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 A Ripper Notes Article 
This article originally appeared in Ripper Notes. Ripper Notes is the only American Ripper periodical available on the market, and has quickly grown into one of the more substantial offerings in the genre. For more information, view our Ripper Notes page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripper Notes for permission to reprint this article.

Matthew Packer - Final Thoughts
by Dave Yost

In a recently published essay in Ripperologist, I referenced the weather conditions with respect to when Packer might have arrived back at his shop on the night of 29 September:

    The Evening News article of 4 October informs us that 'For most of Saturday, 29 September, Packer was out with his barrow. But he didn't do much business and, "as the night came on wet", decided to go home and take his wife's place serving in the shop.' At around 11:00pm, John Gardner and J. Best saw Elizabeth with a young Englishman outside the Bricklayer's Arms in Settles Street. The couple was sheltering themselves from the rain while carrying on. So, we know it was raining at 11:00pm, but when did Packer head for home? The unofficial weather records for Whitechapel tell us there was approximately a quarter inch of rain for 29 September. The official weather records for the London area corroborate this amount, but more importantly they add, 'Sudden heavy R.[rain] at 9.5p.m.[sic] lasting till after midnight'. This is an hour and a half before Elizabeth and her man left Settles Street. Since Packer headed for home 'as the night came on wet', we can readily accept that he would have been home by no later than eleven o'clock. (1)
As the above shows, weather can play an important part in determining some of the minute often required in this case. Yet, even with information like weather, there can be differences. The below tables show a direct comparison between the official and the unofficial weather conditions that were recorded for 29-30 September.
Table 1 - Official Weather Conditions for the London area (recorded at Camden Square) (2)

Date
&
Day

Max Temp. in air
(Fahrenheit)

Min Temp. in air
(Fahrenheit)

Amount
of
Rain

Amount
of Cloud
Cover

Remarks

29 Sept,
Saturday

68.1 degrees

55.1 degrees

0.242 inches

100%

Dull morning; fine day; sudden heavy rain at "9.5p.m." lasting till after midnight

30 Sept,
Sunday

55.3 degrees

43.5 degrees

N/A

30%

Brilliant "autumnal" day

Table 2 - Unofficial Weather Conditions for Whitechapel (recorded by RMS at St. Lukes) (3)

Date
&
Day

Hi Temp.
(Fahrenheit)

Lo Temp.
(Fahrenheit)

Amount
of
Rain

Amount
of Cloud
Cover

Remarks

29 Sept,
Saturday

66.4 degrees

55.4 degrees

0.27 inches

100%

N/A

30 Sept,
Sunday

53.4 degrees

44.7 degrees

N/A

50%

N/A


These tables do not really show us many significant differences and what there are is most explainable by the distance separating Camden Square and St. Luke’s. (Camden Square is approximately three to five linear miles NW of St Luke’s.). The one thing of interest however, is the remark made in Table 1, ‘lasting till after midnight’. Even though this stems from the official records, it will be shown that other information may tell us a great deal more. (4)

If we look to various Stride inquest testimonies, we will see explicit references to rain, which will be hi-lited. (These excerpts will be fairly large in order to convey the proper context):
    Dr. Blackwell (2 October): I reside at No. 100, Commercial-road, and am a physician and surgeon. On Sunday morning last, at ten minutes past one o'clock, I was called to Berner-street by a policeman. My assistant, Mr. Johnston, went back with the constable, and I followed immediately I was dressed. I consulted my watch on my arrival, and it was 1.16 a.m.
    ...
    Did you form any opinion as to how long the deceased had been dead? - From twenty minutes to half an hour when I arrived. The clothes were not wet with rain. She would have bled to death comparatively slowly on account of vessels on one side only of the neck being cut and the artery not completely severed. (5)

    William Marshall (5 October): I reside at No. 64, Berner-street, and am a labourer at an indigo warehouse. I have seen the body at the mortuary. I saw the deceased on Saturday night last.
    Where? - In our street, three doors from my house, about a quarter to twelve o'clock. She was on the pavement, opposite No. 58, between Fairclough-street and Boyd-street.
    ...
    When did you go indoors? - About twelve o'clock.
    Did you hear anything more that night? - Not till I heard that the murder had taken place, just after one o'clock. While I was standing at my door, from half-past eleven to twelve, there was no rain at all. The deceased had on a small black bonnet. The couple were standing between my house and the club for about ten minutes. (6)

    James Brown (5 October): I live in Fairclough-street, and am a dock labourer. I have seen the body in the mortuary. I did not know deceased, but I saw her about a quarter to one on Sunday morning last.
    The Coroner: Where were you? - I was going from my house to the chandler's shop at the corner of the Berner-street and Fairclough-street, to get some supper. I stayed there three or four minutes, and then went back home, when I saw a man and woman standing at the corner of the Board School. I was in the road just by the kerb, and they were near the wall.
    ...
    Was it raining at the time? - No. I went on. (7)

    PC William Smith (5 October): On Saturday last I went on duty at ten p.m. My beat was past Berner-street, and would take me twenty-five minutes or half an hour to go round. I was in Berner-street about half-past twelve or twenty-five minutes to one o'clock, and having gone round my beat, was at the Commercial-road corner of Berner-street again at one o'clock.
    ...
    The Coroner: Had you noticed any man or woman in Berner-street when you were there before [at c.12:30a.m.]? - Yes, talking together.
    ...
    Did you see the man's face? - He had no whiskers, but I did not notice him much. I should say he was twenty-eight years of age. He was of respectable appearance, but I could not state what he was. The woman had a flower in her breast. It rained very little after eleven o'clock. There were but few about in the bye streets. When I saw the body at the mortuary I recognised it at once. (8)
The interesting aspect of these statements is that each makes explicit reference to there being little rain after 11p.m. with no rain after 11:30p.m. This may seem to contradict the official weather records, but it actually does not. This indicates that the weather front was moving inland. So, while there may still have been some recordable rainfall at Camden Square after midnight, it had already passed through Whitechapel by 11:30p.m.

Albeit, of what value is this, knowing whether or not it was still raining after 11:30p.m.? This will actually help us more precisely determine when Packer closed up shop. I emphasize that Packer was not influenced or biased at the time of his first interview with Sgt. White at 9a.m. on 30 September when he supplied the following information:
    SGT WHITE: When did you close up shop?

    PACKER: 'Half past twelve, in consequence of the rain it was no good for me to keep open.'

    SGT WHITE: Did you see a man or woman go into Dutfield's Yard or stand about the street when you closed up shop?

    PACKER: 'I saw no one standing about neither did I see anyone go up the yard. I never saw anything suspicious or heard the slightest noise. And knew 'nothing about the murder until I heard of it this morning.' (9)
Packer explicitly stated that he closed up shop because of the rain, which ostensibly kept away the customers. Yet, reliable witnesses inform us that it was no longer raining in that area after 11:30p.m., which indicates that Packer closed up no later than at 11:30p.m. Why the difference of an hour? If we look again to the inquest testimony, we may have a lead into the answer. (Again, these will be rather long with hi-lited portions.)
    William West (1 October): I reside at No. 2, William-street, Cannon-street-road, and am overseer in the printing office attached to No. 40, Berner-street, Commercial-road, which premises are in the occupation of the International Working Men's Education Society, whose club is carried on there. On the ground floor of the club is a room, the door and window of which face the street. At the rear of this is the kitchen, whilst the first floor consists of a large room which is used for our meetings and entertainments, I being a member of the club.
    ...
    On Saturday last I was in the printing-office during the day and in the club during the evening. From nine to half-past ten at night I was away seeing an English friend home, but I was in the club again till a quarter-past midnight. A discussion was proceeding in the lecture-room, which has three windows overlooking the courtyard. From ninety to 100 persons attended the discussion, which terminated soon after half-past eleven, when the bulk of the members left, using the street door, the most convenient exit. From twenty to thirty members remained, some staying in the lecture-room and the others going downstairs. Of those upstairs a few continued the discussion, while the rest were singing. The windows of the lecture-room were partly open.
    How do you know that you finally left at a quarter-past twelve o'clock? - Because of the time when I reached my lodgings. Before leaving I went into the yard, and thence to the printing-office, in order to leave some literature there, and on returning to the yard I observed that the double door at the entrance was open. There is no lamp in the yard, and none of the street lamps light it, so that the yard is only lit by the lights through the windows at the side of the club and of the tenements opposite. As to the tenements, I only observed lights in two first-floor windows. There was also a light in the printing-office, the editor being in his room reading.
    Was there much noise in the club? - Not exactly much noise; but I could hear the singing when I was in the yard.
    Did you look towards the yard gates? - Not so much to the gates as to the ground, but nothing unusual attracted my attention.
    Can you say that there was no object on the ground? - I could not say that.
    Do you think it possible that anything can have been there without your observing it? - It was dark, and I am a little shortsighted, so that it is possible. The distance from the gates to the kitchen door is 18 ft.
    What made you look towards the gates at all? - Simply because they were open. I went into the club, and called my brother, and we left together by the front door.
    On leaving did you see anybody as you passed the yard? - No.
    Or did you meet any one in the street? - Not that I recollect. I generally go home between twelve and one o'clock. (10)

    Morris Eagle (1 October): I live at No. 4, New-road, Commercial-road, and travel in jewellery. I am a member of the International Workmen's Club, which meets at 40, Berner-street. I was there on Saturday, several times during the day, and was in the chair during the discussion in the evening. After the discussion, between half-past eleven and a quarter to twelve o'clock, I left the club to take my young lady home, going out through the front door. I returned about twenty minutes to one. I tried the front door, but, finding it closed, I went through the gateway into the yard, reaching the club in that way.
    Did you notice anything lying on the ground near the gates? - I did not.
    Did you pass in the middle of the gateway? - I think so. The gateway is 9 ft. 2 in. wide. I naturally walked on the right side, that being the side on which the club door was.
    Do you think you are able to say that the deceased was not lying there then? - I do not know, I am sure, because it was rather dark. There was a light from the upper part of the club, but that would not throw any illumination upon the ground. It was dark near the gates.
    You have formed no opinion, I take it, then, as to whether there was anything there? - No.
    Did you see anyone about in Berner-street? - I dare say I did, but I do not remember them.
    Did you observe any one in the yard? - I do not remember that I did.
    If there had been a man and woman there you would have remembered the circumstance? - Yes; I am sure of that.
    (11)
West provides us with further detail regarding when the discussion ended and states (as well as does Eagle) that no couple was seen by them in Berner Street at the time they left the club. In none of Packer's statements does he ever mention seeing any of the numerous club members existing #40, just several doors north of him. This occurred at c.11:30p.m. which corresponds to when it was no longer raining. From the foregoing, I have little doubt that Packer closed up shop no later than 11:30p.m. But how can we explain Packer's initial comment that he closed up at c.12:30a.m.? Again, I defer to my comments in the previously mentioned Ripperologist article.
    An interesting aspect of the many Packer statements is that he commonly noted that the couple was still in the vicinity while he closed up shop. This is in direct contradiction to what he informed Sgt White, during his first interview.

      'I saw no one standing about neither did I see anyone go up the yard. I never saw anything suspicious or heard the slightest noise. And knew nothing about the murder until I heard of it this morning.'

    Emphasizing that Packer was not influenced or biased at the time of Sgt White's interview, we can probably assume that his closing up shop while the couple was still there was a later embellishment on his part, and that he did close up after the couple moved on, as his reply to Sgt White indicates. Upon accepting this, then when Packer closed up must be looked into even further.

    Packer informed Sgt White that he closed up at c.12:30am, and he related this action (closing up) in subsequent interviews with the closing of the pubs. Because Packer never referred to the many people who left the club at any of the times during which he claimed to be open, this suggests that he closed up shop prior this event. Hence, it seems he would have closed up at some point between before 11:30pm and midnight. Even though he told Sgt White that he heard no noise when he closed up, he could have easily heard the noise of the 60-80 people who exited the club, as he prepared for bed that morning. Packer might have associated this street noise with people leaving the pubs. While this poor judgment of time may seem strange, it is not unknown and is present in another part of the Stride case.

      Charles Preston stated that he saw Elizabeth between 6:00pm-7:00pm on Saturday (29 September). Yet, Elizabeth Tanner claimed that Elizabeth arrived back at the lodging-house at 7:00pm after having a beer at the Queen's Head Public House. Even though this is a potential difference of an hour, it is not necessarily a conflict. Elizabeth's return to the lodging-house was in preparation for going out that night. This happened after she returned from the Queen's Head, which was around 7:00pm. "In 1888 time was not noted as accurately as it would be today, most of the East Enders did not even have their own timepieces." And, Preston would not necessarily have paid strict attention to any clock (if there was one) which might have been nearby, because it would not have been unusual to see Elizabeth in the lodging-house kitchen. Obviously, Preston was aware of the general time, but he did not know the exact hour, since the event he described actually occurred after 7:00pm. In other words, Preston merely guessed that he saw Elizabeth sometime between 6:00pm-7:00pm.

    I think a similar view may be applied to Packer. He based his initial time (c.12:30am) for closing up off a mis-interpretation of what time it was. Packer quite naturally estimated the hour from an event which occurs daily at around the same time, (eg., how we ourselves, today, might discern the hour from when the nightly news comes on TV). In this case, Packer was not aware of the actual time and had assumed that the people in the street were pub goers, instead of club members, and guessed at the time. (This might possibly explain the "ease" in which he shifted his times from one interview to the next.) (12)
This view is corroborated by inquest testimony given above on whether or not it was raining and from the testimonies of Eagle and West. From the known information, I definitely assert that Packer closed up before the club’s debate ended, that no couple was in the street when he did, and that his statement to Scotland Yard is the closest to the truth of what he did and/or saw that night.

Sources:
(1) Ripperologist, (Packer - Was He A Witness? Part II, page 26-28, August 1999, issue #24)
(2) Meteorological Library & Archives (official weather records)
(3) Meteorological Library & Archives (RMS weather records)
(4) G Bacon's 'New Large-Scale Ordnance Atlas of London and Suburbs', 1888
(5) The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday, October 3, 1888, Page 3
(6) The Daily Telegraph, Saturday, October 6, 1888, Page 3
(7) ibid
(8) ibid
(9) MEPO 3/140, f212-213
(10) The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday, October 2, 1888, Page 3)
(11) Ibid
(12) Ripperologist, (Packer - Was He A Witness? Part II, page 26-28, August 1999, issue #24)


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