23 October 1888
Yesterday at the Sessions-house, Broadway, Westminster, Mr. Troutback resumed the inquest adjourned from the 8th inst. on the remains of the woman discovered in the vault of the new police offices on this Thames Embankment. Inspector Marshall represented the police authorities. With the exception of the fourteen jurors, the representatives of the Press, seven or eight witnesses, and four constables, there was scarcely any attendance on the part of the public, and the proceedings seemed to create but little interest.
William Brown was the first witness called. He stated, in reply to questions from the coroner, that on the 22nd ult., when engaged with two others in making out the quantities of completed work, he visited the vault where the remains were found subsequently, and in the particular corner, though he made measurements, he did not notice anything particular or observe that the earth had been disturbed. If there had been a parcel there at the time he must have trod upon it. Light was afforded by a paraffin lamp, and the trench in the vault to which frequent reference had been made was dry so far back as the middle of June. He had made a ground plan of the several vaults and of the road leading to them. He saw, on Tuesday, the vault after the discovery of the remains, when the earth was lower in the corner than in the other parts.
Mr. Robert Erant, clerk of the works, said that on the Saturday previous to the finding of the trunk of the body he was on the premises up to three o'clock, but did not go into the vault that day. He had done so, however, the previous day, and did not then notice any parcel there. There were about the place a few rags which the workmen used for rubbing brickwork with when it was pointed.
To the Jury.
A man with a light accompanied him. The parcel might have been in the corner of the vault on that occasion, but he did not think it was there.
Richard Lawrence, labourer, 40, Sterndale-road, Battersea, stated that on the Saturday he placed for safety, at the end of the vault, on a mortar board, until the following Monday morning, a basket of workmen's tools, and on the latter day, at ten minutes past six o'clock in the morning, he fetched them out. On neither occasion did he notice anything extraordinary. The tools had not been disturbed in the meantime. A fellow workman (Young) had asked him to take the tools there. About half-past three o'clock that afternoon he saw, for the first and the last time, the parcel of remains as it was brought out into the light. The body might have been there at the time he groped in the dark into the vault, but he was strongly impressed with the idea that it was not.
Alfred Young, carpenters' labourer, stated that on the Saturday, about twelve o'clock, before the finding of the parcel of remains, he went to the vault, taking with him a basket of workmen's tools, and placed it on the mortar board to which the last witness had referred, but he noticed nothing particular in this place. There was no light or lamp.
Mr. A. Franklin, surveyor, stated that on the Friday he had been to the vault measuring work. He did not actually go into the corner where the remains were found, and he noticed nothing in that direction beyond rubbish and some old bricks and stones. If there were a parcel there he certainly thought he should have noticed it, especially if any smell pervaded the place. But he found no offensive smell. Still it was just possible that a parcel which did not give out an offensive odour might have escaped his observation.
Jasper Waring, the Tilbury representative of a news agency, stated that he visited the site of the police buildings near Whitehall, on the 17th inst., having received permission from Mr. Grover, the builder. He gave a detailed description of the discovery of a woman's leg through the agency of his dog - a Russian terrier - an Arctic breed. The particulars of this discovery have already been given. Mr. Waring added, the animal soon discovered the place where the body was found. On a second trial the dog selected a spot in the opposite corner, commencing to scratch, and on witness digging he found a mass of flesh, which was left untouched till the police came. Before he commenced to dig he noticed that the earth was all loose, and that there was a mound over two feet high thrown up in digging the drain. The earth where the flesh was found had no appearance of having been disturbed. He and the labourers dug in other parts, and in one place pointed out by the dog they went down two feet. They, however, found nothing, but there was a very strong scent, and he felt confident that something had been there.
William Angle, who accompanied the last witness in the search, gave corroborative evidence. He considered the corner where the leg and foot were found was higher than the rest of the ground, but not conspiciously so. The ground there had been trodden upon.
Henry Edge, labourer, said he was the last person in the vault on the Saturday before the discovery of the body, and did not see any parcel, though he happened to look specially into the corner, believing that the tools he went to fetch were there; but when he struck a match light he discovered his mistake, and found them on a mortar-board at the corner of the vault, to the left of the trench as one entered.
Mr. Bond, divisional surgeon, said, having examined the remains found on the 17th inst., he saw that they consisted of a leg and foot, which had undoubtedly been lying there several weeks. Decomposition had taken place on the spot, as the condition of the earth showed. On the following day Mr. Hepburn and witness again examined the leg, and found that it had been divided at the knee-joint, and very cleverly disarticulated so that the mains seemed to correspond with the other portions of the body found, and he had no doubt belonged to it. He was fully of opinion that the body had lain where it was for several weeks, and had decomposed there. The brickwork was saturated with decomposing fluid. He believed that death took place about the end of August or beginning of September. It was impossible that the appearances presented could have resulted from exposure for two or three days. The foot was very well shaped, and was that of a well-to-do person.
Mr. Hibbert, surgeon, St. Thomas Hospital, who assisted Dr. Bond in the examination of the remains, said that the leg and foot were bruised in two places. They would have belonged to a person about five feet eight inches high, and were, he believed, part of the body found. He thought that death was probably as early as the middle of August. There were two bruises on the leg, one inside and the other outside, each about the size of a shilling. From his examination he believed the leg and foot were portions of the body previously found. In his view death took place about the middle of August.
Constable Thomas Button, 363 A, deposed that having asked Inspector Marshall's advice he allowed Messrg. Waring and Angle to go in with the dog and view the vault, as they had obtained permission from the contractor and builder.
Detective- sergeant Rose gave evidence about the finding of the leg and foot similar to that received before. Subsequent to the 17th he had taken several dogs - bloodhounds and terriers - to the vault, but they had found nothing.
Inspector Marshall stated this was all the evidence he had to offer.
The coroner briefly summed up. There was not, in his opinion, any evidence of identity beyond the fact established by the surgical testimony, namely, that the remains were those of a well-developed female unaccustomed to manual labour, and who had probably never been a mother. How the deceased came by her death there was no evidence to show, but much pointed to the probability of a violent death. Probably the main object of the person who put the body in the vault was to get rid of it, and not to permanently conceal it, which he must have known to be extremely difficult. It was for the jury to say whether, in their opinion, a crime had been committed, or whether they thought that the evidence did not warrant them in doing more than return an open verdict.
The jury after a few minutes' consultation, returned a verdict of "Found dead."
The following return and commendations to metropolitan police officers who have distinguished themselves while on duty has just been issued:
99 for effecting the apprehension of persons, one for promptitude and skill in rendering first aid, one for courage in rescuing a child from being run over, one for courage at a fire, 18 for courage in stopping runaway horses at great personal risk, five for courage in killing savage dogs, six for promptitude at fires, two constables were commended for courage in arresting a burglar who had a revolver in his possession. For apprehending a man for burglary, two constables were awarded 10£. each from Bow-street Police Court reward fund, and another constable was commended for humanity displayed in supplying food and clothing to some destitute persons.
The Western Mail says the greatest excitement prevailed at Pontardawe, near Swansea, on Sunday morning, on its becoming known that a child named John Harper, aged five years, the son-of an annealed at the Pantardawe Tinplate Works, had been foully murdered on Saturday evening in a wood near All Saints' Church. The child was missing by his parents in the afternoon of Saturday, and as night drew on a search was instituted, the neighbours joining in, but as their endeavours proved futile, information was given to Inspector Giddings at the police-station, and he said Police-constables Harris and Hopkins were soon on the alert. Inquiries were at once made by them as to when and where the little boy had last been seen, and it proved that with another child, who is still younger, he had been during the afternoon on a bridge crossing the river, which at this spot divides Pontardawe from the wood in question, in company with a lad named Thomas Lott, who is about eighteen years of age, and is frequently employed by a butcher in the town. The search was continued, and about twelve o'clock Police-constable Hopkins came upon the body of the little child, which presented a terrible spectacle, the throat being cut from ear to ear, and the abdomen ripped open. The police ascertained that the other little fellow, who had been on the bridge with Lott and the deceased, had arrived home in a great state of fright, saying that Lott had wished to undress him in the wood. This cottage where Lott lived with his mother was next visited, and he was taken into custody on suspicion, and has since admitted that he did the deed with a butcher's knife taken from the slaughterhouse. No motive can be assigned for the crime. Lott was brought before the magistrate yesterday morning and remanded.
The coroner's jury engaged in investigating the discovery of human remains in the vault of the new police headquarters at Whitehall resumed their inquiry yesterday under Mr. Troutbeck's direction. After evidence as to the finding of the leg and foot, which Dr. Bond had no doubt belonged to the previously discovered female trunk, an open verdict of "Found dead" was returned.
The bishop of Bedford has acknowledged the receipt of 100£. 3s. From Mr. Richard Mansfield, being the result of the benefit given at the Lyceum Theatre, on Friday evening last, in aid of his Home and Refuge Fund.