11 September 1888
EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST.
The scene of the murder on Saturday morning in Hanbury street, Spitalfields, was visited again yesterday by crowds of sightseers, and there was a good deal of excitement throughout the district, due chiefly to the arrests and the many rumours of arrest. About nine o'clock yesterday morning a detective constable arrested a man he supposed to be "Leather Apron." The name of the man arrested is John Piser, but his friends deny that he has ever been known under the nickname of "Leather Apron." When the detective called at the house, the door was opened by Piser, "Just the man I want," said the detective, who charged him on suspicion of being connected with the murder of the woman Chapman. The detective searched the house and took away some finishing tools which Piser is in the habit of using in his work. He is a boot finisher, and for some time has been living in Mulberry street with his stepmother, and a married brother, who works as a cabinet maker. When he was arrested by the detective his brother was at work, and the only inmates of the house were the prisoner's stepmother, his sister in law, and a Mr. Nathan, for whom he has worked. His mother and his sister in law declared positively that Piser came home at half past ten o'clock on Thursday night, and had not left the house since. They further stated that the prisoner was unable to do much work on account of ill health, and that he was by no means strong, as some time ago he was seriously injured. About six weeks ago he left a convalescent home, in which he had been an inmate on account of a carbuncle in his neck. He is a Jew, about 35 years of age, and since he was three years old has been brought up by Mrs. Piser. He lost his father about sixteen years ago. Several residents in Mulberry street, which is a narrow thoroughfare off Commercial street East, give the man who has been arrested a good character, and speak of him as being a harmless sort of person. A young women residing next door said she had known Piser as a neighbour for many years, and had never heard of his bearing the name of "Leather Apron." He had always seemed a quiet man, and unlikely to do any such crime as that of which the police suspect him. She says she heard him about the yard a day or two back, but had not seen him in the street for the last few days. At the Leman street Police station, to which place Piser was taken, a large force of police were kept in readiness with drawn staves. Only a few people amongst the crowd outside seemed aware that an arrest had been made, and so quietly did the police act in Mulberry street that few even in the neighbourhood connected the arrest with the murder.
Between eight and nine o'clock on Sunday night Superintendent Berry, Gravesend, had a communication made to him that there was a suspicious looking individual at the Pope's Head public house, West street. He despatched a sergeant to the house, and the man was arrested and taken to the police station. It was noticed that one of his hands was bad, and on examining it the superintendent said it had evidently been bitten. When asked how he accounted for his hand being in that condition, the man said that he was going down Brick lane, Whitechapel, about half past four o'clock on Saturday morning, and a woman fell down in a fit. He stopped to pick her up, when she bit him. He then hit her, and as two policeman came he ran away. Dr. Whitcombe, the police surgeon, was sent for, and he discovered blood spots on two shirts which the man was carrying in a bundle. The doctor also expressed an opinion that blood had been wiped from his boots. After being cautioned, the man that the woman who bit him was at the back of a lodging house at the time. He also said that on Thursday night he slept at a lodging house in Osborne street, Whitechapel, but that on Friday night he was walking about Whitechapel all night, and that he came from London to Gravesend by road on Sunday. Yesterday morning he stated that his name was William Henry Pigott, and that he was 52 years of age. Some years ago he lived at Gravesend, his father having at one time held a position there connected with a Friendly Society. The man appeared to be in a very nervous state. He was brought yesterday morning to London Bridge by the 10.18 train, in charge of Detective Abberline, who was met at the station by Detective Stacey, from Scotland yard. The prisoner was not handcuffed, and was smoking a clay pipe and a carrying a white cloth bundle. He passed quickly out of the station, no one apparently noticing him, and was driven in a cab to the Police station in Commercial street. He arrived there at 12.48. On being examined by the police at Commercial street Station, Pigott was found to be bespattered with blood from head to foot, even his boots bearing marks of a sanguinary struggle. In his pockets were found a few pence and a piece of a lead pencil. He sits in the cell in a state of deep lethargy, taking apparently no notice of anything. His whole demeanour betokens a recent bout of excessive drinking. Pigott is a man about five feet four inches in height, and is respectably dressed in grey trousers, black morning coat, and a black bowler hat. His clothes, however, show signs of having been exposed to the weather, and have evidently not been brushed recently. The prisoner has a florid complexion, and wears an iron grey beard, cut in the style generally worn by Americans. Mrs. Fiddymont and other witnesses likely to be able to identify "Leather Apron" were sent for, but after a very brief scrutiny, it was the unanimous opinion that Pigott was not "Leather Apron." Nevertheless, looking to his condition of mind and body, it was decided to detain him until he could give a somewhat more satisfactory account of himself and his movements. After an interval of a couple of hours, the man's manner becoming stranger and his speech more incoherent, the Divisional Surgeon was called in, and he said he considered the prisoner's mind was unhinged. A medical certificate to this effect was made out, and Pigott was removed during the evening to the Whitechapel Infirmary. At several of the police stations in the East end of London men suspected of being concerned in the tragedy in custody during the day; but on investigation, only a brief detention was found necessary, except in the two cases above noted. Altogether, seven people have been detained since Saturday night. So far, however, no trace seems to have been found of the actual culprit.
Sir Charles Warren resumed his duties at Scotland yard yesterday, and during the day conferred with some of the chief officials respecting the murders. Great indignation prevails in the East end because no reward has been offered for the discovery of the murderer. So strong did this feeling become, that a meeting of the chief local tradesmen was held yesterday, at which an influential Committee was appointed. consisting of sixteen well known gentlemen, with Mr. J. Aarons as the Secretary. The Committee issued, last evening, a notice, stating that they will give a substantial reward for the capture of the murderer, or for information leading thereto. The movement has been warmly taken up by the inhabitants, and a large sum will probably be subscribed within the next few days. A proposal to form District Vigilance Committees also meets with popular favour, and is assuming practical form. Meetings were held at the various working men's clubs and other organisations, political and social, in the district, at most of which the proposed scheme was heartily approved, and volunteers were enrolled.
Dr. Forbes Winslow has communicated to the police his opinion that the murders are the work of one person, who is either a discharged lunatic from some asylum, or one who has escaped from such an institution. He has suggested that all the asylums should be communicated with, and particulars requested respecting the recent discharge of homicidal lunatics, or of persons who may have effected their escape from such institutions. The present whereabouts of such lunatics should, in Dr. Winslow's opinion, be at once ascertained.
Inquiries made at Windsor lead to the belief that the murdered woman was the widow of a coachman living near the Royal borough, and not of a veterinary surgeon. Her husband held an excellent position; she became very dissipated while with him, and he was at last reluctantly obliged to separate from her. She lived for a time at Windsor, and eventually left there for London. One of her children, a girl, was educated at a highly respectable ladies' school in Windsor, the cost of its tuition being defrayed by an aunt. Chapman was taken ill two years ago, when the remittances sent to his wife seem to have ceased. During his sickness a wretched looking woman, having the appearance of a tramp, called at the Merry Wives of Windsor, in the Spital road, and inquired where he was living. She said she was his wife, and that she had walked down from London, and had slept at a lodging house in Colnbrook on her way. She also stated that having been told that her husband, who had discontinued sending her ten shillings a week, was ill, she had come to Windsor to ascertain if the report was true. She left the house shortly afterwards, and the landlord did not see her again. Chapman died more than eighteen months ago.
The inquest on the body of Annie Chapman, alias Sivvey, was opened at ten o'clock yesterday morning by the District Coroner, Mr. Wynne Baxter, in the Alexandra Room, at the Working Lads' Institute. There was a large attendance of the general public in Court and in the precincts of the Institute, and the approaches thereto were guarded by a large number of constables. The latest newspaper accounts of the murder were eagerly scanned by those in waiting, who thus passed the interval of time between the opening of the Court and the Coroner's arrival. There are everywhere visible signs of the profound impression made by the crime.
Mr. Collier, the Deputy Coroner, accompanied Mr. Wynne Baxter. The Jury, having been sworn, went to view the body at the mortuary. On their return, the following evidence was taken:-
John Davis said - I live at 29 Hanbury street, Spitalfields. I am a carman. I occupy one front room, which is shared by my wife and three sons. I went to bed on Friday night at eight o'clock, and my sons came in at different times - the last one at a quarter to eleven. I was awake from three o'clock until five, but fell off to sleep for about half an hour. I got up at a quarter to six on Saturday morning, and went across the yard. The house faces Hanbury street. On the ground floor there is a front door leading into a passage, which runs right through to the back yard. There is a back door to the passage. Sometimes both doors are open during the night, and I have never known either of them to be locked. Anyone who knows where the latch of the front door is can open it and pass along into the yard. I cannot say whether the back door was latched on Saturday morning when I got down, but the front street door was wide open and thrown back against the wall. I was not surprised at that. Witness was asked to describe the general appearance of the yard, but was not very clear in his statements. Some time having been occupied in attempting to elicit answers.
The Coroner said in country inquests the police were always ready to assist him by preparing a plan of the locality which was the subject of investigation. Certainly this was a case of sufficient importance for such a plan, and he hoped that on the next occasion a plan would be laid before him.
Inspector Chandler said a plan should be prepared.
Davis, resuming, said - When I opened the back door of the yard I found a woman lying on her back. I called two men who are in the employ of Mr. Bayley, packing case maker, Hanbury street. They were standing outside their place of work, which is three doors from 29 Hanbury street, on the same side of the road. They came and looked at the body. I do not know them personally.
The Coroner asked if these men were known to the police.
Inspector Chandler said they were not.
The Coroner expressed his surprise at this.
Witness - I had to go to my work.
The Coroner (emphatically) - Your work is of no importance compared with this inquiry.
To Inspector Chandler: We must find these men out, either with the assistance of the police, or with the assistance of my officer.
Witness - The men did not wish to be seen in the matter.
The Coroner - If they have not been seen and identified yet, they must be.
Davis (continuing) - I informed the inspector at Commercial street what I had seen in the yard. I have never seen any women in the passage. I heard no noises on Saturday morning.
Amelia Palmer said - I live at 30 Dorset street, which is a common lodging house. I am the wife of a labourer, who is a pensioner from the army. I have known the deceased well for the past five years. I have seen a body at the mortuary and am quite sure it is that of Annie Chapman. She was a widow. Her husband was formerly a veterinary surgeon at Windsor, and was well known there. He died about 18 months ago. Deceased had lived apart from him for about four years. Since the separation deceased had lived principally, though not altogether, in common lodging houses in the neighbourhood of Spitalfields. She lived two years ago at 30 Dorset street, with a man called "Sievey." At that time she was receiving 10s. a week from her husband. The money was always sent by P.O.O., (post office order) payable at Commercial road. The remittances stopped 18 months ago, and the deceased found that her husband was dead. The fact was ascertained from a brother or sister of her husband living in Oxford street, Whitechapel. Mrs. Chapman was called Mrs. Sievey, because the man she lived with was a sieve maker. He left her some time ago. I saw the deceased two or three times during last week. I saw her on Monday, Sept. 3, standing in the road opposite a lodging house, 35 Dorset street. She had been staying there, and complained of feeling unwell. Deceased had a bruise on one of her temples; I think the right temple. I asked how she got it. Deceased asked me to look at her chest, which was also bruised, and said, "You know the woman, " mentioning some name, which I do not remember; but it was a woman who carried out books for sale. That woman and deceased were acquainted with a man called "Harry the Hawker." Deceased told me that on Saturday, September 1, she was with a man called Ted Stanley - a very respectable man. She was in a beer shop with him - 87 Commercial street, which is at the corner of Dorset street. "Harry the Hawker" was also there, and was under the influence of drink. "Harry the Hawker" put down 2s. for beer; the book selling woman picked it up, and put down a penny. There was an ill feeling in consequence, and the same evening the book selling women met the deceased and struck her in the face and chest. I saw the deceased again on Tuesday, September 4. I met her as she was walking near Spitalfields Church. The deceased said she felt no better, and should go into the casual ward for a day or two. The deceased told me she had not had even a cup of tea that day. I said, "Here it two pence. Get a cup of tea; but don't have any rum." The deceased was partial to rum, and I have seen her many times the worse for drink. She used to do crochet work, make antimacassars, and sell flowers. I am afraid she was not particular how she earned her living, and I know she was out late at times. She has told me so. On Fridays the deceased used to go to Stratford East, to sell anything she had. I did not see her from Tuesday afternoon until Friday afternoon. On that day I met her in Dorset street, about five o'clock. She then appeared to be perfectly sober. I said, "Aren't you going to Stratford today?" She said, "I feel too ill to do anything." I saw her again about ten minutes afterwards on the same spot. She said, "It's no use my giving way. I must pull myself together and go and get some money, or I shall have no lodgings." That is the last I saw of her. Deceased told me she had been in the casual ward. Deceased was very industrious when sober, and was a very clever little woman. I have seen her the worse for drink, but I don't think she could take much without becoming drunk. She had been living a very irregular life for five years, more especially since her husband's death. She had a sister and brother in London, but I don't think they were on friendly terms. The deceased had two children at Windsor, and after her husband's death they were placed in a school.
Timothy Donovan, 35 Dorset street, Spitalfields, deputy of the common lodging house, said - I identify the body at the mortuary as that of a woman who has lodged at my place. She had lived there for four months, but was not at No. 35 last week, until the Friday. Afterwards, about two or three o'clock, she asked me to allow her to go into the kitchen. I consented, and did not see her until about 1.45 on the Saturday morning. At that time I was sitting in the office, and I saw deceased go into the kitchen. Deceased afterwards came upstairs, saying she had not sufficient money for a bed, and adding, "Don't let it; I shan't be long before I am in." The bed she spoke of was the one she usually occupied. The deceased left the house, and I did not see which way she turned, but I believe the watchman did. She had had enough to drink when I last saw her, but she could walk straight. She was generally the worse for drink on Saturdays, but not on other days. When she left the lodging house on Saturday morning, I said to her, "You can find money for beer, but not for your bed." She replied that she had only been to the top of the street, to the Ringers public house. I saw deceased with no man that night. I could not say whether deceased walked the streets. She used to come and stay at the lodging house on Saturdays with a man of soldierly appearance, who is said to be a pensioner. She has come at other times with other men, and I have refused to allow her to have a bed.
The Coroner - A woman has only one husband at your place?
Witness - The pensioner told me not to let her have a bed with any other man. She did not come to my place with any man on Friday night. As a rule she occupied No. 29 bed by herself. The pensioner and deceased were together at the lodging house on Sunday, September 2.
The Coroner - Is anything known of this pensioner?
Inspector Chandler - No, sir.
Witness (resuming) - On the 25th of August the woman told me she was going out to see if the pensioner had drawn his pension. She usually saw him in the street. She was on good terms with all the lodgers, and I never had any trouble with her. About Tuesday, August 28, deceased and another woman had a row in the kitchen before I was up. I afterwards saw them both outside the house, but I did not notice any injury on deceased. Subsequently deceased called my attention to her eye, which was bruised, but she did not tell me how the injury was done.
John Evans said - I am night watchman at 35 Dorset street. Deceased used to live there. On Saturday morning I saw her go out of the lodging house. She went in the directions of Spitalfields Church. That was after she had asked us to keep the bed until she got some lodging money. She never returned. Deceased was the worse for drink, but not badly so. She came into the kitchen soon after twelve o'clock. I heard her say she had been to her sister's, at Vauxhall. I have known that the deceased was out at nights, but I have known only one man with whom she was associated. He used to come with her on Saturdays. That particular man called on Saturday, the 8th instant, about half past two o'clock in the afternoon, to make inquiries about the woman. He had heard of her death. I do not know either his name or address. After I had told him what had occurred, he went out without saying a word. I have never heard any man threaten the deceased at any time. I have never heard her express fear of any one.
The Coroner - Have you heard any woman at your house say that she had been asked for money by any man?
Witness - No.
This concluded the witness's evidence, and the Coroner adjourned the inquiry to tomorrow at two o'clock.
The inquest on the body of the woman Chapman, found murdered in Whitechapel on Saturday morning, was opened yesterday, and adjourned, after the evidence of the finding of the body and its identification had been taken. Several arrests were made yesterday; only two men were detained - one named Pigott, who was apprehended at Gravesend, and found to be splashed all over with blood; and a Jew named Piser. Pigott is believed to be insane.