12 December 1888
Yesterday Mr. Langham, the City and Southwark Coroner, held an inquest at Guy's Hospital on the body of WILLIAM HALL, aged 32, a Post Office employée lately residing at Royal Naval-place, New-cross, who met with his death under somewhat remarkable circumstances on Friday last, and in connexion with which a man named William James is at present under remand at the Southwark Police-court. Inspector Marriott watched the case on behalf of the Police authorities. George William Figes, a letter sorter, deposed that he and the deceased were employed at St. Martin's-le-Grand. They went on duty at 5 p.m. on Thursday last and left for the purpose of going home at 12 25 a.m. (midnight) on Friday. They came over Southwark-bridge and passed along Marshalsea-road to get to St. George's Church, so as to go home viá Great Dover-street and Old Kent-road. When in Marshalsea-road they met a young woman who was crying and who complained that a man who was with her had grossly insulted her. At this moment another man-the accused, William James-came up and struck the man [who] complained of a violent blow in the head, knocking his hat off into the road. The man picked up his hat and made off as fast as he could towards the Borough. Several other men by this time arrived, and they all, including the young woman, witness, and the deceased, followed in the direction the man complained of had gone. On reaching the Borough a constable was informed of what had taken place, and witness and the deceased passed over to the corner on the opposite side of the road, where they stood watching what became of the young woman and the other man. Without any warning the deceased all of a sudden received a heavy blow at the side of his head just behind the right ear and fell heavily on the kerb. The man who struck the blow ran away, but was captured by a constable and taken to Stone's-end Police-station, where he was identified by the deceased as the man who had knocked him down. The deceased, who had to be assisted to the station, was removed to Guy's Hospital on the police ambulance. By the Coroner.-The accused man James appeared to be perfectly sober. There had been no words between the deceased and him, nor did he say anything when he struck the blow. By Dr. Price, house surgeon at Guy's Hospital.-He could not say if James had a knuckleduster in his hand or anything else. The deceased had his right hand in his pocket at the time, and was smoking. He appeared to have no power to save himself and fell with great force backwards on his head. By the jury.-Witness thought the woman was a respectable person who had somehow lost her way, and was not in collusion with the accused. In reply to the Coroner Inspector Marriott said the accused said he was a costermonger, but he was well known to the police. William Mortimer Sheen, a medical student, deposed to reaching St. George's Church shortly after 1 a.m. and to seeing the accused steal along the outside of the crowd of persons who had assembled at the corner of Marshalsea-road until he came to where the deceased was standing with his back to the people. Immediately afterwards he saw the deceased fall with great force to the ground, striking his head against the kerb-stone. He saw no blow struck. He went and examined the deceased while the police gave chase and arrested the accused. Police-constable Sutherland, 253 M, deposed to the first witness and the deceased informing him of the complaint by the young woman of having been insulted and to their also [t]elling him they thought the men were trying to take the young woman away, and that they ought to be watched. The accused man James then came up and said he was "Jack the Ripper." (Laughter in Court.) Witness took no notice of this, but went to the young woman and asked her if she was aware in whose company she was. She was then crying and said she was not, and he, finding she lived at Wandsworth, directed her which way to go, and nothing had been seen of her since. By this time he found the deceased had been badly injured and that another constable had arrested the accused man James. Police-constable Freeman, 327 M, deposed to hearing cries for the police and to overtaking the accused, who made no resistance, and whose only remark while on the way to the station was an inquiry as to what had become of the woman. Inspector Marriott deposed to taking the charges at the station, and to the accused, in reply to the charge, calling the deceased a filthy beast and to his having stated on the way to the cells that he had interfered because the men had assaulted the young woman, who was a barmaid. Mr. Price, house surgeon at Guy's Hospital, deposed to the deceased being both conscious and sober when admitted. There was a scalp wound behind the right ear about half an inch long, but which did not go down to the bone. The symptoms pointed to fracture at the base of the skull. Death ensued the same morning and the post-mortem examination showed it had resulted from an extensive fracture, coupled with a blood clot on the brain, caused by a fall. The Coroner, in summing, said the circumstances of the case would fully justify the jury in returning a verdict of willful murder against William James, and the jury, after a brief consultation, returned this verdict. The witnesses were then sworn in the usual way to appear against the accused at the Old Bailey.