13 September 1888
INQUEST ON MRS. CHAPMAN.
Mr. Wynne Baxter, the Coroner for Whitechapel, and a Jury, resumed yesterday the inquest on the body of Annie Chapman, which was found in the back yard of a common lodging house, No. 29 Hanbury street, Spitalfields, on Saturday morning, with the throat cut and the body frightfully mutilated. The inquest was held in the Alexandra Room of the Working Lads' Institute. The excitement that for some days has been manifested in the district would appear to have almost wholly subsided, if the feelings of the Whitechapel community are to be judged by the numbers attending the proceedings. Up to the time fixed for the resumption of the inquiry there were only a handful of loiterers around the entrance to the Institute, and even when the proceedings had been commenced, there were only a few persons present in addition to the Coroner and Jury, the usual officials, and the representatives of the Press. The following evidence was taken:-
Mr. Fontaine Smith, a printer's warehouseman, said - I have seen the body in the mortuary and recognise it as that of my eldest sister, Annie. Her husband's occupation was that of a coachman. She lived separate from her husband three or four years. Her age was 47 this month. I last saw her alive shortly before her death. I met her accidentally in Commercial street. Her husband died on Christmas Day, 1886. When I saw her last she recognised me, and borrowed 2s. from me, or rather I gave it to her. She did not say where she was living, only that she was not doing anything, and that she wanted money for her lodgings. I did not know anything about her associates.
James Kent said - I work for Mr. Bailey, of 23a Hanbury street, Spitalfields. I go to my work at six o'clock. On Saturday I got to work about ten minutes past six o'clock. Our employer's gate was open. I generally wait a few minutes until some of our men come up. While I was waiting there, an elderly man, named Davis, I believe, who lives two or three doors off, called to me. He came out of his house into the road, two or three yards off, with a belt off his waist in his hand. I went with a man named James Green, who was standing with me. There were more than two of us standing together. I went to 29 Hanbury street and through the passage. I did not go into the yard, but stood at the top of the steps.
You saw the woman? - I did, lying in the yard at the bottom of the steps leading from the back door. She lay between the back door steps and the partition between the yard and the next yard.
In which direction was her head lying? - Against the house. The whole of her body was on the ground; no part of it up against the house.
Inspector Chandler produced a plan of the yard, which the witness examined and pointed out the position of the body.
Witness (continuing) - Her clothes were thrown back, but her face was visible. Her apron seemed to be thrown back over her clothes. I could see from the feet up to the knees. I did not go down the steps, but went outside, going in twice again to look. I do not believe that any man went into the yard until Inspector Chandler came. I could not see she was dead. She had a handkerchief of some kind round her throat, which seemed sucked into her throat. I saw no running blood, but her face and hands were smeared with blood, as if she had struggled. I did not notice any other injuries.
The Coroner - What evidence was there of a struggle?
Witness - I mean as if she had been on her back, and used her hands to defend herself. Her hands were turned with the palms towards her face, as if she had fought for her throat. Her legs were wide apart.
Did you notice any blood about her clothes? - I did not notice. I was too much frightened to notice very particularly.
Did you remain there until the Inspector came into the house? - No, I came out and stood on the kerb and looked each way to see if I could see a policeman coming. The police had not long gone off duty at the time. I went and had a glass of brandy, and then went into the workshop for a piece of canvas to throw over the body. When I went back to the house, the mob had made a rush down as the news flew round. The inspector was in possession of the yard.
Is it possible that some one might have gone and touched the body while you were away? - I do not believe so, as everybody seemed frightened, and all seemed to run away. Green came round to the workshop with me and stood on the wall looking over the yard. The foreman is usually there before us at ten minutes to six. He opens the shop and writes our orders down.
James Green said - I live at 26 Acton street, Burdett road, and am employed as a packing case maker at the same place as the last witness. On Saturday morning I arrived at the workshop about ten minutes past six o'clock. I accompanied Kent to the backyard of 29 Hanbury street,
Did you go into the yard? - I went as far as the back door, and I left the premises with him. I did not see any one touch the body. I do not think it was possible for any one to touch the body without my seeing it. I saw Inspector Chandler arrive when I was on the steps of our landing. The mob had by that time got in and were looking from the back door, but were not in the yard. When the Inspector arrived, the body remained in the same state as when I first saw it.
Amelia Richardson, a widow, living at 29 Hanbury street, said - I rent half of the house. I carry on a packing case business at the shop with my son, aged 27, and a man named Francis Tyler. They come to work about six, but on this occasion the man did not come until eight. I sent for him. He is often late. My son lives in St. John street, Spitalfields, and works in the market. Saturday is a market morning. I did not see him before six o'clock. At about six a.m. my grandson, Thomas Richardson, aged 14, who lives with me, got up. I sent him down to see what was the matter, as there was so much noise in the passage. He came back and said, "Oh, mother, there is a woman murdered!" I went down immediately and saw the body lying in the yard. There was no one in the yard at the time. There were people in the passage. Soon after a constable arrived and took possession of the place. The constable was the first person to go into the yard that I know of. I occupy the first floor front room, and my grandson slept in the same room on Friday night. I went to bed about half past nine. I am a very wakeful woman, and am awake half the night. I think I was awake half Friday night. I am sure that I woke at three, and only dozed afterwards. I heard no noise during the night. An old gentleman, Mr. Walker, occupies the first floor back. He shares his room with his son, who is about 37 years old. His son is an imbecile, weak minded. He is very inoffensive. There are two rooms on the ground floor, occupied by Mrs. Hardiman, a widow, with one son, about 16 years old. Her son goes out to work. In the back parlour I was cooking on Friday night. I locked it up about half past nine and took the key with me. It was still locked when I came down in the morning. Mr. John Davies and his family occupy the third floor front, and an old lady (Mrs. Sarah Cox), whom I keep occupies the third floor back. I keep her out of charity. Mt. Thomson, his wife, and an adopted little girl occupy the second floor front. Mr. Thomson is a carpenter. On Saturday morning I called Mr. Thomson at ten minutes or a quarter to four o'clock. I heard him come down, and I said "Good morning, Thomson," as he passed my room about four o'clock. I heard him leave the house, and he did not go into the back yard. The two Misses Hoxley live in the second floor back. They are sister, and they work in a cigar factory. When I went down on Saturday morning all the tenants were in the house except Mr. Thomson and Mr. Davies. I am not the owner of the house; I only rent it. The front and back doors are always left open. You have only to raise the latch with your finger and you can go into any of the houses about there. The houses in that quarter are all let out in rooms. A month ago there was a man on the stairs, and Mr. Thomson found him there about half past three or four o'clock in the morning. The man said he was staying there till morning, and then he was going to the market.
Could you hear any one going through the passage? - Yes. I did not hear any one on Saturday morning.
A Juror - You mean you could hear them if you were awake?
Witness - Yes, sir. On market mornings they might not be so easily heard, on account of the noise and bustle.
The Coroner - Supposing a person did go through the passage at half past three o'clock?
Witness - I should suppose it was Mr. Thomson or someone else.
Would it not attract your attention? - No.
You are sure you heard no one going through that morning? - Yes.
Is it not customary for persons to go through? - Yes; people do frequently go through.
Into the backyard? - yes.
Sometimes people go through who have no business to do so? - Yes, I dare say they do.
You still adhere to your statement that on Saturday morning no one did go through to the yard? - Yes; if they did go through, they must have gone very quietly.
Purposely so? - Yes.
Or you would have heard them? - Yes.
The Coroner asked the Jury if they had any questions to put.
The Foreman - The Jury have the idea that if any one went through in that quiet sort of way, it would be for immoral purposes. Do you acknowledge that short (sic) of thing?
Witness - No. I would not allow anyone to do so with my knowledge.
Harriet Hardiman, living at 29 Hanbury street, said - I am a cats' meat saleswoman. I occupy the ground floor front room. I went to bed on Friday night about half past ten o'clock. My son sleeps in the same room. I did not awake during the night. I sleep very soundly. I did not awake until I heard some traffic through the passage, about six o'clock. My son was asleep, and I woke him and told him to go and look, as I thought there must a fire. He came back, and said it was not a fire, but that a woman had been killed in the yard.
The Coroner - Do you often hear people going through the passage into the yard at night?
Witness - Yes, and on the stairs too.
Did you know the deceased? - No, I never saw her in my life, to my knowledge.
John Richardson, of No. 2 John street, a porter in Spitalfields Market, said - I assist my mother in the packing case business. I was in the house, 29 Hanbury street, on Saturday morning, getting there between a quarter and ten minutes to five. I went to see if the cellar was all correct, because two months since some one broke in and stole two saws and two hammers. I generally go on market mornings.
Why on market mornings? - They are the mornings when I am out early.
But who is to look after the cellar when it isn't a market morning? - It looks after itself. I found the front door shut, and I lifted the latch and went through the passage to the yard door. I stood on the steps, but did not go into the yard. The back door was closed. I opened it, and sat on the doorstep and cut a piece of leather off my boot with an old table knife about five inches long, which I brought from home. I had been cutting a bit of carrot with it, and brought it along in my left hand coat pocket. I do not usually put it there, and suppose it must have been a mistake on my part on this occasion. When I had cut the piece of leather off my boot I tied my boot up and went out of the house to the market. I did not close the back door; it closes itself. I closed the front door.
How long were you there? - About a minute and a half, or two minutes at the outside.
Was it light? - Beginning to get light, but not thoroughly. I could see all over the place.
Would you have noticed anything in the yard? - I could not have failed to have noticed the deceased if she had been lying there. I saw the body two or three minutes before the doctor came. A man in the market told me of the murder, and I went to the adjoining yard, and saw it from there. The man's name is Thomas Pearman, and he told me there had been a murder in Hanbury street, but he did not say that it was at my house.
When did you determine to cut something off your boot? - I had cut some off the previous day, and it hurt my foot, and I found after I left the house that it wanted a bit more to be cut off. I looked to see if the cellar door was all right, and although I did not go down into the yard, I could see that it was all right. I saw the padlock in its proper place. The sole object I had in going there was to see whether the cellar was all right. When I come home at night I go down and try if the cellar is all right.
Did you sit on the top step? - No, sir, the second step.
Where were your feet? - On the flags of the yard.
You must have been quite close to where the woman was found? - She was found lying just where my feet were. I have been in the passage at all hours of the night.
Have you ever seen any strangers there? - Lots; plenty of them.
At all hours? - Yes; both men and women.
Have you asked what they were doing there? - Yes; and I have turned them out.
The Coroner - Do I understand you to mean that they go there for an improper purpose?
Witness - Yes, sir.
The Foreman suggested that the knife to which the witness had alluded should be produced.
Witness said it was only a small white handled knife. He would fetch it.
Mrs. Richardson, recalled, stated, in answer to the Coroner, that she had seldom had anything stolen from the premises, notwithstanding the doors being left open or unlocked. She did miss a ham once.
The Foreman said it would be desirable to know something more about a leather apron which the witness had casually referred to in her previous evidence as having been worn by her son and washed by her.
The Coroner asked how that was.
Witness - My son wears a leather apron when he is in the cellar.
The Coroner - It is rather a dangerous thing for anybody to wear a leather apron now.
Witness (laughing) - Yes. On the Thursday I had washed the apron because it had got mouldy from lying long in the cellar unused. It had not been used for about a month, business being so slack.
When you washed the apron where did you put it? - I washed it under the tap and left it there.
Where is the tap? - At the other side of the yard, against the fence.
What became of it? - It was there on Saturday morning, when the police took it away. The apron had been there from Thursday to Saturday. The tap is used by all the house, and the leather apron was left on the stones. The police took away an empty box used for keeping nails and the steel out of a boy's gaiter. There was a pan of clean water under the tap when I went into the yard that morning. It was there on Friday night, and I found it in the same position on Saturday morning. It did not look as if it had been disturbed.
Did you ever know of women being found on the first floor landing? - No, sir.
Your son has never spoken to you about them? - No. The pan was at the side of the tap, and the apron quite underneath it.
John Piser, who was sworn in the Jewish manner, said - I am a shoemaker, and reside at 22 Mulberry street, Commercial road East. I go by the nickname of "Leather Apron." On Thursday night I arrived at 22 Mulberry street, Commercial road east, from the West end of town. I reached Mulberry street at a quarter before eleven o'clock. My brother, sister, and stepmother live there. I remained indoors there until I was arrested by a sergeant of police on Monday. I had never left the house from the time I entered it until I was apprehended.
Why did you remain indoors? - Because my brother advised me to do so.
You were the subject of suspicion, were you not? - I was the object of false suspicion.
You stayed in on the advice of your friends? That was not the best advice that could be given you. - I will tell you the reason why. I should have been torn to pieces. I have been released, and am not now in custody. I wish to vindicate my character to the whole world.
The Coroner - I have called you partly in your own interest in order to give you the opportunity of doing so. Where were you on the Thursday, the 30th of August? - Witness: I was in the Holloway road.
Were you not staying in any house? - Yes. I do not know the number of the house, but it was Crossman's common lodging house. On Thursday, the 30th of August, or the Friday, I was staying in a common lodging house, called the Round House, in Holloway road. I slept there for the night. I went into the lodging house about 2.15 on Friday morning, and went out at eleven that morning.
Where were you on Thursday night? - On Thursday night I had my supper at the same house. I went out as far as the Seven Sisters road, and went down the Holloway road; and on returning saw the reflection of a fire. When I had come as far as the church in Holloway road, the lodging house keeper of the Round House and one or two constables were talking together. I asked the constable where the fire was, and he said it was a long way from there. I asked where he thought it was, and he said it was down about the Albert Docks.
What time was it then? - It was about half past one, to the best of my recollection. I went as far as Highbury Railway Station on the same side of the way, and returned and went into the lodging house.
Did they not complain about you being late? - No. I asked the watchman of my bed was let. He said they did not keep beds open after eleven. I paid fourpence, and sat for a while on the form in the kitchen smoking a pipe, and then went to bed, and got up at eleven o'clock.
That was late, wasn't it? - Yes, sir, rather late.
Did they turn you out? - The dayman came up and told us to get up as he wanted to make the beds. I got up at once and dressed and went down into the kitchen.
Is there anything else you want to say? - Nothing else, sir.
What did you mean by the West end of the town from which you came on the 6th inst.? - Peter street, Westminster, where there is another lodging house.
The Coroner - I think it is only fair to say that the statements of the witness have been corroborated.
The Foreman - I think the Jury are of opinion that he is cleared.
Witness - Sergeant Thicke, who arrested me, has known me for 18 years.
The Coroner - Well, well, I do not think it is necessary for you to say any more.
Police sergeant Thicke said - Knowing the rumours in circulation concerning "Leather Apron," I arrested Piser at 22 Mulberry street on Monday morning. I have known him for many years under the nickname of "Leather Apron." When the people in the neighbourhood spoke of "Leather Apron" they referred to Piser. He was released on Tuesday night at 9.30 p.m.
John Richardson now returned with the knife with which he cut his boot on the morning of the murder. It was an ordinary white handled table knife with a short blade.
The Coroner said the knife would be retained.
Henry John Holland said - I passed Hanbury street on the morning of Saturday, on my way to work, at ten minutes past six o'clock. I was passing No. 29. An elderly man, named Davies, came out, and said there was some one lying in the back yard. I ran through the passage and saw deceased lying in the yard against the back door. I went into the yard, but I did not touch the deceased or her clothes. No one did so in my presence. I went to find a policeman at the Spitalfields Market. I found one there, and he told me he could not come, but that I would find one outside. I went back to the house, and I saw the inspector run in with a young man. It would be about twenty minutes past six when I saw the inspector going in.
A Juror - Did the policeman in Spitalfields market say why he could not come with you?
Witness - I told him it was a similar case to what had happened a week previous. The policeman said he could not come, but that I would find another policeman outside the market. I could not see him.
Was the policeman engaged on any duty? - He was standing in the market. No one was speaking to him. I made a complaint in the afternoon to Commercial street police station about this affair, and they took all the evidence I could give.
The Coroner - There was a statement made by the Inspector that there are certain places where policemen are under orders not to leave their posts on any account.
The inquest was adjourned to this afternoon at two o'clock.
The police continued their investigation yesterday, but their labours were entirely without result. The little girl Laura Siekings, who pointed out the blood marks behind the house, No. 25, to the police, and the other inmates of Nos. 29, 27, and 25, have been questioned by the police, and the paper found in Bailey's yard has been handed to the police doctors for examination. The man Pigott is still an inmate of the workhouse infirmary, and it is stated that his mental condition has not materially improved. The idea that he was connected in some way with the recent terrible crimes has not been entirely abandoned, and he is still kept under surveillance, while diligent inquiries are being made into his antecedents.
Another arrest on suspicion was made yesterday at Holloway, but it was speedily discovered that the man was a harmless lunatic, and he was sent to the workhouse infirmary. More than one suspected man is being closely watched, but no arrests will be made until the authorities are in possession of some evidence to justify such a step. The streets of Whitechapel are nightly patrolled by large numbers of plain clothes constables. Meanwhile, careful inquiries are being made, acting upon the suggestion of Dr. Forbes Winslow, that the murderer at large is a maniac. The relatives of the murdered woman Chapman, who occupy respectable positions in life, have taken charge of the remains, which will be interred privately.
We published yesterday a statement by Mrs. Durrell, to the effect that, about half past five o'clock on the morning of the murder, she saw a man and woman conversing outside No. 29 Hanbury street, and they disappeared very suddenly. Mrs. Durrell was taken to the mortuary yesterday, and identified the body as that of the woman whom she saw in Hanbury street.
The inquest on the remains of the murdered woman Chapman was resumed yesterday in Whitechapel. Her brother identified the body, and the witnesses were examined who first discovered that a murder had been committed. No further light was thrown upon the mystery in which the affair is shrouded. The inquiry was adjourned.
Yesterday morning the Queen went out, accompanied by Princess Beatrice and Prince Albert Victor of Wales.