Saturday, 22 December 1888
Yesterday Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the Coroner for the South-Eastern Division of Middlesex, opened an inquiry at the Town-hall, Poplar, as to the death of a woman unknown, whose body was found lying in a yard attached to the premises of Mr. Clarke, builder, of High-street, Poplar, early on Thursday morning last. Inspector Parlett, K Division, attended to represent the police authorities.
Police-sergeant Robert Golding, 26 K, deposed that he was patrolling High-street, Poplar, on Thursday morning about 4:15. He was in company with Police-constable Thomas Costella. While passing Mr. Clarke's yard he saw something lying under the wall, and on going close found it to be the body of a woman. She was lying on her left side, her left arm underneath her. The right leg was at full length, and her left leg slightly drawn up. The body was quite warm. Her clothes were not disarranged, nor could he detect any mutilation of the body. She was lying under the wall, with her head away from the street. The witness left the constable in charge of the body while he went for the divisional surgeon. Dr. Harris, the assistant, returned with him and examined the body before it was moved. He at once pronounced life to be extinct. The witness then sent for the ambulance, and the body was taken to the mortuary. He searched it and made an examination of the clothing. Round the neck the deceased was wearing a blue-spotted handkerchief, tied loosely. There was no string round the neck. In the pocket of the dress he found 1s. in silver and 3 1/2d. in bronze, together with a small empty bottle or phial. The woman was about 5ft. 2in. high, had light hair, hazel eyes, and hair frizzed close to the head. She was wearing a black alpaca dress, brown stuff skirt, and red flannel petticoat. She also had on a dark tweed jacket, double-breasted, a lilac print apron, blue and red striped stockings, and side-spring boots. She had no hat on, nor was any found near the spot. The witness said he believed he had seen the woman before, and that she was of loose character. After leaving the mortuary he carefully searched the yard where the body was found, but could not discover any traces of a struggle having taken place.
Thomas Dean, of 159, High-street, Poplar, deposed that he was employed by Mr. Mead at that address. On Wednesday night he left the workshop which was in Mr. Clarke's yard about 10 o'clock. The body was not there then. There were no persons in the yard. The shop was opposite the yard and the witness slept there, but heard no noise during the night.
Mr. Matthew Brownfield, of 170, East India-road, Poplar, deposed that he was divisional surgeon of police. At 4:25 on Thursday morning he was sent for, but his assistant went instead and found the body of a woman lying in Clarke's yard. She was dead. Yesterday morning the witness saw the body in the mortuary and subsequently made a post-mortem examination. He found the body to be that of a woman about 30 years of age and well nourished. He noticed marks of mud on the front of the left leg. The eyes were normal and the tongue did not protrude. There were slight marks of blood having escaped from the nostrils, and the right side of the nose showed a slight abrasion, while on the left cheek was an old scar. The mark on the nose might have been caused by any slight violence. On the neck there was the mark apparently of a cord extending from the right side of the spine round the throat to the lobe of the left ear. He had, by experiment, found that a piece of four-fold cord would cause such a mark. On the neck he also found marks as of the thumbs and middle and index fingers. He had tried his thumb and fingers and found that they could cause such abrasions. The marks ran perpendicularly to the line round the neck before described. There were no injuries to the arms or legs as if any violent struggle had taken place. On opening the head he found the brain engorged with blood of a very dark colour. The lungs were normal. In the stomach was some food which had only very recently been eaten. There was no sign of any poison or alcohol in the stomach. From his examination he was of opinion that the cause of death was suffocation by strangulation. The strangulation could not possibly have been done by the woman herself, but must have been caused by a person standing behind and slightly to the left of her. The witness said the person must have wrapped the ends of the cord round his hands and then, from behind, thrown the noose over the deceased's head and pulled tight, crossing both hands. This would account for the mark round the neck not completing the circle. The cord was held round the throat till after death had taken place. At this point the Coroner adjourned the inquiry.
The mystery surrounding the murder can only be compared to that which attended the recent series of crimes in the same district. The yard in which the body of this woman was found is a dark and neglected byway. Several small traders in the neighbourhood have workshops in it. No one appears to have passed through the yard from 10 o'clock on Wednesday night until the body was discovered, and no cry of distress was heard. At a late hour last night the body was still unidentified, and the police had no one in custody in connexion with the crime.