6 October 1888
Once let London rouse itself in earnest (as it is doing) to deal with the murderous Cains in our midst, and to grapple with the dangerously grave question of the terrible Poverty around us, and I have little doubt the systematic assassin who slew woman after woman in Whitechapel will be discovered (if he is not already arrested) and one of the most troublous problems of the times will be solved. That no less than six poor women should have been slain with impunity in a corner of the East End within a few months is s social calamity of such gravity that one would have thought Her Majesty's ministers would have brought their pleasure jaunts to a sudden close, and have hastened back to town to deliberate how best to safeguard London in the future. The crisis is surely great enough to demand Ministerial consideration and action. When the assemblage of the homeless poor grew to be of serious dimensions in Trafalgar square last autumn the Government was stimulated to direct the stream of "casual" poverty with a humane hand into the proper channels of relief, voluntary and official. Action equally prompt is imperatively demanded at this juncture, when London is literally horror stricken by the series of barbarous murders in Whitechapel, crowned at present with the Berner street and Mitre square outrages, the sites of which are delineated by busy pencils in our current issue.
I do not join in the parrot cry against the Metropolitan Police and their zealous chief, Sir Charles Warren. London's Police Force is totally inadequate. It should be quadrupled, to be commensurate with the needs of what is really a nation of five millions. What a glorious opportunity for the Dukes of Westminster, Bedford, and Norfolk to display their public spirit by defraying the entire expense for this additional police force out of their own pockets! What a chance to restore to the public some of that "unearned increment" that must surely trouble the consciences of our Ducal landlords!
The fall of snow near Rugby and as early as the Second of October betokens a severe Winter. The lamentable revelations of bitter Want driving women to Vice, only to meet their deaths by violence in the dark corners of this City, may stimulate the Rich and Benevolent to ponder anew on the most efficacious manner of ameliorating the miserable state of the destitute which is a standing disgrace to the most opulent capital in the world.
It was only a few years ago that public opinion was roused to such an extent with regard to the evil of this foul herding of the very poor in malarious dwellings that I well remember the Prince of Wales and the Marquis of Salisbury gave eloquent expression to their humane sentiments on the matter, and warmly supported the appointment of the Royal Commission on the subject. What was the outcome of that portentous inquiry? Little more than "words, words, words" - empty speech. Next to nothing has been done! The industrious poor and the "residuum" alike continue to be so shamefully overcrowded in their vile but expensive tenements that Savage Vice has been the almost inevitable outcome. These recurrent murders are the premonitory symptoms of the social earthquake that threatens to awaken the powerful and privileged classes to a sense of their duties.
The alarming facts that Burglary is rife in London, and that in the small hours of Sunday morning last, two additional murders of a sadly familiar type were committed in the neighbourhood of the Hanbury street atrocity, are terribly eloquent proofs that a stronger and more energetic government is needed for London. A veritable reign of terror prevails in the populous East end of London; and it has been abundantly shown that the police force of the Metropolis should be largely increased in every branch.
The first of the two murders in point of time took place not long after midnight last Saturday in Berner street, a narrow, badly lighted, but tolerably respectable street, turning out of the Commercial road, a short distance down on the right hand side going from Aldgate. It is a street mainly consisting of small houses, but which has lately been brightened and embellished by one of the fine new buildings of the London School Board. Just opposite this is an "International and Educational Club," domiciled in a private house, standing at the corner of a gateway leading into a yard in which are small manufacturing premises and four small houses occupied by Jewish families. The yard gates are usually closed at night, a wicket affording admission to the lodgers and others residing in the houses. Friday or Saturday, however, brought round the close of the Jewish holiday season, and down in this part of London, where the people are largely composed of foreign Jews, some departure from regular habits was more or less general. The International and Educational Club was on Saturday evening winding up the holidays by a lecture on "Judaism and Socialism." A discussion followed, which carried on proceedings to about half past twelve, and then followed a sing song, and a general jollification, accompanied, as the neighbours say, by a noise that would effectually have prevented any cries for help being heard by those around. Te hilarious mirth, however, was brought to a sudden and dreadful stop. The steward of the club, Lewis Diemschitz, who lives in one of the small houses in the yard, and had been out with some sort of market cart, returned home just before one.
He turned into the gateway, when he observed some object lying in his way under the wall of the club, and without getting down first prodded it with his whip. Unable to see clearly what it was, he struck a match and found it was a woman. He thought at first she was drunk, and went into the club. Some of the members went out with him and struck another light, and were horrified to find the woman's head nearly severed from her body and blood streaming down the gutter.
The police were summoned, and amid the intense excitement of the few who were out and about at this unhallowed hour, the poor creature was borne to the St. George's dead house.
On Sunday it was stated that the corpse was identified as that of a woman who had been living in a common lodging house in Flower and Dean street, and had been in the habit of frequenting this neighbourhood, where it appears she was familiarly known as Long Lizzie. It subsequently was asserted that her name was Elizabeth Stride, and that she had a sister living somewhere in Holborn, and that her husband, from whom she had been separated some years, was living at Bath. But the Coroner declared on Monday that the poor woman had not been fully identified. The body when found was quite warm. In one hand was clutched a box of sweets, and at her breast were pinned two dahlias. She was respectably dressed for her class, and appears to be about thirty five years of age, about 5ft. 5in. in height, and of dark complexion. The theory of the police is - and it is generally endorsed by those who have inquired into the matter on the spot - that precisely the same thing was attempted as in the case of the Hanbury street murder, and that but for interruption the same ghastly mutilation would have been perpetrated. In some way, however, the fiendish assailant was disturbed, as it is assumed the same individual was disturbed in Buck's row. It is supposed that, finding he had not time to complete what he had intended without running the risk of capture, he left his victim, very possibly, as it would seem, with little or none of her blood upon him. He may simply have seized her by the pink scarf round her neck, pulled her head hard, and given one horrible gash across the throat from behind, severing the windpipe, and thus at once putting it out of the power of his victim to cry for help, though, as we have seen, even though she had cried out, it is quite possible that no one could have heard it, as dancing and singing were going on in the adjacent club.
It was shortly before two o'clock last Sunday morning that the next horrible discovery was made by the police. It appears that Police Constable Watkins (No. 881), of the City Police, was going round his beat when, turning his lantern upon the darkest corner of Mitre square (near Aldgate and Leadenhall street), he was the body of a woman, apparently lifeless, in a pool of blood. He at once blew his whistle, and several persons being attracted to the spot, he dispatched messengers for medical and police aid. Inspector Collard, who was in command at the time at Bishopsgate Police station, but a short distance off, quickly arrived, followed a few moments after by Mr. G.W. Sequeira, surgeon, of 34 Jewry street, and Dr. Gordon Brown, the divisional police doctor of Finsbury circus. The scene then disclosed was a most horrible one. The woman, who was apparently about forty years of age, was lying on her back, quite dead, although the body was still warm. Her head was inclined to the left side, her left leg being extended, whilst the right was bent. Both arms were extended. The throat was cut half way round, revealing a dreadful wound, from which blood had flowed in great quantity, staining the pavement for some distance round. Across the right cheek to the nose was another gash, and a part of the right ear had been cut off. Following the plan in the Whitechapel murders, the miscreant was not content with merely killing his victim. The poor woman had been completely disembowelled, and part of the intestines had been laid on her neck. After careful notice had been taken of the position of the body when found, it was conveyed to the City Mortuary in Golden lane. Here a more detailed examination was made. the murdered woman was apparently about forty years of age, about 5ft in height, and evidently belonged to that unfortunate class of which the women done to death in Whitechapel were members. Indeed, one of the policemen who saw the body expressed his confident opinion that he had seen the woman several times walking in the neighbourhood of Aldgate High street. She was of dark complexion, with auburn hair and hazel eyes, and was dressed in shabby dark clothes. She wore a black cloth jacket with imitation fur collar and three large metal buttons. Her dress was made of green chintz, the pattern consisting of Michaelmas daisies. In addition, she had on a thin white vest, light drab lindsey skirt, a very old dark green alpaca petticoat, brown ribbed stockings (mended at the feet with white material), black straw bonnet, trimmed with black beads and grey and black velvet, and a large white handkerchief round the neck. In the pockets of the dress a peculiar collection of articles was found. Besides a small packet containing tea and other articles which people who frequent the common lodging houses are accustomed to carry, the police found upon the body a white pocket handkerchief, a blunt bone-handled table knife, a short clay pipe, and a red cigarette case with white metal fittings. The knife bore no traces of blood, so could have no connection with the crime.
When the news of this additional murder became known the excitement in the crowded district of Aldgate was intense. Usually a busy place in a Sunday morning, Houndsditch and connecting streets presented a particularly animated appearance, men with barrows vending fruit and vegetables doing a brisk trade. Crowds flocked to the entrance of the square where the body had been discovered, but the police refused admittance to all but a privileged.
Sir Charles Warren visited the spot at a particularly early hour, and made himself thoroughly conversant with the neighbourhood and the details of the affair. major Smith (Acting Superintendent of the City Police), Superintendent Foster, Detective Inspector M'William (Chief of the City Detective Department), Detective Sergeants Downes and Outram also attended during the Sunday morning. A little while after the finding of the body all traces of blood had been washed away by direction of the authorities, and there was little to indicate the terrible crime which had taken place. Before proceeding further it may be convenient to describe the scene of the murder.
Mitre square is an enclosed space in the rear of St. Katherine Cree Church, Leadenhall street. It has three entrances, the principal one - and the only one having a carriage way - is at the southern end, leading into Mitre street, a turning out of Aldgate High street. There is a narrow court in the northeast corner leading into Duke street, and another one at the northwest, by which foot passengers can reach St. James's square, otherwise known as the Orange Market. Mitre square contains but two dwelling houses, in one of which, singularly enough, a City policeman lives, whilst the other is uninhabited. The other buildings, of which there are only three, are large warehouses. In the southeast corner, and near to the entrance to Mitre street, is the back yard of some premises in Aldgate, but the railings are closely boarded. It was just under these that the woman was found, quite hidden from sight by the shadow cast by the corner of the adjoining house. The officer who found the body is positive that it could not have been there more than a quarter of an hour before he discovered it.
The police theory is that whilst the woman lay on the ground her throat was cut, causing instant death. The murderer then hurriedly proceeded to mutilate the body; for the wounds, though so ghastly, do not appear to have been caused so skilfully and deliberately as in the case of the murder of Annie Chapman, in Hanbury street. Five minutes, some of the doctors think, would have sufficed for the completion of the murderer's work: and he was thus enabled to leave the ground before the return of the policeman on duty.
The murderer probably avoided much blood staining on account of the woman being on her back at the time of the outrage; and leaving the square by either of the courts he would be able to pass quickly away through the many narrow thoroughfares without exciting observation. But one of the most extraordinary incidents in connection with the crime is that not the slightest scream or noise was heard. A watchman is employed at one of the warehouses in the square, and in a direct line, but a few yards away, on the other side of the square, a City policeman was sleeping. All day Sunday crowds thronged the streets leading to Mitre square, discussing the crime, and the police in the neighbourhood of the square, under Inspector Izzard and Sergeants Dudman and Phelps, and other officers, were fully occupied in keeping back the excited and curious people.
The post mortem examination of the body, which took place at the Mortuary, Golden lane, and was conducted by Dr. Phillips, Dr. Gordon Brown, and Mr. G.W. Sequeira, occupied nearly four hours.
CORONER FOR EAST MIDDLESEX
is sketched by one of our Artists as he opened the inquest on the body of the poor creature found murdered in the yard of Berner street; the inquiry being held in the Cable street Vestry Hall. No one known more than Mr. Baxter does the circumstances under which the series of half a dozen murders have been committed in and near Whitechapel. We cited his careful analysis of the first four outrages in the last Number of The Penny Illustrated Paper. When Mr. Baxter, on the 26th of September, came to review the murder of Annie Chapman in the back yard of 29 Hanbury street, he did more than suggest a theory for the crime. The absence of a portion of the body caused him to suggest that the murder had been committed to obtain the uterus, more especially as he had received a mysterious communication bearing on the point:-
I attended at the first opportunity, and was told 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 the organ that was missing in the deceased. He stated his willingness to give £20 for each, and explained that his object was to issue an actual specimen with each copy of a publication on which he was then engaged. Although he was told that his wish was impossible to be complied with, he still urged his request. He desired them preserved, not in spirits of wine, the usual medium, but in glycerine, in order to preserve them in a flaccid condition, and he wished them sent to America direct. It is known 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?
Mr. Baxter rightly said, "The glimpses of life in these dens which the evidence in this case discloses is sufficient to make us feel that there is much in the nineteenth century civilisation of which we have small reason to be proud." It may be of use to quote one or two of Mr. Baxter's closing sentences:-
If Mrs. Long's memory does not fail, and 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. In the case of Annie Chapman, the Coroner's Jury had no alternative but to return a verdict of "Wilful Murder against some person or persons unknown."
Detective Inspector Reid of Leman street station, a smart and intelligent officer of the Metropolitan Police, gave Mr. Baxter all the assistance the Police could offer in conducting the Coroner's inquiry into the Berner street murder. Nothing material or new was elicited on Monday from the witnesses. William West, printer on a Socialist paper printed at the Berner street club, one of the members called out into the yard to see the dead body; Morris Siegel, jewellery traveller, who left the club to see his "young lady home," and did not notice anyone in the yard on his return about twenty minutes to one, but was afterwards summoned to view the corpse; and Lewis Diemschitz, the steward of the club, whose evidence was but a repetition of what is stated in the foregoing narrative of the Berner street murder.
Mr. Wynne E. Baxter resumed the inquest on Tuesday, when the most important witness was :-
Mrs. Mary Malcolm, a respectably dressed woman, of 20 Eagle street, Red Lion square, the wife of a tailor. She said: "I have seen the body of the deceased in the mortuary. It is the body of my sister, Elizabeth Watts."
The Coroner: "There is no doubt about that?" - "None whatever."
"But you had some doubt about it at first?" - "Yes; but I have no doubt now."
"When did you see her last?" - "She came to me on Thursday last, at the place where I work in Red Lion street."
Mrs. Malcolm admitted that her sister's failing was drink; said she was twenty seven, and was married to Edward watts, whose father is a wholesale wine and spirit merchant in
Walcott street, Bath. Mrs. Malcolm added:-
His father sent him away because of the misconduct of my sister. About eight years ago my sister's husband sent her home to her mother, together with their two children, a boy and a girl. My mother died in 1883. The little girl is also dead, but the boy is in a boarding school with his aunt, his father's sister.
Has your sister been subject to epileptic fits? - Not to my knowledge. I, however, believe she has been charged at the police court with drunkenness, but has been discharged on that plea.
Has she had any trouble with a man? - She has lived with a man - whose name I believe was Dent. That man went to sea about two and a half years ago, and was wrecked on the Isle of St. Paul. I do not believe she lived with another man after that, although there is a man who says he has lived with her. I have never heard her say she was afraid of any man. I have never visited her at Flower and Dean street, and never knew that she was nicknamed "Long Liz." I never heard the name of Stride. I believe that is she was living with a man she would have told me.
The Coroner: How often did you see the deceased? - She used to come to me at four p.m. every Saturday, and I used to give her 2s.
Did she come last Saturday? - No.
Did you not think that strange? - Yes; because she has been every Saturday for the past two or three years.
When I read an account of the murders, on Sunday morning, I had a presentiment that something had happened to my sister.
The Coroner: But did you not have some special presentiment? - Yes; while I was lying in bed at 1.20 a.m. on Sunday morning, I felt a kind of pressure across me, and the sound as if someone were kissing me three times. That warned me that something had happened to my sister. On Sunday evening I went to the mortuary, but, in the gaslight, I could not recognise her. I, however, have seen her since, and can now recognise her. There is a small black mark on her right leg, by which I recognised her. When I and my sister were children, while we were rolling in some meadow grass an adder bit me on the finger and then bit my sister on the leg. Witness here displayed a scar on one of her fingers. Continuing, she said: I have another sister and a brother, but they have not seen the deceased for years.
She has (she added) caused me enough trouble. She left a baby naked outside my door.
Whose baby was it? - One of her own.
What, one of those you mentioned? - No, one she had by a policeman. (Sensation.) I had to keep it until she fetched it away. The child died in March last.
The Coroner: I think it would be best to go to Chancery lane, where you were in the habit of meeting your sister, on Saturday next, and see if she comes again. I think it worth putting to the test. The witness protested very strongly that she was not mistaken in her identification, and the Coroner ultimately expressed his belief in her statement.
As a Swede, however, was the deceased regarded by the witnesses from the Flower and Dean street lodging house examined on Wednesday; Elizabeth Tanner, the deputy, recognising her as "Long Liz," who used to speak Swedish; and Catherine lane, charwoman, asserting that she had heard her "speaking Swedish with women in the street." If this be so, of course the assumed recognition of "Long Liz" by Mrs. Malcolm as her sister was an error. The Flower and Dean street witnesses knew the poor woman as Elizabeth Stride.
Last Tuesday night a labouring man, giving the name of John Kelly, 55 Flower and Dean street - a common lodging house - entered the Bishopsgate street Police station, and stated that from what he had been reading in the newspapers he believed that the woman who had been murdered in Mitre square was his "wife." He was at once taken by Sergeant Miles to the mortuary in Golden lane, and there identified her as the woman to whom, he subsequently admitted, he was not married, but with whom he had cohabited for seven years.
Major Henry Smith, Assistant Commissioner of the City Police, and Superintendent Foster were telegraphed for, and immediately went to the Bishopsgate street station.
Kelly (who was considerably affected) spoke quite unreservedly, and gave a full statement as to his own movements and those of the ill fated woman, as to whose identity he was quite positive. In this statement he was borne out by the deputy of the lodging house, Frederick Wilkinson, who knew the woman quite well, and who had just seen the body. Kelly, in answer to questions, stated that the last time he saw her - referring to her as "Kate" - was on Saturday afternoon. The last meal she had with him was a breakfast, which had been obtained by the pledging of his boots for 2s 6d. Asked if he could explain how it was that she was out so late on Saturday night, he replied that he could not say. He left her in the afternoon, believing that she would return to him at the lodging house in Flower and Dean street. He had told her to go and see her daughter, and try to get "the price of a bed for the night."
"Who is her daughter?" he was asked, to which he replied, "A married woman. She is married to a gun maker, and they live somewhere in Bermondsey, in King street, I think it is called; but I never went there."
He was then asked if he knew the murdered woman's name, and if he could explain the meaning of the initials "T.C." on her arm. He at once replied that Thomas Conway was the name of her husband, but he could not state whether Conway was dead or alive, or how long,in the latter case, she had been living away from him.
On Wednesday, at the Guildhall Police Court, before Mr. Alderman Stone, William Bull, describing himself as a medical student of the London Hospital, and giving an address at Stannard road, Dalston, was placed in the dock charged on his own confession with having committed the Aldgate murder. The prisoner appeared to have been drinking heavily; and, like many others given to drink, had made "confession" of murder while intoxicated.
The Lord Mayor, acting upon the advice of Colonel Sir James Fraser, K.C.B., Commissioner of City Police, in the name of the Corporation of London, offered a reward of £500 for the detection of the Whitechapel murderer, the Aldgate crime having been committed within the jurisdiction of the City. Information is to be given to the Inspector of the Detective Department, 26 Old Jewry, or at any police station.
Colonel Sir Alfred Kirby, J.P., the officer commanding Colonel T. North's Tower Hamlets Battalion Royal Engineers, offered, on behalf of his officers, a reward of £100, to be paid to anyone who will give information that would lead to the discovery and conviction of the perpetrator of the recent murders committed in the district in which his regiment is situated. The proprietors of a financial paper have written to the Lord Mayor expressing a desire to add £50 to any reward which may be offered in the City. Mr. H.H. Marks also sent a cheque for £300 to the Home Secretary, on behalf of several subscribers, and requested him to offer that sum, in the name of the Government, as a reward for the discovery of the perpetrators of the murders. But the Home Secretary felt compelled to decline the offer.
Another appalling crime was brought to light last Tuesday afternoon. At four o'clock, a human body, mutilated in a revolting manner, was found on the Thames Embankment. It was merely a shapeless mass of human remains. The head, hands, and feet were severed. The body was lying in the newly built vaults beneath the new police buildings in course of erection, which face the Embankment.
There are a large number of men employed on the new buildings, the contractors for which are Messrs. J. Grover and Son. On Monday a particularly offensive odour was apparent, and occasioned frequent remarks. On Tuesday afternoon it became still more offensive, and two of the labourers entered the vault for the purpose of endeavouring to ascertain whence it emanated. Lying in the corner of the apartment, partially enveloped in the folds of an old newspaper, and partly in some tattered fragments of brown paper, were the mutilated remains. The police were at once informed of the discovery, and constables were immediately on the spot. The trunk was removed to a little structure in the wooden walled space surrounding the new building. The Inspector in charge at the King street Police Station was convinced the circumstances of the case point to a terrible crime.