Thursday, 12 September 1889
Yesterday Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for the South-Eastern Division of the County of London, opened his inquiry at the Vestry Hall, Cable-street, St. George's-in-the East, concerning the death of a woman unknown, a portion of whose remains was found under a railway arch in Pinchin-street, Whitechapel, on Tuesday morning.
Detective Inspectors E. Reid and Moore watched the case on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department.
The jury having viewed the body, which was lying in the St. George's mortuary,
Police-constable William Pennett, 239 H, deposed: - I went on duty at 10 o'clock on Monday night. Nothing attracted my attention that was unusual. I was on a regular beat during the night and morning. I had to go through Pinchin-street about every half-hour. I entered it from Christian-street and Backchurch-lane. I occasionally turned down Frederick-street to where the stables were. I then returned to Pinchin-street. Once or twice I cut it short, and simply went into Backchurch-lane. About 25 minutes past 5, I came from the direction of Christian-street to Pinchin-street. I went across the road from the northern side, in the direction of the railway arch, and had no particular reason for so doing. As I was crossing I saw, in the arch, something that appeared to be a bundle. The arch, which was filled with stones belonging to the Whitechapel District Board of Works, led on to a piece of waste ground, on which were three arches abutting onto Pinchin-street. Two of these arches were closed in with fencing to some considerable height. In front of the arch that I first referred to there remained only the uprights of some fencing, which had been taken away. The archway had a large quantity of paving stones in it, and these were piled up. There was also a carriage entrance to the arch from Backchurch-lane. The bundle was, I should say, from four to five yards in the archway, measuring from the pavement. The bundle was near the wall of the arch, on the western side. On going up to it I found that it was a portion of a human body. It was covered by two or three pieces of rag, but what these were I could not say at the time. With the exception of these it was naked. I noticed that the head had been taken from the body, and that the legs were missing. The trunk was lying on the stomach, with the shoulders towards the west. It was very dusty inside the arch, but I did not notice any marks of wheels or footprints. I do not think the impression of footprints would show. There were no clots of blood about. I did not blow my whistle, as I thought it might cause a crowd to assemble. Knowing it was a lifeless body I waited a minute or two. A man came along with a broom on his shoulder. I said to him, "You might go and fetch my mate at the corner." He replied, "What's on, governor?" I answered, "Tell him I have got a job on. Make haste." The man then went up Backchurch-lane towards the adjoining beat. I next saw two constables running towards me. Constable 205 H was acting sergeant at the time, and he was the first to get up to me, and Constable 115 H was behind him. I said to 205 H, "You had better go and see the inspector, as there is a dead body here." He ran away in the direction of the station, and 115 H remained with me. It was not very long before I saw Inspector Pinhorn, who at once gave directions for the arches to be searched.
THE CORONER. - Had you seen any one pass at that time? No; I made a search and found two men; apparently sailors, asleep in the last arch. They were a short distance apart from one another. They were in the farthest of the three arches from Backchurch-lane. In the middle arch there was a shoeblack lying on the stones. He was also asleep, and I woke him up. Only one of the sailors was asleep. I am not certain whether the other one was asleep or not, as he had a pipe in his mouth. The three were taken to the station.
Did they make any statement? - They made none to me.
Can you fix the time when you passed this place before? Before 5, Sir. I am sure of that, as I called a working man just before 5. At that time I was on the northern side of Pinchin-street. I looked into the arch on that occasion, and at the time day was breaking. Had the body been there then I should have seen it.
You did not see it? - No, Sir.
After you left Pinchin-street on that occasion, in which direction did you go? Up Backchurch-lane and into Ellen-place. From there I got round to Christian-street.
Did you see any one with a bundle? - No, Sir. I did not see a costermonger's cart about. I saw a barrow in Spildts-street. It had a board on it, and had been there the whole time I was on duty. I saw no other cart or vehicle about, with the exception of those coming out of Christian-street, which belonged to Messrs. Fairclough. These started soon after 4 o'clock in the morning. I did not see any of these come down Pinchin-street. These vans went in all directions, and I can't say if any of them went into Cable-street.
What time did the doctor arrive? - Dr. Clark, assistant divisional surgeon, arrived within half-an-hour after I found the body. It was after 6 o'clock when the body was removed to the mortuary.
Is this arch often used for sleeping purposes? - I cannot say. It was the first time I have been on the beat. There was a change of duty.
By the jury. - I should think the body had been carried to the arch in a sack or something of that description, and then taken out and placed where it was found. Had it been dragged along I should have seen marks of a trail in the dust.
The Foreman. - Did the ground appear to have been disturbed? - No. Had the body been "shot" out the neck would have been covered with dust. There was no appearance of any dirt on the blood [sic].
By Inspector Reid. - There were a lot of stones as well as dust in the arch, and had there been a struggle there I might not have seen any signs of its having taken place.
Had you seen a man carrying a bundle, would you have stopped him? - Certainly, and any other constable would have done the same. We stop all suspicious persons. I only called up one person that morning, and he asked me to call him between 10 and 11 on the previous night. He asked me to call him all the week at the same time. That is a very common occurrence on some beats.
Inspector Charles Pinhorn, H Division, said, - Shortly after half-past 5 on Tuesday morning I was called to the railway arch, and went to the spot at once. When I arrived two constables were there, and I ordered and assisted in a search. Statements were taken from the men who were found in the arches. I had the street cleared of persons who were passing through on their way to work. The statements of the men, with the exception that the body was not there when they entered the arches, had no bearing on the case. Two of the men went into the arch at 4 in the morning, and the other one at 2 o'clock. The arches were used by casuals, and as far as possible they were prevented from doing so by the police. Night after night people were turned out. The class of persons who used the arches and were accustomed to the neighbourhood would know there was a probability of persons being in the arches. The ground belonged to the Whitechapel District Board of Works, and was got in exchange for another piece of ground. It was used for stone-breaking. The police had no right there, as it was private property. At the same time all isolated spots were searched during the night-time by the police. The arches were fully open to the road, but, with the exception of this one, were guarded with some hoarding, which, however, was only of a temporary character. No constable on duty near the spot on Tuesday morning saw any one with a bundle. A bundle of that nature, if seen, would have certainly attracted attention. Costermongers' barrows would not have been passing in that direction, but in quite another direction. Those going to Spitalfields Market would not leave until after 6 o'clock. A general search of the whole neighbourhood had taken place, but up to the present time there was no clue at all. The men found in the arches stated that they saw no bundle when they entered, but their condition might have been such as to cause them not to notice it, even supposing it to have been there. There was a lamp about 9ft. away, and the light from it would have been sufficient to show the bundle during night-time. The condition of the trunk was such as it would have been had it been carried in a sack. The arms were close to the body and the hands close to the abdomen. The left hand was evidently resting where the gash was. There was no dust or sawdust on the back. The body was lying breast downwards. The chemise was entire, although at first site it had the appearance of being in pieces, as it had been cut open from top to bottom. The arm holes were cut right up to the neck. There was no name on the garment or lettering of any kind.
By the jury. - I do not think the costermongers' barrows commence their return from Billingsgate before half-past 5. The men who were found in the other two arches would have to pass the one in which the body was found. The front of the arches near Pinchin-street where the men were found was some 30 yards from the spot where the body was discovered by the constable.
Detective-inspector Reid said: - I have interrogated the three men myself, and have no doubt they were drunk when they entered the arch. Inquiries are being made about all the barrows in the neighbourhood.
THE CORONER said Dr. Clark was at the present time engaged at the Old Bailey, and Dr. Phillips had not yet concluded his examination. He proposed that the inquiry should be adjourned until Tuesday the 24th inst.
This was accordingly done.
Although the police have been most diligent in their efforts and exhaustive in their inquiries to trace the person who placed the body of the woman under the arch where it was found, together with the means of identifying it, they have been unsuccessful in their results. Search has also been made to endeavour to trace the missing portions of the body, and every likely spot where it might be concealed has been searched, but with as little success as in the other instances. The belief is gaining ground that, after all, the woman's death might not have been the result of violence such as ended the lives of the other poor creatures in Whitechapel, and that the limbs had been amputated and the body beheaded in order to more readily dispose of them. This, however, it is hoped, will have been satisfactorily cleared up at the post-mortem examination, which was finished yesterday afternoon. The result of the autopsy will not be made known until the adjourned inquest. Before beginning the post-mortem the doctors engaged in the case held a consultation at which they were assisted by Mr. Monro, Chief Commissioner of Police, and other officials. The neighbourhood where the body was found affords ample opportunities for any person to make good his escape after having got rid of his burden, although even at that early hour there are numbers of men passing along close to Pinchin-street on their way to work or to one of the markets. The excitement was not so great as on the previous day, owing no doubt to the fact that the inhabitants of the district begin to doubt whether the deceased met her death at the hands of the so-called "Jack the Ripper." Mr. Stuart Cumberland managed to gain an entrance to the mortuary and viewed the remains, but for what object is not known. A man, who was evidently suffering from mental aberration, was taken to the Arbour-square Police-station, it being stated that he was heard to say he was "Jack the Ripper." After being detained for some hours he was set at liberty.
WILLIAM WALLACE BRODIE, 32, fireman, was indicted for obtaining by false pretences from Peter Rigley Pratt a watch, value £9 9s., with intent to defraud. Mr. Burnie prosecuted. When the prisoner was brought up at the last sessions he behaved in a very violent manner, and stated that he was one of the Whitechapel murderers. The case against the prisoner was that he went to the prosecutor and told him he wanted some watches to take back with him to South Africa. He asked permission to show one to his brother, a printer in the neighbourhood, and was allowed to do so on a statement which he made, to the effect that his brother had some trust money belonging to him. He brought it back, and ordered eight silver watches and a gold one, saying that the cheque in payment would be drawn by his brother. He asked to be allowed to take the gold watch to show his brother while the bill was being made out. The prisoner took it away, but did not return, and subsequently it was found to have been pawned in the Strand. The prisoner's brother denied that he had any money belonging to the prisoner, and said that his brother had not shown him any watches. The accused, upon being asked whether he had anything to say in his defence, said:-On the 18th of July I went to Leman-street Police-station and gave myself up for the murder of Alice Mackenzie. I want to know why I am not put on my trial for that offence. The Judge said they had nothing to do with that matter. The jury found the prisoner Guilty. Warder Humphries stated that the prisoner in 1877 was sentenced at the Central Criminal Court to 14 years' penal servitude for larceny in a dwelling house, and was now out on licence. A detective officer said that after the prisoner was liberated on August 23, 1888, he went to South Africa, and returned last July, when he gave himself up as being the Whitechapel murderer. He had been a great trouble to his brother. The Judge said that in consequence of the prisoner's strange behaviour at the last sessions he ordered the prison doctor to see him. The prison doctor had stated that the man was perfectly sane. The prisoner would be liable to serve the unexpired part of his term of penal servitude, and he would now be sentenced to six months' hard labour.