Saturday, 8 September 1888
Another most horrible murder was perpetrated in Whitechapel on Friday morning of last week. At an early hour, as a police-constable was on his beat in an obscure thoroughfare, he came upon the body of a woman, with her throat cut from ear to ear. On the arrival of a doctor she was removed to the mortuary, where an examination revealed the fact that there were many other shocking wounds upon her person. Though lifeless she was not quite cold, showing that the crime had not been long committed. Late in the same day she was identified as a woman named Nicholls [Nichols], who had led a loose and miserable life, and had at one time been an inmate of the Lambeth Workhouse.
On Saturday Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for South-East Middlesex, opened an inquiry at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel-road, into the circumstances attending the death of a woman supposed to be Mary Ann Nicholls, who was discovered lying dead on the pavement in Buck's-row, Baker's-row, Whitechapel, early on Friday morning of last week.
Inspector Helston, who has the case in hand, attended, with other officers, on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department.
Edward Walker deposed: I live at 15, Maidwell-street, Albany-road, Camberwell, and have no occupation. I was a smith when I was at work, but I am not now. I have seen the body in the mortuary, and to the best of my belief it is my daughter, but I have not seen her for three years. I recognise her by her general appearance and by a little mark she has had on her forehead since she was a child. She also had either one or two teeth out, the same as the woman I have just seen. My daughter's name was Mary Ann Nicholls, and she had been married 22 years. Her husband's name is William Nicholls, and he is alive. He is a machinist. They have been living apart about seven or eight years. I last heard of her before Easter. She was 42 years of age.
The Coroner: How did you see her?
Witness: She wrote to me.
The Coroner: Is this letter in her handwriting?
Witness: Yes, that is her writing.
The letter, which was dated April 17, 1888, was read by the coroner, and referred to a place which the deceased had gone to at Wandsworth.
The Coroner: When did you last see her alive?
Witness: Two years ago last June.
The Coroner: Was she then in a good situation?
Witness: I don't know. I was not on speaking terms with her. She had been living with me three or four years previously, but thought she could better herself, so I let her go.
The Coroner: What did she do after she left you?
Witness: I don't know.
The Coroner: This letter seems to suggest that she was in a decent situation.
Witness: She had only just gone there.
The Coroner: Was she a sober woman?
Witness: Well, at times she drank, and that was why we did not agree.
The Coroner: Was she fast?
Witness: No; I never heard of anything of that sort. She used to go with some young women and men that she knew, but I never heard of anything improper.
The Coroner: Have you any idea what she has been doing lately?
Witness: I have not the slightest idea.
The Coroner: She must have drunk heavily for you to turn her out of doors?
Witness: I never turned her out. She had no need to be like this while I had a home for her.
The Coroner: How is it that she and her husband were not living together?
Witness: When she was confined her husband took on with the young woman who came to nurse her, and they parted, he living with the nurse, by whom he has another family.
The Coroner: Have you any reasonable doubt that this is your daughter?
Witness: No, I have not. I know nothing about her acquaintances, or what she had been doing for a living. I had no idea she was over here in this part of the town. She has had five children, the eldest being 21 years old and the youngest 8 or 9 years. One of them lives with me, and the other four are with their father.
The Coroner: Has she ever lived with anybody since she left her husband?
Witness: I believe she was once stopping with a man in York-street, Walworth. His name was Drew, and he was a smith by trade. He is living there now, I believe. The parish of Lambeth summoned her husband for the keep of the children, but the summons was dismissed, as it was proved that she was then living with another man. I don't know who that man was.
The Coroner: Was she ever in the workhouse?
Witness: Yes, sir; Lambeth workhouse, in April last, and went from there to a situation at Wandsworth.
By the jury: The husband resides at Coburg-road, Old Kent-road. I don't know if he knows of her death.
Coroner: Is there anything you know of likely to throw any light upon this affair?
Witness: No; I don't think she had any enemies - she was too good for that.
John Neil: Police-constable 97 J, said: I was proceeding down Buck's-row, Whitechapel, going towards Brady-street. There was not a soul about. I had been round there half-an-hour previously, and I saw no one then. I was on the right-hand side of the street, when I noticed a figure lying in the street. It was dark at the time, though there was a street lamp shining at the end of the row. I went across and found deceased lying outside a gateway, her head towards the east. The gateway was closed. It was about nine or ten feet high, and led to some stables. There were houses from the gateway eastward, and the School Board school occupies the westward. On the opposite side of the road is Essex Wharf. Deceased was lying lengthways along the street, her left hand touching the gate. I examined the body by the aid of my lamp, and noticed blood oozing from a wound in the throat. She was lying on her back, with her clothes disarranged. I felt her arm, which was quite warm from the joints upwards. Her eyes were wide open. Her bonnet was off and lying at her side, close to the left hand. I heard a constable passing Brady-street, so I called him. I did not whistle. I said to him, "Run at once for Dr. Llewellyn, and seeing another constable in Baker's-row, I sent him for the ambulance. The doctor arrived in a very short time. I had, in the meantime, rung the bell at Essex Wharf, and asked if any disturbance had been heard. The reply was "No." - Sergeant Kirby came after, and he knocked. The doctor looked at the woman and then said, "Move her to the mortuary. She is dead, and I will make a further examination of her." We placed her on the ambulance, and moved her there. Inspector Spratley [Spratling] came to the mortuary, and while taking a description of the deceased turned up her clothes, and found that she was disemboweled. This had not been noticed by any of them before. On the body was found a piece of comb and a bit of looking-glass. No money was found, but an unmarked white handkerchief was found in her pocket.
The Coroner: Did you notice any blood where she was found?
Witness: There was a pool of blood just where her neck was lying. It was running from the wound in her neck.
The Coroner: Did you hear any noise that night?
Witness: No; I heard nothing. The farthest I had been that night was just through the Whitechapel-road and up Baker's-row. I was never far away from the spot.
The Coroner: Whitechapel-road is busy in the early morning I believe. Could anybody have escaped that way?
Witness: Oh yes, sir. I saw a number of women in the main road going home. At that time any one could have got away.
The Coroner: Some one searched the ground, I believe?
Witness: Yes; I examined it while the doctor was being sent for.
Inspector Spratley: I examined the road, sir, in daylight.
A Juryman (to witness): Did you see a trap in the road at all?
A Juryman: Knowing that the body was warm, did it not strike you that it might just have been laid there, and that the woman was killed elsewhere?
Witness: I examined the road, but did not see the mark of wheels. The first to arrive on the scene after I had discovered the body were two men who work at a slaughterhouse opposite. They said they knew nothing of the affair, and that they had not heard any screams. I had previously seen the men at work. That would be about a quarter-past three, or half-an-hour before I found the body.
Henry Llewellyn, surgeon, said: On Friday morning I was called to Buck's-row about four o'clock. The constable told me what I was wanted for. On reaching Buck's-row I found the deceased woman lying flat on her back in the pathway, her legs extended. I found she was dead, and that she had severe injuries to her throat. Her hands and wrists were cold, but the body and lower extremities were warm. I examined her chest, and felt the heart. It was dark at the time. I believe she had not been dead more than half-an-hour. I am quite certain that the injuries to her neck were not self-inflicted. There was very little blood round the neck. There were no marks of any struggle or of blood, as if the body had been dragged. I told the police to take her to the mortuary, and I would make another examination. About an hour later I was sent for by the inspector to see the injuries he had discovered on the body. I went and saw that the abdomen was cut very extensively. I have this morning made a post-mortem examination of the body. I found it to be that of a female about 40 or 45 years. Five of the teeth are missing, and there is a slight laceration of the tongue. On the right side of the face there is a bruise running along the lower part of the jaw. It might have been caused by a blow with the fist or pressure by the thumb. On the left side of the face there was a circular bruise, which also might have been done by the pressure of the fingers. On the left side of the neck, about an inch below the jaw, there was an incision about four inches long and running from a point immediately below the ear. An inch below on the same side, and commencing about an inch in front of it, was a circular incision terminating at a point about three inches below the right jaw. This incision completely severs all the tissues down to the vertebrae. The large vessels of the neck on both sides were severed. The incision is about eight inches long. These cuts must have been caused with a long-bladed knife, moderately sharp, and used with great violence. No blood at all was found on the breast either of the body or clothes. There were no injuries about the body till just about the lower part of the abdomen. Two or three inches from the left side was a wound running in a jagged manner. It was a very deep wound, and the tissues were cut through. There were several incisions running across the abdomen. On the right side there were also three or four similar cuts running downwards. All these had been caused by a knife, which had been used violently and been used downwards. The wounds were from left to right, and might have been done by a left-handed person. All the injuries had been done by the same instrument.
Inspector J. Spratling, J Division, was the first witness called when the inquest was resumed on Monday. He deposed that at 4.30 on Friday morning he was called to the spot where the body of the deceased was found lying. On getting there he found two constables, one of whom pointed out the exact spot on which he found the body. At that time the blood was being washed away, but he could see some stains in between the stones. He was told that the body had been removed on the mortuary. On going there he found the body was still on the ambulance in the yard. While waiting for the arrival of the keeper of the dead-house he took a description of the deceased, but at that time did not notice any wounds on the body. On the body being put in the mortuary he made a more careful examination, and then discovered the injuries to the abdomen, and at once sent for Dr. Llewellyn. He saw two workhouse men stripping the body.
At this point, in reply to a question, Detective-sergeant P. Enright said he gave instructions that the body should not be touched.
Witness, continuing his evidence, stated he again went to the mortuary and made an examination of the clothing taken off the deceased. The principal parts of the clothing consisted of a reddish ulster, somewhat the worse for wear, a new brown linsey dress, two flannel petticoats, having the marks of the Lambeth Workhouse on them, and a pair of stays. The things were fastened, but witness did not remove them himself, so could not say positively that all the clothing was properly fastened.
The Coroner observed it was such matters as these that threw a most important bearing on the subject. The question of the clothing was a most important one. Later on he directed Constable Thain, 96 J, to examine all the premises in the vicinity of the spot where the body was discovered.
Inspector Spratling, continuing, said he and Sergeant Godley examined the East London and District Railway embankments and lines, and also the Great Eastern Railway yard, but they were unable to find anything likely to throw any light on the affair. One of Mr. Brown's men wiped up the blood. A constable was on duty at the gate of the Great Eastern Railway yard, which was about 50 yards from the spot where the body was found. He had questioned this constable, but he had not heard anything. Mrs. Green, who also lived opposite the spot, had been seen, and during the night she had not heard anything, although she was up until 4.30 that morning. Mr. Purkis, who also lived close by, stated that his wife had been pacing the room that morning, about the time the murder must have been committed, but she had not heard anything. It was 150 yards from the spot where the body was found to Barber's slaughter-yard. That was by walking round the Board school. During the night Constable Neil and another officer were within hearing distance of the spot. He should think deceased had been murdered while wearing her clothes, and did not think she had been dressed after death.
Henry Tomkins, a horse-slaughterer, living at 12, Coventry-street, Bethnal-green, stated he was in the employ of Mr. Barber. Thursday night and Friday morning he spent in the slaughterhouse in Winthrop-street. Witness commenced about his usual time - between eight and nine o'clock p.m. On Friday morning he left off work at 20 minutes past four and went for a walk. It was their rule to go home when they did so, but they did not do so that morning. A constable told them of the finding of the murdered woman, and they went to look at her. James Mumford, Charles Brittain, and witness worked together. At twelve o'clock witness and Brittain left the slaughterhouse, and returned about one o'clock. They did not again leave the slaughterhouse until they heard of the murder. All the gates were open, and witness during the night did not hear any disturbance; the only person who came to the slaughterhouse was the constable. At times women came to the place, but none came that night. Had any one called out "Murder" in Buck's-row he might not have heard it. There were men and women in the Whitechapel-road. Witness and Mumford first went and saw the deceased, and then Brittain followed. At that time a doctor and three or four constables were there, and witness remained there until the body was taken away. At night he and his mates generally went out to have a drink. It depended upon what time their work was done when they went home. The constable was at the slaughterhouse at about a quarter past four, when he called for his cape. It was then that they heard of the murder.
Inspector Helston, J Division, deposed that it was a quarter to seven on Friday morning when he received information of the murder. Having learnt full particulars, he proceeded to the mortuary, where he saw deceased, who had her clothing on. He saw the things removed. The bodice of the dress was buttoned down to the middle and the stays were fastened. There were no bruises on the arms to indicate that a struggle had taken place. The wounds on the abdomen were visible with the stays on, and that proved they could have been inflicted while the stays were on the deceased. He did not examine the spot where the body was found until after the blood had been washed away. Witness was of opinion that the murder was committed at the spot where the body was found. The clothes were very little disarranged, thus showing that the body could not have been carried far.
Constable G. Mizen, 56H, stated that at a quarter-past four on Friday morning he was in Hanbury-street, Baker's-row, and a man passing said "You are wanted in Baker's-row." The man, named Cross, stated a woman had been found there. In going to the spot he saw Constable Neil, and by the direction of the latter he went for the ambulance. When Cross spoke to witness he was accompanied by another man, and both of them afterwards went down Hanbury-street. Cross simply said he was wanted by a policeman, and did not say anything about a murder having been committed. He denied that before he went to Buck's-row he continued knocking people up.
George Cross, a carman, stated that he left home on Friday morning at 20 minutes past three, and he arrived at his work, at Broad-street, at four o'clock. Witness walked along Buck's-row, and saw something lying in front of the gateway like a tarpaulin. He then saw it was a woman. A man came along and witness spoke to him. They went and looked at the body. Witness, having felt one of the deceased woman's hands and finding it cold, said "I believe she is dead." The other man, having put his hand over her heart, said "I think she is breathing." He wanted witness to assist in shifting her, but he would not do so. He did not notice any blood, as it was very dark. They went to Baker's-row, saw the last witness, and told him that there was a woman lying down in Buck's-row on the broad of her back. Witness also said he believed she was dead or drunk, while the other man stated he believed her to be dead. The constable replied "All right." The other man left witness at the corner of Hanbury-street and turned into Corbett's-court. He appeared to be a carman, and was a stranger to witness. At the time he did not think the woman had been murdered. Witness did not hear any sounds of a vehicle, and believed that had any one left the body after he got into Buck's-row he must have heard him.
William Nichols, a machinist, of Coburg-road, Old Kent-road, stated that the deceased woman was his wife. He had been separated from her for upwards of eight years. The last time he saw her was over three years ago, and he had no idea what she had been doing since that time, nor with whom she had lived. Deceased was much given to drink. They separated several times, and each time he took her back she got drunk, and that was why he had to leave her altogether.
Jane Oram, 18, Thrawl-street, Spitalfields, deposed that deceased had slept at the common lodging-house there for about for about six weeks. Witness and deceased had occupied the same bed. For eight or ten days she had not been to the lodging-house, but witness saw her on the morning of her death in the Whitechapel-road. Deceased told her she was living where men and women were allowed to sleep, but added that she should come back and live with witness. Witness believed deceased stated she had been living in Flowery Dean-street. Deceased was the worse for drink and refused to stay with witness, although she did all she could to persuade her to do so. Witness did not think she was a fast woman. She was a clean woman, but witness had previously seen her the worse for drink.
Mary Ann Monk stated that she was an inmate of the Lambeth Workhouse. She knew the deceased, who had been an inmate of the Union, but that was six or seven years ago.
The inquiry was adjourned for a fortnight.