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Henry Birch

Henry Birch was the proprietor of a milk-stand in the yard of Number 2, Little Turner street, Commercial Road. He claimed to have sold a glass of milk to a "frightened", suspicious-looking man on the night after the Polly Nichols murder. His story appeared in The Star of 6 October.

His story as reported by The Star is as follows:

Not later than a quarter-past eleven a man stepped hurriedly into a yard entrance at No. 2, Little Turner-street, Commercial-road. On one side of the yard is a milk stand. The man asked for a glass of milk, and, when served, drank it hurriedly, then, looking about in a frightened manner, asked if he might step back into the yard. The proprietor, Henry Birch, did not object, but presently, his suspicions being aroused, he stepped towards the man and found him drawing on a suit of new overalls over his ordinary clothes. The pants were already on, and he was stooping to take a jacket from a black shiny bag that lay at his feet when Birch stepped up to him. He seemed to be very much upset by the interruption, and for a moment could not speak. Presently he said, "That was a terrible murder last night, was'nt it?" and before Birch could answer he had added, "I think I've got a clue," and, snatching up his bag, he disappeared down the street. Mr. Birch then thought he might be a detective, adopting a disguise for some purpose, but the police believe he was the man who assaulted the woman in Cambridge Heath-road, and that he donned the overalls to mislead anyone who might be tracing him. They have the name of the woman referred to, and her description tallies with that given by Birch of his mysterious caller. The clothing was described as a blue serge suit, and a stiff but low hat. He wore a stand-up collar and a watch-chain. He wore no beard, but a slight dark moustache and his face was evidently sunburnt. Birch says he thought he was a seafaring man, or one who had recently made a long voyage. When he got the overalls on he had the appearance of an engineer. Many points of this description correspond so well to that given of the man who made such pointed inquiries about women at the Nuns Head Tavern, Aldgate, last Saturday night, and also to another description the police have received, that they are inclined to connect the man with the latest murders. (The Star - 6 October 1888)

Few newspapers picked up the story, and no mention of Birch is found among surviving police reports. The reference to the man seen at the "Nuns Head Tavern" most likely refers to the description of a man seen at the "Three Nuns Hotel" by Albert Bachert on the night of 30 September 1888.

Secondary Sources

The Star - 6 October 1888

Related pages:
  Henry Birch
       Press Reports: Star - 6 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Te Aroha News - 1 December 1888