Tuesday, 23 October 1888
As we indicated yesterday, the horrible parcel sent to the Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee is still the subject of examination. The opinion is said to gain ground that a practical joke has been played upon the committee. As regards the medical examination, it seems doubtful whether the inferences that have been drawn from it are warranted.
Yesterday, at the Westminster Sessions-house, the coroner's jury reassembled to hear evidence regarding the mutilated body found on the 2d inst. on the site of the new police offices, Victoria Embankment. The arm of the same body was found previously in the Thames at Pimlico, and the leg, with the foot, was discovered, with the aid of a dog, in the vault near where the body was found on last Wednesday. Mr. Troutbeck was the presiding coroner, and Detective-Inspector H. Marshall watched the case on behalf of the Police Commissioners.
The first witness called on this occasion was Mr. William Brown, of Hornsey, a builder, foreman for Messrs. Grover, the contractors of the new building. He stated that he was engaged on the works at the Victoria Embankment, and that he had on Friday, the 28th ult., to go into the place where the body was found on the 2d inst. He was down there measuring up for the surveyors on Friday, the 28th of September, and had a light there. If the parcel had been there on that Friday he thought he must have trodden upon it. The premises were left after the work was finished each day without any watchman. He did not examine the recess. The body might have been in the corner without his seeing it.
George Erant, the clerk of the works on the Embankment, who stated that he was on the works on Saturday, the 29th of September, gave similar evidence.
Richard Lawrence, 40 Sterndale-road, Battersea, a carpenter's labourer, stated that he left his tools in the vault on Saturday, the 29th of September, shortly after midday. He went there again at 6.10 on Monday morning, the 1st of October. They had not been disturbed, and he did not notice anything. If the parcel had been there when he went for the tools he could not have seen it, the place was so completely dark.
Alfred Young, also a carpenter's labourer, gave similar evidence.
Mr. A. Franklin, of Lordship-lane, Dulwich, surveyor, stated that he was in the vault on Friday, the 28th ult. He did not absolutely look upon the ground in the corner of the vault where the body was found. There was much rubbish about in the vault. He thought that he should not have noticed any parcel unless there had been a bad smell, when he thought he must have noticed it. Otherwise it would not have been noticed. The measuring did carry the workers into the corner.
By the Jury. - The body might have been there without its being seen.
Mr. Jasper Waring, who stated that he was a country correspondent to a news agency, then deposed to the circumstances with regard to the finding of the leg and foot last Wednesday. He deposed that he went into the place where the body was found on the 17th inst. He was accompanied by another correspondent, and he detailed the circumstances (narrated last Thursday in The Times) under which the dog indicated the place where the leg was buried. The place, he said, where the leg was found was in the opposite side of the same recess where the body was found. The arm was found some 12 inches down. The dog refused to work when many police came, as they did soon after. There was no appearance in the earth there of its having been disturbed for some time. The earth was dug up also in the next recess, where the dog scented, and though nothing was found the witness had a strong opinion that something had been there. The dog was a Russian terrier.
Mr. Angle, a journalist, who accompanied the previous witness, said he had an impression that the earth where the leg was concealed was a little higher than the other ground. He thought the leg was found at only a depth of four or five inches when the stones were removed. The ground where the leg was discovered was very hard, as if it had been trodden on.
The witness Hedge, the labourer who was examined on the last occasion, deposed to being present when the leg was found as detailed by the previous witnesses. With respect to the Saturday, the 29th, before the body had been found, when he went into the vault, he had said, to look for a hammer, he now said he saw the tools deposited in the opposite side to where the body lay. He struck a light to look into the recess, and the parcel was not there then. The witness was questioned at length by the jury, and he acknowledged that the tools were on the left, as the recess was on the right; and he looked, he declared, into the corner for the tools, which were several feet nearer to the entrance. The recess was 7 ft. wide, it appeared from the plans, which were referred to, and the tools were on the opening part, so that there was no occasion to go into the recess. The witness, however, declared that he went into the recess for the tools in the dark, and struck a light in the corner, when he saw that there was nothing there. He then saw the tools outside the recess, and took the hammer and went.
Mr. Thomas Bond, F.R.C.S., was again examined. He said: - I was sent for to the Embankment site of the new police offices on the 17th. I went into the recess of the vault where the body was found, and I found there a human leg partially buried. It was uncovered; but it had not been removed from the place where it was found. I examined the earth which had covered it, and I found that this gave unmistakable evidence of having covered the leg for several weeks - that the leg had been there for several weeks. Decomposition had taken place there, and it was not decomposed when placed there. The upper part of the leg was in a good state of preservation; but the foot had decomposed, and the skin and nails had peeled off. The limb was removed, and next morning it was examined by Mr. Hibbert and myself. We found that the leg had been divided at the knee joint by free incisions, and very cleverly disarticulated without injury to the cartilages. The limb and foot agreed with the arm and hand in general character - in general contour and in size. We had no doubt that the leg belonged to the body and to the arm. I took the opportunity, I may say, while in the vault to examine the spot where the body was found, and I am quite sure that the last witness is wrong as to the body not having been there a few days before. The body must have lain there for weeks, and it had decomposed there.
The CORONER. - You think it had decomposed in that spot?
Mr. Bond. - Yes, the decomposition was of a character of a body only partially exposed to the air. The brickwork against which it had leant was deeply covered with the decomposed fluid of the human body turned black, and it could not have done that in a day or two. The stain is not superficial, but the brick work is quite saturated. I should think it must have been there quite six weeks when found - from August. There was no mark of a garter on the leg, and there were no corns on the foot, which was well shaped.
Mr. Hibbert, M.R.C.S., also gave evidence, this being on the measurement of the limb, which corresponded, he agreed, with the body and arm, and would be that of a woman about 5 ft. 8 in. or 5 ft. 8½ in. high.
Inspector Marshall stated that he had no further evidence to offer. The police were still pursuing inquiries.
The CORONER then summed up the case, and pointed out that there was no evidence of the identity or of the cause of death. The medical evidence was that the body had been cut up after death, and that no mortal wounds had been discovered. The jury had before them the surmise that no one would so mutilate a body except for the purpose of concealing an identity, which, once established, might lead to the detection of a terrible murder. The body, it was clear, was that of a woman above 25 years of age, who had not died of a disease, for the pleurisy was an old one; but beyond that fact they could not go except by supposition. He left it to the jury to say whether they would return a verdict of "Found Dead" or of "Wilful Murder against some person unknown."
The jury, after a brief consultation, found a verdict of "Found Dead," and were then discharged, the police being left, as the Coroner said, with the charge of solving the mystery."