27 September 1888
REMARKABLE STATEMENT BY THE CORONER
The inquest concerning the death of the woman named Annie Chapman, who was so foully murdered in Hanbury-street, Whitechapel, on the 8th of September, was concluded yesterday, when the coroner delivered an elaborate summing-up of the evidence, and the jury returned a simple verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown". From the summing-up of the coroner we extract the most important passages:-
The deceased had evidently lived and immoral life for some time, and her habits and surroundings had become worse since her means had failed. She lived principally in the common lodging-houses in the neighbourhood of Spitalfields, where such as her herd like cattle. She showed signs of great deprivation, as if she had been badly fed.
The glimpses of life in those dens which the evidence in this case discloses is sufficient to make us feel that there is much in the nineteenth century civilization of which we have small reason to be proud; but you who are constantly called together to hear the sad tale of starvation, or semi-starvation, of misery, immorality, and wickedness which some of the occupants of the 5,000 beds in this district have every week to relate to coroner's inquests, do not require to be reminded of what life in a Spitalfields lodging-house means.
It was in one of these that she was seen a few hours before her mangled remains were discovered. There is some conflict in the evidence about the time the deceased was despatched. It is not unusual to find inaccuracy in such details, but this variation is not very important. She was found dead about six o'clock. But many minutes after Mrs Long passed them cannot have elapsed before the deceased became a mutilated corpse in the yard of 29, Hanbury-street.
The wretch must have seized the deceased, perhaps with Judas-like approaches. He seized her by the chin. He pressed her throat, and while thus preventing the slightest cry, he at the same time produced insensibility and suffocation. There is no evidence of any struggle. The deceased was then lowered to the ground, and laid on her back; and although in doing so she may have fallen slightly against the fence, this movement was probably effected with car. Her throat was then cut in two places and savage determination, and the injuries to the abdomen commenced. All was done with cool impudence and reckless daring; but, perhaps, nothing is more noticeable than the emptying of her pockets, and the arrangement of their contents with business-like precision in order near her feet.
The body has not been dissected, but the injuries have been made by some one who had considerable anatomical skill and knowledge. There are no meaningless cuts. The organ has been taken by one who knew where to find it, what difficulties he would have to contend against, and how he should use his knife, so as to abstract the organ without injury to it. No unskilled person could have known where to find it, or have recognized it when it was found. For instance, no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been some one accustomed to the post-mortem room. The conclusion that the desire was to possess the missing abdominal organ seems overwhelming.
If the object were robbery, the injuries to the viscera were meaningless, for death had previously resulted from the loss of blood at the neck. Moreover, when we find an easily accomplished theft of some paltry brass rings and an internal organ, after at least a quarter of an hour's work, and taken by a skilled person, we are driven to the deduction that the abstraction of the missing portion of the abdominal viscera was the object, and the theft of the rings was only a thin-veiled blind. It is not necessary to assume lunacy, for it is clear that there is a market for the missing organ. To show you this, I must mention a fact which at the same time proves the assistance which publicity and the newspaper press afford in the detection of crime.
Within a few hours of the issue of the morning papers containing a report of the medical evidence given at the last sitting of the court, I received a communication from an officer of one of our great medical schools that they had information which might or might not have a distinct bearing on our inquiry. I attended at the first opportunity, and was informed by the sub-curator of the Pathological Museum that some months ago an American had called on him, and asked him to procure a number of specimens of organs that was missing in the deceased. He stated his willingness to give £20 a-piece for each specimen. He stated that his object was to issue an actual specimen with each copy of a publication on which he was then engaged. He was told that his request was impossible to be complied with, but he still urged his request. It is know that this request was repeated to another institution of a similar character.
Now, is it not possible that the knowledge of this demand may have incited some abandoned wretch to possess himself of a specimen? I need hardly say that I at once communicated my information to the Detective Department at Scotland-yard. By means of the press some further explanation may be forthcoming from America, if not from here. Surely it is not too much even yet to hope that the ingenuity of our detective force will succeed in unearthing this monster. It is not as if there were no clue to the character of the criminal or the cause of his crime. His object is clearly divulged. His anatomical knowledge carries him out of the category of a common criminal, for that knowledge could only have been obtained by assisting at post-mortems, or by frequenting the post-mortem room.
If the assumption be correct that the man who was talking to the deceased at half-past five was the culprit, he is even more clearly defined. In addition to his former description we should know that he was a foreigner of dark complexion, over forty years of age, a little taller than the deceased, of shabby-genteel appearance, with a brown deer-stalker hat on his head, and a dark coat on his back.