24 August 1888
Yesterday afternoon Mr. George Collier, the deputy-coroner for South-East Middlesex, resumed, at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel, the inquiry into the death of a woman, supposed to be Martha Turner, aged 35, a hawker, lately living at 4, Star-place, Star-street, 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. How the woman came to be in those dwellings is a mystery which the police as yet have not solved. 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 poor unfortunate, and their cowardly assailants have up till now evaded capture.
On resuming the inquiry Detective-inspector Reid and Sergeant Green, of the H division, appeared to watch the case for the Commissioners of Police.
Mr. Henry Samuel Tabran, of 6, River-terrace, East Greenwich, was the first witness called. He 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 39 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 habits. She took out a warrant for his arrest for desertion, but he agreed to allow her 12s. a week. That was carried on for three years, but afterwards finding how she was living he gave her only 2s. 6d. a week. She was at that time living with another man. Witness identified the body through seeing an account of the murder in the People, where her name was stated to be Tabran.
Henry Turner, who stated that he lived at the Working Men's Home, Commercial-street, deposed that he was a carpenter by trade, but latterly he had got his living as a hawker. Up to three weeks before this affair he was living with the deceased. They had lived together on and off for nine years. She used to get her living in the streets like himself. 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. The deceased was in the habit of staying out late at night, but witness did not know what for. He was now aware that she was acquainted with "Pearly Poll." He never quarreled with her, but simply left her.
By Mr. Reid.-The 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 she was subject to hysterical fits.
Mary Bousfield, 4, Star-place, Commercial-road, deposed 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. Turner was very good to her, and helped to support two children she had by her husband.-The deceased was greatly in witness's debt, and left without giving notice. Since then she had returned, forced the window, and occupied the room for one night without witness knowing she was there.
Ann Morris, 23, Lisbourn-street, E., a widow, deposed 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. The deceased was alone when she entered the bar. Witness did not know if any soldiers were in the publichouse. The deceased had been charged several times for annoying witness and breaking the windows of her house.
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 lodging at a lodging-house in Dorset-street. She was a single woman, and gained her livelihood on the streets. She had known the deceased for 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 at about a quarter to twelve. They were accompanied by two soldiers, one a private and the other a corporal. She did not know to what regiment they belonged, but they had white bands round their cape. Witness did not know if the corporal had any side arms. They picked up with 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 the deceased have any quarrel. Witness never saw the deceased again alive.
By the Coroner.-The 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 Mr. 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.-Have you threatened to drown yourself since this occurrence?
Witness.-Yes; but only for a "lark." I went to my cousin's, and stayed 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.
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 come to only one conclusion, and that was that the deceased was brutally and cruelly murdered. The police would endeavour to bring home the crime to the guilty parties, and his, the coroner's, sincerest hope was that they would be captured and brought to justice.
The Jury, after slight deliberation, returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown."
HOP PROSPECTS.-If the general tenour of our hop reports, says the Kentish Observer, were far more unfavourable than is the case, we should feel no surprise considering how great a check the plantations have had; indeed, on Saturday, at Canterbury, growers were taking a very gloomy view of the outlook, the remark being general that if the weather which then prevailed continued many days longer it would be utterly impossible for the old Goldings-and, indeed, all the late sorts-to develop hops. Happily the change has come in the very nick of time to save these late gardens from what was most to be feared-namely, failure to arrive at maturity. The burr, we are pleased to hear, is beginning to turn into hop, and with a continuance of fair weather all may yet go well. In some parts of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex there has been a considerable increase of vermin, and many planters are washing the bine and foliage. From the Worcester district we have a report of a very serious spread of blight, which threatens to bring disaster upon what until quite lately promised to be the cleanest crop in England. Against all these gloomy accounts we are pleased to be able to set a fairly hopeful prospect as regards the Bramlings in many parts of East Kent. These are looking remarkably well, giving every prospect of a luxuriant and abundant yield. The 1888 crop must be an unusually small one; in the opinion of some authorities it will not exceed 300,000 cwt., but of course all estimates for the present must be the merest guesswork.