3 September 1888
William Nicholls, the husband of the woman murdered in Whitechapel on Friday, visited the mortuary on Saturday night, and, on viewing the corpse, identified it as that of his wife, from whom he had been separated eight years. He stated that she was nearly forty four years of age. the husband, who was greatly affected, exclaimed, on recognising the body, "I forgive you, as you are, what you have been to me." He said the absence of the front teeth was of old standing. Mr. William Nicholls, who lives in Coburg road, Old Kent road, is a journeyman printer, in the employment of Messrs. Perkins and Bacon, Fleet street. His son, who resides with his grandfather at 15 Maidwell street, Albany road, Camberwell, also identified the remains of his mother. This removed all doubt as to the deceased being Mary Ann Nicholls. It has been ascertained that the unfortunate woman was one of those who, last year, were in the habit of sleeping in Trafalgar square; and when a clearance of the nightly visitors was made, it being found that she was destitute, and had no means of subsistence, she was admitted as an inmate to the Lambeth Workhouse. After her discharge from the workhouse and subsequent disappearance from service at Wandsworth, little was known of here whereabouts by her relations. Lately, it seems that she had been lodging in a common lodging house in Thrawl street, Spitalfields, leading an immoral life, and known by her female acquaintances as "Polly." It was at first supposed that the crime had been committed by a maniac; but this opinion has been abandoned, likewise the belief that the woman was lured into a house in the vicinity and murdered, the body being afterwards removed. Inspector Helson states that the report of blood stains leading from Brady street to Buck's row was not true. The place was examined by Sergeant Enwright and himself on Friday morning, and neither blood stains nor wheel marks were found to indicate that the body had been deposited where found, the murder being committed elsewhere. Indeed, both he and Inspector Aberline have come to the conclusion that it was committed on the spot. That conclusion was strengthened by the post mortem examination made by Mr. Llewellyn. At first, the small quantity of blood found on the spot led to the idea that the woman was murdered in a neighbouring house. Mr. Llewellyn, however, is understood to have satisfied himself that the great quantity of blood which must have followed the gashes in the stomach flowed into the abdominal cavity; but he maintains his opinion that the first wounds were those in the throat, and they would prevent any screaming. The blood from those wounds Inspector Helson considers was held by the dress and the ulster.
The police have obtained no definite clue to the author of the crime. Inspectors Helson and Aberline, and Sergeants Godley and Enright have the case in hand, and are if opinion that there is some connection between this and the other two murders which have taken place in the same locality. A house to house investigation and inquiry has been made in all the streets adjoining Buck's row, but with no definite result. The assumption is that the crime was committed by one of a "High Rip" gang, who are known in the neighbourhood to be in the habit of blackmailing unfortunate women, and treating them in a brutal manner. Consternation and horror prevail in the neighbourhood, and there is a general demand for further protection and supervision.
Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the Coroner for South east Middlesex, opened an inquest on Saturday at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel road, upon the body of Mary Ann Nicholls.
The following evidence was taken:-
Edward Walker said - I live at 15 Maidwell street, Albany road, Camberwell, and have no occupation. I was a smith when I was at work, but I am not now. I have seen the body in the mortuary, and to the best of my belief it is that of my daughter, but I have not seen her for three years. I recognise her by her general appearance and by a little mark she had on her forehead when a child. She also had either one or two teeth out, the same as the body I have just seen. My daughter's name was Mary Ann Nicholls, and she had been married 22 years. Her husband's name was William Nicholls, and he is alive. He is a machinist. They have been living apart for some length of time, about seven or eight years. I last heard of her before Easter. She was 42 years of age.
The Coroner - How did you see her?
Witness - She wrote to me.
Is this letter in her writing? - Yes, that is her writing.
The letter, which was dated April 17, 1888, was read by the Coroner, and referred to a place which the deceased had gone to at Wandsworth.
The Coroner - When did you last see her alive?
Witness - Two years ago last June.
Was she then in a good situation? - I don't know. I was not on speaking terms with her. She had been living with me three or four years previously, but thought she could better herself, so I let her go.
What did she do after she left you? - I don't know.
This letter seems to suggest that she was in a decent situation - She had only just gone there.
Was she a sober woman? - Well, at times she drank. and that was why we did not agree.
Was she fast? - No; I never heard of anything of that sort. She used to go with some young women and men that she knew, but I never heard of anything improper.
Have you any idea what she has been doing lately? - I have not the slightest idea.
She must have drunk heavily for you to turn her out of doors? - I never turned her out. She had no need to be like this while I had a home for her.
How is it that she and her husband were not living together? - When she was confined her husband took on with the young woman who came to nurse her, and they parted, he living with the nurse, by whom he has another family.
have you any reasonable doubt that this is your daughter? - No, I have not. I know nothing about her acquaintance, or what she had been doing for a living. I had no idea she was over here in this part of the town. She has had five children, the eldest being twenty one years old and the youngest eight or nine years. One of them lives with me, and the other four are with their father.
Has she ever lived with anybody since she left her husband? - I believe she was once stopping with a man in York street, Walworth. His name was Drew, and he was a smith by trade. He is living there now, I believe. The parish of Lambeth summoned her husband for the keep of the children, but the summons was dismissed, as it was proved that she was then living with another man. I don't know who that man was.
Was she ever in the workhouse? - Yes, in Lambeth Workhouse, in April, and went from there to a situation at Wandsworth.
By the Jury - The husband resides at Coburg road, Old Kent road. I don't know if he knows of her death.
The Coroner - Is there anything you know likely to throw any light upon this affair? - No; I don't think she had any enemies; she was too good for that.
Police Constable John Neil said - On Friday morning I was proceeding down Buck's row, Whitechapel, going towards Brady street. There was not a soul about. I had been round there half an hour previous, and I saw no one then. I was on the right hand side of the street, when I noticed a figure lying in the street. It was dark at the time, though there was a street lamp shining at the end of the row. I went across and found deceased lying outside a gateway, her head towards the east. The gateway was closed. It was about nine or ten feet high, and led to some stables. There were houses from the gateway eastward, and the School Board school occupies the west. On the opposite side of the road is Essex Wharf. Deceased was lying lengthways along the street, her left hand touching the gate. I examined the body by the aid of my lamp, and noticed blood oozing from a wound in the throat. She was lying on her back, with her clothes disarranged. I felt her arm, which was quite warm from the joints upwards. Her eyes were wide open. Her bonnet was off and lying at her side, close to the left hand. I heard a constable passing Brady street, so I called him. I did not whistle. I said to him, "Run at once for Dr. Llewellyn," and seeing another constable in Baker's row, I sent him for the ambulance. The doctor arrived in a very short time. I had, in the meantime, rung the bell at Essex Wharf, and asked if any disturbance had been heard. The reply was "No." Sergeant Kirby came after, and he knocked. The doctor looked at the woman, and then said, "Move the woman to the mortuary; she is dead, and I will make a further examination of her." We then placed her on the ambulance, and carried her there. Inspector Spratley came to the mortuary, and, while taking a description of the deceased, turned up her clothes, and found that she had been disembowelled. This had not been noticed by any one before. On the body was found a piece of comb and a bit of looking glass. No money was found, but an unmarked white handkerchief was found in her pocket.
The Coroner - Did you notice any blood where she was found?
Witness - There was a pool of blood just where her neck was lying. The blood was then running from the wound in her neck.
Did you near any noise that night? - No, I heard nothing. The farthest I had been that night was just through the Whitechapel road and up Baker's row. I was never far away from the spot.
Whitechapel road is busy in the early morning, I believe. Could anybody have escaped that way? - Oh, yes. I saw a number of women in the main road going home. At that time anyone could have got away.
Someone searched the ground, I believe? - Yes, I examined it while the doctor was being sent for.
Inspector Spratley - I examined the road, sir, in daylight.
A Juryman (to Witness) - Did you see a trap in the road at all?
Witness - No.
Juryman - Knowing that the body was warm, did it not strike you that it might just have been laid there and that the woman was killed elsewhere?
Witness - I examined the road, but did not see the mark of wheels. The first to arrive on the scene after I had discovered the body were two men who work at a slaughter house opposite. They said they knew nothing of the affair and that they had not heard any screams. I had previously seen the men at work. That would be about a quarter past three, or half an hour before I found the body.
Mr. Henry Llewellyn, 152 Whitechapel road, surgeon, said - On Friday morning I was called by the last witness to Buck's row about four o'clock. the constable told me what I was wanted for. On reaching Buck's row I found the deceased woman lying on her back in the pathway, her legs extended. I found she was quite dead, and that she had sever injuries to her throat. Her hands and wrists were cold, but the body and lower extremities were quite warm. I examined her chest and felt the heart. It was dark at the time. I believe she had not been dead more than half an hour. I am quite certain that the injuries to her neck were not self inflicted. There was very little blood round the neck. There were no marks of any struggle or of blood as if the body had been dragged. I told the police to take her to the mortuary, and I would make another examination. About an hour later I was sent for by the inspector to see the injuries he had discovered on the body. I went, and saw that the abdomen was cut very extensively. I have this morning made a post mortem examination of the body. I found it to be that of a woman about 40 or 45 years old. Five of the teeth were missing, and there is a slight laceration of the tongue. On the right side of the face there is a bruise running along the lower part of the jaw. It might have been caused by a blow with the fist or pressure by the thumb. On the left side of the face there was a circular bruise, which also might have been done by the pressure of the fingers. On the left side of the neck, about an inch below the jaw, there was an incision about four inches long and running from a point immediately below the ear. An inch below on the same side, and commencing about an inch in front of it, was a circular incision terminating at a point about three inches below the right jaw. This incision completely severs all the tissues down to the vertebrae. The large vessels of the neck on both sides were severed. The incision is about eight inches long. These cuts must have been caused with a long bladed knife, moderately sharp, and used with great violence. No blood at all was found on the breast either of the body or clothes. There were no injuries about the body till just about the lower part of the abdomen. Two or three inches from the left side was a wound running in a jagged manner. It was a very deep wound, and the tissues were cut through. There were several incisions running across the abdomen. On the right side there were also three or four similar cuts running downwards. All these had been caused by a knife, which had been used violently and downwards. The injuries were from left to right, and might have been done by a left handed person. All the injuries have been done by the same instrument.
The inquest was adjourned to this day.