Tuesday, 18 September 1888
Yesterday Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, Coroner for the North-Eastern Division of Middlesex, resumed his adjourned inquiry at the Working Lads' Institute, Buck's-row, Whitechapel, respecting the death of Mary Ann Nicholls, [Nichols] who was found brutally murdered in Buck's-row, Whitechapel, on the morning of Friday, the 31st ult.
Detective-Inspectors Abberline (Scotland-yard) and Helson, and Inspectors Spratling and Chandler watched the case on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department and Commissioners of Police.
Mr. Llewellyn, surgeon, recalled, said that since the last inquiry he had been to the mortuary and again examined deceased. She had an old scar on the forehead. No part of the viscera was missing. He had nothing to add to his previous evidence.
Mrs. Emma Green, living at New-cottage, Buck's-row, stated that she was a widow, and occupied the cottage next to where the deceased was found. Her daughter and two sons lived with her. Witness went to bed about 11 o'clock on the night of Thursday, August 30, and one of her sons went to bed at 9 o'clock and the other one at a quarter to 10. Her daughter went to bed when she did, and they occupied the same room. It was a front room on the first floor. Witness did not remember waking up until she heard a knock at the front door about 4 o'clock in the morning. She opened the window and saw three or four constables and two or three other men. She saw the body of deceased lying on the ground, but it was still too dark to clearly distinguish what had happened. Witness heard nothing unusual during the night, and neither her sons or daughter awoke.
By the Jury. - She was a light sleeper, and had a scream been given she would have heard it, though people often went through Buck's-row, and there was often a great noise in it. She did not believe there was any disorderly house in Buck's-row. She knew of no disorderly house in the immediate neighbourhood.
By the CORONER. - She saw her son go out, directly the body was removed, with a pail of water to wash the stains of blood away. A constable was with him.
Thomas Ede, a signalman in the employ of the East London Railway Company, said he saw a man on the line on the morning of the 8th.
The CORONER observed that had no reference to this inquiry. The 8th was the morning of the other murder. It was decided to take the witness's evidence.
Witness, continuing, said on Saturday morning, the 8th inst., he was coming down the Cambridge-heath-road, and when just opposite the Foresters' Arms saw a man on the opposite side of the street. His peculiar appearance made witness look at him. He appeared to have a wooden arm, as it was hanging at his side. Witness watched him until he got level with the Foresters' Arms. He then put his hand down, and witness saw about 4 in. of the blade of a long knife sticking out of his trousers pocket. Three other men were also looking at him and witness spoke to them. Witness followed him, and as soon as he saw he was followed he quickened his pace. Witness lost sight of him under some railway arches. He was about 5ft. 8 in. high, about 35 years of age, with dark moustache and whiskers. He wore a double peak cap, dark brown jacket, and a pair of overalls over a pair of dark trousers. He walked as though he had a stiff knee, and he had a fearful look about the eyes.
By the CORONER. - Witness should say the man was a mechanic. The overalls were perfectly clean. He could not see what kind of a knife it was. He was not a muscular man.
Inspector Helson said they had been unable to trace the man.
Walter Purkiss stated he lived at Essex Wharf, Buck's-row, and was manager there. His house was in Buck's-row and fronted the street. It was nearly opposite to where the deceased was found. His wife, children, and servant occupied the house with him. Witness and his wife slept in the front portion of the house - the room on the second floor. On the night of the occurrence, he went to bed at 11 o'clock or a quarter past 11. Witness awoke at various times during the night and was awake between 1 and 2 o'clock. He did not hear anything until he was called up by the police about 4 o'clock. His wife was awake the greater portion of the night. Neither of them heard a sound during the night, and it was unusually quiet. When the police called him he opened the landing window. He could see the deceased, and there were two or three men there besides three or four constables. Had there been any quarrelling in the row during the night witness would certainly have heard it.
Patrick Mulshaw, a night porter in the employ of the Whitechapel District Board of Works, living at 3, Rupert-street, Whitechapel, said on the night of this occurrence he was at the back of the Working Lads' Institute in Winthorpe-street [Winthrop-street]. He went on duty about a quarter to 5 in the afternoon, and remained until about five minutes to 6 the next morning, when he was relieved. He was watching some sewage works. He dozed at times during the night, but was not asleep between 3 and 4 o'clock. He did not see any one about during that period, and did not hear any cries for assistance, or any other noise. The slaughterhouse was about 70 yards away from where he was. Another man then passed by, and said, "Watchman, old man, I believe somebody is murdered down the street." Witness then went to Buck's-row, and saw the body of deceased lying on the ground. Three or four policemen and five or six working men were there.
By the CORONER. - If any one had called out for assistance from the spot where the body was he might have heard it. Nothing suspicious occurred during the time he was watching, and he saw no person running away. There was no one about after 11 and 12 o'clock, and the inhabitants of the street appeared to be very orderly persons. He did not often see the police there. During the night he saw two constables, including Constable Neil. He was unable to say what time he saw that officer.
Constable John Phail [Thain], 96 J, said he was not brought any closer to Buck's-row in his beat than Brady-street, but he passed the end of it. He passed the end of Buck's-row every 30 minutes. Nothing attracted his attention until about 3:45 a.m., when he was signalled by a brother constable flashing his lamp some way down Buck's-row. Witness went to him, and found Constable Neil standing by the body of the deceased. Neil was by himself. Witness ran for the doctor, and having called Dr. Llewellyn, accompanied him to the spot where deceased was lying. On his return with the doctor, Neil and two workmen were standing by the body. He did not know the workmen. The body was then taken to the mortuary by Sergeant Kerby, Constable Neil, and an officer of the H division. Witness, acting under orders, waited at the spot for Inspector Spratling. He was present when the spots of blood were washed away. On the spot where the deceased had been lying was a mass of congealed blood. He should say it was about 6 in. in diameter, and had run towards the gutter. It appeared to him to be a large quantity of blood.
By the CORONER. - He helped to put the body on the ambulance, and the back appeared to be covered with blood, which, he thought, had run from the neck as far as the waist. He got blood on to his hands. There was also blood on the ground where the deceased's legs had been. Witness afterwards searched Essex Wharf, the Great Eastern Railway, the East London Railway, and the District railway, as far as Thomas-street, but could find no knife, marks of blood, or anything suspicious. He did not make inquiries at the houses in Buck's-row.
By the Jury. - He did not pass the end of Buck's-row exactly at the end of each half-hour. It was a quarter to 4 when he was first called by the constable. It was a quarter-past 3 when he was round there before. He did not take his cape to the slaughterers, but sent it by a brother constable. When he was sent for the doctor he did not first go to the horse-slaughterers and say that as a murder had been committed he had better fetch his cape. He was not supposed to leave his beat. Shortly before he was called by Constable Neil he saw one or two men going to work in the direction of Whitechapel-road. When he was signalled by Neil he was coming up Brady-street, from the direction of Whitechapel-road.
Robert Baul [Paul], a carman, of 30, Foster-street, Whitechapel, stated he went to work at Cobbett's-court, Spitalfields. He left home about a quarter to 4 on the Friday morning and as he was passing up Buck's-row he saw a man standing in the middle of the road. As witness approached him he walked towards the pavement, and witness stepped on to the roadway in order to pass him. He then touched witness on the shoulder, and said, "Come and look at this woman here." Witness went with him, and saw a woman lying right across the gateway. Her clothes were raised almost up to her stomach. Witness felt her hands and face, and they were cold. He knelt down to see if he could hear her breathe, but could not, and he thought she was dead. It was very dark, and he did not notice any blood. They agreed that the best thing they could do would be to tell the first policeman they met. He could not see whether the clothes were torn, and did not feel any other part of her body except the hands and face. They looked to see if there was a constable, but one was not to be seen. While he was pulling the clothes down he touched the breast, and then fancied he felt a slight movement.
By the CORONER. - The morning was rather a chilly one. Witness and the other man walked on together until they met a policeman at the corner of Old Montagu-street, and told him what they had seen. Up to that time not more than four minutes had elapsed from the time he saw the body. He had not met any one before he reached Buck's-row, and did not see any one running away.
Robert Mann, a pauper inmate of the Whitechapel Workhouse, stated he had charge of the mortuary. On the morning in question the police came to the workhouse and told him there was a body at the mortuary. Witness went there about 5 o'clock, and remained there until the body was placed inside the mortuary. He then locked the mortuary door, and went to breakfast. After breakfast witness and Hatfield, another inmate of the workhouse, undressed the body. No police or any one else was present when that was done. Inspector Helson was not there.
By the CORONER. - He had not been told that he must not touch the body. He could not remember Inspector Helson being present, as he was confused. He was sure the clothing was not torn or cut; but could not describe where the blood was. To get off the clothes Hatfield had to cut them down the front.
By the Jury. - The body was undressed in the mortuary, and was not taken out after it was brought in.
The CORONER said the witness was subject to fits, and his statements were hardly reliable.
James Hatfield said he assisted the last witness in undressing the deceased. Inspector Helson was not there. They first took off the ulster, and put it on the ground. Witness then took the jacket off and put it in the same place. He did not have to cut the dress to get it off, but cut the bands of the two petticoats, and then tore them down with his hands. Deceased was wearing a chemise, and he tore it right down the front. She was not wearing any stays. No one gave them any instructions to strip the body. They did it so as to have the body ready for the doctor. He had heard something about a doctor coming; and he was not aware that any one was present while they were stripping the deceased. Afterwards the police came, and examined the clothing. They found the words "Lambeth Workhouse" on the band of one of the petticoats. Witness cut that portion out by direction of Inspector Helson. That was the first time he had seen Inspector Helson that morning. It was about 6:30 when witness first arrived at the mortuary. Although he had said deceased wore no stays he would not be surprised to find she had stays on.
The Foreman. - Why, you tried the stays on the body of the deceased in my presence at the mortuary, and you said they were short.
Witness admitted his memory was bad.
In answer to the CORONER, Inspector Abberline said they were unable to find the man who passed down Buck's-row while the doctor was examining the body.
Inspector Spratling, J Division, said he had made inquiries at several of the houses in Buck's-row, but not at all of them.
The CORONER. - Then that will have to be done.
Witness further said he had made inquiries at Mrs. Green's, the wharf, at Sneider's Factory, and also at the Great Eastern Wharf, but no one at those places had heard anything unusual during the morning in question. He had seen the Board school keeper, but he had not heard anything. Had the other inhabitants heard a disturbance of any kind they would, no doubt, have communicated with the police. There was a gateman at the Great Eastern Railway, but he was stationed inside the gates, and had not heard anything. There was a watchman employed at Sneider's factory. He distinctly told the mortuary-keeper not to touch the body.
Inspector Helson said he knew of no other evidence.
In answer to a juryman, the officer said the murderer would have no occasion to get on to the Great Eastern Railway, as he could pass along the street.
The Foreman thought that if a substantial reward had been offered by the Home Secretary in the case of the murder in George-yard, these two horrible murders would not have happened. Mr. Matthews thought that rewards got into wrong hands, but if they did, what did it matter so long as the perpetrator was brought to justice?
The CORONER understood there was a regulation that no reward should be offered in the case of the murder of either a rich or a poor person.
The Foreman believed a substantial one would have been offered had a rich person been murdered. He would be glad to give £5 himself for the capture of the murderer.
The inquiry was then adjourned until Saturday.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, - The tilled garden is fast producing the crop sown; it is ripening, it affords ample evidence of the nature of the seed, its fruit is just that which such seed, under such tillage, was certain to produce.
However abhorrent in all cruel, filthy detail are the murders to which public attention is now so painfully called, however hard it may be to believe that they could occur in any civilized community, the fact remains that they have been so committed. Whatever the theories to account for them, whether or no the perpetrators may be yet discovered, they have been the means of affording to us a warning it will be at our extreme peril to neglect.
We have far too long been content to know that within a walk of palaces and mansions, where all that money can obtain secures whatever can contribute to make human life one of luxury and ease within homes, from infancy to old age, surrounded with all that can promote civilized life, there have existed tens of thousands of our fellow creatures begotten and reared in an atmosphere of godless brutality, a species of human sewage, the very drainage of the vilest production of ordinary vice, such sewage ever on the increase, and in its increase for ever developing fresh depths of degradation.
What pen can describe, what mental power can realize the nature of the surroundings of child life under these conditions? Begotten amid all that is devoid of the commonest decency, reared in an atmosphere in which blasphemy and obscenity are the ordinary language, where all exists that can familiarize the child with scenes bestial - thus reared in home life, it can scarcely itself walk or talk, when first introduced to outside life, the street life, such as it is, where these tens of thousands have to dwell. It is already so far morally corrupted that it is hard to conceive that this in itself can be in any way repulsive to it, for to it the home has been a school in all things preparatory; it is the seedling thus transplanted to grow to adolescence as it grew from infancy; be the growth that of male or female, so far as any one feature moral of sex obtains, there is no one distinguishing characteristic; as is the boy so is the girl, what the one has witnessed and heard within the home has been objectively and orally familiar to the other. We may choose to ignore the fact, but there is not a shadow of doubt in the minds of those who have made this deprived race a study, that of both sexes it may be said they scarce have passed childhood before they fall into the grosser sins of that adult life which is their daily street example.
We hear much of the sufferings of those who come under what is called the "sweating" system of employment, and we are told that it is the fierce competition in the labour field that has produced it. What about competition in harlotry? What a text has been given us from which we may draw a sermon, which should go home to every Christian heart, in the evidence of that "unfortunate" who desired a bed to be kept for her, for she would go at once to earn the eightpence! If the wages of such sin have fallen so low we have proof afforded us of the competition in this foul market; can human nature find a greater depth of degradation? But, further, where such competition thus exists, can we be surprised that in this bestial life the jealousies which surely will be begotten of it beget murders, outrages of a character such as scarce the most heathen nation could find in its category of crime, and this in the metropolis of a land ever boastful of its Christian creed.
I believe nearly half a million pounds is yearly raised in this country by societies having their headquarters in London to propagate the Gospel in foreign parts, to support our Established Church system, to send missions to convert the heathen in other lands, to bring the Bible cheaply in all sorts of languages within reach of people of other nationalities; the Non-conformists on their own lines acting in the same spirit. We are raising large sums for a Church Institute to be a rallying-point for Church work; very lately we have had a conference of bishops of the Established Church, at which a large number of the colonial bishops were present and the greatest zeal was shown in regard to the spiritual life and working of the Church Episcopate; and all this within cheap cab hire of that portion of eastern London which for many years has been known to have been in a social condition utterly devoid of the commonest attributes of civilization, so saturated with all that can contribute to heathenize as to be a standing shame to the nation.
We seem to have needed at last some home stroke to awaken us to the fact that we have at our very doors an element of danger threatening consequences which may prove, but too late, that we have suffered, with little attempt to arrest it, the growth of a large and increasing portion of our population to live, move, and have their being under a condition of things tending to the utter subversion of the very commonest principles of civilization; leading to the commission of crimes which hitherto would have been held to have been so abhorrent as to be inconceivable even where all ordinary crime had full sway. I am quite prepared to give all praise to the efforts of the very many excellent, pious, hard-working volunteers of both sexes who for years have quietly and earnestly devoted themselves to the work of Christian salvage amid this wreckage of our common humanity; they will have their reward where alone they so devotedly seek it. But although they may here and there rescue a few of those wretched beings and bring them into the habits of civilized life, the masses to whom they owe their existence, the homes in which they were reared remain untouched; and, such as the homes are, so will from them filter forth into street life the same race of beings, bred and reared in all that can make them ignorant of God, defiant of all law, revellers in the profligacy which taints the scenes where they congregate with crimes which, however repulsive to the ordinary mind, are in their own estimation just the issues of the life they best enjoy.
As far as I can see, the great object of the philanthropist of the day is to create a multitude of institutions, societies &c., as a sort of hospitals in which morally-maimed humanity is to be treated, as if these soul and body poisoned beings were merely under some mental and physical disease, for which we had a Pharmacopoeia with prescriptions for each form of it, treating the disease with educational and religious formulae, but ignoring, as far as they can, the fact that much of it is hereditary, the patients so treated healthy as regards their race, only diseased as judged by the ideas regarding health entertained by those who thus seek their cure.
Just so long as the dwellings of this race continue in their present condition, their whole surroundings a sort of warren of foul alleys garnished with the flaring lamps of the gin shops, and offering to all sorts of lodgers, for all conceivable wicked purposes, every possible accommodation to further brutalize, we shall have still to go on - affecting astonishment that in such a state of things we have outbreaks from time to time of the horrors of the present day.
All strange, Sir, as it may appear to you and the generality of your readers, it is within the range of my belief that one or both these Whitechapel murders may have been committed by female hands. There are details in both cases which fit in well with language for ever used where two of these unfortunates are in violent strife; there is far more jealousy, as is well known, between such women in regard to those with whom they cohabit than is the case with married people where one may suspect the other of sin against the marriage vow.
There are, I have no doubt, plenty of women of this class known for their violent temper, with physical power to commit such a deed. As to the nature of their sex forbidding belief that they could so act, how many of them are altogether unsexed, have no one element in character with female feeling? It is now many years ago; when writing in your columns on these guilt gardens, I had procured for me some specimens of the kind of printed matter circulated among this class. From the nature of much which is now open to readers of a very different class, I can well conjecture what manner of cheap reading is open to the poorest class in the present day. The first of these murders was, I have no doubt, served up after a fashion with every horrible detail exaggerated, and may well have had the suggestive effect to produce others.
I can only hope that "at last" we may awaken to the fact that, quite outside the political arena which seems to absorb all our interest, there are causes at work, close at hand, which undealt with may develop into a form of danger far more serious than any political disturbance. Sewer gas will sometimes explode, but this work of hand can remedy. Where will be found the remedy when this moral sewage attains the full development of which these murders are a mere passing sample?
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, - The occurrences in Whitechapel are being made the opportunity for the raising a cry against the metropolitan police. This is on every account to be regretted, for whatever imperfections there may be in the administration of that force a cry by people who know nothing about administration is not a good means whereby to reach its reform. Neither is a cry directed against its chief.
Sir Charles Warren is not to be blamed for those alterations in general management which were initiated, I believe, as long ago as 25 or 30 years before the present time. He has carried out, with some additions of detail, a system that began under Colonel Henderson. That system differs from what preceded it in two particulars chiefly. My opinion, which I have formed from practical experience of police government in a large town during several years, is that both deviations from the old system have impaired the efficiency of the metropolitan force, and that from their nature they could not do otherwise than impair it.
It was formerly the practice to keep a well-behaved policeman - and nearly all policemen are well-behaved - on the same beat, without shifting, for a very long time; and a man was seldom or never removed from his beat without some reason. It is now the practice to shift men sometimes once a month, sometimes at the end of two months, and nearly always at the end of three months. I may be told that there is no rule or order on the subject. I have no means of knowing what the rule, if any, may be, but I know what the practice is, about which any Londoner may satisfy himself by asking any policeman that he may have acquaintance with, or, indeed, any policeman whom he may address civilly. Sir Edward Henderson's other innovation was to separate, far more than had been before, the police on ordinary duty from the detective police in as it were two departments. I do not know the particulars, I only know the heads, of this change; and I strongly suspect, though I cannot prove from facts, what its working has been. The two alterations are based it will be evident to all acquainted with police management on the idea of treating the force as a machine. Many minor details that have arisen under the same idea look like militarism. While I do not want to impute militarism to either the late or the present chief, I am of the belief that what I would prefer to call the mechanical idea has dominated both of them too much.
A policeman who knows his beat - being not merely a beat the duty of which is attending to traffic - is worth three who do not know the beat. This applies to the whole of a city, and it applies with double force to such parts as Whitechapel. A man will know the streets of his beat in a day - or may do so if he chooses; although I have asked my way to a street, naming it, which was part of a man's beat, without his having heard of it. But a man will not, till after a very considerable time, know the people who live in a beat; nor will he know, as an old hand will, every house and its doors and windows. A policeman who has attained thorough knowledge, who knows the people, and is known to them, becomes a kind of referee, especially in the poorer neighbourhoods. Knowledge of him produces confidence in him; and he becomes without his knowing it an embryo detective. He is able to put down street rows with a mere glance when a stranger would be unheeded. I need not enumerate the particulars in which the old policeman is and must be the superior of the stranger. If it be said that he will become too intimate with the population, it is not so; he cannot be too intimate. He may abuse his intimacy, which is another thing. Last year, there was much talk of blackmail in connexion with the Regent-street affair. I believe perhaps one-hundredth part of it. But it would be a more difficult thing for a policeman, known by hundreds of neighbours, to pursue a system of blackmail, such as was imputed, than for a man transferred once a month from one beat to another.
The school of detectives, which the metropolitan police was till recently, is now not in existence. Hence I believe the practical separation of the two departments of the force, a separation that tends to the efficiency of neither.
If I be thought to be giving my unsupported opinion, I have authority, the very highest, for my views; indeed, I think the following two authorities amount to proof. Every one that I know holds that the City police is superior in effectiveness to the metropolitan. The only difference, but the slightest, in their organisation is that the City men are kept without a break on the same beats for a minimum period of three years; never being removed during those three years except for misconduct; and often, at the end of the term, being placed on day duty instead of night duty on their old beats. My other authority is Paris, the best policed city in the world. There the Regents de ville are never removed. I knew one who had been in the same district for 30 years. He knew every man, woman, and child, dog and cat, door, window, shutter and spout in his six or seven streets; and burglary and disorder were most difficult.
Sir Charles Warren inherited the traditions of his predecessor. It is not, as I said, so much the military as the mechanical conception of the force that is erroneous, though these two ideas may have something in common. The military idea is that soldiers, to be effective, must act as bodies; the policeman must nearly always act alone. Such occasions as occurred last winter in Trafalgar-square are quite exceptional.
At Woolwich Police Court yesterday, a labourer named Edward Quinn, aged 35, was placed in the dock before Mr. Fenwick, charged nominally with being drunk at the police station. His face and hands were much bruised, and when charged he was much blood stained. The magistrates were about disposing of the case briefly when the prisoner remarked that he had a complaint to make and stated as follows: -"On Saturday I was at a bar down by the arsenal at Woolwich having a drink. I had stumbled over something in the street just before, and had cut my face and knuckles as you see and I had bled a good deal. While at the bat a big, tall man came in and stood beside me and looked at me. He got me in tow, and gave me some beer and tobacco, and then he said, "I mean to charge you with the Whitechapel murders." I thought it was a joke and laughed, but he said he was serious, and pointed to the blood about me. I said, "Nonsense, is that all the clue you have got?" He then dropped the subject and took me for a walk until we got to the police station, where he charged me with the Whitechapel murders."
Mr. Fenwick - Were you not drunk?
Quinn - Certainly not, sir.
Mr. Fenwick - You will be remanded until tomorrow.
Quinn - This is rather rough. O am dragged a mile to the station and locked up, and now I am to wait another day with all this suspicion of murder hanging over my head.
Mr. Fenwick - I will take your own bail in £5 for your reappearance.
Quinn - I object to the whole thing. Me murder a woman! I could not murder a cat. (Laughter.)
The prisoner was then released on his own recognizances.