24 August 1888
Mr. George Collier, the Deputy Coroner for South East Middlesex, yesterday resumed the inquiry at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel, into the circumstances attending the death of a woman, supposed to be Martha Turner, aged thirty five, a hawker, lately living at 4 Star place, Commercial road, East, who was discovered early on the morning of Tuesday, the 7th inst, lying dead on the first floor landing of some model dwellings known as George yard buildings, Commercial street, Spitalfields. The woman when found presented a shocking appearance, her body being covered with 39 stab wounds, some of which had been done with a bayonet. The affair caused great excitement, and much interest was manifested in the proceedings. It is worthy of mention that the murder was committed on Bank Holiday night, and is almost identical with another murder, which was perpetrated near the same spot on the night of the previous Bank Holiday. The victim in each case was a woman of bad reputation, and their cowardly assailants have up till now evaded capture.
Mr. Henry Samuel Tabran, of 6 River terrace, East Greenwich, stated that he was a foreman packer in a furniture warehouse. He identified the body of the woman now dead as his wife. Her name was Martha Tabran, and she was thirty nine years of age. He last saw her alive 18 months ago in the Whitechapel road. Witness had been separated from her 13 years. He went before Mr. Benson, the magistrate, and said he should not live with her on account of her intemperate habits. She took out a warrant for his arrest for desertion, but he agreed to allow her 12s. a week. This was carried on for three years, but afterwards finding out how she was living he only gave her 2s 6d a week. She was at that time living with another man.
Henry Turner, who stated that he lived at the Working Mens' Home, Commercial street, said that he was a carpenter by trade, but latterly he had got his living as a hawker. Up till three weeks previous to this affair he was living with the deceased. They had lived together on and off for nine years. She used to get her living on the streets. He last saw her alive on the Saturday before her death, when they met accidentally in Leadenhall street. Witness first heard of her death on the day of the inquest. On the Saturday when he saw her she said she had got no money, so witness gave her some to buy stock with. She was a woman who, when she had the money, would get drunk with it. She was in the habit of staying out late at night but witness did not know what for. He was not aware that she was acquainted with "Pearly Poll." They lived comfortably till she took to drink, when he left her for a time. He never quarrelled with her, but simply left her.
By Mr. Reid - Deceased had stayed out all night, and told him on her return that she had been seized with a fit and taken to the police station. Witness could not say that that was true, but when she had been drinking she was subject to hysterical fits.
Mary Bousfield, 4 Star place, Commercial road, stated that Turner and the deceased lived at her house till three weeks before her death. She was a woman who would rather have a glass of ale than a cup of tea; but she did not get drunk. Witness said that Turner was very good to her, and helped to support two children she had by her husband. Deceased was greatly in witness's debt, and left without giving notice. Since then she had returned and forced the window, and occupied the room one night without witness knowing she was there.
Ann Morris, 23 Lisbourn street, E., a widow, stated that she was the sister in law of the deceased. Witness last saw her alive on Bank Holiday, as she was entering the White Swan public house in Whitechapel road. Deceased then appeared to be sober.
Mary Ann Connelly (Pearly Poll) was next examined, but, before giving evidence, Inspector Reid asked that she might be cautioned previous to being sworn. This the Coroner did, and witness then said that she had been living at a lodging house in Dorset street. She was single. She had known the deceased four or five months under the name of "Emma." The last time she saw her alive was on Bank Holiday at the corner of George yard, Whitechapel. They went to a public house together, and parted about 11.45. They were accompanied by two soldiers, one a private and the other a corporal. They picked up the soldiers together, and entered several public houses where they drank. When they separated the deceased went away with the private. They went up George yard, while witness and the corporal went up Angel alley. Before they parted witness and the corporal had a quarrel and he hit her with a stick. She did not hear deceased have any quarrel. Witness never saw the deceased again alive.
By the Coroner - Deceased was a woman who did not drink much. Witness had tried to identify the two men, and at one of the barracks where the men were paraded before her, she picked out two men who she thought were the same that were with her and the deceased on the night of the murder. That was at Wellington Barracks. She had never seen the men before.
By Inspector Reid - Witness left the corporal at the corner of George yard about five or ten minutes past twelve, and afterwards went along Commercial street, towards Whitechapel. She heard no screams, and was first informed of the murder on the Tuesday.
Inspector Reid - Did you threaten to drown yourself since this occurrence?
Witness - Yes; but only in a "lark." I went to my cousin's and there two days. My cousin lives in Fuller's court, Drury lane.
Inspector Reid said that the witness kept out of the way purposely, and it was only by searching that they found her.
By the Jury - Neither witness nor deceased was sober when they parted on Bank Holiday night, but they were not drunk. Altogether they were drinking one hour and three quarters.
Detective inspector Reid informed the Court that many persons had come forward, and made statements which, when threshed out, ended unsatisfactorily, and up to the present the police had been unable to secure the guilty party or parties.
The Coroner in summing up said that the crime was one of the most brutal that had occurred for some years. For a poor defenceless woman to be outraged and stabbed in the manner which this woman had been was almost beyond belief. They could only come to one conclusion, and that was that the deceased was brutally and cruelly murdered.
The Jury, after slight deliberation, returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against some person or persons unknown.