1 September 1888
THE WHITECHAPEL MYSTERY.
HORRIBLE MURDER IN BUCK'S ROW, WHITECHAPEL.
IDENTIFICATION OF THE BODY.
THE DOCTOR'S STATEMENT.
The locality of Whitechapel has long been associated with the committal of crimes of a brutal and at times almost incredible nature, in many of which women have been the victims. Some few months ago a woman was barbarously murdered near Whitechapel Church by being stabbed with a swordstick. On the night of last Bank Holiday a woman named Turner was found dead in George-yard, Whitechapel, with 30 stabs on her body. In both cases no clue to the perpetrators of the deed was discovered, and now even a more ghastly deed has come to light.
At a quarter to four yesterday morning Police-constable Neil was on his beat in Buck's-row, Thomas-street, Whitechapel, when his attention was attracted to the body of a woman lying on the pavement close to the door of the stableyard in connection with Essex Wharf. Buck's-row, like many minor thoroughfares in this and similar neighbourhoods, is not overburdened with gas-lamps, and in the dim light the constable at first thought that the woman had fallen down in a drunken stupor, and was sleeping off the effects of a night's debauch. With the aid of the light from his bullseye lantern Neil at once perceived that the woman had been the victim of some horrible outrage. Her livid face was stained with blood, and her throat cut from ear to ear. The constable at once alarmed the people living in the house next to the stable-yard, occupied by a carter named Green and his family, and also knocked up Mr. Walter Perkins, the resident manager of the Essex Wharf, on the opposite side of the road, which is very narrow at this point.
Neither Mr. Perkins nor any of the Green family, although the latter were sleeping within a few yards of where the body was discovered, had heard any sound of a struggle. Dr. Llewellyn, who lives only a short distance away in Whitechapel-road, was at once sent for and promptly arrived on the scene. He found the body lying on its back across the gateway, and the briefest possible examination was sufficient to prove that life was extinct. Death had not long ensued, because the extremities were still warm.
With the assistance of Police-sergeant Kirby and Police-constable Thane, the body was removed to the Whitechapel-road mortuary, and it was not until the unfortunate woman's clothes were removed that the horrible nature of the attack which had been made upon her transpired. It was then discovered that in addition to the gash in her throat, which had nearly severed the head from the body, the lower part of the abdomen had been ripped up, and the bowels were protruding. The abdominal wall, the whole length of the body, had been cut open, and on either side were two incised wounds, almost as severe as the centre one. This reached from the lower part of the abdomen to the breast bone. The instrument with which the wounds were inflicted must have been not only of the sharpness of a razor, but used with considerable ferocity.
A general opinion is now entertained that the spot where the body was found was not the scene of the murder. Buck's-row runs through from Thomas-street to Brady-street, and in the latter street what appeared to be blood stains were, early in the morning, found at irregular distances on the footpaths on either side of the street. Occasionally a larger splash was visible, and from the way in which the marks were scattered it seems as though the person carrying the mutilated body had hesitated where to deposit his ghastly burden, and gone from one side of the road to the other until the obscurity of Buck's-row afforded the shelter sought for. The street had been crossed twice within the space of about 120 yards. The point at which the stains were first visible is in front of the gateway to Honey's-mews, in Brady-street, about 150 yards from the point where Buck's-row commences. Several persons living in Brady-street state that early in the morning they heard screams, but this is a by no means uncommon incident in the neighbourhood, and, with one exception, nobody seems to have paid any particular attention to what was probably the death struggle of the unfortunate woman. The exception referred to was a Mrs. Colwell, who lives only a short distance from the foot of Buck's-row.
According to her statement she was awakened early in the morning by her children, who said some one was trying to get into the house. She listened, and heard a woman screaming "Murder! Police!" five or six times. The voice faded away, as though the woman was going in the direction of Buck's-row, and all was quiet. She only heard the steps of one person. It is almost needless to point out that a person suffering from such injuries as the deceased had had inflicted upon her would be unable to traverse the distance from Honey's-mews to the gateway in Buck's-row, which is about 120 yards from Brady-street, making a total distance of at least 170 yards.
Therefore the woman must have been carried or dragged there, and here the mystery becomes all the more involved. Even supposing that, with the severe abdominal wounds she had sufficient strength left to call out in the tones which Mrs. Colwell asserts she heard the deceased's throat could not have been cut at the spot where she was found lying dead, as that would have caused a considerably heavier flow of blood than was found there. As a matter of fact but a very small quantity of blood was to be seen at this spot, or found in Buck's-row at all, so the murderer could not have waited here to finish his ghastly task. If he had cut her throat on the onset the deceased could not have uttered a single cry afterwards. Mrs. Colwell's statement, looked at in the light of these circumstances, by no means totally clears up the mystery as to the exact locality which the murderer selected for the accomplishment of his foul deed.
Police-constable Neil traversed Buck's-row about three-quarters of an hour before the body was discovered, so it must have been deposited there soon after he had patrolled that thoroughfare. Mrs. Green, Mr. and Mrs. Perkins, the watchman in Schneider's tar factory, and the watchman in a wool depot, which are both situation in Buck's-row, agree that the night was an unusually quiet one for the neighbourhood.
Shortly after midday some men who were searching the pavement in Buck's-row above the gateway found two spots of blood in the roadway. They were nine feet away from the gate, and they might have dropped from the hands or clothing of the murderer as he fled away. The stablery and the vicinity have been carefully searched in the hope of finding the weapon with which the crime was committed, but so far without success. A bridge over the Great Eastern Railway is close at hand, and the railway line was also fruitlessly searched for some distance.
Dr. Llewellyn made the following statement yesterday: I was called to Buck's-row, about five minutes to four this morning by Police-constable Thane, who said a woman had been murdered. I went to the place at once, and found deceased lying on her back with her legs out straight as though she had been laid down. Police-constable Neil told me that the body had not been touched. The throat was cut from ear to ear, and the woman was quite dead. On feeling the extremities of the body, I found that they were still warm, showing that death had not long ensued. A crowd was now gathering, and as it was undesirable to make a further examination in the street I ordered the removal of the body to the mortuary, telling the police to send for me again if anything of importance transpired.
There was a very small pool of blood on the pathway, which had trickled from the wound in the throat, not more than would fill two wineglasses, or half a pint at the outside. This fact, and the way in which the deceased was lying, made me think at the time that it was at least probable that the murder was committed elsewhere, and the body conveyed to Buck's-row. There were no marks of blood on deceased's legs, and at the time I had no idea of the fearful abdominal wounds which had been inflicted upon the body. At half-past five I was summoned to the mortuary by the police, and was astonished at finding the other wounds.
I have seen many horrible cases, but never such a brutal affair as this. From the nature of the cuts on the throat it is probable that they were inflicted with the left hand. There is a mark at the point of the jaw on the right side of deceased's face, as though made by a person's thumb, and a similar bruise on the left side as if the woman's head had been pushed back and her throat then cut. There is a gash under the left ear reaching nearly to the centre of the throat, and another cut apparently starting from the right ear. The neck is severed back to the vertebrae, which is also slightly injured. The abdominal wounds are extraordinary for their length and the severity with which they have been inflicted. One cut extends from the base of the abdomen to the breastbone. Deceased's clothes were loose, and the wounds could have been inflicted while she was dressed.
Inspector Helson, who has charge of the case, is making every effort to trace the murderer, but there is so little to guide the police that at present there does not seem much likelihood of success. The theory that the murder is the work of a lunatic, who is also the perpetrator of the other two murders of women which have occurred in Whitechapel during the last six months, meets with very general acceptance amongst the inhabitants of the district, the female portion of which is greatly alarmed. The more probable theory is that the murder has been committed by one or more of a gang of men, who are in the habit of frequenting the streets at late hours of the night and levying blackmail on women. No money was found upon deceased, and all she had in the pocket of her dress was a handkerchief, a small comb, and a piece of looking-glass.
The Central News says: It was not until late in the evening that the first real clue towards the solution of the mystery was found-namely, the identification of the deceased. During the day some half-dozen women who thought that they knew deceased visited the mortuary and viewed the body, but without being able to recognise it. The energetic efforts of Inspector Helson and Detective-sergeants Enright and Godley were eventually successful in clearing up this point. It transpires that deceased is a married woman, named Mary Ann Nichols, who has been living apart from her husband for some years. Her real age is 36 years, and she had been an inmate of Lambeth Workhouse, off and on, for the past seven years. She was first admitted to the workhouse seven years ago as a patient into the lying-in ward, and from this point seems to have entered upon a downward career. Some few months ago she left the workhouse, after having temporarily sojourned there, to go into domestic service at Rose-hill-road, Wandsworth. She left suddenly, under suspicious circumstances, and for the last seven weeks or so seems to have been frequenting the neighbourhood of Whitechapel. She was last see in the Whitechapel-road at half-past two yesterday morning, and was then under the influence of drink. The inquest will be held by Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for the district, at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel-road, this afternoon.
The Exchange Telegraph Company, on inquiry this morning at Scotland Yard, were informed that no arrests had been made in connection with the brutal murder at Whitechapel up to eleven o'clock to-day.
The police, it appears, have already abandoned their theory that the latest, as well as the previous, murder in Whitechapel is the deed of a homicidal maniac. The theories of the police about most things connected with the detection of crime are not deserving of much attention at any time, not even on the principle laid down by "Novalis" (Baron von Hardenberg): "It is certain my belief gains infinitely the moment I can convince another mind thereof." They, therefore, showed much cuteness in not insisting too long upon the possible fact of there being a fiend in human shape, such as Mr. Stevenson describes, roaming about the metropolis. The fierce light supposed to beat upon a throne would have been a farthing rushlight compared to the glare of public curiosity that would have been turned on Scotland Yard had the assumption been maintained. This glare would not only have proceeded form a laudable and natural desire to see the author of such dastardly and foul crimes securely under lock and key, and thus rendered powerless to pursue his monstrous career. The glare would have owed much of its blinding effulgence to the expectation of seeing in the flesh so terrible a scourge of humanity. It boots not to inquire whether the police would have been capable of gratifying this curiosity. In fact, it boots little to inquire at this hour of what the London detective force are capable, except the almost miraculous execution of Dickens's precept, "How not to do it." Certain is it that beings, outwardly human, one such as was suggested to the police by either the performance or perusal of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," do exist; nay more, that Mr. Louis Stevenson himself did not altogether evolve his hero from his own inner consciousness. The late Dr. Strauss, better known to the majority of readers of periodicals, as "The Old Bohemian," who died a year or two ago, published, a decade since, a story in Tinsley's Magazine, dealing with the murders committed by such an irresponsible homicide. It was a startling tale, almost too ghastly to be believed. Dr. Strauss was a friend of the writer of these lines and was assured that the narrative was founded upon fact. The thing happened at one of the German Universities, and the murderer was a professor there. He made about half-a-dozen victims before he was discovered. Unlike Mr. Hyde, he attacked the unwary passer-by with a small hammer. Woodman and Tidy and Taylor in their "Medical Jurisprudence" record more than one instance of special and general homicidal mania. By special is meant the impulse towards a particular victim; by general the equally irresistible but more extended desire to kill, no matter whom. It must not be supposed, though, that fiendish cruelty is always the impelling factor to the deed; on the contrary. Esquirol, Pinel, and several other French savants have given it as their firm conviction that the mania for destroying whether human life or inorganic things may have its cause in what-for want of a better term-one might call hyper-philanthropy. One will demolish the walls of a room-because to him they appear to totter on their bases, and in their fall bury so many of his cherished fellow-creatures beneath them; another will hack to pieces a bedstead because the fragments thereof are of inestimable value as charms against an otherwise incurable malady; a third will inflict the most revolting mutilations in the furtherance of morality; a fourth will slay outright because he fancies himself possessed of the gifts to immediately resuscitate his victim, and procure for him the ineffable joys and gratifications of everlasting life. To this latter category of homicides appears to have belonged the Hungarian noble who in the course of a few years murdered several young girls ranging from six to fourteen. Immediately the deed was done and the contemplated resuscitation failed, he used to writhe in the agony of most poignant remorse on the floor.
Others kill for killing sake. They have not the least resentment against their victim, nor are they moved by any feeling of benevolence. The "Chourineur" in Eugène Sue's "Mysteries of Paris" belongs to this class, and, it may be interesting to the reader to know that the "Chourineur" was not a creation of Sue's brain any more than "Prince Rodolphe." The latter character suggested to the novelist by an adventure of Louis Napoleon long before he was President of the Second Republic. The first chapter of "The Mystries of Paris" is an absolute fact. The future Emperor of France found himself in the crime-laden atmosphere of the old [cité] because one of his boon companions, who, at his advent to power, became a high functionary, was a Don Juan, who sought his conquests indiscriminately, either in the gutter or in the drawing-room. The "Chourineur," it may be remembered, killed because a mist of blood not only perverted his physical but also his moral vision. His protector diverted his mania to the killing of animals, and started him in business as a butcher, in which station of life he prospered. In a trial for murder that took place years ago in Paris it was proved that one of the accomplices-a well-to-do tradesman-had merely lent the miscreants a hand "for the fun of the thing," as he expressed it himself. He had not benefited by the spoliation of the victim; until the moment of the crime he had never set eyes upon either the murdered man or his assassins. As a matter of course the experts had no difficulty in establishing his irresponsibility. He was suffering from a sudden and acute access of homicidal mania. The disease, it would further appear, does not always translate itself into deeds of sudden violence. If my memory does not play me false, the lady who purchased chocolate creams in West-street, Brighton, stuffed them with poison, and afterwards distributed them to any and every one, turned out to be an irresponsible homicidal maniac. Under such conditions the alienation is described as chronic and continued-albeit that there are periods of suspension and returns to perfect sanity of mind.
There remains homicidal mania whose cause is downright cruelty-cruelty that remained unchecked probably in its first manifestations owing to the social position of the offender, as in the case of Louis XI., who, when a child, amused himself by gouging out the eyes of birds with a red hot needle. Half of the pious monarch's victims, when he had grown to a man's estate, were victims of his cruelty that had developed into a mania to kill, though vicariously, for their removal from this earth was neither dictated by political nor private vengeance. Historians, and even savants have endeavoured to whitewash Robespierre, Carnier of Natès, and several other actors in the Reign of Terror, by putting forth this plea. In how far this plea is to be admitted is a problem with which only the most competent psychologists can deal. In his "Voyage to the Sources of the Nile" Captain Speke recorded the following incident: Having made a present of a breech-loader to Mtesa, King of Uganda, the latter handed the weapon to an officer, telling him to try its effect on one or more of those who were assembled in the courtyard. The order was strictly executed without exciting the disgust of any of the king's courtiers. They were not more squeamish than the courtiers of Cambyses, than Prexaspes himself, the latter of whom not only stood tamely by when his son was killed á la William Tell by the Persian monarch "just to show his steadiness of hand" even when drunk, but who paid his master a compliment on his skill; they were less squeamish than the Regent of France. The latter's son, who became the grandfather of Louis-Philippe, one day, out of mere passion, or perhaps to test the accuracy of his gun, shot a shopkeeper standing at his own door. Philippe d'Orleans pretended to forgive him. "A sudden access of homicidal mania, I suppose. You are irresponsible, but I shall apply the same tenet to the one who happens to kill you."
In fact, it becomes difficult in dealing with tyrants and irresponsible monarchs of times gone by to distinguish excessive cruelty, utter indifference to the sacredness of human life, from homicidal mania. The "high rippers" which flourished not so very long ago in Liverpool were perhaps a gang of homicidal maniacs though it would be difficult to imagine Nature to have brought together such an association, all the members of which were moved by the same invincible impulse. The revelations in connection with the late Marylebone murder have, however, given the police a plausible pretext for the theory they contemplated starting. It is difficult to believe in our days that human beings not utterly callous to all feelings would deliberately slay their fellow men without the incentive of gain, without the at least comprehensible pretext of enmity. The police on the spur of the moment nursed the idea of increasing our astonishment. Second thoughts showed them that even homicidal maniacs must be caught, and that the public look to them for the capture. So the theory was dropped. Our astonishment has vanished, may be at the same time, and will only be revived when they effect the capture of the miscreants, whether they be homicidal maniacs, or simply malefactors who levied blackmail [at] the most degraded class of unfortunates.