difficulty will be experienced in doing this.
The tragedy became known in Whitechapel and the vicinity at an early hour, and caused great excitement. Crowds of people surrounded the police station in Leman-street and the scene of the crime eagerly discussing the details.
The detectives, who are diligently investigating the affair, have been endeavouring to find a clue, and have enquired at the various hotels and coffee houses in the City and East-end, with a view to ascertaining whether any stranger entered or left the houses about the time of the murder. There is little doubt that the woman who has fallen a victim of the crime belongs to the class known as 'unfortunate'.