8 September 1888
The East End of London has many a healthy spot and hopeful institution - notable, the People's Palace, which yields so much pleasant recreation to the thousands Sir Edmund Currie caters for - but certain squalid districts of the East end are, alas, the hunting grounds of some of the lowest and most degraded types of humanity to be found in any capital. It is there that the dregs of Continental cities deposit themselves. Vice abounds. Drunkenness is rife. Men and women both assume the habits of panthers. That is clear from the latest murder of a woman in the teeming district of Whitechapel. At an early hour on Friday morning, the last day of August, a terrible discovery was made by a constable in Buck's row, a narrow passage running out of Thomas street, Whitechapel. About a quarter past four in the morning, as Police Constable John Neil was walking down that thoroughfare, he came upon the body of a woman lying at the side of the street with her throat cut right open from ear to ear. The wound was about two inches wide. There were many other fearful injuries in other parts of the body. The hands and face were bruised, and bore evidence of there having been a severe struggle. The constable at once alarmed the people living in the house next to the stable yard, which is occupied by a carter named Green and his family, and also knocked up Mr. Walter Perkins, the resident manager at the Essex Wharf, on the opposite side of the road. Neither Mr. Perkins nor any of the Green family, although the latter were sleeping within a few yards of where the body was discovered, had heard any sound of a struggle.
Dr. Llewellyn, who lives only a short distance away, in Whitechapel road, was at once sent for, and promptly arrived on the scene. He found the body lying on its back across the gateway, and the briefest possible examination was sufficient to prove that life was extinct. Death had not long taken place, because the extremities were still warm. With the assistance of Police Sergeant Kirby and Police Constable Thane the body was removed in an ambulance to the mortuary, and it was not until the unfortunate woman's clothes were removed that the horrible nature of the attack which had been made upon her was fully revealed. The instrument with which the wounds were inflicted must have been as sharp as a razor, and used with the utmost ferocity. The murdered woman was about forty five of years of age, and 5ft 2in in height. She had a dark complexion, brown eyes, and brown hair (turning grey). At the time of her death she was wearing a brown ulster, fastened with seven large metal buttons, with the figure of a horse and a man standing by its side stamped thereon. She had on a brown linsey frock and a grey woollen petticoat, with flannel underclothing, close ribbed brown stays, black woollen stockings, side spring boots, and black straw bonnet trimmed with black velvet. The mark "Lambeth Workhouse, R.R.," was found stamped on the petticoat bands.
Last Saturday afternoon Mr. Wynne Baxter, Coroner for East Middlesex, opened the inquest at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel.
Edward Walker, an old man, residing at 16 Maidwood street, Albany road, Camberwell, said that he was formerly a smith. To the best of his belief the body at the mortuary was that of his daughter, whom he had not seen for three years. He recognised it by the general appearance, the loss of some front teeth, and a small mark on the forehead, caused when the deceased was a child. She was forty two years old. About twenty two years ago she was married to a man named William Nicholls, who was still alive. He was a printer's machinist. He and the deceased had been living apart for seven or eight years. The witness last heard of his daughter last Easter, when she wrote him the following letter, from a house in Wandsworth in which she had just before obtained a situation as domestic servant:-
I just write to say you will be glad to know that I am settled in my new place, and going on all right up to now. My people went out yesterday, and have not returned, so I am left in charge. It is a grand place, with trees and gardens back and front. All has been newly done up. They are teetotallers and religious, so I ought to get on. They are very nice people, and I have not too much to do. I hope you are all right and the boy has work. So good-bye for the present.
From yours truly, Polly.
Answer soon, please, and let me know how you are.
He replied to this letter, but had not heard from his daughter since. He last saw her alive two years ago, in June 1886. She was apparently respectable then, but he did not speak to her. It was at a funeral. He was not friendly with her. She lived with him three or four years ago, and after a few words she left him. He did not know what she did afterwards. She was not particularly sober, and that was why they did not agree. The deceased had had five children, of whom the eldest, a young man, was twenty one years old, and the youngest eight. The eldest was living with the witness, and the other four children with their father. THE HUSBAND'S RECOGNITION. If any doubts existed as to the identity of the murdered woman after the evidence of her father at the inquest, it was removed to the satisfaction of the police on Saturday night. The husband visited the mortuary, and on viewing the corpse, identified it as that of his wife, from whom he had been separated eight years. He stated that she was nearly forty four years of age, but it must be owned that she looked nearly ten years younger, as indeed the police first described the body. The husband, who was greatly affected, exclaimed on recognising the body, "I forgive you, as you are, for what you have done to me." He removed one element of doubt in the case - i.e., whether she had been assaulted and her teeth knocked out, as stated, prior to being murdered. The absence of the front teeth was, he said, of old standing. Mr. William Nicholls, who lives nears Old Kent road, is a journeyman printer.
Inspector Helson, at an interview on Sunday evening, said that the report that bloodstains were found leading from Brady street to Buck's row was not true. The place was examined by Sergeant Enright and himself on the Friday morning, and neither bloodstains nor wheelmarks were found to indicate that the body had been deposited where found, the murder being committed elsewhere. Both himself and Inspector Abberline, indeed, had come to the conclusion that it was committed on the spot.
At the inquiry, on Monday, Charles Allen Cross, the Pickford carman who first saw the poor woman's body; the police who were fetched to the spot; and William Nichols, the husband of the deceased, were examined; but no further light was thrown on the affair, and the inquest was adjourned for a fortnight. It is earnestly to be hoped that every East End resident will strive to aid the police to discover the perpetrator of this foul murder.