The Times (London)
Monday, 10 September 1888.
The series of shocking crimes perpetrated in Whitechapel, which on Saturday culminated in the murder of the woman Chapman, is something so distinctly outside the ordinary range of human experience that it has created a kind of stupor extending far beyond the district where the murders were committed. One may search the ghastliest efforts of fiction and fail to find anything to surpass these crimes in diabolical audacity. The mind travels back to the pages of De Quincey for an equal display of scientific delight in the details of butchery; or Edgar Allan Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue" recur in the endeavour to conjure up some parallel for this murderer's brutish savagery. But, so far as we know, nothing in fact or fiction equals these outrages at once in their horrible nature and in the effect which they have produced upon the popular imagination. The circumstances that the murders seem to be the work of one individual, that his blows fall exclusively upon wretched wanderers of the night, and that each successive crime has gained something in atrocity upon, and has followed closer on the heels of, its predecessor--these things mark out the Whitechapel murders, even before their true history is unravelled, as unique in the annals of crime. All ordinary experiences of motive leave us at a loss to comprehend the fury which has prompted the cruel slaughter of at least three, and possibly four, women, each unconnected with the other by any tie except that of their miserable mode of livelihood. Human nature would not be itself if these shocking occurrences, all taking place within a short distance of one another, and all bearing a ghastly resemblance, had not thrown the inhabitants into a state of panic - a panic, it must be feared, as favourable to the escape of the assassin as it is dangerous to innocent persons whose appearance or conduct is sufficiently irregular to excite suspicion.
The details of Chapman's murder need not be referred to here at length. It is enough to say that she was found, early on Saturday morning, lying, with her head nearly severed from her body, and mutilated in a most revolting way, in the backyard of No. 29, Hanbury-street, Spitalfields. She was not an occupant of the house, which is a tenement let out to many families of lodgers. It is nearly certain that she made her way into the yard, which is easily accessible through the house at all hours of the night, in company with her murderer, for the purpose of privacy, and that she was not killed in another place and then carried to the spot where she was found. The fact that no cry from the poor woman reached any of the inmates of the house shows that the assassin knew his business well. The wounds inflicted by him were exactly similar to those which caused the death of the woman Nichols eight days before. Nichols, it will be remembered, was found with her throat cut, and frightfully mutilated, upon the pavement of Buck's-row. Rather more than three weeks previously Martha Tabran [Tabram] was picked up dead on the stairs of George-yard-buildings, Whitechapel, with 39 stabs on her body. It is important to notice that, although some of the stabs might have been inflicted by an ordinary knife, others, according to the medical evidence, were far too formidable to have been produced by anything but "some kind of a dagger." The case of Emma Smith, who died from the effects of a barbarous assault in the early morning of Easter Tuesday last, is different, and possibly it ought to be entirely dissociated from the murders of last month. Smith lived long enough to describe the outrage, and her account was that at half-past one in the morning she was passing near Whitechapel Church when some men set upon her, took all the money she had, and then inflicted the most revolting injuries upon her. If this murder is to be classed with the three recent ones, then the theory that they were the work of a gang of blackmailers is more than tenable. But the crimes of August and September naturally separate themselves from the other, both by reason of the considerable interval which elapsed and by the more determined method of the later assassin or assassins. Probably SMITH'S assailants did not mean to kill her outright. But there is no room for doubt that the slayer of TABRAN, NICHOLS, and CHAPMAN meant murder, and nothing else but murder.
Whitechapel and the whole of the East of London have again been thrown into a state of intense excitement by the discovery early on Saturday morning of the body of a woman who had been murdered in a similar way to Mary Ann Nichols at Buck's-row on Friday week. In fact the similarity in the two cases is startling, as the victim of the outrage had her head almost severed from her body, and was completely disembowelled. This latest crime, however, even surpasses the others in ferocity. The scene of the murder, which makes the fourth in the same neighbourhood within the past few weeks, is at the back of the house, 29, Hanbury-street, Spitalfields. This street runs from Commercial-street to Baker's-row, the end of which is close to Buck's-row. The house, which is rented by a Mrs. Emilia Richardson, is let out to various lodgers, all of the poorer class. In consequence, the front door is open both day and night, so that no difficulty would be experienced by any one in gaining admission to the back portion of the premises. Shortly before 6 o'clock on Saturday morning John Davis, who lives with his wife at the top portion of No. 29, and is a porter engaged in Spitalfields Market, went down into the back yard, where a horrible sight presented itself to him. Lying close up against the wall, with her head touching the other side wall, was the body of a woman. Davis could see that her throat was severed in a terrible manner, and that she had other wounds of a nature too shocking to be described. The deceased was lying flat on her back, with her clothes disarranged. Without nearer approaching the body, but telling his wife what he had seen, Davis ran to the Commercial-street Police-station, which is only a short distance away, and gave information to Inspector Chandler, H Division, who was in charge of the station at the time. That officer, having despatched a constable for Dr. Baxter Phillips, Spital-square, the divisional surgeon, repaired to the house, accompanied by several other policemen. The body was still in the same position, and there were large clots of blood all round it. It is evident that the murderer thought that he had completely cut the bead off, as a handkerchief was found wrapped round the neck, as though to hold it together. There were spots and stains of blood on the wall. One or more rings seem to have been torn from the middle finger of the left hand. After being inspected by Dr. Baxter Phillips and his assistant, the remains were removed, on an ambulance, to the mortuary in Old Montagu-street. By this time the news had quickly spread that another diabolical murder had been committed, and when the police came out of the house with the body, a large crowd, consisting of some hundreds of persons, had assembled. The excitement became very great, and loud were the expressions of terror heard on all sides. At the mortuary the doctors made a more minute examination of the body, after which the clothes were taken off. The deceased was laid in the same shell in which Mary Ann Nichols was placed. Detective-sergeant Thicke, Sergeant Leach, and other detective officers were soon on the spot, while a telegram was sent to Inspector Abberline, at Scotland-yard, apprising him of what had happened. It will be recollected that this officer assisted in the inquiry concerning the murder in Buck's-row. A minute search being made of the yard, a portion of an envelope, stained with blood, was found. It had the crest of the Sussex Regiment on it, and the date "London, August 20;" but the address portion, with the exception of one letter, "M," was torn off. In addition, two pills were also picked up.
Inquiries were quickly set on foot with a view to having the woman identified, and persons of both sexes were taken out of the neighbouring common lodging-houses, which abound in this district, to the mortuary. One of these, Timothy Donovan, the deputy of a common lodging-house, 35, Dorset-street, recognized the body as that of a woman whom he knew by the name of Annie Siffey. He had seen her in the kitchen of the lodging-house as late as half-past 1 or 2 o'clock that morning. He knew her as an unfortunate, and that she generally frequented Stratford for a living. He asked her for her lodging money, when she said, "I have not got it. I am weak and ill, and have been in the infirmary." Donovan told her she knew the rules, when she went out to get some money. Although there are various statements that she was seen with a man in a publichouse at 5 o'clock, the police have no authentic information respecting that point. Donovan did not turn the woman out of the lodging-house; he simply did his duty by telling her that she knew the rules of the establishment - that the price of the lodging had to be paid beforehand. At that time she was wearing three brass rings. Other inquiries soon established that the woman's real name was Annie Chapman, and that she was known by the nickname of "Dark Annie." She was the widow of a pensioner, and had formerly lived at Windsor. Some few years since she separated from her husband, who made her a weekly allowance of 10s. At his death she had to do the best she could for a living. There were two children-a boy and a girl-of the marriage. The former, who is deformed, is at the present time an inmate of the Cripples' Home, while the girl is away in some institution in France. For some months past the deceased had been living in common lodging-houses in Spitalfields, and when in good health used to frequent the streets of Stratford for a living. It is also known that formerly she lived with a sievemaker in the neighbourhood, and on account of that got the nickname of "Siffey." Only on Monday last she had a quarrel with another woman of her acquaintance, and during a fight and struggle got severely mauled and kicked.
On Saturday afternoon Dr. Baxter Phillips, assisted by his assistant, made a most exhaustive post-mortem examination, lasting upwards of two hours. Although, of course, the exact details have not been made public, it is known that Dr. Phillips was unable to find any trace of alcohol in the stomach of the deceased, thus disproving many reports that when the woman was last seen alive she was the worse for drink. The deceased was a little over 5ft. in height, and of fair complexion, with blue eyes, and dark brown wavy hair. A singular coincidence about the corpse was that there were two front teeth missing, as in the case of Mary Ann Nichols. On the right side of the head was a large bruise, showing that the deceased woman must have been dealt a heavy blow at that spot. There were also other bruises about the face and finger marks were discernible. The latter indicate that the murderer must first have grasped his victim by the throat, probably in order to prevent her crying out.
The police believe that the murder has been committed by the same person who perpetrated the three previous ones in the district, and that only one person is concerned in it. This person, whoever he might be, is doubtless labouring under some terrible form of insanity, as each of the crimes has been of a most fiendish character; and it is feared that unless he can speedily be captured more outrages of a similar class will be committed.
During the whole of Saturday and yesterday a large crowd congregated in front of the house in Hanbury-street, and the neighbours on either side did much business by making a small charge to persons who were willing to pay it to view from windows the yard in which the murder was committed. On Saturday a rumour got about that the murderer had been caught, but the only ground for such a statement was that a blind man had been arrested in Spitalfields Market on a warrant to answer a charge of stabbing. Later in the day this man was charged at the Worship-street Police-court, and sentenced to three months' hard labour. Great complaints are made concerning the inadequate police protection at the East-end, and this want is even admitted by the local police authorities themselves, but they are unable to alter the existing state of affairs. Outrages and acts of lawlessness daily occur in broad daylight in the principal thoroughfares of the East-end, and the offenders are seldom brought to justice, owing to the inability of the police to properly cover the whole of the ground within their jurisdiction. During Saturday and yesterday several persons were detained at the various police stations in the district, but were liberated after proper inquiries had been made; and up to the present time the police have no clue to the murderer, and lament that they have no good ground to work upon.
An inquest on the body of the murdered woman will be opened to-day.
At five minutes to 6 o'clock on Saturday morning a man named John Davis, living at 29, Hanbury-street, Spitalfields, discovered that a woman had been murdered in the yard at the rear of that house. It was abundantly clear that she was another victim of the miscreant who had murdered Mary Ann Nichols, in Buck's-row, Whitechapel, only a week previously. The same horrible ferocity had been exhibited in the commission of the crime, and the victim was again one of the class called unfortunates, and so poor that robbery could scarcely be suggested as a motive for the murder. The house, 29, Hanbury-street, which is not half a mile from Buck's-row, is tenanted by a man named Clark, a packing-case-maker, and is let out by rooms to several poor people. The front parlour is in the occupation of a Mrs. Hardman, who uses it as a shop for the sale of cats' meat. She and her son also sleep in the room. The back parlour is a sort of sitting-room for the landlady and her family, and looks out upon a yard, at the further side of which stands a shed where the packing-case work is done. The passage of the house leads directly to the yard, passing the door of the front parlour. The yard is about four feet below the level of the passage and is reached by two stone steps. The position of the steps creates a recess on their left, the fence between the yard and the next house being about three feet from the steps. In this recess John Davis, as he crossed the yard at five minutes to 6 o'clock, saw the body of a woman, with the lower part of her body horribly mutilated, and her throat so terribly gashed that the head was almost severed from the trunk. Davis seems at once to have run out and called in Police-constable Pinnock, 238 H, and that constable sent information to the station in Commercial-street. Inspector Chandler, on duty, with others hurried to the place, and before the body was removed from its position the divisional surgeon, Mr. George Bagster Phillips, of Spital-square, was called to examine it. The fiendish character of the mutilation then became manifest. There was no doubt, he said, that the throat was first cut and the stomach subsequently mutilated. The body was removed as soon as possible to the mortuary of the parishes of Whitechapel and Spitalfields in Old Montague-street, and placed in a shell-the same in which a week before the hacked body of the previous victim had been placed.
The police description of the body was quickly made out, and before 10 o'clock it was identified as that of Annie Chapman, alias "Sivvey" - a name by which she had become known in consequence of living with a sievemaker. The police satisfied themselves that Chapman was the correct name of the deceased, and that she was the widow of a man who had been a soldier, and from whom, until about 12 months ago, when he died, she had been receiving 10s. a week. She was one of the same class as Mary Ann Nichols, her usual places of abode being also in the common lodging-houses of Spitalfields and Whitechapel. She is described as a stout, well-proportioned woman, of about 5ft. in height, as quiet, and as one who had "seen better days." Detective Inspector Abberline, of Scotland-yard, who had been detailed to make special inquiries as to the murder of Mary Ann Nichols, at once took up the inquiries with regard to the new crime, the two being obviously the work of the same hands. He held a consultation with Detective Inspector Helson, J Division, in whose district the murder in Buck's-row was committed, and with Acting Superintendent West, in charge of the H Division. The result of that consultation was an agreement in the belief that the crimes were the work of one man only, and that, notwithstanding many misleading statements and rumours - the majority of which in the excitement of the time had been printed as facts - the murders were committed where the bodies had been found, and that no gang were the perpetrators. It having been stated that the woman must have been murdered elsewhere and her body deposited in the yard - the house-door giving access to the passage, and the yard being never locked - the most careful examination was made of the flooring of the passage and the walls, but not a trace of blood was found to support such a theory. It is, moreover, considered impossible that a body could have been carried in, supposing no blood had dropped, without arousing from their sleep Mrs. Hardiman and her son, past whose bed-room door the murderer had to go. There is no doubt that the deceased was acquainted with the fact that the house-door was always open or ajar, and that she and her murderer stealthily passed into the yard. Although, as in the case of Mary Ann Nichols, a very small quantity of blood was found on the ground (leading to the supposition that the murder was committed elsewhere), its absence is accounted for by the quantity the clothes would absorb. The deceased had no time to raise a cry, and the tenants of the house agree that nothing was heard to create alarm. The back room of the first-floor, which has an uninterrupted view of all the yard, is a bed-room, and was tenanted by a man named Alfred Walker and his father, neither of whom "heard a sound." John Richardson, son of a woman living in the house, stated that he entered the place when on his way to work at Leadenhall Market, and at that time - 4:50 - he was certain no one was in the yard. The police, however, have been unable to discover any person who saw the deceased alive after 2 a.m., about which time she left the lodging-house, 35, Dorset-street, because she had not 4d. to pay for her bed. No corroboration of the reported statement that she was served in a publichouse at Spitalfields Market on its opening at 5 a.m. could be gained, nor of the sensational report that the murderer left a message on the wall in the yard, which was made out to read, "Five; 15 more, and then I give myself up." Nevertheless, the police express a strong opinion that more murders of the kind will be committed before the miscreant is apprehended.
Soon after the murder was discovered, a woman of the same class reported to the police that a man had accosted her in the streets of Spitalfields at an early hour that morning, but that she tried to avoid him. Thereupon he began to knock her about; she screamed, and he ran off. He gave her two brass medals for half sovereigns. She was asked to describe the man, but her description of him was not considered clear. Still the police determined to follow up the matter, more particularly because the woman states that the man seemed ready to kill her. The woman's description did not answer the description of a man for whom they have been searching in connexion with the murder of Mary Ann Nichols - a man known as "Leather Apron" - and they incline to the opinion that, after the hue and cry raised about him during the past few days, he would not have ventured into the neighbourhood of Spitalfields, where he is so well known. It seems certain that the deceased was robbed of three rings she wore on the left hand, which the murderer mistook for gold, though it is said that to a woman in the lodging-house she admitted they were only brass.
A young woman named Lyons stated that at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon she met a strange man in Flower and Dean-street. He asked her to come to the Queen's Head publichouse at half-past 6 and drink with him. Having obtained from her a promise that she would do so he disappeared, and was at the house named at the appointed time. While they were conversing Lyons noticed a large knife in the man's right-hand trousers pocket, and called another woman's attention to the fact. A moment later Lyons was startled by a remark which the stranger addressed to her. "You are about the same style of woman as the one that's murdered," he said. "What do you know about her?" asked the woman, to which the man replied, "You are beginning to smell a rat. Foxes hunt geese, but they don't always find 'em." Having uttered these words the man hurriedly left. Lyons followed until near Spitalfields Church, when, turning round at this spot and noticing that the woman was behind him, the stranger ran at a swifter pace into Church-street and was at once lost to view. One noteworthy fact in this story is that the description of the man's appearance is in all material points identical with the published descriptions of the unknown, and up to the present untracked, " Leather Apron." Over 200 common lodging-houses have been visited by the police in the hope of finding some trace of the mysterious and much talked-of person, but he has succeeded in evading arrest.
On Saturday evening a somewhat suspicious incident occurred at Deptford. About 7 o'clock a man in a hurried manner entered the shop of a newsagent in Grove-street, near the entrance to the Foreign Cattle Market, and in an excited tone asked for a copy of the special Star containing an account of the Whitechapel murder. The newsagent replied that he had not one left. The man then asked for a special Evening News, and received the same reply. "Then," said the man, "let me have a special anything." The newsagent was at the time reading the special Standard, and told him he could have that if he liked. The man snatched the open paper from his hand, threw a penny down upon the counter, rushed out of the shop, and, by the light of the gas in the shop window, appeared to eagerly and excitedly read the account of the tragedy. Indeed, his manner and appearance were so remarkable, that the newsagent suspected that he might be in some way connected with the murder, and leaving the shop, told a boy who was passing to hurry away for a policeman and bring one back to the shop immediately. The boy started off, and the newsagent returned to his shop, and on doing so was observed by the man, who appeared to become alarmed at the circumstance, for he crushed up the newspaper in his hand, started across the road, ran down Emily-place, and disappeared. The newsagent is of opinion that he probably ran that way towards a car on the Deptford and Southwark Tramway which runs to Tooley-street, and would take him out of the neighbourhood in a few minutes. The man wore an old felt hat pulled well forward over his eyes, and his coat collar being up, the impression of the newsagent is that he was endeavouring to conceal his features. He was of stout build, full-chested, rather ruddy complexion, slight moustache, a beard scrubby or of several days' growth, and looked, to use the newsagent's words, "as if a little soap would have done him good." He was wearing an old brown overcoat, well worn and greasy at the pockets. He stood about two minutes outside the shop reading the paper, and was watched by the newsagent through the window. A constable afterwards came to the shop and took down in writing the statement of the newsagent.
A man was arrested at Deptford yesterday afternoon on suspicion of being connected with the East-end tragedy, but there is reason to believe that he will be able to establish his innocence and will soon be released.
So many stories of "suspicious" incidents have cropped up since the murder, some of them evidently spontaneously generated by frantic terror, and some, even where credible, pointing in contrary directions, what it would be idle to refer to them. A valuable hint may be found by the detectives in some of these volunteered reminiscences, but there is also danger that they may be diverted from the broad and obvious lines of investigation by distracting suggestions. If the perpetrator of crimes so numerous and so extraordinary is not speedily brought to justice, it will be not only humiliating, but also an intolerable perpetuation of the danger. Although the Whitechapel murders are without example, the police have also an unexampled number of data from which to draw their conclusions. The most salient point is the maniacal frenzy with which the victims were slaughtered, and unless we accept, as a possible alternative, the theory that the assassin was actuated by revenge for some real or supposed injury suffered by him at the hands of unfortunate women, we are thrown back upon the belief that these murders were really committed by a madman, or by a man whom a sottish passion interlaced with a lust for blood places too far outside the pale of human feelings to be governed by commonly recognized motives. However, if the police are right in believing that certain flash rings were torn from Nichols's fingers, this is a circumstance which slightly disconcerts the idea that the murderer was a simple maniac. But, on the whole, this is the most probable theory, and, without any intention to accentuate alarm, it may be pointed out that, if it is correct, the ordinary motives of prudence which deter murderers from a speedy repetition of their crime cannot be reckoned upon in aid of the safety of the wretched women of Whitechapel.