The Times (London).
Monday, 16 February 1891.
THE MURDER IN WHITECHAPEL.
Owing to the activity of the police officers who are endeavouring to unravel the mystery that surrounds this last murder in Whitechapel, many additional facts, of an important character, have been brought to light, and the result is the arrest and detention of a man suspected of having committed the crime. One importance feature in connexion with the case is that the police now incline to the idea that this crime has no connexion with the previous murders committed in the same district during the last four years.
The victim, although described by the Coroner "as a woman unknown" - and rightly so until her identity is clearly established - has been identified by many persons as Frances Coleman [Coles], who, for some months past, had resided in common lodging-houses in Thrawl-street and Flower-and-Dean-street, and who had been leading an irregular life. Many statements have been furnished to the police as to where she lived before she came to London, and they feel sanguine that before the adjourned inquiry her past history will be known.
A man named Samuel Harris, who will be called as a witness at the next Coroner’s hearing, together with Police-sergeant Edwards, 7 H, were the first two persons to give any trustworthy information as to the man wanted on suspicion of having caused the death of the woman. The man known as "Jumbo," employed at the railway depot in Royal Mint-street, who stated that he saw a man and a woman talking together near the arch, a short time before the body was found, and who furnished the police with a description of both persons, on being closely questioned, varied so materially in his statements that they were found to be of very little value in leading to the identity of either. Harris, who has been lodging in a common lodging-house in Thrawl-street for some time past, and who consequently had a close acquaintance with the frequenters of the place, knew the dead woman well by site. He states that while he was in the kitchen on Thursday night she was there, sitting at the table, evidently somewhat the worse for drink, and a man, having the appearance of a sailor, came in and spoke to her. Harris says he heard the man ask Coleman if she had any money, and on her replying in the negative, he stated he was also "broke," having been robbed of what he had. He appeared to be somewhat excited, and was also suffering from the effects of drink, and had the appearance of having been engaged in a scuffle of some sort. He threatened to "do" for the thief if he only knew who he was. The man afterwards asked Harris if he could have a bed there, and offered to leave a sailor’s advance note, by way of security for the price of his lodging, as he had no money. Harris told him he had nothing to do with the arrangements of the house, and he then went away. Shortly afterwards the woman got up, placed a hat beneath her dress, and went out. This part of Harris’s statement is borne out by the fact that, when the body was searched, a hat was found under the folds of the dress. That was the last Harris saw of the woman alive; but a woman, also lodging in the same place, has come forward and stated that she heard the deceased woman and a man, having the appearance of a sailor, quarrelling in Thrawl-street shortly before 12 o’clock on Thursday night. Nothing definite has yet been ascertained regarding the movements of the man referred to until half-past 2 the next morning, when Sergeant Edwards met him on Tower-hill. The officer could plainly see that the man had been assaulted, and questioned him. He stated that he had been attacked by some men, against the London Dock gates, who had brutally ill-used him. Soon afterwards the officer heard of the crime that had been committed, and was able to furnish a description of the man he had seen and spoken to. Later on Harris also heard of the murder, and, thinking the victim might be Coleman, consulted the doorkeeper and deputy of the lodging-house; and the three of them went to the mortuary, where they at once identified the deceased as the woman they had known by the name of Frances Coleman. They were also able to give a description of the man, and that was found substantially to agree with that supplied by Sergeant Edwards. They stated that the man whom they had seen in company with the dead woman for the past three or four days, was wearing a reefer jacket, and a kind of hat frequently worn by seafaring men, a black silk neckerchief, serge trousers, and lace-up boots. It was also ascertained that this man went up to a coffee-stall, about 3 o’clock on Friday morning, and was supplied with some refreshment. He there accounted for his injuries in the same way as he had done to the police sergeant.
On Saturday morning, all the lodging-houses, publichouses, beerhouses, and other likely places of resort were searched. Harris was engaged to accompany Detective-sergeant Don and Detective Gill. After searching for some time, the party reached Upper East Smithfield, and Harris went into the Phoenix beerhouse. He there saw a man whom he at once identified as the person they were searching for, and he came out and told the officers. The latter entered, and told the man he would have to accompany them to Leman-street Station. This he did, without offering any resistance; and he was at once taken before Chief Inspector Swanson, who, having cautioned him that he was not bound to answer any question, subjected him to a searching examination. The man appeared to be upwards of 40 years of age, was of a rough, sailor-like appearance, and had evidently been having a heavy drinking bout. He stated that his name was Thomas Saddler [Sadler], and that he was a ship’s fireman on board the s.s. Fez, then lying in the St. Katharine Dock. He produced a number of seaman’s discharges, proving his identity, and they were all marked "V.G.," signifying that his character while on board had been very good. He admitted knowing the deceased, and having also been in her company; but denied that he was in Chamber-street with her at any time on Thursday night. He also strongly denied knowing anything about the death of the woman, and said he gave her half-a-crown on Thursday morning to get a hat. He admits being a married man, and having three children, but declines to say where they are. There are stains onhis clothes, and he asserts that the scratches on his hands and face were received in a tussle he had with some men.
Subsequent inquires produced more evidence, and Saddler was told he would be detained for some time while the statements he had made were being verified. It was ascertained that he had been away from London during the last 18 months; but, although this is the case, the police do not think he is connected in any way with the other murders. At the same time, it is a singular fact that the cut on Frances Coleman’s throat is exactly like the one inflicted on the victim of the Castle-street crime on the 17th of July, 1889. No fewer than 20 officers were detailed to inquire into the antecedents of Saddler. The woman who said she saw the deceased quarrelling with a man was shown a number of men, and she at once picked out Saddler from amongst them. Another one identified him as having been staying with Coleman; while a third states that he came up and spoke to her and the deceased late on Thursday night, and went away with the latter. The deputy of the lodging-house has also identified him as the man who came there for the deceased. At that time she noticed that he had a cut over his forehead and that there were scratches on his hands. He said he had been knocked down and robbed in Ratcliff-highway. Saddler asked to be allowed to stay there, but was refused. The doorkeeper of the same lodging-house also states that the man told him he had a row in Thrawl-street and had lost his money. He said he had given the deceased woman some money. At 3 o’clock the next morning Saddler again went to the lodging-house, and had further marks of violence about him, saying he had been attacked by men in Ratcliff-highway. The doorkeeper describes the deceased as having been a very quiet, inoffensive woman, and as not having been often the worse for drink.
The police authorities have not yet determined whether or not to charge the man with the wilful murder of Frances Coleman; and it is not likely that a decision will be arrived at until the early hours of this morning, as many matter connected with the case have to be first inquired into.
On Saturday a second arrest was made, but, the man was set at liberty, his account of himself being found to be a truthful one.
As usual, whenever a murder occurs in this district, the police are recipients of some hundreds of letters containing suggestions how to effect the capture of the perpetrator of the crime.
During the whole of yesterday the scene of the crime was visited by some thousands of persons. A closer inspection of the arch and its vicinity bears out the opinion of the police that the murder was not committed by the same hand as committed the other eight murders in this district. In the previous cases spots were evidently carefully selected as being most unfrequented. In the present case, on the other hand, the arch under which Coleman was found with her throat cut, although somewhat dark in the centre, is frequented by people at all hours of the day and night.
On Saturday morning the divisional surgeon of police made his post-mortem examination, in company with Dr. Oxley, who was the first medical gentleman to examine the body, and it is said he is also of opinion that the present case has no connexion with the previous crimes.
On Saturday evening Mr. Wynne E, Baxter, Coroner for East London, opened his inquiry at the Working Lads’ Institute, Whitechapel-road.
Superintendent T. Arnold and Inspector Flannigan, H Division, watched the case on behalf of the Commissioners of Police.
On the names of the jurymen summoned being called out by the Coroner’s officer, it was
found that only eight answered, the remainder of those present being substitutes. Some
of the latter were accepted, but when Mr. Backert [Bachert], the chairman of the
so-called Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, offered himself as a substitute in place of
a Mr. Fielder, the Coroner declined to allow him to serve.
Mr. Backert. - Why?
The CORONER. - Because I decline.
Mr. Backert. - You decline simply because I happen to be chairman of the Vigilance Committee, and you think I shall fully investigate this matter. I have a right to be on the jury.
The CORONER. - I have decided you are not to serve on this jury.
Mr. Backert. - Yes; because you know I shall inquire into the case.
The CORONER. - You have already been told I shall decline to accept you.
Mr. Backert (walking to the back of the court). - You will hear more of this.
The jury, having been sworn, proceeded to view the body. On their return Mr. Backert, addressing the Coroner, said:- "It was only after you heard who I was that you would not allow me to serve on the jury."
The CORONER. - If you do not keep quiet I will have you ejected from the room.
The CORONER said he did not propose to go very far into the case that day; therefore, with the concurrence of the jury, they could release the doctor, whose evidence would be taken on the next occasion.
The jury agreed, after which it was decided that the resumed inquest would be held to-morrow (Tuesday).
The first witness called was Police-constable Ernest Thompson, 240 H, who, in answer to the Coroner, deposed:- I went on duty at 10 o’clock on Thursday night. My beat was to patrol Chamber-street and Prescott-street. I started from the bottom of Chamber-street up that street, and then along Prescott-street. In doing so I passed small portions of Mansell and Leman streets. There are three arches leading from Chamber-street to Royal Mint-street. The railway is over each of these passages.
What time did you pass from Chamber-street to go under the arch? - As near 2:15 as I can tell. The entrance to the arch is opposite the Catholic schools. At that time I did not know the place was known by the name of Swallow-gardens, but I have heard so since. The roadway under the arch is partially taken away and boarded up from the crown of the arch to the ground. What remains is a roadway, enabling one cart to pass at a time. I should say the length of the arch is something over 40 yards. There are two ordinary street gas-lamps to light this arch, and they throw a light down the archway. I cannot tell the exact position of the light at the other entrance. If I was standing at the Chamber-street entrance to the archway I should be able to see any one in the centre of the arch. I could see right through it; and I can do this at night. The centre part is not very light in the daytime. The archway is much used by carts and horses belonging to the Great Northern Railway Company. Their stables, which are about 30 yards away from the arch, are in Chamber-street. At a quarter-past 2 I came up Chamber-street from Leman-street. When about 80 yards away from the arch I looked at the clock on the top of the tower of the Co-operative Stores in Leman-street. It was then very near 2:15. I walked direct up Chamber-street to the arch. I turned down the arch with the intention of going as far as Royal Mint-street. While proceeding from Leman-street to the arch I did not see any one. When I turned into the passage I could see the woman lying under the arch on the roadway, about midway under the arch. I turned my lamp on as soon as I got there. I could not see it was a woman until I turned my lamp on. I noticed some blood. I saw her open and shut one eye. I blew my whistle three times. Constables 161 H and 275 H came to me in three or four minutes. They both came from Royal Mint-street; 161 H came first. I heard footsteps when I was going up Chamber-street and before I reached the arch. The sound was in the direction of Mansell-street, but I did not see any one. They sounded like a person walking at an ordinary rate.
How far were you from the arch then? - As near as I can tell about 80 yards. I heard no one going through the arch in the direction of Royal Mint-street.
Can you say whether these footsteps had come out of the arch? - No, Sir.
Then they may have been going right down Chamber-street? - I never heard them before. As soon as the constables arrived 161 H went for Dr. Oxley, in Dock-street, while 275 H went to Leman-street Police-station. Dr. Oxley then arrived and examined the body. Then other policemen arrived. I had not seen any one about that night except the railway men. They are going about all night, and through this arch. The horses that are engaged in shunting have to go backwards and forwards through it. Just before 2 a.m. I went from Chamber-street through the arch to Royal Mint-street and back again. Then I went up Mansell-street, Prescott-street, and back again. On the last occasion I did not see any one.
Were there any railway people near the spot at the time? - No. Some men were working in the stables, and that was the nearest spot where there was any one about.
The Foreman. - How long did it take you to do your beat? - Between 15 and 20 minutes. I passed through the railway arch each time I came up Chamber-street, and also through the other two arches.
Did any one, besides the constables, come after you blew your whistle? - Some railway men arrived, with horses, after the officers were there.
Constable Frederick Hart, 161 H, said:- I went on duty at 10 o’clock on Thursday night. My beat was part of Royal Mint-street, Cartwright-street, Upper East Smithfield, and Trinity-square.
Did anything happen to arouse your suspicion? - Not until a quarter-past 2. I was then in Royal Mint-street, and heard a whistle. I was then about 250 yards from the arch. I went in the direction of the sound, which turned out to be in Swallow-gardens. There I found Police-constable 240 H, and alongside was the body of a woman. She was lying in the centre of the roadway. I turned my light on and examined the woman. I then saw that her throat was cut. I ran for Dr. Oxley, of Dock-street, and he came as soon as possible. He was in bed when I called him. I then searched the vicinity, but could not find any trace of any person that was likely to have done the deed.
When you first turned out of Royal Mint-street could you see the constable? - I could see him immediately I turned down that street by his lamp; but could also see him without it. At the Royal Mint-street end of the arch there is an ordinary street lamp. The place is lighter at night than in the daytime in the centre of the arch.
Within half-an-hour of this occurrence had you seen any man or woman there? - No.
Is the place pretty well deserted at this time? - It is after 1 o’clock.
I suppose the arch was thoroughly searched? - Yes, Sir.
A juryman. - How long was Dr. Oxley in coming? - The woman was alive when the constable found her; and I think we ought to know. - Dr. Oxley arrived, I should think, in about 10 minutes from the time I called him.
If you were standing at the end of the arch do you think you could see a body lying in the centre of the arch? - I do not think I could from the Royal Mint-street end of Swallow-gardens.
I presume you heard no cry for assistance during the previous half-hour? - No, Sir.
What position was the body in when you saw it? - The body was lying with the feet towards Royal Mint-street and the head towards Chamber-street, partly on its left side.
Did you feel the pulse of the deceased? - No. As soon as I saw the gash on the throat I ran for a doctor.
Police-constable George Elliott, 275 H, stated:- I was on duty in plain clothes on Thursday night and Friday morning. I went on at 10 o’clock Thursday night. I was on duty in front of Baron Rothschild’s refinery in Royal Mint-street until 2:15 a.m., when I heard a whistle blowing. I went in the direction of the sound, and when I got to the entrance of Swallow-gardens I saw the constable’s lamp turned on and heard his whistle again. I went to him. He was standing under the arch, close to the body of a woman. I looked round and then went off to Leman-street Police-station. I had not been far from this spot since 10 o’clock the previous night, and nothing unusual attracted my attention. Plenty of men and women passed through Swallow-gardens up to 12:30 a.m. I do not recollect seeing any man or woman pass after that time.
If there had been any cry for help from the archway would you have heard it? - I must have heard it; it was so quiet.
What distance were you from Swallow-gardens when the whistle blew? - About 250 yards. I was patrolling the street, and was wearing ordinary boots.
A juryman. - Did the constable tell you he heard footsteps? - I heard about it in the morning.
The CORONER. - I think, gentlemen, we might now leave the case as it stands.
A juryman. - The inquest has been opened on the body of a woman unknown. Ought we not, before adjourning, to have some evidence of identification?
The CORONER. - I am told the deceased is not properly identified. Therefore it would not serve any good purpose at this stage to call evidence of that description. We made a mistake once. At the first hearing the victim was identified as being a certain person; but she was afterwards found to be some one else.
The juryman. - Then there is the evidence of the man "Jumbo," who also heard footsteps.
The CORONER. - His evidence will be taken on Tuesday.
The inquiry was then adjourned.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, - Some little good may come out of evil, if public attention be called by the late murder in Whitechapel to the disgraceful and insanitary state in which the particular district in which the deed was done is allowed to remain. There are two principal passages which connect Royal Mint-street (the old Rosemary-lane) with the streets to the north of it, both of which are largely used by the public, to avoid a long detour by the Minories or Leman-street. I have myself occasion to use one or other of them almost every day, so that I do not speak without knowledge. One passage is that in which the murder was committed; the other lies a little to the west of it, and connects Royal Mint-street with the southern end of Mansell-street. It is three times as long and much narrower. If one has been found a suitable spot for a murder, this other, which is, I believe, deservedly nameless, is far more so. But, apart from its loneliness at night, it has special horrors of its own. The smells are abominable. The place is used as a depositary for refuse of all kinds. A high hoarding on either side and other buildings shut it out from the air, and it is left to stew in its own delightful juice, unless the wind mercifully blows direct from the north. Yet through this passage hundreds of decent women and children (for we are not all, Sir, as black as the reporters of the sensational Press paint us) - to say nothing of men - have to pass on their daily avocations. For the last four or five years I have both orally and by letter called the attention of our local Board of Works to this spot. They content themselves with a daily clean up, and a plentiful sprinkling of disinfecting powder, for which we are duly thankful, but there their efforts stop. Perhaps they are powerless to do more. When the cholera next visits us, here will be a splendid chance for it.
Your obedient servant,
E. H. BRADBY.
St. Katharine Dock-house, E., Feb. 14.