Friday, 7 September 1888
Another murder of a most revolting character was discovered early on morning of the 31st alt. in Whitechapel. As the constable was walking through Buck's-row, Thomas-street, Whitechapel, at about a quarter to four, he found the body of a woman, between 35 and 40 years of age, lying at the side of the street, with her throat cut from ear to ear and her body mutilated in a shocking manner. She was wearing some workhouse garments, and has been identified as having been in the lying-in ward at Lambeth.
At a quarter to four in the morning Police-constable Neil was on his beat in Buck's Row, Thomas-street, Whitechapel, when his attention was attracted to the body of a woman lying on the pavement close to the door of the stable-yard in connection with Essex Wharf. Buck's-row, like many minor thoroughfares in this and similar neighborhoods, is not overburdened with gas-lamps, and in the dim light the constable at first thought that the woman had fallen down in a drunken stupor, and was sleeping off the effects of a night's debauch. With the aid of the light from his bullseye lantern Neil at once perceived that the woman had been the victim of some horrible outrage. Her livid face was stained with blood, and her throat cut from ear to ear. The constable at once alarmed the people living in the house next to the stable-yard, occupied by a carter named Green and his family, and also knocked up Mr. Walter Perkins [Purkiss], the resident manager of the Essex Wharf, on the opposite side of the road, which is very narrow at this point. Neither Mr. Perkins nor any of the Green family, although the latter were sleeping within a few yards of where the body was discovered, had heard any sound of a struggle. Dr. Llewellyn, who lives only a short distance away in Whitechapel-road, was at once sent for and promptly arrived on the scene. He found the body lying on its back across the gateway, and the briefest possible examination was sufficient to prove that life was extinct. Death had not long ensued, because the extremities were still warm. With the assistance of Police-sergeant Kirby and Police-constable Thane, the body was removed to the Whitechapel-road mortuary, and it was not until the unfortunate woman's clothes were removed that the horrible nature of the attack which had been made upon her transpired. It was then discovered that in addition to the gash in her throat, which had nearly severed the head from the body, the lower part of the abdomen had been ripped up, and the bowels were protruding. The abdominal wall, the whole length of the body, had been cut open, and on either side were two incised wounds almost as severe as the centre one. This reached from the lower part of the abdomen to the breast bone. The instrument with which the wounds were inflicted must have been not only of the sharpness of a razor, but used with considerable ferocity. The murdered woman is about 45 years of age, and 5ft. 2in. in height. She had a dark complexion, brown eyes, and brown hair, turning grey. At the time of her death she was wearing a brown ulster fastened with seven large metal buttons with the figure of a horse and a man standing by its side stamped thereon. She had a brown lindsey frock and a grey woollen petticoat with flannel underclothing, close ribbed brown stays, black woollen stockings, side spring boots, black straw bonnet trimmed with black velvet. The mark "Lambeth Workhouse - R. R." was found stamped on the petticoat bands, and a hope is entertained that by this deceased's identity may be discovered. A photograph of the body has been taken and this will be circulated amongst the workhouse officials.
Mr. Wynne Baxter, coroner for East Middlesex, opened the inquest on the 1st inst. at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel.
Edward Walker, an old man, residing at 16, Maidwood-street, Albany-road, Camberwell, said that he was formerly a smith. To the best of his belief the body at the mortuary was that of his daughter, whom he had not seen for three years. He recognised it by the general appearance, the loss of some front teeth, and a small mark on the forehead, caused when the deceased was a child. She was 42 years old. About 22 years ago she was married to a man named William Nicholls [Nichols], who was still alive. He was a printer's machinist. He and the deceased had been living apart for seven or eight years. The witness last heard of his daughter last Easter, when she wrote him the following letter, from a house in Wandsworth in which she had just before obtained a situation as domestic servant:
"I just write to say you will be glad to know that I am settled in my new place, and going on all right up to now. My people went out yesterday, and have not returned, so I am left in charge. It is a grand place inside, with trees and gardens back and front. All has been newly done up. They are teetotallers and religious, so I ought to get on. They are very nice people, and I have not too much to do. I hope you are all right and the boy has work. So good-bye for the present. - From yours truly, "POLLY.
"Answer soon please, and let me know how you are."
He replied to this letter, but had not heard from his daughter since. He last saw her alive two years ago, in June, 1886. She was apparently respectable then, but he did not speak to her. It was at a funeral. He was not friendly with her. She lived with him three or four years ago, and after a few words she left him. He did not know what she did afterwards. She was not particularly sober, and that was why they did not agree. He did not think that she was fast. He had no idea of such a thing. She did not stay out particularly late at night. The worst he had seen of her was her keeping company with females of a certain class. After she wrote to him from Wandsworth he sent a kind letter back to her, but he did not see or hear anything of her until he was called to view the body. He had kept her letter because it was his habit to keep letters. It was not the case that he turned her out of doors. She had no cause to be "like this." He had always had a home for her. She had separated from her husband because he "turned nasty" over another man. Her husband left her, and took another woman to live with. The deceased had had five children, of whom the eldest, a young man, was 21 years old, and the youngest was 8. The eldest was living with the witness, and the other four children with their father. He believed that three or four years ago the deceased lived with a man who kept a smith's shop in York-street, Walworth. He did not know that she had lived with any other man; but on one occasion the parish of Lambeth summoned her husband for her maintenance. His defence was that she was living with another man. She denied it, but the summons was dismissed. Until he heard of the murder he did not know that she had left the situation at Wandsworth. Just before taking it she was in Lambeth Workhouse. He knew of nothing likely to throw light on the inquiry. He was not aware that she had any enemies. She was always too good for that. Her only fault was being too good.
Police-constable John Neil deposed that he was going down Buck's-row, Whitechapel, from Thomas-street to Brady-street. Not a soul was about. He was around there about half an hour previously, and met nobody then. The first thing he saw was a figure lying on the footpath. It was dark, but there was a street lamp on the opposite side some distance away. The figure was lying alongside a gateway, of which the gate, nine or 10 feet high, was locked. It led to some stables belonging to a Mr. Brown. From the gateway eastward the houses began, and westward there was a Board school. All the houses were occupied. The deceased's left hand was touching the gate. Directly he turned his lantern on the body he noticed blood was oozing from the woman's throat. She was lying on her back with her hands beside the body, the eyes wide open, the legs a little apart, and the hands open. Feeling her right arm he found it quite warm. Her bonnet was beside her on the ground. Without disturbing the body he called a constable who was passing along Brady-street. He came, and the witness said to him, "Here's a woman has cut her throat. Run at once for Dr. Llewellyn." He did so, and the witness seeing another constable pass along Baker's-row, sent him for the ambulance. Dr. Llewellyn came in about ten minutes. In the meantime the witness rang the bell at Essex Wharf on the opposite side of the street. A man appeared at the window, and, in answer to a question, said he had not heard any unusual noise. Sergeant Kirby afterwards came and knocked at the door of New Cottage, adjoining the gateway. Mrs. Green answered from an upper window, and said that she had not heard any unusual noise. When the doctor came he pronounced life extinct. The deceased was then placed on the ambulance and taken to the mortuary. There Inspector Spratling came to take a description of the body, which he found was disembowelled. They found no money on the woman; only a comb, a small piece of looking glass, and a white handkerchief, unmarked. When the witness found the body, there was a pool of blood beneath the neck. He had not heard any noise that night. On the contrary, the place was unusually quiet, and nothing had aroused his suspicion. It was quite possible for anybody to have escaped through Brady-street or into Whitechapel-road, or through a passage in Queen's-buildings. He never saw the deceased before finding her dead. A quarter of an hour previously he was in Whitechapel-road where he saw some people apparently going to market, and some women.
Replying to jurymen, the witness added that he examined the place he found the deceased, and saw no track of blood. It did not strike him that somebody might have brought the body in a trap, with the intention of throwing it on to the adjoining railway line. There was a slaughterhouse near, in Winthorpe-street, and two men who had been working there all night, and whom he knew well, came into Buck's-row while the body was being put on the ambulance. They made no observation. With the exception of a man who passed down Buck's-row while the doctor was present, they were the first of the general public to arrive. They had just finished work, and were on their way home. He had seen them and another man at work in the slaughter-house when he passed it, about twenty minutes past three o'clock.
Dr. Llewellyn, 152, Whitechapel-road, deposed that he was called up by a policeman, with whom he went to Buck's-row. He there found the deceased lying on her back with her throat deeply cut; there was very little blood on the ground. She had apparently been dead about half an hour. He was quite certain that the injury to her throat was not self-inflicted. There was no mark of any struggle either on the body or near where it was found. About an hour afterwards he was sent again by the police, and going to the mortuary to which the body had been carried found most extensive injuries on the abdomen. At ten o'clock next morning, in the presence of his assistant, he began a post-mortem examination. On the right side of the face was a recent and strongly marked bruise, which was scarcely perceptible when he first saw the body. It might have been caused either by a blow from a fist or by pressure of the thumb. On the left side of the face was a circular bruise, which might have been produced in the same way. A small bruise was on the left side of the neck, and an abrasion on the right. All must have been done at the same time. There were two cuts in the throat, one four inches long and the other eight, and both reaching to the vertebrae, which had also been penetrated. The wounds must have been inflicted with a strong-bladed knife, moderately sharp, and used with great violence. It appeared to have been held in the left hand of the person who had used it. No blood at all was found on the front of the woman's clothes. The body was fairly well nourished, and there was no smell of alcohol in the stomach. On the abdomen were some severe cuts and stabs, which the witness described in detail. Nearly all the blood had drained out of the arteries and veins, and collected to a large extent in the loose tissues. The deceased's wounds were sufficient to cause instantaneous death.
Questioned by jurymen, the witness said the deceased was a strong woman. The murderer must have had some rough anatomical knowledge, for he seemed to have attacked all the vital parts. It was impossible to say whether the wounds were inflicted with a clasp-knife or a butcher's knife, but the instrument must have been a strong one. When he first saw the body life had not been out of it more than half-an-hour. The murder might have occupied four or five minutes. It could have been committed by one man so far as the wounds were concerned.
Inspector Spratling, of the J Division, was the first witness examined at the resumed inquest on the 3rd inst. He deposed that about half-past four in the morning he received information in the Hackney-road of the finding of the body. He at once proceeded to Buck's Row, and there saw Police-constable Thain, who pointed out to him the spot where he (Constable Thain) had found the deceased. The witness saw blood stains between the stones. He accompanied the constable to the mortuary and found the body of the deceased on the ambulance in the yard. While there he took a description of the body, which was subsequently removed into the mortuary and placed on a slab on the floor. In taking a more accurate description of the clothing, he found the injuries to the abdomen. Finding these injuries, he did not proceed farther, but at once sent for Dr. Llewellyn. The doctor arrived shortly afterwards, and made an examination. The body was stripped by the workhouse inmates.
The Coroner complained of this, stating that some official ought to have been present in order that evidence could have been given as to the state of the clothing. Inspector Spratling said he had given no instructions for the body to be stripped.
The witness then proceeded to detail the articles of clothing found upon the deceased. The stays, he said, were of the ordinary size, and were not injured. (The coroner then sent a constable to fetch the stays). Examination continued: Between five and six o'clock the same morning he directed Constable Thain to examine Buck's-row, and subsequently he (Inspector Spratling) examined it. There were no bloodstains whatever in the street. Afterwards he visited the Great Eastern Railway yard, the embankment, and other places in the vicinity, but found no weapon of any kind. There had been gatemen at the railway yard all night, but they had not heard any unusual noise. By a juror: The nearest constable was in Brady-street, and from time to time he would be within the sound of the whistle of the constable in Buck's-row. The constable walking the Buck's-row beat would be there about every 20 minutes.
Henry Tomkins, of 12, Coventry-street, said he commenced work in the slaughter-house in Winthrop-street about nine o'clock on Thursday evening, and left off about 4.20 on Friday morning. He generally went home after work, but on Friday morning he and his fellows took a walk. A policeman having told them that a woman had been murdered they proceeded to Buck's-row. They went out of the slaughter-house at 20 minutes past twelve, and returned to work about one o'clock. No one left the yard between one and four o' clock. He believed that the murder was perpetrated at about four o'clock in the morning. They were very quiet in the slaughter-house from about two o'clock. The gates of the yard were open all night, and anyone could obtain admittance to the slaughter-house; but he saw no one pass except the policeman about 4.15 a.m. He went to Buck's-row and remained there until the body of the deceased was removed to the mortuary.
Inspector Helson, of the J Division, said the deceased had on a long ulster, with large buttons, five of which were fastened. The bodice of the dress was buttoned, with the exception of two or three buttons at the neck. The stays were fastened up, and were fairly tight. The only part of the garments saturated with blood was the dress at the back of the neck; the hair at the back of the head was clotted with blood. There was no evidence of a recent washing of the parts of the body where the wounds had been inflicted in order to remove the blood. There were no cuts in the clothing; but he believed the murder was committed while the deceased was wearing her clothes. With the exception of one spot in Brady-street, there were no blood stains in the vicinity. Police-constable Mizen gave corroborative evidence.
H. Charles Cross, a carman in the employ of Messrs. Pickford & Co., said he left home about 3.30 on the morning of the murder, and he reached Pickford's at about four o' clock. He went through Brady-street into Buck's-row, and as he was walking on the right hand side of Buck's-row he saw something lying on the other side of the road. It seemed to him like a dark figure. He walked out to the middle of the road, and saw that it was the figure of a woman. At the same time he heard a man coming up the street, in the same direction, and on the same side of the road as himself. The witness waited until the person he had heard arrived, and then said, "Come a little nearer; there is a woman." He stood at the side of the body and took hold of the deceased's hand. The witness then said: "Why, I believe the woman's dead." The other man felt her heart, and said he believed she was dead. The witness's companion suggested that they should raise her, but the witness declined to do anything until a policeman arrived. The witness then described the position of the body. They found a constable and informed him of their discovery.
After an interval for luncheon, William Nicholls, printer and machinist, of Coburg-road, Old Kent-road, was examined. The deceased was his wife. He had separated from her for about eight years. He last heard of her about three years ago, but did not know what she had been doing. By a Juror: Several years ago he had been summoned for not supporting his wife, and pleaded that she had been living with another man. He had had her watched. It was not true that separation was due to his living with her nurse. They had been separated several times before the final separation, and he had forgiven her many times.
Ellen Holland, of Thrawl-street, lodging-house keeper, said the deceased had lodged with her for about six weeks. On the Friday morning she had been kept out late, and was coming home when she met the deceased, about half-past two o'clock, at the corner of Osborne-street and Whitechapel-road. The deceased was coming down Osborne-street by herself, and was the worse for drink. The witness tried to persuade the deceased to go home with her, but she refused. The witness did not know what the deceased did for a living. She was a woman who talked very little about her affairs. The deceased always seemed very melancholy, as though some trouble was weighing upon her mind.
Mary Ann Monk, an inmate of Lambeth Workhouse, gave further evidence of identification, and the inquiry was adjourned for a fortnight.