Friday, 28 September 1888
RESUMED INQUEST ON MRS. NICHOLLS. - VERDICT.
Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for South-east Middlesex, has resumed and concluded the inquest in the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel, into the circumstances attending the death of Many Ann Nicholls [Nichols], who was found murdered early on the morning of the 1st September. Dr. Llewellyn stated, in reply to a juror, that no part of the body was missing in this case. A member of the jury remarked that it was stated in the newspapers that on the last occasion the foreman of the jury had offered a reward. The fact was, it was not the foreman of the jury, but another gentleman. The Coroner, in summing up, referred to the necessity of a public mortuary in Whitechapel, and continued as follows: There is nothing in the evidence as to the movements of the deceased on the day before her death, except a statement by herself that she was living in a common lodging-house, called the "White House," in Flower and Dean-street, Spitalfields; but I believe her movements have been traced by the police, and are not considered to have any connection with her death. On Friday evening, Aug. 31, she was seen by Mrs. Holland (who knew her well) at the corner of Osborne-street and Whitechapel-road, nearly opposite the parish church. It was then half-past two. The deceased woman was then much the worse for drink, and was staggering against the wall. Her friend endeavoured to persuade her to come home with her, but she declined, and was last seen endeavouring to walk eastward down Whitechapel. She said she had had her lodging-money three times that day but that she had spent it; that she was without money; that the lodging-house deputy refused to trust her; that she was going to look about and get some money to pay her lodgings; and that she should soon be back. What her exact movements were after this it is impossible to say. At all events, in less than an hour and a quarter after this she is found dead at a spot rather under three-quarters of a mile distant. The time at which the body was found cannot have been far from 3.45 a.m., as it is fixed by so many independent data. The condition in which the body was found appears to prove conclusively that the deceased was killed on the exact spot in which she was found. There is not a trace of blood anywhere, except at the spot where her neck was lying. I think we cannot altogether leave unnoticed the fact that the death that you have been investigating is one of four presenting many points of similarity, all of which have occurred within the space of about five months, and all within a very short distance of the place where we are sitting. All four victims were women of middle age, all were married and had lived apart from their husbands in consequence of intemperate habits, and were at the time of their death leading an irregular life, and eking out a miserable and precarious existence in common lodging-houses. In each case there were abdominal, as well as other injuries. In each case the injuries were inflicted after midnight, and in places of public resort, where it would appear impossible but that almost immediate detection should follow the crime, and in each case the inhuman and dastardly criminals are at large in society. I suggest to you as a possibility that the two women - Nicholls and Chapman - may have been murdered by the same man with the same object, and that in the case of Nicholls the wretch was disturbed before he had accomplished his object, and having failed in the open street, he tries again, within a week of his failure, in a more secluded place. If this should be correct, the audacity and daring is equal to its maniacal fanaticism and abhorrent wickedness. It now only remains for you to say by your verdict how, when, and by what means the deceased came by her death. The jury then retired to consider their verdict, and, after an absence of over twenty minutes they returned. The Coroner: Gentlemen, have you agreed upon your verdict? The Foreman: Yes, sir. We are unanimously of opinion that we should give an open verdict of murder against some person or persons unknown, and we wish to thank you for your remarks with reference to the necessity for a mortuary, and for the very able way in which you have conducted the inquiry.
The inquest on Annie Chapman, the last victim in the Whitechapel murders, was conducted on Sept. 26th. The coroner (Mr. Wynne Baxter), in summing up to the jury, went over the whole evidence in detail, and then proceeded to make the following remarks on the case: "From the evidence which the condition of the yard affords and the medical examination discloses, it appears that after the two had passed through the passage and opened the swing door at the end, they descended the three steps into the yard. On the left-hand side there was a recess between those steps and the palings. Here a few feet from the house, and a less distance from the palings, they must have stood. The wretch must have then seized his victim, perhaps with Judas-like approaches. He seized her by the chin. He pressed her throat, and while thus preventing the slightest cry, he at the same time produced insensibility and suffocation. There is no evidence of any struggle. She was then lowered to the ground, and laid on her back; and although in doing so she may have fallen slightly against the fence, this movement was probably effected with care. Her throat was then cut in two places with savage determination, and the injuries to the abdomen commenced. All was done with cool impudence and reckless daring; but perhaps nothing is more noticeable than the emptying of her pockets, and the arrangements of their contents with business-like precision in order near her feet. The body has not been dissected, but the injuries have been made by some one who had considerable anatomical skill and knowledge. There are no meaningless cuts. The organ has been taken by some one who knew where to find it, what difficulties he would have to contend against, and how he should use his knife, so as to abstract it without injury to it. No unskilled person could have known where to find it, or have recognised it when it was found. For instance, no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been someone accustomed to the post-mortem room. The conclusion that the desire was to possess the missing part seems overwhelming. If the object were robbery, the injuries to the viscera were meaningless, for death had previously resulted from the loss of blood at the neck. Moreover, when we find an easily accomplished theft of some paltry brass rings and an internal organ taken, after at least a quarter of an hour's work, and taken by a skilled person, we are driven to the deduction that the abstraction of the missing portion was the object, and the theft of the rings was only a thinly-veiled blind. It is abhorrent to our feelings to conclude that a life should be taken for so slight an object; but, when rightly considered, the reasons for most murders are altogether out of proportion to the guilt. It is not necessary to assume lunacy, for it is clear that there is a market for such things. To show you this, I must mention a fact which at the same time proves the assistance which publicity and the newspaper press afford in the detection of crime. Within a few hours of the issue of the morning papers containing a report of the medical evidence given at the last sitting of the court, I received a communication from an officer of one of our great medical schools that they had information which might or might not have a distinct bearing on our inquiry. I attended at the first opportunity, and was informed by the sub-curator of the Pathological Museum that some months ago an American had called on him, and asked him to procure a number of specimens of the part that was missing in this body. He stated his willingness to give £20 a-piece for each specimen. He stated that his object was to issue an actual specimen with each copy of a publication on which he was then engaged. He was told that his request was impossible to be complied with, but he still urged his request. It is known that this request was repeated to another institution of a similar character. Now, is it not possible that the knowledge of this demand may have incited some abandoned wretch to possess himself of a specimen? I need hardly say that I at once communicated my information to the Detective Department at Scotland-yard. By means of the press some further explanation may be forthcoming from America, if not from here. Surely it is not too much even yet to hope that the ingenuity of our detective force will succeed in unearthing this monster. It is not as if there were no clue to the character of the criminal or the cause of his crime. His object is clearly divulged. His anatomical knowledge carries him out of the category of a common criminal, for that knowledge could only have been obtained by assisting at post-mortems, or by frequenting the post-mortem room. If the assumption be correct that the man who was talking to Chapman at half-past five was the culprit he is even more clearly defined. In addition to his former description we should know that he was a foreigner of dark complexion, over 40 years of age, a little taller than the woman, of shabby-genteel appearance, with a brown deerstalker hat on his head, and a dark coat on his back. If your views accord with mine, you will be of opinion that we are confronted with a murder of no ordinary character, committed not from jealousy, revenge, or robbery, but from motives less adequate than the many which still disgrace our civilisation, mar our progress, and blot the pages of our Christianity."
The jury at once returned a verdict of "Wilful murder" against some person or persons unknown.