12 November 1888
VIEWING THE BODY AND THE ROOM
(BY OUR SPECIAL REPORTER)
The inquest on Mary Jane Kelly began this morning at eleven o'clock, at Shoreditch town hall. There was no crowd at the doors, and little excitement. Without the coroner's court half a dozen wretched-looking women were sitting on half a dozen cane chairs waiting to be called; and for half an hour the gentlemen of the jury dropped one by one into the green-walled square, little room which is sacred to the coroner. A mahogany table, drawn up against the windows, was laden with hats, black bags and papers, belonging to the army of reporters. The jury, twelve very respectable-looking men, sat on the coroner's right on two rows of chairs. At eleven the coroner Dr Macdonald, took his seat. "Gentlemen of the jury, stand up please," shouted the officer of the court. "Will you choose a foreman, gentlemen?" "Mr Gobbey?" "Stand up, Mr Gobbey." But a gentleman (I am not sure whether he was Mr Gobbey) with black gloves and a good coat, objected to serve on the jury. It wasn't in his ward. The coroner stiffened, and gave them some of his mind, and Mr Hammond again asked the jury to choose a foreman, which they did without further objection, for the coroner had evidently got his back up. "Each kiss the book and pass it round, gentlemen please," cried the officer again, and these curious formalities having been observed, Dr Macdonald's momentary wrath subsided, and he proposed that the jury should proceed to view the body and the scene of the murder. So the jury put on their hats, tightened their lips, and marched out, accompanied by a few pressmen.
By this time quite a crowd had gathered round the hall, and followed us quietly to the gloomy gate of Shoreditch Church. The little rusty iron wicket guarded by a policeman, who held it open as we passed into the melancholy churchyard, with an acre of grey, soot-covered gravestones, and sorrowful grass and weeds. The path ran alongside the church, and as we turned sharp round to the left there was a little brick mortuary, a red oasis in the desert of tombstones and soft, dank soil. The door was open, and disclosed a cool and lofty apartment, lighted by a couple of windows placed high up, which shed a good light on the fearful spectacle upon which we all gazing. There, in a coarse wooden shell lay the body the Ripper's latest victim. Only her face was visible: the hideous and disembowelled trunk was concealed by the dirty grey cloth, which had probably served to cover many a corpse. The face resembled one of those horrible was anatomical specimens which may be seen in surgical shops. The eyes were the only vestiges of humanity, the rest was so scored and slashed that it was impossible to say where the flesh began and the cuts ended. And yet it was no means a horrible sight. I have seen bodies in the Paris Morgue which looked far more repulsive.
The jury being quite satisfied we marched through the churchyard again, and pushed our way through the crowd which followed us up the Commercial-road, and into Dorset-street. Here another crowd held possession of the field, trowy women, with babies in their arms, drunken men recovering from their orgies, and a whole regiment of children, all open-mouthed and commenting on the jury. The entrance to the court was held by a couple of policemen, and it was so narrow that we could pass up in single file. It was only about three yards long, and then we were at the door which is numbered 13. The two windows which look into the little court were boarded up, and had apparently been newly whitewashed. From the windows above a girl looked down upon us quite composedly, and several pots of beer were brought in during our stay to comfort the denizens of the court. At last the key was procured, and the room was surveyed in batches. The inspector, holding a candle stuck in a bottle, stood at the head of the filthy, bloodstained bed, and repeated the horrible details with appalling minuteness. He indicated with one hand the bloodstains on the wall, and point with the other to the pools which had ebbed out on to the mattress. The little table was still on the left of the bedstead, which occupied the larger portion of the room. A farthing dip in a bottle did not serve to illuminate the fearful gloom, but I was able to see what a wretched hole the poor murdered woman called "home". The only attempts at decoration were a couple of engravings, one, "The Fisherman's Widow", stuck over the mantelpiece: while in the corner was an open cupboard, containing a few bits of pottery, some ginger-beer bottles, and a bit of bread on a plate. The rent was 4s. a week. In twenty minutes the jury filed out again and marched back, still accompanied by a curious crowd, to the Town Hall, and began their very simple labours under the direction of Dr Macdonald, the member for the Scotch Crofters.
It was ascertained at the Leman-street, Commercial-street, and Bishopsgate police-stations this morning that the persons arrested in suspicion of having committed the Dorset-street murder had all be discharged. No one is now in custody in connection with this crime, and the police have absolutely no clue as to the whereabouts of the murderer.
Shortly before ten o'clock last night a man with a blackened face who publicly proclaimed himself to be "Jack the Ripper", was arrested at the corner of Wentworth-street, Commercial-street, near the scene of the latest crime. Two young men, one a discharged soldier, immediately seized him, and the crowds which always on Sunday night parade this neighbourhood raised a cry of, "Lynch him". Sticks were raised, and the man was furiously attacked, but for the timely arrival of the police would have been seriously injured. The police took him to Leman-street station. He refused to give any name, but asserted that he was a doctor at St George's Hospital. His age is about thirty-five years, height 5 ft. 7 in., complexion dark, and dark moustache, and he was wearing spectacles. He wore no waistcoat but had an ordinary jersey vest beneath his coat. In his pocket he had a double-peaked light check cap, and at the time of his arrest was bareheaded. It took four constables and four civilians to take him to the station, and protect him from the infuriated crowd. He is detained in custody.
The doctors were engaged for some hours yesterday morning, at the mortuary in Shoreditch Churchyard, making a post-mortem examination. Every portion of the body was accounted for, and at the conclusion of the investigation the various pieces were sewn together and placed in a coffin. One of the surgeons has stated that the woman had been dead some hours when first discovered, and that in all probability the crime was committed between tow and three o'clock in the morning. During yesterday a large number of persons called at the mortuary, and asked permission to look at the remains. All such requests were, of course refused.
There was a rumour current this morning that another murder had been committed in Whitechapel, but on inquiry our representative was informed that it was without foundation.
NOW FOR MR MATTHEWS
The Times says:- "For the beginning of discord we should probably have to go back to the Trafalgar-square riots, when Sir Charles Warren clearly new his own mind, and how to carry out a definite policy, while Mr Matthews as evidently did not know his own mind, and showed o capacity for action. A rupture might, however, have been avoided had nothing occurred to throw exceptional strain upon the department. Mr Matthews says that he is considering the whole system of the Criminal Investigation Department with a view to introducing any improvements that experience may suggest. This is a very lame and feeble announcement to put forth in the circumstances. The public will not rest satisfied with what amounts to nothing more than promise of languid tinkering at details. We do not know whether Mr Matthews really imagines that he can stop inquiry with the answer that he gave last night - the Mr Monro resigned because differences of opinion has arisen between the Chief Commissioner and himself. If he does, he is preparing a serious disappointment for himself; and if his colleagues wish to escape discredit they will endeavour to convince him that the whole matter will really have to be dealt with in a very different spirit".
The Standard says: - "The general feeling, unless we are much mistaken, among all men whose opinion is worth a farthing, will be one of surprise as much as of disappointment. What adequate reason is there for the step? We specially regret the resignation, because it will give ground for the belief, with or without cause, that Sir Charles Warren has wanted aplomb to despise, as it deserved to be despised, one of the most violent and unjustifiable agitations which ever disgraced the less reputable portion of the London press, and the demagogues who draw their inspiration from it. For months past the Commissioner has been assailed with an unscrupulous violence and a shameless mendacity which even in these days of reckless partisanship is almost unprecedented. The clamour originated in quarters from which nothing else was, indeed, to be expected. In view of the increasing degradation of English journalism, it is certain that any public officer who is sensitive on the score of what is said about him in this or that street journal will have a hard time of it".
The Daily News says: - "It had become too plainly evident that his administration was entirely unsuccessful, and that nothing could restore the efficiency of the metropolitan police, nor heal the unfortunate breach between them and the London populace but an entire change of government at Scotland-yard. The thing to avoid in the police of a great city is the very thing that Sir Charles Warren was sure to bring into the Metropolitan Police - the military spirit. Sir Charles Warren has succeeded in making the worst instead of the best of a bad system. It is not clear how far he is responsible for the unfortunate division that has grown up between the police and the populace; Mr Matthews probably deserves a large share of the blame. The police have never been so unpopular in London as they now are".
The Morning Advertiser says: - "The general public will share the feelings of the House, and the force directed by the ex-Chief Commissioner for the past two and a half years will be found very decidedly in line with members of Parliament and the public. Sir Charles Warren lays down his office, it cannot be denied, under circumstances little flattering to himself. The cheers of the Commons last night were an emphatic judgement upon his management of the Metropolitan Police Force".
The Daily Chronicle says: - "A department cannot be efficiently administered when the authorities are at sixes and sevens among themselves. Sir Charles Warren can hardly be said to have been a successful Chief Commissioner of Police. He has doubtless made the police force a fine piece of mechanism, but the question is whether the clockwork precision with which every movement is performed is, after all, exactly the thing that is wanted. A soldier not unnaturally gives a military character and tone to any system which he administers; but, remembering that our police must always be essentially a civil force, we cannot help thinking that is better to have a civilian than a military Chief Commissioner".
The Morning Post says: - "It would be idle to pretend that the administration of the police force under Sir Charles Warren has been so successful as to occasion any great regret for his departure. It is an open secret that he was appointed because it was felt that a strong hand was needed to repel the growing turbulence of a certain section of the London populace. This part of his duty he has performed with a firmness that has earned him the gratitude of all law-abiding citizens, and the hatred of certain agitators, whose reckless schemes he has thwarted. The animosity of these mean has pursued him almost from the commencement of his brief term of office, and has spared no ingenuity in placing obstacles in his way".
The Daily Telegraph says: - "We are not at all prepared to admit that his retirement will dispose of all existing complaints as to the recent management of his department of our administration; but, at the same time, we cannot affect to conceal our opinion that the step will be welcomed by the public. It was fault of his that he was lacking in the traditions and training, the temperament and habits of mind, which go so indispensably to the making of a chief of police. The fault lies with the Minister who, persisted in selecting for a post which a soldier, considered merely as a soldier, is and always must be incompetent to fill. Sir Charles Warren's resignation has removed an unsuccessful Chief Commissioner, but he leaves behind him an incapable Home Secretary.