London, United Kingdom
Sunday, 2 September 1888
Another Whitechapel Mystery.
A Woman Found Hacked to Death.
Scarcely have the horror and sensation caused by the discovery of the murdered woman in Whitechapel some short time ago had time to abate, when another discovery is made, which, for the brutality exercised on the victim, is even more glaringly outrageous and horrible. The affair up to the present is enveloped in mystery, and the police have as yet no evidence to trace the perpetrators of the outrage. The facts are that as Constable John Neil was walking down Buck's-row, Thomas-street, Whitechapel, about a quarter to four o'clock on Friday morning he discovered a woman between 35 and 40 years of age lying at the side of the street dead. The body presented a horrible spectacle. The throat had been so severely cut that the head was nearly severed, the great gaping wound extending behind each ear. The woman's clothes, which were cut and saturated with blood, revealed further injuries, the diabolical nature of which were only fully seen when the garments came to be removed. The constable got assistance and took the remains to the Whitechapel mortuary, which was only a hundred or so yards away, behind the Pavilion Music Hall. Buck's-row is a street running parallel with Whitechapel-road, and the place where the body was found was near the top of Thomas-street, which is opposite the London Hospital.
At the mortuary the clothes were taken from the body and revealed gaping wounds, which had been inflicted in a perfectly fiendish manner, and apparently with a large knife, such as butchers use. It must have had a keen edge. Apparently in the first instance the knife had been thrust into her neck behind the left ear, and a horrible wound inflicted. Then, thrust in, in a similar position behind the right ear, it was wrenched round with such force as to approach as to decapitation as was possible. In the lower part of the body the wounds were of a still more frightful character. The knife had been thrust into the lowest point of the body, and the woman deliberately ripped open to the breast, causing almost complete disembowelment. Again the knife had been thrust into the body under each breast, and drawn down to the thighs in a zig-zag fashion. A more terrible scene than that disclosed by the mutilated remains, as they lay upon the mortuary slab, could never have been witnessed. Whether the wounds in the body were caused before the throat was cut or not is impossible at present to say; but any one of the wounds was of such a desperate character that is must of itself ultimately have proved fatal.
The body of the victim was for some time not identified. She was not known to the police, and was a stranger to the neighbourhood. Apparently she was a respectable woman though her clothing showed that she was poor. Some of her under-garments bore a workhouse mark. There was no sign at all that she was of abandoned habits. A clean, tidy, respectable woman - so one of the policemen described her - between 35 and 40 years of age, and standing about 5ft. 2in. in height. There was a mark upon the third finger of her left hand, leading to the conclusion that she had worn a wedding-ring, and that it had been forcibly taken away. The eyes were blackened and swollen, and there were marks upon her face as she had a desperate struggle with her assailant and had been brutally beaten about the face before the assassin commenced to use the terrible weapon with which she was murdered. Some of her teeth were also knocked out. That the first injury must have left her helpless and nearly dead appears to be shown by the fact that though Buck's-row is a thickly populated district no screams for help reached the neighbours. Several people in the street affirm that they heard an affray, but it was not of such an unusual nature as to cause them to leave their dwellings to go out and see what it was.
The neighbourhood was in a state of great excitement on Friday, and a strong force of police has been put around the mortuary. The body has been locked up in the mortuary, and, with the exception of the police surgeon and the police who stripped the body, no one is allowed inside. The clothes, however, were spread upon the ground, within the gaze of some two score children, who thronged the outer gate of the yard and taxed the energies of the constables to keep them in order. The deceased had worn a rough brown Ulster, with large buttons. Her stuff dress was her newest and best garment, some of the other clothes being very old, especially the boots, which were split in many places. The manner in which the clothes were torn and cut bore evidence of the brutal ferocity with which the deadly attack had been made. - Inspector Helson, of the Criminal Investigation Department, and Sergeants Enright and Godley are engaged in investigating the details of the tragedy.
Another correspondent writes:- The only articles found on the deceased woman were a broken comb and a piece of looking glass. This fact leads the police to think that the woman belonged to the unfortunate glass, and that she spent her nights in common lodging-houses. The wounds, of which there are five, could only have been committed with a dagger or a long sharp knife. The officers engaged in the case are pushing their inquiries in the neighbourhood as to the doings of certain gangs known to frequent the locality, and an opinion is gaining ground amongst them that the murderers are the same who committed the two previous murders near the same spot. It is believed that these gangs, who back their appearance during the early hours of the morning, are in the habit of blackmailing these unfortunate women, and when their demand are refused, violence follows, and in order to avoid their deeds being brought to light they put away their victims. They have been under the observation of the police for some time past, and it is believed that with the prospect of a reward and a free pardon some of them might be persuaded to turn Queen's evidence when some startling revelations might be expected.
Buck's-row, writes another correspondent, is a narrow passage running out of Thomas-street, and contains about a dozen houses of a very low class. It is now thought that the murder was committed in a house and the body afterwards removed to the place where it was found, the nature if certain wounds being such that it would hardly possible for them to be inflicted while the deceased was dressed. The body was warmed clad. The workhouse stamp was one of the under-garments.
All afternoon there was a constant succession of visitors to the Whitechapel mortuary with a view to the identification of the murdered woman. In a large number of instances the preliminary questioning by the inspector of police enabled him to say their errand was in vain. The clothes remained in the yard, and a glance at these convinced others that they need not pursue the matter further. About three o'clock in the afternoon, however, a middle-aged woman attended, who at once identified the clothing in a positive manner. On seeing the body of the victim she said at once she knew her. The deceased had lived for a period of about six weeks at a lodging-house in Charles-street, but was very reticent as to her position. No one even knew her name, except that she had said it was "Polly." She had also said that she was married, and that her husband was alive, as well as a son of 18. But as she was evidently living apart from her husband, and did not like to questioned on the subject, the others in the house forebore to ask her further questions. With this to guide them, together with the fact that the woman was wearing workhouse clothing - though the exact name of the workhouse was torn off - the police are confident of being able to trace her. The deceased had not been seen at the lodging-house for the last seven or eight days. Other women from the same house were sent for by the police, and they also identified the body, but knew no additional particulars concerning her. At intervals also the policemen of the district likely to have met the deceased viewed the corpse. One of them recognised her as a woman he had seen about; and he made a confidential communication to the inspector. The purport of it did not transpire, but the inspector appeared to attach great importance to it, and shortly afterwards left the mortuary.
The police have no other theory to account for the horrible murder discovered than that it is the work of a lunatic who is at large in the neighbourhood. This, also, is the general opinion in the neighbourhood, and the inhabitants of the whole district are almost wild with excitement. Many people are afraid to go out of doors, and when night falls people will be afraid to venture out. The actual spot where the murder took place is surrounded with a dense crowd, and police are on duty to keep order. Inspector Helson, who has charge of the case, is making the most strenuous exertions to trace the murderer, but at present there does not appear to be the likelihood of success. There are bloodstains in the street, showing that the deceased was probably carried some distance before being laid where she was found. The fact adds considerably to the mystery which envelops the whole affair. The ferocious character of the wounds certainly justify the belief that the poor woman was attacked by a maniac. They could not have been inflicted by the victim nor are they likely to have been the work of several hands. With regard to the weapon used, the current belief is that the murder must have been committed with a butcher's knife. This is the third murder of a woman which has taken place in Whitechapel within twelve months. In each case the victim was put to death stabs or cuts and when found was either dead or so near death, as to be incapable of giving any clue as to who had attacked her.
On inquiry on Saturday morning at Scotland-yard it was ascertained that no arrests had been made in connection with the brutal murder at Whitechapel up to two o'clock p.m.